Jake Berry, Production Director
Jake Berry, Production Director
'You're kind of in charge of the whole day from start to finish...'
Scotsdale, Arizona. (Originally, Dunkeswell in Devon, England)
Title on the Road
Day to Day Role
You're kind of in charge of the whole day from start to finish. You're dealing with the buildings and local labour, making sure everything you have organised in advance is in place. Is there enough power in the venue and are there enough people to set up the show ? Are we putting parts of the stage in the right sections so that, for example, it does not cover seats that have been sold. The amount of power needed to put on a show is huge - I've worked it out as the equivalent of 75,000 wall sockets to run a U2 show. That's a lot of extension cords.
First Time I saw U2
I believe it was in 1993 when I was on a Motley Crue tour in Adelaide, Australia. If you walked in and saw Zoo TV the first time, being a production manager you would look at it more than you would listen. I already liked U2's music but this production was amazing . I had been dealing with Metallica, and with big outdoor shows , but nothing as technically sophisticated as the Zoo TV production. Amazing!
Getting into Rock'nRoll
The short story about getting in to rock'n'roll is that my brother is a thatcher and he thatched the roof for Dave Cousins who was a member of The Strawbs. Dave and his wife were friends of Rick Wakeman who then invited my brother to thatch Ricks house in Devon. I was merrily driving a truck delivering animal feeds and and my mother said to drive down to see my brother who had forgotten something. Rick was there andeinvited me down the pub. I never did get home and so I got fired from my job and Rick, who was doing the 'Myths and Legends of King Arthur Tour' - on ice - asked me if I would like to help out. That was in 1974 and sometimes if feels like I have barely been home since!
Also Worked With
Rolling Stones; AC/DC; Tina Turner; Cher; Metallica; Motley Crue; Frankie Goes to Hollywood (which I really enjoyed); Jimmy Page; Yes; Rick Wakeman (who I started with); Donovan; plus lots of kids shows like Barney the Purple Dinosaur, Bob the Builder and The Wiggles. (I also do a lot of work for Terry Lawless.)
How I Ended up Working With U2
I first met Paul McGuinness when I was working for the Rolling Stones on the Voodoo Lounge Tour and Paul came to a couple of shows. Probably Michael Cohl - the promoter - introduced us. We got talking and one day Paul just said, almost in passing as a joke, 'We'll hire you one day!' I said, 'One day Paul you'll be able to afford me!' Just joking really! Then Elevation came along in 2001 and Clear Channel and Arthur Fogel wanted me to join the tour so I joined as Production Manager.
Then when Vertigo came out the band called me up and asked me if I would be interested in doing it. If the tour had been last year I would have had no problem - there was no Stones tour then. But then U2's tour was delayed and they knew I had a potential conflict - with the rumours that the Stones would be out in 2005 as well. So all four members of the band rang me up one day, all of them in one room with Bono saying, 'Jake we've heard a rumour that the Rolling Stones are going to tour this year and all four of us want to say that we want you to come and work for us!'
It took me a while to decide. To leave the Rolling Stones after ten years was a pretty big deal but there are rhymes and reasons to these things and here I am. I couldn't tell you the main reason - except that I really enjoyed working for U2 on Elevation.
Working with U2 compared to other touring bands
There is a big difference when you work for a big organisation and when you work for smaller ones - and, in that respect, not a lot of difference between say, working with U2 or The Rolling Stones. The tour is run on very similar pacing and carries a lot of people and I don't think its bullish to say that when you tour with a band that is hugely successful and sells lots of tickets it is much more enjoyable. When the lights go down, there is a different atmosphere in crew and management when you know you are selling out your shows. It's more like playing for a team winning the league than say playing for Norwich who are bottom. (At the time of writing...)
Favourite memory of life on the road
We were in Boston on the last tour and it was my birthday. I was about 49 I think, and Bono used to start the tour by walking through the crowd from the back. I always felt I should walk down and make sure everything was OK. But on this night I was stopped by a security guy. 'I don't care who you are,' he said. 'We have been instructed by the band that no one goes down here.' He told me to stand way back out of the way, because Bono was coming through and he didn't want to see me or anyone.
Then Bono did come running by and as he saw me, he stopped, came over to me, gave me a big hug and wished me 'Happy Birthday' - then he carried on his way to the stage. I didn't say anything to the security guy who was watching this scene - but I felt pretty good when I caught his eye!
I got married on a Rolling Stones tour - in Mexico - and divorced on the next one. I was seeing this girl, we were pretty close and she came out to the Mexico shows and one Tuesday evening we were were laying around in the hotel room and I said, 'Do you fancy getting married on Thursday ?'
I said it as a joke really... but she said, 'Yes'.
I remember calling my mother in Devon and saying, 'What are you doing tomorrow, Wednesday?' She said she was going shopping but I told her there was a car coming to pick her up and I was flying her to Mexico to be at my wedding. That was 1995, but it didn't last. The moral of the story is 'Don't get married on the road.'
What Are You Doing During the Show ?
I am generally a bit all over the place. I walk around the arena, checking in with different departments and making sure that all is going well. If I am not doing too much that is a good sign and I can go out and watch some sections of the show.
Best Thing About Touring
Travelling to exotic places, meeting interesting people and being part of a profession that you know half the world would like to be involved with. Sometimes being away from home for long periods can be a drag. Also, for me, touring when the weather is cold really sucks. You are up north, say in Canada, and a blizzard is blowing, you are unloading trucks outside and you can't get warm all day - that can bring you down. And being sick on a tour bus - when you can't vomit or you have diarrohoea - that's pretty bad too.
Worst Thing About Touring
Travelling to exotic place, meeting interesting people, and being part of a profession that you know half the world would like to be doing.
Support Act Most Looking Forward to
That would be the support act with the least amount of equipment.
Highlight of the Show
The last song because we can load the show out. I've always been a big fan of 'Streets', a huge moment in the set. I like anything unusual that happens in a show, as happens quite often with U2.
Currently listening to
Green Day; Rollling Stones; U2; soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera; Beatles; Abba.
Would Love U2 to Play
'Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of'.
Worst Touring Nightmare
I remember was when I was production manager with a Metallica / Guns 'n' Roses show when Axl decided to abandon the show. James Hetfield, guitarist from Metallica got badly burnt by the pyrotechnics and had to be taken to hospital. We had to stop the show while James was rushed off. Then Axl decided after three songs that he was going to walk off stage and not play anymore. That led to a riot. People started fires, started hurling things at the stage - things like rocks !
On another Metallica tour in Puerta Rico it rained so hard that the ground was six inches underwater and we had to cancel for saftety reasons. The fans rioted again and started to tip over the Mix area - then the police came, shooting into the air. The sound of gunshot is pretty horrendous.
Who has the easiest job on the road?
It's not that bad for anyone, you might want to say the backline guys have it easy, but they have to work two very stressful hours during the show! Tommy Whitelaw the merchandiser - I've got to say that has to be a doddle of a job. I couldn't do the job because with so much time on my hands I'd be really bored.
Whose job on tour would you most like
I wouldn't change mine for the world.
I would never expect someone to do something I couldn't do myself - except rigging because I am scared of heights. Oh, and 'Don't get married on the road!'