Cameron Carpenter – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
When someone finds out what my profession is, one of the first questions they ask is who is/was your favourite artist to work with. This is usually followed by asking who was the most difficult. A couple of names always come to mind.
When you are working in publicity or artist relations your dealings with an artist are much different than when you are working with them as their A&R person. When you sign an artist you usually have a great relationship with both them and their management. Of course success, or lack thereof, can quickly alter that dynamic.
The “Thinking of Coming Back” Jesus Tour 1989
Publicity is a whole other ball of wax. You have limited time with the artist, it may be at the end of a very long media tour, things may have not gone well in the city before, and, quite often, they are sick and tired of being asked the same questions. It is unbelievable how many times a day certain artists get asked the same question. Occasionally we would be instructed to tell journalists not to ask about certain things, however, most usually find a way. Please don’t ask Britney is she has had a breast enlargement; “Britney, is it me or are your breasts bigger”? (Journalist – “I didn’t use the word enlargement”). Don’t ask Britney if she is dating Justin ; “Britney, are you currently seeing anyone in ‘Nsync”? (Journalist – “I didn’t ask about Justin”). Some artists were great at deflecting the verboten questions and others would have their days ruined by them. They would often call their U.S. label or management and complain that the interviews did not go well and they were not happy. As their local person there wasn’t much you could do but sit back and take the heat.
In many cases the artists were not the problem, their management or big PR firm were. They would ask for certain types of hotel rooms, cars, food, flowers, booze, or any number of things. It was always gratifying when you spent hours obtaining 6 dozen white orchids for a hotel suite and then having the artist walk in and tell you that the fragrance was over powering and could you please get rid of them.
I give you the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Dave Grohl and The Foo Fighters
They were always great to work with and I loved to hang out with Taylor and Chris but it was always Dave that the media wanted to talk to and they felt disrespected unless you delivered the man. He can handle any twisted Cobain question you wanted to throw at him and deal with it without making the journalist feel like they had done anything wrong. At the end of the day Dave might tell you that would be the last interview he was doing with that person and he trusted you would take care of it. He would appear up for every interview but if you pushed him too hard or put him in an awkward situation he would let you know at the end of the day. Once I was sitting in the back of a big trailer with another Foo when Dave came in and vented at his road manager about the interviews he had just completed and he was not aware I was in the back room. When I made my presence known he gave me hell but by the end of the day everything was fine. When those boys work they work hard. When they don`t want to do anything you will know well in advance.
- The Proclaimers
From day one back in the late eighties to this day Craig and Charlie Reid have always stayed in touch and a local performance never goes by without us getting together for a drink before or after their show. Once the relationship was cemented they have always trusted me and will speak to however I ask. It also helps they have the same manager, Kenny MacDonald, and road manager, Tom Oliver, since our first meeting. The lads have just released their latest studio album “Let’s Hear It for the Dogs”. Nothing on the calendar for Canada just yet (Australia and New Zealand first) but hopefully we will get a few shows in the near future.
- Mark Slaughter & Dana Strum
I first met the two of them when they were in the Vinnie Vincent Invasion (more on Vinnie later). When they formed Slaughter I was their man in Canada. We never lost touch. I still see them when they perform as Slaughter or when Dana is on the road with his management client Vince Neil (Dana also plays bass for him). If I have friends going to Nashville (Mark) or Las Vegas (Dana) I have no problems reaching out to either of them for tips or suggestions.
- Vinnie Vincent
He was a tough one and I never really enjoyed my time with him. Maybe his short stint in Kiss made it difficult for him to go back to the bars. He was demanding and would not listen when to any other opinions other than his own. He would tell him what I was doing wrong when I was driving including offering directions when it was obvious he had no idea where he was going. The crowning glory was complaining about the colour of the blow dryer I managed to secure late one night.
- Puff Daddy
This one is more of a case of the ugly. He was surrounded by demanding people. On a promo tour to Toronto we needed to arrange five Escalades (when there was about 10 in total in the city at that point) and then tell our drivers that when on the highway there would be a car in front, back, on the left and on the right, with Puffy`s car in the middle at all times. When on a two lane road his SUV needed to be in the middle. He had an entourage of 18 people and he was just doing press. One person had the job of carrying his jewellery and after a lunch meet’n’greet we went for a MuchMusic interview and I was called by the bartender who told me she had found the jewellery in the restaurant. When it was just Puffy and I talking we got along fine and talked hoops.
It was her recent passing that got me thinking about this topic. I worked with her just after she signed to Motown and released the album “Pretty Mess”. She always had a direct line to Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr.. We did promo in Toronto with a little party at Heaven and then in Montreal at the Four Seasons. She requested late night lobsters, certain size and colour limos, and, when we had a night off, tickets to see Prince at Maple Leaf Gardens. I jumped through hoops and acquired a pair of floor seats and escorted her to the show. Prince noticed us, she was wearing an enormous fur coat, and we were soon asked to leave at his request. In Montreal she dragged me onto the dance floor to dance to The Time with her, and her alone, much to the amusement of a couple of hundred people. If she didn’t get her way she would say “Cam-RON, fix this or I am calling Barry”. She could be sweet at times but she was high maintenance 24 hours a day for three days in a row.
I was vaguely aware of her later drug problems (read the Nikki Sixx book) and that she had found a life with God during her final years. I was sorry to hear of her passing but she remains the number one toughest artist I ever worked with.
More on this topic next week.
Tonight at Lou Dawgs it’s Girls Night Out with Stella Panacci, Tringa Rexhepi, Blue Copper and Sigrum Stella. An eclectic bunch and even better when there is no cover and great BBQ. On Gerrard Street East at Church.
Cam’s column appears every Thursday.
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Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.