It’s a Long Way to the Top

Child's Play lead singer Larry Hinshaw and bassist Phil Wiser, Crumpton, Maryland, 1985.

Phil Wiser’s dramatic and unlikely ascent has taken him from Hammerjacks to Silicon Valley

By John Lewis (Baltimore Magazine, 12/2010)

Photo by Samantha Jones, Midmountain Photography

Phil Wiser was a senior at Eastern Vo-Tech and something of a science geek in 1984. But Wiser wasn’t your typical nerd, with his long hair and confident swagger. In fact, he was class president and bassist in Child’s Play, a popular metal band that played local clubs. It’s a rare trait, being the nerd and the cool kid, but it’s a combination that’s served Wiser well and distinguished him from his peers.

98 Rock’s Bob Lopez picked up on that one night at the Seagull Inn in Essex. Lopez came out to a Child’s Play show to promote the station and got into a lengthy conversation with Wiser. Unlike some of his peers, the budding metal god didn’t focus exclusively on his favorite Zeppelin or the merits of Bud vs. Michelob. “Actually, we spent quite a bit of time discussing technology,” recalls Wiser. “We talked a lot about this crazy thing called the personal computer that Apple was putting out.”

Phil Wiser in Child's Play

The next morning, Lopez raved to his listeners about the band and its whipsmart bass player. “It was great walking into school after he had talked about me and Child’s Play on the radio,” says Wiser. “Everyone heard it as they were driving to school, so I was king of the hill that day.”

It turns out that Lopez, who passed away in 2005, was somewhat prescient with regards to Wiser. The head-banging, spandex-wearing, sweat-soaked rocker traded hard rock rhythms for algorithms and ascended to far greater heights as a techie than as a musician. Instead of eking out a living in the hardscrabble record biz, he revolutionized the entire business.

Wiser created what his website calls “the core technologies that now form the basis for all online music” and worked as Chief Technology Officer at Sony, where he brokered landmark deals with the likes of Apple. Now, Wiser—the suit wearing, plane flying, Silicon Valley entrepreneur—has set his sights on the industry.

And to think it all started with AC/DC.

Continue reading “It’s a Long Way to the Top” at Baltimore Magazine.

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