Managing Matters - A Chat With Dewey Evans
Derek “Dewey” Evans – stage manager, load out sheet artist, all-round cheerful cheeky presence, and Metallica crew stalwart – is one of the most vital and experienced crew veterans on WorldWired. He explains to Steffan Chirazi just how that stage gets up and down on the road.
Every tour needs some boisterous characters. The sort of people who will always find a slice of humor, a bit of camaraderie, a bright side of life even if it’s pitch black; the sort of person who can at once make light of tough situations whilst simultaneously helping make sure said-situations are dealt with properly. Derek “Dewey” Evans is one such man, and as such, it is not giving him his full due to simply call him Metallica’s stage manager. He is (along with Zach Harmon, who remains the reluctant-yet-undeniable stalwart “leader” of all things road) the man who pretty much has an answer for everything at ground zero. Along with his fellow stage-managing partner in crime, Mike Washer, Evans is a vital part of the working day on WorldWired, yet never lacks in either humor or sarcasm. He is exactly the type of guy you’d want in a moment of crisis – grin, laugh, bear it, and GTFO with what needs to be done. Throw pity parties either later or just directly into the trash – and it is why I cannot ever remember Evans instigating groans or grumbles beyond his (sometimes terrible) jokes.
Interviewing Dewey requires you to have agility as he jumps from place to place, and a fierce sense of unflappability when it comes to images of Mr. Evans running naked around traffic lights in the 50 states and beyond…that last bit wasn’t so easy!
Steffan Chirazi: Let’s first of all bring people through your road into this business. How did you get going? As a kid, what got you into this world?
Dewey Evans: Well, I’ve always liked music, you know? I play couple of instruments… [there is a quick look towards the peanut gallery].
SC: Don’t worry about them. These muppets aren’t gonna… actually, well [addressing Mike Washer, who is lurking for “support” or more likely, amusement] you may well get dragged in. This is not a spectator sport, you gotta get in!
Mike Washer: Dewey’s one of the finest people to observe. Gotta trust me. The fun’s on this side. It’s like an animal in the zoo.
DE: Well, I was working at a night club in Boston as a local guy, stage manager, whatever. We just did everything. One day, one of the local Boston bands kinda got big and was going on tour, so they asked me to go with them.
SC: Which one?
DE: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
SC: You were a young man at this point?
DE: Yes, this was a very long time ago. I think. I was still bald!
SC: Was it a full-on apprenticeship? You gotta pick up that shit over there, and a couple of pranks here and there?
DE: It wasn’t full-on. I mean, we were a bus and a trailer. There were eight guys in the band and four crew guys, so every now and then somebody would have to get up so somebody else could go to sleep, kind of a “shifting in the bus” thing. I basically took care of the drummer, hung the banner, and was sorta the stage manager even though those guys sorta stage managed themselves. I did three shows on the H.O.R.D.E. tour and then straight to Australia. I had never been there before, and I was like, “Huh, this is cool.”
SC: So there wasn’t any, “Let’s give the newbie a ride around the block?”
DE: Oh, no, no, no, no, no – yes! There was lots of that going on. Whenever we were on the tour bus I had my counterpart, the guy that did the guitars and basses, Dirty Matt. [The band] would give us money, we’d stop at a light and we’d get naked and run around the bus like in the Chinese fire drill!!! One time we actually found these chicks with a convertible and they were beeping the horn at us, so we just stripped down naked and jumped in the car. I’m pretty sure we could get arrested for that stuff these days.
SC: And this is all on the first couple of tours?
DE: Yeah, it was pretty insane and I kinda got, you know, addicted to it.
SC: Was it almost fraternal? Is there a pecking order? Was it a case of, “We’re gonna fucking pick on you for a while!”? And if that is the case, a couple of other nuggets of that nature would not be unappreciated.
DE: I knew the Bosstones because I’m from Boston. So yeah, they made you do some stupid stuff. They would always make us want to make the opening night fuck-up [for the support act – ED]. I don’t know if you remember the Amazing Royal Crowns? Me and Matt got naked, we put twelve-pack boxes on our head, lit ’em on fire and did a big sword fight thing going across the stage while they were playing. And their bass player fucked up! Yeah, they would make us do all kinds of stuff.
SC: This stuff just doesn’t happen anymore, does it?
DE: It’s a lot of nudity.
SC: But somewhere in amongst the nudity and fire fights and all this other business, you’re picking up a lot of knowledge, right? So which areas of the tour are you gravitated to being most interested in as you’re going along?
DE: I started out as a backline technician, so I was more of a drum/guitar/bass guy and then, you know, touring for the Bosstones I ended up with this other band called Expanding Man and I did everything. I did guitars, drums, bass. I drove the band. I was “that” guy. And then we opened up for Stone Temple Pilots for a while, I met this guy that was out on them, and from there I went straight to Eddie Money, that awesome guy. Have you guys met him? Because he’s been at a few of these shows.
SC: He’s a character.
DE: You know what? Still to this day, when I saw him, he walks up, he still remembers me. We had a solid year and a half riding on the bus together, and he actually was so cheap that…[Dewey recollects to explain more clearly]…I was the only one that was not from LA, so they would all fly home to LA but it was always too expensive to fly me to Boston. One time we were on the West Coast and instead of flying me home, I had to go to his house and hang all his Christmas lights!!! I was like, “Okay, but I’m not gonna stay at your house.” And so he put me up at the Sportsmen’s Lodge.
SC: Oh yeah!
DE: That was a good time, there were all his kids and it was crazy. I’m like, “Aren’t you rich? Can’t you hire somebody besides me to do this?!!”
SC: Don’t let the boys out here know that. You may end up being roped into hanging Christmas lights!
DE: I’d hang Kirks only because he lives in Hawaii!
SC: A very generous offer on your part. Back to WorldWired now, and one of the things in Denmark that fascinated me was this entire carpentry setup [there is a veritable woodshop backstage on WorldWired – ED]. You started at backline and I saw you in Denmark and there’s a wood shop. Build a bridge between these two things as your career’s gone on. How did that happen?
DE: Well, I was working with Britney Spears for a long time as her main backline person, and then they told me I couldn’t make any more money, but if I wanted to make more money I would have to be a carpenter. I grew up building houses anyway, so it’s kind of an easy transition, so I ended up being a carpenter for Britney and *NSYNC. And to be honest with you, when you’re being a backline guy, it’s okay but you kinda get stuck, whereas there’s more jobs being a carpenter than there is being a backline guy.
SC: Explain to people exactly what you build. I mean, I know you briefly told us if someone wants an extra set of steps that are an inch shorter than they were yesterday, you have to do that.
DE: Well, I mean you can build stairs, but a main focus of a set carpenter is that you’re an “erection specialist” and you basically just erect a stage every day, tear it down. And there are little projects like, “Hey, I need a set of stairs or whatever or whatever, just do it.”
SC: What’s the most insane thing that anyone has had you build over the years? Like within like a 48-hour period.
DE: Yeah, the Rolling Stones, just everything. It’s like, “I need 42 staircases.” In two hours! And I think it was [name removed as Dewey isn't quite sure – ED] but I can’t remember…they wanted me to build a staircase for her to get on top of the piano, I said I needed to send a runner out for some screws and they said they don’t pay for that.
SC: What? They wouldn’t pay for the screws for a staircase? What did they expect you to do?
DE: I don’t know. But I built it, and I just put it in a pile because I couldn’t put it together, so then she and her management showed up. It was such a long time ago. But they were like, “Hey, where’s that staircase?” And I go, “It’s right here. No-one will buy me any screws, so this is as far as I can go.”
DE: Then they bought me some screws, so that was good.
SC: That’s crazy. Let’s go back on the career path, so Eddie Money and then bigger tours, right? You just made connections, right? A lot of the job seems to be about being pretty social as well. You’ve got to connect with people, right?
DE: Exactly. If you do a good job, the other guy goes, “Hey, this job here, you want to come do this with me?” And you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I actually filled in for the Stone Temple Pilots, did two shows, but he [vocalist Scott Weiland] got busted for drug possession [in 1995 – ED] and I had to go home.
SC: So let’s switch gears and talk about the differences for you between dealing with a stadium and dealing with indoors. At what point are you brought into the staging discussions? Are you in the initial meetings? Or are you handed the edicts down, “This is what we’re doing, this is what you need to do”? Who do you communicate with on the design level?
DE: I don’t communicate with anybody on the design level; that’s way above everybody’s pay grade. But what they do is when they get the design done, they send it to TAIT Towers, and I’ll go to TAIT Towers and watch it come together and be like, “No, this is stupid. No, I don’t want to lift a 4000 lb. thing so let’s make ’em smaller.” That kinda stuff.
SC: So who do you work with at TAIT?
DE: For us it was Matt Hales. He was our basic TAIT liaison and he’s a good friend of mine. Like I said, we just go through it. And when he has questions he doesn’t have to email 50 people, he asks, “What do you think?”
SC: Right, so again it becomes a case of relationships and trust.
DE: Yeah, I can go in there [TAIT Towers] quite a bit and I know most of those fellas up there.
SC: I have to ask this question. During the working day you get in there, you take your hits, you have a joke, you get pranked, you take it on the chin and you fucking get on with it. Today, we have this generation known as “Millennials” who perhaps carry a reputation for not being able to roll “old-school” quite as much. Do you have a lot of that? Does that happen? Do you have to gently break such folk in so-to-speak?
DE: Yeah, you gotta break ’em in. Look, the older we get, the younger they keep coming and you just try to mold them into carrying the same work ethic. So if they see a 46-year-old man out there working his ass hard, to follow, help, and do similar.
SC: Do you see a lot of “crew kids” getting into production jobs? Is there a new generation being raised and folded into the crew world in the sense of a “trade,” like a carpenter’s son, that sort of vibe?
DE: Yeah, you see a little bit of ’em, but I’ll be honest with you, most of ’em don’t want to work hard. Now, on our crew here we have Neil, the father, and Benny, the son. And you know, Benny actually just turned 21 in May. “Technically” I guess he would be a Millennial, but his old man’s out here kicking his ass so he kinda grew up the “correct” way, so to say.
SC: When you need to get people on the crew, when people need to come on this crew and you need to recommend, how do you go about recommending? And how do you go and find people who can come and fit into this lifestyle?
DE: Well, either it might’ve been somebody that I worked with on a previous tour or I have lots of friends in this business and I’ll call them up, people that I trust their opinions on, and be like, “Hey, what do you think about this guy? I’m looking for a guy to do this, I need this kinda guy.” And then sometimes, you know, like when Mike Washer got his buddy in out here, he didn’t last too long.
MW: I did that as a favor to somebody else.
SC: So back to this tour and these guys, what are some of the bigger demands that you’ve had put on you on this tour? Like things that you’ve had to like step-up really quickly?
DE: I think for this one it was the… I don’t want to call it the “lateness,” but it was just the timeline. Because we just got this big stadium thing, got it up and running, got it going, and then it was like bam, massive arena show! It was crunch time. And a lot of times you have a little more time. Some people like to rehearse more. It was a lot of hard work transitioning from the stadium to the arena and—
SC: Based on the time factor because you couldn’t go and watch it at TAIT, right?
DE: I couldn’t go to TAIT, couldn’t go anywhere because we were on the road.
SC: But you went to Sweden first?
DE: Yeah, went to Malmö, Sweden, and then we just moved over across the river to Copenhagen for the first show.
SC: This would be the equivalent of flying by the seat of your pants, right?
DE: It’s hard work, it’s all that, but it was the hours. It was the time. There were a lot of long days. I just drink coffee, man, it’s all good.
SC: So it’s small hours, big patience, and flying by the seat of your pants. That’s what it’s been?
DE: Yeah, at the beginning. As you get going, you kind of learn the ins and outs of how you can do things better, more efficiently, and quicker. “Do we need to have more people to do this?” Stuff like that, and I think we’re doing a lot better.
MW: He’s got money to buy screws.
DE: Yeah, they buy me tons of screws and stuff.
SC: Which is actually a very important detail I would’ve forgotten to mention. It’s unbelievable but I like the fact you left a pile of fucking wood. That’s great. I like that a great deal…anyway, what’s the weirdest thing this band has had you make on a tour?
MW: Clown mouth.
DE: Yeah, the clown toilet was pretty fine. I think that’s still in Copenhagen. They make me do weird art things more than build things. I draw the load out sheet every night and put little cartoon guys. I remember years ago, Tony D. came up to me and was like, “Hey, how come you don’t put the band on the sheet?” I was like, “Well, I don’t want to get fired.” He goes, “You might want to put ’em on a sheet so you won’t get fired!” And I was like, “Oh, they read these things?”
SC: And you’ve got a binder of those, right?
DE: Yeah, you made them [on the Death Magnetic tour, all the load out sheets were collected and made into a book for the touring party – ED]! I only have two left. Gave ’em out to everybody; they were a big hit. Actually at TAIT Towers they scanned it, re-scanned your book and they made wallpaper out of it and did one of the men’s rooms at the shop which was pretty cool. You sit there and get something to read.
SC: It’s safe to say that you’re not gonna last on this tour and with this band without a solid sense of humor, right?
DE: It helps. I mean let’s be honest. For some reason everybody wants my job… except Brett [Murray – video master and current butt of Dewey’s humor]. He’s lazy. He’s got a bit of the “Millennial” and I don’t like that!!!!
SC: Truth be told – and be honest – on any tour there’s different areas. And over the years, you guys must’ve all looked at us [who travel in the band party] and thought, “What a bunch of fucking ponces!” But over the years do you feel that you see, “Well, they have their hours they put in doing that and we have ours,” and you kinda see where everyone’s coming from?
DE: Oh, absolutely! I would hate to have to deal with the band after load out.
SC: Yeah. Everyone’s got their duties.
DE: A friend of mine told me years ago, “You always have to understand that this business is 10% talent and 90% personality. You could be the greatest guitar tech in the world, but if you’re an asshole, nobody fucking wants to ride with you on your goddamn bus. Whereas if you can at least work hard, be taught something, and you’re fun to be around, those are the type of people that you would rather have out with you than an asshole.” Even though I’m kind of an asshole!!!!! But he was right! I would say, in this day and age with all the new technology and what-not, it’s a little more talent than 10%, but you get what I’m talking about.