Photo: VESNA GAJIC PHOTOGRAPHY www.vesna-gajic.com
Today’s Tour Day In The Life of … comes from Erika who has been touring as a backing singer for Skunk Anansie recently. This article covers a few days on tour:
Zermatt Unplugged Festival, Switzerland April 13th
Acoustic Show – Cadogan Hall, London – April 15th
Travel day to Zermatt
12:00 – Get to Heathrow Terminal 5 with all the band and crew – we make sure we are all together as we have a lot of equipment to check in… so we try and get everything on with accumulative weight! We get through to departures and our plane is delayed by an hour so what was already a 2-hour wait at the airport has now turned in to a three and a half hour wait. We eat a good breakfast at Giraffe and I go and get my nails done to kill time!
18:00 - We arrive in Geneva an hour late and we head up the mountains. We get on a coach at the airport; we have a 3 hour journey to the mountains. We change at the Matterhorn bus stop unload the gear and bags, and jump into a mini van which takes us up for another 10 mins. We then unload again and jump into an electric bus which takes us to our hotel!
23:00 – We arrive at our hotel (after about 12 hours travelling!). We decide to grab a pizza and eat back at the hotel, our rooms were absolutely gorgeous, with a Jacuzzi bath. Rock’n’roll!
02:00 – Go to sleep.
Zermatt Unplugged Festival, Switzerland
09:30 – We wake up and Mark (my husband and drummer of Skunk Anansie) and I decide to get breakfast via room service! We eat whilst looking at the Matterhorn, lucky us, our room looks straight at it! After our breakfast we get to going over the songs that we will be performing later. With a fresh pot of coffee, sharpie pen and set list we get to work.
13:30 – After a marathon of practise we head out for some lunch with Leigh and Cass (manager & bass player) at a delicious Italian restaurant around the corner.
15:30 – After lunch we head back to the hotel gather our bits and head to the venue for sound check. All my gear is hired out there, so I just make sure it’s the right height and the piano sounds are fine and all is dandy. We had a slight issue with positioning etc, but it got sorted quickly. The sound check went well, it’s strange to be doing a big gig and doing it on monitors and not in-ears, but we all decided that we would do this as it would be easier to feel each other and hear what was going on – especially with the acoustic guitars.
17:00 – We got kicked off stage and headed to the dressing room for a chat – but half of the band got lost, so after eating a lot of ham and cheese we end up going back to the hotel and getting ready for the gig.
18:00 – Make-up on! Thankfully after the MIKA gig (I toured with him for about 3 years) I am well rehearsed at throwing on a face and sticking on eye lashes in a rush!! After many costume changes I finally decide on an outfit (to Mark’s relief!). We head back to the venue.
19:00 – We arrive at the venue and wait…
19:30 – The whole band arrives. Len the other session player and I are quite privy to seeing the Skunk Anansie pre-gig ritual, which we were invited into.
20:00 – We head for the stage and 2000 people. For Skunk’s first EVER acoustic show in their nearly 20 year career! Nerves were running high with everyone but the show goes blindingly well. Everyone remembered everything, the gear worked – Skin, as always was vocally incredible and the band, tight as hell. After the show there were many pats on backs – and then hunger struck!
23:00 – We head to Vernissage for some delicious food and had possibly the most amazing pea soup with scallops in! After about 10 courses, chats and giggles, Skin starts her DJ set at 1am. Mark and I head down for a little dance and hang for about an hour and then we quickly fade. Very un-rock’n’roll! We head back to our cozy hotel room.
03.00 – Sleeeeeeeeeep.
09:00 – Lobby call and we crack on back home. We get back on the electric buggy, which takes us to the mini vans and then onto the large coach for a 3 hour journey down the mountain. Sleep was welcomed.
15:00 – Flight home. Airport – wait – sit on plane – sleep – get off plane. Breeze through customs, jump in a cab and go home.
Acoustic Show – Cadogan Hall, London
08:30 – A nice late start, as it’s a home gig! Thankfully, there is no need to worry about forgetting my passport! I wake up, have a shower and get ready for a day of filming. I have learned that even if you are going to a rehearsal or a radio session you should always look good, as a lot of things are filmed or photographed. I made that mistake doing a Live Lounge for MIKA, I dragged my sorry ass out of bed with no make-up and looked horrific on the BBC website – not doing that again!
10:00 – I jump in the car with my husband, Mark and the in-laws in the back alongside my piano. We make our journey to London from Surrey.
11:00 – We arrive in good time at Cadogan Hall, I unload my piano and go straight to stage to set up and line check my gear. The stage looks amazing, with beautiful lamps and rugs everywhere. I set up the keys in the area that had been left for me (crew set the rest of the gear up the night before). After I set my gear up I head to the dressing room to unload my dresses! I was so lucky to have a suitcase full of clothes lent to me by the wonderful designer, Kei Kagami. After unloading my clothes, I headed out to get some breakfast! Mark and the rest of the band had promo and interviews so I went and sat quietly with Mark’s parents watching all the camera crew set up their equipment and the band crew line check all the mics and instruments.
13:00 – I head out to Sloane Square with Mark’s parents and got some lunch; a healthy and hearty salad. After lunch I bought some flowers for the band to say “Thanks” and to wish them, “toi toi toi” for this special show. Their first acoustic London show, which was being filmed and recorded. I then headed back to the venue to be on stage for a 2pm start.
14:00 – I sat at my piano, alongside the other extra musicians, Len Arran on guitar and 6 strings players. We wait. There is a lot of waiting in the music world! The band get to us at about 2:30/3pm as their interviews and promo ran over. This is a super long sound check, as it’s being filmed, and a lot of the songs need to run through for the camera crew and lighting. We run through the set and go over any extras, such as the beginnings of songs with the string players (making sure they were happy with count ins etc.)
17:30 – We get off stage and head to the dressing room. Len and I are left as the band go off and do more promo. We grab a bite to eat, mainly crisps, chocolate and cups of tea! The typical diet of the musician! Dressing room food!
18:00 – I decide to start doing my stage make-up. I baracade myself into the bathroom and proceed to cake myself… “cake myself” by my standards, as I barely wear make-up day to day! So a bit of foundation to cover any blemishes – eyeliner, shadow, blush and eye lashes! When I get out of the bathroom in walks the make-up artist for the band! She ends up doing the super reluctant boys and then re-touches mine! I get dressed with my beautiful clothes with a little help from Skin’s stylist Kim Howell – who gives me the nod of approval and then we carry on waiting with a camera man watching every step of the way! A cup of tea and a biscuit later, Skin comes into the room, we are all there except the strings and we have a pre-gig chat. Then… off to the stage.
20:15 – We get on stage and go to our places to the cheers and whoops of fans, friends and family. The show starts well, underneath the stage is a crew of people recording it live along with the camera crew in front and around us. In front of us are 800/900 fans not wanting to be disappointed and it’s such a personal gig that we can see the faces of parents, friends and fans. So to say this gig was pretty high pressured was an understatement! As the only backing singer my eyes barely left Skin as I needed to be with her every step of the way and trust me when she sings there are a lot of steps. She is one of the best singers around and her voice is so elastic and fluid that trying to match her and her intonation is a task and a half. After a few hiccups, completely forgetting songs, playing a few bum notes… everyone relaxes (myself included) and the gig goes really well. Smiles all round. We jump off stage ecstatic and relieved that it all went well.
22:00 – The band’s manager, Leigh tells the band to head straight out and chat with everyone, so we all pat each other on the back and head straight out to the bar area where press and promoters etc are waiting to talk to the band. I head off and find my friends, family and Mark’s guests too. Everyone really enjoyed Skunk Anansie’s acoustic show, it was a real success.
23:00 – The irritated staff at Cadogan Hall who were not used to the rebellious riff raff of rockers who wouldn’t leave, eventually started kicking us out. I was completely unaware that my rockstar husband and his crew had packed up my piano, his drum kit and loaded it in the car and Mark had even packed up all my clothes and make-up! So I’m not sure who the real diva was!?
23:30 – A very rare occurrence… by 11:30pm we were in the car heading home and the kettle was on by midnight!
Erika is a professional singer and has worked and toured with a number of talented artists over the years including MIKA. She has a new solo project which you can find out more about here www.officiallyerika.com