“…frowning as we slow-danced our way toward the inevitable apocalypse of the tour”
The Eternal Legends of Metropolis Records tour kicks off tonight in Las Vegas, but we’ve been following the development of the seven city jaunt for a while. The realities of touring are obscure and misunderstood, and while many have gone so far as to suggest that playing live more is the natural response to flagging album sales, we realized we knew very little about what it actually takes to put a tour of any scale on, especially under the auspices of Our Thing, and all the scene specific details which accompany such an undertaking. Caustic and Everything Goes Cold are both acts with definite ideas about playing live and the realities of going on the road (as evidenced by their responses to questions about being on stage in the interviews we’ve conducted with Matt Fanale and Eric Gottesman), and as official tour sponsors we thought it would be interesting to pull back the curtains and find out exactly what it took to make Eternal Legends happen, from conception to execution. We sent out a set of questions to Matt and Eric and got two very different and enlightening sets of answers back…
ID:UD: Can you tell us about the germination of the tour? When did you guys know you wanted to do it, and how did that progress to the point where work actually began putting it together?
Matt: Well, 4-5 months back I was thinking about the last time I played any dates on the West Coast and realized it had been at least a few years for some cities, and up to half a decade for places like Seattle. I don’t get to tour much at all, the last time being the East Coast tour we did with The Gothsicles and Prometheus Burning in 2009. I usually do one-offs or festivals due to my work and “real life” schedule.
Anyway, I thought a West Coast tour would be great to do and the first person I thought of to do it with was Eric, as we’ve been friends a while and always have a damn good time together, Everything Goes Cold is amazing, and I knew he’d be up for helping out as part of Caustic on stage. I emailed him, confirmed a timeframe and basic routing schedule, and then I started contacting promoters.
Eric: This tour has been destined to occur since the dawn of time. The Mayans spoke of the Legends in hushed tones. Yea, before the pyramids of Egypt rose, before the first episode of Golden Girls aired, and even before Betty White seemed inherently funny within or without the context of her classic “Rose” persona, we were there. Ready. Waiting. Frowning as we slow-danced our way toward the inevitable apocalypse of the tour.
ID:UD: You guys organized the “Eternal Legends” tour on your own, from the ground-up. What’s the reality of that in terms of the actual amount of work involved?
Eric: It has been a great labor in the sense that we have been forced to raise our voices, commanding our legions of followers to the erect giant obelisks you see scattered across the land, inspiring the kerning around the letter “C” on our tour poster. Rarely do we risk the vibration of our vocal chords above the whispers that condemn our least-favored to the pits.
Matt: I think we were really fortunate in that I had some solid contacts in the larger cities. The first promoter I contacted, maybe even before I pitched the idea of the tour to Eric, was Reverend John from Das Bunker, as he’s one of the only people I’ve worked with since pretty much day one of Caustic getting out there live. He and I bounced around a few dates that would be ideal and then I started sorting out a routing schedule. Derek Moore in Portland and I had talked for years about me playing there, so I also talked to him about the best days to be there, and the rest filled itself in fairly easily. The only city we weren’t able to swing was Vancouver [Booooooooooo. - ed.], but it was more of a timing thing. Luckily Spokane stepped in so we didn’t have to take a night off and I’m really excited about that show.
I’ll just say that this time around (as opposed to the East Coast tour from 3 years ago, when Caustic wasn’t nearly as known) it was a lot smoother in terms of finding people to work with as well as negotiate everything. We’re not a terribly complicated tour and since I promoted for years I definitely speak the language and understand that sometimes making the most money doesn’t mean giving people the best show, so overall it was extremely positive. I only hope the tour goes as well.
“I designed Caustic so I could play anywhere pretty cheaply.”
ID:UD: As artists with day jobs, what are the consequences of taking time off to tour? What limitations does having a career outside of music place on your ability to tour and play shows? Is it difficult to reconcile the two?
Matt: Well, since I don’t tour too often and this isn’t a month long stint or anything taking a week or so off isn’t that big a deal. I designed (for lack of a better term) Caustic so I could play anywhere pretty cheaply, by having different people I know in the cities I play jump up and haul ass with me. Part of that is nice in that it means I could fly out for weekend gigs, but a bigger part that’s the most fun for me is playing with pals and having those new variables in the mix. I’ve got a lot of pals who will be helping out on the tour as well.
For me my online presence helps offset the touring I wish I could do more often, as doing road shows is one of the most effective ways to spread the word on your music. I just give as much as I can and have to accept the time I have to do it. That makes this tour even more special to me.
Eric: Our day jobs are simple ruses, distracting the plebeians of Third Estate from the harsh realities that divide us from them. We sit atop solid gold thrones with pillows of live kittens cushioning our respective posteriors from the cold precious metal that supports them, just as our so called “employment” cushions the masses from the chilling magnitude of our lavish lifestyles.
ID:UD: So process-wise, how do you go about deciding what cities to hit? Is it a matter of locating promoters willing to put on shows, and cities where you have already have connections? What (if any) kind of networks exist to assist in the booking portion of planning?
Eric: We don’t decide. The cities decide for us. Not even the people of the cities. We actually get requests directly from the spiritual manifestations of entire cities that demand our presence. Then they engage in brutal battles for dominance to see who actually gets us.
Ever wonder what happened to Bismarck, North Dakota?
Matt: For the most part the routing was straight forward – it was mainly to get to cities I’ve played before and hit a few I’d wanted to for years. Like I said once I confirmed a date with the Das Bunker crew I knew I could play San Francisco right after (as having been around a while I knew Sundays were good to play DNA Lounge), and in speaking with Derek in Portland he said an ideal night for him was Tuesday, so that meant we had a driving day (the only off day for the tour, as you always want to be playing since that means you’ll maybe be making SOME money) and could roam around Portland a bit on Tuesday before the show, which is awesome as I’ve never been there. Larger cities are always the easiest, so that’s why we stuck to a fairly standard route.
I knew promoters in 5 of the 7 cities through online or from being previously booked, which simply goes to show how important networking is. I got Ali’s name from another artist and saw he did Mechanismus, which I’d heard of, and Ali kindly passed me Drew’s information in Spokane, which was funny as I didn’t realize he and I were already “friends” on Facebook. Chad, our promoter in Las Vegas, had actually contacted Eric about playing so we were happy to tack that date on as well.
It did help a lot that Eric is from the Bay Area and knew promoters and other cities’ scenes as well. Since I’ve never driven the West Coast he was able to give me some logistics just to understand how long the drives will be in some cases, but that’s what you deal with when you’re putting something like this together.
“There is no tour support anymore.”
ID:UD: As far as tour budgeting goes, how do you calculate the numbers? Minus tour support from a label, what kind of “nest-egg” do you need to make sure you don’t get stuck mid-tour financially? Where do things like merch and CD sales at the shows factor in?
Matt: First off, there is no tour support anymore. Maybe if you’re a huge artist, but I’ll venture a guess that 95% of artists on industrial (or other) labels don’t receive any money to tour.
In terms of a nest egg, we were able to negotiate guarantees with all of the promoters which should, at the least, cover gas and food to the next date. In all depends entirely on the size of the city and especially the size of the scene. The last thing we want to do is ask for more than the provider can bring in, so we did our best to negotiate reasonable deals. I booked the whole thing myself as I don’t see much point in using a booking agent when they’ll take a cut of, honestly, not too much money to begin with. I’ve also dealt with some booking agents that frankly piss me off as their negotiating style makes me end up simply not booking the show.
I was extremely fortunate in that I raised a bunch of money on Kickstarter and some of that went to offset tour costs, such as merchandise and just buying my plane tickets to get to the coast. Otherwise, for me, it’s simply being practical and knowing how much we theoretically should have coming in from guarantees, figuring out expenses like gas and daily stipends for everyone for breakfast and lunch/dinner (this way we know exactly how much to estimate in those costs, making them easier to figure in), and see where we might not be able to find a crash pad and need to splurge on a hotel.
Merchandise is basically where we hopefully can offset expenses and where we can maybe make a few bucks so we can actually eat some GOOD food on the road (or, for anyone who drinks, get something other than rail booze if we don’t get drink tickets). Both Everything Goes Cold and Caustic have a ton of fun stuff to sell for the tour so I’m really excited to see what people are into. People don’t realize how expensive everything can get on a tour though – if you don’t have access to a familiar location and something goes wrong it can mess everything up, especially if you need to get a piece of gear in the middle of nowhere or to get the van fixed within a few hours of it breaking down because otherwise you’ll miss a gig 6 hours away.
Eric: We rely on the kindness of passers-by, who throw tributes at our feet as we walk, and our van as we drive. The enormous magnet on top of our gold-plated tour van pulls in coinage, while the ultra-powerful vacuum cleaner sucks up the paper money and gemstone tributes.
You cannot see these things, of course. Our van is cleverly camouflaged to prevent a constant stream of hysterical women and Thai ladyboys from breaking through our windows.
ID:UD: How do you negotiate with the individual promoters and venues for things like performance fees, riders and so on? How do you determine what is reasonable to ask for ahead of time, and then how much “wiggle room” is there to actually make the shows happen?
Eric: We demand at least ten Combichrists per show. Not ten Combichrist budgets – we literally demand ten of the band Combichrist. This requires a lot of time travel. There is no wiggle room. Promoters who cannot provide this will not be graced with our presence. How dare you even ask such a thing.
Matt: Well, the easiest way to do it is throw out a number and work from there. It’s really a bartering deal when it comes down to it. Actually, since I haven’t played out there in years I have very little idea how much of a draw Caustic is, but adding EGC to the bill helped sell it since we’re in a similar vein of industrial. Eric and I discussed it and came up with our Best Possible Amount and used that as a starting point. We never expected to get it, but if a promoter knows their market and thinks we’re worth it by all means let’s take that guarantee.
In reality we are taking much less at most shows, but with a back-end guarantee. That means that once all expenses are recouped by the provider, including sound, advertising, etc., that we get a percentage of the profits from the door on top of the guarantee. It’s really a win-win situation then, as we know we’re getting a certain amount going in and can count on that, but if the show does well we ALL do well.
Promoting a show can be stressful, so we’d rather be flexible to make sure everyone has as positive experience as possible. We’re not doing this to gouge anyone, promoters OR fans, as fans ultimately get stuck paying higher ticket prices if we ask for too much…or decide to skip it because it’s too expensive.
Our riders are pretty simple – I think it’s a dick move asking for a ton of stuff, so outside of a vegetarian in our crew we normally just look for some mildly healthy grub, drink tickets, and some Red Bulls. We’re crashing on floors in most of the cities where we have friends, too. It’s not super glamorous, but it’s an amazing thing to do…and sometimes just get through.
“Groveling, vomiting. Intense headbanging. Crying. Chewing. We expect these things, and we deliver them in kind.”
ID:UD: What’s your expectation from the local promoters leading up to the shows? We know you’ve both done some booking before, how has that affected your idea of what a promoter should ideally be doing to ensure the show is a success beyond booking it?
Matt: My expectations are to make sure they’re pushing the shows online and at the club. Honestly, everyone we’ve been working with has been putting out an effort and it’s nice seeing between 40-150 people RSVPing to the Facebook events with a few weeks to go. It’s not a guarantee that the shows will be well attended, but with a few weeks left we’ve got some momentum going that will hopefully pay off in terms of attendance.
I really just expect them to give their best effort. We’ve tried to work with all of them as closely as possible to do whatever we can on our end to promote the shows, too. Most of that is online, but I feel like I have a responsibility to let people know as many times as possible that we’re going to be playing your town. We want you there. And we’re going to tear the roof off the place.
I think a part of the problem is that our scene, for the most part, doesn’t always have very dynamic performances. You’ll see certain artists or bands and wonder why the hell you shelled 10 bucks out because they’re not doing much of anything on stage, whether playing much or even moving the hell around. Believe me, we’re going to entertain the hell out of you. It’s a fucking mission for me on this tour.
Eric: We expect a lot of groveling, naturally. Groveling, vomiting. Intense headbanging. Crying. Chewing. We expect these things, and we deliver them in kind. Wait. Not the groveling. We deliver the other stuff though.
ID:UD: What avenues are available for you as an artist to do promotions remotely in cities where you’re going to be playing?
Matt: Mostly the internet, with the hope that fans and friends will spread the word on their Twitter, Facebook, and cooking blogs. Metropolis has been good about getting the word out as well, since ultimately this helps them by our ideally selling more albums for them, but they’re also just good guys and it’s nice to have their support.
Eric: We primarily advertise by zeppelin, but with recent tours we’ve also worked with rickshaws carting around giant statues of ourselves, with small children lagging behind them with 100x life-size models of our respective beards, and former beards. Not beards like, chicks we hang out with to prevent people from being aware of our latent homosexuality. Beards like beards of bees. Most of the models are made out of bees.
ID:UD: As far as tour prep is concerned, how do you decide on things like band line-up and what gear is being brought? EGC has a steady core line-up, whereas Caustic is more fluid live, how do your experiences differ for making decisions as far as making the tour feasible financially and organizationally?
Eric: …I’m going to ignore this hilarious bit about us having a “steady core line-up”, as I glare harder at keyboardist #7 sitting behind me.
While EGC normally charges bands upwards of 70,000 gold doubloons for the privilege/honor of playing after us, we’ve cut Caustic a significant break as a show of both respect and sympathy.
Matt: We’re keeping things lean in terms of Caustic. We’re using Eric’s gear and then whoever our special guests are in different cities – Mike T from Alter Der Ruine will be in Phoenix, Shane from Marching Dynamics in LA, Jasyn from GodMod and Katja will be in Seattle, etc. It’s really a very punk way to do things, as sharing gear means more room in the van (or not having to rent a trailer) and that also means less breaking down between sets.
I initially did ask a few people to see if they would do the tour as part of Caustic but the timing wasn’t working out for anyone so I decided it would be more economically feasible having one less mouth to feed and went the special guest route (which is very common for me anyway, and I love having different people on stage as it adds to the chaos).
Luckily EGC has a van so that cut down on our expenses a lot as well, since renting one can cost a lot of money.
ID:UD: Can you tell us about any major pitfalls you’ve learned to avoid in tour planning? Are there any good resources for people to avoid making mistakes their first time out?
Eric: The big one is “don’t tour with Caustic”. Also, build a fort out of copies of KLF’s “The Manual”. Use this fort to defend your tour van from roving bandits and Rogues. I capitalized “Rogues” intentionally – a surprising number of thieves roam the highways dressed as X-Men characters.
Matt: My big thing is just to be easy to work with and get back to people as fast as possible. I think the more positive and helpful we can be the better it is for everyone, as the promoters are obviously on your side but I think will push that extra little bit if they like you on top of it. I also think it’s important to not micro-manage the event – let the promoter do their job. If they think the local band they’re adding on the bill should play last, then trust them. If they think the doors should open later, trust them. It’s their town and their crowd. The bands already have enough crap to worry about.
Oh, and bring decent toilet paper. You’ll thank me later.
The Eternal Legends of Metropolis Records Tour kicks off tonight in Las Vegas.
7/26 Las Vegas, NV – Goodtimes Bar (with CYNERGY 67 and REV DJ RAZORSLAVE)
7/27 Scottsdale/Phoenix, AZ – Chasers (18+) (with MESS AND PHETAMINE)
7/28 Los Angeles, CA – Belasco Ballroom (with MANKIND IS OBSOLETE and WOMEN SHOULD NOT DRINK ALCOHOL)
7/29 San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge (ALL AGES) (with CRASHFASTER and WHOREMONGR)
7/31 Portland, OR – The Fez Ballroom (with STIFF VALENTINE)
8/1 Spokane, WA – The Hop (ALL AGES)
8/2 Seattle, WA – The Highline (with AYRIA)