Ever wondered what it takes to make a show happen? Here we follow Q The Music's Director Warren Ringham through the day and night on one of their largest scale events ever!
1030. My wife Lana and I arrive at the venue and we are the first to arrive - apart from the venue technician, Elliott. For me, the first of about 400 hurdles is negotiated: last year, we arrived and, due to a mix up at the venue, we were an hour late getting into the theatre. I spent the hour pacing and stressing and trying to find some sort of out of hours contact number. Once we eventually got in, all my preparation and set up time was concertinaed which really adds to an already stressful day.
…And this year is far more ambitious…
With the extra musicians (6 more than last year) plus the extra technical crew this year (extra 7 people), the total people on site working directly for Q The Music (and I guess - me!) will total 35, plus Elliott, the house tech.
Lana and I unload our van – which in itself is a lot of kit and takes a good 20 minutes to unload. My own tech team starts arriving: Tim, Chris and Josh. Tim is my main sound engineer, but more than that, he is my right hand man. Tim is one of those gems - when you find one, you can’t imagine how you survived before they were there. He sees things happening before they do, and he’s just on my wavelength with everything - from my vision of the show, to the sound, to the staging and down to the finest of details. I guess most others, understandably, turn up and do their own bit and worry about that – but it’s me that has to gel that all together and logistically, technically and visually make the whole thing work. Luckily I have Tim who helps with that.
1100. Mark Forster of Worldwide Entertainments and his team arrive…in an articulated lorry!! When he opens the back doors (and unloads the forklift truck!) I realise the true scale of what I have put on my own shoulders today. Even with the forklift truck and 8 people unloading the lorry, it takes us 40 minutes just to get all the boxes into the theatre.
Although I generally don’t melt down in panic on these events, I am inwardly starting to wonder how on earth we are going to get set up and still have the sound-check and rehearsal time I need in the afternoon. The worst bit at that point for me, before we can even get cracking on setting anything up for the show (staging and sound-wise), we need to wait for this 40 foot screen to go up – and that takes another half an hour to go up. For those of you not at the show, basically we have a screen behind the band, with cameras dotted around to project the images on the screen. This footage is also being recorded straight to computer to go up on the internet in 24 hours time (with Mark mixing the sound in a room elsewhere in the building), so people can watch it around the world as if it was live.
To be fair to Mark and his team, they are killing it on the set up. Even though ideally they would have got in at 9am, they work relentlessly and efficiently and before we know it, my team can start putting in the risers/staging. This adds to the workload, but having the band in tiers makes the whole thing look so much better: the staging of the show is crucial, as it makes it look less of a “band” plonked on stage, and more of a production. Sadly, Fleet is too small, and though we try various configurations, we can’t fit the steps in the middle of the stage – Kerry would normally use these in a couple of key moments in the show and it looks magnificent when she does. To be honest, the stage as so small for all 20 musicians and risers that it becomes a mammoth task to get everyone on and give them the space they need.
1230. The screen is up and the staging is in, so now my sound team can start getting our stuff in. The technical set up for Q The Music is, without doubt, the largest and most complicated set up you will probably find on the theatre, function band or tribute show circuit. It starts to get complicated immediately you insist the band plays to click track – which I do. For the past 4 years, we have played all the Bond songs to a “click”; in other words, a preset Pulse which the drummer starts and key people in the rhythm section can hear. Why? Well, for me I think the first thing that unsettles a Bond fan or a keen fan of the songs is if they don’t sound right… and tempo is everything. A song like Licence To Kill lives or dies by the tempo and the groove. Even a few beats too fast and it loses so much of its impact and feel. Of course, no-one in the audience wants to hear (or should hear) a “donk donk donk donk…” of a click, so immediately you then need in-ear systems for everyone who needs the click. That means a system of headphones, amps and each person needs their own mix, so straight away you’ve just massively increased the amount of equipment and set up.
Then we have Radio mics for all the vocalists so they can roam freely. David (Guitar) is wireless so he can do his thing. We have monitor speakers for those who don’t need click but do need to hear other parts of the band, we have percussion and we have our trigger machine.
The Trigger is another crucial part: this is a set of pads that when hit can trigger a sound effect. So all those little effects from the later songs, or some of the percussion from the earlier films, can be stored on here and still heard. This really enhances the sound of the show and gives it that authenticity I’m always striving for.
Although there is lunch, I don’t see anybody stop for one of the sandwiches and I think anyone who grabs one wolfs it down while setting up.
1400. Lee the Drummer arrives (the first musician). It takes longest to set up the Drums, and then to sound-check also takes longest as you have to do each part separately. So for example each of the microphones for the Kick Drum, Snare, all four Toms, Hi-Hats, Overhead Mics: all need individually checking and working on to get the sound right.
Today I feel appreciation to the boys and girls in the band – they know how tough the set up is and how big the show is and whilst normally most will arrive bang on (or a few minutes after) the time you give them, today everyone is arriving early. My rhythm section guys are all getting in and set up.
1500. The Brass are in and set up and vocalists are on site and now the Strings arrive. And then the reality of the new larger set up really strikes home: how the hell are we going to fit them in? We have a fairly settled stage plan for the normal line-up and it takes a few minutes of persuasion for the guys to realise we are all going to have to adjust today to make it work.
Even after everyone makes a bit more room for the Strings to squeeze in, the space is ridiculous. As the String players come on stage to take their place, I can see it is going to be a proper mission to get them in and I’m expecting some frustrated and negative reaction from the girls in the Strings - but no, none of it. They are magnificent and positive and make the best of the tight space, even though several of them are crazily close to the edge of the risers and a nasty spill!
It’s at this point, just as everyone has got in place and we are ready to start playing, a potential major disaster strikes. David’s Guitar slips off its stand and hits the floor, splitting the head of the Guitar right down the middle. It’s completely unplayable, and David doesn’t have a spare. The only option is for him to drive right round the M25 home, pick up a spare and get back to do the show. Even foot to the floor and no traffic, it could be tight, so he rushes off.
I have no choice but to crack on and sound-check/rehearse without one of my key linchpins in the band, and one of the four main principals of the show.
I’m frequently asked: how often do you rehearse? Well, we don’t, but on days like today we do have longer sound-checks that amount to a short rehearsal. Time is tight, so I have to choose what to cover carefully. I know the key songs to run: Live And Let Die, as it has lots of tempo changes. The same can be said of Tomorrow Never Dies, so we run that. Another Way To Die is one I choose to run today - although we know it well, it is without doubt one of our biggest numbers and I want to make sure there are no surprises that could ruin the show-stopper. Writings On The Wall is one I choose to run - again as it’s the biggest number of the night (along with AWTD) and with the new Strings, I want to make sure it delivers.
We run Backseat Driver a few times; it’s the first time we have performed it, and it is the hardest piece we have ever done. Why? Well, technically it’s a challenge for every instrument: it’s fast, it’s complex, it’s loud, it’s tiring (especially for the Bass line who have to play a tricky Bass line repeatedly for 5 minutes) and it’s new of course, so it’s unfamiliar to everyone.
There are other potential banana skins like the intro and outro to From Russia With Love, intros to You Only Live Twice, Bond 77, Moby Remix, Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough.
It’s during the rehearsal I jump off stage to have a quick listen to the band from out the front. As I walk away from the stage, I turn to face it and see for the first time what Q The Music with 19 musicians (albeit 2 are missing) looks like. It’s another moment of realisation for me. I guess I am feeling mixed emotions – an overwhelming feeling of pride and excitement, but also the thought that a lot is riding on my shoulders both in the band (looking to me as the one putting it together) and from the audience who have paid good money and heard great things. The expectation leading into tonight is HUGE, and I’ve only stoked that fire in past few months. That niggling doubt quickly disappears though. I know what we have here, I know we always deliver, and I know I have surrounded myself with amazing people who will deliver.
We also run through a few other things and before you know it, it’s 1730. Normally we would finish closer to 1800 and then just come on stage at 1925 ready to start (so everyone has time for dinner and particularly the ladies have time to get ready), but today we finish early and choose to try and sound check 2 more songs with David (if he is back in time) at 1845 – his Satnav claims he will be back in time.
It’s in this period – the supposed break – 1730-1845, that things are probably most frantic for me. 35 people, and everyone has a question for you. I’ve learned over the years to cope with this, but it’s hard at times. I can never understand event co-ordinators who crack under this pressure, and there are a lot of them.
There are some 12 or 13 cameras to set up now, and get the camera angles right. Annoyingly, I can’t quite get all the angles I would ideally like, as the stage is just too small, and the wings are already cramped too…so there is just a limitation on where we can put them.
Chris Wright from James Bond Radio is on hand to run through where he is going for some backstage interviews for the stream and DVD. We have a photographer who will shoot the show for us. I have even roped in my wife and Mum to sell merchandise for us in the foyer. There is a hair and make-up professional who is looking after Kerry. One of Mark’s team is putting in additional lighting (on top of what is at the venue). We have an Oddjob lookalike – Ian U’Chong – who has kindly agreed to pose for photos with crowd in exchange for a ticket for him and his budding musician son. It’s all starting to make my head spin a little…
1845. David arrives back and we run through Backseat Driver again, and You Know My Name so he can check the levels on his vocal. The doors are due to open at 1900 and there are people outside already. We finish the sound-check just in time for the “stream” to commence recording. The first thing due at 1900 is an interview with me (by Chris) and I’ve tasked my wife with being responsible for making sure the interviewees are ready and in place for Chris.
Just as we are due to start my phone rings and it is Caroline Munro (Yes - Naomi from The Spy Who Loved Me), who has arrived at Fleet train station and needs a lift to the theatre as there are no taxis! At this point I have Lana tugging my arm and saying “you need to start NOW!” Really a hilarious quirk of fate – I’ve told everyone they must be ready at the set times and no-one can hold up the interviews, yet here I am doing that very thing. But then, I can’t really leave one of our two guests of honour stranded at the train station can I!? Ironically, there are probably about 50 people I know coming who would all jump at the chance to give her a lift, but no-one is around at that moment! Luckily the drummer’s Dad Barry helps me out and goes and gets her, so I can crack on with our interview.
1925. We are all set to go and despite not stopping for 9 hours solid, I’m absolutely ready and put everything out of my mind apart from the performance. This again has been something I have had to learn to do. The first ever Q The Music show was one of the most stressful and terrifying musical experiences I’ve had. As well as playing Trumpet and juggling mutes, I was counting songs in, conducting, cueing in Kerry (as she didn’t know the songs so well then), compering between songs – it was so much to take in and deal with. I remember midway through the first set wishing desperately it would be over and I had bitten off more than I could chew! I was resigned to the fact this would not work - but we got to the break and it was great; everyone was happy and I became just more confident and relaxed as I went on.
Now it’s second nature and of course everyone in the band knows the set themselves so the responsibility, on stage at least, is very much a shared one now.
2020. The first half has gone exceptionally well, and there is just time to say a few quick hellos at the interval…
2145. The show ends and the principals: Kerry, Matt, David, Tim (compere) and myself all rush to the front of house for the meet and greet as the guests leave. This is hugely important – apart from being tremendous fun, it gives the audience the personal touch. I’m amazed at how far some of them have come just to see the show. Dotted all over the UK - some of the miles driven are into the 100s and that is amazing enough, until one guy tells me he came from Paris, and another couple tell me they came from Germany! Unbelievable…and I actually get a lump in my throat when they tell me that.
Caroline Munro and Madeline Smith (Live And Let Die), are there and are absolutely lovely. They both enjoyed the show immensely and it’s just amazing they came. The reality will take a few days to sink in. I’ve know for months they are coming: as they both loved us at Bondstars, they wanted to come, but I made the decision to not tell anyone they were coming, as I didn’t want them to feel I was exploiting them for publicity.
Once the meet and greet has finished I’m able to leave the pack down to my tech team whilst I go and mingle with the crowd at the bar over the road. A long, long day is completed in fabulous form when we get back to the hotel, where lots of the crowd are staying, and I’m able to sit up and socialise with the fabulous chaps from James Bond Radio and relax whilst talking about our favourite subject: Bond.