Gary James' Interview With Night Ranger Production Manager
Brian J. Simon
Before Night Ranger ever takes to the stage, a host of people are involved in making that happen. There are roadies, truck drivers, a personal manager, a booking agent, sound and lighting personnel, a road manager, a tour manager and a production manager. Brian J. Simon is the production manager for Night Ranger. This is the first interview he has ever given.
Q - Brian, the most obvious question; as production manager for Night Ranger, what exactly are your job duties?
A - Basically as the production manager for this company that I work for, my responsibilities include the production of the entire show, meaning everything to do with the performance, the staging, the sound, the back-line if it's not our own, personnel from security to labor, electrics, catering. Basically the whole production. The whole show.
Q - Isn't providing security for the show the job of the promoter?
A - It is. What I would do is I would talk to the promoter directly and let him know what our requirements are for the show as far as security and labor and so on. He would acquire those people and then I would talk to them about their duties.
Q - How did you team with Night Ranger?
A - I teamed up with them by their old tour manager, a gentleman by the name of Terry Finley. Him and I had worked together in another band for years. He became their tour manager and was out with them for a few months and the position of Front Of House / Production Manager opened up and he gave me a call.
Q - How did you get your experience? Were you working with local bands?
A - Well, it's a funny story. I actually started out in high school. I started working in drama class. I didn't want to be a performer, but I really enjoyed the production side of it, so I took on audio and lighting back then. I was known as the AV geek back in high school. I would come to your class and set up your film projector. That's when they had film back then. Made a few friends in high school who had a Rock band and I would go out and be a little roadie guy for them. As the years went by, the acts got bigger and bigger and with the more skill-set that I had, the further I went along and the road finally led me to Night Ranger.
Q - You can't learn what you do by taking a college course, can you?
A - You know, they have courses. They have universities now. There's one in Winter Park, Florida called Full Sail University. It's a fully accredited university that teaches kids some of the aspects of what we do out here, but not in great detail. It's pretty much a hands-on type of position.
Q - If a person graduated from Full Sail University and then wanted to work for Night Ranger, it probably wouldn't be enough, would it?
A - Absolutely. Unfortunately they don't have the hands-on, real world experience that you would need to have to jump from a classroom and go right into full concert production. So those people end up being interns in clubs or production houses, people that provide audio and lighting for those types of events and then they work their way up. If they have the skill set and talent, then they get to keep moving on.
Q - How long have you been working for Night Ranger?
A - I was hired in early 2008, so I guess in March, 2012, it will be the beginning of the fifth year.
Q - And before that you were doing what?
A - I was the production manager and house engineer for The Little River Band.
Q - Now, who do you answer to, the management team or the band itself?
A - Well, the management team consists of the band manager, who deals with all the politics and inner workings of the band, everything from record labels to merchandising to setting up and providing tours. Then the next person down from there is the tour manager. He is the person who is out there on the road with us and he takes care of travel, hotels, meals, those sorts of details. Then there's myself, the production manager. But ultimately the three of us, all three managers answer to the band.
Q - So, when the band is not on the road, what happens to you? Are you still drawing a paycheck? Do you have to go out and look for work with somebody else?
A - Yup. I'm a free-lance engineer. That's my forte as I'm an audio engineer. I have a few other clients. I have a couple other musical groups, a few production houses and a few venues I work for. So, I kind of fill my schedule when Night Ranger isn't touring by working for those other clients.
Q - Is it important that you like the group you're working for? Do you like Night Ranger's music and get along with the personalities in the band?
A - Well, I definitely think for an audio engineer, to give the audience what they came to hear, you have to be a fan of the music. Yes, I love Night Ranger. I've loved Night Ranger ever since I was in high school. I graduated in 1984. I think that's when Night Ranger really broke into the scene, in 1984. That was their biggest record. I definitely believe it's a very important part of the engineer side. As far as production manager, you don't necessarily have to be a fan to be a production manager because your duties are different. But in my situation, because I mix the band, I think it's crucial that you have to be a fan.
Q - Bands always seem to complain about the hardships of the road. As production manager, how hard is the road on you? Little sleep? Bad food? Do you have to contend with red tape at every stop?
A - Well, the road for me is not hard, per se. I love to live on the road. It does have its downside of course, missing family and friends, personal events, things like that, weddings, birthdays. But other than that, I love being on the road. I love to wake up in a different city every day, meeting new people, trying new cuisine and seeing old friends. I've been doing this so long that I virtually have friends all over the world, which is a really nice thing. As far as sleep goes, I sleep excellent on the bus. When we're on the bus, that is the most restful sleep for me, believe it or not. I sleep in a lower bunk, close to the tires and I just listen to the drums of the road and the tires and it puts me right to sleep. As far as food, because we live out here, we can't eat bad food. We have to eat properly and take care of ourselves because food can really ruin your day. There's red tape in every position I think. I usually take care of all of the red tape issues during my advance portion of the job. When I say advance, I get on the phone and call a particular venue about a show and we go over every single detail and usually all the red tape gets worked out during those phone advances. If things don't happen perfect during the day of the show, then we work them out. What's just a normal part of the job.
Q - As Production Manager, do you ever entertain the possibility of becoming a Personnel Manager?
A - Absolutely not. I would say the reason I'm Production Manager of this band is because it's part and parcel of the position in the band. My heart and soul is mixing audio. I've been a Front Of The House Engineer for over twenty-five years and that's what I prefer to do. Production Manager is just part of the job. I do it willingly. I do it happily. If I had a choice, I would have the band hire someone else to do it. (laughs) And I could just mix.