Not all the “Rock Stars” are the ones you see in front of the audience night after night – yes, we give it up to them for being the talented musicians they are. But there is also a group of Rock Stars you don’t see on stage… the guys lurking in the shadows night after night, making it all happen for the band, and making sure it all comes together to give the audience a flawless show! Enter Martin Oldham….
Martin been a lifelong supporter of Zildjian, since saving up his paper route money to buy his first set of Zildjian cymbals. He graduated through different bands to become a Zildjian endorser, and eventually found himself working with all major Zildjian Artists in a new role; as Head Of Drums at the world famous John Henry's studios in London. Learning all he could, Martin left John Henry’s and set up his own business, DrumTechSupport, in order to further follow his passion for drums and the music industry. He has offered to write this blog for us, giving you a totally different side of being a “working drummer”… a Touring Tech.
Touring Tech......a week (and a bit!) in the life with Friendly Fires
Day 1: Travel:
Today sees the start of what will be very busy week comprising of shows, studio sessions, flights, bus journeys, good weather, bad weather, late nights and early mornings! I am currently on a tour bus driving back into London after another weekend of shows with Friendly Fires (Jack Savidge) in France and Scotland. The bus hit traffic on the way back to London which means our day off is halved as we won’t arrive until 1pm. From there it’s a taxi ride home before starting some admin and prepping for the weeks upcoming shows.
Day 2: Rehearsal:
After a welcome night in my own bed we arrive at John Henry's rehearsal studios in London at 10:00am to begin the load in and set up for the day’s session. The band have decided to put this in to go over some material that they haven't been playing regularly on tour, but that will feature in the Lovebox headline slot on Saturday night in London. The guys aren't due to arrive until mid-afternoon which allows me some much needed time to carryout maintenance to the kit. During a busy festival season or tour run, kit maintenance is crucial as it allows the tech and the artist to feel confident in the equipment knowing that everything is fully working and has been checked over thoroughly. The session is a success and the band are happy and the crew can now begin the pack-down and load-out. We are finally clear of John Henry’s at around 11:00pm before heading home.
Day 3: Zildjian Visit
During our recent trip to China we had an accident with the 22 K Light Ride cymbal - it was badly damaged in transit on the return to London, it had been dropped while in the case and caused a crack around the cymbal. A quick email to Tina C at Zildjian UK, and an arrangement was made for me to visit the Artist center at Cato Music to swap out the cymbal. As always Tina was very accommodating and there was a selection of cymbals to choose from - out of the selection I was looking for the one with the darkest tones. I made my choice, had a quick chat before heading off across London for another meeting armed with a new cymbal and few more T-shirts!
Day 4: Travel - London to Spain:
I travel to Heathrow to meet the band for the start of what will prove to be a long weekend! I am slightly laden with bags as I also have to take my 1970's Ludwig Black Beauty and a secondary tech box, which I will be using for a recording session at Air Studios on Monday morning, directly on our return from Wales. I have to plan these things carefully as there will not be anytime to return home before heading to the session. When we travel abroad with Friendly Fires and are not using our own back-line we fly with 19 pieces of equipment, the essentials to make the show happen. For drums it is - Snare, Cymbals, Kick Pedal, Simmons Pads and Stand, Tama Brain, mini mixer and assorted cabling. These are the items that would be difficult to hire from back-line companies throughout the world. We arrive in Barcelona later that evening in good spirits looking forward to the show tomorrow.
Day 5: Spain - Sonar Festival:
Lobby call is at 11:00am for the crew to reload the gear into the van that will take us to site. As this is a 'fly-gig' we are using hired back-line so my first task will be to check over all the rented equipment to make sure that we have everything and that it is all up to standard. Jack is endorsed by DW/Zildjian and although we fly with his cymbals we also have a backup set on the rider just in case. Today is also the first show with the new 22 K Light Ride. I check the kit, tune and set up in good time so that we don't have to rush through our line check. The band will arrive much later as our show time isn't until 1:30am! This means that we won’t be back at the hotel until 4:00am, not great news as our lobby call is for 7:30am to catch our flight back to London! Line check complete we head back to the hotel to meet up with everyone so that we can watch the England football match in a local bar. It’s a great atmosphere as all band and crew watch England win 3-2 against Sweden before we rush off to get in the cars to go back to site. A crazy 5 minute change over and one show show later we are ready to head back to the hotel. The show was a success with no major issues. Finally, bed time.
Day 6: London - Lovebox Festival:
Everyone arrives on time for the lobby call in various states of tiredness after only 3 hours sleep! We leave for the airport to board a plane that will take us to London City airport, and then the short journey to Lovebox festival. On arrival in London we load the van with the luggage and travel to the festival site arriving at around 1:00pm. We meet up with our Production Manager who tells us that we will have access to our risers around 4:00pm - this means we have some time to rest, relax and have some lunch before starting again. The weather is good but slightly spongy underfoot - it makes such a difference to an outdoor festival when the weather is good - everything runs easier. We heard tales of thunderstorms from the previous night and although the ground showed signs of that, we weren't hindered in anyway. As we were headlining the show, we had full production with us consisting of lights, LED, desks etc, and of course our own back-line. The work that I had done earlier in the week meant that the kit was gig ready with just the odd tuning tweak to make it perfect. Jack checked out the set up (as he does before every show) to make sure it was to his liking and returned to the dressing room before show time. Another fraught change over, (this time due to the amount of things to get right production wise as opposed to time constraints) and we were ready. The band played great to a packed crowd - as the show came to an end the heavens opened and load-out in the rain followed - oh joy!
Day 7: Wales - BeachBreak Festival
Our third country in three days and the tiredness is beginning to kick in! We managed to leave the site last night at around 2:00am and we arrived on site in Wales at 7:00am. I was woken at around 8:00am by our production manager informing me that we were going to setup and do a full line check before the site opened. This is good news as it means that we can take our time and ensure everything is correct. We are fully set by 10.30am and I have time to re tune and tweak before the line-check. I decide to change the snare head to keep it sounding fresh as tonight is another big show for the band. Line check complete by 11.30am and we are now free until around 7:00pm. We take the time to shower, eat and then explore the site. It’s located near a beach so we go for a wander around the beach as the weather is hot and sunny (very unlike Wales normally). We then head into the main site to partake in some activities to keep us occupied throughout the day - the highlight of which is tobogganing down Europe's biggest toboggan run! The show goes without a hitch and everyone is happy - it is however tinged with shock and sadness for me as I had just heard the news that my good friend and fellow drum tech Scott Johnson was killed during a staging accident while working for Radiohead - RIP Scott, you will be missed.
Day 8: Studio Session - Air Studios:
Arriving into London at around 10:00 am I leave the tour bus and head straight over to Air Studios to meet with Producer Dan Grech. I have worked with Dan on many of his album projects most notably, The Vaccines (Pete Salisbury), Keane (Richard Hughes) and Razorlight (Skully). Dan will contact me when he needs drums for a project that I will hire him from my extensive vintage drum collection, or when he needs the artists’ kits tuned etc. Today is a bit of both - he has hired my 1970's Ludwig Black Beauty to complete the collection of drums that the drummer has provided. I am tasked with tuning his kit and his selection of 10 snare drums. We experiment with different tunings and heads before getting the desired sound. I leave the studio at around 4:00pm to head home for some much needed rest!
Day 9: London Show - Armani Store, Bond Street:
We have had this show in the diary for a while and we weren't looking forward to it as production-wise as these things tend to be a nightmare - difficult load ins, not set up for musical performances, no sense of correct timings etc etc - I could bore you with more moans but I won’t. I’ll just fast forward to say that with all this taken into account the show was great! We met at the store at 9:00am and had to be loaded in (down two flights of stairs, no lift) by 10:00am. We then had to leave while the shop opened for business and were told to return at 2:30pm. I used this time to go and source get some drum skins that I needed. I returned to begin the set up on the 24' x 8' stage - this is small for us as our drum riser is usually 8'x8'! We managed to squeeze it on...just barely fit! A quick line check and we were heading upstairs to the dressing room. The organizers had kindly put a TV in the room so that we could watch England's final group game against Ukraine. The bad news is that I would only get to watch the first half as we would have to start change over during the second half - Jack promised to keep me informed via text! As we set the stage England scored and the band arrived to take to the stage in great spirits. Another great show to an appreciative crowd and score line that everyone wanted made for a very successful night! We began the pack down and load out and managed to get done by 11:00pm. A short trip home with two days off to follow before it all starts again.....