“Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Touring (but were afraid to ask)”
February 8, 2003
There are some simple rules I’ve learned to follow to help make the road a much more enjoyable place. I keep in mind that nothing is perfect, no one is perfect, and “Murphy’s Law” is something to never underestimate; the fact that anything that CAN go wrong, WILL go wrong. Assuming you have a little smart and a good sense of humor, you can turn a potential “hell-on-wheels-headache” into a 4-week paid vacation that features free food & booze, free hotels, and unlimited t.v. access, among other things.
During the LOVE Forever Changes tour, I (secretly) kept notes of the many things that go on and the hilarious situations that, to most people would appear a little bizarre but to musicians and a crew on a tour, seem quite natural. The Rules below merely reflect a portion of the project that I am working on titled: “100 rules of the Road; Everything you wanted to know about touring but were afraid to ask.” These are sneak previews and are edited to protect the innocent (at this point!) Of course, these are only my personal experiences and don’t apply to mega-groups like Bon Jovi and NSYNC. Parties interested in publishing something this silly need look no further.
Rule 1: ONLY PACK WHAT YOU NEED. Who do you think you are, Ivana Trump? Pants, shirts, socks, undies, toothpaste, and stuff like that will suffice finely. Personal Stereos are great on long rides and perfectly block out band members who won’t shut up. Also, keep a pen handy; you never know.
Rule 2: GO TO WORK ON THE AIRLINE RECEPTIONIST. That’s right, work begins even before the plane takes off. Always to get her (or him, but prefer HER) to find you better seats. If you get there early enough, before the headaches set in, they’ll usually try to accommodate you. And, no matter what she looks like, ALWAYS compliment her hair and perfume and even flirt if you have to because it could be a very long flight. If it’s a bloke, talk about the football game or something.
Rule 3: GO TO WORK ON THE STEWARDESS. There’s is a very good reason Paul Westerberg calls them “Waitresses in the sky.” They have the ability to cut your booze intake or let it flow like the old Roman days. In other words, they get to play God (well, kinda…) Smile a lot and memorize those name tags.
Rule 4: INVEST IN EAR PLUGS. If you have problems getting to sleep or are a light sleeper you are going to die a slow death on the road. This problem is solved by purchasing (safe) sleeping aids and earplugs. Trust me, you will NEVER go to bed early and if your roommate snores, you’ll be spared the racket. I recommend Lanes’ “Quiet Life” which are Homeopathic pills I bought at Boots.
Rule 5: SCRIBBLE IN YOUR TOUR ITINERARY. It’s nice to be able to remember where you are and what day it is and the itinerary handles that just fine. Unfortunately, they sometimes have mistakes in them but, for the most part, they’re dependable. You may have been to a town before so it’s nice if you remember a good pub or nite-spot and have it marked down in your book. Also, it doesn’t hurt to write down club employees’ names so you can remember them the next time you visit. Could mean the difference between a free case of Stella or 2 cans of Carlings. Plus you can keep those old flames on stand-by.
Rule 6: NEVER LET ON HOW HUNGRY YOU REALLY ARE. You’ll never get anyone in your posse out the door if you let them know you want to do anything bad. Instead, simply inform several people that you know a cool place to eat and you plan to leave in 10 min. They’ll follow you like sheep to the slaughter.
Rule 7: ALWAYS GET THE “411” FIRST HAND. Conform your soundchecks with your tour manager, not the drummer or the cellist. And leave your mobile on just in case things change. That way, you can grab a bite and still have time for a lap dance before soundcheck. And if soundcheck winds up being an hour later, you can complain about it and everyone will back you up.
Rule 8: BE HAPPY WITH YOUR MONITORS. Nice guys finish last so don’t be afraid to tell the engineers what you want. It isn’t always easy, especially when they’re on their mobiles (like Chris at the R.F.H.), but they are professionals and can help you get a great sound if you use them correctly. So get your mix and f*ck off. They have a rough enough job and don’t need you wankin’ off on your instrument when other musicians could be getting their mix together. (By the way, Rule 8 doesn’t apply in Spain, where there are no rules.)
Rule 9: DON’T LET TECH. PROBLEMS BUM YOU OUT. People pay good money to see you rock so you shouldn’t let them down. Although it’s bound to happen sooner or later, only guys in local indie bands and NME critics notice when you screw up a chord or miss a break. The chicks could care less, which is all you need to concern yourself with.
Rule 10: FIND OUT LAST ORDERS AT HOTEL BAR. You may have to befriend the bartender to convince him that 18 people coming back to his (or her, geez…) bar to wreak havoc at 1 am is actually a good thing. In addition to procuring the booze factor, an added bonus is a takeaway Kebab (or Pizza) menu that delivers late because you can be sure the after-party-weasels will have consumed all the backstage food before the last chord has finished ringing.
Rule 11: THE FOOD IS FREE SO YOU MIGHT AS WELL EAT IT. Part of being on the road is having a rider. The LOVE rider usually consists of several bottles of wine, a few cases of beer, sandwiches, fruit, crisps, and water and soda among other things. Even if it looks awful now, an Egg and Jelly sandwich (a Brit fave, I SWEAR) tastes like Filet Mignon at 1 am when you are starving and seriously trying to fend off that inevitable hangover.
Rule 12: HANG THOSE “DO NOT DISTURB” SIGNS. You just partied all night and now you plan to sleep till 3 pm the next day because it’s your day off. Guess again. Unless you tape your sign to the door, it’s gonna fall off before morning, guaranteed, and some housecleaning person is gonna kick your door in at 9 am. Doesn’t matter what you yell at them because they all have personal Stereos and will still open the door. So, my advice is to cover your ass (literally and figuratively) and nail it to the door if you have to.
Rule 13: SETTLE YOUR BILLS IN ADVANCE. There’s nothing more embarrassing than the hotel receptionist asking aloud, in everyone’s presence, “Which one of you was in room 417? You owe $7.95 for “Christy’s first time…again!” So either clear those charges first thing in the morning or you can be a cheap bastard and play “beat the clock” all night. It’s up to you.
Rule 14: STAY AWAY FROM THE GOLDEN ARCHES. And Burger King, for that matter. Hold out for “Little Chef” (in the UK) or “Denny’s” and “Cracker Barrell” (in the USA) but try to avoid those greasy burger joints at the MOTOs. It’s not easy, especially in the United Kingdom (where the word “comfort” is seldom used), to find decent food but it’s in your best interest. I know I joke about BK but it’s more to laugh to keep from crying.