Matthias Scheuerer is the drummer for Berlin skatepunk band ZSK and thrash metal band Space Chaser. He’s been playing drums since he was 12 years old and started touring with local metal, hardcore and punk bands when he was 16. Since then he’s travelled across Europe as a roadie, been mentored by drummer Dave Culross of US death metal band Malevolent Creation, studied jazz and popular music, and worked with artists across genres as varied as reggae and acoustic to metal and hardcore. He’s endorsed by LB Drums Switzerland and Istanbul Mehmet cymbals. Matthias recently delivered a Master-Class to our students at BIMM Berlin so we caught up with him to find out all about his life on the road.
What’s your favourite thing about being on tour with headline acts?
The comfort level and the quality of the show. You get the longest soundcheck. You can really make sure you feel perfectly comfortable on stage. That way you can perform at your maximum. There’s no such thing as a perfect show but if you get the luxury of preparing well enough, you can go on stage with confidence and focus on the performance. When you get to tour with headline acts, you’re usually treated very well and you don’t have to sacrifice so much of your normal life. A lot of the time you get to have a better life than when you’re not touring. At the same time, you have a lot more responsibilities. You have to be on point and in time. And the stakes of the show are raised quiet a bit. It takes a while to get used to that kind of pressure. But I learned to love that part as well.
What’s your favourite country or city to perform in?
That’s almost impossible to answer. I’m so excited every time I get to be on tour. Especially when we leave Germany and see new places. I can’t say which one I like most. But honestly – I think coming home and having the last show of the tour in Berlin will always be my favourite. A close second is performing in a city/country I’ve never been to.
What advice would you give to new bands looking to get gigs and go on tour?
Play whatever gig you can play. Hand your demos to bookers of local venues you’d like to play at. They’re always looking for support bands. Especially in the beginning it’s important to play on every outlet. Even if you have the feeling it doesn’t make much sense to do that show… either because you don’t fit in the billing or you’re losing money. There’s a bunch of reasons not to play a show. But you need stage time. You can’t practice playing live in your rehearsal room. And always give it your everything. You never know who’s in the audience. When you get booked and you drive five hours for only a case of beer as payment and only four people show up – that can be a soul crushing experience. But that’s how you get good. Maybe the booker of a big festival ended up being in that audience. Or a producer. Or the sound dude also works for that famous band and he tells them about you when they need a support act. These things have happened to bands I was in more than once. Really. If you’re playing your heart out in front of five people, you will kill with bigger crowds. And people know that.
At the same time, I would stay away from band contests and shady booking agents/managers. There’s so much you can accomplish yourself. If you do get the gig, you can impress bookers and bands by being on time, playing a very well-timed set (if you get 20 minutes playtime and you play 19.5 minutes, for example) and stay quiet and humble backstage – that’s how you impress bookers and bands. That all seems to be obvious, but I have seen enough support acts who didn’t know that. All that will earn you a good reputation. And if you manage to draw in a crowd too, then they’ll contact you again when they need someone.
Would you advise new bands to try and get support slots for headlining bands?
Absolutely. That is very important. But be careful… there are a lot of dubious people out there. Almost on a daily basis I receive emails from booking agencies that give you a great deal on a tour (“It costs you only €150/day”).
If you get the chance to support an act that you like or which fits your music, then do it. Even if you don’t get any money. That’s already a good deal. Because it’s the best promotion you can have. And you’ll end up in the Google search with bigger bands. That’s all great news. A lot of bands charge you money to tour with them. That’s where it gets tricky. It can be smart to invest your hard-earned cash or borrow a considerable sum from your parents, but it has to be worth it. Often the support act has to pay for the nightliner tour bus too. That can be ok, especially if you… a) get to be on that nightliner and b) get a good slot that makes you reach enough people every night.
Friends of mine went broke on a tour – they had to pay €300 a night and they still needed to go in their own van and take care of the sleeping places on their own. On top of that, they were first of a four or five band package, meaning that the venues weren’t even 30% full by the time they finished playing. Even if they were great that night, most people didn’t even see that. A band who’s just starting will not recover from that.
How do you stay healthy during a tour?
That’s a very important question. I lead a rather healthy lifestyle. I work out, eat healthily, keep strict routines and just try to take care of myself as well as I can. That’s a good foundation because playing drums to heavy and fast music is already very demanding. Since you spend a lot of time sitting in a van and waiting in a venue, you don’t get much chance to work out. I take every chance I get to go for a walk. Even if it’s just to check what the neighbourhood is all about – fresh air and exercise!
An hour or two before the show, depending on the time frame, of course, it’s a huge part of my warm-up routine to just do a lot of exercises I learned through martial arts training. Shadowboxing, jumping jacks, push-ups. There are tons of very basic exercises that get your circulation going. I always try to go on stage sweating. Not only is that the best way to play drums crazy fast and hard for 1.5 hours, but it’s also a decent work out.
And while we’re on the subject: alcohol. Staying completely away is not always possible, but never drink before the show, and afterwards only celebrate with maybe a beer or two max. A hangover can be your biggest enemy on tour!
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