5 things you only know if… you’re renowned Sheffield sound tech Paul ‘Tufty’ Tuffs
1: You can come across some interesting people in this job.
If you mean proper musicians that play instruments and perform live, then, yes, plenty. If you mean someone from the latest series of X-Factor, then probably not (although there may have been one or two!). There are loads of messy events and stories over the years, but most are far too salacious for the pages of a good wholesome family-friendly magazine. You can have two that are pretty tame. I can tell you for a fact that Damon Albarn will beat you at ping pong, as he is a grand master at it and tours the world with a full-size flight-cased table in the back of the articulated truck! And Buster Bloodvessel from Bad Manners is a nightmare and to be avoided. He won’t turn up to soundcheck, pretends things aren’t working, and thinks he’s hilarious. Ha-bloody-ha! If you want the proper gossip and scandal you’ll need to buy me a beer or three – and take an oath of silence!
2: When it comes to “making it”, it’s about more than just having talent.
There are obviously a lot of variables, so you can never say for sure; but I can definitely tell if they have the right attitude to make it. In my experience this means: a fantastic work ethic, super charming people skills and a mystical ability to capture the zeitgeist, bottle it up with a capitalist fervour and flog it to the eager kids following as you pipe out merry tunes. Being naturally gifted rarely builds a career in the music industry on its own, although it doesn’t do much harm as long as you also possess the vital attributes above.
3: It’s not all about the technical stuff, you know…
Technical skills account for maybe 20% maximum, people skills = 75%. Some situations require you to have immense empathy, patience and emotional understanding; others are a mental and sometimes physical battle that require the response of a savage tyrant! I would like to thank my former comrades Brian and Ash at The Grapes for many an invaluable lesson here! The key is deciding which strategy is the appropriate one to take! The remainder is split between boozing skills (around 2.5%) and lumping heavy speakers about skills (again 2.5%).
4: It’s a team effort.
… In most situations. Put someone in a strange venue with no assistance, chances are they’ll spend the entire sound check looking for breakers to turn the rig on and where the microphone stands are kept! The secret behind running a great live venue is the symbiotic relationship between the house team and the touring crew – advancing, maintenance and preparation is vital! Obviously that all goes out of the window when there’s been a three-hour traffic jam on the M1 and the talent turn up 15 minutes before showtime; that’s when the real fun starts and certainly sorts out the pros from the have-a-gos!
5: Some people can get on your nerves.
“Can you turn my son/daughter up? They’re not loud enough!”
Have some interesting tales from your trade or know someone who does? Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature them in an upcoming issue.