Last week at BIMM Berlin was all about The Kills. To start with, we had The Kills’ Manager, Gary Walker, in to do deliver a Masterclass, then The Kills performed in Berlin and one of our First Year students, Lisa-Miriam Uebel, went along to cover the whole thing. So here it is in her own words:
Recently, BIMM Berlin students had the chance to attend an incredibly inspiring Masterclass with none other than Gary Walker, who is the manager of The Kills and has also worked with several other impressive artists, such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Libertines, The Smiths, Babes in Toyland… just to name a few. On top of that, he has also been a former Artist Management tutor at BIMM Berlin. I had a great opportunity to take a look behind the scenes and get some insider advice about being successful in the music industry, before watching The Kills’ live show at Tempodrom Berlin.
What you should know about Gary Walker
Music always played a significant role in Gary’s life, although for a long time it didn’t cross his mind that he could ever work in the music industry. Growing up in the UK, as a kid he enjoyed watching TV shows and reading magazines about music because he was too young to go to concerts, and the famous bands never played in his small hometown anyway. As soon as he turned 14, he started going to lots of concerts and hanging out with musicians. Later on he worked in a music trade shop but eventually went to London to change his career path and train to be a teacher.
In London he found himself writing music all the time so he finally decided that this might be the right path for him. When he started working in the music business, it was an incredible journey as every band he worked with seemed to get discovered. First Siouxsie and the Banshees, then The Smiths, then Babes in Toyland, and finally The Libertines, just to name a few. Eventually he became the Manager of the indie rock band The Kills and he now lives in LA.
How can you make sure you’re a good Manager?
Gary’s advice is to know your band well. There has to be a good connection between you and the artist, so you have to spend a lot of time with your band, to find out what your next steps should be. But always keep in mind that there’s never only one way to do things. Maybe this is the way for you, but as a Manager you should say „I think this is the way you should do it“, but not „This is the way you have to do it“. That would be destructive management, as it would make the artist feel uncomfortable.
Also, if you want to be a business manager, internships are really important. You’re not likely to be chosen for a big job if you’re not known and don’t have any experience. It’s really helpful if you have managed some artists before. A good idea is to ask your friends if you can be their manager.
Along his musical career path, Gary found out that if you’re particularly after a long career, then it’s essential to know about musical history. What happened in the past can still be essential in the present. If you know about musical history, then your mind is creatively aware of what’s going on while you’re listening to music, even if it’s not relevant for you.
“For me, musical history is kind of alive.“
For those who don’t know this incredible band, The Kills are an indie rock band formed by American singer Alison Mosshart and British guitarist Jamie Hince. At the moment they’re on tour with their most recent album ‚Ash & Ice‘. Some lucky BIMM Berlin students even had the chance to watch them perform live at Tempodrom!
It was really exciting to see the show and know that every detail of it was planned beforehand. At the beginning of their set, there was just a bass player and a drummer. This line-up developed into a full band by the time the song hit its stride. It was very effective and the audience was blown away.
“It’s really important to have a concept like this” says Gary Walker.
“For me the thrill is when the song, and especially the artist, makes a connection with their audience. That’s what a Manager is looking for. You want to see that again and again. The music definitely has to be great, too, but the performance is really important.“
The venue at Tempodrom was sold out, with 2,000 people attending the concert. That’s 1,000 more than their last gig in Berlin, so it seems like Gary and the band did a great job!
If you want to take a look behind the scenes, I really recommend watching the short movie ‚Into The Unknown‘. It’s really exciting, as it shows how Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince feel before and after a gig in a really raw, authentic and human way.
Alison: “I can’t believe this is happening. This is happening everyday and you don’t know what you’re doing. This is going into the unknown and you don’t really know where you’re going to land.”
You can see them looking into the mirror again and again, performing some rituals to calm down. Jamie is wearing a ‚magic scarf’, hidden underneath his real clothes to bring him luck. Both kiss each other on the cheek three times before they go on stage. This really shows how important the whole experience is to them, and that there’s a strong connection between the two of them. It’s not just the music on it’s own or the artists alone that make a concert special. Everything comes together, and it’s about the right chemistry, the right atmosphere, and the feeling you get when you’re on stage and not only play the music, but allow the music to play with you.
“The second you’re out there, any fear is gone, and there’s no going back. As soon a it’s over, you kind of want to play it really quickly again, so you remember it.” – Alison Mosshart