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Interview: Batttttty

Heroes...

Batttttty was the production assistant for the Legends of Rock tour and is webmistress for Barry Sparks (Dokken/Uli Jon Roth) and a UFO tribute site amongst others.

How did you become involved in the music business?

I ask myself that question nearly every day, and I honestly don't know the answer. I think the internet was the diving board, cos just by the nature of the interactivity of the internet, it became so easy to be part of what was going on. Although I was a fan of certain bands/musicians for years, it was only when the messages and reviews that I wrote were responded to by some of the people in 'the bizzzzz' that I got friendly on a personal level with them. Also, I found that if you learn to say "I'm with the band" with just the right amount of nonchalance, and walk around like you own the place, you don't have any problems gettin past security.

You have been heavily involved in the recent Legends of Rock tour. How did that go? What are the logistics/planning that goes into such a big tour? Would you do it again next year? Any great stories from the tour at all?

First of all I must make it clear that I do not work for a PR company or anything like that. There were people hired to do that job for the Legends tour - my main function was to maintain the website, and to liaise with the fans.

I'm in my element with all that, even the time-consuming stuff like answering emails from people wanting travel information on how to get from Heathrow Airport to Shepherds Bush Empire on a Sunday night with only 5 in their pocket and not speaking any English apart from the lyrics to Smoke On The Water. I love all that. And meeting the fans was wonderful - especially the fans of Frank Marino who had waited twenty years to see him and were soooo excited that they would get the chance to actually talk to their hero!

Some nights I got up to five boxes of Ferrero Rochers - just for making it happen! The tour itself went very well, which was a triumph in itself considering two days before it started we nearly didn't have a show. Some of you will know that our bassplayer, Barry Sparks, got a call to return home to Arizona because his father was dying. Apart from the terrible cloud this put over everyone - Barry is such a lovely person, and it was awful to know this was happening to him and we weren't able to help him in any way - it left us with the 'impossible' task of finding a bassplayer who could learn both Uli's and Frank's set in such a short time.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (literally!) we still hadn't got one - and then a miracle happened in the shape of Francois Garny from Belgium. He learnt everything by staying up all night and listening/writing/practicing, and he saved the day.

The only problem was that it didn't leave Uli or Frank the scope to improvise (which is what they both excel at and prefer to do) cos it just wouldn't have been fair on Francois.It meant the audiences didn't get to see the full scope of what Uli and Frank are really capable of when Barry is there doing his tantric telepathy thannnggg, but all credit to Francois, he is da man!

We still got quite a few of those moments though, particularly during Uli and Frank's version of All Along The Watchtower, which went from strength to strength each night, and also Uli's set with Jack, which on many occasions became telepathic poetry. And yes, I would do it again next year! I know it's what I was born for.

How easy is it to promote a new artist? Any tips for newer bands trying to get gigs?

Pretty difficult I should think - I'm glad I'm not a talented musician trying to start out now, cos I would get so demoralised. Everything is money-orientated and you can't get anywhere without a hefty budget. Quality is no guarantee of getting anywhere. Neither is being in the right place at the right time, cos even then you only have a short shelf life. MTV and programmes like Pop Idol have ruined the long- term outlook for anyone with talent, cos everything is marketed towards you being a has-been in two years time.

I get really angry that performers who have worked so hard to maintain their integrity are having to finance projects for themselves and having to juggle and struggle to put an album or a tour together, when a plastic-tasting boil-in-the-bag-ready-in-fifteen-minutes group of kids with the right haircut can have a multi-million pound marketing and merchandising campaign behind them, which gives them the privilege of hiring the 'best' producers, 'best' road managers, best everything, so that their whole careers are streamlined and their tours run like clockwork.

That's one of the reasons that I would move heaven and earth to help the people who are genuine musicians and who I have respect for. I see it this way.... if, one day, you go to a restaurant, and have theeeeeeee most amazing meal, where you taste flavours that youdidn't even know existed, and where the service is excellent and you're made to feel really welcome.... well, it's only right that you not only pay the bill, but leave a tip for the waiter, yeh? OK, well, I sometimes feel the need to go that little bit further. Apart from seeking outthe chef to compliment him on the meal, I'd probably start by building him a website, and telling everyone what a fantastic place it was - and then when they got really busy I'd go in in my spare time to help lay the tables, peel the spuds, wash the pots, and polish the cutlery. OK, so I'd also end up chatting with the customers while they're trying to eat, and I'd probably end up dancing on the tables and getting the whole place singing along too, but that's the kinda gal I am.

How do you view the current UK rock scene?

Too many fast-food burger bars - maybe if there was a magazine that really did specialise in writing about proper restaurants it would help....?

Who are your musical heroes and why?

Well, they're mainly dead or past it. First off, it was Led Zep. Because at the time there was Led Zep, and that was it. No-one else even came close - if music was chocolate, Led Zep would be the Ferrero Rochers. But then came Thin Lizzy and UFO, and it was the close-to-the-edgeness of both of those bands that I fell in lurve with. Led Zep were already too 'safe' by then. UFO won by a nose (Phil's, hahahaha), mainly cos they drove their motorbike over a line of 43 buses and landed with a backflip double somersault into the barrel of a cannon which shot them straight through a burning hoop and over the Grand Canyon to land triumphantly in the centre of a trampoline above a tank full of alligators.

Any bright hopes for the future (bands/labels/venues)?

Yes, if I was in charge - certainly. But as things are, I think the days of real innovation are gonna be a while coming round full circle (if we're talking about the genre that is 'rock') - at least until someone comes along with something exciting that hasn't been done before, and there is someone willing to take the risk to team up with them, spiritually and financially to make it happen. Blimey, I'd do it - I want to do it. I know where I can get the ingredients, and I have the keys to the kitchen. I could even start to learn to cook - but I just havent got the resources to fly to remote Tibetan hillsides and pick berries off rare oogligoogli plants at the exact moment the sun comes up over the horizon and other stuff like that. It's very frustrating.

Interview © 2002 Jason Ritchie


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