Backstage - Is It Really All That?
We’ve all heard the stories from backstage - the typical sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll antics of the 70s and 80s, especially where bands such as Motley Crue, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Kiss are concerned, to name but a few. But this was in the rise of the genres, where the live music industry was well on its way to becoming the multi-billion pound behemoth we know it as today. It wasn’t just the bands indulging in this type of behaviour either. Their road crews were well expected to join in the debauchery after the last of the gear had been unloaded.
Some of these so called staff have become legends in their own right throughout the years. Led Zeppelin’s tour manager Richard Cole was acknowledged in the band’s official biography Hammer Of The Gods as being “responsible for much of the mayhem” in many situations the band found themselves in.
“Roadies” as they’ve become known, have spilled the majority of the dirty secrets of rock stars past and present, but it is them, too, who have been rumbled for degrading treatment of female fans of the bands they’ve been employed by. Gladly, these days are mostly gone, and these roadies have been replaced by more mature, well qualified people who treat their jobs as jobs, and do them well. The days of backstage drink, drugs and girls have been replaced by people having a cup of tea, and making sure shit gets done.
Other aspects of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle have been compromised by stricter rules and regulations. All of those stories of rock stars throwing TVs out of their hotel window just don’t exist anymore because undoubtedly the hotel would charge for the damage. Also likely meaning the tour manager would lose their job for allowing the behaviour in the first place.
Bands are more serious, feeling more respect towards their fans, not getting completely smashed for the sake of it because really, do you want to be hitting the stage the following day still partially hungover, not putting your all in, and letting down fans who have paid to see your band? Ross Beagan told us on Facebook that “there’s too much gear to even fit anything else backstage. Definitely not the old school kind of gear either”. The morals, ethics and bands’ consciousness of how they’re portrayed has put a stop to that kind of debauchery.
As for fraternising with fans….well that’s mostly had to go out of the window now purely due to the age of fans attending gigs plummeting. Fans as young as 12 to 13 can often be found attending gigs with groups of friends, and as an of-age musician of the opposite sex, would you really want to be seen surrounded by them? It definitely gives off the wrong impression. Of course there are the certain members of certain bands that don’t seem to mind the age of the fans they sleep with, but we won’t name any names. Just know that you are scumbags, and we all know who you are, too. The internet is a powerful resource.
That’s not to say that fantastic times can’t be had backstage here in 2015. Some of the best times of my life so far have been backstage with people who grew to be good friends, but my reasoning behind being there is probably worlds apart from the females my age in the 70s. I have not, nor do I intend to, sleep with any of these band members after interviewing them. More importantly, it is not presumed that that’s the reason I’m there, which speaks volumes about the perception of females in these restricted areas compared to 30-40 years ago. It is the women who still see the backstage area as this mecca of sex and drinking, where their favourite band member might just take advantage of them as they neck far too many vodkas from the band’s rider that let the rest of us down.
There are still the backstage stories, of course, but they differ in nature so drastically from the ones you see in the Sky Arts documentaries, or read in Nikki Sixx’s autobiographies.
Our photographer Joe said that he “had AAA [access all areas] at a few gigs and festivals and literally nothing happens. All the debauchery and alcoholism is a myth. It’s just a lot of dudes running around with gear like lunatics and you feeling super out of place”. It’s easy to see where his out of place feeling comes from - in a haven of technology and jobs that need doing, if you’re not there for a reason you might as well not be there at all.
Benjamin Nowell, a promoter from London, told us of a time he saw CJ from Thy Art Is Murder “come out the shower with boxers and a towel wrapped up in his hair [...] just strutting around,” but he also mentioned that that was “literally the only interesting thing” he’d ever seen backstage. Imagine how many shows a promoter in London puts on, the amount of tales you’d think they have to tell…. No, just a deathcore vocalist with his hair in a towel. Wild.
Finally Daniel Charlton, of Wraiths says “everyone is just so tired that they’ve been in a tiny van/car for 4 hours which they have slept in with 7 other people and they just want to rest”. Welcome to rock ‘n’ roll in 2015, music fans.