Q – I notice that the 55 date European tour is solo only. Whilst I love watching you perform solo, I miss seeing the whole band experience. With the release of your new album with a full band, is it likely that will tour again with a full band?
(Oh and here’s another shout for a performance in Norwich, UK!)
A – This question is foremost in my mind these days, my agent’s also, and it is very difficult to address. Short term the tour needs to be solo, the deals done for the shows were based upon my last tours and promoters simply wouldn’t take a chance on offering me the substantially larger guarantees that would be needed for a band. Not that it was even discussed. Many of the deals were done before the album was even finished. That said, Standards is currently garnering more attention and acclaim than we’ve become used to in the last decade or so, and tickets are selling quite well. London sold out much more quickly than last time. Manchester just sold out, last time in the same venue I think we sold maybe 80%… so we are trending upwards, but realistically I think we’d need to see the UK tour sell out or almost sell out for a UK promoter to take the chance. The same applies to Europe. So I think I need to wait and see how it goes and we’re doing all we can to promote the tour… Sometime around October I’ll be discussing this with my agent again.
There is more – the last time I toured with a rock band it was the Negatives. That was the one and only time I have ever really enjoyed touring with a band. It is really difficult for me to want to do it if it isn’t like that, and even if the music is great when there are 7 or 8 people touring together it is rarely smooth and unfortunately these days I would be the boss, and I don’t relish the thought. In the 80’s and 90’s I would have a dedicated tour manager to deal with the band and crew. The budget would almost certainly preclude that today. We would be band, sound engineer, stage tech, lighting designer, monitor engineer (maybe), driver. We would be on a bus with gear in a trailer, and we would would be sleeping on the bus a lot of the time. When we stayed in hotels, the budget would demand that they were Ibis standard (I’m Ok with that). Even when we toured with a large budget in the 90’s the hotels were awful – with a large group they can’t be lovely… Apply the same logic to eating, restaurants, etc. And when one starts to budget flights for 8 rather than 2, it gets even more depressing. Loving music isn’t enough. The music is 3 hours out of 24. The remaining 21 are the problem.
Then there is the question of where the band should be based. At first glance one would think that as I have a practice room in my basement right here in Massachusetts would make sense. But 90% of the concerts would be outside the US, see ‘flight budget’ and work permits would be needed. Thinking seriously about this, if it were to happen, I’d need to temporarily base myself somewhere in Europe – London, maybe Hamburg, maybe Stockholm. And then I’d need to find the players. Nobody who played on Standards would be available. My son might be able to play a few one offs or a run of festivals, not more than that. He has his own career to attend to. Good musicians need to be payed decently, fairly.
Which leads to where would we play? Right now the only places I know (according to my agent) we could perform at would be a London theatre, probably Shepherds Bush, and festivals. I love the idea of returning to Shepherds Bush. Festivals, well I just can’t get excited about them. We would be well paid but we would be somewhere in the middle of the bill sharing the stage with bands I have not the slightest interest in. Muse would be top of the bill and that would depress me. A run of festivals would maybe make it possible to play some other cities, subsidising them in effect… so maybe they are a good idea…
I have no interest in returning to rock clubs. I enjoyed playing theatres. But rock clubs offer much better deals (that’s why you see so many bands playing House of Blues and similar – you eat and drink when you watch/listen. The only income at a theatre is the ticket.). You can see where this is going…
One last thing. On the Negatives tours everyone was reasonably remunerated. Except me. I just about broke even. And my profile was much stronger then than it is now… On the bright side I still have the flight cases I bought for them.
So hopefully that’s enough to information for you to see that it is not an easy question, and I don’t see an easy answer, but I will continue to think about it.