What to Take On Tour: 4 Established Musicians Share Their Insights

Touring for the first time is super exciting, but it can also be super unpredictable. I spoke to 4 professional musicians about what was important to take on tour.

Featuring SHANGO B' KONGO-RAYO, Leon Kechayas, Jon Mackenzie and Rohan Heddle

By Magesh MageshContributing Author

Article photo - What to Take On Tour: 4 Established Musicians Share Their Insights


Touring for the first time is super exciting! It doesn’t matter if you are playing small club gigs with your band or concert halls with a famous pop star. As fun as touring is, it can also be super unpredictable.

Checking in equipment at the airport, using hire gear and things breaking on the road can lead to unnecessary stress.

I talked to 4 professional musicians about what was important to take on tour.


SHANGO B' KONGO-RAYO

Guitarist


Article photo - What to Take On Tour: 4 Established Musicians Share Their Insights


SHANGO B' KONGO-RAYO is a NYC-bred electronic guitarist who continues to push musical boundaries.

He merges ancient culture with technology as the bandleader for 'Cuban Trance'. A band that includes Grammy Award-winning drummer Will Calhoun from 'Living Colour'.


Magesh, Musicngear: You have performed with many different artists, is there anything you take on tour regardless of the style of music you are playing?

I travel with multiple guitars with different tunings, some with Floyd rose, some hardtail, extended ranges (8 & 9 string). I look at it like playing golf & having different tools for every occasion.


What is something that isn't obvious to up-and-coming musicians that you need for touring?

As a guitarist, taking care of my hands is most important. But whatever instrument you play, self-care is essential.

I soak my hands in hot water / Epson salt, & have an impact massage gun & take supplements (magnesium, potassium, b12) to make sure there is no muscle cramping & that my body recovers from performing/playing.


If you fly to a gig in another part of the country, do you take your own gear or use rental backline equipment?

My rig is insane! Pedalboard madness & rackmount gear. But I use backline speaker cabinets which eliminates having to carry 4x12's. Since my tones are coming from my rig.


Whatever instrument you play, self-care is essential


What equipment do you take 2 of just in case it breaks down?

Always have multiple guitars & I always have a small multi-effects pedal (usually Line 6) in case of unforeseen madness.


How important is it for a musician to have sponsorship when touring?

Sponsorship is a blessing. Being able to call for gear in an emergency changes the game.

Shout out to Jimi Dunlop & Julie Forristall (Dunlop Manufacturing/MXR) for decades of supplying me with picks, electronics, strings, cables & Love.


Connect with SHANGO B' KONGO-RAYO
Facebook / Soundcloud


Leon Kechayas

Drummer


Article photo - What to Take On Tour: 4 Established Musicians Share Their Insights


Leon Kechayas is a session drummer/teacher based in Melbourne.

Previously the winner of Australia's Best Up & Coming Drummer Competition 2011, Leon is now constantly touring nationally and/or internationally with a variety of artists and bands, currently including Isaiah Firebrace (2016 X-Factor Winner - 2017 Australian Eurovision contestant).


You tour a lot with different artists, is there anything you take on tour regardless of the style of music you are playing?

A comfy pair of shoes that are easy to play drums in! Believe it or not, I find it difficult to play in anything other than a good pair of sneakers.

On the plus side, it makes the outfit look a little funkier as a drummer, even if we are required to wear the boring neutral 'gig blacks'. A good pair of Nike's go a long way haha!


What is something that isn't obvious to up-and-coming musicians that you need for touring?

Extra drumsticks, extra guitar strings - whatever the instrument it is that you play, there are expendable items such as drumsticks that you can chew through very quickly but cannot do the gig without!

So think about those particular items that are a deal breaker for you and your instrument and bring along plenty of spares.

You don't want to break a string or your last pair of drumsticks at soundcheck and find out all the music shops in the area are closed... that is the stuff of nightmares!


If you fly to a gig in another part of the country, do you take your own gear or use rental backline equipment?

The only gear I have ever taken along with me to gigs that are out of my home state (where we are required to fly) would be my Cymbals.

Everything else (drum kit, hardware) is always backline equipment - and even then, I'll still have an extra set of cymbals on the backline list just in case... you can never be too cautious.


You don't want to break a string or your last pair of drumsticks at soundcheck and find out all the music shops in the area are closed


What equipment do you take 2 of just in case it breaks down?

Drumsticks. I'll take a minimum of 6 pairs, even on a gig where I can guarantee I won't break any.


How important is it for a musician to have sponsorship when touring?

I wouldn't say it is a necessity at all - however, it definitely helps out. Depending on your level of sponsorship, you may get discounted hire fees or have the hire fee wiped together - and that can help out the artist/touring company a lot when on the road to keep the costs of touring down... especially for smaller bands who are touring on their own budget.

It also helps out when there may be lots of bands in the area at that time - the sponsored musician will always get priority for their chosen hired instrument/accessories if there were to be multiple musicians wanting the same gear. Also the confidence of knowing that you will get the gear that you trust on the road - that is a huge thing for me.

Yes, there are lots of different brands of Drums that sound and look great - but there are only a small few who I would trust to take on the road for tours that hold up.


If you are constantly on the road is there anything you do to stay prepared mentally and physically?

Absolutely - there are many things, but one of them is as simple as getting as much rest as possible. Touring can be hard at times, even on days when there are no-shows.

Funnily enough, I find myself more exhausted after a day of waiting around in airports, catching flights, and driving to accommodations than the days when we are playing the big shows and exerting our physical energy on stage. So a sufficient amount of rest is essential.


Connect with Leon Kechayas
Instagram


Jon Mackenzie

Guitarist


Article photo - What to Take On Tour: 4 Established Musicians Share Their Insights


Jon Mackenzie is an in-demand session musician from Edinburgh, Scotland. He has worked with Soul singer Nikki King and currently leads his own band 'House of Trouser'.


You tour a lot with different artists, is there anything you take on tour regardless of the style of music you are playing?

I try and travel as lightly as possible in terms of possessions and also equipment. I just try and bring the minimum to avoid clutter and also make it logistically easier.

Apart from the obvious guitars and amplifiers, equipment-wise I would say the bare minimum would be two gain stages and a delay. But it depends on the gig. Usually much more than that, but that's the minimum I'd need to get through a gig.

Possession-wise it would be my sports bottle so I have water at all times and try and cut down on single-use plastics.


What is something that isn't obvious to up-and-coming musicians that you need for touring?

A mini screwdriver with a choice of Phillips head and flat head. I always need it. And it's not just for you, there's always one person in your band needing to use it.

Also if you play acoustic, I'd say make sure you bring a feedback blocker for the sound hole. What works in the rehearsal room isn't always going to be the same on all stages - it can make or break a gig.

 

International touring is now really tricky, so I don't think musicians should be worried about bringing their favorite guitar or amp


If you fly to a gig in another part of the country, do you take your gear or use rental backline equipment?

I'm not that precious about using my gear to an extent. I've done fly gigs where they rent me an amp and also guitars. I always take my pedals, even if it's just a few. I feel like that's the most important part for me, even though I don't like admitting that!

If the amp and the guitar are half decent, but my pedal choices are in place to accommodate for some random backlines, I'll be happy. International touring is now really tricky, so I don't think musicians should be worried about bringing their favorite guitar or amp.

It's about getting the gig done and entertaining the audience. If I were a huge rock star, which I am not (!), I might have a different view on this!


What equipment do you take 2 of just in case it breaks down?

I admit I am terrible at bringing spares of anything. I reluctantly bring a spare guitar, but I never use it. If I have one really good guitar I just want to play that all the time.

I do take spare strings. And I have started taking an amp backup. I've got a little amp the size of a pedal velcroed inside the amp cab which plugs into the speaker should anything happen.

I feel really good about that, as tube amplifiers can become fussy at the worst time!


How important is it for a musician to have sponsorship when touring?

Not important at all. You don't need sponsorship to rock someone's world.


If you are constantly on the road is there anything you do to stay prepared mentally and physically?

It's really hard being on the road. If you're lucky enough to have a great team with you, you live in a little bubble with them and it feels like a separate reality in a way. And that's cool, but it doesn't automatically make all the other things you need to deal with in 'normal life' disappear.

That's what's always most challenging for me. Little drops of normal life come into the bubble and you need to deal with them while trying to focus on getting ready to perform that day. I think a healthy thing to do is to try and get outside the bubble to do something completely different away from the job and maybe not even tell anyone about your experience.

Something very simple, like going to a park doing some exercise, or even going for a coffee on your own. Stepping away for even just 20 minutes can be a great way to check in with the real world and even take care of some things back home. Best not to ignore that as it can end up being super stressful.


Connect with Jon Mackenzie
Facebook / Instagram / YouTube


Rohan Heddle

Drummer


Article photo - What to Take On Tour: 4 Established Musicians Share Their Insights


Rohan Heddle is an in-demand Australian session drummer. He currently performs with Cordrazine who were nominated for an Aria Award. The band's song got a lot of airplay on indie radio station Triple J, even coming in at number 17 on their Hottest 100 songs list.


You tour a lot with different artists, is there anything you take on tour regardless of the style of music you are playing?

For me, it’s the core essentials that I believe drummers globally cannot do without regardless of style, setting, etc. I tend to keep to a bare minimum, and learning from touring there are those things that I can get away with not having.

I do always have heads, plenty of sticks (I have about 3 of each type in my bag), brushes, percussion mallets, damping gels, gaffer tape, spare snare wires & ties, I have a few tuning keys – and WD40 mini can plus a screwdriver set!

Also, if the gig calls for it I’ll have items for notation and general notes, so stave/staff paper, pens/pencils, etc plus the invaluable resource of my phone for instant metronome access and other musical reference needs.


What is something that isn't obvious to up-and-coming musicians that you need for touring?

An excellent question! I guess to rewind to my own experiences, you can have all the gear and accessories galore – but it’s the right attitude – being positive, welcoming, open-minded, and super willing to learn from every single moment.

A person grows a lot and learns invaluable life lessons when touring. Well, that’s my perspective anyway!


If you fly to a gig in another part of the country, do you take your own gear or use rental backline equipment?

From the touring I’ve done, and more specifically with Cordrazine, we’ve always hired backline. It seems to have become part of the plan that we balance the difference between backline cost vs flight transport costs and have always chosen backline hire.

We strive to grab drums that are similar to what I use but if all else fails I just make the most of whatever becomes available.


A person grows a lot and learns invaluable life lessons when touring


What equipment do you take 2 of just in case it breaks down?

Heads and sticks – first and foremost! Spare snare wires and strainer, hi-hat clutch, felt, kick pedal beater (you never know!), and spare earplugs.


How important is it for a musician to have sponsorship when touring?

I believe it is very important to have some form of sponsorship yes, and how I see it, is that it represents a musician’s faithfulness to their most loved instrument brand(s).

It also helps in the sense of consistency of equipment when traveling, and makes musicians comfortable with their gear, across the board.


If you are constantly on the road is there anything you do to stay prepared mentally and physically?

I don’t have a strict body/mind philosophy per se, but more a basic and essential routine. Hydration is key no matter what – the right amount of water - but not too much (prevents too many toilet visits!). Stretching, walking, and maintaining a steady breathing pattern always help me immensely – especially focused breathing.

This works wonders and helps center my focus on the schedule and shows ahead and also if press stops are involved. That’s always fun. I’m a highly visual and emotional person so I tend to “look forward” or put another way: “play it out in my head” how a show may (or may not) go, plus I do a mental run-through of the songs in the days leading up to a gig, along with the actual physical practice.

My experience has shown that the balance of the mental & physical helps complete the picture of performance, and then the whole journey of performing live bringing these preparations to life in one way or another.


Connect with Rohan Heddle
Facebook

About Magesh Magesh

Magesh is a musician and producer who has worked with Rihanna, Lionel Richie, Ricky Martin, Chris Brown, The Pussy Cat Dolls, Nelly Furtado, and Vernon Reid of Living Colour. He released an instructional drumming DVD called "Unique Beats" where he mixed the drum kit with electronics and Indian hand percussion. He recently moved from Australia to the UK to explore new musical opportunities.
Website: mageshdrumteacher.co.uk

Contact Magesh Magesh at magesh.magesh7@gmail.com

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