Tell us about your tour vehicle.
With the full band line up, we’d usually take a rental van in the US, to avoid having any repair costs or hassle getting from one city to another… Covered by recovery service and they’ll just exchange it if there’s ever a problem, which there hasn’t been. I had a great Ford Transit for years, back home in the UK, which we rolled around Europe in for years. It was regular maintained (and I’m very picky about engine servicing) and it never let us down.
It really is false economy to take a crappy vehicle out on tour… Absolutely everything rests on you getting from place to place without delays, and if you do take care of your tour vehicle properly, you shouldn’t find yourself sat on the side of the freeway, waiting for recovery, wasting time and spending money on getting it fixed, missing shows, etc.
As a duo, we go out in my Toyota 4Runner. Same thing. It’s really well cared for, things that need doing, as part of regular maintenance, get done long before they’re overdue, and I’d confidently head out anywhere in it.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
Neither of us are picky eaters, but we don’t enjoy processed food at all. We try to do a supermarket shop at least once every few days, and keep a cooler in the truck with quick snacks in it. I don’t eat nuts when I have to sing every night, so it usually contains fruit, crackers, water, etc.
We will usually make time to eat at a restaurant of some sort, just once a day, wherever we’re at. This way we don’t have to deal with the “golden brown only” exits on the road. Sometimes it’s unavoidable though, and the best you can do, in those instances, it pick the least processed item on the menu. If all else fails, there will usually be a Chinese buffet, where vegetables that didn’t come out of a can will be found, at least.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
This is a “how long is a piece of string” string question, really. Dave goes through way more strings than I do, over the course of a year, but even he only changes them a few times on tour. I usually put a fresh set on before we leave and I very rarely break strings. They last the whole tour sometimes. At home we change them as needed. So we probably don’t do it half as often as most will. We spend a lot of our down time not playing music.
Where do you rehearse? Are there any particular peculiarities or crazy experiences that you’ve had there?
We have a shack/studio in our back yard, Dave built it a few years back. It helps that we live in the middle of nowhere, and it’s set up year ’round for rehearsing and recording. There’s never really any strangeness, since it’s used regularly and is ours. It’s just there, ready to use whenever. It is a black hole and things get lost inside it, but that’s just down to slapdash care taking. And I am not in charge of keeping it tidy (like I said, I’m pretty particular about most things).
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
Title is “Charm”; sample lyric is “You still want for something good to happen.”
Describe your first gig.
I was one of four members of Thee Headcoatees, playing our first show at The Falcon in Camden Town, London. Only one of us had ever been on stage before. It was a great night, from what I can remember… No idea what it sounded like, since we didn’t use the house PA or ever have monitors, but we had a ball doing it. We liked it so much that we did about 12 years worth more shows after that, probably much along the same lines.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
I work for an attorney now. Previously, I was an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer for many years, working within various London local authority housing departments, shutting down crack houses, etc. I’m actually a qualified riding instructor, by trade, and only took to desk based work out of necessity (when I was recovering from a serious riding accident). I haven’t taught full time for over twenty years now, but instead went in to coaching and training intermediate riders/horses. That’s the thing that has served me best, and that’s given me opportunities to travel and pick up work as and when I want to, etc. I suppose that’s what I really do. I have three full time jobs at any given time really.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
It’s about the same as it’s always been. I’ve never relied on it to support myself or the other stuff I do outside of playing music. It’s nice when a surprise thing happens, like a track gets used for an ad or a movie or something… That’s often a windfall and makes other things possible (like getting the funds together to build the studio here, and a put up a big barn, etc.). I don’t envisage suddenly making more money from playing music at any point ahead. It would be great to be able to continue to do it because people want to hear new records or come out and see us play. But everything doesn’t rest upon that being the case. And it never has.
My advice to anyone just starting out is always along the lines of “Be sure and learn to do something else, besides playing music, and be prepared to support yourself adequately without relying upon any expected income that you might generate from doing it… You can do exactly as you please, always, if you make it so.”
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
I wish I owned all of my own master tapes, rather than just a handful of them. That’s something most people (that I know) can not realize until much later on. It comes up often enough to kick myself for not doing so. The best advice I was given, way back then (by someone I know well who had found out the hard way himself) was to never to part with my publishing rights either. And I haven’t.