I'm Kim Hawes, tour manager for bands like Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Rush and Hawkwind for decades. Ask me anything!
I spent years sleeping underneath Lemmy from Motorhead… on a tour bus. I feuded with the members of Black Sabbath, tripped mushrooms on stage with Hawkwind, faced down the Hells Angels and escalated band prank wars. I threw Madonna off stage, turned down an invite from Nelson Mandela (big regret), and dealt with the aftermath of Chumbawamba drenching John Prescott.
Through hard drinking and hard times, I worked hard, refusing to conform to others’ expectations. You maybe have some expectations yourself, hearing ‘Kim Hawes, tour manager’ – let me know if my picture matches them! I blazed a trail through the male-dominated music industry, carving out a place for women in a largely man’s world, taking no crap and no prisoners while getting results other tour managers only dreamed of.
This is your chance to ask about antics on the road, the nitty gritty of the music business from selling merch to taking care of the money and hear fresh stories about the famous names you think you know. Or ask me about the writing and publishing process of my new book, Lipstick and Leather! Can’t wait to hear what you’ve got for me, Ask Me Anything!
EDIT: so many great questions guys, thanks for being here with me this evening! I've answered as many as I can for now but if you want to keep sending them in, I'll try and drop back in a couple of days and answer a few more. If you can't wait that long, the book is out now ;) It's been fun!
Proof: Here's my proof!
On a personal note, I think it's bullshit just like you. Some bands hate it, some bands use it to their advantage. Personally I think music needs to get back to its roots and be more open to all.
You’re a legend, Kim! OMG!
Question: how did Motörhead end up on an episode of The Young Ones, and what did they think about it?
Afraid I don't know how - I managed their tours specifically. I do know they loved it! They talked about it afterwards and like you, remembered it for years after so it must have been enjoyable for them. Besides, Lemmy never did anything he didn't want to!
In the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage, Gene Simmons of KISS and others bring up how low-key Rush was as a band on tour, not really buying into the 'rock star lifestyle' at all and preferring to stay in their rooms reading rather than partying. Obviously if you're managing a band on tour, it's got to feel nice knowing that the potential for chaos is pretty minimal, but would you or others involved ever feel like this detracted from the experience at all? Is your time on the job more interesting and fulfilling in ways you appreciate when it's chaotic and entertaining, or does that just end up being exhausting, even for a 20-something in the industry?
First of all - yes, Rush were quiet. Except for one night when Geddy Lee, Skip (roadie) and myself ended up so drunk I got to my room but only managed to get my key in the door before I passed out in the hallway. Don't know where Skip ended up but Geddy ended up in the elevator, going up and down the floors all night!
In terms of the job question: maybe because of my 10 years with Motorhead - where I started on merch selling and went up to tour manager so it was my first managing experience - after that I always got the chaotic bands on the grounds that I could handle it! I thrived on the chaos. There was never a dull moment.
What is the most "This is Spinal Tap" event that has happened on tour?
That's a very long story but it ends with a Swedish promoter who had displeased Motorhead being tied naked to the Bomber lighting rig, covered in cream cheese.
Can we hear the full story 🧐
My publisher says no, sorry guys :( It's in the book though!
Where in the book can we read about this"
p89, Lipstick and Leather - published just last week!
How does the purchasing of illicit drugs work on the road? Is there a network of dealers just for the big time entertainers? Or is it fans?
A member of Badfinger once asked me if I had any cannabis, and the fact that I didn't really broke my heart.
I don't want to get anyone into trouble but I'll talk about the original Motorhead line up because none of them are still with us. They took their own chemistry lab on tour with them! It was two guys (who'd been in the SAS!) came on tour to produce the supplies and ensure it never ran out.
There's a fun story from a Rush gig in about 82. The gig was totally sold out and this guy was mad keen to get in so he sent the merchandise people a matchbox full of all these different pills as a bribe. Of course none of us were nuts enough to take them. They were beautiful colours though!
I have to say, I've never been asked for cannabis myself. Plenty of other things though ;)
I miss Lemmy.
Me too. Always.
Reminds me of Zep bringing their own "doctor" on tour.
Hell, that could be where they got the idea!
How is your hearing? Any pro recommendations about hearing protection for concert attendees?
I'm glad this is written down and not being spoken to me ;)
Nobody really thought about ear protection in those days. There was basically no health and safety of any kind. There weren't even harnesses for lighting riggers! These days protecting your hearing is definitely a good move - you don't want to damage the very equipment that lets you enjoy the music.
I'm not Kim, but I have some experience here.
I'm a big fan of Etymotic earplugs, like these: https://www.etymotic.com/passive-hearing-protection/
I've also heard good things about Eargasm earplugs but have no experience with them.
Thanks for this - I don't have any recs but really advise taking care of your hearing.
Is Rush as cool as I hope they are?
They absolutely are! I was with them on my first tour in Europe - I was a young lass, only 19, very new to the business. I was selling merchandise that tour, and didn't have money to spend on the road. I was flat broke. (Turns out I was entitles to expenses but no one said!) Rush though made sure I had a meal every day and a place to sleep when there were days off as the girl I was working with used to go off places without and leave me stuck. I was one of the least important people on the tour and the band personally made sure I was alright. Lovely people!!
What band did you end up enjoying working with, despite not looking forward to it initially?
Has to be Motorhead - because when I first met them, they scared the crap out of me! I was really young and hadn't really come across the heavy metal scene. Their appearances and gruff voices scared me. Also Lemmy pranked me with a straight jacket the first time I met him. But I came to love them. By the end of the ten years, we were family.
Was Lemmy (PBUH) really as decent a human being as he’s made out to be?
Yes. He really was.
Why did you turn down an invite from Nelson Mandela?
I was hoping someone would ask me this one! Of course the invitation wasn't for me, it was for the band I was managing at the time, Credit to the Nation. They were being asked to play for him and meet him too. They felt they were too busy, and of course it was my job to reply. I think being young at the time they didn't really understand the significance. Now though, Matty regrets it deeply and wishes he'd made the most of the opportunities he had.
What brought you to this career?
Any professional regrets?
Is Ozzy Osbourne the gentleman he is made out to be?
Congratulations on your book!
First, thanks for the congratulations! Really excited about the book which was a lot of work and a labour of love. As for the career: I was just sort of in the right place at the right time. I always loved music and going to gigs, and it's a long story (in the book, can't blame a girl for plugging) but when this particular band was down a merch seller, I was there and had cash handling experience. What can I say, they were desperate. I did well that tour and it all grew from there!
Unfortunately I never met Ozzy: I was with Black Sabbath later when Ronnie James Dio was the front man. I guess you could call never meeting Ozzy himself a professional regret! Thanks for all the questions :)
Please tell us anything you care to about Ronnie. He is dearly missed in the metal world.
Ronnie was always very polite and gentlemanly. He loved his wife dearly, she always came with him on tours and you could see how much that meant to him. When I first met the band, selling their shirts, Ronnie, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler all came through the doors at Portsmouth Town Hall. I didn't know who they were and I asked for their backstage passes. They laughed at me. I still threw them out of the building. Ronnie was the only one who saw the funny side after!
Craziest thing you've witnessed on tour?
Honestly you sort of lose a sense of what is 'crazy' at a certain point. But to hit a few highlights: the day at a service station in Italy when these guys were being annoying so the truck driver ran over their car. The day Chumbawamba said they had some people for the guest list and it was 200+ all at the front gate with no warning! The venue in Miami that was clearly a money-laundering front. You got to the pranks and the drugs and that so it was more this side of things that kept surprising me.
I'm a huge Chumbawamba fan (more a fan of their political ideology), but I would love to hear some of the good stories about how they promoted anarchy on tour. They seem like really good people just generally.
I found them to be great people too. They had both crazy moments - like Dunstan methodically throwing every Gideon bible in this hotel in Italy out of the windows - and then band meetings where they'd review worthy causes and make donations. Very socially conscious, always.
Do you ever get to a point where the money and fame aren't worth the energy you're putting in? How do you power through?
As for the money, of course it was nice ;) I loved that money was no object when it came to hotels, travel plans etc. The money was always there thanks to the record labels. Sometimes we went to places so poor I felt sick at how much money we had on us, but I always remembered that it wasn't actually mine. As for fame, I was never famous myself and I liked that, being behind the scenes. I did see some young talented people in the limelight self-destruct. I guess everyone has to find their own way of getting through.
Any tricks to keeping bands sober and on time enough for shows / events?
Oh, great question! And yeah, there is. I always carried a tube of those fizzy vit C tablets, used to be called Redoxin (is it Berocca now?). It was probably a placebo effect but it always seemed to straighten out whoever I gave it to!
The other thing to do is just keep them away from it until after the show. Lemmy loved his drugs but he never let it ruin a performance and if anyone else did, he'd be furious. Most bands feel that way if I'm honest. They might have their vices but they respect the music - and their fans!
Do you have a favorite "pinch me" moment? Like, a moment where you just felt extremely lucky to have the job you had.
Two stand out. One was a cab driver in London, at about midnight, early on. He asked the usual question 'what do you do' and I told him. He was amazed and said how lucky I was - I know that's really small but it stayed with me, I really stopped for a moment to appreciate my good fortune that night. Second, I was on tour with Concrete Blonde and Johnette was asked to sing the (US) national anthem at a basketball tournament. It was my job to get her there and being there with her, seeing and hearing that, just amazing.
That’s so cool you toured with Concrete Blonde! She has such a powerful voice
Such a deep, amazing voice. Sometimes even now hearing her sing makes me want to cry.
I would like to hear, what you have to say about Ian Lemmy Kilmister? Was he that booze & drugs fueled gentleman as he is always depicted?
Yes, he loved booze and drugs, and yes he was a gentleman. Always.
A fond memory is when I got up one morning on the tour bus and went into the back, where the kitchen was. Lemmy was there, standing in his black T-shirt, underpants and his cowboy boots. He asked if I was hungry then made me a plate of cheese and crackers. The man loved cheese!
What's the best piece of memorabilia you have?
Ooooh, I'd have to say a pair of bermuda shorts from a Rolling Stones tour that was only given to the riggers (from whom I, um, borrowed this one). I've got a set still in the original packaging.
How is it you can list that you were tour manager for Motorhead, Black Sabbath, and Rush...and the question I want to ask is about Madonna?!?! lol
No no, don't answer that one, hopefully it is in the book.
Life on the road is brutal. Being in a band is even worse. But attempting to manage said band while on the road? I can't even fathom.
So my actual question: what were some of those golden-moments? One that stands out in your mind. When the chaos has subsided, and you are able to collect yourself, and know this...this is what I was meant to do.
That is something I'd really like to know.
Thanks for that - and yes, the Madonna story is in the book!
Here's a golden moment for me. Early on at one of my merch-selling jobs, the tour manager asked me if I liked selling shirts and I said, yes - but I want your job. He laughed and literally said to me, no girl could do this job.
When I became the tour manager for Motorhead - with full support from Lemmy and the rest of the band - I always remembered that with a little smirk.
What logistics does it take to get a show ready? How many people in what trades, trucks, buses? How do all these people eat/sleep on the road?
Caveat that I've been out of touring since 2013 so things have likely changed. BUT it always depends on who the band is and how many people they can afford to take on the road. I routinely remember 75 crew members. That would be roadies - all kinds of different niche jobs there, riggers, carpenters, wardrobe, make up artists, hairdressers. Then the merch sellers, bodyguards, sound and lighting engineers... I could go on but I'll finish with sometimes, caterers. A tour, like an army, marches on its stomach.
I've had many trades (see above re: Motorhead's chemists!) but the oddest apart from this was a dentist for a certain rock star frightened that their new caps might fall out!
As for sleeping, often the answer was, what sleep? When you did, it was usually on a tour bus - big tours have fleets of these things - but on a really good night you'd get the Presidential Suite of a hotel you could never afford in real life.
Did you ever hear a band working on a new song and knew instantly it would be a hit, even when it was really early in its inception, if so, which one?
It wasn't that common with all bands to write on tour, but Johnette Napolitano was always writing and she'd sometimes have me hire studios in the late night after gigs to try out new stuff. I'd struggle to remember particular songs and at what stages I first heard them though.
On a scale from college frat party to Miami Vice, how much drug abuse happened on an average tour?
Never had an average tour, but I did see a lot of Miami Vice.
How has the experience for touring bands changed over the span of your career?
Great question - a lot of big changes. Biggest is probably communication. When I first started out, a tour manager's job was just that, I was in charge, but as mobiles and emails became popular, there was less autonomy and the label would take a direct hand in things. From the bands' POV, things can be changed more easily - dates added, interviews planned. And I think it's created this culture where more people are doing it for the money and/or fame rather than the music.
What are some of your best Lemmy memories?
Early in working with him, I could never understand how he could stay awake for so long. I was so much younger than him and couldn't understand why I needed more sleep than he did... until later on of course. I'd get into my tour bunk and inevitably be woken up by him asking me to come watch a movie on the buses' VHS. He didn't seem to care what the film was, but I remember the first movie I watched with him was Excalibur.
The stories of Lemmy and the like are legendary, but I imagine there are tons of others we don't know about. Who was the craziest person on tour no one would think of?
I am not hedging when I tell you they are all insane. Normal people (and I'm including the crew here) don't sign up to live 6 months a year on the bus and out of a suitcase. It was far more unusual when you came across quiet guys like the members of Rush.
good morning I have 2 questions How did you get into this type of work? Who is the one person you don't ever want to work with?
I've answered your first question above. As for the second, I don't know that there's anyone who sticks out to me - you never really know what someone's like until you've been on the road with them. It's pretty frequent that halfway through a tour, being around each other all the time, whoever it is will start to piss you off anyway. So it's about handling that and moving on.
Hello, Ms Hawes! I’m in a band heavily influenced by Sabbath, but is a very niche mix of death, doom, prog, and other metal genres.
We’re having a hard time fitting into our local scene. Should we bother focusing on performing live in this current climate?
Honestly, if you love what you're doing just keep doing it. If you love to play live, keep playing live. If you love writing songs and getting them out there, focus on that and putting them out online. You never do know who could be listening!
Best and worst cities/clubs to play in? Best crowds?
My favourite gig was the Greek Theatre in LA. I love that venue because I remember everything there going smoothly! The worst ones were the ones where the venue staff asked when 'Kim, the manager' was going to arrive - obviously expecting a man. Granted, at the time I was the only woman in that line of work but it get's tiring telling everyone over and over, no it's me. These were mostly in the USA. You know who you are - a gig in Norfolk and a gig on sunset strip! When I got this reaction they'd often try to mess me and by extension the band around.
Best crowds were usually at the festivals. That sea of people singing along is amazing to see!
What an amazing set of bands.
How do you deal with things emotionally as the icons you worked and lived and partied with slowly stop making music?
Like them, I've stopped touring and retired into a different life. My plan now is to be a coach and help other people who love music and want to get into the industry.
Remember though, just because the bands in question stop making music doesn't mean we don't keep in touch and have the occasional reunion party ;)
Who was the most fun musician you worked with?
Any memorable roadies?
I've talked a lot about musicians already but you're the first to ask about roadies and they were such characters so often! This guy Dill (yes, like the pickle) wore a white boilersuit every day - which never seemed to get dirty, somehow, even though I know he worked really hard. I once caught him drinking a bottle of aftershave when the alcohol ran out. What a legend.
What is a duty tour managers have to do that the average person wouldn't expect?
Also, what aspect of your job often gave you the most pride in your work? Like, when you finish some part of your work and you thought, "Damn, I did that really well".
Haha honestly it's like babysitting! You have to keep them still, focused on their homework and prevent them from killing themselves...
I always used to have the biggest smile on my face on the way home after a tour, when the whole thing had wrapped up, knowing I'd dealt with all the little things that had come my way and the tour had been a success. That was when I got that feeling :)
How did you get used to sleeping on a tour bus - wasn't it constant chaos?
Sheer exhaustion, honestly.
When you’ve seen rock bands taking advantage of young fans sexually, what do you do?
It’s obvious no one’s calling the police, for example, so what do you as a woman in the industry do?
There's a story in the book about two young girls I ended up taking to the train station after letting them sleep in my room. So I sent them home safely whenever I could. I think times have really changed and luckily taken more seriously now.
Did you get to have a go driving the bus?
Yes! It was in a car park at St Austwell right by the beach. Got to drive a big truck for the first time there too.
[...] the aftermath of Chumbawamba drenching John Prescott.
So how about that?
This happened a week after I'd quit the music industry because I missed my daughter so much when I was on the road. But the band's manager called me, knowing I was good in a crisis, and said they had a new job for me - trouble shooting, or as they now call it 'crisis management'. Basically I went in for a couple of days and the band responded because they knew me. They didn't want to apologise so I found a way to smooth ruffled feathers without that. No publicity is bad publicity and the single went right back up the charts.
Have you ever considered an office job/normal job in your life ??
Nope. I knew I'd be bored out of my mind.
Hi Kim!! I'm a young woman in the concert production industry. I started out at 18 washing dishes backstage at an amp and worked my way up from there, and have been working in the industry full time since graduating college. I did my first tour last year, and have had several more offers this year, including my first eu tour!
My question is, how do you get people to take you seriously as a woman, and in my case a very young woman in positions of authority? I'm under 25, and I look under 25. Because even though I've done hundreds of shows, thousands of hours, I still have trouble controlling situations with a certain personality type. My (hopefully soon!) next career step is a venue management position, where oftentimes the buck will stop with me. What advice do you have for growing that confidence and dealing with these people?
You are a huge role model for me and reading your responses has been so awesome. Thank you for doing this!!!!
That's really nice, I appreciate that :)
The key thing is to own the position you're in. Believe - no, know that you're damn good at what you do, you know what you're talking about and you're worth listening to. Lemmy gave me a piece of advice early on which boiled down to 'fake it till you make it' and I stand tall by that. There's always a feeling as a woman that you have to be twice as good as a man - I'm sure you are, since you're being notice already, so go out there and kill it!
who is your favorite band? Of course the obvious question. How many famous band members have you slept with?
None - I was there to do a job! It's hard to pick a favourite band because there was much good in all of them. I do have a special place in my heart for Lemmy, always missed.
How bad is the LiveNation/TicketMaster bullshit for the artists? does it make it easier, harder? Do the bands care about the fact that they charge such bullshit fees?
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