In theatre, they say you never notice a good director; you only notice the bad. Well, the same can be said for live music. Gazing from the pit, transfixed on your favourite artist, it can be easy to miss the silhouetted figures that skilfully scurry the stage.
Behind every drumbeat, every echo, lays a number of backstage hands lurking in the shadows; in part invisible and yet wholly vital. One of the people behind English pop rock band, Lawson, is Backline Technician, Nick Allot. Bringing backstage to the forefront, Allot shares how he finally bagged his ticket ‘with the band.’
Elizabeth Neep: Nick, please introduce yourself. What’s your role ‘on the road’?
Nick Allot: I'm just a 26 year old enjoying my job, and making the most out of it! I'm currently a Backline Technician for the band Lawson - the guy that looks after the instruments and amplifiers, and sets everything up on stage.
EN: The music industry is notoriously saturated and yet, many will be unaware of the specific roles on offer. How did you first get involved in this line of work?
NA: I've actually got no idea if I'm honest... but I'm sure that's not the answer you're looking for. I guess it's just come as a result of wanting to work in music but having no actual idea what I want to do. I just love music, and I love being around it.
EN: Did you require any formal training?
NA: I've got a degree in Popular Music & Music Technology, which is basically playing and understanding music and its history and the technology that surrounds it. It didn't directly help me get into my career, but the knowledge definitely helped.
EN: Often securing your first role in music is the hardest, how did you get your first break into the music production scene?
NA: I got recommended as a stagehand by a friend – and I actually ended up doing that for about four years. It’s great ‘coz you get to watch how the guys who are already out there handle the job. It allowed me to observe all the roles people play, and it helped me figure out what part I want to play in it all. As for the Backline Tech roles, like most industries nowadays, you have to have potential but a large part is about making friends and building contacts.
EN: Is there such thing as a ‘typical’ day on tour?
NA: Once you're in the flow of a tour, it can be a pretty repetitive process. You get up, get ready, and drive for a few hours, you carry, roll, drag all the equipment to the venue, set up, do the show, pack down and head to that nights’ hotel.
But, as with anything, there's always hiccups. Not only have you got that closed road in the middle of Devon to deal with, but you turn up and the stage is really shallow and you’ve somehow got to fit four band members and a van load of gear up there. Not to mention the fact that one amp has adopted a mysterious hum for no apparent reason, and the guitar string broke just before the biggest part of the set.
EN: Too often the audience attending shows are unaware of how many people it takes to put on a gig. How many people does it really take behind the scenes?
NA: Well, last summer I was working on some more intimate shows in clubs and academies; for those you have a three or four person crew – the kind of team that needs everybody to multitask. The bigger shows – the likes of Jay Z and Madonna – often have around 100 hands, 30 crew, as well as the acts themselves, the catering crew and all the drivers involved; easily over 300-400, if not a hell of a lot more.
EN: Which venues you have worked on that stand out from your career to date?
NA: There are literally hundreds to choose from, but one would be the main stage of T in the Park - it gets a lot of media attention – you just know you’ve got to get it right.
EN: And any particular moments or memories?
NA: During Lawson’s last tour, our guitarist broke a string going in to the biggest part of the set. Walking into the greenroom post-show, the guitarist told me how he didn’t even notice he’d broken a string until I handed him the backup guitar – it’s amazing to know you’ve helped keep the show going. Very few people in the crowd even notice – it’s about being a ghost and making the show as flawless as possible.
EN: There are loads of stereotypes about life on the road - any misconceptions?
NA: I would say that 90% of life on the road is split between trying to find time to sleep, eat or have a minute to yourself. Although I will say, depending on the band and their crew, and especially if you're on a bus, it can definitely be a party every night.
Words: Elizabeth Neep
Photography: Luke Cole