The Non-Stop Life of a Heavy Metal Roadie
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
By Seth Ferranti
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
On the road
I’m 53. This is not an easy job; it’s show date, show date, travel day. I’m on a moving bus all night long, eight hours on a moving bus. I get up in the morning and work for 14 hours and get right back on a moving bus for another eight hours. And then do the same thing the next day.
Sometimes I do a show, go to the hotel, get up the next morning, get on an airplane, get off the airplane and go straight to the gig. The hardest thing is the toll on my body. I’m not getting a lot of sleep; I’m not eating healthy. It’s life in the fast lane.
I’m a guitar tech for Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard. For 20 years now, I’ve literally flown around the world doing gig after gig after gig, going from country to country, different languages, different airports, different shows. Five to six gigs in 14 days on four different continents. You just got to go do it and accept the fact that you don’t have any home life.
They’re playing it, but we’re doing the differences in the sounds.
People ask me how I got this job. It wasn’t that complicated: I’ve got a ninth-grade education, but I started working on guitars and hanging out with bands — and before you know it, I was a roadie.
My job is to keep up on the equipment. It was pretty easy in the beginning, technically. It was all cables and plugging amps in. But the technology and equipment changed. When you’re fortunate enough to work with a band like Def Leppard, the good thing is they buy brand-new gear every tour. The backline guys, we’re an integral part of Def Leppard in that respect. Roadies like us are a pretty small percentage in the music business. There’s not a whole lot of us that actually do what we’re doing, because 90 percent of them are just plug-and-play guys. Those guys set up gear, plug it in, and the band gets up there and bangs their own buttons, and you just tear it down at the end of the night.
Whereas with Leppard, it ain’t like that. While they’re playing we do all the solo changes, the delay changes, the clean changes. Everything you hear, the differences in sound, we’re doing it and we program it. Everything you hear we’re doing it. They’re playing it, but we’re doing the differences in the sounds.
I’ve learned that this business is all about integrity when it comes to us roadies. You lose that, you’re done. You fuck up, you won’t get a gig and that’s just all there is to it. I’ve known guys who’ve fucked up really bad with drugs, making bad decisions, opening their mouths. Say the wrong thing about a band member, and you’re fucking drummed out of the business. There’s no screwing around when it comes to that.
I only want to do this for a few more years. Really, I wouldn’t mind being about 55 or 56 and be done with it. I’m watching a lot of people get sick and die right now in the music business and it’s not a fucking pretty sight, man. I went to Jimmy Bain’s funeral yesterday, right where they buried Lemmy and Ronnie James Dio. It’s kind of weird, a lot of my roadie friends in their mid-50s and 60s are having heart attacks and getting sick; it’s basically because they stressed their bodies out so bad throughout the years and never really ate right.
I don’t want to be that guy, but it’s hard for me to walk away from this business. It really, really is.
- Seth Ferranti Contact Seth Ferranti