Behind the band: meet Digital Technician Neill
Behind every great band, there’s a great technician. And great roadies, great caterers, great box office attendants…I could go on.
In the first of more behind-the-scene interviews to come, meet Neill Lambert, Coldplay’s Digital Technician and find out how he swung his enviable job, what it’s like touring with one of the biggest rock bands in the world and exactly what he thinks of Oxfam…
Pete: Hi Neill, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Could you tell me a bit about your job on this tour?
Neill: My formal title is Digital Technician, and this job falls in the ‘backline’ department. In non-gobble-de-gook, I look after the band’s instruments that aren’t guitars or drums. I’ll take care of pianos and keyboards, drum samples, synthesisers and percussion loops that the band might use in a show.
P: What does a show day involve for you?
N: Hopefully, i’ll set up and test all my equipment and it will all work! We will ‘line check’, meaning we’ll test all sounds from their creation right through to them coming out of the PA system. Then the band will probably want to ‘sound check’, meaning rehearse during the afternoon, and then i’ll be there for the show in the evening. Hopefully it all works, but sometimes this is unrealistic, so i’ll be on hand to ﬁx stuff if it breaks.
P: Do you work with the band when they are not out on tour?
N: I do little bits for them in the studio, like tuning and ﬁxing drums, and building sound projects.
P: How long have you been touring and how long with Coldplay?
N: I’ve been touring with bands now for over 15 years. The last 4 or so i’ve been with Coldplay.
P: Who else have you been on tour with before?
N: I’ve worked on tours with the Flaming Lips, and the White Stripes. There’s a long list! Recently I also worked with the Kills, Mika, and the Futureheads.
P: It must have been nice to catch up with the Flaming Lips when they supported Coldplay on the Viva La Vida stadium run in 2009?
N: It really is a lot of fun to meet old friends while you are out working. Everyone is out and moving, but there is always a lovely sense of camaraderie, of belonging to something – the music.
P: How did you get the envious job of Digital Technician for a rock band?
N: That’s a hard one. It didn’t happen overnight, I know that. At the end of the last tour, I thanked Jonny Buckland for taking me out, and he said “we were trying to get you for years”. I’d never even thought of it like that, but you never know who’s watching your work, you know?
P: What are the strangest and best things about touring the world with a rock band?
N: Strangest – the speed at which you travel through all these places. It never ceases to amaze me just how far you go in such a short space of time. The best has to be getting paid to be with your friends and watch a show every night. Who wouldn’t want that?
P: What do you think of Oxfam’s presence on this tour?
N: I’ve always been a big fan of this alliance. I like the presence of the organisation, which never steps over into being in your face. It presents its truth, and lets people for themselves decide what they think. I was always a bit sceptical of the ‘big sell’ especially in entertainment, but it doesn’t happen like that with Oxfam and Coldplay. It’s a long term relationship too, that adds a lot of credibility.
P: Have you ever been involved with Oxfam yourself?
N: I have bought Christmas presents from Oxfam Unwrapped, clean drinking water and so on. And I must have spent thousands in Oxfam Books and Music over the years!
P: Last question…Oxfam’s GROW campaign is about the food system, what is your favourite food?
N: The boring good stuff: great salads, vegetarian, Japanese. But it’s winter and i’m at home in London, so right now pies take it!
P: Thanks so much for your answers, Neill. Much appreciated!
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