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Gimme Your Answers (Beyond the Stage): An Interview w/ Neale Whelehan

Neale WhelehanEver wonder what happens beyond the stage? Well we do. These roadies, managers, guitar techs, lighting directors, A&R, and even positions you may not have known about make the music you love come alive! We spoke with roadie Neale Whelehan to see what strings he pulls behind the scenes of our favourite bands!

AMBY: How did you first get into your industry?

Neale Whelehan: I’ve grown up with Mark, Ste and Vinny so ever since they’ve been in a band I was always there lending a hand organizing gigs, packing down gear and basically anything else I could do to make life easier.
Once the guys brought in Jay and named themselves Kodaline, it got a little more serious. I was working in Coca-Cola at the time so when the opportunity came about where I could take on the backline tech role full time I seized it.

AMBY: Explain to people what you do.

Neale Whelehan: I’m a backline tech so my job essentially is to ensure every bit of Kodaline’s musical gear is in good working order. In other words, I hypothetically own all of the gear for 23 hours of the day until the band use it for the hour show, so anything I’m giving to them for the show will/should work perfectly.

I change strings, drum skins, set up, pack down gear, I work with the monitor engineer getting monitor levels right, repairing instruments, building pedal boards and many other little jobs to keep me entertained from day to day.

AMBY: Which bands are you currently working with and which have previously worked with?

Neale Whelehan: Right now Kodaline are extremely busy so I’m currently investing all of my time into them. In the past, I’ve worked with a couple of small Irish bands doing stagehands at various festivals in Ireland, nothing particularly of note.

AMBY: What is the craziest thing to happen to you while touring?

Neale Whelehan: Craziest thing? Haha, quite a difficult question to answer. There have been several nights over the past year, which spring to mind.

One of them would be Vermont definitely. We just finished the support slot for The Airborne Toxic Event in the Higher Ground venue in Burlington.

The place seemed like a quiet, typical large town full of friendly people. Anyway, I packed the van after the guys gig and went up to enjoy TATE’s show with a few beers. Literally seconds after TATE got off stage we met them backstage to say great show but mid sentence a group of maybe 4 people skipped right through our group in crazy cross dress outfits, painted on side burns, massive hair singing big show tune songs… We all pretty much looked at each other with extremely puzzled faces not saying a word but each instinctively following them!

We went through the back corridors of the venue eventually getting to the smaller 300cap venue. We walked into this pop up gay dance party or something like that with everyone dressed in the weirdest of outfits while heavy trance music blasted out in the background. Massive hairy men in dresses singing, Girls dressed like fat dudes, Men and Women wearing leather chaps and god knows what else?? Ha.. Obviously we stayed for like over an hour mostly because it was by far funniest setting you could think of to have a rave at.

I’m currently on the Ferry home to Dublin writing this piece, all seemed pretty calm, sea isn’t too bad but out of but fuck no where we’re surrounded by 3 massive chunuck helicopters and 4 fighter copters. The sound from them is crazy and every 10 minutes there is this huge jolt from the ship as a Copter lands on the deck. My guess is a Royal navy ‘Training Exercise’ or some other yada yada.

Its pretty freaking crazy though when a copter is flying straight at your window then stops and just hovers there for 30 seconds staring at the ship. I’m from Ireland, so it’s not something I’m very used to.

AMBY: What do you do for fun while on tour?

Neale Whelehan: When we’re not driving, or I’m editing videos we tend to eat, a lot! But other than that nothing to exciting although I’ve been pushing to get a nerf rocket, football, frisby and skateboard, All essential things for on the road! Ha.

On our last tour bus we had a blender so, ‘Can you blend it’ was a fairly destructive way to spend our time.

Personally I love visiting new places, mainly to look at the different types of buildings, meet the local people and most importantly try out the local food and beer, yeah baby!

AMBY: What is the best and worst thing about your gig?

Neale Whelehan: I generally don’t have any part of my gig where it gets particularly bad, if there’s a really difficult load into the venue with 4 million steps then I’m like ah feck this! Or if the venue has very little space on and off stage so setting up my world and everyone else’s in the band can really affect the show.

The best bit is usually the last note of the last song ringing out through the PA que me finishing work! Haha. Nah the best bit by far is seeing and hearing people in the crowd singing back the lyrics to some of the Bands songs. As Kodaline get bigger, more and more people are singing the songs so It’s fairly breathtaking in a big venue!

AMBY: Which three albums changed your life?

Neale Whelehan: I had a feeling this question would be asked and my answer changes like the Irish weather! In no particular order:

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon

(Obvious choice but this album is perfection, you can listen to this album in any mood/state. Listening to the album also reminds me of many great nights in the past I’ve had with close friends, so listening to the album drops me right back into those memories)

The Beatles – Abbey Road

(It’s nearly impossible to pick a favourite Beatles album but this one comes close. Every song is just amazing. The best thing to ever happen to the Beatles was having fans that never stopped bloody screaming so loud the Band couldn’t hear themselves on stage, turning The Beatles into more of a studio Band.)

Nicolas Jaar – Resident Advisor Mix

(Since my friend should me Jaar around 3 / 4 years ago I’ve been hooked on this recent growth of emotive electronic music. Everything about it really, the fluctuating pace of songs, the timed intrusion of bass and weird sampled sounds all meshed into a futuristic sound. The music is sort of like a ‘thinking mans rave’. This particular mix by Jaar is insanely good and gets a spin once a fortnight!)

AMBY: Where is the best spot to eat on tour?

Neale Whelehan: Usually we resort to truck stops for food but in the off chance we have a bit of time, finding a good seafood restaurant is top of the menu! When we were in Annapolis, Maryland 2 weeks ago we went to this restaurant renowned for its lobster crab bomb burgers. The patty is basically an infusion of crabmeat and lobster meat. I’m not going to lie, it was the best damn burger I’ve ever tried*, strange taste at first but half way through I got pretty said as I was almost finished it! (*Apart from the Sea Bright Arms in London, they were like STUUUUPIDLY good!)

AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about you that nobody knows yet?

Neale Whelehan: Eeeeeeeh…. I’m a very open person; I don’t really hide anything from people. Couple of weeks ago I let slip that one of my middle names is Mary so I got a hefty slagging for it. It’s pretty bizarre to most but most of my Family, their middle name is Mary, named after my Great Grandmother who was and is a legend of the Whelehan clan!

***

Thank you Neale, for giving us your answers!

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Alicia Atout

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