Welcome to another installment of Intense Guitar. This month’s question comes from Chris Marshett from Omaha, Nebraska. Chris asks, “I saw you a couple of years ago in Germany and you were playing with a few guys, and then I saw you less than a year later in America with a different lineup. Do you have a set band that you play with?”
I do a lot of touring both here and abroad and the answer is quite simply “no,” at least not for my solo stuff. As a solo artist, there are a couple of ways to do things. You can do these tours with “name” guys, but they usually charge more for their services and may not generate enough added ticket sales to warrant the extra cost, although a often overlooked benefit of using name players is that they usually have equipment endorsements and can have their rigs duplicated overseas. This avoids the cost of having to fly their rigs over.
When using “lesser known” players, the cost is less, but they may not have endorsements or company support to help with gear, so you typically need to budget for shipping their equipment, which can get expensive. You really need to weigh the differences. Is it more economical for you to pay for a name guy who can have his rig assembled for him overseas or do you take out the unknown player and ship his gear?
If you have supportive endorsers, they may sponsor the tour if it can be combined with clinics. It’s pretty brutal schedule-wise, but worth it in the end. Generally you do the soundcheck, head off to do the clinic, then go to the gig. If you’re lucky you may get a chance to rest or eat in between! If you have several endorsements, another solution is to try involving more than one with the tour – the more support the better. Check and see if they have affiliate companies they can involve. For example, Ibanez is owned by Hoshino and Hoshino owns Tama drums – a potential solution for your drummer.
I generally tend to use players that are already in the country where we tour. For instance, I have someone else assemble a group in Germany, then tour the continent with that band. Sometimes I change band members mid-tour, depending on the player’s schedules. This works well for solo artists who want to play their music abroad but don’t make enough to support taking a whole band. Since Europe is connected geographically, it’s fairly easy to set up a tour of Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Romania, etc., without leaving the ground.
I first realized this when I went to Germany for the first time in 1995 for MusikMesse. I met a bass player with whom I got along with splendidly and he had the idea of doing some shows together as a mini-tour. He said he knew of a killer drummer that I would “definitely dig,” so I said sure! The basic plan was for him to get together with the drummer and rehearse and then I’d fly over and rehearse with the band – one day before a four-week tour! Thankfully, those guys were total pros had everything down pat by the time I showed up. After our rehearsal we hit the road, doing the first 14 shows back-to-back with no breaks.
To prepare for this kind of tour, I send the players tracks to learn. The CD with their parts is mixed so that their instrument is on one side, the band on the other. By adjusting the balance, they can isolate their part or jam with the band minus their part. I only use a bassist and drummer on stage, with the remaining instruments on ADAT tapes controlled by my engineer. The rhythm guitar, keyboards and string sections will all be on ADAT, but the audience still sees a whole group – not just one guy up on stage. I have done tours in America with just a tape, but I found it lacking and worried that the audience was somehow being ripped-off.
With pre-recorded tracks, there’s a click track for the drummer; you need to be sure that the drummer can play to one. The rest of the tracks go out to the mains. I use ADATs because I can send individual tracks to the mains and retain the ability to pan certain “virtual” instruments. I used to bring a DAT or CD-R, but the click had to be on one side, with all of the other instruments on the other side in mono, losing the ability to be mixed individually.
I will sometimes use a mono CD-R when working with engineers that don’t know the material. With ADATs, it’s imperative that the engineer knows the tunes so he can mix them properly; otherwise, certain taped instruments may dominate the mix or not be heard at all. Although the engineer is an added expense in the budget, they are well worth it – think of them as a band member.
Well, that does it for this month – I hope you’ve found some of these tips useful. If you have any topics you’d like me to address, contact me at Toshi@TOSHIISEDA
. com or email@example.com
. My MySpace page is myspace.com/toshiiseda
. Until next month, “Who dares wins!”
Toshi Iseda is an Alumnus of the prestigeous Berklee College of Music and the American Conservatory of Music. He has been featured in Guitar Player, Guitar World and Guitar/Guitar One Magazines, and is a former instructor at the National Guitar Workshop and former instructor at the American Institute of Guitar.