For Howick College old boy Tim Wenzlick, living the rock’n’roll dream currently means touring across Europe and beyond as backline technician for a Swedish rock band. His speciality is as a drum tech, but by now Tim has plenty of experience looking after guitars and keyboards as well. He describes himself as a seasoned traveller, saying he has adapted to living out of a suitcase and even finds tour buses rather comfortable.
Tim Wenzlick started playing drums at 14 while at Howick College. He must have been fairly handy behind the kit as a teen after competing in three Rockquests and winning the East Auckland regional final in 2000 with his school band Paradox.
He went on to drum for various Auckland acts, including Ryan Kershaw, Marvey King and Tinpot Guru, but not every good player can expect to make it onto bigger stages as a musician. Tim found his way by getting involved behind the scenes.
“At 18 I started helping out carrying gear and setting up for local Auckland bands Rubicon, Subtract and Indicator Dogs. I also worked for Steriogram and did local stagehand work for Big Day Out festivals and various international touring acts. I worked with The Black Keys and Dresden Dolls at their Kings Arms shows as their tech.”
Tim says his ‘break’ came at age 21, when he met The D4’s drummer Beaver, and offered to work for them on their 2005 European tour, supporting The Hives and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
“They said I could come with them if I financed it myself, so I paid for my own flights over there by selling my drum kit and all my CDs, and worked for free on the four week trip. However, while in London I met their manager who was Alan McGee (Creation Records), the English music biz legend who originally signed Oasis to his label.
“When I got back to NZ I made a plan to be back in London within three months and try my luck over there. I had caught the travelling bug (and also met Robert Plant!) and realised that Europe was definitely where I needed to be. I sold the rest of my stuff, got a UK working holiday visa, took the risk and went over by myself, not knowing what would happen.”
Almost a decade later and now 30 years old, Tim is a widely experienced touring backline tech, living his own international stage dream from his home in Hamburg, Germany.
He works for popular Swedish rockers Mando Diao as both drum and keyboard tech. The band play arena-size gigs in Germany and tour throughout Europe, playing those big European rock festivals. He toured NZ and Australia in 2011 as Liam Finn‘s guitar guy and currently also techs for two other Swedish bands, Caligola and Friska Viljor.
Arriving back in London in July 2005 Tim soon realised it would be harder than he’d thought, but having saved quite a bit from painting houses in Auckland he could survive without work for a while. He began by offering his services to everyone he knew and loitering around the Creation Management offices, doing odd jobs for free to get a foot in the door. A role came up with a new band called Dirty Pretty Things, which included two original Libertines’ members. (Photo below of Tim with Gary Powell.)
“I started doing guitar tech work, and was with them until 2008 when they broke up. We toured USA and all major venues in the UK and Europe, did shows with Grace Jones and Goldfrapp and all the major festivals in Europe and the UK.
“I met The Datsuns and began working and touring with them through Europe and NZ. I worked with Betchadupa until they broke up and started helping out Liam Finn on the beginning of his solo career in 2006.”
He says he was on tour three weeks out of each month in ’06 so it didn’t make sense to have a room of his own, instead he slept on friends’ couches, The Datsuns’ living room floor etc.
“Obviously the more shows I worked on the more people I met and ended up working for bands like Mogwai and The Charlatans. It was, and still is, very much a ‘who you know’ kind of industry.”
When his UK working holiday visa eventually expired in 2008 Tim moved with his German partner to Hamburg, and was soon teching for Mando Diao. These days he needs a work permit to go to the UK and admits that not having a European passport has cost him a few good jobs over the years.
“I’ve missed out on working for acts like P!nk, Robert Plant and most recently Tinie Tempah. As soon as you mention you need a UK work permit they are like, ‘Oh, sorry we prefer someone based in the UK’.”
Hamburg is Germany’s second biggest city and he says there is never a shortage of concerts there. His partner is a music journalist so he gets to see plenty of other major acts for free.
“A lot of the old World War II bunkers have been turned into band rehearsal rooms too. I used to have one for my drums and the walls were like a metre thick! The other good thing I find is that Hamburg (and Germany in general) isnt saturated with Kiwis and Aussies on their OEs, like it is in London. So you really feel like you are immersed in another country with a much different culture. You really do need to learn the language though.
“We have quite possibly the coolest football team in the world here too – FC St. Pauli, a left wing punk rock club who have a skull and crossbones logo and walk out onto the field to AC/DCs Hells Bells! They are a German second division team yet every game is sold out, so you’re lucky if you manage to get a ticket.
In 2010 Mando Diao were the first ever Swedish band to do MTV Unplugged, featuring guest appearances from Juliette Lewis and Lana del Ray. Up to 100,000 people turn up to those big German festivals like Rock am Ring or Hurricane, so they are playing to some big crowds.
“Touring with these guys is pretty luxurious really. We always have the best tour buses, and on days off we stay in really nice hotels. We would typically go on tour for three weeks through the standard Western Europe territories Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Scandinavia etc. However, we have been doing more Eastern European places like Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Russia and Serbia recently. We have also obviously done the UK and gone as far as Japan.
“They are great guys and we have a fantastic crew who are all at the top of their game in their respective fields. We always have top of the line equipment too which makes life much easier and helps a production run so much smoother. The two singers recently started a side project called Caligola which is doing well, and I also work with them as a guitar technician.”
Tim doesn’t drink alcohol, which means he can “… pretty much guarantee I remember more about the tours I did than anyone else that was there”. He recalls one trip across the English channel with a high profile band to play a festival in Belgium.
“The band and some of the crew got so intoxicated on the ferry ride that the drummer passed out under a table and we had to literally carry him off the ferry in front of all the other passengers and lift him into his bunk. When we arrived at the festival I was the only one of the crew awake and had a short amount of time to load the gear to the stage and set up.
“Once the band emerged and got on stage they were still clearly wasted. We handed them their instruments and each member started playing a completely different song. It sounded terrible but thankfully the crowd was still into it. There were quite a few other high profile musicians watching from side of stage with a ‘What the hell is this?’ look on their faces!
“Then you have the highlights of the job which can make you feel really good. Mingling with musicians and bands you have been into since a kid is really cool and I have already met most of my musical heroes. Just being on stage and soaking up the atmosphere in front of a sea of people is mind blowing.
“That feeling is the main reason I got into this business. I had a crowd of over 70,000 clapping along as I was checking a drum kit before the band came on in a massive field in Nijmegen, Holland, supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Or having a night out at Showgirls with former Guns N’Roses drummer Matt Sorum, discussing how many times Axl Rose made him repeat that one drum fill in November Rain. Or sharing a cab in Sweden with Mike Patton, talking about how the first show I ever saw was Faith No More in Auckland.
“Stuff like that makes the long hours, lack of sleep and not spending much time at home with the Mrs all worthwhile. Plus, you get a nice bit of cash at the end too! Touring life is not for everyone though. Some people wouldn’t be able to handle it, but if you can get on with living out of a suitcase, accept that you have no personal space, work hard and most importantly not be a dick, then you’ll be fine.”