While with Savages at Lolapalooza Festival in Buenos Aires in April, I was stopped by Annabel Pitaud, a journalist from La Factory magazine. She said she’d read my blog on touring across Europe and wanted to ask me a few questions. The interview’s been published in the new issue (in Paraguay) and is available to be read online here, pages 58-60. If your Spanish is a bit rusty, here’s the translation, printed with the kind permission of Annabel, and La Factory:
AP: What did you do before becoming a Tour Manager?
AD: My career in the music industry goes back almost 25 years to 1990, when the dance scene was blowing up in Scotland (where I’m from). I was DJing and running raves, then started to manage bands and set up small record labels. Apart from a short time after I left school when I worked in some clothes shops, this is the only business I know. I’ve been friends with Jehnny – Savages‘ singer – for many years, and when they formed the band, they asked me if I would be their tour manager. I love live music, customer service and travelling, and it came at a time of my life when I didn’t quite know which way to turn, so I agreed immediately
AP: When we think about touring with a band, and being in charge of the tour, it seems like a dream job! But after reading your blog, one could have second thoughts. Would you tell us a little about it, the pro and the cons?
AD: It is a dream job, in that I actually dream about it a lot. Last night I dreamt that an airline had lost our merchandise case. Not very exciting. The pros for me are, as I said, it combines three things I love: live music, customer service and travelling. The band and crew are my friends, and although even friends piss each other off sometimes, they’re great to tour with. I’ve seen the world, twice. I’m pretty lucky. But it can be a very demanding, very tiring job, and it’s not easy to have a life outside of it sometimes. You quickly learn where your limits are; how much sleep you can survive on, how good your memory actually is, his strong your back is, how much patience you have for idiots. It’s a good way to learn about yourself, and others
AP: After some time doing this, what are your hopes and dreams? Did they change as time passed?
AD: My hope is that I always get seven hours sleep each night. I guess that’s a dream sometimes too. I also hope that I fix my mistakes before anyone notices. And I dream that, one day, the level of customer service and production in UK venues will reach the same levels as venues in mainland Europe. But it’s probably never going to happen
AP: Tell us about your blog. What is the purpose of it?
AD: My family have never been able to quite get their heads around what I do for a living. My Dad was an engineer and my Mum worked for mental health charities for a long time, and in sales. They’ve both retired. They’ve never worked in my industry so I take my time to explain to them, and to friends too. I’m also asked about it by people who would like to work in the music business, who don’t know which route to take. Tour management can be such a huge, involving, complicated job sometimes, but always very interesting, I think, so it seemed like a good idea to write a blog. Also, I’ve 25 years of experience in the industry and I think that those of who have experience should do what we can to give it to others. I’m not lecturing at the moment, so the blog is a good way to disseminate some of my knowledge.
AP: Would you say that you do the dirty work?
Yes, though so does anyone in the crew. We work the longest hours and do the ‘heavy lifting’. My day is the longest. I’m up first, to bed last, and have very little time to myself, except maybe in the shower.
AP: How is it to be in charge of a girls’ band like Savages?
I guess it’s different, but when people ask me they always assume it must be worse working with women for some reason. That seems strange to me. Women tend to be more attentive to their personal hygiene than men on the road, and that’s pretty important when you’re next to someone for 18 hours a day. I once toured with a band where one of them only showered every 8-9 days or so.
AP: What do you do when you are not touring?
AD: I manage three artists: East India Youth (who’s taking all my time and resources right now), Civil Civic (who are writing their second album) and Hanne Hukkelberg (who’s writing her fifth).
AP: Who will you tour with this summer?
AD: East India Youth. I’m thinking, though, that I might take some work with another band in the summer, or a few bands for short tours. I need the money. Management isn’t lucrative in the first two years!
AP: How was your whole South American experience with Savages?
AD: It was generally very good. We did 5 shows in 14 days, which is not very many. This meant we had a lot of free time. I like free time, but I prefer it when it’s my own time, and when I’m touring, it’s not. Even on a day off I have to be available in case anyone needs me. And festivals aren’t very hard work. You arrive on site quite close to your stage time, do the show, then you can leave if you like. You’re part of a far bigger machine then and so the work isn’t so hard. I like working at festivals, but prefer venues when it’s our own show. It’s harder work and I like the work to be a challenge. It keeps me interested. We got to spend time in Santiago, where they put us in a beautiful five star hotel which I didn’t want to leave! Then we went to Buenos Aries, which felt like a really pumped-up European city. I didn’t like it so much, but I really enjoyed what we did there; some tango clubs, good bars, antique shopping, and great food. In Bogotá the weather was very wet, very humid and the pollution from the cars was crazy. Like nothing I’d experienced anywhere else. I didn’t really want to leave the hotel, but did, of course. Matt (our sound engineer) and I went for a walk downtown and explored. We were pretty much the only gringoes we saw the whole day, and we walked around areas we probably shouldn’t have, but sitting in your hotel room isn’t the way to have good experiences in new counties. São Paulo was another new kind of experience. It’s enormous, and the pollution was worse than Bogotá. More people die each year there from air pollution-related illness than car accidents, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. That’s insane. Again, I didn’t like the city much, but really liked what we did… particularly drinking in Samba bars. I should say that the best thing about all of the visits have been the people we’ve met. I realise we travel in a kind of ‘arts bubble’, and people are pretty much paid to be nice to us, but anyway, that’s the thing I remember the most. After South America we spent two days in Mexico City, which I’ve visited before and already liked. That was the last show of the tour and probably the last show of the year, so I’ll just say that when a band and crew decide it’s time to party, they know what to do. There’s a crazy story about the last night but it’s probably best I keep it to myself!
AP: Would you recommend your job to another person
AD: I would, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re looking for a stable relationship, it’s probably not for you, unless your partner is very, very understanding. Or is also a tour manager