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Iconic rock band Skunk Anansie have been on tour to celebrate the band’s latest “25LIVE@25” album and mark 25 years in the industry. Written by Ace himself, find out how the band work with sponsors, in his fifth blog instalment…
Hi, its Ace here with another instalment of the Tour Blog.
Apart from playing gigs and tearing the place up everywhere we go, there is also business sides to all elements of the music. I have talked about the gigs and I have talked about the reinvestment of the band, but another large part is working with sponsors.
I myself have a whole bunch of sponsors that support me with gear and sundries for the touring which would otherwise cost me a lot of money to sustain the touring schedule.
The sponsors I work with are: D’Addario, who supply all of my strings, leads and straps; PRS Guitars who obviously supply my guitars but also maintain them with the set ups and all of the right parts that I need when they need to be repaired; Zilla (Cabs), a custom made cabinet company, which have made a 25th anniversary cabinet for me. It is a 4×12 cabinet to come on the road; and AMPS, which is a very important part of my setup.
Marshall support me as an artist, so anywhere in the world I go, if I need a Marshall setup and I haven’t got my gear there, they will supply it from one of their distributors. They also kindly enough service my amps for free when I am back in England. I have been using Marshall now for over 35 years, 25 of them in Skunk Anansie.
Koch amps are a Dutch company that make high-spec, heavy duty, very loud and very good sounding valve amplifiers. For the last 10 years, I have been using a Koch Powertone II for all of my clean sounding parts in the songs but now they have also made me a signature model prototype for the distorted sound, which is probably the main sound of Skunk Anansie. They have looked into what I like, and the sounds I like and consulted with me over a period of over a year to get the right balance of tone, valves and electronics to create a signature Ace Skunk Anansie sounding amp. This is out on the road with me now and being road tested to the extremes and actually sounds very good. When I get to Amsterdam, which is not far from where they are based, I will see the company technicians and we shall test it out now that it has had a road test to make sure it sounds good and it is right for mass production,- then there will be an Ace signature guitar amplifier out.
I have also got new ‘picks’ for the tour from D’Addario. It sounds like a small thing but a pick, if it is right, sounds different and and can make you play differently. I also tend to end up giving a lot of them away to fans on the road because they want the personalised picks as a memento.
I am also doing a collaboration with NEXI pedalboards who are also a Dutch company making analogue-effects pedals and special powered pedalboards to go with them, which they call ‘the solution’. It is a new way of working. They are currently making prototype guitar pedals for me based on my sound too and I have a couple on the road which I am testing out and giving feedback to the company so they can also perfect the right tone and then put it into mass production as an Ace signature pedals.
PRS Guitars have been really helpful for me for the last 20 years and now they have also made a signature Ace guitar. I have three of these on the road with me in different tunings to compliment my main original guitar. These three guitars have had extra work done on them at the PRS headquarters with new pickups and machine heads and electronics, to come out on the road to match into the Skunk sound that is on the records. They are all in different tunings so this means that I can swap guitars without feeling any physical difference between them apart from the tuning down of the key.
I have also started making a film about the live amp rig, the guitars, the effects pedals and how it all works including an interview with my tech to bring back to ACM to show to students what a real professional rig is all about and why, when you are in a large touring band, you need professional setups that will not let you down, that will reproduce your sound like the original records and be able to take the hard touring of the road of not only being stepped on and shaken every night but also transported and bashed around for months or years on end.
The new Zilla cabinet that was made for me, contains vintage creamback speakers, in a camouflage tolex cabinet, with a black metal grate across the front to signify the early days of Skunk Anansie. The sound is somewhere between Free and Led Zeppelin with a sprinkling of Guns ‘n’ Roses which makes the signature Skunk Anansie sound. As the tour is going on, the speakers are bedding in and it is sounding better and better.
With all the help of these sponsors on board, you have to maintain your relationships with them. So, this means feedback on how the product is working on the road, gratitude for them supplying what they supply, social media including Instagram and Facebook pictures and clips on official sites and personal sites and sending back clips and photographs
for the companies to also use for their press and social media. It is a form of advertising and a circle that helps everybody. The artist gets support and free gear, which helps them financially and the company gets endorsement and advertising for free from the artist which gives them selling power and credibility in their product.
That’s it for now.
I’ll catch up with you after the next run of shows!