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...or the secret diaries of a toy dolls back line technician!

Just for you lot not familiar with the term “back line technician”, a back line tech, or in layman's terms “roadie”, does everything on stage connected with the back line (amplifiers & drums n’ stuff). Matzi, real name Marion , has been with our faithful trio for over 4 years now, she travels with, flies with, sails with, and is around the band for most of the time at festivals, shows and on tour, how does she stand it!?

So, we thought it was about time we caught up with Matzi, and find out just exactly what does go on on the road, and maybe even get some gossip!

The Toy Dolls are based in UK, you're based in Stuttgart, Germany, how did you first meet the band? And are you a toy dolls fan, or should i say were you a toy dolls fan, before you got to know the guys?!!

Let's put it this way: i was a toy-dolls-live-concert-fan. Didn't have any of the records, but often went to see them, when i had the chance. And hey, I also joined everyone on the dance floor when 'Nelly' was played in the 80ties. Ta tah! Never met Olga or one of the band personally before I started working for them. (beside the Amazing Mr. Duncan, who I met few times with his other bands before we met again with the toy dolls.) Thanks to Bernie, the band's sound man and tour manager (since the last century), he recommended me to them. And we both know each other for a long time.

On tour, how do you travel, is it a small van or night liner kind of thing?

On tour we travel together in a van. We are not many people and we fit in together with the small back line.

What we all wanna know, are the band party animals? As they appear on stage? Sex & drugs!?

What can I say! I'd say, they all carry the party animal inside, sometimes it breaks out, so I hear... - but as I’m always in bed early, i only hear the brutal gossips... - sometimes after giving 110% on stage, they might run out of energy for the drugs and sex and all that fuzz. But there's definitely a lot of rock 'n' roll when there are a few beers or a bottle of good wine.

Are there any strange things the band needs on stage? Such as the white sweets Olga eats, what's that all about!?

Certainly! Strange things, special things... - who doesn't need them? Part of my job is, to not question that ;o) - other bands or musicians as well by the way. Even though Olga might be one of the bit more special ones. (as he for example sometimes checks if the backdrop hangs symmetrical before he even checks his guitar sound. Or if his chewing gum (the white sweets) is on stage, before he even knows where the stage is!) But then on the other hand, compared to other bands, they all don't need much. It's only a few and little things, but those they need on the spot and completely right. Which is by the way also my philosophy and i hate being sloppy. All 3 of them get my attention – even though the Amazing Mr. Duncan and Tommy Goober usually don't need much at all. But all of them need a strong cooler fan.

What equipment do the band use? And what drinks etc. Do the band need on stage?

Funny to ask these 2 things in one question.... they all only drink water on stage.

The Amazing Mr. Duncan usually plays nice Ludwig drums, a small set, but when we fly to shows and get rental backline, he also goes with Yamaha or DW drums. But always his own DW kick pedal. He has Zildjian hi-hats and Sabian cymbals.

Tommy Goober plays an active Musicman stingray bass-guitar, but I know he also loves his fender precision. For an amp he usually goes with Ampeg SVT i or ii pro series or the SVT classic. Cabinet of course 8 x 10” Ampeg.

And Olga plays his fender telecaster (who doesn't know the yellow one!). It's kinda special, as he plays it for so long, even though the frets are down a lot, he doesn't want them to get replaced, as he is so used to it. So you can nearly call it “fretless guitar”. And the neck is nicer than from a lot of other or newer Fender Tele's. Before it goes in the amp, the guitar goes through a wireless system, and the Ibanez TS9 tube screamer, which is an overdrive pedal (only used at the endings of songs and some solos). For an amplifier he plays through a Marshall head JCM 800 – model 2203, 100 W lead, mk2. (my favourite amp, too, great sound. Also I don't like too many pots and transistor /digital shit anyway). For a cabinet he usually plays a 4 x 12” Marshall 1960a.

At festivals, when there is no time for sound checks, we have seen you checking the instruments...

...do You know exactly what the band wants to hear in the monitor system (on stage speakers which the band only hear)? And what do the band ask for in the monitors?

Yes, I usually do the so called line-check, especially on festivals. Unfortunately there is usually no time for a proper sound check on festivals. What i do, includes basically to “check every line” that means, to see if every channel (each microphone, every single tom of the drums etc.) arrives clearly at both sound desks. Then I usually check with Bernie or Merton, our front of house sound-engineers, if stage volumes / sounds are alright. As Toy Dolls usually work with a local monitor-guy, me and Bernie or Merton have to know what the band needs in their monitors. Often Bernie / Merton check the vocal-microphones, they know more about actual sound and frequencies than i do. But then it's left with me to check with the monitor-guy that everything is in every single monitor what the musician needs, and to level out how much of what instrument or voice is in every single monitor. For example, they all need kick drum, guitar and Olga’s vocal in the monitor. Of course they all need their own vocals, too. But only the amazing Mr. Duncan needs bass guitar. Tommy and Olga need snare-drum. But nobody needs hi-hat or toms or cymbals. They all don't need much.

How the hell does Olga's guitar spin?

It's not spinning!! The rest of the world is spinning! I'm actually not sure if this is a secret or not.... - let me say this: it's a second, very special input-system. Maybe the opposite of “pimp my guitar”, as you have to make an extra ugly hole in the body.

In the dressing room, there is a rider (catering). What’s does a typical toy dolls rider consist of?

Uuuh, I don't really know exactly out of the back of my head... there weren't many shows this year... But what I know, it's some different soft drinks, water, coffee, and tea. Beer and usually 2 or 3 bottles of dry red wine. We have sandwiches, very important is that there are enough with vegetarian sandwich spread and cheese, as half of us are vegetarians. Then of course some vegetables or at least fresh fruits. As you always have a big lack of vitamins on tour. In the evening, usually more than 2 hours before the show, we get a warm meal. It's all in all very basic.

What is a typical day on tour?

Waking up, asking yourself “where you are” (usually in a hotel, - but where?), Getting down to breakfast as fast as possible, as my alarm usually goes off 10 minutes before official end of breakfast (if there is not a painfully long journey which requires earlier to get up). Then finding Olga and Koen (our merchandise guy) having already their 2nd breakfast, as they always get up far too early. Quick breakfast, even though normally the Amazing Mr. Duncan manages always to be at breakfast after me.

Lobby call, hotel check-out, getting in the van. Bernie or Merten are driving, and I’m the 2nd driver. Depends on how long the drive is, how much “van-sleep” you get, what gives you a bit of a stiff neck and back-ache. When we arrive at the venue, we get in the building, say hello, look where the stage and the loading way is, (if we are not in a rush, we grab a cup of coffee and a sandwich), then we start loading in the back line and merchandise. Luckily we often have 1 or 2 people helping (stage-hands). I talk to local technicians, instruct them and find out what i need to know.

I put everything in place on the stage, get power for amps, insert cables and instruments. Then put new strings on Olga’s main guitar, every 3rd day also on spinning guitar. Check if all instruments and amps are working. Then we do a line-check. The musicians already check their monitors, then everyone together have sound check. In average we need 4 hours from arrival 'til end of sound check.

Then we have time to take care of things which weren't correctly working, or more new strings, i usually check all batteries, clean guitars and make sure everything is ready for the show (did someone blow the Lambrusco bottle up?!). Time for dinner and having a short rest... - depends if there is a support band also...

In the half hour before show time, i bring towels and water to the stage, check what the musicians still need... and tune all guitars (and make sure, Olga’s chewing gum is on stage). Then show-time! During the show i have 100 % concentration, cause every night is different. But mainly it's the band's turn and i only see, what i can help. After the show i pack everything, wipe the guitars, and make sure we don't forget anything. Which is always good that we are 2 people (either Bernie and Merten with me) to get everything together and then back in the van. When everyone is done, we leave the venue and check in the next hotel. (then they have the crazy parties i always miss).

How many people are in the toy dolls crew? Including the band?

It's six of us. When i started with toy dolls we were seven. There was still Ernie with us, doing lights, taking care of the backdrop and all that... - but he stopped touring in 2005.

Do you all get on? Or do you argue!?

Funny question! - next! (i guess the band members might read this!) - no, seriously, they are all good people. We sometimes start arguing when we get bored.... - or maybe it's only me... I can have not-so-serious arguments with Olga or Tommy which are hilarious.... or i can have physical work-out (fist fights & karate) with Tommy, (also just when we get bored / too long van rides). He is the only one who is brave enough. No, no, really, they treat me well. They all have a great sense of humour! I think the only time i wanted to “hit” Olga, was, when he was drumming on his legs & singing “part time punks” over and over between 6 and 8 o'clock in the morning, in the van after not even 2 hours sleep, somewhere in Spain. It was a tough one, but i was too tired to argue with him.

What is the worst thing about being a toy dolls technician!?

To travel all over the world!

And what's the best!?

To travel all over the world!! And to work with 3 fantastic musicians in a really good punk rock band, which aren't youngsters any more.

Thank you Matzi. Let's hope that you'll be working with the band for many more years to come!

Thank you very much!