By Rosine Alleva, Journalist/Photographer, Rock At Night France, Switzerland
[Editor’s note] Rock At Night would like to introduce you to a new column by Rosine Alleva, Rock At Night’s journalist/photographer who covers a lot of the news in France, Switzerland, and even Belgium, like the interview below. Rosine is going to be taking a look at the music industry behind the scene. This will be a very interesting view that many readers will enjoy seeing. The interview below is with the Dutch manager of Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown, ETJEN Vd VLIET. Not only is he in management but he also started a food catering company in Europe which features vegan food at festivals.
Check out the “Behind the Rock Scene with Rosine” below:
Wanna know about tour managing? And how to be taking care of “just like your mom”? I met ETJEN Vd VLIET in Belgium, in Leffinge to be exact, touring with TYLER BRYANT & THE SHAKEDOWN.
RAN– Hi Etjen, great to meet you again, in Belgium this time, my country! Tell me how did “JUST LIKE YOUR MOM” begin?
ETJEN Vd VLIET– It started by accident. Long story short, I had a van and when you have a van and friends playing music in bands, they always use your van. That’s how it started. At one point my personal van was always on the road with bands so I had to buy a car for myself ! So I bought another van to use for myself and that was always on the road…so I thought “maybe I’m on to something and I should turn this into a company. That’s how it started, I think about 15 years ago. We did a lot of European tours and about a few thousand bands I worked with now for the last 15 years.
RAN– I guess you’re doing what you like to do, cause you turned it into a company …
ETJEN– Yeah but I didn’t know I would like it cause I was always down to concerts, watching shows, organizing like DIY Punk Rock shows, with bands like from all over the world in a way. And yeah, I like being on the road.
RAN– And how did you start JUST LIKE YOUR MOM Events and JUST LIKE YOUR MOM Catering?
ETJEN– By accident (laughs). When you’re on the road a lot, you’re kind of distorted and you’re always in a lot of venues. For the catering, it was kind of simple.The food is sometimes good at venues and sometimes really bad. Sometimes you get a buy out and go to restaurants. When you’re on the road 200 days a year, hotels, food and that kind of stuff is really important. At one point you just wanna sit down, not open a menu anymore and get your food! And in the meantime you know the rights spots where to go in every city. I’m vegan, 15 years ago, especially when I was constantly in France on the road, it wasn’t, it isn’t an easy country to get vegan food. So I started making food at shows, then festivals asked us to do food and we were pushed ourselves into festivals. And at the moment we’re the biggest catering company in Europe for vegan food. We do all the festivals in the Netherlands, we go to UK, to Way out West in Sweden, to the Milan design week in Italy. I think the best things start by accident.
RAN– It’s quite amazing to see how it evolved!
ETJEN– It’s good…And if you’re really passioned about something, you will do it, whatever it takes…Kind of not worry about money or stuff like that. Yeah, people should do what they like!
RAN– And what about that “Living Room” concept?
ETJEN– On some festivals we do artists catering but on most festivals we just do front stage catering. But since everybody working for us, either touring musician, tour manager, or working in the kitchen, it’s all the same people, everybody knows each other. So when you’re on a big festival and the artist catering is bad or you’re vegan and you can’t get anything, bands always end up to our store and we will always give bands food for free. A few years ago we noticed we were given away fifteen to twenty thousand euros in food every year. That’s quite a lot of money so we tried to get something in return.
RAN– Ok, is this how the “Living Room” concept started?
ETJEN– We thought to do acoustic sessions with bands and record it for the visual thing. With camera people being involved, photographers being involved. That way, everybody is working together to create something that lifts everybody up. By doing stuff for us, a guy taking videos for the Living Room met other people, and is now working worldwide with bands. That’s how you spread the thing. When you’re on the road you see so many quality people thinking the same and acting the same way. If you connect everybody together, we’ll all get the better from it. Because in the music industry, the music world, people are using each other in a bad way. Musicians, at least a lot of those I work with, do it for the art of music but also to give people a good feeling. We all have our backgrounds, our lives or struggles, music saves lives …literally. That’s how important music is, how important creativity is, how important it is to connect people. We’re all on the same planet so let’s try to help each other out, by creating opportunities, lift up people qualities, make it happen, do it yourself, in a friendly environment.
RAN– And you created a special vegan burger you’re selling at festivals…
ETJEN– It’s the same thing with the vegan burger. We live in a cruel world, towards people, towards animals. To get your food, you have to do it in a decent way. A lot of food that you get on festivals is really bad, it’s overpriced, and crap food. That’s why we created our own burger organic, with 20 ingredients, and healthy bread based on carrots. And it’s healthy food, cause on a festival, you also have to eat something and make sure you’re treating your body in a good way. And we also got pictures from bands eating the burgers as a promo thing.
RAN– How many people are working with you?
ETJEN– Everybody is self-employed, so we hire people. We have around 300 people over the world. Tour manager, photographer, sound person, cook, or selling burgers, I always think everybody can do anything, some people are better in certain things. Like I said, you have to lift those things up and now a lot of people who worked in this company have now their own restaurant in Berlin or opened up a photo studio or doing videos, touring with bands worldwide. I won’t claim it’s JUST LIKE YOUR MOM. It’s just creating an environment where people feel comfortable and feel free to do whatever they want.
RAN– Cool! You’re also working for a venue in Amsterdam, right?
ETJEN– Well, just like I said, doing something you’re passionate about and not earn money with, is the situation I’m in for the last fifteen years. So two years ago I decided I had to start to have a bit more steady income. That’s when I started working as a stage manager at the a in Amsterdam, a venue with 700 and 1500 capacity rooms. It’s way better payed than touring with American or Canadian bands cause that’s always low budgets. Working at the MELKWEG, you also meet many photographers and that’s where I met Maaike, the photographer accompanying the tour.
RAN– OK! And did Maaike work with you before or is she just touring now with TYLER BRYANT AND THE SHAKEDOWN?
ETJEN– Nowadays you see how important social media, website and the visual part are important for bands. In the last ten, fifteen years, there were many changes in how things work. Venues have less money, promoters have less money and the shows are still going on. Records sales are not that well anymore…So labels have no clue where to sell records cause music shops don’t exist anymore, you can stream everything from the internet. So it’s important for bands to have videos, photography on the road, to promote themselves. Promoters, labels can work on it but it always gives a step more to do things yourself. So to have your photographer with you on the road is definitely better. And here she is!
Being TYLER BRYANT & THE SHAKEDOWN tour manager and photographer
RAN– Hello Maaike! How is it to be a tour photographer, with TYLER BRYANT & THE SHAKEDOWN in particular ?
MAAIKE– I love doing this! And yeah, this band is kind of special. I went to London with Etjen last summer and that’s where I met them. They’re really nice guys. I think we had a click like after a couple of shows. You need to get to know each other and feel confortable in each other ‘s space. When you’re on tour, it’s basically your home. Actually they are inviting me in their intimate space all the time and it’s been going really well. They feel confortable having me around and it’s the most important thing for a documentary photographer and you can take pictures everywhere.
ETJEN– And during the GUNS N’ROSES tour, we toured with TBSD worldwide, Asia, South America, Europe, US. Being an opening band for one of the biggest rock bands and at least one of the biggest rock shows, you always have to make sure that people see you. That’s also why I asked Maaike to come to the 2 days shows at the stadium in London. There were 15000 people over 2 days. Nobody remembers the support band. They are just there to warm up the people.That’s your job, to make sure that afterwards people know you were there. When people see it again in a good documented way on Facebook, websites, in interviews, it’s promotion for the bands, the people remember them.
RAN– And Maaike great pics fixed those memorable moments in time!
ETJEN– And I think that’s also the job you have as a tour manager. Your basic job is to bring a band from A to B, but when I work for a band, I want the very best for the band. It doesn’t matter if it’s Indie Rock, Country, or Rock’n’roll. If you even see GUNS N’ROSES, AEROSMITH, it’s all the same thing. We are there for an hour an a half to entertain people and to let them forget about their lives. That’s what music, what a live show is all about.
RAN– It still takes quite a while before living on music, like GUNS N’ROSES or AEROSMITH…
ETJEN– We all like to make a living of course, by adding stuff to a tour. By doing interviews with media, having pictures taken, by doing in stores, by just promoting every aspect of what you are doing. And then people will remember you and then you can make a living out of it. Cause these guys are on the road but they don’t make money right now but that’s fine, they just wanna make shows!
RAN– People talk more and more about them! They’ve been the first to sign with Snakefarm, a new label of Spinefarm, right?
ETJEN– Yes, but it’s all the same people and they can do what they can till a certain extend. When everybody on the road with the band, does just a bit more to make it happen, then you get the best shows, the best results. And you can say that in a few years time, they will be able to quit their jobs at home and just live from the music!
RAN– Well, that’s what I wish for everybody, they deserve it !
ETJEN– Yeah, and that’s for every band. And as a company, JUST LIKE YOUR MOM, we always do the built up bands. Like the bands are here for the first, second, third time, then they get huge and go to different companies. But it’s always building up. With the experience I have, we have, the people working in music, it’s a lot of experience and you see how a lot of things work. And you also see things going wrong. You can either stand on the side, say” too bad, it’s a shame for the band” or try to steer it around, do it yourself and work for it ! We’re here for work.
RAN– How did you meet TYLER BRYANT & THE SHAKEDOWN?
ETJEN– I think this happened last year. I was supposed to be on the road with Damien JURADO, a singer-songwriter from Seattle, a great guy. He had to cancel the tour the day before leaving, due to health problems, that happens. And this is also part of my job, to keep people sane on the road. It’s a hard job, you don’t get a lot of sleep and you have to make sure that all the people touring with a band take care of themselves and of each other. So I was looking for other jobs and the management of the band called to ask if I could do the tour…I had to shift many things around. 8 weeks summer tour with GUNS N’ ROSES isn’t something you refuse as a tour manager.
RAN– It must have been cool when TBSD asked you to accompany them to South America.
ETJEN– Yes, I didn’t see that one coming, but that’s also how it works in this big rock bands scene. You can’t really plan stuff beforehand. Something you’re asked a week beforehand “can you tour with us in South America”.You have to be flexible, just do it. I was happy to be with them there. It was cool, good shows, really hard work. When there’s a five stars hotel waiting for you but you have to sleep on the floor at an airport because it’s shut down due to a storm, that also happens…
RAN– Maaike, wanna say something about JUST LIKE YOUR MOM, about ETJEN?
MAAIKE– I think ETJEN and JUST LIKE YOUR MOM are good people, they love what they do, they also create a safe environment for the band. I talked to bands he works with and one of the bands told me EtJEN became one of their best friends. I think he gaives a little extra to being a tour manager, he doesn’t only bring bands from A to B but he’s a trustworthy person. The band feels it and feels really comfortable. He creates the “touring family” for the band, it’s important and also very necessary. So that’s why I like to work with him.
ETJEN– The all touring family is spread around the world! Even if people don’t always know each other, there are spots that are around, hotels, restaurants, where people understand what you’re doing, what your needs are, as a tour manager, as a rock band. We’re working people, all we want is sleep, coffee in the morning and a bath, we’re not there to trash the hotel room.
RAN– Thanks a lot to both of you for this very interesting interview. More human beings should take YOU, JUST LIKE YOUR MOM, as a great example for the planet!
CALEB CROSBY, TBSD drummer, tells us about ETJEN
RAN– So, Caleb, how is it to have ETJEN as the band tour manager since last year now?
CALEB– You wanna talk about this guy? Well, he’s really bad, he beats us (laughs), no I‘m kidding! Having him has been great and honestly, we got the tour last fall with GUNS N’ ROSES ,THE WHO, ALICE COOPER, in South America. We had to have him there! And then we did whatever we could and said “ hey man, whatever you have going on, you can’t do it anymore cause you have to come with us! It was great, we got to bring him home and he came to Nashville for a couple of days cause one of the shows got canceled. But having a tour manager that you trust, you can let all the details go….cause we’re not good at that. So, having somehow you know who’s gonna handle that behind the scenes is important when you’re doing this. Cause we want our heads to be clear for the show, we don’t wanna have to worry about things either. And we don’t have to say anything, it’s just done before we even start to ask him. And that’s good! He was even like that through that summer tour, he had already figured us out I think, which is maybe scary (laughs). The truth is, when we came over here last summer, we wanted to bring our US guy who used to work with us for a while. But he didn’t know Europe, nor do we, even if we think we do. So we end up with ETJEN! From day one, when you have someone who’s been doing this as long as he has, knowing all the areas as well as he does, speaking lots of languages, it makes everything really smooth. So it was great to take him to South America, cause it was just that smooth. He had already a good relationship with the gun guys, it was just easy. And now, we were joking about that the other night, we told him that if we ever do a tour and ETJEN can’t do it, we’ll cancel our tour. That‘s where we are at with him right now, we’re lucky to have him.
Now, if he leaves the room, I’ll give you a second report, totally different, just kidding (laughs)!!
RAN– Thank you very much for this Caleb! A perfect end to this interview!