Hit The North

Published in Billboard Magazine

 

From busking on the streets of Fremantle, Western Australia, to playing the main stages on the northern hemisphere’s summer festival circuit, it’s been a remarkable journey for singer/songwriter/guitarist John Butler.

The frontman of the multiplatinum John Butler Trio returns this year with a new album and lineup, plus an expanded international strategy. Butler’s first album in three years, “April Uprising”—the first with new bassist Byron Luiters and drummer Nicky Bomba—rolls out internationally after its March 24 Australian/Japanese release. Butler’s label, Jarrah Records, has struck a joint-venture deal with ATO Records for an April 6 North American release, with a European release following April 5 through Paris-based indie Because Music. The album will appear in Japan on indie P-Vine.

“We feel very confident this album will elevate John Butler Trio’s career to new levels around the world,” band manager Philip Stevens says.

The trio plays North American showcases Feb. 10-20; the European leg of the April Uprising tour begins April 8 in Dublin and runs through May 1. Summer festival dates will follow. John Butler Trio is booked by Paradigm (North America), Helter Skelter (Europe/Japan) and Jarrah (Australia). Publishing is with Butler’s own Family Music (Australia), Chrysalis (United States) and Because Editions (Europe).

The Temper Trap: The Melbourne Supremacy

Published in Billboard Magazine

 

Outstanding frontman? Check. Great songs? Check. Formidable label support? Check. All the vital elements are in place to suggest Australian alt-rock group the Temper Trap is shaping up to be the next big thing from Down Under.

“We’re an ambitious band,” lead singer Dougie Mandagi says. “The world has always been our goal, even in the early stages. Some of us dare to dream bigger than others, and here we are.”

During the last several weeks, the group’s debut album, “Conditions” (Liberation/Glassnote/Columbia), became a fixture in the top 10 of Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart, paced by the single “Sweet Disposition.” Peaking at No. 4 thus far on the tally, the album has sold 21,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

New York-based indie Glassnote, which released “Conditions” stateside last October, is confident the Temper Trap—Mandagi, guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto, bassist Jonathon Aherne and drummer Toby Dundas—will ultimately achieve the same success the label is having with another project, Phoenix’s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” (see chart, below). “We’ll certainly have a gold record-plus for Phoenix, and we’re going to do the same type of sales with Temper Trap,” Glassnote founder Daniel Glass says.

To that end, Glassnote has partnered with Columbia Records, which will assist with marketing, promotion, publicity and artist development. A key element in the Temper Trap’s bid for world domination is an upcoming series of U.S. concerts. The first run of U.S. dates, booked by High Road Touring, starts March 10 at Los Angeles’ Henry Fonda Theater, followed by summer festival performances planned for Bonnaroo, Sasquatch and Coachella.

“This will be a long effort,” says Mushroom Group chairman Michael Gudinski, whose Liberation Music label discovered and signed the band. “They’re going to stay over there and keep at it for a long time.”

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, and now calling London home, the Temper Trap earned four nominations at the 2009 Australian Recording Industry Assn. Awards after “Conditions” became a sleeper hit Down Under. Following its U.K. release last year (Aug. 10) through indie Infectious Records, the album peaked at No. 25 and has sold 123,000 copies, according to the Official Charts Co. (OCC).

Musically, “Conditions” sits comfortably between Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio. But it’s Mandagi’s soaring, soulful vocals on album standouts “Love Lost,” “Fader” and “Sweet Disposition” that set the band apart from its peers.

“Sweet Disposition” has already proved popular with synch programmers on both sides of the Atlantic. Stateside, it’s been featured in TV ads for Chrysler and Rhapsody and in more than 20 TV shows around the world, according to Glass, including the United Kingdom’s “Big Brother” and Australian drama “Underbelly.” It can also be heard in the trailer and on the soundtrack to the film “(500) Days of Summer.”

The track is breaking at rock radio, climbing this week to No. 25 on the Alternative chart and No. 38 on Rock Songs. It has sold 117,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and a further 247,000 in the United Kingdom, according to the OCC. Glass says the label also plans to work the track to hot AC and top 40 radio. TV appearances are slated for “Late Show With David Letterman” and “The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson.”

“We’ve still got a long way to go to prove that we’re not just a flash in the pan,” Mandagi says. “But we’re determined and committed to get better at what we do.”

Chugg on Gudinski

Published in The Music Network

 

Michael Gudinski and Michael Chugg share more than just their Christian names. The pair are doyens of the Australian live music scene, giants in their field. No two promoters in Australia are as omnipresent as Gudinski and Chugg, and none of the big impresarios are quite so gregarious as this pair. What they’ve seen could fill volumes, a small library perhaps.

Gudinski and Chugg were once close colleagues, working at the coal-face of a buzzing live music market, one which was striding away from amateurism and into the glare of a bona- fide profession.
Since its birth at the turn of the ‘80s, Gudinski has always been the beating heart of Frontier Touring. However, with Chugg running the show in Sydney, the company had established a shrewd business footprint. In the 1990s, Frontier Touring was a tale of two cities – Melbourne and Sydney.

Before the decade was out, Chugg ensured the tale wouldn’t quite have the happy ending. Chugg left the Frontier family in 1999, and went it alone with a new business.
Chugg has only fond memories of his lengthy stint working alongside Gudinski at Frontier Touring. “It was the best thing that ever happened,” recalls Chugg. “It was an exciting time. There was no industry. There was nothing laid out, there was no road. Just a whole lot of young cats breaking barriers and breaking bands. We were getting out there and working hard and having a lot of fun at the same time.”

In the early ‘70s, Chugg was a jack of many trades. But it was the live business he wanted to master. Chugg left behind his home in Tasmania to embark on a new life in Melbourne. “Was I a wide-eyed kid from Tassie? Yeah, I was a bit like that for the first few years,” he admits.

Gudinski was already blazing his own trail in the music industry, particularly in his hometown Melbourne. He’d established the Consolidated Rock Agency with Michael Browning, who went on to guide the career of AC/DC and launch the rock group into the international market. Chugg caught the eye of Gudinski and Browning.

At the time, the aspiring promoter was working in a linen warehouse by day, managing artists and putting up posters by night. In was an inauspicious start to his “mainland” career, but Gudinski and Browning took a shine to Chugg and brought him into the fold. And there Chugg would stay.

“Here was this bloke from Tasmania, who was older than me, managing a band part-time,” recalls Gudinski. “But we liked him. We liked him so much we gave him a full time job in the office.”

Consolidated Rock later folded, and Chugg would team with Roger Davies to open a new Sydney-based agency, Sunrise. The sun would set on that chapter, and Chugg later joined Gudinski’s Premier Artists/Harbour Agency. In late 1979, Gudinski rounded up a small team of trusted, clever contemporaries and forged the Frontier Touring Company. Chugg would be one of the founding partners of Frontier, sitting alongside the likes of Ray Evans, Frank Stivala and Philip Jacobsen. Chugg’s job would be to concentrate on the production and staging of the shows, Gudinski would focus on running the business.

“We all learned a lot from each other,” muses Chugg. “And we learned from people like (the late rock pioneer) Billy Thorpe, who had a big impression on us in the early days in the early ‘70s.” Working alongside Gudinski was always a lesson. And the pair quickly established a common connection – they both loved a party. But business was business. And the live business was on the up. “Sometimes we learned what not to do, and sometimes what to do. It was a real growing and learning experience. It’s still a learning experience,” says Chugg. And what did he feel Gudinski learned from him? “Moderation,” Chugg laughs.

Not surprisingly, Chugg created a void when he abruptly split from his Frontier Touring colleagues. “It was around the time when I had the success with the film Chopper,” recalls Gudinski. “In the nicest possible way he went around the world telling everyone I would become a film producer. I let him get off to a bit of a start, and he snared a few tours. I went up to him one day, and told him ‘(I am) the tortoise and (you are) the hare’. He thought he’d scoop the pool. But that’s business.”

Business, for both parties, is good. Michael Chugg Entertainment has emerged as a dynamic promoter, touring no-lesser stars than Coldplay and Pearl Jam this past year. Chugg is on board to co-promote the Australasian AC/DC dates with Van Egmond Group. The achievements of Frontier Touring are well documented in these pages.

Chugg has particularly fond memories of his two decades with Gudinski and Frontier Touring. “There were a lot of great moments, Guns N’ Roses was a very proud tour, and the Madonna tour was a very proud moment for Frontier. We had a lot of great times, and we did a lot of great things. We had a lot of fun working on the Sound Relief concerts last year (Chugg co-promoted the Sydney Cricket Ground show, Frontier handled the Melbourne Cricket Ground concert). I went overseas, because I knew if I was here on the day, we’d end up having a big blue,” he adds with a laugh.

The Gudinski-Chugg rivalry has proven a colourful one through the years, but the pair has well and truly made peace. “There was never really a hatchet to bury,” says Chugg. “We’re just trying to move on.”

 

Click here for the original article.

Click here for the “Thirty Year Frontier” feature.

“No Regrets”. Click here the Michael Gudinski interview.

Lars Brandle chats with the execs who are next in line to the Frontier throne. Click here for the story.

Frontier long service

Published in The Music Network

 

As The Frontier Touring Company celebrates its 30th year in business, Schlaghecke and Harrison are very much a part of the party. The pair – together with Gudinski’s son Matt, managing director of Illusive (The Mushroom Group) – are vital players in the future plans of Frontier Touring.

“My whole principal is you’ve got to have ‘guns’. A gun needs to train another gun,” explains Gudinski. Gerard and Harry are high-calibre guns. Schlaghecke and Harrison are proven performers, and their worth to the company has been fittingly rewarded with positions as Frontier Touring Company tour-co-ordinators – roles that bring with them great responsibilities.

Based at the nerve-centre of The Mushroom Group, Melbourne-based Schlaghecke boasts 27 years’ experience with Premier Artists and Frontier Touring. His Sydney-based opposite number Harrison – or “Harry” as he’s affectionately known – is an 18-year company veteran. Expect those years of service to continue ticking away.

Schlaghecke and Harrison are Gudinski’s promoter thoroughbreds. Like Gudinski, they were schooled in the art of the booking agent. The agent’s role is the “nuts and bolts” of the live industry, explains Schlaghecke, who cut his teeth with Premier Artists. “That’s where you learn how to sell the band, build the band and look after the finer points of the deal. You can’t just walk into this business and pick up a phone, buy a band, then book a venue and put it out there. There’s a hell of a lot more involved.”

Schlaghecke earned his stripes working alongside Frank Stivala, “one of the great Australian agents, if not the greatest,” he remarks. He was a fast learner. Early on, the enterprising agent found himself working on tours for some of the most creative bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s, including the first Australian tours for Sonic Youth, Faith No More and Dinosaur Jr, and dates for the Smithereens, Concrete Blonde and even cult singer and poet Lydia Lunch.

Harrison learned the ropes as an agent with the Harbour Agency, booking early tours for the likes of Moby, Coldplay, Muse and the Tea Party. At a touch shy of 6’6” and solidly-built, Harrison is perhaps the most imposing promoter on the circuit. Certainly, he’s always had a good view of the action on stage. And there’s been plenty of that.

Harrison has been responsible for booking Australian tours by some of the biggest names of the past two decades, among them Justin Timberlake, the Black Eyed Peas, Maroon 5 and Snow Patrol.
“I’ve only worked for Michael Gudinski, so everything I’ve learned from the music business has come from him,” Harrison remarks. “He’s taught me that attention to detail, loyalty and treasuring relationships are key to success in this business. And no flight is too long. Michael has always impressed upon us that Australia is a valuable market. Its one we should be proud of and we should be able to encourage people to come down here.”

And what has the other half of the dynamic duo learned from the boss? “It’s fundamental to look after the artists once they’ve arrived here in the country,” notes Schlaghecke. “Make sure they’re happy, that they have everything they need. And show-wise, make sure all the boxes are ticked. With everything, you go on a gut feeling, and if you’ve got a reasonable grasp of how things are and where things are going, you’ll do OK.”

Gudinski has also encouraged his protégés to spread their wings within his multi-faced Mushroom Group. Harrison, for one, has branched out. His enthusiasm clinched a cinematic deal for the Anvil documentary, an award-winning film that screened in Australian cinemas last year through a joint venture between Mushroom Pictures and Roadshow Films. “Michael has taught me you can do anything. He’s provided among his companies an infrastructure that you can realise a number of opportunities. We’re not limited.”

When reminded that he’s served with one company for longer than most punters at his shows have been alive, Schlaghecke lets out a laugh. “Well, that’s one way to look at it,” he says. But the time has not been wasted. As a tour coordinator for Frontier, Schlaghecke has booked Australian runs by Green Day, Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures and Regina Spektor.

“I’ve been taught by the best,” muses Schlaghecke. “With Michael Gudinski, you always have to keep up with him. He’s a bloke who sets the pace on a lot of different levels. He’s always switched on and it’s very rare at any time in the day that he can’t provide you with an insightful comment or insightful advice. I’ve never encountered anyone quite like him. He’s quite extraordinary.”

Looking ahead, the Frontier Touring schedule for 2010 is shaping up nicely. The Used tour is on track for a sell-out, and tickets are flying for Cobra Starship/Owl City and The Dead Weather. Imminent tours include Diana Krall, Madeleine Peyroux and Melody Gardot, Lupe Fiasco, Tom Jones and Amanda Palmer with La Roux, Matisyahu and The Fray to quickly follow. If that isn’t enough, in May, Australian audiences will get a bite of the smoking hot NYC buzz band Vampire Weekend, whose second album Contra recently debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 chart.

While the big touring duties are presently shared between Gudinski, Schlaghecke and Harrison, there’s really only one man looking into the Frontier Touring crystal ball. “Talk to Michael Gudinski on the vision for Frontier,” says Schlaghecke with a laugh. “I just work here.”

 

Click here for the original story.

 

Click here for the “Thirty Year Frontier” feature.

“No Regrets”. Click here the Michael Gudinski interview.

“Chugg on Gudinski.” Lars Brandle talks to Gudinski’s old running mate. Click here for the story.