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We got speaking to Kate Simko, Solomun, Nick Curly, Huxley and Will Saul about how they deal with the ups, the downs, the delays, the promoters and everything else about life on the road…

Kate Simko
Chicago house heiress Kate Simko has toured as a DJ and with a live show, and explains how life on the road is different for women.

As a woman on the road, we need to be extra careful. I always forward my rider with contact info before my trips, so my husband can reach me via the promoters, knows which hotel I’m in and so on, but meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing things that change your overall perception of the world… I love it.

“Flying hungover is the worst, though. I always pack a wide range of medicine, just in case you get sick. It’s always easiest and best to take stuff that works for you rather than try a gamble in a foreign pharmacy. That said, I did get an amazing throat spray in Warsaw once, and the best herbal nose spray in Italy. But when you’re sick, you don’t want to wait or risk getting the wrong stuff!”

“I’m pretty particular when it comes to flights. I don’t do connections, and try to always fly British Airways or one of their partner airlines. I also love taking trains, as you don’t have to deal with airport security and you can see more that way. Something I’ve learnt is to get flight updates on my phone and double-check they’re not delayed before you rush to the airport.”

“There is a really big variation in terms of best-to-worst promoter etiquette! The worst arrive late on no sleep from the previous night, and basically risk your life driving in a state. The best send a pro car service. Usually from the airport, pick-up style you can get an idea where things are heading.”

“I prefer to sleep in a bit after a show, then get up and go see something in the city with the promoter, if possible. It’s always nice to see some of the local culture before you leave town. I’ve always liked to do this, but my AV live show definitely created more things to carry around. I bought a very large suitcase that was filled with stuff. Honestly I don’t miss carrying that thing around!”

Nick Curly
8Bit boss and tech house hero Nick Curly used to have a 'proper’ job, so for him life on the road will always be a better option.

“I enjoy it most of the time. The travel bit is the work for me but I really enjoy living this life. I'm happy to do it because I worked for 10 years at Mercedes, a proper company, as a technician, so I know the difference between DJing and having a proper daytime job. Apart from my DJ equipment I try to carry some trainers with me because if I have time, I like to do some sport in the hotel. If you fly a lot it’s good to do a workout between flights or you just spent your time on your ass in the airport or on planes. Sometimes I fly six times a weekend, so it’s important to exercise.”

“The part I really enjoy is the nice dinners with promoters. When you come to a new place and haven’t met them before, when the exit doors at the airport open and I see these people for the first time, it’s great. They normally transport me in a nice car, but I always hope the journey from airport to club isn’t too long.”

“Sometimes it can be a two-hour drive if the airport isn’t close. Last year I played in Moscow and had to drive six hours by car. I got my own security guy with a gun and we were in an SUV. In the end it was eight or nine hours travel — it was alright, it was a big car, I had the guard to make me feel safe, it worked out good, but usually I would prefer not to go so far by car.”

Few DJs play more gigs in more countries than Diynamic label head Solomun, so how is life on the road for a globetrotting superstar?

“One thing is really important: I love my job and I am very thankful for it, but the travelling really kills me. There ain’t no good things about being on the road. I especially miss having a regular life, regular days, working from 9pm to 5pm… er, I mean 1pm to 7pm, then coming home in the evening, having dinner with friends, things like this. I always have a plate of fruit on my rider. It gives me the best energy before or during a gig, and a telephone charger, laptop charger, shaver charger, toothbrush charger and iPad charger are my essential travel items.”

“On the one hand travelling is getting harder, since I’ve done it for some years already. On the other hand, it’s getting easier because I can enjoy more luxury on the road than before. I am very thankful that I am in the position to only fly Business Class now: especially when you are a one metre, 92 centimetre guy like me, this really makes a difference. One of the biggest problems actually is food, cos sometimes it’s nearly impossible not to eat shitty airport food. OK, impossible is a strong word, but believe me, it’s not easy to eat healthily on tour.”

“At the end of the day it’s my work to travel around. And to do my work in the best possible way, things like Business Class or better hotels really help. This may sound a little weird but for me Business Class and good hotels are not luxury. It’s part of my job. So what’s my job? My job is to be relaxed and in a good mood when I start in the booth. And flights and hotels are the only parts of travelling that I can control. Even in the early days I paid for Business Class myself, which was pretty much the biggest part of my fee.
One big support obviously is my tour manager, Anselm, who is a long time friend of mine. The fact that he is always on my side is a big help to me.”

UK house and garage head Huxley has gone from zero to hero in the last couple of years, so is as new to international jet-setting as anyone…

“When I’m traveling I try to get away with the least amount of things possible. Even on a two-week tour I only ever take hand luggage. Saying that, though, there's a couple of things, like my laptop and iPad stocked up with whatever crap US TV series I’m watching at the time to help cure the boredom of my own company. And travel wash — you got to make sure your briefs aren't stinking!

I try and make sure all my flights are direct and also that normally I’m on the first flight out of where I’ve played. Not because I don't like being there, I just don't like hanging around waiting all day for a flight late at night. I'd rather just get home to my own bed so I don't have to move.”

“My biggest time-killing thing in airports is annoying my friends by ringing them early on a Sunday morning and chatting rubbish, because on the road I miss my bird, my dog and my bed. Also I miss making music when I’m on the road constantly for a few weeks. Last year was probably my least productive when it came to making music. Also I find it takes a while to get back in the swing of things once I get home.”

“When the promoter takes you for food, I normally ask them to take me to a place they love. That's almost always good. I like trying local delicacies when I can. I've had some really great food over the years. However, there are also a lot of take-away burgers, overpriced sandwiches and generally terrible food. I have to say I was in Moscow last year and they had me try some local soup with dough balls or something in it. It was rank!”

“I don't really care what car I get picked up in. As long as it gets me from the airport to the hotel or whatever, it can be a Morris Minor. I don't really get why people would ever ask for a particular car. Seems fucking pointless to me. I've only had a couple of bad experiences, but nothing as bad as some people. The promoters who seem to do the least for people are the smaller London parties. I think they think because I live close to London I can sort myself out, which is true, but dinner would be nice.”

Delsin’s Dutchman Borris Bunnik makes sub aquatic deep house and dubbed out techno so cerebral it’s no wonder he takes a different approach to travel…

Living from a suitcase sometimes isn’t really ideal, but you have to make it as comfortable as you can wherever you are. Bring a little piece of home with you. After a short while I can quickly feel at home in various places, if I have the necessary stuff with me: a Leica M8+Elmarit 28mm 2.8 — it’s my third eye. Passport — ain’t going nowhere without. Music and enough books and/or study material keep you busy and Bose quiet comfort 15 headphones get rid of engine noise. Plus I take an iPad with language courses, because it’s very important to know a bit of the local language, it helps you a lot, especially when you go to places frequently.”

“I try to avoid unnecessary flights and prefer to take trains instead. It’s way more comfortable and there is no stress involved. You actually see the landscape and distance you’re travelling. So in someway I don’t think I really like flying. It has fascinating aspects but most of the time it’s very uninspiring. I always try to think what is most comfortable for me but also think about what the promoter has to spend, so if cheaper flights depart early or I have to change at Heathrow to reduce some costs, I will do so, but it’s not something you prefer. I avoid Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle and will not fly with Ryan Air ever because of their staff/employee policy. I don’t want to support an airline that treats their people so badly to give customers cheap prices. Also their fuel reduction strategy is something that freaks me out. Never.”

“I also never make music on the road. It’s a creative process that is related to my studio space. It’s a place where I have a perfectly designed workflow of hard and software integration, i.e. not something I would ever be able to create on the tray table of a Boeing 747 with two people next to me looking down on my screen wondering what I’m doing. I do photography when I’m on the road, simply to set my mind on different things than music.

I have absolutely no demands from promoters — maybe a bottle of good French wine. Cote du Rhone or Bordeaux will do. Think my rider says I bring a good mood and decent set of music, but seriously, good food is all you want after a long flight or tour or whatever. I often pay to stay extra nights in cities myself, to get quality out of my profession and life. Money is not everything; it’s about life experiences. And I have less stress if I do it like this. I don’t want to consume a place in 24 hours, but it really depends on the place and country.”

“I’ve had promoters that fed me with fries that were drained with oil and the most disgusting pieces of processed meat without any vegetables or mayonnaise. I’ve had gigs where I was picked up from an airport by a louche pick-up driver that didn’t talk to me for half an hour and constantly drove 170kph on a speedway to get me to the club. I never complain, I’m living a dream and I can relativise things quickly. I mean, I get paid to travel and perform my passion all around the globe!”

Will Saul
For years Aus Music boss Will Saul has been touring the globe as a DJ of fine repute, but the recent arrival of a first child somewhat changed his perspective…

“I don’t see anything of the city I play in, primarily because I have a young family so I will get on the first plane out as soon as possible. For me now, the travelling is definitely really something I don’t enjoy at all. For American tours, for example, I will just do them in a weekend now. It is incredibly grueling but it’s the way I do it so I'm away from my boy as little as possible. I’ve never really been a massive party or after-party guy, I’ve always been pretty professional.

“I still love the process of DJing as much as ever and I will continue to do that forever, but in my circumstances it’s arduous and puts pressure on my family being away. It means I’m a little more selective about where I play now. Say I play in the UK, I will drive to the show myself, then drive home straight after. If I can get a driver I will, so I'm not really away for a whole night.

“I do a lot of work on the road, from making music to doing edits to catching up on admin: because one day a week I look after my son, the travelling means I can catch up with stuff like that. I find that taking stuff on the road that you have at home helps — I always take pyjamas and a dressing gown, which help make it feel less like you are in a sterile hotel room all the time!

“I love to speak to my son on the phone from the hotel but it can be heartbreaking. I missed his first steps and, though my wife videoed and sent it to me, that was painful. Getting up from being in the hotel and speaking to family then playing a gig can be really tough. I always go out for dinner with promoters, have a glass of wine then go back to the hotel to sleep before my gig. But waking up after a few hours sleep then going to DJ is hard. That said, I always find that as soon as you walk into the club, you get a hit of adrenaline and you feel sharp.”