Welcome to “The Art of Touring”, a column where we get into the ins and outs, highs and lows of being a touring musician. We’ll be chatting with artists at all levels of touring to give you an insight, education and a good read into this not always glamorous lifestyle.
Todd “Toddy” Hansen is a man who needs very little introduction, but for the sake of getting all up to speed, let’s do so. He is a true living legend in the Brisbane Music Scene, and now on the world stage, drumming for Oz Heavyweights, King Parrot. Toddy has led an illustrious career through his passion for drumming and playing music with mates. Starting in bands( that’s right, this man loves to play music, a lot) like Headkase, From These Wounds, Beijing Tank, Man Must Die, F.U.C., and even played with yours truly in a band called Devilution( pre Darkcell). He’s most recognised from his time in Rome (ex Devolved), and especially when he played drums in Aussie Industrial Death grinders, The Berzerker, but in a career spanning over 11 years as a drummer both live and as a session player, he has seen and learnt from extensive touring and from many of his heroes including Gene Hoglan, Danny Walker and Flo Mornier to name some. He is a true example of what a great musician is all about and keeps both feet firmly on the ground.
What a buzz to chat to a mate! So Tour Life is pretty sacred to many, essential to others, but to Toddy, “It’s THE life for me!! I love it. I live for it! It’s playing a gig in a different place every night of the week, which you can’t really do in your hometown.” So true, but it’s also pretty grueling as I asked Toddy on this and he sighs, “Lack of decent sleep. Even 8 hours in a van isn’t really a good rest.” And when one is travel on the road like Toddy, I had to know what the essentials packed were. And in true larrikin mode he laughed with “Toothbrush, JOCKS, and of course instruments!” Wow, so you must pack pretty light mate? Toddy happily responded, “I’ve got my pack down to a fine art. I have the most extras to carry being a drummer, so I just take a medium bag and my backpack and I tend to fit all the essentials in just fine!”
Another gruelling and at times harrowing part of tour life believe it or not is eating. Some breeze by on whatever, some not so. I was very curious as to what the great man dines on, as he has impressively trimmed down of late, and he chuckles, “I used to just eat whatever was available. But now I really try to eat as healthy as possible. So I carry a decent protein powder in case there’s no appealing food, and I always look for something like meat and veg or salads. And pho of course!” So the go to meal is? I got a prompt, “Pho!” Well, in this day and age of bands talking about bands and bands and blah blah blah, I felt while we chatted food, lets gets down with a memorable tour dining experience, to which Toddy was only too happy to oblige with, “I’d have to say it was in Taiwan after playing there with both FUC and Visions Of The Night. The after parties in both Japan and Taiwan are generally at a restaurant and everyone throws in $20 and it’s all you can eat and drink basically! But the one in Taipei got pretty loose and basically all the bands from this mini fest we played at showed up and we took over half the restaurant!” There was much agreeance to this, as quite often when many bands tour together, there is comradery to be made and good food certainly does bring everyone together. I’d eat with Toddy any day, except a food challenge (This man won the Death Wing Challenge in Brisbane, but succumbed to the Godzilla Sushi Challenge, which one may have witnessed the sweaty distress displayed on both his and legendary Sound guru, Chippy’s faces).
So, when touring, one great aspect are the cities, and Toddy has seen many, but to ask him specifics, he shrugs, “Too many!! The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, general tomfoolery on the road, seeing the northern lights.” Now c’mon mate persistence may have got a more elaborate reply of, “Ha ha!! I quite enjoyed a small town King Parrot played in last year called Besancon in France. It still had the old town in tact with a big wall around it and a citadel on top of a mountain. It was hundreds of years old!! Luxemburg was similar! I also love Toronto, Seattle, NOLA, Portland, LA and of course my city Brisbane!!” And of course, the conversation needed to veer into those amazing bands; he’s had the pleasure of playing with, and any standout moments that may come to mind? “I’ve toured with Obituary a couple of times, did the USA with them in 2009 playing for The Berzerker, and last year did Europe/UK with them playing for King Parrot. Just a great bunch of dudes who slay every night! The last show of the Obituary tour I did with The Berzerker, we drank our whole rider before the show and I only remember half of the gig. Someone filmed it though and we played well, ha ha! Thrash Blast Grind tour of Aus/NZ this year was sick, well run and all great people! I also quite enjoyed touring with Soulfly, Down, Superjoint as well… But I just love touring and thankfully have mostly toured with great people,” Toddy responds with the kind of humble and truly grateful warmth that makes a guy a like him so damn lovable.
And of course, when driving on the road, long hours and insane boredom loom at every opportunity, so for one as whimsical as Todd Hansen, I wondered and he delivered, “Getting to the next show, I like to pump Slayer when I’m driving, otherwise I listen to a lot of rap and pop music to break up all the metal each night! Band activities aside from smelling each other’s farts, and performing, we do a bit of sightseeing, explore new places, rock trivia, karaoke etc.” Then there’s the dark side of touring. Toddy sighed and shares, “I guess the worst was getting our van robbed in Chicago… We lost a lot of cash, a window and a satnav… But all our personal stuff was in the venue thankfully.” And the hardship a musician faces in tour life on a personal level is a question that needed to be a part of this conversation, because there’s so much smoke & mirrors but let’s be honest shall we? “It can be hard to keep a job, a girlfriend, maintain routines and friendships, but I think I have a pretty good balance these days and have always been prepared to sacrifice these things to tour,” responds Todd with a real honesty that’s truly admirable.
So, after that one had to ask at what point a guy like Toddy decides tour life was the chosen path, and he smiles with, “I’ve played music from a very young age. I always wanted to play in a band and see the world from a stage. My first real tour was with From These Wounds and we did a run down the east coast! I was hooked! After several Aussie tours with various bands I got my chance to tour overseas with The Berzerker and I just loved it!” And then we got into the tensions and marriage-like atmosphere of a band on the road, to which he wisely offers, “We have regular band meetings and just try to keep it open and honest all the time. But living in each other’s pockets for months at a time can take its toll. Nothing a good loud fart can’t sort out though!! Farts make laughs, laughter brings people together…” You just want to hug this guy at this point. Farts truly do rule. So, we got a little serious again when discussing the dangers of the road. “I guess I’ve been pretty lucky overall. I’ve been in some places that might be considered dangerous but never encountered anything too major that an Aussie accent couldn’t fix. Driving tired is always a worry. Our sound guy was driving one night and felt himself nod off a little, but pulled over straight away. And that’s how we got to see Aurora Borealis! So it kinda worked out,” Todd surprises himself with a grin. We chatted fan boy moments, to which Toddy confesses, “Of all people, for me it was meeting Ivan of Men Without Hats, known for their song “Safety Dance.” I got to hang with him a couple of times now and still feel like a bit of a fanboy, ha ha!!”
And when mentioning, besides internet, a dick and a blanket is all he needs for amusement, the post- tour blues of finding work and being ‘normal’ as well as the quest for good Pho anywhere on tour, as well as the dream to one day play with Slipknot, I had to wrap up by asking him his thoughts on if it’s possible to survive on $5 a day on tour? “It really depends on where you are and what is provided. I certainly can’t, $10 is doable. $20 is king life!!” And boys and girls, Toddy Hansen is a king to many. Cheers mate!
New King Parrot Single, “Ten Pounds Of Shit In A Five Pound Bag” Is Out Now: