family tree
press releases
mailing list
site map

tour manager
associated with band: 2003 -

Interview with Zop
(Simple Minds' tour manager)

Having done a quick search on the net for Zop (aka David Yard) and drawn a blank, I was really looking forward to meeting him and finding out a bit more about Zop and being Simple Mindsí tour manager.

The phone rings and itís Zop telling me where to meet him at the Sheffield Arena. So with tape machine in hand, I go to the meeting point. I'm then greeted by Zop to be told "I've got an extra surprise for you". My brain starts working overtime - what is the extra surprise? I'm told "Iíve also sorted out an interview with Steve Pollard for you, is that OK?"

Is that OK? Silly question really.

ST: Can you shed any light on the name "Zop?"
Z: The name Zop goes all the way back to when I was at school when I was about 11 years old. It did go away for a few years but it came back again when I started in this business and it's stuck and I've been Zop ever since.
ST: So what is Zop actually short for?
Z: Thatís for me to know and I'm not going to tell you [grins]... but Iím very rarely called Dave or David.

ST: So this your second tour with the band?
Z: No, not really. I did most of the Black and White tour. I took over from the tour manager roughly half way through.

[With that a shout comes through over Zop's radio that Manchester City have beaten Chelsea.]

Z: There you go, some very important information comes through on these radios [grins]. The show would fall to bits without the important information thatís communicated on these radios.

ST: Whatís your background in this industry? How did your "career" begin?
Z: Right back to the very beginning I had a Morris Minor van and my mate was in a group and they were playing at a pub in my original home town of Cambridge and I got roped into taking their gear to the gig. I spent a bit of time taking their gear round the area.
Z: I then got a transit van and started to take the gear of another band around and things progressed and we started to get support slots for the likes of The Undertones, Bad Manners, Joe Jackson and The Jam. My first real proper tour was working with the support band for The Undertones in June 1980. The band got paid £50 a night, £25 of that went to The Undertones to pay their crew for doing our sound and lights and stuff. So our tour budget was £25 a gig (with nothing for days off) so the £25 had to pay for petrol, a room for the 3 band members (I slept in the van) plus we had to feed ourselves. But it was one of the best tour Iíve ever done.
Z: So it grew from there really. I just started driving the van, lugging gear about, then helping to set it up, doing back line tech work and then it really just progressed from there. You meet a lot of people that know youíre in the business as such and then you basically progress to being stage manager, production manager and end up being a tour manager.

ST: So on your CV, who have you tour managed?
Z: The first band I ever tour manager were Husker Du (I managed virtually every show they ever did in Europe), 10,000 Maniacs, Transvision Vamp (who I worked with really right from the very start and they supported Simple Minds back in 1989) and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions (who also supported Simple Minds back in 1986). You see it's a small world.
Z: More recently I did a ten year stretch - not prison by the way [laughs] - with Jamiroquai.
Z: I've also worked with Chris Rea. And Iíve also worked with Adele so I do work with young people as well! I got Steve Pollard in on that tour as we couldn't find anyone and we were desperate for a lighting designer to do Adele's lights. In all honesty Steve is a top lighting man.

ST: So how did you get to tour manage Simple Minds? Was it through word of mouth?
Z: In a roundabout sort of way. When I was tour manager for Jamiroquai I got a Production Manager in called Julian Lavender in 1996-1997 and Julian had also worked with Simple Minds. Julian doesn't work on the road anymore, but when Simple Minds were looking for someone to fill-in (I think it was around 2003) Julian recommended me for the job. I've done odd bits for Simple Minds since then and when they were looking for someone more permanent they contacted me... and here I am today. Thatís how a lot of it works in this business.
Z: I seem to end up with basically a lot of what I call repeat business. I've worked with Chris Rea for the last ten years on his tours. I've worked with the Human League (a local band, as we are in Sheffield) since 1998 (including in 2007 when they were playing the Dare album in full at each gig).

ST: So with you being in demand, how far in advance do they say: "Zop were going on tour and we'd like you to be our tour manager?"
Z: It's usually a good few months in advance but sometimes itís short notice. For instance, for the Adele tour, things started on the 6th Jan 2009 they didn't get in touch until 23rd December 2008 but with me shutting down as such for Christmas I didn't pick up their messages until something like the 29th December 2008.
Z: Then again the dates for this current Simple Minds tour have been in my diary since December 2008. In January, Iím on the road with Chris Rea and those dates have been in the diary since the start of 2009. It can vary from band to band.

[With that Jim pops his head around the door to let Zop know he's going for a lie down on the bus and that Zop is to get him at 8.15pm.]

Z: Just one of my many wide and varied tasks on the tour is to make sure that Jim is awake in time to get ready for the show!
ST: He still sounds a bit rough.
Z: He always sounds like that as heís from Glasgow. [Smiles] As you know, heís not been too well, but heís a lot better than he was. When we were in the Balkans he was well rough. Those shows shouldíve been cancelled to give Jim the chance to recover properly, but Jim being the trooper that he is, soldiered on. He hates having to cancel shows and will do anything to avoid it. None of the Simple Minds shows that I have been involved with have ever been cancelled. It has been a close thing sometimes, including a show that Mel did when he was in excruciating pain with a kidney stone!

S: From when first contacted for a tour, what is your actual role as tour manager?
Z: It varies really from band to band and tour to tour. Depending on how big the tour is and how many people are involved and what the management do. Artist management can be massively involved in the tour (which can be both a positive or negative thing) or they can take no interest at all and leave you the tour manager to get on with it. I have worked with acts where there is no management which makes the tour managerís role much more involved as there is so much more you have to do. For the Adele tour earlier this year I was Tour manager and Production manager, basically because we were doing relatively small clubs in America. On the current Simple Mindsí tour, I've got Derek Mcvay (who's the Production Manager) and he deals with all the crew, equipment, trucks and stuff like that. It does really vary like I said, but generally I have to look after the financial side of things, make all of the travel arrangements, including hotels, flights, tour busses, local ground transport etc.
ST: So is it down to you to set up the tour itinerary?
Z: Yeah thatís down to me. I make all the travel arrangements and, as is the case on this tour, Iíve sorted all the travel for both the crew and the band. I work with a travel agent to make the hotel and flight reservations. I am also responsible for producing the tour itinerary booklet which details all necessary touring information on a "page per day" basis. Everyone on the tour gets a copy of this booklet so everyone has a basic idea of travel, hotels and timings. This itinerary booklet is commonly known as "the book of lies", although I would obviously take issue with that!
S: All that is done how far in advance?
Z: The earlier the better. My view is everything should be in place before you go on the road, but not everybody works like that. I didn't use to do that, as I hadn't been to tour management college! I learnt as I went along and made some mistakes. Each time that I did make a mistake, I found a better way to do things - well I think I did anyway! In my opinion, it's all down to the pre-planning. Really, everything should be in place before the tour actually starts and then once you are out on the road you should just be dealing with changes and things that arise whilst youíre on the road. There are always plenty of changes to deal with!
Z: Having said that you can plan too far in advance and end up changing things three or four times.

S: You've come in today from Manchester. Is your mobile office set up for you in advance?
Z: Usually young Sam, our production assistant, sets everything up for us before we arrive but unfortunately he's not very well today, and is back on the bus sleeping. Derek and I usually share an office. Sam's desk is usually a right mess but as you can see as he's not very well, and not here, so his desk is very tidy indeed.

S: When you've got the band on stage for the show what do you do?
Z: Gig time is my quiet time so that's when I catch up with lots of tasks that I've not managed to get done during the day. I also do the settling up with the promoter which is the money side of things. That's done on the night of the gig as until the band go on stage you don't know how many tickets you've sold and the promoter is still getting various expenses together. (So Shaun, are you thinking of becoming a tour manager? Am I giving away too many secrets?)

S: So after the gig does it become manic and mental for you?
Z: It's normally not too bad. Sometimes there is an "After Show" for me to deal with, where guests of the band will come back-stage to meet the band. After the show itís much more manic for the crew as they have to take the equipment down, put it in the trucks and get it on its way to the next show. I don't have anything to do with that. Thatís Derek Mcvay's side of things. Z: The sooner the crew get the Production down and out of the door, the sooner they can start drinking. [Laughs] No in all seriousness the sooner they get it down the more sleep they get. Like tonight, they'll start taking the stuff down as soon as the band have gone off stage which will be approx 11PM. They'll probably be on the bus by 2AM and on their way to Cardiff. Then they'll be loading into Cardiff at 7am.

S: Is it easier for the crew to set the stage up or take it down?
Z: Taking it down is much quicker

S: Do you try and keep the same crew where possible or is it just who's available when the band are on tour?
Z: It's always good to have familiar faces working on the tour, especially in the key positions such as Sound Engineers, Lighting Designer, Video Director etc. We've got quite a lot of the people who worked on last year's tour working with us again on this tour. When people knew the dates for the tour, a lot of people specifically made themselves available for this tour. For example, the video crew is the same as the tour in 2008 Ė they work as a team and having the same team helps a lot. Especially when the team is as good as they are.

S: Does it help if you like the music of the band your touring with or doesn't that come in to play?
Z: All the bands that I now do have had success, so you are aware of their music and, yes, it is a bonus if youíre asked to do a tour of a band you really like. However it doesn't mean that I get to watch the full show. Thinking about it I don't think I've ever watched a full show whilst being a tour manager for any of the bands I've worked with. Over the course of a complete tour I have probably seen bits that add up to a full show but never a full show in one night.
S: Where do you prefer to watch your bits of the shows from?
Z: Always from the front-of-house (FOH) mixing desks, which is where you'll be watching the show from tonight with Steve. I do not think that there is a lot of point watching the show from the side of the stage as you don't get to hear or see much. Watching from the side of the stage gives you a different perspective, but itís nothing like the audience are seeing or hearing, although it is always a good place to watch the audience from. The reason I do make the effort to watch at least part of the show from the FOH mixing desks is to make sure that we are delivering what the audience have paid money to see. I want to make sure that the show is sounding and looking as good a possible and I also want to feel "the vibe" from the audience.

S: What's it like tour managing Eddie Duffy? [This was my question. Iím forever bumping into Eddie "Update Your Website" Duffy at gigs as he seems to spend as much time mingling with the audience as actually on stage. I wondered how this worked from the tour managerís point of view Ė Simon]
Z: [Laughs]
Z: It's a challenge. He can be quite easy, as there are times when he just disappears and sleeps non-stop for days, but then there are also times when he doesn't sleep at all. I'm not the sort of tour manager who babysits the band. They are big enough, old enough and ugly enough to look after themselves and there is only one of me where there is five of them, so I can't possibly shadow them all the time. It's up to them to do what they want to do with their spare time, as long as they are available at the specified time. To be honest all the people I work with are professional enough to know they've got to put a show on at a certain time and be in certain places at certain times.

S: What size of venues to you prefer?
Z: Doing arenas is a lot easier to work in from the working point of view. Personally, from a show point of view, I don't like arenas as I don't know why anyone would want to go and see a band in an arena. If I wanted to go and see a band I'd go to the Shepherd's Bush Empire and that's my favourite gig - I like that size of venue. There are some venues I look forward to going to more than others. You get to know the people at the venues as well which is good.

S: Are there outdoor venues that you've been to that you thought "God, this is an awesome venue?"
Z: The steps of the Opera House in Sydney, Australia really sticks in my mind Ė it is such a fabulous setting. That was with Jamiroquai in 2002 and there was a massive fireworks display in harbour afterwards and I got to say "go fireworks" down the radio and thankfully they went. Best fireworks I've ever seen.
Z: With Simple Minds, we did St Marks square in Venice in June, which was pretty amazing. Some of the pictures in the tour brochure were taken there. Simple Minds also performed at Edinburgh Castle this year, which is an incredible place to have a show, but it was rather wet.
S: How close did the Edinburgh Castle gig come to being postponed?
Z: We had to postpone the original start time of the show. If it had gone on like that much longer with the rain coming down like it was we would have had a few problems.

S: What's the downside of being a tour manager and where is home?
Steve Pollard: Having to work with me. [Room fills with laughter]
Z: Home is on the south coast about 10 miles north of Portsmouth. I was born in Cambridge and lived there until about 1984/85. I met my future wife, who is from Portsmouth, in 1984 and I moved to the area so that she would be with friends and family when I was away from home. And it has turned out that Iím away from home for a great deal of time every year!

Shaun Tranter
Sheffield Arena
5th December 2009


Alive And Kicking Tour (part)
Black And White 050505 Tour (half)
Australian Tour
Celebrate 30 Years Live Tour
30 Years Live European Tour
Graffiti Soul Tour