Friday, 16 January 2009

Think Yellow Productions hits the headlines....

Geologist takes rock on the road.....

EVERY touring band needs a tour manager – but it's not the sort of thing which you can easily learn at college.

For Adam Maughan, who came down to Plymouth University from Birmingham to study environmental geology, such an occupation probably couldn't have been further from his mind when he graduated in 2000, but he exchanged his study of rock formations for a career in rock and roll when he became Seth Lakeman's tour manager – almost by accident, and by a rather circuitous route.

After he left uni, Adam ran the newly-opened Ride Bar on North Hill for its first four years of existence, and through doing so got involved in putting on events at other venues.

"We did Ride Marquee at Warleigh Manor," says Adam, "which led to putting on the Park Life Festival at Newham with Mark Creswell. We were in at the deep end, learning on the job about sorting licences, liaising with health and safety etcetera."

Although the festival itself didn't do that well it was a great learning curve for Adam, off the back of which he was asked by Dave Summers to help run the Plymouth Festival at Newnham – and as a result of that he ended up at Plymouth Music Collective working with Dave's Disc Manufacturing Services.

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Dave suggested that Adam might like to work with Martin and Dom at Jack Cham's to spice up their open mic night.

"We got Tim Cresswell opening and hosting each week, then gradually introduced more prestigious guest acts – Carus, Martin Harley, Mick Hart... and Seth", he says.

Seth had recorded his first two albums at PMC and Adam says he first remembers meeting him filling out an MCPS form at the St John's Road premises.

"Seth was due to play fiddle on Tim Cresswell's EP, but I got this call from him explaining why he couldn't make it: 'You're not going to believe this, but I've been nominated for the Mercury Awards.' Of course, he then had to go up to London, and from then on everything just exploded."

Seth's autumn tour was already booked: just the four band members driving themselves around in a Transit van. Then Dave Farrow came on board offering a management deal and booked in other more rock'n'roll venues.

"There was a media frenzy about Seth, queues around the block at gigs – everything went mental. They needed help with merchandise and asked me to do it and after speaking to Dave, I found myself at the Oxford Zodiac, on tour with them.

"I remember thinking, 'This is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me!'

"By the end of the tour I was collecting fees, doing more and more, and I started to realise what was required without anyone really telling me."

When Seth signed a major-label deal with Relentless it was like "pushing the big red button". Adam says he is grateful for the opportunity to learn his role gradually as the band's status and popularity grew.

"We took on a sound engineer and crew, moved up from a Transit to a 'splitter' (half-van, half-minibus) to double-decker Trathens tour bus with two lounges, bunks and a production office. By this point I was looking after everything, adopting the roles of travel agent, accountant, lawyer, dietician... and mother!"

Ahead of any tour, Adam's job involves working out the finances and logistics.

"The tour gets put out to promoters, fees are discussed and I have to put a budget together – work out route, travel expenses, how many crew we can afford, what equipment we can take etcetera, trying to make the most profit possible. In fact, you're the brain of the whole thing.

"It's incredibly stressful, but hugely rewarding, though it's quite a thankless task, as nobody should know who the tour manager is – unless something's gone wrong!"

Adam is usually last to bed at around 3am and first up at 8.30am. "You get used to managing on hardly any sleep," he admits.

To his credit, they've never missed a gig and they did 35 festivals alone last year.

"We came close when we did the Hebridean Celtic Festival and got stuck on the runway in Glasgow for two hours. We did just make it to close the Lama Tree Festival down south, though it felt like something out of Spinal Tap and aged me about 30 years!"

But the highs definitely outweigh any lows: so much so that Adam has recently set up his own company with Oli James and Rik Weightman,, which offers the full tour service.

"Rubbing shoulders with all sorts of people backstage – Amy Winehouse, Nelly Furtado, Razorlight at TOTP 2 a couple of years ago, touring major cities in Europe with Tori Amos as support for her full production tour, standing at the side of a festival stage alongside Steve Earle…

"Best of all, though, is simply being on the road; it's a very addictive way of life. Your world travels around with you and you're masters of your own destiny.

"It's a real buzz – an adrenalin rush every day. To call it a job is awesome."

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