I’d wanted some sort of role within the music industry since I was a kid. I fell into this kind of role; I’d tried proper jobs, but quickly realised that I wasn’t the sort of person who wanted to go to the same place to get yelled at by some target-obsessed dickhead in a suit for minimum wage everyday, so I was always looking for something else.
‘Roadie’ is a bit of an umbrella term that covers most of the crew that travel with a touring band, but my particular role is as a driver. Being a musician with a vehicle meant that I inevitably knew a lot of other musicians who needed to get around. It started out as favours for mates, but after a while I’d gained a reputation and people were passing my number around.
Things really vary from job to job; I do one-off shows, tours and artist transport for festivals, and each event has its own particular requirements. For the tour I’m currently working on, the day starts with making sure the van is ready for the band about half an hour before check-out time at the hotel. I clear it of any debris from the night before and make sure it’s fuelled up and warm, prepared for the sleepy musicians who are surfacing and ready to sit in the back for the next few hours. I then Tetris all of their luggage into the back and get going to the next town.
Once we’re all checked-in at the next place, and the band are at the venue for lunch and sound check, I’m at a bit of a loose end until show time, but I’m always on call to run managers and crew wherever they need to go. Once the show is done, I run the band straight back to the hotel, and start prepping to do it all again the next day. Sometimes we get some fairly aggressive autograph hunters chasing us either at the venue or on the way to the hotel, so we want to make a quick exit and be out of sight as rapidly as possible.
To wind down, I’ve got a dedicated team of cocaine dwarves and Turkish hookers to help ease away the day’s tensions! But seriously, a couple of beers and a snack with Netflix is my usual MO. I’m usually pretty tired by the end of the shift; the day starts at about 7am and I’m usually not finished until around midnight or 1am so, barring any excessive caffeine intake, it doesn’t take much to put me down.
Being a roadie is nowhere near as glamorous as the eighties would have you believe, but I do enjoy going to work in a new place every day. You always know that if a place sucks, you can get out of there the next day. Having experienced my fair share of nonsense and ego in other industries, it’s refreshing to work on a tour where everyone is so professional, courteous and responsible in their job roles. You do see some strange things though: a couple of months ago I happened across the aftermath of a double murder in Camden. It was some gang-related stupidity, and I saw the perpetrators running away to their getaway car. That was some pretty heavy business to witness.
There are probably a lot of misconceptions about what I do. People think that I can get them on the guest list or get stuff signed for anyone that asks. Doing that will guarantee you’re not asked back on the next tour.
When you’re a freelancer, the goal is always regular work and more money. I still do low-level jobs for small bands on a budget, but I’m starting to get some more high profile work coming in. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and not just an exception to the rule. I’d like to be able to buy a house soon.
I guess I’ve always wanted to be an adventurer of some kind, and this type of work is definitely an adventure. You have to make it fun; an ability to get on with your clients and strong banter skills are essential for staving off tour psychosis, as you can wear a bit thin on each other after a few days cooped up in the van. It helps that we're quite often into the same stuff, so if we run out of stories to tell, we can at least yell Alan Partridge quotes at each other.