Heavy Metal Road Dog (2016)
There is a lot that can be said about Heavy Metal as a genre, but amongst these fundamentals is certainly the statement that „Heavy Metal is live music“. Without concerts, without bands sweating and rocking on stage there would be no Heavy Metal, at least not in the form we know it. The screaming guitars, the driving drums, the group experience with the rest of the fans and the band on stage is part of what makes the Heavy Metal experience so unique.
Now, musicians occasionally talk about what ‘being on the road’ is like for them. Seeing a different hotel room almost every day, not seeing much of the city you are in, dealing with the boredom on the road, the occasional excess, the regular sound check, the various things that can go wrong on stage are all things we read about at least occasionally. But who are these guys who keep a tour going? What is it like for these guys you occasionally see running across the stage for whatever reason while the band is playing? And that is what this movie is (watch it on VIMEO, link below) about. The life behind the scenes, the life of a guy who is doing his best to keep the show going, aka the Iron Maidens’ road manager Chris Knudson.
Now, how to describe the movie, or rather his life on tour? Basically the movie is all about how much serious work and life experience goes into keeping the tour going. You have to watch out for the equipment, you have to consider things like that you might have to do some ‘engineering’ simply because the cylinders for the smoke machine you can buy locally might not fit, you have to organise the food, you have to watch out for the local staff to act professionally, you have to make yourself acquainted with each local venue for all sorts of reasons, you have to watch out for the band on stage just in case that a musician is trying to signal you that (s)he is having a technical issue and so much more. And unfortunately not all things are under your control. Think flying. What are you going to do when a bag is missing? Depending upon what is inside the bag this can be an extremely serious issue. How are you going to handle such a situation while also trying to keep the tour going? Also, how are you going to keep the band on time when it is time to leave for the next city?
For the Iron Maidens it is Chris Knudson who keeps the show going, but other road managers’ experience is likely not any different. You have to keep the tour going, you have to make sure that the machine ‘behind the scene’ works like a charm so that the band can concentrate on the music without having to worry about anything else but how to entertain the fans.
The movie is also speaking about the nicer aspects of touring though. If everything works as it is supposed to work then you have a chance to enjoy the culture of the city you are in, you can do some sightseeing and simply broaden your horizon. However, there is also the stress, a serious lack of sleep, the temptation to drink more than you should, and loads of boredom to deal with, and that not just for the band. So yes, the movie leaves no doubt that the occasional ‘fun’ always comes second after the job that touring is for all involved. There is simply no time for nonsense. Do your job first, have fun second, or else get in serious trouble with the road manager. And no, Chris Knudson leaves no doubt that he has no patience with unprofessional behaviour. Even the Iron Maidens get a bollocking one morning, because they are late for the bus. And yet, they still love him which goes to show that they know that he is right!
The only thing the movie does not explicitly mention is the amount of money the band has to pay for this professional support. However, it cannot be cheap what with all the staff involved behind the scenes. Also, there is the equipment and transportation fees. However, chance is that this is exactly why the Iron Maidens love their road manager. Touring is obviously expensive, particularly when it involves transatlantic flights and a man like Chris Knudson certainly helps with keeping a tour as financially profitable as possible. And that is also in the fans’ interest, because if touring becomes prohibitively expensive then a band will either call it quits, or start working on more of a ‘hobby level’, which means less shows.
So, last but not least a big THANK YOU to all people like Chris Knudson who keep the Heavy Metal machine going! We need you just as much as we need the bands on stage! Also, thank you to Mark Asselin for giving us this interesting insight. 10 devils!
Heavy Metal Road Dog (full movie on VIMEO):