Rob ‘Tiny’ Menegoni Interview
Get Barenaked spoke to BNL’s drum tech about life on the road, the upcoming Last Summer on Earth tour, BNL behind the scenes and much more…
Hi Tiny! Thanks very much for speaking to Get Barenaked! You’re fresh (is that the right word?) from a show at Universal Orlando – how was that?
Hi Liam, Universal was AMAZING!! We always have a great time at Universal. Wonderful audience and the staff at Universal are so great to work with. Hope we’ll be back next year.
It’s great to see you and the band going strong in 2016, but to kick things off, let’s go right back to the start: How did you first become involved with Barenaked Ladies?
I started with the band waaaaaay back in 1993 on the “Mr. Rockin’s All You Can Eat Salad Bar” Tour (Gordon). In the tour program I am listed as the “Carpenter” but I also looked after Tyler’s drums, and helped with lighting and rigging. John Sulek our monitor engineer recommended me for the tour. We had worked together in the 80’s. John mixed sound for a band I was in.
Having worked at nearly all BNL shows over the course of two decades, how do you feel the band and their live show has evolved in that time?
The obvious is the band changing from 5 members to 4 members. In going from 5 to 4 members, the focus on 2 “front men” has evolved into 4 “front men” ALL sharing the typical BNL banter during the shows. All the guys now have more responsibility musically as well. Tyler is singing much more than he ever did.
The in between songs banter / raps will always keep the BNL shows fresh. You’ll never see / hear the same BNL show twice.
The industry and technology has changed a lot in the time you have worked with BNL; how has life on the road, both personally and professionally, developed since you first joined the Barenaked Brigade? What’s easier and what remains a challenge?
There have been huge changes in technology, which have made life on the road much easier. Tour busses are being built much better and more comfortable. They have realized that people have to live on them for months at a time. The slab of foam for sleeping is now a real mattress. Bunks are longer (a plus for me).
Communications – when I first started, there were no cell phones or Wi-Fi. Pay phones and hotel phones were expensive. I remember touring Germany and all the phones were still rotary dial. I had a little device with a keypad that I could put up to the phone and it would mimic a digital pulse tone so that I could call home. And computers still had to connect with a modem. Everything is more instant now.
Over the years, the band have got you dressed up in all sorts of ridiculous costumes at the side of the stage! How did this start and what has been your favourite alter ego?
Why it started? It was the bands idea. It first started in ’95 when I was the BBQ chef. Dressed in an apron and chefs hat I would BBQ hot dogs (mini donuts in venues we couldn’t BBQ) and then the band would throw the packaged hot dogs (with ketchup and mustard) into the audience. I still have fans talk about that.
Favourite alter ego; GOD!! Even though it was a pain in the butt getting in and out of nightly. AND HOT!! Not to mention the smell of the costume at the end of the tour.
BNL have toured with countless musicians, whether that’s up and coming opening acts, or lining up among a whole bill-full at festivals. Who has been your favourite opening act – and do any particular memories stand out from artists you’ve shared a stage with?
Ben Folds was great. I’m a huge fan. Colin Hay was awesome. He is so engaging on stage. Loved watching him. Off stage, he was just one of the guys. He would hang with the crew after shows and on days off. Cooked food on his bus and helped out when we had hotel parking lot BBQs on days off.
On that note: Have you ever been awe-struck meeting someone famous while out on the road? Who has impressed you / alarmed you / tickled your fancy throughout your career?
No one in particular. I do feel blessed being able to share the stage with some amazing artists.
What has been your most rock and roll moment?
Wow, rock and roll moment… I guess singing at Radio City Music Hall.
[When you sing “Eraser” are you ever tempted to stay on stage and have an extended moment of glory?!]
No. I do wish I sang more, not necessarily with BNL. I used to sing a lot in choirs and my band. Need to work on that.
What have been your favourite venues to work in? And, dare I ask, the weirdest? (I seem to remember the crew entrance to the Edinburgh Picture House was half a mile down the street from the venue itself?!)
Favourite venue??? Radio City Music Hall and Royal Albert Hall are pretty amazing venues. Weirdest gig… Minneapolis Zoo AFTER the bird show.
BNL are renowned for playing practical jokes on their touring buddies. What has been the best practical joke that you’ve been a part of on tour?
Hhmmmm… Well there is usually some sort of BNL “flashing” of opening acts (not including myself). From myself and crew, we have from time to time hidden some well-placed bras and underwear (thank you fans) in opening acts equipment. I’m sure there has been some explaining to do when they got home. 😉
I think the BEST practical joke wasn’t on tour, but took place on the Sharon Osbourne show. It was “pajama week” and Sharon had all her guest wear PJs (supplied by her) and do the interviews in a giant bed. The band said no to the PJs but asked the wardrobe person for flesh coloured thongs and to NOT tell Sharon. Upon finishing their song, they stripped down to the thongs and RAN towards the bed. Lets just say the thongs were quite small…
(Get Barenaked has unearthed the clip – watch at your own peril, things get weird at 3m 20s).
Have you ever fallen victim to a Barenaked Prank yourself? – if so, do elaborate!
A Barenaked Prank… Well, there was a moment that I THOUGHT I was being “pranked”. It was the last show of the Stunt tour in which I would fly in as the Stunt Cowboy. I would be lowered in playing tambourine and unclipped on the ground. On the last show, I stopped about 3’ off the ground. I thought “HA HA, funny guys” then I started going up. And then back down and stopped. I looked over at MC, our rigger, who was running the fly rig and realized by the look of shock on HIS face it wasn’t a prank. Then the carpenters started running around trying to figure out how to get me down.
A road case was eventually rolled out and I got down. After the show I went to find out what had happened. There was a kink in the cable lowering me, which triggered the emergency brake. Luckily I was only 3’ off the ground and not 30’. Looking back on that tour, it was pretty dangerous what I was doing. I like being on the ground.
With the Last Summer on Earth tour quickly approaching this summer, it’s another long slog on the road for the Barenaked Ladies crew. Can you talk us through a typical day on tour and perhaps dispel the myth that life on the road is ‘glamorous’?! How much effort goes into setting up a BNL show?
Sleep – Eat – Show – Repeat!
A “typical” day (for me) starts with waking up on the bus after a few hours of restless sleep. Try sleeping in your bed while someone shakes it and rocks it from side to side. Add to that, a chorus of snoring.
Breakfast is 8am, load in is 9am. I mark the stage for risers and mic positions at that time. Once the trucks are unloaded, I wait for lighting to be flown then I can start building risers. Next I change drum heads (if needed), clean cymbals, set up and tune Tyler’s drums. Next (depending on how smooth load in was) we go for lunch. When we come back its time for line check. We go through all the instrument channels to make sure everything works before the band shows up for sound check. At sound check, the band usually run through songs they’ve added to the set.
BNL show set-up time-lapse, posted to the band’s official Youtube account, 2013.
Then its time for dinner. After dinner I try to get in a quick “pre-show nap”. Then SHOW TIME! Once the show is finished, we hurry to pack up and load out. Then shower and back to the bus for pizza, beer and bed around 2am.
It doesn’t sound too bad, but any little thing can throw off a day. A terrible load in/venue i.e. no loading docks, have to push cases a long way and load in up stairs. OR, as was last summer, RAIN every day on outdoor shows.
There is a lot of work goes into a tour and every member of the crew has a part to play to make it all run smoothly.
It may not be “glamorous”, but I love it.
After all that work, what do you like to do on days off and between tours to relax?
Days off on tour I like to work out, walk and explore the city I’m in and, catch up on sleep. When I’m home, there are always things to work on around the house. I like to read, workout and spend time with my family.
TINY’S QUICKFIRE FACTS:
Favourite pre-show meal:
Well, being vegetarian I’m at the mercy of catering. I NEVER want to see another stuffed pepper again. I love Indian food. If we have a buy-out, I’d eat at Chipotle and in the UK, Wagamama.
Country you’re yet to visit that you’d love to explore:
Not many I haven’t been to. I’d like to visit the Czech Republic and Hungary. I really want to go back to Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Our tour there was much too short.
Latest album on rotation:
I have a few: The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, James Morrison – Higher Than Here, Mutemath – Vitals, Foxes – All I Need, Hall & Oates. If you’re having an off day, put on Hall & Oates.
Drummer, Dr. Steve Gadd. Musician, Prince.
Favourite BNL track:
Long Way Back Home
Favourite BNL album:
Hhhmmm, I’m going to say Silverball. Although I have favourite songs on all the albums.
Last film watched:
Well, I’m binge watching the Oscar nominated films and the last one I watched was The Hateful Eight.
Thank you so much for chatting Tiny. Your work behind the scenes with the band is really appreciated and we do understand and appreciate that the show just couldn’t go on without you and the crew, who do a fabulous job night after night. Enjoy your summer on tour and I hope you find lots of fun ways to chill out and enjoy yourself while you’re at it!
Do you have a message for fans of the band and readers of getbarenaked.net?
Thank you for supporting BNL over the years and coming out to our shows time and time again. And to the new fans, Welcome!! See you all soon.
Roberto “Tiny” Menegoni