Welcome to THE ART OF TOURING, where we discuss the ins and outs of the not-so glamorous world of touring with different artists from all over the world and the music industry to help give you, the reader, an insight or education on this art that separates the strong from the weak and the sacrifices we make to do what we love.
Chatting to good friend and insanely good drummer, Sean “Drayven” Davidson from the good ol’ US of A, it was a no-brainer to chat to this guy, who’s spent many years living out of his duffel bag, armed with a quick wit and his drumsticks. Drayven is the Animal (The Muppets) like drummer (he even has an Animal doll attached above his bass drum!) for Goth rock act, Davey Suicide, as well as the Hip-Hop Horror maestros, Twiztid. He’s drummed for many great acts over the years, including Static-X, Wayne Static, Genitorturers, Blood on the Dance Floor and Blacklist Union to name some. He’s also roadied / tour managed for Twiztid, Dope and Combichrist. So he’s seen both sides of the stage extensively and toured the world a fair bit in his profession, whilst maintaining a charm and wit that’s truly one of a kind.
For a guy who explains tour life as a life where he truly, “gets to do what he loves,” he explains to me one of the most gruelling parts of touring in driving, “Especially if we are driving ourselves. Long drives always suck, but having to do an overnight after a show is the worst.” So when on the road, what would a guy like Drayven not travel without? “My laptop, I use it for backing tracks and lighting, but I also watch a ton of movies on the road. Also, my in-ear monitors. Never leave home without them.” Sounding like a pretty responsible guy, compared to the larrikin I know so well, we got down to one of my favourite curious topics, and one must ask a fellow musician. Tour food! “I love Chinese buffets! And shitty mall food court Chinese / Japanese / bourbon chicken type places. I don’t know why but I love them. Also, I like looking for good wing places.” So the tour cuisine of choice on the road would obviously be something good, but Drayven offers something oh, so rock and roll with, “Beer and Jägermeister. It’s a well-balanced meal.” He laughs and almost composes a serious look in his response. You gotta love a guy that can hold his own on the road, and Drayven certainly is a black belt master of his art. So in this food discussion, the questions leaned into most memorable dining experience, on which he shared a hell of a tale. “What seemed like a 20-course meal in Italy. They started with pizza and I thought that was it. Oh no, that was the appetiser, they just kept bringing pasta, and pizza, and chicken, and I don’t even know what else. It was great but I was so pissed I filled up on pizza,” Drayven pats his stomach and giggles.
So, in touring, one must pack fairly light, as often space in the travel vehicle is not in abundance, however Drayven shares a unique light on this, as the quintessential over-packer. “I bring so much stupid shit on the road. I always tell myself this tour will be different. Then I see a kettle bell at the dollar store and think well yeah, I gotta bring that.” The conversation veers into discussing memorable shows, where he describes, “Too many to name, but getting to play Download Festival, and playing sold out shows at House of Blues with Static-X for sure!” Having played all over the world, one had to know if there was a particular favourite destination on the tour schedule, to which he fondly and quite seriously mentions, “Sydney and I’m not just saying that. It’s my one of favourite cities in the world. When the U.S. accidentally blows itself up I’m moving there. I also love Chicago and Houston.” We got into a sentimental chat over Static-X, whom I’ve had the pleasure of supporting once and he offered his view of why the band was so memorable for him. “Static-X was great because I was always a fan and getting to play those songs on stage sitting at the kit behind Wayne was amazing.” He then also offered that, “Festivals are always fun because you get to see so many friends and see so many great bands,” when asked about shows he loves.
The amusing tale question had to be asked also, to which he could only really offer, “Amusing tales? Too many to tell and most of them end with me waking up not knowing how I got there. You’ve toured with me… you know!” Oh yes, I do. Moonshine and Jager with Drayven are always a devilish duo of fun. We also chatted music in general to listen to on the road, “I listen to all kinds of music. Normally stuff that sounds nothing likes the bands I play for. I like a lot of oldies music. 50s, 60s stuff. I have been obsessed with Post Modern Jukebox lately. Check out their YouTube channel. It’s a collective of jazz musicians that do covers in all different styles. It’s amazing.” As we got also into tour fun, he mentions, “I always like parking lot parties, either after the show with the support bands or on a day off at a hotel. Just everybody hanging out, maybe we are grilling out. Or playing some kind of yard game. I love that shit.”
We got a little serious, as we got into the hardships of tour, which a lot of us don’t openly discuss as much as we should, hence why a column like this is here. Drayven mentions, “Trying to stay healthy is always hard. Being away from my dogs is always tough. They hate when they see the suitcase come out. Trying to keep morale up on tour. Sometimes you get a guy or two who just always bring down the vibe and it sucks the life out of you.” And on personal life being affected? “It can be hard for sure. I have an amazing wife who puts up with my schedule and me being gone all the time. She is the best.” You really get to understand that Drayven calls it as it is, and is genuine as a person without the balloon of hot air that some musicians like to float around with. Admirable. The topic of practical jokes had to be mentioned also, of which Drayven is quite the connoisseur. “Before I played with Davey Suicide they were an opener on a Static-X tour. The last show of the tour during their last song each member of the band and crew went and took away their drummer’s drum kit piece by piece. He was holding on to his kick drum for dear life trying to play the song. It was hilarious. Then I took the cap off a giant bottle of baby powder and dumped it on him. He almost choked to death, I almost died from laughing.” He explains this with a cheeky grin and laugh that scares me. I had to then ask about a messy tour experience, to which he responded, “Every night with Genitorturers was messy. We used to shake up a bottle of Champaigne and shove it up a dude’s ass every night. Things got weird and messy to say the least.”
We also brushed over the flying vs driving debate, to which he chuckles, “I prefer driving and truck stops any day. Airports suck! Always! Plus truckers are hilarious to talk to.” So, with driving, and the roads of America offering an unpredictable and at times dangerous obstacle or two, one had to know of any treacherous experiences. Drayven remembered, “Driving through the mountains in Salt Lake during a snow storm and I felt the back end of our bus start to break loose. I sat straight up in my bunk and just thought this is it. I thought it was going to be a Metallica-style bus crash.” As we headed down the path of discussing where the touring passion started for him, Drayven paused and explained, “That’s tough, I knew since my first band that I wanted tour and play drums. The lighting and production side of things is something I didn’t necessarily know I would get into but I love doing that too. I have been very lucky to work with some amazing bands and I have played all over the world. I don’t think it was any one event, I just always knew.” And while getting such warm wisdom, I had to know how one such as Drayven handles in-band tension. “You gotta just talk to your guys. If someone is fucking up or pissing you off you gotta bring it up and talk about it like adults. If you just let it fester it will eat you up and make you miserable. Worst case, boxing gloves come out and you fix it that way.”
For a guy like Drayven, who’s played with some pretty big names in the business, the question was raised of any possible fanboy moment? He enthuses, “We played Download festival and our dressing room was backstage behind the main stages and I was going into the bathroom trailer and a guy bumped into me who was coming out. He said, “Oh sorry mate, excuse me.” I looked up and it was Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath. I was so excited, I was like, ‘Holy shit, Tony Iommi just touched me and probably got a little piss on me.’ Don’t ask me why I assumed he didn’t wash his hands.” Pretty funny, coming from a guy who likes to bring a Batman mask on tour “to mess with people.” So we chatted the arduous hours spent on the road and how one keeps amused with strange activities. “Just the hours you keep when touring are the strangest. Most days are 12-14 hour days. Then maybe you have to drive to the next gig that night after the 14-hour day. I always sleep in four-hour blocks because it seems like you stop every four hours or so. Every time the bus or van stops I wake up. Some guys can sleep through the stops but I can’t. Then when I get home I’m so used to it that I still wake up every four hours. I hate it.” And as a tour manager / roadie at times, it was nice to get a firsthand insight there also. “Being out as just an LD or production manager is different. You are there to make sure the performer has the best show possible. It’s obviously not as glamorous as being on stage but I love it too. I always just wanted to tour and work in the business.” So when not touring, how does he handle it? “After about a week at home I’m ready to go back out. I love being home with my family but the road just calls to you and I always go into a depression if I don’t know when my next tour starts.”
For a guy who dreams of Arena tours as a musician, Drayven has both feet firmly planted on the ground, even though he is truly one of the most charismatic drummers this guy has ever had the privilege of watching. So, wrapping up, the final jaw-dropping question of “Can one survive on $5 a day?” had to be asked. Drayven looks at me, an eye narrow and says, “Fuck no. I’m a big boy. I gotta eat. Most places a beer is going to cost you almost $5. Even eating just dollar menu crap from a fast food place it’s hard to eat for $5 and that’s just one meal and you can’t eat like that every day and stay healthy on the road.” As our chat concludes my respect of this awesome guy just raised that little bit higher.