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Andrew Crow

Richard Olson • NextGenNovember 2019 • November 10, 2019

Andy Crow

Production Manager/Audio Engineer Follows the Music

Andrew Crow, a.k.a. “Crow” or just “Andy,” currently resides in the humbly famous Door County Peninsula, an area just to the northeast of Green Bay. A native Wisconsinite who was raised in Racine, he’s been attracted to music all his life, originally manifesting in his role as a guitar player for multiple bands.

After high school in 1998, he decided to formally pursue music education by attending MusicTech, an institution in Minneapolis, MN. The school, now defunct, grew and changed to become McNally Smith College of Music, which is basically a trade school for people who want to learn about various aspects of the music business. The school contained multiple studios, performance areas, and computer labs, teaching everything from engineering and production to performance, business, and law.

‡‡         Making Music and Money

“While I was in school, I worked as a stagehand/security person on various shows and got a taste of real production, while at the same time I played with my band wherever and whenever we could. After graduating from MusicTech, I ended up playing in a different band that was offered a record deal with a small Indie label, and before I knew it we were off on a small tour. During that tour, myself and another tour mate ended up mixing each other’s bands whenever the local engineers didn’t show up, were too busy drinking at the bar, or just plain bad engineers. Then one day a club owner came over after the show and gave us some money saying, “I don’t know why you need two sound guys for the bands, but here’s some money.” We were floored at the implications. “‘Wait a sec, you pay sound men to mix live shows?’ We ended up doing two more short-lived tours this way before I decided I might make a better living mixing bands than playing guitar, and since my education was in mixing audio for the studio, I went for it.

“I started hawking work wherever I could around the Twin Cities. I continued doing as much stagehand work as I could, where I could also spy on the touring engineers, and finally landed an ‘intern’ gig at a staple rock club,” Andy adds. Shortly after being hired full-time, he found himself not only doing sound but handling all production and, basically, running the club. “All of a sudden, I found myself scrambling to hire and train more guys, since it just became me. We cut our teeth hard at that club, working with numerous local, regional, and touring acts and doing up to as many as 10-12 shows a week in summer peak season.” Andy was networking his way up through the ranks, locally mixing three or four bands regionally on a regular schedule. “I did the good old trick of printing out 500 Vistaprint business cards for ten bucks and handed them out to everyone on a touring act I could. It was boots-to-the-ground and attend-as-many-shows-as-you-can. I was looking to win the lottery in a way, and it paid off when an opening act took me out on the road.” So in 2004, this roadie finally got his first laminate.

That band was The Black Dahlia Murder, who are still out playing shows to this day. “Being a punk rock and metal kid, I was tickled pink to be driving around in a van, opening up for Cannibal Corpse.” Mutual friends then hooked him up with his second tour, working for local favorites American Head Charge, a Minneapolis-based Industrial metal band who were about to open for Mudvayne. This led to a gig with a Florida band named Nonpoint, which led to jobs with Powerman 5000 and, later, Papa Roach.

On the tour with Nonpoint, Andy met and got to know the manager/tour manager, Eddie Gowan, who gave him a tip. “He said, ‘you know, there’s a whole other side to this business I think you’d be pretty good at. You’re a tech guy, and you seem to grasp everything out here and help out with all departments. There is always a big picture, and you should think about doing production.’ He assured me I could do the job, and that he’d be happy to fill in the holes and answer any questions I had,” Andy recalls. A year later, the call came from Gowan offering Andy the chance to production-manage and mix monitors for Papa Roach. That opportunity ended up as a four-year trek, lasting until the band decided to take a year-long break.

“In January of 2010, I got to return to the audio side, becoming a monitor engineer for the Chinese Democracy incarnation of Guns N’ Roses.” Chris Gratton had hired him and told him to pack for a few days, as he was the first into the revolving door, but the gig lasted for several years. “I was hired as the band monitor engineer and rarely had to fill in for Axl’s engineer, but occasionally it would happen,” Andy says. When later asked by management to permanently stay in the “A” position, he accepted. “I didn’t care who I mixed. The band liked me, but so did ‘Big Red.’ I left the decision up to those who were in a higher paygrade; I would just do whatever the show needed.” That run of shows ended in late 2013.

Dropkick Murphys were the next destination in Andy’s career. A spot had opened up on the tour, so their production manager, Gregory “Grizz” Middleton, called him to mix front of house. “I really enjoyed my time with this camp, as they are one that’s respected everywhere. Stagehands, promoters, and venues alike would go above and beyond for these guys.” But when the band went back into the studio, Andy filled his time with other work and things, and when the call came again from Dropkick, this time it was back to the other end of the snake — doing monitors. During the recording process, the band kept doing more local shows and charity work and utilized their strong network of Northeastern crew. “I was flattered the band/organization wanted me to return in any capacity and ended up becoming close friends with my replacement — FOH engineer Pete Robertson.”

‡‡         Corporate Gigs…and Back

While most of his work has been spent touring doing concerts, Andy notes that he’s had his foray into the corporate side of the biz as well. The last corporate run he did was working as the stage manager on a show being produced by some good friends. “The [corporate] company really took good care of me, and I was thankful for the gig. The problem was that I realized the values and goals of that company really didn’t align well with my personal values. We did 12-hour show days, four days in a row, all over the globe, sometimes with 17,000 people in attendance, and some days seemed like pure chaos. I don’t shy away from any gig, even corporate ones, but at some point, I realized this gig wasn’t my bag. I wasn’t buying what they were selling.” He was torn with whether to stay on with that gig.

While debating whether or not to stay, he serendipitously got a call from his friend Gowan again, who was now employed as the tour accountant by Rob Thomas, an artist who enjoys a successful solo career alongside his role as lead vocalist for Matchbox 20. They were looking for a production manager. Andy admits he never likes leaving any gig before it’s finished, but in this case, it was a welcome call. “I decided this position with Rob Thomas was better suited for me and my life. This would be my first time out where my sole role would be as a production manager, and there would be no more wearing multiple hats. My plane from Bangkok landed in Portland, and 30 hours later, I was doing a set change.”

The Rob Thomas camp was all set in the audio department when he arrived, so we asked Andy how he deals with listening to others mix. “Oh, man, it’s ‘Critique City’ when a bunch of us get together. I tell our audio crew guys when I hire them that they have the hottest seat on the tour and give fair warning we may not always agree. But we have creative and maintenance discussions just like I would with any of our departments.”

Andy notes his belief in “the idea of macro management. Any of my artists’ crew were hired for the belief that they will succeed. I also tell them I will be their biggest cheerleader; if I can set them up for success, the show will succeed.” Even so, Andy expects “all department heads to know their gig better than me.” And that includes taking care of the openers. “When I was a young man with Nonpoint, this other FOH engineer, Andy Meyer, was mixing the headliner, Sevendust. He really showed me how to change mixes, set up a P.A. and dial it in. A lot of my audio skills came because people like him took the time to help.”

That is a trait Andy strives to pass along, “Everyone on the tour gets the same speech. ‘There’s only one show on the laminate, and we are all part of it — we are all equals.’ We don’t restrict anything — heck, I still like helping dial in the monitors for the opening acts. I just want to see everyone out here succeed.”

Rob Thomas, Matchbox 20, Stone Temple Pilots, and now back to Rob Thomas — it seems Andy’s quick decision to jump back to production managing and music was the right one. With the rumors of Matchbox 20 touring in 2020, we think he will stay busy.

Rob Thomas recently wrapped up a four-month leg across North America and is spending November in Australia with the band. More U.S. dates start in December. You can find Andy running the production, standing behind a console or making a quick check at the mail sent to andy@teamblue42.com.

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