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FOH ENGINEER /

It’s the ears, not the gear

 

First & foremost I am a music fan who loves live music & wants every gig I’m working on to sound the best it possibly can. You won’t hear excuses from me about the PA not being good enough or the mixing desk being the wrong brand. I’ll be too busy making sure that you sound great, whilst enjoying yourself on stage & making every audience member go home with a smile on their faces rather than ringing in their ears.

Have you ever been to a gig & experienced sludgy sub bass that made you feel like your bowels were about to rupture & vocals so sibilant it felt like someone was taking a cheese grater to your eardrums? If you have, then you can be certain that I wasn’t mixing that gig.

High volume is a weapon used by some engineers to compensate for the fact that they don’t know the basic principles of acoustics, sound reinforcement & balancing a mix. Many engineers use the same techniques, equipment & lazy short cuts regardless of the artist they are mixing & obsess over individual technical details whilst ignoring the music.

I believe the most important factor in getting a good sound is understanding the music & putting the artist at ease. The technical side of the job is important to me but should be invisible to the artist & the audience.

I’ll cope with any issues allowing the artist to enjoy performing & the audience to enjoy the gig.

Currently mixing:

Sadly no one. Full time TM duties prevent touring FOH work. Still available for one off shows.

Past Clients Include:

James Bay

House FOH engineer at Cluny 2 Newcastle upon Tyne

Beth Jeans Houghton

Detroit Social Club

Frankie & the Heartstrings

Monarchy

Cloud Nothings

TOUR MANAGEMENT /

Is it buy out or PD mate?

 

For Artists

When it comes to tour management I have a simple philosophy, being nice gets better results long term, than being a dick.

Life on the road is an alternative lifestyle but sadly, all too often I come across tour managers who seem determined to take a fun & exciting life & reduce it to something akin to a mobile office job.

All bar the luckiest bands have a pretty short career. When their time on the road ends I want them to be able to look back on any tours they worked with me as being some of the best moments in their lives.

Let me take care of the logistics & you can focus on having fun and performing to the very best of your abilities.

 

For Management & Labels

I’ve never missed a show, I’ve never gone over budget, I always get paid & your client is always safe.

Currently working with:

James Bay (Worldwide) – Closer Artists/Republic/Virgin

 

Previous Clients

Beth Jeans Houghton (Worldwide) – Mute/Dick O’Dell

Frankie & the Heartstrings – Wichita/Gareth Dobson

Detroit Social Club – Wildlife/Geoff Barrowdale

Monarchy – Kayak MM

Let’s Buy Happiness – Spiral

TESTIMONIALS /

Posterior Smoke

 

Even though I have spent thousands of pounds on extensive therapy, I still feel uncomfortable telling people just how brilliant I am. So here direct from the mouths of those who have paid my mortgage for the past 5 years are words of honesty, wit, warmth & charm.

 

Beth Jeans Houghton

Never in my life have I met a soul so funny, kind, non-judgemental and intelligent as Ross Lewis.
Yes, he can get you to the places you need to be on time, he can collect the fee at the end of the night, organise instruments when yours break in a land where he knows nothing of the language, and get you through five countries in one day and talk police round with his quick wit and humour when they catch you driving a little too fast. But regular tour manager duties aside (all of which he deals with impeccably), he is an awesome person.

Countless times Ross has saved my backside in situations in which, had I been left to deal with things on my own, I would have failed miserably.

Once, after a lovely walk along a river in a small town in France, our key broke off in the door to our van, with only hours to go before we were due to arrive at our next venue.. Within 15 minutes Ross had located a key cutter with his rudimentary French and quick thinking, and we were back on the road.

This next ones for girls: every so often Ross will arrive at my hotel room to deliver me a tampon. I’ll say ‘not today Ross, I’m not due on!’, to which he would reply ‘you just wait and see!’. Sure enough later that day I’d be greeted by the fruits of my menstrual cycle.. How did he know? Because within days he will have an understanding of you, how you work and what behaviour indicates certain outcomes. He will know you better than you know yourself. He is always one step ahead, going above and beyond to make sure not only are you on time for your appointments, shows and interviews, but that before hand you are the happiest, healthiest version of yourself that you can be.

For those looking for someone to figure out and execute the mundane logistics of a tour, Ross is the man for you. For those of you who want something more for your money, Ross will provide you everything you could want. If you want to be left alone, he will leave you alone. If you want company, he will show you the time of your life. If you want steak he will find it for you. If you want to cry he will comfort you and he won’t be awkward about it. If you’re sick he will be there with his Manuka honey and countless remedies and medications. If there is an interviewer who is being an asshole, he will get rid of them. And if, like me, you have a nervous breakdown in a hotel in Zurich to the point of paralysis and spilling gibberish from your mouth like something from the exorcist, Ross will hold your hand for as many hours as it takes for you to fall asleep, and have you laughing about it days later.

A constant source of hilarity, Ross has been not just a tour manager, but one of the greatest friends I ever had. He has dealt with situations far beyond either of our control and turned the tables. He has made it possible for me to work in conditions under which I would not have imagined I could handle. He has brightened my life at its darkest and done so with grace, humour, sense and intelligence in a way that nobody I have met, professionally or personally, ever could.

I almost don’t want to let you have him.

 

Frankie Francis – Frankie & the Heartstrings

“Ross Lewis is the guy for the job, a real caring TM on the road & his FOH skills are second to none.”

 

Dave Burn – Detroit Social Club

“Just make up anything you want mate & put my name to it.”

 

Dave Harper – Frankie & the Heartstrings

“I’m going to do this later on, predictably hilarity will ensue”

*time passes, this arrives*

“Trained by retarded ninjas deep within the cheese pastie mines of Kumtiwinte, Ross Lewis remains the highest scorer for Newcastle United by miles and a tip top wrongcock to boot. His penis, although barbed and only visible to children can be plugged directly into the anus of any band member or wheezing mong with astounding results guaranteed.
What sets Ross apart from most other ‘sound guys’ is that he owns a telescopic hover donkey which he straddles throughout shows. This gives his ears a geographical advantage which other ‘sound guys’ simply do not consider.
When it comes to tour management, well, get out of town. Ross is quite literally the bomb da boom da band b’biddy macaloon. And you can take that to the bank. Not only will he book a hotel and take you there but he is always prepared to go the extra mile. On more than one occasion I have awoken to find Ross wearing a clown mask and nubuck underwear mumbling in incredible detail about how he will be disposing my body. The ‘unusual’ masturbation is just a bonus really.
I would have no hesitation in recommending Ross to anyone. Although having said that he is terrible at his job, I hate him and he’s a paedophile.

Hope this helps

Uncle Dave”

 

 

Graham Anderson – Jumpin’ Hot Club

“Its nearly 30 years since The Jumpin’ Hot Club opened its doors & in that time we have put on literally, thousands of live music shows. To say Ross Lewis is the best sound engineer we have ever worked with is quite something, but its a fact.
His skill as a engineer is second to none & he has those extra qualities of reliability, is a great communicator with the bands, and has a relaxed & easy manner. I’ve lost count of the amount of artists that have asked him to tour with them, when they’re next time round.”

 

Sarah Hall – Let’s Buy Happiness

“Ross Lewis is a wonderful TM organised, professional, has great rapport with bands, event organisers and venues. He is highly attuned to the needs & workings of the bands he works with and always keeps a cool and collected demeanour.
As FOH Ross is always aware of how a band wants to sound, and creates the means in every venue to do that. Even with the ranging of quality of eqipment that differs from venue to venue, the sound is always at its best.”

BLOG /

Soundbites by Daft Shites Vol 3

Sitting still makes my head spin.

Chitter Chatter Chit!

A talk (US) or chat (UK) show should be a wonderful experience for bands & artists but often isn’t. It seems amazing that shows which showcase live music (sadly such a rare thing on television these days) should inadvertently do so much to increase the chances of a poor performance being captured, but they do.

The usual working day for one of these shows goes like this:

6-8 hours before the recording – Crew set up backline & instruments. (Often the backline will be hired in, will be not quite what was requested or will not be in great working order.)

4-6 hours before the recording – Band will arrive and will settle into dressing rooms and then be called to do 2-3 run passes of the track allowing their monitor mix to be set & for the broadcast mix to be pulled together.

3-4 hours before the recording – Band & crew will kill time in a dressing room that contains no forms of entertainment.

30 minutes before recording – Hair & make up will be done

15 minutes before recording – Someone from the TV show will appear, they will be wearing a headset & carrying a clipboard. They will announce “15 minutes till recording”. Crew will go & do final instrument tunings

5 minutes before recording – Headset Clipboard comes back & walks band to the studio floor. They will be introduced, get into position & then reintroduced for the recording so it looks like the whole talk/chat show was seamless as live take, rather than being a smoke & mirrors job.

Recording time – The band will do a take of the song & they & their team will immediately have to decide if the take is good enough for broadcast or if they will (if allowed) try for a second take.

This is pretty much the way of all shows all around the world & it is the reason why if your favourite band has done a good talk/chat show performance it was down to as much luck as judgement.

Now here is how I think things can be improved.

1 – Stop designing schedules based on worst case scenarios. Stop adding so much dead time into a day. If something does go wrong, make it part of the show, stop making every show a bland illusion of professionalism. Celebrate the differences of each artist, band & crew.

2 – TV & production companies are worth millions & spend hundreds of thousands on utter wasteful bollocks. Buy a few sets of world class backline and maintain it to be in perfect working order.

3 – Put some sources of entertainment in the dressing rooms or create a fun room. Xbox, dartboard, pool table, pinball, table football, air hockey etc etc. Ease the nerves, add the fun & get a better performance.

4 – Get a room and put an electric drum kit, some guitar & bass Pods, keys & a vocal mixer in it. Allow the band & artist to warm up before the recording. I can think of few things less conducive to a good music performance than to have the band & artist sit around bored for 4+ hours and then have them be rushed to their instruments and be told to be brilliant in one take.

5 – Factor in multiple takes. Tell the audience the band will play the song 3 times back to back & then get the artist rep/management/label to pick the best one. Even better record 3 different songs as a mini gig. Broadcast one & put the rest online, do more with an 8+ hour day than get one ropey to average performance.

6 – Do something different! You all have the same format of a few guests & then a single song. Use the band, make them part of the show. Musicians are some of the most spontaneous & fun people I know, every night they feed off an audience & produce flashes of brilliance. Many actors on the other hand need other people’s words, multiple takes & the full might of Hollywood to appear interesting. Give more screen time to musicians, talk to them as well as letting them play.

Sorry

I cannot get you an opening set or support slot at a James Bay concert. It is very impressive that you have used rudimentary Google skills to find me & email/tweet/Facebook message me with a few days until the show you wish to play. Sadly I am unable to help because the live music industry is slightly more organised & thinks on a longer term basis than you.

The way to get a support slot is to get either a manager, a booking agent or more likely both. If you are good enough these things will naturally happen and soon enough your management & booking agent will be talking to another artist’s management & booking agent and will land you a support gig or tour. If you have landed poor management they may go down the murky path of buying a support slot.

This has been the way since the music industry began & will continue to be for the foreseeable future & no matter how many emails or messages you send me, I will be unable to help. Sorry about that.

Many young musicians seem to think that landing a support slot with an artist they love will be a life changing moment but unless you are opening for the right artist & with the right team behind you, you’ll achieve nothing. Say you land the slot & 2000 people in the audience love you, what then? You have no product to sell them, no strategy to build on this sudden adulation & no team to advise how to repeat this success.

Soundbites by Daft Shites Vol 2

Always remember it’s the music business not the business music. It’s right there in the name, music always comes first.

Soundbites by Daft Shites Vol 1

The best bit of equipment you can buy for any tour is another day in the rehearsal studio.

Some advice for fans

What follows is some advice & a few tips for fans. First let me state loudly & clearly that I love fans. Without fans there would be no music industry. We need you, we like you, hell some of you even become genuine friends that we stay in touch with outside of music. So don’t take this advice the wrong way, I’m just offering some insight into how to not annoy the bands and artists you like.

 

  1. Don’t take it personally if you are not instantly recognised by the artist or crew. Hundreds of shows per year x thousands of audience members = a lot of faces to remember. We aren’t being rude if we ask you to refresh our memory, just most likely suffering the effects of sleep deprivation, jet lag & hunger.
  2. Don’t be offended if we are in a rush & can’t instantly stop to chat. Our schedules are usually crazy & there are loads of things that can go wrong when we are on the road. If we say we are in a hurry, we aren’t lying. Most bands and artists love spending time with fans but as they get more successful that time is eaten away by ever larger promo schedules & longer more technically demanding sound checks. Understand that us rushing past you outside a venue isn’t being rude to you personally, it’s us making sure that the show is as good as possible for the thousands of other people attending. FYI if you want to meet bands & spend time with them, 6pm – 8pm is the dead time that most artists hate and will be found killing time in pubs, video arcades & other time wasting places near the venue. That’s a good time to say hello and catchup.
  3. Most artists I know love receiving gifts from fans as long as they are small & not weird. By all means pour your heart & soul into something creative but why not keep that for you as a reminder of how inspired you were? If every successful artist kept and hung up every painting of themselves that they were given by a fan, their house would look like the set of a terrifying horror film. At a tired low ebb after a long journey, there can be something quite harrowing about stepping off a tour bus & having an abstract or photo-realistic picture of yourself thrust under your nose. Whereas key rings, soft toys, mugs, local sweets & chocolate will always raise a smile & be welcomed.
  4. An important point but one often ignored by many people. When a band & crew are on the road we are basically homeless. The tour bus & the hotels we stay in become our home. I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys a bunch of strangers (no matter how friendly) standing outside their house. It’s pretty much the same for us with regards the bus & the hotel. They are places of sanctuary for us, a home away from home & the easiest way to piss off an artist you love is to pester them by constantly hanging around a hotel or the bus. (I know this for a fact as I once had an awful encounter with Steven Malkmus from Pavement. The young fan me thought he was a dick, the older me now realises that I was a dick & he reacted quite calmly given the circumstances).
  5. Don’t be upset if your request for a song dedication is politely declined. If a band or artist followed every request each show would consist of approximately 50 birthday shout outs, 15 engagement announcements, 10 anniversary commendations & at least 5 marriage proposals. All of the music that was planned would have to be cancelled just to accommodate the fan requests. Sorry in advance for not making your special moment more special.
  6. Your ticket gets you entry to the show & hopefully you’ll have been entertained and have memories that will last anywhere between until you get pissed in the pub afterwards to a lifetime. Your ticket does not guarantee you a souvenir, a personal meeting or allow you to be rude to me, my crew or the band/artists. I print 10 set lists a night so sorry that you can’t all have one. We sometimes have a very tight schedule so have to dash off after the show. We aren’t being rude, we are just making sure the thousands of people the following night enjoy as good a show as the one you saw.
  7. From the artists leaving the stage it will take anywhere between 60-90 minutes before the tour party is ready to leave the venue. People need showers, industry folk need to swan around being important, friends & family need to spend brief time with their loved ones when they are in town & we may need to eat & drink. We aren’t being rude keeping you waiting, we are just getting shit done.
  8. Don’t be a dick!
  9. Be nice. Everyone responds better to nice behaviour.

Tour Life Laws No1

The better a city, festival or venue is, the less time you will have to spend in it.

Apologies

I appear to have neglected this blog due to the massive workload that has resulted in James Bay becoming a bit of a big deal.

 

I shall endeavour to write more and give the handful of you who have ever checked this site something to peruse.

North American Tour Stats

  • Personally driven 8997 miles
  • 23 shows over 42 days
  • Flights 7
  • Delays 3
  • Missed connections 1
  • 3 countries
  • 20 US states
  • 5 attempts to pay for something in the wrong currency
  • 4 hangovers
  • 1 shouting match with local crew member (Boston, of course it was Boston, where else?)
  • Best food – The curry in Philadelphia.
  • Best venue – A three way tie between Dallas, Washington & LA but for very different reasons.
  • Most surreal moment – Being offered the purchase of hand-grenades & turtles in Mexico City.
  • Best hotel – Residence Inn in Des Moines
  • Best roadside view – Big Daddy’s Firework Warehouse in Tennessee.
  • Most mind blowing moment – A guided tour of The White House & meeting the first dogs.

USA Observations

  • 1 – The more lanes a road has, the slower the traffic is.
  • 2 – Indicators (turn signals) are a sign of weakness or communism.
  • 3 – The further away from either ocean you get, the larger and odder shaped the populace becomes.
  • 4 – In hotels a lamp is never just a lamp. It can also be a electrical socket, an ethernet connection and occasionally a coat stand.
  • 5 – The people are so nice you often forget their batshit crazy views on gun ownership and abortion.