What's On Your Rider?


Tom McRae

What’s on your rider?I always ask for the finest single malt whiskey as befits my status. But cooking sherry will do at a push.

How do you get to the gig – limo, taxi, walking?If the helicopter can’t land close, I’ll walk.

What’s the best gig you’ve been to?The best gig is probably more to do with my age and enthusiasm than anything else. When I was a teenager, The Waterboys at Norwich UEA made me want to be in a band. Radiohead at Brixton Academy made we want to give up, they were so good. Rickie Lee Jones in Copenhagen taught me grace and humour. The Bruce Springsteen solo on The Devils and Dust tour reminded me that live performance is worthless unless you’re prepared to take risks and ride the silence.

And the worst?There’s always something to take from a gig, even if it’s another band’s rider.

Who is the most famous person to show up at one of your gigs?Technically, David Bowie and John Cale, but I’m pretty sure they were there to see The Waterboys (I was opening for them in New York.) However, Scott Walker did choose me for his Meltdown Festival, and apparently watched from the shadows. For a moment I felt cool. The moment passed.

Most embarrassing on-stage moment?I once singled out a girl by saying “you, the pretty one”, and the girl next to her raised her hand and I said “no, not you, her”. I still have nightmares about it.

What’s your crowd-pleasing number?I like to think that in the absence of a genuine hit, each song is a least one person’s favourite. Even if that person is me. But probably The Boy with the Bubblegun.

Groupies. Would you?I had some groupies banging and yelling on my hotel door just the other day. Eventually I let them out.

How many roadies does it take to change your lightbulbs (ie, how big is your entourage)?

In the glory days, we had a lighting director, tour manager, three technicians, front-of-house and monitor engineers, a merch person and two bus drivers. No wonder I still owe Sony a million pounds. Now, it’s me and my wife. She’s as strong as an ox with good teeth, so there’s nothing we can’t wrangle into position.

If you could be in any other band, which one?Any band that Frank Black is in, or Bob Mould or Neil Finn. But I’m still waiting for the call from AC/DC. That’s the job my whole career has been a warm-up for.

Who’s invited to your aftershow party?My idea of an aftershow party is to get back on the bus, put a West Wing on the TV, pour a whiskey and let the road unfurl. If you promise to be quiet, you can all come.

Tom McRae plays the Academy 2, Dublin, tonight

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