In which we continue the conversation with musician Bryan Beller. This time we’re talking about touring.
Al Natanagara: How were you treated on the Dethklok tour? Any decapitations or radioactive bathyspheres?
Bryan Beller: The Dethklok tour was first-class treatment all the way. We were on our own bus–just the band and the tour manager. Five people total. I’ve been on tours where the bus sleeps twelve and there’s twelve people on the bus. That gets a little… rowdy. And cramped. Not that I’m complaining about ever being on a tour bus, but five people is cush.
AN: So long as no one goes on a burrito and cabbage binge beforehand. How have the Dethklok tours progressed, other than sharing your farts with fewer people?
BB: This is my third tour with Dethklok. The first tour was a college tour. The colleges knew they had something on their hands–they just didn’t quite know what it was. So they’d try to make it available just to students and all the metalheads would swarm the college.
AN: Awesome. I’m picturing stuffshirt preppies with cashmere vests and ties being overrun by a hoard of unwashed, black-clad cretins. I imagine that didn’t last.
BB: For the next tour, they booked us with metal bands in metal venues. That was the first time that I ever really got to experience what it was like to play in front of a real metal crowd. Horns up everywhere, moshing, crowd surfing, the noise… It’s great. Metal crowds are the best. I was a young metalhead, so I know what it’s like to be in the crowd.
AN: You’re still a metalhead, grandpa. How cool was it to tour with Mastodon? Because, like, Mastodon is just about the greatest thing to happen to rock and roll since sleeveless tour shirts.
BB: I got to experience what a high-level, real rock and roll touring band was like. We’re in our dressing room before the show, warming up and practicing–some of the Dethklok material is challenging…
AN: No doubt.
BB: But before Mastodon goes on–forget it, man! There’s all these people hanging out in the dressing room and the alcohol is flowing freely. It’s a total party even before they go on.
AN: Why wait?
BB: That’s just how they roll. They’re super-cool guys and we all became good friends, but if I was doing that eight or nine months a year, I don’t think I’d survive. They’re just not human.
AN: A body can only take so much punishment. Maybe they’re space androids or self-replicating simulacra.
BB: The first night we hung out with them, we thought the same thing. Everyone has their limits, but they’re one of those groups of guys that can sustain a level of craziness that most people just can’t. And I mean that in the best possible way.
AN: So you’re playing arenas with Dethklok, touring with Mastodon in a sea of vodka, and then you’re organizing grass-roots duo house concerts with your wife Kira Small. Compare and contrast.
BB: For a typical house concert, there will be anywhere from 20 to 35 people. You put that amount of people in a living room and half the kitchen and it’s a packed house. That used be the first-tour model: you’re dying to get 50 people at a gig and when you do that in a city that you don’t usually go to, it’s an accomplishment. Then the club owner says, “I need 200 people to make it work. Sorry, I can’t pay you.”
BB: House concerts are a better atmosphere for us to perform in, though. You have an attentive audience, but they’re having a better time, too. They don’t have to find parking, they can talk to their friends, the drinks are cheaper. They can even bring a pot luck.
AN: So we’re back to burritos and cabbage again. Are you able to support yourselves with thesetours?
BB: Financially, it’s a good model. People will pay an amount that they might not want to play at a club because it’s a private, special experience.
Be excellent to each other.