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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

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Life on the road with Spacehog isn't always as glamorous as it seems.
Life on the road with Spacehog isn't always as glamorous as it seems. (Photo: Mike Popovich)
Drums everywhere.
Drums everywhere. (Photo: Mike Popovich)

A day in the life on tour with Spacehog

The life I have led so far as a musician transplanted to the United States from Yorkshire, England, is certainly a lot different from that of my parents'.

I was just on the phone with my dad today, telling him how great a job he had done raising a family of four kids on one salary, and getting us all through college. Hugh (my father) is 82 and is like our dearly departed Robin Williams, a Parkinson’s Disease sufferer. Williams' suicide brought acutely into focus the indignity of a condition which has the power to render you nonfunctional to all around you.

After a lifetime of supporting everyone in your family, it must be doubly humiliating to succumb to the syndrome.

So after all that it is probably hard for my folks to understand the pressures of the modern creative, but things have changed for sure. To start with, it's hard to imagine any family surviving from one salary these days.

And if one’s job requires that one is away from home for periods of time, it makes it all the more complicated. For these reasons I have to think twice before stepping away from home and onto a tour bus.

For some reason most people think that artists read from a completely different rule book: You're not a "real artist" unless you are in a constant state of purgatory. The only way to really enhance your credentials as a musical trailblazer is to jump off the nearest cliff! But I reject that completely. I am nobody’s martyr!

With my partner wholly committed to a full-time position in corporate fashion, it fell on me to leave no stone unturned before leaving town. First order of business was to interview and hire a full time nanny. Check.

After that, we had phone and Skype to reassure my 2-year-old that Daddy was, in fact, coming back. I learned this helping raise my now 16-year-old from opposite sides of the Atlantic after I broke up with my ex-wife: That a plan to meet again before you said goodbye went a long way to ease the anxiety of those months apart.

As a teenager, my eldest wound up joining my nanny as part of the team to look after my 2-year-old on her summer break! Looks like that 14-year break between them paid off after all!

Armed with these skills and with my vital team members, off I went into my other life as a rock star. Once we had rehearsals out of the way, my day in Spacehog would usually look a bit like this:

1. Wake up. Late (I'll explain why later). Eat breakfast, check emails (advancing details to shows further along the tour), make phone calls (manager, agent, missus, nanny, daughter).

2. Try to get a meditation in (doesn't always work out).

3. Walk out of the now stationary bus, figure out where the hell you are, locate venue, hotel, shower, etc.

4. Double-check on load-in/soundcheck times with other tour managers with the entourage.

5. Build my kit, maybe give the cymbals/drums a quick polish.

6. Lunch.

7. Soundcheck.

8. Meet and greet. Do radio or any press engagements for that day in that window between sound check and showtime.

9. Meditate (this one is the important one because it can help clear your head before we perform).

10.Warmups. I got mine -- everyone’s different -- but I have to have a pair of sticks in my hand for a bit before I go out there.

11. Showtime: Where the magic happens (or not).

12. Head straight to the merchandise table to sign T-shirts, CDs, etc.: Like most bands, we have realized that a physical presence at the merchandise table helps boost vitally needed sales and puts you in touch with those whose lives you might have touched through the music. It's easy to be aloof and disconnected, but i've gone out there so many times and my reluctance has bumped smack into the humbling moment someone tells you a story about how they met their wives/husbands at one of your concerts, or how they played one of your songs in a cover band they were in or how a lyric empowered them to do something positive for themselves. So to all those folks I’ve met out there, I say thank you for sharing those thoughts and please come back someday!

13. After that, I am straight backstage to finish up the pack down of the gear and loading into the trailer.

14. Scope out dinner and call the missus!

15. Refer to my notes and settle with the promoter according to what has been posted to our agency and whether or not I am picking up cash.

15. Drive to the next show. Depending on how much energy I’ve got left I might sit with the driver for an hour or two before retiring to bed. Our last tour as part of Summerland included an RV, which wasn't the smoothest of rides. So either way it was commonplace for me not to sleep until the vehicle had arrived at its destination, hence the late starts.

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