13 Sep 2019

ACM’s Ace on Tour with Skunk Anansie: Part Seven

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, learn about what they have been up to in his final blog instalment…

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After a brief holiday in Japan for a week mid-tour to connect with my family, I flew back into London to get straight onto a bus to go down to play the first British festival in Devon called Beautiful Days. It was actually a cold, rainy affair with many soggy but happy punters. The classic 70’s punk band, the Stranglers, were on as a support, who are still going today after 40 years. And they were racking out great punk hits from the 70’s and 80’s note-for-note. They were one of my favourite bands as a child so I really enjoyed watching their set from side of stage. Our headlining set went down really well, and we connected with a few music biz types backstage such as our long time record mixer and ACM award winning alumna Mica Bernard.

Next on the menu for us was to launch the UK tour with fire and venom in our own venues!

We kicked off with our first London show in Brixton. It was a hometown gig for us and it was sold out and the place went crazy. A few ACM staff and directors also came to the show and we all hung out afterwards at a backstage party, celebrating the work of Skunk and ACM at the same time! The merchandise we ordered for this show was supposed to last us for the next few shows but sold out all in one day! I had to get on to the merchandising people the next day, which was a Sunday, and ask them to start printing up T-shirts to arrive for the Bristol show on the Monday. Amazingly enough they did and they turned up at 7.30pm as doors opened up just in time for us to sell them out again that night!

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A good relationship with your suppliers gores a long way in your hour of need in this business!

As well as the tour kicking off, after a couple of months of shows press is starting to come out now from the previous shows from magazines and newspapers with live reviews and interviews in such publications as the Guardian, Telegraph, Kerrang and NME etc. Skin also popped into some TV shows in between dates in London and on Breakfast TV with Lorraine and daytime shows. So, adding to the momentum good press has helped support this half of the tour as well.

ACM London business student, George Frangoudes has still been on tour with us throughout this tour, filming and doing social media for us and placing all of the posts at the right times, which has really helped him ramp up the hysteria around the tour and adding to the momentum for it as we have been going along.  We also hired in a professional photographer and videographer, India Fleming, to document the whole tour and to give us films for our social media as well all the way through.

Throughout this tour we have been donating money to charity, which we always do on all of our tours. This one has been a combination between one that supports horses being cared for and relocated after their working lives in Europe and a second one is a main one we have been dealing with for years, which is Music Support, which helps to support musician’s with addiction and mental health problems. We sell signed used drumheads by the band from the nights show before which goes straight to those charities.

In between the actual show dates, on my day off I would spend time working in the hotel as a temporary office for the ACM up and coming duties and events interjecting with breaks walking around European towns, taking pictures and decompressing from the amount of work we have been putting into this tour.

I have also been creating new merch orders for the band, planning the next moves within that world and working on the next online store for Skunk Anansie, when we get back from the tour. Merchandising on this tour has been off the scale… I think we must have sold five times more than we did on the last tour!

We have had our injuries and illnesses throughout the tour as well, after nearly three months on the road. Skin had a bout of laryngitis and she has got a problem with her knees which required a few appointments, Cass has got a problem with his knee; Marks’ wrists are hurting from his recent carpal tunnel operation pre-tour; I fell over and sprained my ankle at a festival, my wrist is hurting from a sudden bus stopping moment and stabilising myself, and my fingers ache in the morning sometimes! But we are near the end now – one more show and we have managed to complete it giving 110% everywhere we have gone. The tour has sold out and been a massive success!

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In Geneva, we were lucky enough to do a show with ‘Prophets of Rage’. This is a band made up from rock royalty. Tom Morello, Timmy C and Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine, Chuck D and DJ Lord from Public Enemy and B-Real from Cypress Hill! We managed to hang-out with them, grab some pics and a quick beer before rushing off to our next show afterwards. It was amazing to play with these guys and really see them smash it live and play all the hits from their respective bands. I think this must have been the best live band I saw on the whole tour.

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We have had lots of ACM involvement throughout the tour. We have had staff at shows, students coming as guests. Prospect George Agombar came to one show and shadowed our sound man, Ben Hammond, for the line checks, the sound checks and then watched a show afterwards and came backstage to meet the band. Ozzy McKinnon, from London ACM came to the Camper Calling Festival, to hang out, meet the band and offer his services. In Brighton, we met Ash Freeman, the Skunk Anansie scholarship winner, where he met the band, took photos, saw the show and was at the aftershow party with us where he also met some great Industry contacts.

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We had a great gig at the Camper Calling Festival in Alcester, where we headlined and also played with Brit Pop act, Sleeper, which contained our very own Kieron Pepper as bass player. It was a very harmonious day. We hung out laughing about both of our 25 years experience in the music business and the fact that we are both still here playing music successfully and enjoying it.

This tour, I have been trying out new in-ear monitors from ACS who are a sponsor of ACM too. They have the ‘passive ambient system’, which means that you can hear things around you as well as from the monitor in your ears. It was a very interesting experience and really good. And we now have 20% discounts set up in the college for students in IEMs and custom hearing protection, as well as masterclasses workshops coming in and discount on standard earplugs and hearing protection on receptions.

Rock City was a monumental show to mention on this tour and a really special night. We have been playing there for many many years. They were celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the venue and they presented us with a plaque, with pieces of the floor embossed with Skunk Anansie on them, giving all the dates we have been playing since 1996. I actually started going to that club as a youngster clubbing in about 1984 and it was great to still see the same people running it and also to have an amazing sold out show as a band here stall after all these years. The Nottingham crowd was crazy – possibly one of my favourite shows on the whole tour!

We finished our final UK show at Cardiff University which was a lot of fun and an absolutely insane crowd to help us on our way out of the UK. Cardiff is always a good crowd and great people. My mum is actually form Wales, so I got a good cheer when Skin mentioned it on stage lol. We jumped on the bus afterwards and headed straight to Amsterdam to play at the Paradiso, which has always been a good stronghold for us in Holland. An old converted church with bags of history and vibe. The gig was truly explosive and the best way to end the venue side of the tour. In fact, I think it was collectively the favourite show of the band for the whole indoor side of the tour.

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I also met my sponsors for my amps and my pedals, as well as some great old friends in the daytime and backstage. After the show, I went into the town with a bunch of long-term fans for a drink that call themselves the Skunk Army. We have a good connection with our fans, meeting them quite often after shows and at sound checks.

The last show was in Crammerock Festival in Belgium after Amsterdam to around 10,000 people in a giant tent headlining the night. Earlier on in the evening Skin joined Belgium legends ‘K’s Choice’ on stage as a guest on their classic hit “Not an Addict”.  So this final gig for us did well and truly finish this whole 3 month journey around Europe and the UK playing to over a million people along the way!  Straight after we jumped on the bus to come back to Britain for our next venture which is to release a new single (which we have already recorded on the road) and record a new one with a top producer that we had booked in from some of the profits of this tour. We have our own independent record label, as mentioned before so we can make and release tracks whenever we like now… Nice!

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Thanks for sticking with me on the tour blogs!

I will now catch you guys in ACM!

Cheers

Ace

Read Ace’s first blog post here.

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