Steve Forster interview 15.5.15

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Tour manager Steve Forster shares some interesting stories from back in the day right up to the present day. A great interview!

Hi Steve, Can you tell us abit about your upbringing?

Born in Morpeth north of Newcastle, spend the first 8 years in a little seaside village called Seaton Sluice (next to Whitley Bay). Moved to an ex mining village Crawcrook (to the west of newcastle) – where I lived until I went to Newcastle Poly, where I did a degree in Ecomonics. Once I decided I was not going to be a pro footballer or cricketer (or other people decided for me), music was always what I wanted to do. I was a drummer in a number of not very good bands and the usual dinner dance circuit (that paid for beer money through college). Pretty much the first thing I did was join the entertainmebt cuircit there and eventually ended up being entertainment manager and then from then as they say the rest was history!

What was the first music you remember getting into?

Apparently from a small kid I lived music. I remember my mum had Help/I’m Down by the Beatles and my aunty had Downtown by Petula Clark and I remember playing those along with other 6o’s singles on my dad’s ‘Stereogram’ – hi-tec stuff at the time. The first record I ever asked anyone to buy me was by SLADE, I absolutely loved them. I had two uncles who were slightly older than me and on a weekend when my parents were working I was regularly dumped with them and it was either football or music. They both had hugely different tastes. Maurice loved R&B and Northern Soul and Paul loved the more rocky and proggy stuff. I pretty much borrowed every single and album they had. From the Small Faces and James Brown through to Santana and Yes. It didn’t bother me, what it was really, as long as I liked. Same with the bands I played in rock, ska, prog, I just loved playing.

How did you get into band tour management?

I suppose when I was still an entertainment manager I got into a lot of band promoting and I managed a band called The Honest Johns (newcastle based) and I looked after them on the road on a number of small tours round the UK. We had our own company in Newcastle called NPS (me and a chap called Mick Rayner) and we did everything from promoting our own shows, through publicity distribution to managing local promotion on behalf of the national promoters at the time. If there was a job to do that paid well enough I fancied it, I would do it.

Managing THE HIGH was your first big tour managing a band wasn’t it? How
did you get to do that?

One of my oldest mates is a chap called Ian Huffam, who became the bands agents (also Blur, Robbie Williams etc). Ian wanted someone who was worldly wise enough to deal with a bunch of difficult mancs but not too old that they were from a different generation.

Which venues did you visit on the tour?

Lots of places from Northampton Irish Club to the Astoria in London and each one of them has its own story. There were very few ‘ordinary’ gigs with The High

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John Matthews says there are plenty of stories you can remember being on
this tour, like the time your played footy with Inspiral Carpets at G-Mex?
Could you give us a low down on this story and any other high jinx in
this tour?

We supported the Inspirals on their Arena tour, so we took in venues like the SECC in Glasgow, the Ally Pally and it was generally good fun, with a bit of time hanging about. So all being youngish lads Football was always on the agenda. I would say that Chris was the best player in the band (though I am sure they can argue about that!). Ally Pally was the venue where I seem to remember that we got fine £12 for breaking a light fitting in the dressing rooms. I think it was actually Clint that spooned the shot – but I am sure we paid the bill!

There were so many stories on the first couple of tours as the venues were of all different sizes in different locations. From the Brighton show we did – where Jezz our drum tech had taken too many substances and ended up on the roof of the hotel thinking he was a lion tamer. To Hull university with the full Spinal Tap moment – when you are walked by the porter through every section of the building to a lift where you literally opened the doors onto stage. Doing a gig at the ICA and parking the tour bus on the Mall (with Irish Number plates) and being stormed by the SAS (I remember Jayne Houghton our press officer getting that into the tabloids with the headline of High Jinx on The Mall – or something like that). Being banned from the Colombia hotel in London (which is practically impossible). Lots of stories for another time ….

What happened for you after managing THE HIGH?

I went back to Newcastle and basically continued with my Company NPS and then I bought a venue with Ian Huffam, Jim Mawdsley and a couple of others. That was a bit of a disaster to be honest and we all lost a lot of money so I took at job managing Warwick University SU, stayed there for about 18 months then went to Wembley Arena as their Operations Manager. There for another 3 years, then off to Brixton Academy to run that and oversee what became AMG where I was a shareholder and Operations Director. I sold my shares in that in 2007 and started VMS Live which is the company I am the MD for now.

You now manage the famous academy venue in Manchester. How did that
happen?

We had a change of management structure in VMS in 2011 when Richard Maides my old colleague from AMG (Operations Director after I left) left AMG and I asked him to come on board. At that time I was already running the Pyramids down in Portsmouth and a few other bits and pieces. We also ran the Ballroom in Birmingham and we heard that Manchester Academy were looking for somebody to come in and help them run the businesses as Sean Morgan who had looked after the Academy for years had left. Effectively we did the deal, for an initial 3 years in 2012 and have just re-signed the deal to at least 2019.

Have you had any interesting bands visit the venue and any stories you
can tell?

Over the years there are so many bands that have come through the doors of all the venues that I have worked with that to pick out any one band or person is difficult. It is fair to say that if you have spent any significant time in the music industry that you are ‘not normal’ myself included. From bomb scares to stage managers threatening to kill a lead singer. All in a days work really!

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Fast forward to 2015 and the reformation of THE HIGH. You are responsible
for getting the band back together. Can you tell us how this has all
happened and how you brought them back to play gigantic 2015?

Its a interesting one this as Richard Maides (VMS ops Director) runs a festival in manchester, Gigantic, every year and Richard was a fan of THE HIGH and said the ‘do you think the band would do it’ question. My honest response was I have no idea. Other than bumping into Andy backstage at Brixton Academy I hadn’t really seen any of the other members in 20 years. So I set about trying to make contact with people and sent Matt Mead an email among others saying basically ‘Hi, this is Steve do you want to put the band back together?’. I met up with Simon and had a really nice long chat over a couple of pints in London and it was obvious that he was not hugely keen on reforming for reasons that are personal to him. But Richard and I met up with Andy and John at Manchester Academy for a couple of pints and it was great. It became clear that they were very much up for a show or 2. At that stage it was not clear if Chris was going to be in or out, but Jack has stepped in and by all accounts is playing a blinder.

Are you looking forward to seeing any other bands at gigantic?

Lots of bands but to be honest I am not sure what I will be able to get to as we have 3 events on that day. A big Student all day event in Lampeter in Wales (where I will be in the morning), UB40 in Wrexham that I am planning to get to about 5pm and then on to Gigantic for about 9pm. A long old day with lots of good mileage involved. I have promised Andy I will print the set lists off and gaffer them just like in the old days!!!

What does the future hold for you?

Business is good at the moment and VMS has doubled in size in the last 12 months, so hopefully on a business front more of the same really. We are a small but expanding company with some really good people involved. We have a company principle at the moment that we only work with people that we like or respect and preferably both. Its not a bad adage for life as a whole to be honest as we are all a long time dead! Outside of work I could really do with a decent holiday – its been 3 years since I had a proper break, so I could definitely do with one this summer.


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