Q: What do Danny Goldberg, Vicky Hamilton and Peter Mensch have in common?
Ans: They have all managed the careers of some of the best bands in the music industry.
Goldberg is credited with dealing with Nirvana’s crazy tantrums and Hamilton with launching Guns N’ Roses into superstardom. Peter Mensch has at some point managed almost every great rock act in the music business from AC/DC and Metallica to Def Leppard and Scorpions. Today, artist and band management has found its way to India with several bands turning to the professionals to help them live the dream, and deal with the infinite pesky issues that crop up. Here are a couple of managers who spill the beans on what they do and how they do it.
Anto Dhanashekar, manager of the popular Peepal Tree, got into the band managing scene quite by accident. Old college friends with Willy Demoz, Peepal Tree drummer, Anto slogged it out at MNCs for a while, until he was roped in to manage the newest supergroup in town. Anto’s main role is to deal with the marketing and media aspects, getting them their gigs and keeping them updated on what the scene is like. “Understanding your band, its members, the music and complementing them is the key to being a great manager,” he says. “It’s important that you let them do what they do best and be supportive. They’re a fun bunch of guys and they make great music.”
What does he love most about the job? “The music, how the industry works and the challenges that crop up are my motivating factors.”
“Ideally, having a manager around helps musicians to concentrate and just focus on the music,” says Peepal Tree guitarist, Tony Das. “There is a lot to worry about during gigs, like ‘does the sound guy know what he’s doing?’ or ‘are the amplifiers perfect’ but having Anto around helps. Everything outside of you and your instrument and your music is taken care of!”
Arpan Peter is no stranger to the field of band and artist management. Having started off as a student managing college fests, he moved on to working professionally with artists and companies. With a passion for music, Arpan learnt the tricks of the trade by closely observing how things shouldn’t be done. A firm believer that musicians should stick to the music and let the professionals handle the process of getting gigs, and managing schedule, Arpan considers Rod Smallwood – Iron Maiden’s long time manager – to have held the key to great artist management. “He’s like the 6th member of Iron Maiden. Only he can answer this question.” Undeniably having its fair share of not-so-glamorous moments, Arpan states that the task he hates the most about the job is running after payments; however for him there’s nothing quite like the sense of satisfaction that comes with doing the job well, and in being an integral cog in the wheel. According to Peter, “Managers are very powerful in the industry. They’re a part of the band and are responsible for a lot of things that happen to the band.”
Garnering rave reviews for debut LP Baran, Parvaaz has taken the independent scene by storm. Manager Eva Moncada tells us what goes into managing this bunch of boys. She first met drummer Sachin Banandur while teaching vocals at Taaqademy, Thermal and A Quarter’s venture. She was blown away at the launch of their EP, Behosh, and vowed to manage their career from then on. “Handling the band, sometimes is like handing kindergarteners. Many kids, many perspectives, many ideas… handling all this takes patience and understanding… I have never gone on to do it, but I would like to break a guitar or kick a hole in the bass drum, when the band is depressed and inactive. But thank God, it doesn’t happen often,” she laughs. So what’s kept her going? “Parvaaz’s music, and their great motivation keep me motivated. If you understand, like, and value what the artist is doing, you don’t have to make an effort to promote them or to create an image of the artist that can reach as many people as possible. It comes natural to you,” she says.
Kasif Iqbal, lead guitarist of Parvaaz claims it is Eva who holds the ship together. “A rock band spends their time writing, recording, jamming, chilling and over-thinking. To do all this and manage the band as well would be impossible for the band members,” he states. “Eva’s contribution to Parvaaz’s success is intangible. Her will to improve our marketing plans and push us each day towards hard work has been instrumental in our growth over the past two years. She never loses her temper. That quality itself boosts our morale. Having a positive outlook towards life even in the toughest of times makes a difference. And sometimes you end up doing your best work when your back is against the wall.”
The Raghu Dixit Project needs no introduction – with their trippy lungis, enviable showmanship, and ability to mesmerise every music lover who listens to them. Gaurav Vaz is the man behind this famous band. How did it all begin, we asked him. “I got here by complete accident and a series of incredible coincidences. I was happily on my way to a regular career in the software industry till The Raghu Dixit Project happened. Two people changed my life and veered it into the music Industry – Raghu Dixit and Vijay Nair, both of whom I am indebted to for where I am today,” he replies. And what does he do for The Raghu Dixit Project? As he puts it, “Whatever needs doing!” There must be amazing perks that come with this job, right? “The travel, when we can take some time out on tour is great, but more importantly, the insane number of fun and interesting people we get to meet every single day, and the places we get to see are fantastic! It also helps that on a Monday morning, going to work is the last thing on your mind,” he chuckles.
But there are some omelettes in that rose garden. There were times Vaz wanted to run but it was the music that made him stay. Well, that and the realisation that he could never go back to a routine job after managing an awesome band. Who would? There is also some craziness involved. Vaz tells us about this one incident at the airport, “I had to create a scene at the airport, get physically taken away to the CISF security room to meet the superiors there, all because I was trying to delay check-in to our flight because the band was stuck in traffic!”
The things managers do for their bands would make a great book someday. With the indie music scene opening up to idea of managers that day, hopefully, isn’t all that far away.