There is more to a good show than just a good singer or actor. Numerous people in the entertainment industry are often overlooked, but the Mercury is out to celebrate them.
There’s nothing like that split-second burst of anxious excitement when the amplifiers go silent just before your favourite band takes to the stage.
Boom. The lights turn bright, guitars are strum and the lead singer takes to the microphone. But it can all go tragically wrong if the sound guy is having a bad day.
Shane Jerome, 41, swapped the dusty business of building boats to be an audio engineer about 20 years ago. He thought it’d be a good career choice after years playing in Wollongong bands like Bung and Fugg.
Jerome has since worked with most legends of Australian rock’n’roll, has performed his craft in every live music venue the Illawarra has ever had, and is currently the house engineer for Dragon – hitting the road with them most weekends.
He also gets called to work with mega-stars from Serbia and Croatia.
“They’re big stadium bands over there so they’re the equivalent of Bon Jovi in that part of the world,”Jerome said. “They come here and I’m mixing pop music that I don’t understand any of the lyrics.”
Quite often touring is a “party environment” though the sound man is glad his career began after the debaucherous decade of the 1980s.
“I think if I had of been working for Dragon in the ‘80s I wouldn’t have anything to show for it,” he said.
Though there was that one time in 2008 Jerome recalls he had to fill in for a guitarist/singer who was feeling “unwell” at a gig in the Hunter Valley.
A lighting technician raced to grab the musician who became dizzy and fell onto the foldback speakers and took him to the green room to recover.
“[The technician] grabbed a guitar and filled his spot on stage,” Jerome said. “I picked up my microphone and sang the song – that guy was meant to sing – from the back of the audience in the sound tent all whilst mixing the band.”
Touring with rock stars in 2018 isn’t quite as hectic as it used to be. Today’s musicians act rather “sensible”, according to Jerome.
“I describe it as all cups of tea and sandwiches,” he said.
Still, plenty of people try and get past Jerome to hang back stage with the band – often telling him they’re a distant relative or best friend of a band member.
He can usually spot a fake, except the time Greedy Smith’s brother was trying to get back stage at a Mental As Anything gig.
Jerome was escorting him out when Greedy walks past and said “what are you doing?”
Meantime, Jerome hasn’t encountered too many divas over years but when he has it’s usually the “younger ones one the climb that have achieved a bit of fame”.
Sound is everything. It can make a mediocre band seem like heaven and megastars sound like hell.
“It’s all about being there hours before the show, if the show begins at 8 at night, I’m there from 3pm to get everything right for the band to come in,” he said.