Out on the road and touring as a rock band, artists wholeheartedly rely on their crews. The term "roadie" is thought of as an archaic and demeaning term, replaced now with guitar tech, drum tech, sound engineer, production manager, and wardrobe person.
Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. Follow him on Twitter @Duff64.
As an artist, you make the record, book the tours, get the T-shirts made (merch), tour for an average of 14 months, then go home to rest and make another record. If you are a professional crew person, however, the road NEVER ends.
Since we have been out on this Mötley tour, I have been reunited with a few people who I have worked with over the last 22 years of touring:
Beth has done wardrobe for probably 25 years. She worked for us in GN'R when we could finally afford that luxury. Years later, she worked for Velvet Revolver. The Rolling Stones and AC/DC have been her main gigs for most of these 25 years, and right now she is doing this Mötley Crüe gig. Beth has known me through all my personal ups and downs, and, for the most part, has witnessed me morphing from a hopeless alcoholic to a hapless parent. Beth has been privy, too, to my daughters' growing up; now my 11-year-old Grace stands a few inches taller than little Beth.
"Viggy" Vignoli is a very interesting sort and absolutely fascinating to talk to. At the moment, Vig is Tommy Lee's drum tech and does programming in the studio. He started doing this type of gig when he was 15, working for Whitney Houston when she first started in 1985. Vig finally left Whitney when things got out of control during the Bobby Brown marriage fiasco, and moved on to Cameo (Vig did the "Word Up" tour!), Prince, Sevendust, and now Tommy Lee, to name just a few.
Life on the road certainly takes a certain personal constitution which you either do or don't have. The folks in the road crew rarely go to a hotel bed after the show, and must hope for a locker-room shower at the waiting venue. If you stay in the game long enough, however, you can command the big bucks. Top tour managers can earn from $8,000 to $12,000 a week (Madonna's and Cher's tours are the real high-paying gigs, but the demand on one's time and sanity must be taken into account).
Our Loaded crew right now consists of Martin Feveyear as tour manager/sound engineer, Stadi as guitar/bass tech, Ryan as guitar tech/drum tech, and Dennis as merch guy. I don't really know anyone's last name except for Martin's, but living together on a bus day in and day out, you get to know just about everything else about these peoples' lives--and their significant body odors and hygiene habits. Loaded is a low-budget affair at best, and the band and crew work real hard for mediocre pay.
Ryan plays another very significant role for all of us. He has taken it as a personal challenge to be our "Johnny Go Time." That is, he reminds us, when times are hard and we're tired, that this is about fucking ROCK AND ROLL and it's time to throw down. Ryan has various ways of getting us up for a gig, including throwing out enthusiastic David Lee Roth high kicks or exhorting how "rad" '60s band Pentagram is. The guy just lives it, period.
Ryan "Go Time" Moore
A favorite Ryan moment of mine was in Finland. No one had really slept for something like 65 hours and we had a gig to do. Ryan literally picked himself off the ground and staggeringly gave us a DLR kick to remind us that it was indeed time to rock, whether we were seeing sleep-deprivation-induced "trails" or not. Ryan kicks ass!
Stadi is an even-keeled German transplant to London. Nothing ever really seems to faze him, except for the day last week when we did a gig in Switzerland with ZZ Top. Stadi loves him some Billy Gibbons, and sheepishly asked me if I would introduce them. I did. Stadi had a wide grin on his face for the next three days. Ryan, of course, was not as shy, and last I saw he had enlisted ALL the ZZ Top guys to help him make a video Web log for his YouTube site.
Martin pretty much holds this whole thing together. Without Martin, there probably would be no Loaded. From guiding the musical direction of the band to recording us to doing our live sound to tour-managing us, Martin does it all. Like Geoff and I, Martin is a father, and having the heartache of missing the ones you love added to a stressful work and travel schedule can really fuck with you. Martin somehow finds a way to gather himself when we need him and shine a guiding beacon for us all to follow.
If you are a casual fan of music and like to go to shows once and a while, take a moment to look at the production and take note of the lights, PA, amps, drums, and stage. Know that there are hardworking people who take a lot of pride in making that show the best it can possibly be for you on that particular night. Being an artist and creating an idea that can be then taken on the road is one thing. The men and women in road crew are the ones who make the rest happen. I raise my glass high to them.
As a postscript: Ryan is actually one Ryan "Go Time" Moore from Portland. Facebook him to see some of his most hilarious Webisodes.