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DANNY HOBSON | BACKLINE TECH

The electrifying energy of a live concert captivates audiences, but behind every flawless performance is a team of dedicated professionals ensuring everything runs smoothly. We had the pleasure of chatting to seasoned backline technician and stage manager, Danny Hobson.


With years of experience on the road, Danny has worked with numerous renowned bands, mastering the art of technical precision and coordination. In this interview, we explore the highs and lows of touring life and uncover the excitement and challenges faced by those who work tirelessly behind the scenes.


From managing the stress and maintaining well-being on the road to sharing unforgettable experiences and bucket list aspirations, Danny provides an insider’s perspective on what it takes to keep the show going night after night.


First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself, the work you do, and how you got into this industry?

 

My name is Danny, and I work under the moniker of Laruso Tours’ as backline technician and recently as a stage manager; but when I’m not on the road, I have my own workshop in Chester for instrument repairs. I started going out on my first tours in my early twenties in 2010, but took a 7 year hiatus from the road to grow up a little bit.


Covid (like most people) forced me to look at myself and realize I wanted to be doing something more with my life that I was passionate about, so I started repairing instruments again for local musicians and asked some old friends if there was any space for a somewhat tour-trained tech. And as they say, the rest is history.

 

Danny Hobson album cover for Me vs Hero

How I got into touring was actually pretty unorthodox.  A local band in Blackpool were high school friends of mine and were doing ok for themselves. They had a summer time video shoot which I attended, and long story short, I got too hammered and had an accident on a trampoline. This accident came with smashed teeth, two fractured eye sockets and some pretty deep cuts on my face.

 

However, the photographer snapped a picture of me coming off said-trampoline with a face pouring with blood but still sporting a smile.  This became the album cover for pop punk band Me vs Hero’s debut album ‘Days That Shape Our Lives’. I asked if I could sell merch for them on tour, seeing as I am the face of the album, and that was that, really. I headed out in a van and did merch, also started to guitar tech (basically tune guitars at this point), drove and tour managed to a certain capacity.

 

Working in the live music/touring industry can be incredibly exciting and certainly has its perks; but we also know it comes with a lot of stress and can take a toll, both mentally and physically. How do you balance the intense schedule of touring with your personal life, and can you share any techniques or routines that help you stay on top of your game on the road?

 

I think it depends on what you want out of this industry. If you’re wanting to be paid to travel and party and go wild, there’s definitely an opportunity to do that, but I don’t think it’s sustainable for a long career. You’ll burn out too fast and lose your edge.


For me, when I came back into touring life, I’d learnt you have to be dedicated to your craft, constantly trying to learn and keep up with ever-changing technologies and touring techniques. I feel this is how you handle a heavy portion of the mental aspect. Being knowledgeable and prepared for the job and the inevitable curve balls you’ll be thrown is half the battle of the mental challenges and stress you’ll face on tour.


The other side of the mental coin, so to speak, comes with balancing your home life. And a lot of that comes to good communication with home and learning when to prioritise that. And that might mean making time for phone calls or even turning down work to spend time at home for a bit. 

 

Physically, I like to push myself on tour and always opt for the physical aspect of my job role. I’ll personally never shy away from a truck pack or help out moving cases about. But I’ve toured with a bunch of guys who are really dedicated runners, do calisthenic style work out programmes, or just enjoy going for walks round the towns and cities you visit to get some blood pumping.  

 

To me, one of the biggest things to help the physical AND mental strain of this career is REST! Learn when to take some time to fully rest your mind and body. It’s ok to spend a day off chilling by yourself in a hotel room or being a bit lazy on off days. On a long tour cycle, well placed rest can save you. 

 

What are some common misconceptions people have about the role of a backline technician or stage manager?

 

A big one for me is that people who don’t tour think you’re just on holiday all over the world, constantly! 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced some utterly magical places on this earth, eaten some incredible cuisines with locals, and witnessed some amazing historical monuments. But that’s not the daily story. A lot of time you’re in a different city every day and you mainly see your bunk and the inside of a venue - that’s it.

 

Touring as crew is a graft! On show days, you’re pretty much working from when you wake up to when you go to sleep. But when you do get the opportunity to explore or have some down time somewhere new, it means a lot and really does wonders for team morale. 

 

Danny Hobson portrait photo

 You’ve worked on some pretty big tours and could probably write a book about all the memories you’ve made. What’s one of the most memorable or unusual experiences you’ve had while working on tour?

 

Crikey! I think I’ve blanked out a lot of those memories. Let’s face it, most crew guys (backline guys are typically guilty of this) are highly skilled knuckle heads. So there’s always some crazy event or situation that happens that wouldn’t sound real unless you’d experienced it yourself. 

 

This can range from jumping out of the window of a moving taxi on a Japanese highway, to eating tongue tacos from a questionable food stand, or even having to deal with extremely deadly electrics in faraway lands on stadium shows.

 

But I think the most family friendly memory I can write about would be in Singapore where the local promoter and their team took the band and crew to the night markets, and we sat around this huge table just feasting on food, family style. Great laughs with great people who, 12 hours earlier, were strangers but now are life-long friends. It’s this kind of stuff which makes me ever so grateful to have the opportunities I do as a touring tech.

 

For those interested in understanding what goes on behind the scenes, can you describe a typical day in the life of a backline tech? From a technical perspective, what’s the process like of preparing for a tour?

 

Preparing for a tour in my mind is where the vast majority of the hard graft should be done. If you’re building a rig or preparing gear and have the luxury of time, you want test it all to complete failure and know how to rectify any of the problems that can and most probably will happen. That way, your day to day should (if the gods allow) be pretty uneventful. You can get into a daily routine quite easily. 


Also bear in mind when preparing or building gear, make sure it’s easy to maintain. There’s nothing worse than making a really neat, tightly packed build and then something dies and needs replacing, and it’s almost impossible to get to without dismantling the entire thing.


Plus as a backline guy, I like to carry spares of literally any component, doohicky or thingy majig as possible, because you literally never know when someone (including yourself) desperately needs a very specific type of fuse on a 20 minute festival changeover.

 

Can you share some tips for aspiring techs who want to break into the industry? Any specific traits you feel make for a successful career?

 

I believe it’s 40% what you know and 60% how you are to be on tour with.


It’s ok if you’re not a professor in guitar teching - be humble and ask if you don’t know something. I’m yet to meet a tech who isn’t over-joyed to tell me about their own tricks and tips about road fixes and gear builds, or a department head who isn’t itching to tell you how you, as a stage manager, can make their day easier and work on a positive solution together for any issue. It’s all team work at the end of the day.


But to focus on the tech side of things, I can’t express enough how important it is to know your gear. You don’t necessarily need every tool in the world to be a good tech. If you know your tools and your gear inside out, you can do a lot with not much. Also allow yourself some mistakes. The majority I know about fixing guitars came from breaking them myself in the first place!

 

Willingness to learn, a passion for your selected role and an understanding and being openness about your limits will open a lot of doors for you.

 

And if you’re not early, you’re late!!!



Is there a band or artist on your bucket list that you’d absolutely love to work with, and why?

 

I’m about to head out on a world tour with Childish Gambino, who I’ve been a huge fan of since his early ep’s, like Poindexter and Sick Boi. So that’s a massive achievement and level of pride for me. 

 

But I’m still itching to work with one of my all time heroes, Biffy Clyro. As a youngster, I used to see their tech Churd do his thing and think to myself, "How the hell does someone get a job like that!? He’s so cool!" Turns out all you need to do is obliterate your face on a trampoline and work your ass off for a decade. Easy peasy.

 

Also on the roster of dream gigs, just for my own nostalgia, would be Limp Bizkit, because Wes Borland is one of the most innovative guitar players of my generation and I’ll die on that hill. ZZ Top because they’re one of the coolest trios ever to exist (R.I.P Dusty). And Post Malone, now that he’s touring with a band, because he’s a great performer and I think his live show is excellent.

 

 

In an alternate life, if you didn’t have a career in the music industry, what do you think you’d be doing?

 

As previously mentioned in one of my earlier answers, I took a 7 year hiatus from gigging. During that time, I went back into the hospitality industry as a chef and training consultant for bars and restaurants. So if I’m being honest with myself, I’d probably fall back into that. But pipe dream would be to become a lottery winner and spend my days sitting by a pool, or a food market in Singapore.


 

Follow Danny on Instagram here.

Connect on LinkedIn here.

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