Behind The Scenes Of Faith No More on Tour - In The Words Of Their Road Crew
An exclusive insight into Faith No More's touring production from members of the crew.
"Faith No More’s crew is quite a unique beast... Over the years we have cobbled together an amazing bunch of people from all over the place, I’m from England as is the Lighting Director, the FOH Sound guy is from Scotland, the tour assistant lives in The Netherlands, we have an Italian monitor engineer plus the back line boys are all from the US. Nobody knows where the Tour Manager is from.... "
Due to covid-19 cancellations FNM recently showed support for the eight current members of their crew by creating some limited edition merchandise including shirts and signed memorabilia. This is a welcome treat for fans and provides crucial funding to help the crew and their families in these difficult times.
As Bill Gould said 'the band that you know as Faith No More is more than the five musicians you see on stage' , the team involved in bringing a FNM tour to fruition is extensive. To make sure that we get the most enjoyable experience possible the band need the best lights, sound, stage sets and much more. Team FNM are a family.
So when Faith No More return to the stage in 2021 make sure you cheer for the guys behind the scenes. If you can, shake their hands and thank them for a fantastic days work. Because without them there would be no show.
Until then you can help the band raise money for the crew by grabbing a limited edition shirt from their crew relief page.
To try and highlight how important this troop of dedicated folks are we spoke with production manager Shaun Kendrick and front of house sound engineer Michael Brennan to find out more about the extensive work that goes into a Faith No More tour and each individual show.
How long have you guys been part of FNM's crew?
Shaun: "When the band were 'talking' about reforming in late 2008 their Tour Manager (now Manager) Tim asked me if I’d like to join as Production Manager. Tim and I already had a good working relationship as we’d been working on a few other projects together, we’d done some Fantomas and Melvins shows leading up to that point.
Michael: "I joined the FNM crew at the very beginning of their reformation in 2009. Since the band reformed, I have worked more shows that any other crew member (this does not include their entire career). Chaz the lighting guy is the only one that has worked with them for longer than I have."
Shaun: "I’d already been working with Michael on Mogwai and then on My Bloody Valentine’s 2008 reaffirmation – both loud acts with full dynamic sound. Michael and I already had a solid relationship, he’s a great engineer, a miniature force of nature and plus he never fails to makes me laugh with his wise Gandalf like stories of misfortune!
Coincidentally Roddy had recently just seen My Bloody Valentine play in LA and at Coachella and had really loved the shows. So we were kind of set."
What does the role of Production Manager entail?
Shaun: "First job for me on any project is to look at and consider the bigger picture – budgets, lighting, sound, trucking, back-line, freighting, power, staff, set, local labour requirements and plant hire, bussing, backstage & other minor connected logistics.
The first job on this particular project was to the gather together the bones of the band's previous touring life as they had not played for a few years – I took their old technical riders and created a brand new FNM V.2 Technical & Hospitality rider (all 54 pages of it in the end). This included everything needed to deliver those first shows back. It was a collaboration between the TM and myself.
Rebuilding the band on paper required a lot of initial work - working with the audio team, updating lighting requirements under direction from the Lighting Director, updating the band's back-line needs (as we had a few fly in shows), new band hospitality requirements, our travel, accommodation, ground transportation and all the magical backstage jazz.
It was a lot of work but it made things run very smoothly.
It is my job to make everything appear and work the same every single show, every single night, so the crew can do their jobs, the band can deliver a great show and then audience can take away the maximum experience.
The initial system we (and every other act in the world uses) is called “advancing”. This is the sharing of the rider and other relevant info with the various promoters, venues and festival teams. Then working out what we need to do or change on a show by show basis to deliver the production to near as 100% as possible. Focused advancing is key, ironing out all potential issues during the advance. I spend a lot of time on the phone and emailing and I suffer from being too OCD with this shit. Sometimes that’s problematic as I DO NOT LIKE SURPRISES.
Then, that info is gathered, digested and shared to the crew via production books, online storage & touring programs / apps like Master Tour. The schedules are formed and shared.
Which is the greatest FNM gig you’ve been a apart of?
Michael: "This is possibly the most difficult question to answer as all the shows are great, therefore, I am going to change the word greatest to memorable.
So it really comes down to special moments in time during the concert, of which there have been many.
Everything's Ruined - Was it the time the stage was destroyed by a lightning storm in Czech Republic where the concert didn't even happen. The FOH tower had been destroyed and our lives had genuinely been put at risk.
Midlife Crisis - Was it the time La Roux’s monitor engineer, a massive fan of the band, whilst on a psychedelic substance decided to run on the stage and dive face first into the metal crowd barrier - stopping the show and landing himself in hospital!
King For A Day - Was it the time when Patton manhandled a Jimmy the Jib operator (telescopic camera for outdoor concerts), decided to operate the camera himself and then climbed up the hydraulic telescope needing to be rescued.
Stripsearch - Was it the time that Danny DeVito joined them on stage at Coachella semi naked. He ended up at our after show crew BBQ telling stories of his ‘Taxi’ days and being ‘The Penguin’ in return for chicken. He then insisted we all get in the van and go and see Devo on stage 4.
Was it at the gig in Budapest, when Patton sang the unofficial Hungarian National Anthem with 40,000 people joining in, making them cry with emotion before launching into Digging The Grave.
Was it the time in Moscow when we secretly sneaked the members of Pussy Riot into the venue and hid them in a cupboard, only for them to appear on stage for an unscheduled encore causing a near riot From Out Of Nowhere!
Was it the time in Australia we projected Chat Roulette live onto the video wall while 60,000 audience members chanted ‘Go Go Go’ and encouraged the Chat Roulette guy to masturbate for them. Wow Jizzlobber!
Its hard to pick one….It’s all been EPIC!"
Fans only see the performance, they don’t witness all the work that goes into a show or a full tour. Could you take us through a typical day on tour with FNM?
Shaun: "For festivals we like to load in the night before, set up and have a line check (that’s when we test all the audio lines are working from stage to front of house mixing console) – 4 hours is perfect.
Once we’ve line checked, we roll everything off stage and secure it. On a show day the crew usually arrive about 5 hours before change-over (that’s when bands swap on stage) and start prepping. I like to be there all day - don’t know why, just do.
Before the gates open on show days stage time is precious.
After the gear is rolled off stage the crew may carry on working on things or problems, eat, relax and have a sleep on the bus.
The band is usually on site around 3 hours before stage.
Once the shows over we pack the trucks then depending on the distance to the next show we set a bus call that notes to band and crew the leave time.
In venues various conditions and factors apply - generally we are loading in around 9am, for a nice and gentle set up, line check around 5pm, support in at 6pm to sound check, doors at 7pm, Faith No More on stage around 9pm, band off by 10:45pm, truck packed by 1am and its off we roll to the next city."
Tour Sol Invictus appeared faultless. How on earth did you guys keep the stage decor ‘Persil white’? When FNM perform there is blood, sweat and tears!
Shaun: "The idea for the production was really split in two. The band had, on and off experimented with the 'white stage & flowers' idea whilst in South America a few years earlier. Once the band confirmed that 2015’s album and tour was happening we set about creating an updated ‘rider’ to highlight these elements.
For the first ‘Sol Invictus’ shows of the campaign in Japan and then as part of Australia’s Soundwave festival I was sourcing flowers and the white carpet daily rather than us carrying it and that meant some show to show inconsistency.
We already had the white draping, so no issue there. After the bands final show in New Zealand Roddy and I had a conversation in regards to the forthcoming year and the stage look. I’d seen the Oscars and noticed that they had trays of really amazing pre-fabricated flower arrangements and they looked like the real thing. I suggested we go down that path as we were wasting a lot on fresh flowers each show. I did some research and you’ve seen the finished thing in all its glory. It wasn’t cheap but it saved a lot of money across the entire year. Extra to the flora I picked up 4 rolls of white carpet from good old dependable Lino City in Los Angeles. We rotated and swamped the carpets all year long and by the end nothing was 'white'. More yellow(ish). I had some white monitor wedge and cabinets covers made in addition.
Initially it was a pain in the ass, it was all on me and it wasn’t the best part of the day admittedly. Once we switched to the set pieces things got a little gentler. Quite a few bands after us went the foliage route, we had a strong floral game (first). I did see Lana Del Ray’s Palm trees one time and was slightly jealous."
Would you say it is more challenging sound engineering a FNM gig rather than most bands, due to Roddy and Patton’s unusual stage set up?
Michael: "No, the bands musicality and performance level is second to none and all that I am doing is mixing a great band of musicians, all the magic happens on stage, I’m just making it louder and relaying the story of the music to the audience.
Some bands I have mixed (no names) make me work really hard just to make the sound aurally coherent, this is not the case with FNM. Quality in, Quality out.
There is a huge respect flowing both ways. Its like a great culinary dish, it must start with quality ingredients, and that is what I’m given every night."
Mike Patton’s stage performance can be rather unpredictable and sometimes positively crazy. This is fabulous to watch, but do you ever fear what trouble he might get himself into when he leaves the stage and ventures into the crowd or up a crane?
Shaun: "Erm, well really this is part of the show (sometimes), he’s a big boy and knows what he’s doing. None of it is planned, it's generally how he feels in the moment and he goes with his gut each time. He’s hurt himself a few times over the years but as he got a little older he’s learned his limits.
Actually with reference to the crane incident I was taking a piss at the time, everything was chilled, no issues with the show, felt like a good time to go etc – it was all over before I got back to be honest, from memory his hands were slightly shredded but they are battle scars!"
Is there anything out of the ordinary on FNM’s rider? A bowl of brown M&Ms maybe...
Shaun: "Nope, it’s all about juicing and trying to stay healthy these days. Touring is not usually a healthy place to exist due to the routine - this is why we produce quite a healthy rider for the band and crew rooms. The band are usually fans of “anything” local and traditional. I personally only ask for Yorkshire Tea, maybe some Ribenna and if I’m feeling particularly crazy, a few cokes. I did notice recently that a lot of the crew were requesting sparking water for 2021, not very rock n roll right! Most festival catering is great these days, loads of good options. Veggie all the way."
Do the crew ever get chance to stand back and enjoy a gig?
Michael: "I never really get a chance to stand back, the show is so intensely exciting. However, I do fully immerse myself in each show and generally really enjoy it. What’s not to love! (We Care A Lot)."
Shaun: "With Faith No More, it’s usually head down, show's on – nothing else matters, it can be intense. All the crew are working: taking care of either their individual artist requirements or the overall band presentation audio and lighting. The Tour Manager and I usually work the stage overall. Can’t stand back, the moment you do something goes wrong (see above answer about crane).
When the band played Download in 2015 with System of a Down my daughter and niece came to see the band for the first time. They couldn’t believe what the hell was going on, 85,000 people losing their minds. My daughter finally figured out what I did for a living, they loved the show and met the band. My niece got a picture with the singer of Parkway Drive (ahem), that’s the moment I felt amazing."
It’s been 5 years since you were the road with FNM, what excites you most about the upcoming shows?
Michael: "Bananas, flowers, Kebabs, expensive whiskey fuck yeah, private planes, Italian stallions, Toni Macaroni, moonshine, Nacho Libre, BBQ, meeting soccer legends, listening to Jizzlober live, Yorkshire Tea, Tinder, ‘The Big Lebowski’, visiting high class strip bars with Dutch girls, German truck drivers, sausages (split wieners), Eastenders theme song, Neil Hamburger chanting ‘smash mouth’, Lamb of God T-shirts, aloe vera juice
Never hanging out with other bands……….."
Shaun: "The thing I love about Faith No More is spending quality time with the band and crew. Such an amazing bunch of people.
Each band and their crew have their own quite unique touring characteristics, personalities and naturally, through shared touring experiences, become a family. The addition of in jokes, silly situations, long days, sleepless nights, sharing of travel, hotels and down time all contribute to define each tour.
In short – I look forward to the shared experience of working with the band and crew as a whole ."
The crew relief fund set up by the band is such a considerate and an unfortunately vital charity in these trying times. How do feel about the way the governments have treated the arts sector during this pandemic?
Shaun: "It’s very different country to county how they decided to embrace and support the arts. In the UK’s case it's clear the UK Government seems to have little realisation of the importance of the 9 billion pounds the live music sector brings in. They will pump crazy cash into classical and opera but fail to ensure and support grass root live venues, festivals, artists and the supporting industry effectively.
There has been a lot going on here behind the scenes with independent venues and promoters talking across a closed network and working out the best way to support each other 'next time' and build in safety nets. I’m hearing amazing ideas and forward thinking that will be passed over to the UK Gov for consideration; the scene is having to support itself. The UK Government are a joke."
How can fans help the acts they love?
Shaun: "Music got me through the toughest times of my life, hopefully this shared experience will make us all kinder, more humanistic and restore some level of local community. People who appreciate and love musicians have their own communities, all artists just need to know is that you are listening, that’s all... feedback is everything. Like the other week when Patton and Stormtroopers of Death released that cover I was blown away (I was a fan of the band as a teen) and I texted him to tell him, and when Billy dropped that lock-down playlist I dropped him a message to show the love.
It all helps..open ears open heart!"