Monday
Sep152014

PRE-TOUR 1

As I write this journal entry I have approximately 15 days until I leave for the 2014 Uglyhead Fall US Tour. I feel compelled to make a couple of journal entries before I take off in order to explain why I am touring, also to give you an idea of what goes into tour planning.

In order to explain the purpose of the tour you must know one basic thing: I am a financially poor person. Uglyhead albums and tours only happen at the speed in which I acquire money to make them happen.  I need certain expensive items in order to make albums and to tour so it takes me a long time to work for those items and then longer to make a song or prepare for a show.  It took roughly 3 years to record The Garden and I put almost every penny I earned into it.  Once it was done I did not have enough money to tour or to survive living in the ultra expensive San Francisco.

The Garden was released in late 2012 and I did not have enough money to tour and support the album. It sucks to work on something for so long and have a release with no tour.
 

...so I moved back to Washington State and live in a garage.  I took a seasonal job working at a beach, scooping ice cream and selling hot dogs over the summer to survive.  I am currently in a unique position where I have cheap enough housing that I can save up money. Also, I have a job with no long term commitments.  It puts me in the perfect position to fuck my life over again and attempt another US tour!  The odds are against me completing this tour but if I even have the slightest possibility of getting to tour for The Garden, I have to take it.  

...even if it means I can only afford to go out alone.

 

Why are the odds against me? Well for starters I bought a junky '91 Subaru Legacy wagon for $1000.  It runs and I put new tires and did some minor work to it.  I basically need $2300 to pay for gas and insurance to make it around the US.  The $2300 does not count for food or lodging.  It is gas and insurance only.

...so with that budget I only get to eat if I make money at a show and I only get to have lodging if someone lets me crash on their floor.  I am currently only at $1400 (due to spending some money making sure my car doesn't fail me) but anticipate getting close to $2300 within the 15 days I have left. 

I will most likely leave with $2000 to $2100 which means I need to make the difference by making money at shows or I will get stranded somewhere and this tour will have another shitty ending.

Secondly, I cannot afford to bring an entire band with me so I am booking a one man show.  It has proven difficult to gain interest in booking a one man electronic act who is not an EDM DJ.  So I don't have a ton of shows to make money off of. There are a lot of holes in my tour dates where I will just be sleeping in my car or being a homeless bum.

Thirdly, I don't have a budget for new merchandise.  I have a few shirts and some CD's and pins and patches to sell. There is no money in the budget to make new T-shirts to sell.  The less merchandise I have, the less the maximum amount of money I can make from each show.

 

All of these things are weighing down on me as the tour approaches and giving me terrible anxiety.  But when it comes down to it, my options are: live in a garage and hope I get a terrible minumum wage job

or

go out on the road and take a chance at surviving a tour to promote an album.

I am probably better off not doing this but if I didn't,  you wouldn't have another tour journal to read...

 

Anyways,  I am going to do a one man show with a 30 minute set and sequenced light show. I am bringing the following items:

 

2x dynamic microphones
1 Novation Ultra Nova
2 Laptops (one for backup)
2 Native Instruments audio interface (one for backup)
1 Custom stratocaster (guitar)
1 Fender american Stratocaster (backup guitar)
1 DMXis breakout box for lighting controll
1 Line 6 Pod X3 Live
1 Mackie 12 Channel Mixer
2 direct boxes
1 15" powered Peavey Wedge Monitor
1 TC Helicon Voice Live Play pedal
7 flight cases
1 Ultimate 2 tier keyboard stand
7 DMX LED lights
assorted cables
1 box of Uglyhead Merchandise
a backpack full of clothes
1 pillow
1 sleeping bag
1 tent
1 bag of Craisins (emergency food)
bottled water 
travel toothbrush

I am packing all that into a car and heading across the country not knowing if I will ever make it back to Washington.
Today I mapped out the first 26 days of the tour.  Somehow compiling every day into a list makes the tour seem terrifying.  I can't view it as one day at time.  It is one horrific lump mass.
 

 I have spent the entire summer working my ass off for this tour and  I know I am going to go. Even if I shouldn't.

...and that is what is scaring me the most.

Saturday
Sep202014

PRE-TOUR 2

10 days until the tour starts

I enjoy reading first hand accounts of tours.  I remember listening to the Henry Rollins "Get in the Van" book on tape at a young age and being fascinated.  I remember reading the John Lydon autobiography Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs in my teens and being amazed.  I even found the Keith Richards autobiography Life interesting and I am not much of a fan of the Rolling Stones.

I watch biographical movies of various musicians and they all seem to have this story arc of the musician overcoming some sort poverty in their youth, meeting people who discover their talent and help them to fame. The musician goes on tour and becomes a huge fucking asshole and then tragically dies or gets old and makes ammends with the people that helped them in the begining...

While all of these biographies are presented as non-fiction/based-on-actual-events I feel like there is a lot left out in order to create some sort of fantastical element.  I sometimes feel like these books and movies are supposed to make the audience feel like anybody could be a famous musician and they too can go on tour and be huge fucking assholes and do tons of coke and die or somehow make ammends with all the people they fucked over when they are older because they are so great and have made so many great songs.  I also feel there is an entire sustainable market for musical instruments based entirely off of people who watch/read these things similar to the market for Disney toys that children can play with after they see the newest Disney flick.  

Why do I bring this up on my tour journal? I feel like I need to write about the sorts of things that get left out.  I brought up Martin Atkin's Tour:Smart in a previous journal, which presents a more realistic view of touring. I still feel like a lot of things just aren't discussed in it.  I don't feel like a lot of information is actually shared about the excruciating process of booking shows and the logistics of setting up a DIY tour.  No one has ever told me how to do it. I have friends who tour frequently and they never discuss this process.  Maybe someone will read this and tell me I am doing it all wrong and I can finally figure out how to not have a terrible time booking shows.

I hate booking shows. It fucking sucks.

I hate the process of trying to convince someone to let you play at their venue. It is basically like applying for a job but you are entirely judged on how cool you are and how many people like you.

Booking a tour is like doing hundreds of job interviews over the course of 3 to 6 months.  

A long time ago you had to create a physical press kit which was basically a folder with a bio of your band, press quotes and pictures. You then had to drop these press kits off at clubs or mail them, wait two weeks and call the club and speak to the booking guy about getting a show.  Once social networking became accessible to everyone you had to create an "Electronic Press Kit."  Companies like Sonicbids would charge you to host an "Electronic Press Kit" and you could submit them to different venues and that sucked but it was easier and cheaper than creating a physical press kit and sending them out. You could just write an email to the club trying to convince them to let you play there and link straight to your EPK (electronic press kit).

EPK's made it way easier for bands to flood bookers with tons of promotional bullshit and lies about how many fans they have in every city and book shows that suck and make everyone sad.  Luckily, press kits got labeled as "folder rock" and the process of submitting press kits and EPK's is typically looked down upon by most bookers who know what is going on with music. And what is going on with music is that touring bands don't bring in people.  People booking DIY tours aren't going to draw 50+ in every city and everyone can usually see through the bullshit and lies contained in press kits.  Local bands will draw.  So now people just send short emails with links to their music and a lineup with compatible locals (who people will actually come out and see) or a short email with links to their music and a query about finding compatible locals.  

Occasionally I encounter clubs who are still into the old game of lying about your huge draw in their city (that you have never played before) and demand you supply them with all this folder rock bullshit about how great you are.  Its super frustrating that everyone doesn't know that most touring bands aren't going to bring in anyone.  Its a trade off, you book one touring band and two locals. Maybe someday you are that local band that brings in a crowd to watch a compatible touring band. Maybe I am missing something but its really a courtesy for smaller venues to book someone from out of town.

I also encounter local bands that think there is money to be made from these shows and demand a minimum guarantee.  From me, the touring band.  It's insane!  For this tour I had a Friday booked at a nice venue but the booker for the venue didn't know of any compatible locals.  I set off with the task of finding locals to play with and asked approximately 12 bands and got a lot of No's and a lot of people not even returning my email.  I finally found a band who said they could be available but they would need a guaranteed minimum to play the show and wanted to discuss "gratuity" with me...

Fuck OFF!!!

At this point I would literally have to pay locals to play a show so I could play.  Maybe its because I grew up listening to punk music and feel like there should be some level of community and ethics amongst bands, that I am shocked by this.  I would pretty much be the local act for any touring band if the club was decent and it was a friday night and not expect anyone to pay me (assuming my share goes to the touring band who is struggling on the road).  

Anyways I couldn't find a single band to play the show and then emailed the booking agent asking for help finding people.  At which point he decided to also ignore my emails and not respond.  That show is apparently not happening anymore but I never even received an email confirming that the show is canceled.  The drawn out confusion caused by the booker confirming the show and then not emailing me caused it to be too late to book anywhere else and as a result I have a day on my tour schedule where I have no show and no hope of getting on a show.  

I could go on all day about how confusing and shitty booking is but I would rather explain my process:

First I plan a route and then I take a day and do research on every venue in each city on that route and calculate appropriate drive times.  My goal is to have a show every day along the route with no drive time being over 5 hours (I am alone and can't switch drivers so short drives are necessary to my survival).  Once I find appropriate venues I send basically this email but taylored for each venue to be more personable:

Hi,
 I am currently booking a US tour for my music project Uglyhead. I am trying to book a show in your area on October 26th. I am doing a one man electronic show with a 30 minute set with sequenced light show. I travel with my own monitoring system and just need a PA/sound system to plug into. The music is experimental and a bit dark and noisy, and compatible with most other electronic or rock bands with keyboards. For more info and audio please checkout http://www.uglyhead.org/bio
I am on a label http://www.automationrecords.com that can help with tour promotion and I can send full color flyers out ahead of time. If you don't feel Uglyhead is a good fit, any suggestions for places to play or bands to contact close by would be VERY appreciated. 
Thanks,
Jake Alejo

I then receive one of three responses that get filed into the following folders:
Tour Yes's- This folder contains emails of people that want to work on putting together a show
Tour No's - This folder contains all the clubs that took the time to say the don't have the date available that I need. This helps me to not re-email clubs and piss people off. 
Tour Helpers - This folder contains people who can't fill the date but give me lists of suggestions for venues to try and compatible bands to check out.   

 

I move on to a new location and then send more emails until my eyes feel like they will pop and then I go to sleep.  The next day I go through my folders and follow up and then move onto another location and keep sending out emails.  I have sent out hundreds of emails for this tour every day since late June until mid September and could only score about 23 shows.  Some of the shows I am still trying to finalize as I type this. In fact I should probably be working on that right now...

Sometimes I get clubs who will offer shows and then just not follow up at all.  I had a show in Chicago where the booker made me wait for details about the show. After following up a few times and the booker insisting he will give me details, I check their calendar and Uglyhead is not on it for the date.  When I asked about it he no longer returned my emails.  Luckily I was able to reschedule that show but similar situations happened in cities where I waited so long to get dicked over I was not able to book at another venue.  Super Frustrating!

Booking a one man show is difficult.  A lot of people aren't into it.  I have had to reroute a couple of times and have established some clear zones where absolutely no one will book uglyhead.
 

I have emailed every club and DIY venue in the red areas and can't get a show.  It has left me with two sets of 5 nights on the tour where I have nothing to do, nowhere to stay and no possibility of making any money to help with tour costs.   I think I have the first set of 5 nights figured out but the second set I have no idea what I am going to do.  I am just going to sleep in my car or something for a week.  I won't have any money or friends on my path to the next shows.  Its going to make this tour very difficult.  

 

Before every tour I get intense waves of immense fear.  I think about all the variables and how many things can go wrong. I question my motives and life choices and I have trouble breathing when I think about it too long.  I have to ignore my brains base function of self preservation.  I usually have a blast but the period before leaving I am constantly teetering on the border of having an anxiety attack.  What happens if I break down in the middle of nowhere? What will happen if my gear malfunctions or I accidentally leave it behind? What if I get hurt?  What if I die? I don't really have answers to those questions.  Its useless to think about it, but I can't help it. 

I don't usually see these subjects covered in autobiographies or films about musicians.  They seem to always have a lot of support and touring is fun and easy and successful...
If anybody has a different experience with booking tours that is easier than spending months sending out hundreds of emails and dealing with really unethical people, I really want to know about it.  My method could use a revision.  

 

...Also not all booking is terrible.  There are some venues and bands that really have their shit together and don't have ridiculous expectations.  Its so great to find those people and usually makes all the bad stuff worth it.  I think a lot of people put business before art (or heavily integrate business into their art) which makes the art less interesting and subsequently less profitable.  You have to create something interesting before people will put any sort of monetary value to it.  Once art has a monetary value it is pretty much dead anyways...

Shouldn't venues be more interested in creating a community space where people interested in music can find new music instead of shutting new music out?  Do people even like music or do they just care about how famous the band/artist is making the music?  I am confusing myself and it is getting late...

 I don't know how to end this journal entry.

 

Saturday
Sep272014

Pre-Tour 3

3 days until tour starts.

About one month ago I went swimming and it felt like the water in my left ear would not come out. Ever since them I have had some pain in my left ear and have experienced some dizziness.  I assumed I had an ear infection and my never-ending complaining about this possibility prompted my girlfriend to insist on taking me to a clinic before I go on tour. We visit a clinic in a drug store and find out that I don’t have an ear infection.  Apparently my attempts at getting the water out of my left ear has caused the earwax in that ear to compact and I now basically have a rock in my ear made out of earwax.  I am prescribed some ear drops that will help with the pain and soften the earwax.  I am to put two drops in every 4 hours for 3 days and then try to wash my ear out or come back and have them try to remove the earwax rock. Each visit costs $65.  I will hope for the best because I will not be going back.

Another development that will be affecting tour is that my cigarette lighter has broken in my car and I cannot use it to charge electronic devices such as phones or GPS.  I purchased a solar charger off of ebay and am hoping it will aid in charging my phone so I can use the GPS on it to find my next destination.  We will see what happens…

At this point I have sent out Uglyhead 2014 tour posters out to all the Venues I have booked.  I am hoping they all get hung up and there are no cancelations.  I have some extra posters that I will be giving away for free on tour.  There are still a couple of shows that need some work that I will just have to attend to on the road.

I am done being scared of going out by myself and am getting excited to go.  I have added the rule of NO COMPLAINING to my short list of touring rules (which are: NO TACO BELL and DON’T LET GAS METER GET BELOW ¼ tank).  I am still not financially able to make the entire trip but I am just going to go and see what happens.   I brought back the Donation button to uglyhead.org so if anybody wants to buy me a sandwich/burrito/gas while I am out on the road, you can donate through paypal.  It would be really helpful and appreciated AND I will send you a postcard from where ever I am at.

Wednesday
Oct012014

Day 1

I am speeding down the I-90 freeway headed East when I decide I should fill my gas tank and check my tire pressure.  I pull off in North Bend, WA and pay WAY too much for gas. I check my tires and add a little bit of air.  I check my phone and notice I have a text from Jeremiah Smith (automation records) reminding me to stop by and pick up a box of extra discs for the tour before I head out. I realize I left my fog machine juice at home as well as a book of stamps that I intended to use for postcards.  It is day 1 and I am already making mistakes.

Mount Si imposingly looms over me as I debate whether I should turn around and retrieve the items.  My need to flee Western Washington takes precedent  and  I text message Jeremiah back to let him know I am not coming.  I point my car towards the onramp and step on the gas.

Loading

To the East!

View on Instagram

 

 

I once had a dream I got in a car and just drove East.  In the dream I eventually reached Mount Rushmore and the sensation of fulfillment was overwhelming enough to last into my waking day and burn the dream into my memory.  My natural inclination is to escape South.  Every time I leave I never think about going any other direction but South.  After experiencing that dream I told myself I would someday just get in a car and drive East to Mount Rushmore.

The lush, green hills of Western Washington eventually turn into dry, flat desert tans and I reach the Wild Horse Monument overlooking the Columbia River just outside of Spokane.  I park and climb a rocky hill overtaking a tourist who appeared to be having trouble with the climb.  Once at the top I take some pictures and take in the expansive view.  The tourist finally makes it to the top and asks me to take pictures of him by the horse statues and I fulfill his request.

 

Loading

Uglyhead Tour starts today! #uglytour14. Spokane, WA tonight. Visit uglyhead.org for schedule

View on Instagram

 

I hike back down to my car and try out the solar panel charger with my phone and it appears to be working.  Eventually the severe winds drive me back in to my car and I head into Spokane.

I reach the venue Baby Bar and discover it is one half of a whole business.  The second half is called “Neato Burrito.”  The venue is packed for a poetry reading and I can barely get in.  I eventually get back to the bar and meet the bar tender who lets me unload my gear into a back room.   He informs me that once the poetry reading is getting over with I need to assemble all my stuff on the sidewalk and wait for the venue to clear out before I bring it in.   He also informs me that I get a free burrito.  I go back to the Neato Burrito section and acquire one of the best burritos I have had in Washington State.

I eventually meet the opening act who is a guy named Austin who is doing an electronic set with a couple of laptops and an MPC style controller.  We play rock, scissor, paper to see who goes first and he wins.  He plays a long set that is good but just long, and eventually all but 3 people leave.  I can’t complain.  I am getting a free burrito.  I am happy.  He can play as long as he wants.

I play my set and more people show up.  Whilst doing the set I look up and people have strange looks on their faces that register as disgust or annoyance with me.  It sparks a wave of insecurity and I eventually finish my 28 minute set.

 

Once the set ends I am quick to tear down my merch table and pack up all my stuff and get the hell out of Spokane hanging my head in shame.  While I am loading up my car I am approached by people who wanted to buy merch.  I surprisingly sell some merch and continue to pack up my gear and am approached by the person who made my burrito and am offered a place to stay for the night if I hang out until they close.  I am surprised and excited because I thought things went horribly but people are telling me they liked my set and I have a place to stay.

Just when I think things can’t get any better I get a second burrito and get paid for performing.  MAJOR success for the first show on the tour!

I hang around and meet the owner and the other employees of Baby Bar/Neato Burrito and they are all really nice people.  I highly recommend the place if you are in Spokane, WA.

I finally get to sleep on a couch next to a human skull at approximately 6:00 AM and end a great first night on the road.

 

Loading

#skulls #uglytour14

View on Instagram

 

Thursday
Oct022014

Day 2

Day 2

I wake up at approximately 9:00 AM and am able to take a shower and change my clothes before I head out at 11:00 AM.  Not much sleep but I feel rested.  

I leave Spokane and pass through Northern Idaho making  good time to Missoula, MT. The landscape of Western Montana is boring and I find no reason to stop along the way. I have roughly 4 hours to kill once I arrive at my destination so I attempt to find a hot spring (which Missoula is apparently famous for).

I pass through Missoula and down a long highway that has “Moose XING” stenciled on it every few miles.  The road weaves through a fire damaged forest and strange rock formations.  I eventually find Lolo Hot Springs and pull into a huge, pot-hole laden, dirt parking lot.  Aside from a strange dog aimlessly wandering the parking lot, I see no signs of life.

There is a small building with a porch where one would gain access to the gated hot spring pools.  I step inside and there is no attendant.  I hear the ambient sounds of the wind blowing and water dripping as I peruse the price list for the pass.  I debate whether I should forgo the cost of admission and enter the hot springs or wait until an attendant shows up.

After careful consideration I decide to wait and have a seat on the porch.  More dogs have entered the vast, muddy parking lot and I watch them as they sniff about.  One of the dogs walks towards me and I say “hello” but it completely ignores me and walks past the porch.

30 minutes later a lady crosses the highway and slowly walks across the parking lot and to the building.
She asks: “Do you need something from me?”  I tell her I would like to purchase a pass to use the Hot Springs.  She takes my 7 dollars and leaves the building, slowly walking across the parking lot and back across the highway.

I enter the shower room and it is in a state of disrepair.  The paint is peeling, only one shower works and there is nowhere to leave my clothes once I have changed into a bathing suit.  After some cautious consideration I  just leave my clothes on an old wooden bench in the shower room.  I don’t really have to worry about them being stolen as I am the only one there.  The isolation and dilapidated ambiance gives me bad vibes.

I first head to the outdoor pool.  It is a huge swimming pool where the hot spring water is poured into.  I float on my back and watch uneasily as the clouds take undesirable forms.  A deformed dragon collides with a crab that contains too many legs.  Horrified faces melt and break apart…

I move to the indoor pool which smells like farts and has strange floating things in it. There is a large spider floating on the surface of the water.  I try to save it but it ends up drowning a horrible hot death and sucked down a drain.  I feel uneasy but can’t deny that the warm spring water is very soothing.  The lack of sleep catches up with me and I feel like I might pass out when a freckled elderly man appear from the doorway and sits in down across from me in the pool.  He asks where I am from and I tell him.  I ask him where he is from and he tells me that he is from Eastern Missoula but he broke down on the highway in the late 70’s, walked here and never left.  I start feeling faint from the immense heat, excuse myself and get out of the pool. I take a cold shower, change back into my clothes and leave not sure if I had that conversation or if it was a dream. 

I show up at the venue and it is huge!  I find out that there is no local band on the bill and realize that the show is doomed.  The first band is from Northern California and they play for over 90 minutes.  No one who came to the show is still there by the time their set is done.  It is agonizingly inconsiderate to the other bands at the show as well as the audience.  In my opinion you should only be playing a set over 30 minutes is if you are headlining and you actually have fans.  This band just pissed off everyone and was basically the real life equivalent of Blues Hammer from the Ghost world movie.  It really fucked up the show.

Their long set means that the other bands have to cut their set short.  I pretty much play to an audience of the 3rd band Vibragun and I can sense that they just want to play and get the night over with.  I play three songs and end my set at about  14 minutes.  Vibragun is thankful.  They play and I listen as I am prepping my equipment to be packed into my car.  The night is finally over and no one is getting paid.

I pack my car and start it.  The car does something strange but straightens itself out and I drive into the night.  I almost run out of gas but manage to find a gas station in the middle of nowhere across the street from a livestock farm decorated with horrifying cow skulls with deformed, twisted horns.  I eventually pull into a rest stop and attempt to sleep.  The weather is freezing  so I wrap myself up in a coat and keep nodding off for a few seconds before shivering myself awake until the sun comes up.