Interview with Leonard Loers - Tourmanager of SaxonElectrical Shocks, Hangovers & Old Mans Chocolate
An Interview about the technical aspects of a Saxon Tour.
Electrical Shocks, Hangovers & Old Mans Chocolate
An Interview about the technical aspects of a Saxon Tour
Please introduce yourself and your duties with Saxon.
My name is Leonard Loers. I do the Personal Assistant Management and I am also doing the Tour Management. As you know Thomas Jensen is managing the band and I am, if you want to call it, his assistant. I do all the daily work around the band. Thomas has the masterplan in his mind and makes all the decisions in consultation with the band, but I deal with everything else on a day to day basis. There are of course subjects which need consulting, but I can also make decisions on my own. This comes with experience, and is focused on all areas in regards to management issues. I am also the direct contact of the Band. In 90% of all cases it`s about business, but sometimes they have also private issues to be taken care of. But this stays in the backround, because after all they are pretty well positioned. Because of the fact that the band is constantly playing live, one of my main duties is the Tour management. That means that I need to preplan and pre-organize every booked show. And when the day of the show finally arrives, I take care that every crew member or local crew aid is doing what I planned earlier.
Planning is a good key word. With a band like Saxon the tour planning has one of its greatest challenges in technical and logistical efforts. Can you please give us a quick overview of how your Planning and organization looks like?
Funny that you ask this now – because we are starting to plan the new tour. The Band is momentarily in the studio and working on their next full length studio album. As you can imagine, this process takes some time too. Preplanning is an important part of the Management. We have now end of June and I am already planning the whole year of 2013. That is exactly where we are right now. The Band is in the Studio and has a deadline when to deliver the master. The release is planned for approximately February 2013. That is where my tour planning comes into play. If we have a release in February, then we can start touring in March. The starting point of a Tour is decided on logistical criterions. Therefore I talked with our booking agent yesterday in regards to the tour plan, so that we are able to go on tour in March. Because the Band is popular worldwide the tour can last for one and a half years. I sit down first with our lighting engineer, who is also in charge of the stage design. We creatively develop how to enhance the show in regards to light and stage design. If we develope an idea, this idea goes to Thomas. If he is OK with it, it will be presented to the Band. The final outcome is in most cases a compromise out of the different concepts. Then it goes further to the question on how to realize and finance those ideas. This is the most demanding process. Of course you have a huge gross profit, but you also want to have a little profit to give sense to the whole venture. It is always a compromise to make it reasonably priced on the one hand, and on the other hand giving the audience the best show you can possibly make. If, during the year, more and more Tour dates are confirmed , the tour management work comes into play. I am writing this down as a concept, some kind of stage order and sentdthis out to our venue partners. I am telling them with how much stuff we are coming with and what we would need to be provided by them on location. And you will get in a little fight with someone or another at times about the budgets. This is a very demanding process, because you have to deal with resistance from your own people too.
For example if the crew is unsatisfied with their workload compared to the money - there you have to renegotiate. In this case it is very important to rely on your experience, the knowledge how much certain things cost.
You mentioned what the local venue partners need to provide. What actually do you take with you to the venue and what are your needs on location?
That depends on how much money you get. Because if you are playing for little money, then it doesn`t make sense to come there with three trucks. Besides the backline, we are always taking our own show elements with us that will elevate us above other bands. For example, one time we had a very cool stages et with integrated speakers. In front of that was a catwalk with ramps and lights, where each band member was able to run up. One of my jobs is to make sure that this backline can be stored neat and tightly, to prevent unwanted surprises during transportation. On the last Tour they had strip lights between the speakers, which were able to project types and fonts. Our light designer had come up with this idea and it looked amazing.
We use the local PA Systems, but we bring our own mixing consoles and monitor systems with us. The Band is currently using in–ear monitoring, which makes things easier. Last year we also played America, and some of the locations are just….We had a situation in Canada. Normally each musician has at least one personal stage monitor, to be able to mix his own sound on stage. But this Club in Montreal just had one stage monitor for everyone. With the in- ear system we are much more flexible. Luckily the guys are pros, and don’t let the audience know if they have a crappy stage sound. But the most important thing is that the Front of House tone always sounds great. That’s why our sound engineer is one of the most important guys on the road. Many of the Venues are not set up well enough to handle a large drum set with 8 Tom-Toms. You need many Compressors and effects to get the sound right. We take all needed effects with us, in that case we are always safe.
How did you react at the Montreal Show, once you were told that there was just one monitor?
The Venue was sold out and what we agreed upon in the first place was not there. You have to be careful then, because this is normally a breach of the contract. In that case I am glad that we have a top professional crew, which is still able to achieve solid work out of nothing.
Normally I go into such a Venue and see, ok, this is a shit-hole, but let’s figure out a way…
Of Course you need to argue with the Venue Manager. So in any case you have to fight. But we have a great Monitor Engineer (Lars Springer). From the last 2000 Shows we played he only missed one single venue and he made the day for us.
But there are also shows where you have to say, look buddy you need to get the stuff here immediately, otherwise we won`t play. The public will notice that the local organization was not sufficient. Once in Brazil our light engineer touched a rig which was under power. He fell down the rig and was immediately brought to hospital. If we are talking about such life threatening occasions, I have a responsibility to the Band. You just cannot send them on a stage where the light engineer had just been electrocuted. After the venue manager had brought some more generators and grounded the stage properly, we played the show, because of the respect we have for the fans who weren`t able to see the band in the past 10 years. The Venue was sold out. People were standing in a line a hundred meters long, and you are arguing with the venue manager that you cannot play under these circumstances. Even if the band cannot be held guilty of those problems – it is always falling back onto the band if you cancel a concert. That’s why it is our goal to play as many shows as possible at any time. But if life threatening dangers come into play you need to be that much more responsible and cancel to show.
Such situations demand a lot of talent for improvisation and a well organized team. How many people are there on the road?
This depends on where you are touring. If you are playing a festival in Oklahoma City and you need to fly around the world for just this 90 minute show with Band and Crew, you definitely cannot take the wardrobe or the Band Bodyguard with you. But when we have our own headlining Tour throughout Europe and are driving with our own trucks and Nightliners, then we have - including opening acts and technicians - round about 35 people.
That is quite a lot of people. Where are these people staying, in the nightliner or the hotel?
We are driving with two Nightliners and have our own catering with us. This cannot be handled differently, because we are driving through the night to the next venue and the distances between the locations are pretty far. Normally we are at the venue at 8 or 9 o clock in the morning, then we have a little breakfast, load in and doing the soundcheck. At 2-3 o clock in the morning we are back in the bus and having some beers. This is a physical effort to deal with, especially for me, because I need to be the first one entering the venue and the last one to leave. Being on tour will include a lack of sleep.
You have your own catering?
We have made good experiences by having our own catering and in most cases we are able to save some money too. By the way – our own catering is in the most cases of a higher quality compared to that what you get in some venues.
What about some Saxon Rock ‘n’ Roll cliches, you hear about Stars and their special catering wishes?
They do have their demands. Chocolate with 80% cocoa is a must, because there is not that much sugar in it. Old Mans chocolate we call it in Germany. Good red wine is also a must have. They are real connoisseurs. Black Tea with honey and milk and blue “airwaves” chewing gum are a “must have” too. And for relexing evenings, sometimes Sambuca or Rum. Nigel always wants always to have cereal bars on his list. If the Venue Manager isn`t able to deliver their needs, it`s ok a couple of times, but if it lasts too long during the tour, they start getting angry. But all in all they are pretty decent with their wishes.
This of course sounds demanding on the first impression, but because of the demanding life on tour, a pretty understandable habit to enjoy the small conveniences.
Exactly. You need a routine, for example: tortilla chips with dip in the afternoon, before the show you have some wine, and after the show even more. This is a constantly repeating process they like and enjoy. They have toured the world for so long, that they are demanding a certain standard and they deserve it.
Absolutely. Is there another story you want to tell us?
ONE?! Yeah, but I don’t know if the public should know about this. What happens on tour stays on tour you know? Those questions are often asked and the band sits there with their 30 years of road experience and are supposed to tell one story. They have done and experienced so much, funny stuff, quirky stuff or sad things. But one thing I need to sy is that they never touched drugs, not even back in the eighties. While they were on tour with Motorhead everyone said “Oh the tea drinkers are back on board.” But if it comes to drinking beer no one can match Nibbs. He has won the award for being the most drunk person at a festival. Everybody knows that he can party hard. To party with the guys is incredibly fun. Once, we had a day off in Sao Paulo on a Friday, the Venue Manager took us out to eat and after that to a club where the drinks were for free. I can tell you this could have been the third sequel of the feature film “The Hangover”, but I will not go into details.
The current Live DVD “Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder – LIVE - Eagles Over Wacken” impressively shows what the crew is able to achieve. The 2009 Show was something very special, because it was a double jubilee. In 2012 Saxon joins the Wacken billing again - Do you want to raise the standard once more?
Of Course! I have the feeling that Saxon is the band that has played there the most times. We have a special connection with Wacken. I think both parties participated from each other’s benefits. It is always something special, that’s why we are always planning special show elements. The concept for this year is finally ready and there will be a Saxon stage set that has never been seen there before - very impressive - combined with elements from past tours to close the circle: old elements, new elements, pyro, the Eagle, surprising moments, movable stage elements and a perfectly selected set list – there is a huge show coming up.
We are looking forward to that!
The Band is too. This is going to be hard for everyone playing after us, like always.