The Backlash of Whiplash

The Mutiny & All That Followed It....

The Australian heavy metal scene has endured some highly embarrassing events in the past few months, events that have not only injured our stand point within our own shores but has had established International labels questioning our integrity, professionalism and competency. With the latest event being the mutiny of the national Whiplash tour Metal As Fuck is keen to uncover what really happened and discover ways of which we can avoid similar situations and salvage our reputation. I caught up with Liam Ford [guitarist, Devour The Martyr] after the tour had ended to discuss the grit of the issues. From broken promises, no stage management, no promotion to no backline, Liam tells all in this highly contentious report.    

The question on everyone's minds, what happened? “The short of it, is that the tour was pitched to us as an opportunity to play alongside of some the best acts in the country, and of course, the mighty Mnemic. We were asked to pitch $1200 to cover our travel up and down the east coast and catering; it worked out a lot cheaper than flying ourselves so we signed off on it. Within two shows it became apparent that the tour manager from Whiplash had no idea what he was doing and we were part of a train wreck. It was either quit and fly home, which I was initially keen on, or cut the cancer out and continue. I chose the latter”.

So when did you notice something was initially really wrong? “From the first show in Sydney - there was no backline! We had to organise it on the fly with locals so we could even play. We ended up going ahead with no bass rig. Organisation was a shambles. No stage management. No tour manager for the first few hours of the show. All the bands had to try and run the event themselves. A housemate of the tour manager was acting as the lighting tech. It was a total mess, anything that was salvaged that night was courtesy of the support of local bands”.

Had you previously worked with this tour manager before? "The only experience we'd had with anything this badly organised was a previous show we 'attempted' to play where this tour manager had the job of organising backline. We flew to Sydney and guess what, no backline and no show. Whiplash was his second chance."

Had you experienced anything like this before? And due to this experience had it made up your mind in your current position as clients? “I think as far as being 'clients', this tour manager was happy to ride on our hard work. He talked big, and his cut & paste internet contracts can appear legit to the untrained eye, but ultimately he couldn't follow through. It's unfortunate because everyone likes to see someone make something of themselves and succeed, but when you start fucking over the people who support you; it's time to just call you as you are. Dickhead”.

When did you know it was time to ‘take over’? “I never thought 'time to step in' or anything like that, it just happened that way. I was trying to help the tour manager out initially, and acting as somewhat of a go-between in regards to what bands needed and what he had to deliver. You can't ask a heap of bands from interstate, let alone overseas, to fly over and not provide them with what they need to be able to play, it's just common sense. Unfortunately it didn't prove 'common' in this case. Couple that with minimal promotion and you're asking for trouble."

What were your primary concerns? “The tour manager was asking for financial help openly from the outset. That's a worry in itself. The Sydney show had a reasonable turnout but Brisbane was a bomb. There wasn't a single flyer/poster visible at the venue, never mind elsewhere”. And what were your concerns with the state the tour was in? “I was primarily concerned as to whether the shows would go ahead at all. The tour manager wanted to cancel Newcastle after Brisbane because he didn't have the money to cover that night’s venue hire. I talked him out of that. Alarm bells go off when two shows into a tour you have the 'promoter' (I use the term loosely) talking cancellations and no money, as well as bands pulling out. It wouldn't have ended well for anybody. As it turns out, we finished it. Everyone lost money, but Mnemic and the bands got to play to an audience which is what it's all about”.

This 'fuck up' (there is no diplomatic way to state this) has had both a negative and positive effect - the positives being, comradery, decency, professionalism. How did the hostile takeover get this tour back on its feet? “Through sheer determination and co-operation on everyone's behalf. All the bands stepped up and did the work the tour manager had a year to do, in five fucking days! I have much love and respect for everybody that pushed ahead. It was epic to say the least”.

Was it the only choice? “I don't know to be honest. It wasn't planned. Saying that, the only alternative I can see, being that we all went the fuck home. If that was the case there'd be all the same dramas for the tour manager and none of the positives for the bands and fans”. And of course the negative being our reputation; how badly do you think this has hurt us, considering we were still licking the wounds from the Warbringer issue? “Fortunately, the Mnemic lads were incredibly understanding and grateful for our efforts. They left with nothing but praise for our scene and the people in it. One turd didn't tarnish us all. The whole Warbringer/Whiplash debacle has highlighted the necessity for vigilance in screening promoters but fortunately real art and music is driven by listeners, not promoters. As long as there are people to hear it, there will be bands here to play it”.

How has this hurt you and others financially? “I know there are a lot of people down significant dollars because of this mismanagement. Both bands and punters. I personally lost a lot. The only reason I had cash aside is because I had planned a big 13th birthday for my son and I used that. I'm lucky to have such an understanding little man”.

Should we skip the middle man; can the promoters and have the bands handle it? From what I saw at Whiplash Canberra I was impressed. “I think that's a nice idea, but not really doable unfortunately. Not consistently anyway. There is such a large volume of work required in proper promotion and events management. Bands need to concentrate on making music. There are good companies out there, with proven track records and solid foundations to work from. It's also important to encourage people to step up. The important thing is to be realistic, drop the ego, and be willing to ask for help. Nobody but an asshole is going to tell you to fuck off if you ask for advice!”

Whiplash will now be yet another thorn in our side and it is fortunate for the bands and punters that a steadfast guitarist took it upon himself to take it all on. From my experiences with event management I agree 100% with Liam; this is no place for ego. This is about the music and your duty as a tour manager or promoter to bring the best possible result to both the bands who entrust you and the fans that are paying for a phenomenal show.

Dave Balfour; Metal Evilution’s long time promoter, Manager, booker & also the tour support for Australian giants Metropolis Touring gave us his insights on what he perceives as being a successful promoter:

What makes a great tour agent/promoter? “In my eyes it's someone who puts their heart and soul in it as well as their wallet. There is nothing wrong with making a buck from a Metal tour if the opportunity is there but at the end of the day the artist and the fans need a certain respect and honesty from the organisers. Be willing to accept and admit your mistakes as well as take the accolades.

What is needed to be a great tour agent/promoter? “I think you have to have initiative, awareness and an ability to work with other people. Communication is also really important. Experience helps but like anything people have to start somewhere so it's not really a negative”.

In the cases we have seen over the few short weeks, what is the importance of getting it right? “Well it's obviously very important with most factors. Mistakes are always there to be made and even the top of the line promoters make them in this business. It sometimes is a lot of guess work and sometimes everything just goes against you. That said usually the basics when done right assure that it doesn't all fall apart”.