3: RT List Q & A - July
7/6/2007 (updated 7/6/2007)
13. The first time I saw you perform, it was the Hand of Kindness tour with
the Big Band. I believe there were seven players, including yourself. For
the next few years, you always seemed to tour with 4 or 5 other musicians.
For the last 10 years, however, you've rarely toured with more than bass,
drums and Zorn.
Why the change? And, if it's an economic issue, why could you afford to pay
5 other musicians in 1983, but only 3 in 2007?
RT: First, the musical reasons. The Hand Of Kindness album, pretty much all
the way through, featured a core band of 7 pieces, including a 3-piece
'reed' section. The only way to tour that record was to take that band on
the road. The Shoot Out The Lights tour, similarly, was recorded with a
5-piece, and toured as a 5-piece. After that, the content of records becomes
more diverse, and the idea of carrying a harmonica player, or a fiddle
player, or an early music specialist, just to do small parts on a couple of
songs becomes impractical - so compromises are made, and some instruments
fill in for others, and arrangements are not exactly as per disc, but
hopefully still give a fair representation of the song. Having Pete Zorn in
the band replaces 2 musicians - his versatility suggests whole ranges of
tone colours, and allows us to be a 4-piece. I like the size of this band -
there's some space around the music when needed.
Practical reasons: I have never taken tour support, I have always funded
tours myself. On the HOK tour, we travelled in a club wagon with a crew of
2, and everyone doubled up in hotels. This was tough on wear and tear, but
we were younger! In the early 90s, we started to tour by bus, which is now
our norm, and the only practical way to get enough sleep and cover longer
distances by having a dedicated driver, and doing some overnight drives. We
carry a bigger crew, and everyone gets their own room. I seem to remember
the HOK tour finished in the red. All band tours are budgeted to break even,
and usually end up a little up or a little down.
14. I saw you in Peekskill, NY (my humble hometown) how would you compare
that venue (Paramount Theater) to the one in Tarrytown where you have played
previously? Are you looking to add new venues? How do you pick a venue?
Since I have seen you several times at the Birchmere in VA solo I wonder
about the choices when you tour with the band.
RT: I enjoyed the Paramount, it seemed a good-sized room, with a good
connection between stage and audience. Maybe the fact it was sold out has
prejudiced my view! I like Tarrytown, and usually feel we do a good show
there, although it's quite a tough room onstage - by that I mean that the
musician standing on the stage is not hearing the same thing as the
audience. Firstly, he is behind the PA system, and is hearing whatever comes
off the back of that - usually low end - and reflections from the room
itself, quite often high end, and 'slap' repeat bouncing off the back wall
or the balcony, or the ceiling. To the rescue, each musician has a monitor
speaker near his feet or ear, giving him the mix he wants to hear - more of
himself, more of the drums, etc. Some rooms, and Tarrytown falls into this
category, throw so much confused signal back to the stage that they
overwhelm the monitors, and it's hard to hear definition. Some rooms can be
too dry, where the monitors sound fine and clear, but the room sound has
been completely soaked up, leading to a sterile or clinical sound. And some
rooms are just right! Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, really...
If new venues open up, we'll check them out, but this is usually at the
instigation of a promoter, and the same goes for picking venues. A town may
have one promoter who owns, say. 4 venues, at 300, 600, 1200, and 2300 seats
each. He may feel he can sell 1000 tickets, in which case, you go into the
1200 seater, regardless of whether it's the best-sounding, or most
audience-friendly, of the 4 choices. Other towns have competing promoters,
and then it's often a matter of balancing the best room with the best offer
and the best promoter. Some rooms are notoriously tough, especially with a
band, and we will avoid these where possible, but still have to play them
when it's the only game in town, or everything else is booked. I'd say the
Birchmere is one of the best places we play, from every point of view. It's
a purpose-built room (as far as I know) and there is little to interfere
with the sound or sightlines like balconies or pillars. The PA is fairly
well installed, and usually is well-maintained. The staff are friendly and
professional. All rooms will sound different depending on where you sit,
some sound different about every three feet! Simon Tassano is one of the
best sound engineers out there, and he spends hours every day tuning the PA.
Sometimes PA components are broken, and no-one has noticed, Sometimes
expensive PAs ($250K not uncommon) are wrongly installed. More usually, they
are just tuned wrongly. Rooms will sound louder at the front, quieter at the
back, with a few exceptions! The lower frequencies will often vary from seat
to seat. Part of Simon's job is to minimise the differences.