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Dream Industry Jobs Q&A, Sound Engineer

So You Want To Be A Touring Soundie? Meet Alex Gent

So you want to be a touring sound engineer? Alex Gent is a UK-based sound engineer and who travels the world mixing bands live everywhere from club shows to the Glastonbury Festival. He’s also a stage manager and tour manager and visits more than eighty cities in an average year. Here he shares some insights on what the gig entails and also some sage advice for people looking to break into the business.

Who are you touring with at present? 

Fuse ODG (Stage manager/FOH).

Kate Tempest (FOH/TM).

Haken (FOH).

How many countries/cities do you see in an average year?
This year I’ve probably been to 80-100 different cities.

Why did you want to be a Sound Engineer? How did you get into it?
I played in a band for most of my teenage years, and worked in a musical instrument shop/rehearsal studio during this time too, whilst putting on DIY shows with other bands. One of my band mates got in with a sound company, and I badgered him to get me involved. I worked with various companies, eventually getting involved on a festival stage, which allowed me to mix a lot of interesting music, then started working with bands directly.

What do you think are the personal qualities the roles require?

1. Know your shit. This gives you the confidence to be relaxed and engage socially when frequently working with different people.
2. In the most stressful moments to be able to remain calm and collected.
3. It’s a very people orientated job so you need to be sociable.

In your opinion, what’s the best first question a rookie should ask on their first day? What is the worst thing you could do on your first day?
Be early. If there is something you aren’t sure of, then just ask. If you get something wrong, fess up. You’ll get respect for being honest.

What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned on tour?

Enjoy your days off in places you’ve never been. Being hungover on a show day is not fun. Bring a Nutribullet.

What’s been your best “pinch yourself” moment so far?
Park Stage at Glastonbury mixing Kate Tempest. It was late afternoon. Sun was shining. It was an incredible show. The crowd were amazing. Halfway through the in house engineer told me I had to break the DB limit as there were so many people trying to watch that the people at the back of the field couldn’t hear (there were no delay towers)

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen a crowd or band do on or offstage?

Have you ever seen Fat White Family? If you have then you know. If you haven’t then go and see them.

What’s your ultimate goal? Ultimate band, ultimate show? Has it already happened?
I enjoy each day as it comes, and I’ve worked with some incredible musicians and personal heroes. Still waiting for Chas & Dave to call though.

Who is your favourite musician to watch from side of stage?

Luke Flowers (The Cinematic Orchestra Drummer) or John Stanier, the drummer from Battles.

What’s the biggest misconception in your opinion about the touring lifestyle?
You don’t necessarily see a lot of the places you travel to. If there’s not many days off and you have long drives in-between cities you might not see much more than the inside of a venue.

What’s the hardest part of the job, in your opinion?
Being away from loved ones.

What’s the best part of the job? What makes you love the road life?
The show. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 2 hour headline slot, or a half hour afternoon festival slot.

You must have travelled pretty extensively, what have been your favourite cities, venues or festivals to play at? Where are the crowds that give you goosebumps?
Favourite festival has to be Sasquatch in Washington, US. It overlooks an immense gorge. The view is like nothing i’ve seen before. The sun setting over the canyon was one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen. Best crowds are probably Ze Germans. They go OFF

For a young aspiring Australian tour/stage manager (or a fan dreaming of being a tour/stage manager) what would you recommend they do first? Is it best to start working for or selling merch for local bands or try and head overseas? What’s a good entry level gig to prove yourself first?
OK so I began TMing out of necessity. It’s quite common for low level bands to get a FOH engineer to do both sound and tour management. This is a double edged sword as it makes your own life easier (you choose routing, you get all necessary specs, decide on load in times etc) but also means you are juggling 2 jobs (or maybe 3 if you’re driving too). For me once things begin to get bigger than club size venue touring I think it’s dangerous to try and tackle 2 jobs as one will inevitably suffer.

An aspiring tour manager would do well to have a driving licence firstly and to offer themselves out for free to local bands who are looking to tour. Throw yourself onto any tours you can. If it means selling merch then do it. Like any job the more you do the more people you meet and (if you’re good) the more work that will come your way.

What’s your favourite Australian band?
Tame Impala

 

Interview questions by: Christina Rowatt

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