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History : 1982 : Bonus Page!

In December 1982, Andy was invited by Soundmaker magazine (UK) to write a short article, which is reprinted here in full.

"You are Lester Square." Monochrome Set vocalist Bid looks puzzled as he gazes at the German fan before him. Bid, unsure and hesitant, replies, "No, I'm Bid the vocalist." "No," continues the adamant admirer "you are Lester Square!" Bid, never short on the uptake, digests the cryptic compliment and shuffles off to the sanctuary of his dressing room. In itself not an incident of major importance, but one that does highlight the ever varying pressures facing music makers as they gig around the continent.
How to solve the concurrent problems of a European tour is a topic that we felt worth broaching, and so, with a wealth of practical experience behind him, Andy Warren, bassist with The Monochrome Set, set out to tackle the daunting task of offering some practical advice. So read on...


   The seasoned campaigner looks forward to a tour with a self-satisfied smirk, content in the knowledge that, whatever happens, a good time will be had by him, and that when he returns home, he will be considerably healthier, wealthier, wiser and generally better prepared to suffer the purgatory of real life, spirits replenished by the lay-off.
   The novice, however, despite all he's heard of the wonderful life on the road can't help but contemplate the prospect of his first tour with a little trepidation. And so he should.
   These notes are designed to put such a person's mind at ease and allow them to enjoy another of life's adventures to the full.

   Most tours start in the bus, and so too does the tourmanship. Many people prefer the front seat of a minibus, but remember, if you choose this position, you will be responsible for navigating, opening and closing the window, pointing out the sights and lighting the driver's cigarettes. You will also feel remarkably vulnerable, having your back to the rest of the band (make a point of checking your rear-view on leaving the van). The one indisputable advantage of sitting in the front is that you will be able to choose which tapes or radio stations are listened to during the journey.
   Behind the front seats there is a lot to be said for selecting one's place carefully - proximity to ashtrays, somewhere to hang your coat, somewhere safe from flying luggage, draughts, leaking windows, etc. If you are a non-smoker and find cigarette smoke offensive, it will make no difference where you sit as you have an inbuilt attraction to smoke and ash.

(A footnote to hiring motor vehicles - most companies will not hire out to professional musicians or jockeys, therefore have an alibi ready - The Monochrome Set are currently studying church architecture for a Channel 4 documentary).
   On arrival at the hotel, there will be the usual Le Mans start with the luggage (prepare for this in advance), as being first at reception is essential if one is to secure the best room. If two people are sharing, one can cause an obstruction while the other picks up the keys. On ascertaining which room is the most desirable, promptly empty your luggage everywhere (velcro fittings are strongly recommended on cases as buckles and/or locks can increase your average time by as much as half an hour), strip off, switch on the taps and start shaving in order to reduce the possibility of eviction by your hapless colleagues when they discover that they are yet again destined to spend the night four to a shelf in a broom cupboard.
   If there is an odd number in your party, it is well worth cultivating a particularly unpleasant habit (I'll leave this to your imagination), which effectively makes you impossible to share with, and thus guarantees your permanent occupation of the single room.
  Never leave your key at reception if you entertain any hopes of finding your room in the same state as you left it.
   In dealing with hotel staff attack is the best form of defence (a little rudeness goes a long way). Remember they don't have work permits and they need their jobs.
   When leaving for the show it is wise to take the hotel towel (the sheet of sandpaper usually to be found hanging under the sink) to use as an onstage sweat remover, as trying to use it for anything else, e.g. drying oneself after a shower, can be very painful.
   Finding the venue is often difficult. Pedestrians, when asked directions, always claim they don't live in the area or, if they were going, that they wouldn't start from here. They invariably forget about one-way systems and can't tell their left from their right. Asking policemen is unwise - they always want to be put on the guest-list. Punks are a good bet but do have plenty of 10ps ready.
   Assuming the venue has been located the group will be philosophical about the facilities until the promoter arrives - at which point they will explain that due to the inadequacy of his premises the full show will be out of the question and he should consider himself lucky to get any kind of entertainment at all.
   Draw the promoter's attention to the rider in the contract. Always include a clause which is open to debate such as "The promoter shall provide, at his own expense, 10 comfortable chairs in the dressing-room" or "The promoter shall provide, for the sole use of the artists, five sticky buns". It is the artiste who decides just how comfortable a "comfortable" chair must be, and likewise the required stickiness of a "sticky" bun. Clauses of this nature provide a useful get out when necessary - e.g., when the last episode of 'Smiley's People' is on TV.
   Sound-checks are a waste of time but one tends to do them out of habit. There is no point in taking too much interest in the monitor mix as it is never the same on the night. When asked by the engineer what one thinks about the sound the recommended response is "What sound?".
    There is never any need to hurry a sound-check, doors don't need to be opened on time and support groups have no objection to setting up their equipment in front of an audience. The only time it is advisable to speed up the proceedings is when you wish to dine before the concert, as the sight of a group waddling onstage after running straight out of the Taj Mahal round the corner only minutes before is a sorry one indeed.
   "Well, what do you expect for a Saturday night?" is a useful phrase with which to silence angry promoters confronted with a deserted auditorium minutes before you're due onstage. Alternatively simply remind him that his job is to promote and that he obviously isn't any good at it. Playing to an empty hall venue shouldn't be upsetting, just think of it as a paid rehearsal.
   If anything should go wrong during the performance it is always the fault of : (a) Your equipment - stare in disgust/dismay at your instrument (the way a good night. tennis player looks at his racquet after making a particularly ludicrous shot), (b) The P.A. - Stare in disgust/dismay at the mixer, (c) The drummer - explain to the audience that he/she is a new member and has trouble counting.
   After the show, regardless of the fact that you have just given the best performance of your lives, the group must always be sullen when the fans arrive in the dressing room, missing no opportunity to apologise for the shoddiness of the evening's entertainment - usually due to a combination of the venue/promoter, p.a./lights, audience, drummer, too much travelling or whatever. After a particularly stunning concert this will guarantee a sell out on your return as the people will be desperate to see what you are like on a good night.