Welcome to the third issue of SST BACKLINE REPORT,
an online magazine for artists, managers & production pros.
Production News and Views You Can Use.
FOREIGNER’S MICK JONES: CARING FOR THE CREW
When Foreigner’s production manager, Stephen Croxford, reached out to John Hanti and SST Studios, we were touched by his concern for the Foreigner crew and we wanted to help. Crews are the unsung heroes of the touring industry. The Covid-19 shutdown has devastated the lives and livelihoods of countless highly skilled crew members who make the tours run.
We understand this all too well, for the crews also make SST run. Touring has been the foundation of our business for 38 years. We anticipate that it will be so again. In the meantime, it is heartening to see treasured clients like Mick Jones and Foreigner make such an effort to provide for the well-being of their crew. We hope to see other bands around the world follow their lead.
Mick graciously agreed to discuss the subject with us. This is how he feels about it.
SST Studios & Rentals
SST: Hello Mick. You and the band have set up a limited-edition online store to purchase Foreigner crew merchandise specifically to benefit your crew. Tell us about that.
Mick: Hello John, first I’d like to thank you for your generous donation to the crew fundraising efforts. As you pointed out, the crews are the unsung heroes of the touring business. The Crew Merch Store came about after the government suspended the Payroll Protection Program in August, leaving our crew in financial straits. All the band wanted to help, and we have autographed a few limited-edition items which we hope will help to raise something nice to give the crew to help them at this precarious time before the holidays.
SST: In your estimation, what does it take to have a great crew, and on a more personal level, let’s talk about your current Foreigner crew. What makes them so integral to your organization?
Mick: We have a wonderful crew now. Of course, great personalities are a part of it, and the ability/capacity to handle any problems that come their way and to give the band a feeling of confidence that everything will be running smoothly from the beginning to the end of the show.
SST: In a broader sense, having led some of the world’s greatest bands, what do you feel makes for a great crew? What are the traits that make them stand out enough to have a place on Foreigner’s crew?
Mick: I think that every crew member plays an integral role. The sound engineer requires a great deal of experience as does the lighting director, whose talent lies in imagination and aesthetic awareness. The tour manager must have the trust of the band and the ability to make them as comfortable as possible in their travels and accommodations. The production engineer Manager also plays a particularly important role by advancing our performance location, with details that are crucial for the crew to be aware of when they arrive at the venue, on the day of the show. All crew members play an especially important role in our show, and we rely on them greatly to make sure we have whatever we need for a successful show. When the band feels good on the stage, the audience feels the positive energy, which is what we want to give them every night.
SST: You’ve no doubt seen a major evolution in the touring industry since your early days with Johnny Halladay and Spooky Tooth when you traveled in vans and buses with your roadies. With all the technology and the demands of modern tours, they are no longer roadies; they are highly skilled technicians. Tell us about the changes you have seen and how you plan your tours with the road crew in mind?
Mick: I’ve seen the extremes of early touring and the evolution of roadies into techs. From the time when I was opening up for The Beatles, who had one roadie and the band themselves carried their own amplifiers and guitars onstage, to the present day where some tours travel with 50-100 crew members, all playing a key role in the success of the shows. The road crew are kind of at the mercy of the routing of the tour and sometimes these post-show journeys are grueling and require a certain level of fitness, but we do try to make them as comfortable as we possibly can.
SST: Kelly Hansen may have been the only singer in the world who could have possibly stepped in to fill Lou Gramm’s shoes in 2005. How did you two meet? Are you currently writing and working together in some fashion, given the restrictions of the COVID-19 shutdown?
Mick: Tom Gimbel was responsible for introducing Kelly for the first time. After a short audition I could tell his understanding of the songs and his ability to bring them to life was a major talent that he possessed. My intuition told me that he would become an especially important part of the next chapter in Foreigner. Kelly and I live on separate sides of the country, so our only option for writing and recording together is through video calls.
SST: You and Kelly and the band filmed your live video for “The Flame Still Burns” at SST in 2018. It’s a phenomenal performance. Speaking of crews, I've always believed that our crew is the first impression most clients have of the company. It is, in fact, our calling card to the industry. SST is only as good as the people that represent it.
Mick: I totally agree with that. SST has always been extremely accommodating to Foreigner. We had a great experience filming our song, The Flame Still Burns. Everything went smoothly and the result was a great video. Our crew spoke very highly of your team. Its knowledge of the in-house equipment was top-notch. You guys helped us make a great video on the tight schedule we had that day. We have great memories of that experience.
SST: Thank you, Mick.
For SST’s many friends and clients, we would like to add that we all look forward to the next Foreigner album and to the day when Mick and the band can tour the world once again (with its crew intact!). In our continuing effort to aid and promote all SST clients, we will at that time conduct a second interview with Mick Jones to detail the new record and the tour.
Please help us further the band’s noble efforts by visiting the Crew Merchandise Online Store and making a purchase…or two. Maybe even open up your own crew merchandise store?