The gig was called Metal for Melbourne – a celebration of Heavy Metal music from eight bands who would have won prizes as Spinal Tap clones, but in this case they weren’t intending to be funny! I made sure I packed my ear plugs for this one!
What is it with metal bands? A bigger bunch of prima donnas would be hard to find. There were eight bands on, and none of them had anybody to mix, so I was it. That was OK – I’ll do most things to earn a dollar unless it involves chickens and axle grease – but when we set up the gig up in the afternoon each band came up to me and said “We’ve got to have a sound check.”
Soundcheck my arse. They each just wanted an opportunity to rehearse and prance around in front of the other bands to show how good they thought they were. I wasn’t having a bar of it.
“Why do you need a soundcheck?” I asked.
“Oh, we’ve just got to, that’s all.”
I tried to be tactful.
“Look, there just won’t be time. If you all have a sound check you’ll end up starting the show about three hours late.”
“What, no soundcheck? Shit what are we going to do?”
“Don’t worry,” I said “It’ll be good and loud from the first note, and everything will be OK. You just look after the playing and I’ll make sure it sounds good. Right?”
“Oh no, no soundcheck, oh shit…” and they would all shrug their shoulders, sigh heavily and pout at each other, implying I was the worst bastard left unhung.
One of the guitarists called me up onto the stage, and gestured at his Marshall quad box.
“You’ve only got one microphone on it” he said, pointing at the single SM57 aimed at one of the upper speakers.
“Yes, that’s right, one microphone,” I agreed.
“But I need two microphones so it will be in stereo!” he said.
Talk about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.
“So if I put four mics on it you’d have quad sound, is that right,” I asked, but my sarcasm went ‘Whoosh’ straight over his head. His eyes lit up.
“Geez mate, do you reckon you could? Man, that would sound unreal, eh!”
Smiling to myself I put another mic on the same speaker box, and just curled the lead up backstage.
I learned a lot about drummers at this show. Drummers cop a fair amount of unwarranted humour at their expense from many people in the music industry, but all I can say is that in the case of these eight bands it was completely justified.
They all had the obligatory double kit, with a forest of cymbals and rows of toms; except for one drummer who came over and apologised to me for only having a single kick drum! As he shuffled off hanging his head in shame, the rest of the band sidled up and quietly told me that they were going to get rid of him next week and get a drummer with a real kit!
However, watching all these guys set up, I noticed that it didn’t matter how many drums they all had, during a song they would only play one kick drum and the snare. The only time they ever hit any of the other drums was as a flourish and roll and the end of each song. Why? Because if they rolled around the toms during a song they would come back in at least half a beat behind!
The show was to be introduced by a huge guy dressed up as a heavy metal Viking. Big fur jacket, pants and boots, horns sticking out everywhere, plus a couple of sets of chromed exhaust extractors sprouting from his armpits. He was also loaded for action with firecrackers up his sleeves.
The plan was simple. He would stand behind the curtains, and wait to be introduced over the PA. Then I would pull the curtains open and he would stand there, back lit with arms upraised, and set off the crackers to get the show rolling. It was a good dramatic concept, as concepts go. And naturally it all went horribly wrong! A cynic might say it had f***up written all over it from the start!
Anyway, showtime came, and he got himself all set up in position behind the curtains, ready to go.
The house lights went down.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen…” went the off-stage announcer in his best mid Pacific baritone -“Welcome to…Metal…for…Melbourne!”
The heavy metal Viking whispered to me.
“OK mate, open the curtains now!”
So, I yanked on the rope and the curtains swirled and opened. Unfortunately, one of the horns on his head or one of his exhaust extractors got caught in the curtains and he started to get dragged across the stage, yelling “Hey – shit – I’m stuck -hey – shit – really…!”
As he started to topple over, he threw his arms in the air to try to regain his balance. This set off the firecrackers up his sleeves, shooting sparks on to his beard and fur, which immediately started to smoulder.
“Hey – shit – I’m on fire” he yelled, waving his arms around and thumping himself to stop the sparks from spreading, which only had the effect of setting off more firecrackers in his face as he did so.
“Hey – shit” he kept yelling, as he whirled around on stage, crashing into the drumkit of the first band who were set up on stage waiting to start!
God knows what it looked like to the audience. Silhouetted against the light, leaping around with bits of drum kit tangled up in his hardware, and sparks flying out of his sleeves, he must have looked like an electric Attila the Hun with his fingers stuck in a power socket!
Finally he disentangled himself from the curtains and the drumkit, and staggered off backstage, still yelling out “Help – shit!”
The audience stood there like stunned mullets, not knowing what was going on, and then one by one they started clapping and cheering until the whole place was in uproar, yelling and stamping their feet and calling out “More – more!”
We put the drumkit back together, and after a minute or so he came back on stage after a good hosing from a fire extinguisher, beard dripping with water. He thrust an arm in the air, gave the 2 fingered clenched fist salute, grabbed a mic and yelled “METAAAAAL!”
The audience responded with a cheer, the band ground into action – the show had started.