I used to write a column for Keyboard entitled “Ask Mike,” where I answered questions about my experiences touring with some of the top artists in the world. This blog will serve as an updated version of that column. Here we go!
My current gig is doing Digital Performer playback and sound design on the “Roger Waters Us + Them” tour. I also worked with Roger on “The Wall” from 2010-2013. This current tour started in 2016 in Mexico and the U.S. “Desert Trip” festival, and will be out through 2019. We’re currently in New Zealand and Australia then Europe in the summer and South America to finish off 2018.
We finished the North America leg in late October 2017 and had a 10-week break. Our final show was in Vancouver then the gear was put on a boat to New Zealand where we performed our first show for this leg on January 24.
I hope you’ll find some of these tips and observations I’ll be sharing with you useful and if there’s anything you want to know more about feel free to contact me and I’ll answer your questions in future blogs.
It’s amazing how much you forget after 10 weeks away, so it’s imperative that you clearly label everything. I go so far as to take pictures of my setup just to jog my memory.
When you first open up your racks after a long break like this, you need to very carefully go through all of the connections to make sure they’re seated properly as things tend to get knocked around in transit. After I’m sure everything is plugged-in right and there’s no obvious damage, only then will I power things up. Everything booted up just fine and I was in business. I always carry spares of any of my show gear that may be difficult to locate overseas as stuff will break and it’s usually the one piece that can only be found in the USA when I’m out of the country.
There were no huge musical changes to the show during the break, but we did change video companies and had to rebuild the lighting rig over here, which is not unusual when you take a large production overseas.
We had three days before the band arrived to go through our gear and do any maintenance or programming. We then had three days to run through the show with the band before the first show.
When I tour, I always keep my show computers on a version of DP that I know is solid (I'm currently using DP 8.07 on Mac Minis,) and I never go on the Internet with the show computers during the tour. I never take a chance with the show computers on updates, or new plug-ins. "If it’s working, leave it alone" is my mantra.
I do carry a MacBook Pro with DP 9.51 which I use to record the shows and to use in my hotel room to work on film scores, practicing, and preparing tracks for my return to bar bands after I get through touring. That computer is on the Internet a lot and I keep it as current as possible so I’m on top of things technologically.
On tour when I have days off, I have time to work on other things, so I carry a small 49-key controller with me. There’s certainly no shortage of great video tutorials on YouTube about playing various songs I’ve always wanted to learn, and tutorials about software I need to learn more about, so I’m never bored out here. My tourist days are over, so I prefer to just stay in the hotel and be creative and get a work-out in each day.
I always back up my show on several different hard drives with a set in my touring rig, my carry-on Pelican case, one at home in a box ready to be FedExed, and a set with the Production manager. I also leave a detailed manual about how to run the show, various cues I have to do during each show, and the basic set-up of the rig just in case anything happens to me with the production manager and back line crew chief. The show must go on!
Please let me know if you have any questions about touring, and I’ll do my best to answer them in future blogs. (You can ask questions in the "Comment" section on Facebook where this will post). I look forward to hearing from you, and stay-tuned for more VERY soon!