Published in The Music Network
What do Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and KISS all have in common? They rock, they’re hugely successful and they’ve all been managed by Doc McGhee. The LA-based exec has an enviable track record for taking smaller artists to the big stage and beyond. McGhee has never been accused of small ambitions. Over the years, he’s had a hand in the careers of James Brown, Diana Ross, Hootie & the Blowfish, Scorpions and Skid Row.
It was McGhee who produced the Moscow Music Peace Festival in 1989, when he took 640 crew, 64 trailers, two 757 aircraft and some of the biggest rockers on the planet, and landed it all on a Moscow runway without a permit. McGhee’s company currently oversees a stable of more than 20 acts, including veterans KISS and Ted Nugent, Aussie country artist Adam Brand and newcomers Vintage Trouble. TMN recently had an appointment with the Doc.
What’s your management style? Being honest and being on top of things. It’s about coming up with the right plans, the right marketing situations for the artists and giving them their day in the sun. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing. I’m kind of a micro-manager and a facilitator. You have to do both. You’re like the father; they look to you for everything. But you have to really like somebody to have to sit and go through all of the aches and pains in somebody’s life.
Are premier-league rock bands living a largely cleaner lifestyle than they did in the Crue’s day? People are a little more in-tune with trying to have a business rather than having a party everyday, so they maintain a little better than they did in the past. There’s still craziness in rock bands, because these people usually aren’t college- educated. Most of them don’t even have high school educations. They only ever wanted to play in bands.
Any artists you’ve had to walk away from? Oh, I’ve had several. We have a motto here, “When the catshit gets bigger than the cat, you’ve got to get rid of the cat.” The day you don’t want to talk to them, you should let them go because you’re not going to do a very good job for them.
I’ve read a quote attributed to you where you’ve said all rockers want to die. Every young band that’s coming to a height in their career after three or four years of touring and starting to become big, have that fear of being the bar-band ten years from now. They have in their mind, “I want to be James Dean” or “I want to go out a legend.” I had artists who used to say, “If you’re 30 years old you should be put in a farm. You have no use to society after you’re 30.” Now they’re 55.
What are you looking for in a band? I look for heart, determination, a connection with people. I don’t pick people because they have a song. I pick somebody because they have a connection. We don’t try to change people. We try to give them an empowerment to become better artists in what they want to do. And to control them, keep the seal on the lid on. We say, “Stay in your lane, don’t crash the plane. Keep going up and up and up, don’t turn left or right. Just stay in your path and do what you do.”
On the flip side, what should a band look for in a manager? It’s about experience and dedication. Where have they brought people to? Did they get a band for six months and get fired? Did they bring them up from a baby band to a big band, and maybe they just rode the pony? And it’s about what that organisation has to offer. In today’s world, you have to have publicity and a whole stack of people that promote and market your artist, because the labels don’t do that anymore. Now it’s up to you to do it. Those days are over when the kid who couldn’t play an instrument but drove the van was the manager. They can have some success, but as soon as that band has some success, they’re going to come and talk to me and three other people.
You’re managing blues- rockers Vintage Trouble. What’s the plan? They just did 120 shows in 160 days in Europe to 400,000 people. They’re blowing out in Europe, so we’re taking them to Australia to do five dates for Chuggi, and then we’ll do television, and come back to market. That’s a connection band.
Finally, what’s news with KISS? Are there plans to come to Australia? Yes. Next year. 2013.
Vintage Trouble play three dates at the Sydney Festival from January, Friday 27 before heading to Melbourne for a January 31 date at Melbourne’s East Brunswick Club. Shock Records released The Bomb Shelter Sessions today.