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.