Stage Mathematics

Text by Paul Wolinski (65daysofstatic)
Photography by Caspar Newbolt

65daysofstatic – Piano Fight 
We Were Exploding Anyway (2010)

Being in a band that tours a lot is sometimes like listening to an Autechre record. Or experimental jazz. You have a vague idea of what is going on and you are certainly enjoying it (if you like Autechre or jazz), but you are never entirely sure what is about to happen next. You turn up somewhere new each day and spend your time marking out your territory, making the unfamiliar look familiar. The longer you stay on the road, the more things you find to twist your way.

At first, when we headed out on mini-tours, we found ourselves opening random bills of bands all around England, sharing stages with dozens of now forgotten acts. The stage wasn’t ours then. You just have to make things work at this point, squeeze your stuff into the corners, play on the door in front of the stage, balance drum kits on other drum kits. You just deal with it.

Later, when you have some success and are able to do your own headline tours in tiny venues up and down the land, you get to own the stage. You become the band that you hated when you were first on—your drum kit, your amps and keyboards—they get to be put exactly where you want them to go and they don’t move unless you feel like being helpful. No matter what country you’re in, no matter what the venue, what shape the actual stage, the mental state that you have built with your band mates can be draped upon it like a blanket. You get to be intimate with the most ridiculous things—you know how taut the midi cables that run across the stage can be before they’re likely to be pulled out. You learn how to be able to tell at a glance whether the stage is small enough for your guitar cables to stretch around the back of the keyboards so you’re less likely to trip over them. You know where the sharp edges of your flight cases and amps will be so you don’t jump into them, you work out if it’s safe to take your guitar off without sticking its head into a low-hanging light or through the roof.

After being on the road for a long time, something as simple as positioning your guitar pedals ‘just right’ can give you a sense-of-home as powerful as climbing into your own bed. You know what angle to tilt your monitors so you are able to hear things okay, whether you’re at the piano or dancing about trying to knock your band mate over.

This is all subconscious, of course. Choreography isn’t 65’s strong point. It’s just a series of tiny rules and checklists collected show after show, and everyday, without even noticing, you find yourself going through them, turning this cold rectangle of black, sticky wood into the ‘65’ stage. It can make the difference between it being a good show and a great one.

Read more in N˚2: Constant.