Hey Guys! For those of you who don't know me, I'm Derya Nagle (although most people call me Dez), guitarist of the progressive metal band The Safety Fire. For the last six years, I have also been a producer and engineer -- most recently working with bands such as Rise To Remain, The HAARP Machine, and Palehorse (UK), as well as producing my own band's debut album, Grind The Ocean, which will be coming out early next year. I am hoping that in future articles I will be able to give you all some useful production tips and discuss previous sessions that I have worked on; however, as an introduction, I thought I would recount a couple of tour stories that have provided me with some very useful lessons!
If you are in a band, or want to be in a band, or know a guy who is in a band, you more than likely want to go on tour. Sure, you're all thinking, "Tour, yeah, going on tour would be a great laugh. And you would be right, going on tour is fantastic. However arduous and tiring it can be, there is nothing like sleeping on a shoe, in a van, in a car park, surrounded by six people that you eternally hate, frustratingly trying to comprehend how a person can make as much noise as a small herd of wildebeest as they sleep...Seriously though, touring is awesome. Things can and do go wrong--but if you are prepared and have a positive mentality--things will work themselves out.
Like many bands these days, The Safety Fire plays to a click track controlled by a laptop live. We have been doing this for over four years, and it's an important part of our setup. It controls both myself and Jo's (other guitarist) patch changes for our Fractal Audio Systems Axe FX units, plays back the click track to our drummer while simultaneously playing added layers and sub drops through the PA system. We also have the added advantage of the whole thing being reasonably lightweight and not having to lug around back-crushing tube amps.
We never had any issues with our setup, and much like Boris Grishenko (the geeky scientist from the film Goldeneye), we thought we were "invincible!"
That was until our most recent tour with our best brüs, Rise To Remain and Bleed From Within (if you haven't already done so, check out both of these awesome bands.) On the first day of the tour, I was explaining our setup to RTR’s and BFW's sound guys and foolishly said, "...and nothing has gone wrong with it…so far." They both looked at me in dismay, tutting and shaking their heads. "Why would you say that?" Well, they were right-- why did I say that?
I obviously upset the tour gods because on the second night, the laptop crashed during the second song of our set. Not only did it crash, it completely froze. Then while trying to fix it, I managed to pull the cable rather sharply out of the laptop. This wouldn't have been that bad if we had some kind of backup to control our patch changes...But we didn't, so we ploughed through clean sections with full distortion, with some vain hope that our sultry dance moves would cover up this technical hitch.
Trying to sort out issues with gear while on tour is massively frustrating and very costly. If you can help it, plan ahead and have back-ups for everything you can afford: batteries, strings, guitars, leads, etc. In our case, we couldn't afford to address the problem while on the road, so we had to take the risk of it happening again, which it did-- three more times. Each time was less horrific than the last, but it was something that could have been avoided completely if we had planned ahead.
Unfortunately, however, sometimes no amount of planning will save you from certain situations. While on tour with Periphery and Monuments on the European leg of the "League of Extraordinary Djentlemen tour", our van broke down on the second date in Hamburg, Germany. After the mechanic came and towed the van away (stating that it was beyond repair), we had pretty much lost all hope. After many phone calls, emails, and planning, we managed to get another van to be driven over to Hamburg the next day to meet our driver and sound guy (the band rode the train in the morning in order to be able to play the show in Berlin.) Thankfully, both Periphery and Monuments were happy to share their gear with us, and after a five hour train journey, we got to Berlin in a triumphant fashion and played the show. We were all looking forward to jumping in the new van later that night, but unfortunately, there was a snow storm in Hamburg and the van wasn't going anywhere. This left us with a 12-hour journey, changing trains NINE times to get to Munich for the next show. Thankfully, the van arrived in Munich that night, and we were able to get to Austria stress-free (and without having to look at the inside of a train).
The moral of the story is: PREPARE! And that applies to everything you do-- be it touring, producing your album, writing songs, etc. Great bands will always talk about the time when they went into the studio with only half the material written, but remember that they can afford the studio time! Us mere mortals do better by making sure that we are ready for all situations!
If you have any questions, or if you want to get in touch, feel free to tweet me @parkadez. Safe!
Derya "Dez" Nagle plays guitar in The Safety Fire, whose debut album, Grind the Ocean, is due out next year. Keep an eye out for the latest news from the band at their Facebook page.