Jay Dozer followed his older brother into metal work, but while his big bro went on to make top dollar for Toyota, Jay made custom microphone stands for Prince.
His shop, Metaldozer, sits unobtrusively at the back part of a business complex in Duluth, bordered by a parking lot for buses on one side and Buford Highway on the other.
A garage door opens to an industrial space, where an American flag draped on the left side of an unpainted wooden wall adds the only color in the room. The frame creates a room within a room that surrounds his master tool, a ProtoTrak. The machine allows him to program designs that he previously drilled by hand.
Slivers of silver fall at his feet as the metaldozer creates drills holes to design aluminum microphone stands. His blond hair frames his face as he works.
The 41-year-old moved from a small Kentucky town to Louisville after high school to machine parts for television sets that used cathode ray tubes. Most of Dozer’s career happened by accident; serendipity yielded from investing in relationships.
Work was work. His passion was for singing.
Dozer had sung in bands since he was 16, but said he didn’t start getting good until about age 20 or so. A few years after that he decided to pick up and move to Atlanta.
“I just wanted to start a band, really,” he said.
In 2000, he took a job at a metal machine shop in the Lilburn area to earn a living. The job involved creating parts for industrial sewing machines.
While off the clock, his boss let him use the shop to work on a custom microphone stand for his personal use. Dozer wanted something that wouldn’t wear out easily and had grooves in the base.
“I just wanted something completely different,” Dozer said.
He said his finished prototype looked a lot like Steven Tyler’s stand, but he didn’t intend that to happen, though it was pretty cool that it did.
When he realized his roommate’s cousin was the drum tech for the band Dream Theater, Dozer got a chance to meet singer James LaBrie backstage at a show.
The conversation turned to LaBrie’s technical preferences for singing, and Dozer told him he’d just made himself a custom mic stand and wanted to create one for LaBrie.
“He was like ‘hmph,’” Dozer said. “He’d never considered it.”
Dozer designed a base with a star inside an octagon for the “Octavarium” tour supporting Dream Theater’s 2005 release. LaBrie loved it and the well-known singer became Dozer’s first repeat customer, ordering two stands for each tour and twirling the stands as part of his onstage act.
“It gives me more command when I go out there because it’s unique,” LaBrie said. “It’s like a car collector having his own baby, and he’s kind of embellished on the original design.”
Dozer generally keeps regular shop hours and customizes metal work for all projects, such as extensive designs at 37 Main's former Johns Creek location. But when rock legends call for a stand in less than a week, Dozer finds himself working all hours.
Getting the call from Prince’s guitar tech in 2014 was one of the highlights of Dozer’s career.
He was loading the giant metal guitars for the bar at 37 Main when a call came in from Los Angeles about 2 p.m.
“I always take those,” Dozer said.
The tech said Prince wanted two mic stands almost immediately and had specifications in mind from what he'd seen on the MetalDozer.comwebsite.
Someone with the tour sent Dozer the original Prince symbol mic attachment used in the ’80s for Dozer to recreate. He said he remembered a feeling of awe.
“Getting to hold that original piece in my hands was like magic,” Dozer said.
From LaBrie’s vocal coach to the band’s tour manager, people continued noticing Dozer’s quality craftsmanship and recommending Metaldozer stands.
Vocal coach Jaime Vendera said he ordered from Metaldozer after seeing LaBrie post about the stands on social media.
“I am so proud of him, not just for the stands that he makes for every friggin’ rock star we know, but for the fact that he plays in three bands, he is always performing and he is always working on new stands. He’s such a driven guy.”
Dozer guesses 75 percent of his custom mic stand business comes from “average Joes” and members of tribute bands such as those for Bon Jovi. From Dozer’s sales, he estimates “there are at least 20 (Bon Jovi tribute bands) worldwide.”
In 2009, another world-traveling musician needed Dozer’s custom metal artwork. This time he was a hard-rocking Marilyn Manson singer who needed something that would stand up to his abuse, monitor engineer Bruce Danz said.
“We were in search of something cool looking yet durable, which we call Manson proof, to survive Manson’s performance,” Danz said.
Danz ordered stands and custom mic clips shaped like a butcher knife, then suggested custom work for another band he worked with, Avenged Sevenfold.
He’s created stands and mic clips for Robert Plant, Reba McEntire, Billy Idol and Toni Braxton, as well as many other artists. Prince’s passing means Dozer’s most famous mics are tied up in a legal issue. Dozer was asked to create one final Prince mic stand for use in a tribute show last year.
That work stands in the Prince museum now.