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Sat July 14, 2012
He Keeps fun. Running
Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 7:31 pm
When NPR's Scott Simon spoke with singer Nate Ruess of the band fun. three weeks ago, the band was wrapping up a marathon tour of the United States in support of its album Some Nights and the hit single "We Are Young."
"We haven't really been home since," Ruess said of the tour that began in February. And indeed, after enjoying just a few days at home in New York, fun. flew to Europe for more concerts. Over the course of the summer, Weekend Edition Saturday and NPR Music will continue to check in with members of fun., as well as the band's touring crew to see what it takes to mount a successful tour. In the weeks since that first interview, the band has played in Paris, London and Germany, and braved the mud at the Scottish festival T in the Park, where they played on the same stage as New Order, Alabama Shakes and Skrillex.
This week Scott Simon checks in with Shane Timm, the band's guitar technician, who says the Scottish festival was a little bit of a mess. "It was the craziest thing I've ever seen as far as festivals go," Timm says. "Festivals [here] are nothing but mud and rain and puddles, but everyone is completely dressed and ready for it. We did not know that was how it was going to be, so we're walking around in tennis shoes getting completely covered in mud. We had to throw our shoes in the tub and let them soak for a while, but I think it was worth it."
Timm's voice echoes in the empty hallways of the building where he's helping the band set up for a show at Club Bauhaus, in a former art school building in the town of Dessau, Germany. "It's a really old building. It looks like what your typical high school looks like," he says.
As fun.'s guitar tech, Timm is in charge of the backline — every piece of equipment that the band uses while it's on stage, from cables to keyboard stands to drums and microphones and guitars. How much stuff does a band like fun., on its way up the charts, cart around?
"I would say probably as much as what a circus does, minus the animals," Timm says, before groaning at his own joke. "The last time I counted, I had 45 backline pieces that I gotta keep track of." That load fills a "really, really big trailer ... from floor to ceiling" and can weigh up to 13,000 pounds.
Before he joined the band last year, Timm, who is slim, with dark, center-parted hair and a wisp of a goatee, had never worked in the music business before, had never been on tour with a band.
"He looked like a pirate," Ruess joked. "So it was a little weird for, I would say, the first two weeks, getting used to the guy."
Now, Ruess says, "This guy is with us forever. It's been unbelievable to watch him grow into an incredible guitar tech. He kind of runs the stage and makes sure everything is working for everybody."
Timm says he started trying to make himself invaluable from the moment he walked in the door. "I remember the very first day that I even met them I was really freaked out," he says. "I was like, 'OK, these guys are professional musicians, this is going to be intimidating. I can do it, I can do it.' And Jack [Antonoff], one of his guitar pedals was screwing up, so I took it apart the very first time I met them, right there in the rehearsal studio, and I fixed it."
"I fix things," Timm says. "That's what I'm good at." He previously worked as a technician for Mercedes Benz and BMW. "I fix a lot of stuff, everything from cars to guitars to even household items," he says. "if it's broken I'm just going to try to fix it before I buy another one."
It's another piece of equipment belonging to Antanoff that gives Timm the most trouble: a red, vintage 1968 Gibson ES-330 electric guitar. Timm says he's fixed the instrument so many times it'll eventually be "a very old body with all brand new parts."
"It's like it's a person almost, and it wants to just mess with me. And it could be as simple as like, [Jack] just set it down on the ground a little awkwardly and for some reason as it wobbles around on the floor a wire decides to go," he says. "But every time I tackle it and I fix it, ... I fix something new."
Timm is learning the ropes of being on a major tour alongside the rest of the band. Where smaller bands (like the one fun. used to be before they scored a No. 1 with "We Are Young") pack everything into a van and do as much as possible themselves to save money, Timm is a part of fun.'s growth. There's more equipment to keep track of, more shows, more fans.
"The schedule is really busy and really hectic, and we don't always get to see a lot of each other," Timm says. "A lot of the time we're tired. We're worn out. We just want to take a nap." But the crew and the band try to spend as much time hanging out as they can, even if they have to squeeze it into a short drive.
"When we were in Scotland on the way to T in the Park, it was like a 30-minute drive, but that 30 minutes [was] everyone laughing, making fun of each other, talking about what's been going on; it just kind of refreshes you," he says. "It makes you go, 'All right, here we go. We're still us. We're overseas, we're really busy, we're all tired, but this is awesome.' "
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")
SIMON: This summer we're checking in with the band "fun."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")
NATE REUSS: (Singing) Give me a second. I need to get my story straight. My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State. My lover...
SIMON: The rock band on tour is a kind of traveling road show with publicists, tour managers, and of course, technicians. So today we speak with Shane Timm. He is the technician for fun. and handles all their 40-some pieces from electric guitars to cables. Shane Timm joins us now from Dessau, Germany, where the band's just about to wrap up their tour in Europe. Thanks for being with us, Mr. Timm.
SHANE TIMM: Hey. Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
SIMON: What are you seeing? Where you been?
TIMM: Oh, wow.
TIMM: We've been all over the place. Gosh. We started off in London and then did a festival, T in the Park, in Scotland which was really neat. The craziest thing I've ever seen as far as festival goes with - apparently, what people get used to out here is these festivals that are nothing but mud and rain and puddles, but everyone is completely, like, dressed and ready for it.
But we did not know that was how it was going to be, so we're walking around, like, in tennis shoes and stuff, getting completely covered in mud. But regardless, it went well. The crowd was amazing. It was a great show. You know, we had to throw our shoes in the tub and let them soak for a while afterwards, but I think it was worth it.
SIMON: I'm told you were a car mechanic when you first came to the band.
TIMM: Yeah. As it turns out, it was not for me. I learned a lot and I can fix a lot of stuff, but luckily, the current monitor engineer for the band, Danny Hodges, he got hired on with the band and he threw my name out there at which point they said all right, bring him out. So I came out.
And the very first day that I even met them I was really, like, freaked out. I was like, OK, these are professional musicians. This is going to be intimidating. I can do it. I can do it. And then Jack's - one of the guitar pedals was screwing up so I took it apart, the very first day I met them, like, right there in the rehearsal studio and I fixed it.
So I was like, all right, there we go. It's starting off good. It started off good.
SIMON: How much equipment do you have to haul from place to place when you're on the road?
TIMM: I would say probably as much as what a circus does, minus the animals.
TIMM: We haul about 13,000 pounds I think is the last load we have. And the last time I counted all my backline pieces, I had 45 backline pieces that I've got to keep track of. Which, basically it's anything that the band will use on stage that doesn't involve, like, lights.
SIMON: Is there one piece of equipment that's given you any particular grief?
TIMM: Yeah. I would say that that piece would be Jack's first love guitar - a 1968 Gibson ES330. There's a lot of old wiring inside it and it's like it's a person, almost, and it wants to just mess with me. And it could be as simple as just, like, he sets it down on the ground a little bit, like, awkwardly, and then for some reason as it, like, wobbles around on the floor a wire decides to go. Because it's like, I'm real old, I'm rusted, I give up.
SIMON: Is there a song in particular that the band does that makes you think, boy, I'm glad I took care of that Gibson?
TIMM: Uh, yeah. "Barlight." "Barlight." Jack, he rocks out in "Barlight" big-time and without his guitar working on that song it would lose a lot of its power.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BARLIGHT")
REUSS: (Singing) Never in all my life have I seen eyes as empty as these streets in my city on a Saturday night. And the green of your eyes say go, leave it all behind. But I don't need to reminded that change is going to come. I feel it on the tip of your tongue. And I feel alive, feel alive.
SIMON: When you're on tour do you get much chance to see anything other than your own show?
TIMM: Occasionally. You know, sometimes we have days off and I get to kind of venture around whatever area we're currently staying in. But my favorite thing to do most of the time is I just find the nearest coffee shop and I just go and I sit there and listen to music.
I hear music all day and most people would probably think that I don't want to hear any music, but it's nice to be able to just relax somewhere and go through your own playlist.
SIMON: So you got a favorite song from your band?
TIMM: To be completely honest, even though I hear it so much, "We Are Young" still gives me the chills every single time. I swear. I don't know what it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")
REUSS: (Singing) Tonight we are young. So let's set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun.
TIMM: Because when they are playing that song live it is just powerful it's crazy. And the fans go nuts and it's just like such a blast every single time.
SIMON: Thanks so much, Mr. Timm.
TIMM: Absolutely. Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")
REUSS: (Singing) ...burn brighter than the sun. Now, I know that I'm not...
SIMON: Shane Timm, technician with the band fun. We reached him in Germany and we'll check in with them later this summer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.