Gimme Your Answers (Beyond the Stage): An Interview w/ Stephen Budd

the trainEver wonder what happens beyond the stage? Well we do. These roadies, managers, guitar techs, lighting directors, A&R, and even positions you may not have known about make the music you love come alive! We had the opportunity of speaking with Stephen Budd to see how he manages to be good at so many things behind the scenes of our favourite bands!

AMBY: How did you first get into your industry?

SB: I started as a roadie when I was 15, it was the first ever Motorhead gig at the Winning Post pub in Twickenham’ London. I then roadied for various punk bands including Generation X, X Ray Spex etc until I started my own Indie label Tortch Records when I was 20. I got into managing artists after that when I started managing acts from on the label.

AMBY: Explain to people what you do.

SB: I do 4 things these days;

1. Manage a lot of record producers and songwriters – we make records with everyone from Bjork, Lykke Li, Lana Del Ray to Cee-Lo and John Legend.

2. Manage bands and solo artists.

3. I co-own festivals in the UK and India. OneFest in Wiltshire in UK and the NH7 Weekender Festivals in India, there’s 3 of them now. We have featured acts as wide-ranging as Damon Albarn, Megadeth, Damian Rice, Laura Marling, Bombay Bicycle Club, Imogen Heap, Reverend and the Makers, Asian Dub Foundation, Anoushka Shankar  and many more.

4. Along with Ian Birrell, Damon Albarn and others I run The Africa Express project, bringing African and western artists together to collaborate, in Africa and around the world.

McCartney joins the Africa ExpressAMBY: Which bands are you currently working with and which have previously worked with?

SB: Right now I look after Dry the River, The Magic Numbers and Fatoumata Diawara and new artists Dancing Years and Jake Hart. I also started SuperVision Management in 1999 and that went onto manage lots of incredible artists like Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs etc, but I sold that company.  I’ve managed Gang of Four, Heaven 17, Tanita Tikaram, Big Sound Authority and The Sound in the past, to varying degrees of success.

AMBY: What is the craziest thing to happen to you while touring?

Africa Express train at Kings Cross - Stephen Budd with clenched fist salute !SB: Well I guess taking 85 artists on tour around the UK on a 1970’s diesel train last year for Africa Express was pretty crazy ! We had everyone from Rizzle Kicks, Damon Albarn, Kano, DeadPrez, plus the main guys from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Led Zeppelin and The Libertines alongside the best of Africa Baaba Maal, Amadou, Fatoumata Diawara, Baloji, Spoek Mathambo, Rokia Traore  and then Paul McCartney from The Beatles joined us !…. It was madness for 7 straight nights, but also life changing for us. It broke a whole load of barriers for everyone. Totally crazy but for pretty much everyone involved, the best 7 days of our lives !

AMBY: Can you explain the premise of the Africa Express project?

SB: Yes, its about taking African music out of the ‘World Music’ box its been put into and introducing it to a new younger audience through the collaborations with western artists. And that’s really started to take hold now, with lots of them playing and recording together separately from us, but with Africa Express having acted as the catalyst.

AMBY: What has been some of the highlights for you as far as Africa Express goes?

The train With Africa Express¹es Ian Birrell and Lauren Roth de WolfeSB: All of it has been amazing, the trips to Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and the Congo especially stand out. Jamming in the most amazing places you can imagine. Playing The New Africa Shrine club in Lagos was truly mind-bending, a week in Bamako with Amadou and Mariam, Salif Keita and Zane Lowe amongst others…. Getting lost in a market in the desert Ethiopia with Flea from the Chili Peppers was eventful, he went home after that and wrote “Ethiopia” on the new Chili’s album. Never a dull moment in Africa !

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

SB: The Best? Seeing the world, working every day with incredible musicians and doing things that hopefully add to people’s happiness! The worst? Not seeing your family as much as you’d like to ….the hangovers…. And the money these days is not it used to be like….

AMBY: Which three albums changed your life?

SB: Only 3 ??? Wow….er…ok then…. Here goes… “Zombie” by Fela Kuti and Africa 70, “Houses of the Holy” – Led Zeppelin and ‘Unknown Pleasures’ – Joy Division.

AMBY: Where is the best spot to eat on tour?

SB: If I answered that question, I’d be classified as a pervert.

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

SB: Where I eat on tour…..


Please check out more of the amazing photos captured while running The Africa Express project. And thank you so much Stephen for taking the time to give us your answers!

Alicia & Yaz Atout

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