Gimme Your Answers (Beyond the Stage): An Interview w/ Damien Nelson

Damien Nelson
Photo by Clara Venice

Ever wonder what happens beyond the stage? Well we do. These roadies, managers, guitar techs, lighting directors, publicists (and even positions you may not have known about) make the music you love come alive! In a recent interview, A Music Blog, Yea? spoke with Damien Nelson, publicity manager at FLIP Publicity and one of the talented people “PRing things” at NXNE, Prism Prize, and Retro Festive. Read our interview below as we discussed her work with FLIP, who she’s excited to see at NXNE, and her favourite Toronto venues.

AMBY: Hello Damien, welcome to AMBY! How did you first get into your industry?

Damien Nelson: I started by putting on shows, with my friend Justin Wisteard, in Picton, Ontario where I grew up.  He was in a grindcore punk band called Polidicks, and I was drawn to their DIY approach to everything. You got nothing to lose, so why not go for it? After attending Trebas Institute in Toronto, I started in publicity with an internship at NXNE under Sue McCallum, and connected with FLIP the year after that.

AMBY: Please explain to our readers what you do.

Damien Nelson: FLIP specializes in arts and entertainment from stage to screen.  Publicity involves persuading writers and reporters to write about an artist or project. A half-page ad in Exclaim! is the work of Marketing – an interview in the Exclaim! is the work of Publicity.

AMBY: What have been some of your favourite moments while working at FLIP Publicity?

Damien Nelson: My fond memories include running the photo pit at NXNE’s Flaming Lips show Yonge-Dundas Square; bringing Scott Thompson to a live TV interview where he said “fag” quite a few times and the poor hosts just didn’t know what to do; walking down Front Street through the Grey Cup festivities while carrying stage weapons with Shaolin Warriors on the way to a TV shoot; and the press call at the Sony Centre when Rob Ford made his stage debut in Thomas & Friends Live!.  He was on stage for all of 45 seconds and we had writers, reporters and cameras from pretty much every media outlet in the city.

Plus, FLIP is a dog friendly office so it’s always a blast when our clients bring in their dogs to interact with our FLIP’s resident dog, Skrappy.

AMBY: Which artists do you look forward to seeing the most this year at NXNE?

Damien Nelson: I am dying to see METZ, Dance Laury Dance, The Golden Dogs, Eagulls, Le1f and Run the Jewels.  I saw Run the Jewels at Laneway Fest last year and it was a crazy, fun time. I also can’t wait to see the film portion of NXNE, because it is standing alone this year.

AMBY: Which venues in Toronto are your favourite?

Damien Nelson: I really love The Garrison, especially if I can score one of the seats on the side.  I also have a soft spot for Rancho Relaxo.  Their sound guy, Michel “Spock” Plourde, is one of the most brilliant, kind and underrated people in the city of Toronto.

AMBY: If you could curate your dream concert line-up, who would be in it?

Damien Nelson: Easy!  Built by Snow (amazing now-defunct Austin band), Heavy Cream playing their album “Danny” in full, METZ, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Benny Crespo’s Gang, Hank III,  a re-union show from The Blood Brothers, The White Stripes, and then Hanson.  Not joking, at all.

AMBY: What is the best and worst thing about your gig?

Damien Nelson: The best thing is that it is different every day. The artists we work with in music, comedy and theatre are truly passionate about what they do, which makes their art better – and my job easier.  It’s also really nice to hear an artist say their parents were proud of them when they saw them in a newspaper or heard them on the radio.

The worst part can be managing the expectations of clients and the media, because they are sometimes on completely different ends of the spectrum.  It is also difficult to watch entertainment sections shrink or bylines disappear in newspapers across the country.

AMBY: What do you do for fun outside of loving music?

Damien Nelson: I love comedy, specifically sketch comedy.  You’ll find me at Comedy Bar pretty often.  And did you know Sunday Night Live at Comedy Bar has live music during all of their shows?  Worlds collide!

AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about you that nobody knows yet?

Damien Nelson: Well, everyone knows I love Hanson now, so I don’t know how to top that.


Thank you Damien Nelson, for giving us your answers!

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Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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