We had the pleasure of doing many big tours, but some of the most memorable ones were with the Metal Gods, Judas Priest. The band members of Judas Priest, their production manager/FOH engineer, Martin Walker, and their tour manager, Jim Silvia, not only took the best care of us possible, but they treated us like family. I will never forget those tours.
We must’ve done sixty or seventy shows with them around the world, and we watched Judas Priest perform every night, in awe of them–especially Rob Halford–every single show. This is our first Q&A interview with Martin Walker.
How did you get your start as a road manager?
After being a sound guy for various bands, I was approached by a very good friend of mine, Tommy Tee (R.I.P.), who was managing The Almighty at the time; he needed a sound guy and a tour manager, and he had a small budget. He asked me if I thought I could handle both roles. I said I was willing to give it a try if both he and the band were.
How long have you been working as a road manager?
My first road/production job was with The Almighty, back in 1987.
How much longer do you think you’ll continue working on the road?
I have 2 young daughters, aged 10 and 5, so I can’t see myself retiring until they are both old enough to take care of themselves financially!
Do you perform any other jobs on the road?
I am lucky enough to be able to turn my hand to monitors, FOH, stage tech, patch guy, systems guy, road manager and production manager. I’m also willing to have a go at any reasonable combination of those roles at any given time. My motto is that I’d rather work than not, so I’ll do whatever it takes to secure that job, within reason of course!
What is your best memory of your job on the road?
I have way too many memories to pick one out. I have plans to do as you have and write a book about it all one day! But road managing and doing sound for Paradise Lost when they headlined the 125,000 capacity Dynamo Festival in Holland was particularly good. Any show with EMF was always a challenge that was a pleasure to pull off! Moving the Kula Shaker show from the 2nd stage on the Saturday at Glastonbury over to the main stage for a repeat performance on the Sunday because of the bad weather—resulting in so many acts cancelling—was a grueling weekend that would test anyone’s patience, but we pulled that one off too! And of course, any day working with Judas Priest is always a total pleasure.
What is your worst memory of your job on the road?
I don’t have many of those, but one that does spring to mind is having to cancel the remaining couple of weeks of a UK tour with The Almighty because of the singer falling ill and then in the time between that happening and the re-scheduled dates beginning, the band decided to sack their management, leaving me to pick up the pieces until new management were in place. Some tour suppliers’ bills remained unpaid and my diplomacy skills were stretched to the limit in order to get everything back up and running. I’m pleased to say all went ahead as planned, but it doesn’t leave great memories in my mind!
What do you like most about being a road manager or production manager?
The satisfaction of turning up to an empty venue, getting everything in, up and running, doing a show, packing it all away again and having the venue staff and promoter compliment me on a smooth running show with an easy going, non-shouting crew, something I strive for everyday of my touring life.
What do you hate most about being a road manager or production manager?
Crew members that have bigger egos than the artists. Ignorance. Promoters who don’t care. People who say things like ‘we’ve not done it like that before’. Promoters who think they can fool me with bent settlements. People who make promises with no intention of keeping them.
What will you do for a living after your life on the road is over?
Right now, at this time, I have no fuckin’ idea, and to be honest, it scares me to death! I have a wife who is a few years younger than me, so hopefully she can work and support me instead!
If you could work with any artist in the world, which one would you like to work with, and why?
As a sound guy I would have loved to have done the Michael Jackson shows that were planned before his death and I would loved to have mixed Pink Floyd at any point. As for the future, who knows, I guess being a sound guy that seems to mainly get heavy metal jobs, it would be nice to work with AC/DC and Metallica, as they are really the only 2 acts bigger than Priest and Maiden still going strong. As for road managing, well my dream job would be to road manage Rob Halford, doing ‘an evening with’ just questions and answers, no music! He’s a perfect gentleman to tour with and not having any band stuff to deal with would make the job a dream!
What do you consider to be the hardest part of your job as a road manager or production manager every day and why?
Hand picking a crew that are suitable for the job, and will get on with each other and the artist, is always a bit of a lottery; and getting up in the morning after the alcoholic haze of the day before. I’m not getting any younger!
What advice do you have for young people hoping to work on the road in any capacity?
Listen to any advice whatsoever that comes your way, and learn to get along with people. Anyone can learn any particular job, but if no one likes you, it’s irrelevant how good you are, the chances are you won’t get asked back. And last but not least, if you get fired at any time, don’t take it too hard, sometimes your face just doesn’t fit, and there’s always another job around the corner.
If there were a telephone to the afterlife and you could call anyone no longer with us, who would you call and what would you say to them?
I’d call my good friend and mentor who gave me that early break as a road manager, Tommy Tee (The Almighty’s manager) just to let him know how I was doing, and to thank him for the break because I didn’t take the opportunity.