Rush - Backstage Secrets - Snakes & Arrows Tour - Stage Techs

Rush – Backstage Secrets – Snakes & Arrows Tour – Stage Techs



you feel pressure every day you want to make sure everything's perfect I figure I have probably the best gig in live music I know I've done a good job woman Getty never says anything today we get to travel around the world and make people happy what better job you have you get the Russian the time the band takes the stage the legendary Canadian rock band Rush has enjoyed an impressive record-breaking career that has spanned three decades and produced over thirty albums all the while winning the respective music critics and the hearts of devoted fans around the world since releasing her first album back in 1974 Rush has sold over 40 million records they toured the world many times over selling out hundreds of live stadium rocking shows when guitarist Alex Lifeson drummer Neil Pierce and lead vocalist bassist Geddy Lee go on tour they bring with them some heavy artillery seven tractor trailers hauling an entire stage production lights video pyro sound along with 40 men and women whose job it is to set it all up everything with a red tape on the back of stage right downstage right run it house right go and tear it down all in the course of a gruelling 18-hour day touring a rock show can be very stressful the grueling pace is tough both on the band and their crew traveling can also take its toll on their gear the four key technicians who keep rush into during this four month North American snakes & Arrows tour our drum technician Lauren Wheaton Bay's technician Russ Ryan guitar tech Bobby Huck and keyboard specialist Tony geraniums here we are Montreal today lovely Bell Center we're only two hours and 25 minutes into it we've got the grid up already trusses are in the process of being there and probably within 30 minutes keeping a close watch on all the onstage activity is the empirics drum technician Lauren dumped one of the first groups that I worked with not being paid or anything like that was in high school and it just happened to be the original rush with John ROTC as the drummer and they were playing you know the school dances and they they again and Alex what they basically lived in the same type in the same area of Toronto his idea and so they played the school dances and that was with John as the drummer and the first time I saw them there was a coffeehouse at the high school I went to and I look help load them in all together I've been doing this job for probably 36 years but for Neil I have been doing it since the year 2000 I've never learned working with max Webster when we toured together with them that would be around 1980 we didn't log to her together and toured Europe together with them when Lauren was working for my semester and I could just remember on days off just hanging out with them again even oh and then and then he came back to work with us at a carpenter on fest for eco-tour and I knew that any of you worked with Steve Smith at that time was one of the drummer's I respect the most and Jerry Mercer also with April Wine so I we were friends all that time before we'd work together and then we started working together on vapor trails during the recording and then on the subsequent tour and we came you know that much closer friends apart from the working relationship which is so important in such an intimate relationship like that we get along very well you know the first two I did with them we're still sort of searching each other out and even though we did know each other but it's a whole different thing when you one-on-one with with the person the rush back line is one of the last elements of this stage show to be assembled and it is the first to be packed away for transport at the end of each performance as a result the instrument technicians travel together on the same tour bus usually are the last members of the road crew to arrive at the venue we arrive usually around 10:30 and sometimes they don't get to work till 1:30 my whole world is center stage and until the lighting rig goes up in the air I really can't do anything some you know the text the guitar texts in the keyboard texts say they have their stations off the stage so I have another drum set that I set up in the bubblegum room which is Neil's dressing room which he has a practice drum set in so but that takes all of about 10 minutes to do it's about two maybe a quarter of the size of the stage kit hey guys welcome to bubba gump Gordon this here is where Neil practices before the show the giant drum set you see is about a quarter of the size of the tork it but he still has fun and of course this is where he spends exactly 20 minutes before the show before going in and hooking up with the other two guys and prepping for the show in the dressing room this is what I do before I get the stage I'll come in and there's a case that that houses all this all this all this little drum set so I come in usually around 10:30 11 o'clock and our production staff will find me a room which we call the Bubba Gump room Bubba being Neal Gump mean myself because I was named Getty was the one that came up with the name because of Lorin Gump Worsley in the old days but I will come in here set the drum kit up tune it you know play a little bit just because you know it's fun to do it and and that'll be my my first job of the day and then I wait for the lighting guys to get their equipment up in the air so I can put the drum step on the the stage my first tour was in 1988 with a band called Pretty Boy Floyd on MCA records I gave a friend of a friend a ride to a studio and he actually was working for the band and I didn't want to go drive 50 miles back to my house so I I said hey I'll help you guys load your stuff in if you give me the show for free and after the show the bass there had to be $30 and said want to go on tour and that was the start of my touring experience the first day I was the lighting director and after the first show they said how about you become the drum tech so after a couple tours of started working for bands where I did everything because there are small bands and weren't signed and they need someone to be the bus driver the tour manager the guitar tech at the whole nine yards and from then on it spawned on to working with other bands sighs oh boy ray on to the Dixie Chicks and Bette Midler and then under this and a bunch of other bands in between hired Bucky because he came very highly recommended and if I was had really really good tax I just felt the need for a change on this tour and as I said he came highly recommended and we hit it off immediately and we become very very good friends but he's done a fantastic job it's not easy working for me I'm very particular about what I like and and I'm quite emotional so if there's a problem I tend to voice it you know loudly proudly Bucky buck he's taking it all in stride and and he I think understands that I'm looking for a certain thing and it's hard to compromise that but he's been absolutely great a lovely guy you feel pressure every day you want to make sure everything's perfect for the guy you don't want him to go up there and if he has a bad night you don't want it to be your fault you know what I mean you want to make sure that you give him every opportunity to perform that the best of his abilities that you possibly can then with rush ten years as Gettys tech not so it's been great and I just hope the guys go for another ten years and they keep hiring me though I'd be perfect I'm just put the guitar right now forget E in the tuning room we try to every venue we try to set up a little tuning room for Alex and get e of some kind away from the dress room so they got a little bit of privacy they can warm up before show a little bit mat so this is Gettys tuning room basis it's like a custom base that was sort of made to look old after a Fender Jazz Bass it's it's not by it's not by fender it's just so some guy that makes these great bases and that's what we use for his tuning room bass I was a bit of a musician in my teens and early 20s and I just didn't want to play guitar I just realize it was for me and I I took a lot less of some great players and stuff and just wasn't for me and I just didn't sort of fell into being a guitar tech I didn't do it by choice it just kind of happened and you know 25 years later it's still doing the same thing I considered getting a friend and you know and he's the kind of guy who can go talk to from personal stuff and obviously and business stuff we need to talk about you know maybe at the beginning of a tour and rehearse saying I was like what base is gonna use for what songs I'd say we're friends it's you know it's a it's a kind of a working friendship in some circumstance it's like there's a lot of guys on the crew that I only see at the venue ever I mean I've got my stage left guys that we kibbutz up with every day and we got our own running jokes between them and Alex has his stage right situation and so we all have our own little team that we kind of know more about and get more personal with but I would say we're friends but in you know in some respects I guess it's a professional friendship see what I mean that's better right there now make up the powder we're gonna be a little tapped here will get done know the peasant how quick the lighting goes up while the rest of the back line technicians continue to set up their work zones Lauren we anxiously stands by waiting for the lighting grid to clear the stage so you can begin assembling the extensive drum kit the lighting truss assembly is now officially running behind backing it's the drum technician Lauren Wheaton you can't get started on setting up Neil parrots massive drum kit meanwhile the remaining three instrument technicians are able to continue their work including Geddy Lee's keyboard technician Tony geraniums I'm feeling a little tipsy today coffee I spill I started with the band in 77 when they first started headlining their shows that it kind of make the position for me because the keyboard at that point weren't very extensive so I was working with Liam Burtt doing a guitar maintenance tuning for Alex and in between that maintaining the keyboards they had this is Gettys keyboard system I'm setting up right now there are two areas that he he uses his keyboards at fourth the controllers one at the keyboard and in this position here which has a set of pedals so during the show he'll play the pedals midi-controller here and sing then during songs I require other keyboard parts the MIDI control or he'll he'll be here with also a microphone setup there are basically three controllers he's using the two sets of pedals and I have a rolling keyboard is five octave and this is the main the main controller the other keyboard II has is this mogh product it's a digital mini mode analog front end so you can sculpt your sounds any way you want very very similar to the original mini mode sounds amazing it's 1:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre in Montreal Quebec and the lighting grid is now in place high above the stage leaving the backline clear for guitar tech Bobby Huck to assemble guitarist Alex Lifeson spear on this tour Lifeson is opted to use for hughes & kettner amplifier steps to are wired in stereo while the others are set up to create a variety of different sounds at least two amps are a stereo set that's his main sound and then the other two amps you can click in at any time they also have separate effects so you can he can make it sound like he's playing three guitars or once setting up the amps is a fairly simple task it takes only a few minutes to complete a spur drum tech Lorne Wheaton assembly Neil Pierce custom DW drum kit is a much longer proposition starting with the risers are setting the kits wiring cleaning my my drum world which is consists of the the sampling rack and my toolkit and all that probably to do it right two and a half hours I've had to do it in an hour and 15 minutes before which I don't like doing because that's just too rushed and there's things along the way that you can miss if you're if you're too rushed but normally I have the right amount of time to be ready for the soundcheck the gift that Lauren has for understanding the setting up of a drum set where every element of angle to you and the stuff I learned from my teacher too and the physical aspect of lead to the instrument he understands intimately so I never have to come in and say oh that's supposed to be a little more this way or that little higher he understands innately that there's a organ Amma Croatian ship that I'm looking for that everything relates to me and he just knows it and rarely if ever do I ever have to come in and say that that's a little higher I mean he measures and levels we probably witnessed him at work that snare drum has to be a certain height my teacher taught me it you know basically where your belly button is is the center of your body and that's where the height of the snare drum should be in the motion take care take place above that again he got that instinctively I've built many drum sets in my life so you know you can always tell where a snare drum goes and a bass drum goes and a hi-hat but a lot of the times everything is varied depends on the player and with Neil nothing ever changes it worked with many drummers that will sit down and move things even if it's perfectly set and they will still move them I don't know what it is with some guys they just like to be part of the setup when it comes to nailing the perfect wide performance everything boils down to pre-show preparation still once in a while things can and do go wrong when he's out here playing sometimes because the pedals are so close together and the lights are flashing and you know everything's going on he's singing he's playing bass and he's doing the samples on the pedals it's very easy sometimes to hit two pedals now each each pedal is a different sample event depending on what the song is it could either be used as bass pedals it could be used as a keyboard guitar parts vocal parts everything that's played every sound that comes off of the stage is triggered by them there's no backup tape there's no I'm not over there hitting buttons or playing anything it's all them they do it in real time and like I said mistakes sometimes happen in that respect and they've been doing it for 30 years so they're quite good and the mistakes are very minimal none of those mistakes are anything compared to the mistake when I either miss hitting the enter button on one of the programs during a program change or I just lose focus getting caught up in the band or whatever and I forget to make a change or I make a change too soon now usually those things don't happen but they have and that is quite embarrassing to me probably not noticeable so much because anything that I do in that respect I can create correct pretty quickly but I usually get the look over the glasses from Getty from time to time with that I attribute some of that to old age whereas he sometimes misses a petal well we won't go setting up the backline on this store can take upwards of seven hours still it's not all hard work the backline boys do try to inject some humor into their long day when Getti got his chicken rotisserie as we're sitting there with couple that with this big amp stack up there we're like well he's outdone us what can we do to change that and you were like it was like well he's got hot chickens why don't we get some hot chicks and we can't really just put a bunch of real women on the stage so we got all these little Barbies and made him his little groupie ro the dinosaurs his grandkids are really in a dinosaur so the dinosaurs started popping up one here one there and now I started out with with four Barbies and two dinosaurs and we're up to 30 something Barbies and 40 something dinosaurs the dinosaurs we just started collecting them and now we've received a couple that we just received this Tara Don a couple of gigs ago and this t-rex we received a while ago and we sourced had a lot of a lot of good ones he has Spinosaurus is an awesome version of it I have to say so and it's and the girls of course it's nice to have a gallery of shorter girls but you know it's all about keeping the spirits up and the morale high and laughs not only for us here but for the audience at first when those things started happening on stage we just thought they were kind of one-offs and then we realized that's that's part of what we are that's part of our life out here on the road so now we spend more time planning things like that and and giving the guys an opportunity to be interactive in the show the fishtank idea we were just looking at the glass windows and they're like wow what if we put a fish steak in there it'd be kind of cool looking and we thought about it for a couple of weeks there's like no way we can we put water in this in there in danger on the stage and if all electronics and stuff and so I went out and found all these little fish I think it's fun when the audience can walk away with a smile on their face and I love to look out there and I love to see when people start laughing and smiling and not because we were playing lousy but because we you know we we set up some comic situations so they're spending three hours with us you know so I think there needs to be some comic relief in that three hours there's no better feeling than to know that people are leaving your gig smiling and laughing because they had such a good time that's really I think the key with us tons of room turned out better to start compiling the backline boys continue to prepare for this evenings performance and that includes more cleaning to knee and restringing the whole thing is set up and just been powered and I've strung one guitar and I got five more to do today back in Montreal the movin is running behind it's time now for the texts to prepare their gear for the afternoon's soundcheck slated for 4:30 p.m. they know they'll have to focus to keep the band from waiting this is Geddes named bass this is his what he uses all the time being Fender Jazz 1972 often of jazz and this for this tour we finally had to put a brand new neck on it the old original neck just it was gone couldn't do anything more with it was just unplayable put a new neck on it's great feels great still sounds like the original stuff and end up he's very happy with it so that's it that's his main base there and these other bases here this one is used for the song circumstance is different too and that's just for the one soft circumstances this base here is used for between the wheels once again a different tuning just for that one song and then he uses a song called malignant narcissism we call it maladaar for short and it's a Jaco Pastorius model fretless fender jazz and fender had sent this to us to get E and we're in the studio of our studios recording the album you know Getty was playing around with it and everybody the engineer the producer and that thought it sounded great and you came up with this instrumental that they were doing and he used it on this and that's he plays it live so it's just a fretless Fender Jazz normal tuning and then what get he's known for for many years I guess was always playing to Rickenbacker so we decided to break it on this tour this is the first time since I've been with Getty that he's he's he's brought over the Rickenbacker and he plays this just on passage of Bangkok we decide let's do it on one of the old classics in the Encore and the rest of these are just spares another just standard spare and these are spares for the bases that are different tuners and hopefully these will never ever get used we're just there just in case that's so that's the reason for the eight basis and this whatever it's worth this is Gettys rig this is where his sound comes from very simple he has three what we call three different direct sounds and then we our audio guys they mix it front-of-house and then we have an engineer who mixes the three different sense for however Getty wants to hear and the rest of the band kind of things so pretty simple and that's about it it's art my little workstation my little toolbox where I take everything fix everything that needs to be fixed we've restringing guitars a couple the basis I have to restring today his name when I restoring every show it's not that it needs it but it's just fresh strings all the time so it's a consistent sound of brand-new string every day the strings that get to use it's a standard set that anybody can buy it's made by rotosound it's called a swing sixty-six set and the gauge is basically it's like one think it's an inches it's like a point 105 of an inch that's the thickest string of E string it's point 105 or 0.8 0.6 5.45 so we just say 45 65 81 applaud that's not a custom set as a standard set that you can buy anybody can buy in the store and that get e you know he endorses ease and that that's his favorite string we've tried other strings before and you know rotosound sort of have their own kind of sound and it just get he loves the way they sound they just work good for me well us continues to restring and tune Gettys bases down in the trenches on stage left next to monitor world Bucky follows suit with license 12 guitars over on stage right and what the crew finally refers to as dimmer beach it's 2 o'clock 2:15 and I have the whole gig is set up and just been powered and I've strung one guitar and I got five more to do today so I'm gonna rush now but it's about average – depends on when we how the rest of the loading goes in on how I get my stuff together and today because there's high rigging that took him a little extra time to get the rigging up which in tail takes everything else a little longer and now I'm a little behind but I'll be Grady by four o'clock pretty normal day stage left is getting these traditional home position their instrument technician Tony giannios is tuning up the keyboards tuning up the mini mode unlike the synth sample modular I have over at my rack which is all digitally tuned this mode has to be to daily or checked police daily to make sure that it is it is within its proper range and then sometimes to get the fatness out of the sound that this incident offers it has a second oscillator and by be tuning it ever so slightly which making it go out of tune from the original it kind of whitens the sound and that's what gives this instrument it's really fat rich sound and basically I have to make sure that that calibrated you know for the show every night over in the guitar tech area Bucky has settled in for 90 solid minutes of stringing cleaning and tuning favorite guitar it was that he bought it in 77 that went up ever since he's having then and we finished once that's why it looks so new but when he before he had it refinished it was completely spidered all cracked up and looked really cool and what I understand I never actually saw like that that's this stuff here Big Ben's nut sauce I highly endorse it furrier nuts people use ground they could graphite but it's really messy and this this is a liquid graphite that goes clear and it's very very useful from getting stuck you see the black in there I ran out of this stuff and had to use some liquid laughs graphite it gets all dirty and yucky and that's why I don't like to use that now the powdered graphite I should say in the old days BC is a number two pencil work great strings from sticking that when you when you're when you're tuning it because sometimes you'll get to the point where it's right almost in tune and the other here listen and the straighter go really sharp you have to fight it to get back and forth this saves it from doing that it's just nice and smooth action Dean Markley it's always used for 30 years after I stretch the string I use a cloth a regular cloth not not like this one here has treatment is a treated cloth and it's got a treatment on there help clean off the guitar you don't want to use this on the string but a regular Krylov what I like to do is grab the string after I've stretched it and do another stretching rubbing it on here because what it does is the friction from the cloth heats up the string and see it goes really flat it actually heats up the string and helps it to stretch further so you don't have to worry about it falling out of tune is off it's a little trick that actually Russ showed me and it works really well I never have any tuning issues ever since I've done is this method now that all the instruments are tuned it's time for one last blast before the boys can make some noise that's my pass Ozzy Osbourne impersonation back in Montreal the crew is still running behind in an effort to get the team back on schedule rust it's the Vans carpenter and stage manager George Steiners a hand with the final stage prep we might be running a little bit behind the usual I fix Ron I'm plugging in the teleprompter the one uh it's for running lyrics Alex had asked for this one for this tour because normally he never did because I guess with all the new songs where he sings a lot of the back of moguls and stuff and she's like yes he could have a monitor as well so I just plug in the monitors now we're trying to meanwhile Lauren Wheaton is focused on putting the finishing touches on Neal's kid with the back line work complete the techs have one last opportunity to troubleshoot their gear before the band arrives to warm up what happens in line check is we start out with the bass and Russell check the bass and make sure it all works you go now it's it then we'll go through and we'll check the pies oh the acoustic part of the electric guitar then we'll check the electric guitar we'll check the main amps then we'll go through the Switchblade so let's play 1 & 2 then we'll check both the 12 strings and then go on to the mandolin and then we'll move on to Jack we'll take care of doing all the keyboard stuff and then Lauren will go through all the drums and hopefully there's no issues and we get there quick and then we go on kick him back for about a half hour before the band shows up that's my face Ozzy Osbourne impersonation J Keeley right there shreds I got on hack around too much because I have a terrible guitar player I could fix them great but I can't play them I got 15 guitars hanging on my wall at home I've never struggled once never cleaning them once I hardly even look at them because when I get home I don't even want to think about guitars I've only in one band ever in my life and we're I was the rhythm guitar player began I was very low in the mix but we were called khru love affair but really cruel and we were it was all a Bonnie Raitt screw we used to play nights off during during our tours eventually a band we should be coming out soon and the battle run through a soundcheck they do about four songs run through a soundcheck make sure they're in yours and everything sound good to them and and it's just for our front of house monitors make sure everything is all together everything's working properly and easy soundcheck runs about 20 minutes if that I was still doing it what's that this was still doing it you want to just hit that surface one one time just before the soundcheck begins Neil and Lauren discovered that one of the electronic drums is triggering two different sounds okay try try that but this one's almost too much almost too much while the rim sometimes plays the other side just hit the surface once the rim just it all written is just a surface okay the surface is fine yeah try that I think we've got it I put pressure on myself I because I figured that's how you do a better job is by the pressure that you put upon yourself you know obviously you don't want to give yourself an ulcer but at the same time I find myself I'm work I work better under pressure I think probably a lot of people work better under pressure I don't a lot of things go over my head kind of thing and I'm a pretty intense person when it comes to working this one was bad it's on its way yeah so that's probably why you weren't here in the last night I've moved this one over here to gigs that's a new look there so what was wrong with it it's just it's on its way out it's it's almost it's almost broken that's Hawaii was projected how can you tell it just it's not a solid sounding is it yeah I noticed when this was turned up I was on its way so I transferred this one over to here this a couple of gigs all of this in all the years that I've been playing it's only through since I've been working with Lawren that I would trust him to be able to tune the drums every day sometimes we'll discuss well I think the 13-inch Tom should go up or down a little bit in pitch and he'll just do it and then we'll discuss the the tonal relationship among the Thomas for example but the gift of that'll be being able to trust his ear to the snare drum or some choice like that as if it were my own is makes him very special indeed with today's soundcheck now complete both the band and the crew will take a well-deserved heel break while we wait for the fans to arrive once the lights go down the technicians will go back to work five four three two one and roll anything can always go wrong but you know the funniest things can happen you know sake I mean there's been times where you know get you be running around on stage and he'll jump do a little jump on stage and his wireless in your pack will fall off and it'll unplug you know so it's a matter of running up and trying to grab it and putting it back on because if that falls off he can't hear anything don't like show because get he plays the same bass a lot there's not a lot of guitar changes for me I run a teleprompter forgetty with all the lyrics of all the songs see because it's not the Gettys forgetful anything like that because he is so busy as anybody's a rush family seen as at live show we had he has these foot pedals that's triggering all kinds of sounds his playing keyboards as well as playing bass and he's got a sing so I think a lot of times the last thing he really wants to think about is the lyrics he gets hired but the thing is you know that you have to do the job and that job has to get done and you do it so many times through rehearsals and all the shows that it becomes a little monotonous it becomes a little bit scheduled you know exactly what's gonna happen at this time of the day I get a rush from seeing the crowd feel nuts you know and I get a rush from watching my artist do what he does best and have fun doing you know it's all about the fun with me yeah you gotta have fun or it's no it's not worth doing if you're not having fun out here you might as well stay home we get to travel around the world we get paid to travel around the world and make people happy what better job can you have that I figure I have probably the best gig in life music because I get to watch Neil play every night and I know him as a good friend so that's why I come back every time when I will come back until they don't want to come back I know I've done a good job when Getty never says anything to me if you never hear a thing that I got to believe the guys happy I just want these guys to be able to put on the best performance they possibly can and not worry about anything but in making the fans enjoy the music you

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Comments

  1. When musicians get to this level; it is a satisfying career indeed to be support staff for such an incredible assemblage of guys! Thanks Neil, Alex, and Geddy; for all the great memories. From 1977 on the Farewell to Kings tour, till today…they are nothing less than superior musicians; and people!

  2. THIS is why the roadcrew deserve mad respect! awesome awesome awesome and not only that but being the techs and roadies for RUSH the GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME must be the clooest job ever

  3. The first time I saw Rush was at a small college field house & they were the opening act for ZZ Top!! Have seen them several times since & have always been impressed!!!

  4. Hate to sound like a "kill joy". but i wish that the background guitar rhythm track would be shut off …. it's totally distracting and completely useless. It ceases to be anything but noise.

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