Joey Severance is one of the most well-known faces of those who work in the touring business in Europe. Surely, Joey stands out... He's got dreadlocks, tattoos, he shouts a lot and he loves to say 'bitch'. He's the man of every situation and most of the bands you've seen on stage have had Joey as a babysitter on tour. Joey has been in business for years and kept well-known happenings such as the No Mercy Festivals or the X-Mass Festivals on the road since day one. I think that with Joey's help, I could write an encyclopedia about touring. Thanks to Joey, ShutterBLAST has had a chance to meet, interview and shoot countless artists over the years. Today, ShutterBLAST wishes to discuss the 'other side' of the music business, from someone who doesn't just speak as a musician. More in-depth and more pragmatic than many other interviews, ShutterBLAST lets the man speak about touring, living in Europe and also the very controversial cancellation of the Earthshaker Road Shock Tour.
Today you are one of the most famous faces of metal crew. You toured with many of the loudest, craziest and even freakiest bands out there. You stand out in a crowd because you keep running around like a busy bee, trying to solve all the problems on the tour and making sure the audience doesn’t notice and has a good time.
Can you tell us more about what the job of a tour manager consists in?
Basically “Tour Manager” is another name for glorified babysitter……my job is to make sure that the bands are pretty much happy and that everything pertaining to the tour goes according to plan. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t….
Can you tell us a little about who you are, what is your background and why you wanted to become a tour manager?
I like to think of myself as a metal maniac! Music is everything I live for. I started out playing in bands and then from there I had my own radio show which caught the attention of Brian Slagel (head of Metal Blade) and was offered a job to open and run their east coast (US) office. From there I ended up in Amsterdam and have been based there ever since. I didn’t really set out to be a Tour Manager. Living in Holland and not being Dutch or European limits what I can do to earn a living so this chance came up for me to go on tour with Vader several years ago as their stage manager and I took it. From there I went on to selling merchandise on other tours and gradually (with a good word from Bobo, another Tour Manager) moved up to becoming a TM myself.
How is that going so far?
So far so good…..
What are the main problems that you run into, and how do you solve them?
Oh gosh, you can’t really put a finger on one problem. Going on tour is almost like being a police officer in the sense that you never know what you’re going to run into once the bus heads out from show to show. Any problems that do come up I try and sort them out with common sense but so many things happen on the road that one could write a book. Listen, I’ve got this idea for a reality show that would be the number 1 hit of the earth. It would be called Tour Bus and pretty much it would show what happens on tour because some of the shit that does happen is so outrageous that it’s hard to believe. Unfortunately there is an unwritten law that goes “what happens on the road, stays on the road” and that right there is why I can’t get my show off the ground J
If you weren’t a tour manager, what would you be?
I would be involved in music for sure. Before I was a TM, I was working at Metal Blade Records (the US division) and then when I moved to Holland I was running the European offices for Pavement Records (Crash Music) and then Necropolis Records. Had I not discovered Kiss though, I’m sure that I would have been working in the Medical/Forensic field
What do you like best about being a tour manager?
I love the traveling and meeting new people, seeing new places and of course getting paid!
What do you dislike the most?
Being away from home and dealing with those who lack common sense….also let me mention out the Nazi scum that visit some of the black metal tours I do. You may not like me but your girlfriend does…..
Tell us a little about the crew. Who selects the road crew? You, the bands, the labels, and the Metallysee agency?...
For a long time at Metallysee for example, I was doing pretty much everything except booking the actual shows…..in regards to the crew, it depends on the tour. Headliners have at least one person who is like the 6th member of the band and goes everywhere they do, while for smaller tours, the crew was decided by who was available. When I went out on tour as a TM, I did have my crew, that if available, I liked to take everywhere I went. Simon, who is the guitar tech for Behemoth. John Goss who drum techs for a lot of bands. Mainly Cannibal and Dimmu and of course my girl Darkness (Kate) who does sound for Finntroll. These three are like family and make the tours a lot of fun. Simon is a hard worker and never complains while Goss is also a hard worker but WOW…..my man can get angry at times
Have you ever had to fire someone? Even during a tour?
I myself didn’t fire someone but I was the TM on a tour where someone had to be sent back home. It was unfortunate.
It must be hard to live on the road for months with people that you barely know… How do you deal with that?
Well, on tour with the bands I like everyone to have a good time. Were a lot of people living in not a lot of space for a long time. It’s imperative that people get along. Early on I became lucky in the sense that I got to pick and choose who I tour with. I don’t have to like a bands music to tour with them (although that is a bonus!) I just have to like them as people. After all, were living on a bus for a few weeks together but if I don’t like their music, I can always not watch.
You are an American living abroad in the strange continent of Europe like me. Do you miss home?
Listen, let me tell you right now the things I miss the most about the states are in this order:
- Supermarkets/Shopping Malls
- American Football
I love knowing that at any hour on the clock I can find almost anything if I wanted to buy it….sometimes all in one place m/ Also, I’m sitting in Newcastle, England and their currency is the pound but they ARE a member of the European Union whose currency is the euro. So no only is the British pound worth a lot, you can’t use euros here. Same applies in Denmark, and Sweden who are also EU members. Now what kind of bullshit I that?? Rant about currency exchange and shit like that
Do you miss home more or less when you are on tour?
Well, when speaking in terms what I consider home, Amsterdam is my home so yes, I miss it more when I’m on tour.
You have 2 cells phones and at least 4 SIM cards. Why is that?
Hahahha… because of the OUTRAGEOUS prices that one has to pay to call one country from another on a mobile phone. I have SIM cards for the countries that I travel to the most this way I’m local.
What besides your telephones do you travel with?
Ipod. Never leave home without that. Laptop, Briefcase, Def my polish stuffed leopard…….I was on tour in Poland with Krisiun in the middle of the worse winter ever in this camper that didn’t have any heat and I was at the early stages of a nervous breakdown. We stopped at this gas station and I went inside to buy some things and as I was walking down the isle I heard something say “Hey,where ya going. I’m right here. Take me with you” and I was looking around like what the fuck? So I saw this stuffed leopard with a big beer belly and he said yes, I’m talking to you…….so I bought him. In fact, let’s see….. Def is from Poznan, Poland.
What did you learn not to bring when you are on tour?
A big suitcase!
What advice can you give to bands that have never gone on tour?
Leave your rock star bullshit attitude in your rehearsal room and don’t bring a change of clothes for every day…..also realize that going on tour is like any other job with a bit more fun, but it’s a JOB none the less.
What are some of the bands that you enjoy touring with most? Why?
- Behemoth, because they never complain and kill on stage and are a lot of fun to be around.
- Finntroll, because they are my people and a LOT of fun!! (See you in December, bitches! Don’t forget the Dookie Brown)
- Six Feet Under, because they are very mellow and we have a good time while traveling down the road. I love that they only take one drum set on tour and let the support bands play on it. Not to mention Chris Barnes is my people. We don’t speak so often off tour, but at important times behind the scenes, he’s always had my back…….oh yeah!! Let me not forget. When they come over, Terry comes over with a nice box of American goodies and Chris bring over some sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet candies that I love. They guys who they bring over as their crew are also top people and do their shit. No hassles there.
- Cannibal Corpse, because they are Death Metal! Pat O’Brian is a fucking shredder who I love to watch play, even if it’s him just warming up. Alex Webster can give a good conversation and teach some kick ass judo kind of Bruce Lee type shit. And then we have The Nature Boy, George Corpsegrinder. I like to tour with CC because George and I engage in some serious old school wrestling. He has his guy (Nature Boy Ric Flair) and I have mine (Superstar Billy Graham) now, while I have nothing but love for Ric Flair. He had style, charisma and most importantly, he had the chicks! The Superstar had all that AND the pythons! Now every once and a while I would have to threaten George with wrapping my pythons around that fat neck of his but he’s a lot bigger than I am and will probably choke me out if he gets wind of this J
- Carpathian Forest, because wow, hahahaha. What can I say. Never a dull moment! If I had that TV show I was telling you about earlier, one episode which would have happened in Spain would have been a season ending cliffhanger! In 5 years of touring the only time I ever got into a physical fight with a band AND kicking one off a tour happened all in one night. The bus scene was like the Wild West! I won’t get into the story but if you know someone that knows it, ask. It’s fucking funny!! Nattefrost is sooooooooooo out there. Wow, I won’t say more! (Come on bitches, do a new record already so we can hit the road!!)
Are there some bands that you refuse to tour with?
Yup. But I've been watching Flavor of Love Girl’s Charm School …..and a tip I learned is not to reveal names J
Can you give us a tour anecdote about the following bands?
Dark Funeral-Oh, Ahriman and Caligula are my people to the max. Ha,the stories I have with these two could fill a book. What good times!!
Vader-Peter is my people. Let me tell you. As I mentioned earlier the first tour I went out with was Vader. And on that tour, I was the ’’stage manager” and since I havent done this shit before and no one told me what to do, I pretty much helped all the bands on the stage. Turns out I was doing the wrong thing so by the time I woke up in Switzerland i was told that I was going to be going home from there. As I was packing to leave Peter saw that and asked what I was doing so I told him. He told me to wait there until he came back so he could say goodbye......when he finally came back to the bus he told me to unpack.......I later found out through my boss that Peter said he would'nt continue the tour if I went home. That was cool. Thanks Peter. Respect!
Carpathian Forrest-Wow! A lot of fun. And never know what to expect. One promoter had more food for his dog than he had for us. And then his policy was they dont sell Coke and other americn products because they were having a revolutiuon. Within one hour of my conversation with him we were eating pizza and drinking cold Coke from the can. Fuck you!
Immortal-I ran into Abbath one year at Wacken and he asked me if I had any weed on me since he hadn’t smoked since the last time we toured together (which was two years before) since I didn’t know how to roll, I asked Kai (Disbelief) if he could roll one up for us. The three of us finished off this joint during breakfast and went our separate ways. Later in the evening when I was completely drunk, Peter (Hypocrisy) saw me and said “Hey, what did you do to Abbath??” Since I had no idea what he was talking about, I said “nothing” Anyway, the story goes that after we smoked the joint, Abbath passed out or had trouble breathing and had to be rushed to the Red Cross tent. That was something but even more so, one time when we were on tour, some of their (Immortal) friends were on our bus and one of them happen to say nigger and Abbath took serious offense to that and replied “Hey, this is my friend and we don’t talk that way on this bus” Again, Respect!
Exodus-Another band I have good times with. We were traveling to Italy and our bus caught on fire. We can all laugh about it now but at the time it was pretty scary. Thanks to our good friend Debbie (Italian Promoter) we were able to get to Greece in vans and continue our tour.
Everyone knows that bands party on tour. What are some who party the most, and some who party the least?
Without a doubt the most would have to be Finntroll. Not only do they drink like seasoned professionals, they’re all happy drunks. Off the top of my head, I don’t know who would be the least.
About festivals, what do you like about festivals? Why?
I love the tribal feelings of festivals. You get to see a lot of good friends all in the same place that you don’t get to see too often
What do you hate about festivals? Why?
Disorganization……and actually I’ve just been to my first festival that was this way. I hope not to go there again in the future.
How are festivals different than touring in your everyday work?
With the festivals everything is already there. The equipment is on the stage, the catering is in the dressing room etc…..pretty much all I have to do is make sure the band is on/off stage on time and collect the fee.
Can you tell us some interesting stories of issues with promoters?
On a package tour that Exodus was headlining I went to get paid from this one promoter and his money was short about 5,000 euro. I went to pull Exodus off the stage and I happen to see Will (Mortician) from the corner of my eye and walked back to the mic and asked him to join me in the back. When he got there I explained how this asshole was trying to rip us off for 5,000 Euro. Now, for those of you don’t know Will, he’s a pretty soft spoken guy. He walked into the office where we were doing the settlement (and by the time the promoter had went and called for hig big goon security team) and he says to the promoter in a soft quiet tone “Listen, I was out there enjoying Exodus and a beer when Joey calls me here and tells me that you owe him 5,000 big ones, and I do see the security guys that you brought in here and I'm going to tell you this in front of them. Im giving you five minutes to go out and get him his money so he can send the band back on the stage and I can go back to my beer or I’m going to kill everyone in this room.' Without saying a word, the guy got up, walked out of the room, came back within those five minutes and counted out 5,000 Euro to me. I said “Thanks Will, Exodus, you guys can go back on stage” and the show went on J
How about issues with fans?
Most of them are cool and come for a good time and those are the ones I love to hang out with. Of course there are those losers that think just becsuse they bought a ticket to the show they are entitled to invade our privacy.
Are there any groupies?
Does a bear shit in the woods? J
How do you deal with groupies?
What do you fear most when on tour?
Having an accident while were sleeping on the bus
Before a tour
What is important to prepare before a tour?
Makin sure that I take all the things Im going to need with me during and for the tour .
What can’t you be seen without?
My ipod and Def .
After the tour
What is the first thing that you do at the end of a tour?
Go home and make Nachos.
Do you stay in contact with the bands that you manage?
Yes, with most of the bands that I tour with on a regular basis
Are there bands out there that you have never managed yet but that you would like to work with?
Would you ever work in another genre than metal?
Sure, why not. Daddy needs to get paid bitch!
If you joined a band, any band, what would it be, and who would be YOUR tour manager?
I wouldn’t JOIN any existing band but if I were to go on tour with my own band then without a doubt my girl Erin (www.imwitheband.com) would be our TM.
Earthshaker RoadShock Cancellation
Can you please tell me about the Earthshaker Roadshock tour? Who put that together and who was running it?
That tour was supposed to be a joint effort between Metallysee and the people that do the Earthshaker festival. The lineup was put together by a guy named Henk Mol (Vain Productions). He pretty much had everything to do with putting that tour together. Go fuck yourself, Henk.
From your perspective, what went wrong, for the tour to be cancelled?
Its simple mathematics. Henk made that tour so expensive to put on the road that it was doomed before it started. I made this VERY CLEAR to everyone involved that this tour was going to be a failure WEEKS before the first show even happened. No one wanted to listen and we all know what happened. Look, you can’t put 5 bands on the road and have none of them paying tour support. Up to that point, one of the bands had never released a record and they were getting paid. Another band who WASNT the headliner had their OWN bus AND were getting paid more than the headliner. Now while none of what I'm saying reflects badly on the bands cos if someone is stupid enough to offer me such deals, I would take them myself. The problem was Henk, who was making these outrageous deals with these bands didn’t tell the people who were paying for this tour until it was almost too late. I say almost because once he did let everyone know what the cost of this tour was, they still had plenty of time to go and try and redo those deals. I mean, that tour was a total fuck up and it left a bad taste in my mouth concerning certain people. ALL of the bands knew that I personally had NOTHING to do with putting this tour together or making any deals with them and yet here some of them were giving me attitude like it was my fault they weren’t getting paid. Get a fucking grip!! You know, now that I’m typing this and rethinking the situation, I’m fucking pissed.
What would you suggest to prevent this from happening next time?
Next time people who don’t know shit about touring should listen to those of us that do.
What are your personal comments on the matter since you were managing the bands on the road?
That tour should have never happened the way the deals were set up in the first place and left me with such disgust towards certain people but you know what, let me rant a little here cos I just told you that thinking about this tour had gotten me pissed so let me tell you how I see things in general. (And with my rant here, I’m not meaning any of the bands that were on THIS tour in particular but on some tours i've done or some bands that i’ve come in contact with over the years) There are too many labels, too many shitty bands and too many greedy losers in this business. These days almost any asshole with a PC and CD Burner is now a record label. Go fuck yourself. There are too many shit bands and some of these losers actually think they are contributing something to this world. Reality check : You’re not and your fucking band sucks. Break up already! Most of the bands that are “popular” today are only so because there are so many other shitty bands around them that the general public doesn’t know the difference anymore. Most of you would never have gotten a record deal between the years of 1980 and 1987…. You greedy record labels. Stop signing shit bands that you think are going to be the next trend and spend the time and money DEVELOPING the good bands that you have now. Magazines, stop bending over to labels advertising dollars and call them out on their shit releases. Im tired of looking through magazines and seeing all these shitty bands/releases get all these great reviews. The labels are going to continue to advertise with you anyway…. Ok, I’m done ranting J
Bruchstein went bankrupt last year... and it seems that very few booking agencies last in the industry... why is that? Are people doing something wrong or is it just that the whole scene is a bit unreliable?
The reason they don’t last is because of Greed. It’s the biggest problem in this industry. A whole bunch of greedy fuckers that don’t do shit except sit back and collect money. Go die.
You're one of the most experienced tour managers in the metal scene today... what are the things that you are the most proud of today? What have you gained?
I’m most proud that I treat ALL the bands with respect. I don’t treat the opening bands like shit. When I go out on the road with a tour package we are a team and there is no “I” in team. Were all in the same boat together. You can ask ANY small band I’ve taken out on tour how well they’re treated and I’m sure they won’t hesitate to tell you.
What are your biggest learning’s?
That you can’t trust anyone. Sad but true.
What advice would you give someone who is trying to start their own booking agency today?
What are the qualities to make a good booker?
Well, the most important would be if you make a deal with someone, honor it at any cost!
What will you be doing 5 years from now?
I hope I will be living happy and healthy.
Thank you for your time, Joey! It’s been a pleasure.
Darkness, it’s always a pleasure talking with you!!