Feb 2018 12

Tour managers are often the unsung heroes in music, and Eric “Dink” Dinkelmann is one of the best and hardest working today. Murder Weapons’ Dawn Wood shares with us her conversation with Dink about life on the road.


An InterView with Eric “Dink” Dinkelmann

By Dawn Wood (DWoodkillMW)

One of your favorite bands is on tour and playing in your hometown or a town nearby. Perhaps the venue will be a hole-in-the-wall club with barely enough stage space for the band and all of its equipment, while the only thing resembling a floor for the audience is the bar and a small dance floor space. Or perhaps, the it’s a larger space that maintains the intimacy of a club, but with the necessary space and technical requirements for the band to put on a dynamic performance that is sure to blow your ears out and leave you wanting more. Such details usually depend on the strength of the band’s crew, led by that unsung hero, the tour manager. Eric “Dink” Dinkelmann is one of today’s hardest working and most respected tour managers, having worked with a diverse range of artists in the metal and industrial scene. Murder Weapons’ Dawn Wood had the opportunity to speak with Dink and was kind enough to share her conversation with ReGen Magazine – here, he shares some experiences and insights from life on the road, the trials and tribulations of touring, and offering an inside look into the life of a touring musician in this day and age.


Eric, who are the bands/artists you have toured with?

Dink: There have been quite a lot over the years. I started in the early days with DOPE and Static-X, and then worked with bands like Combichrist, Lords of Acid, VNV Nation, as well as many others. I’ve also toured in other capacities with bands like Five Finger Death Punch, Portishead, Atoms for Peace, Everclear, Dragonforce, Hatebreed, etc.

Most people perceive touring as glamorous. Can you describe what touring actually means to you from a business perspective?

Dink: The entertainment business is a lot of smoke and mirrors. There’s a lot of perception out there of the lavish plush lifestyle, but many don’t see the grind. Touring is a 24/7 job with lots of moving parts, personalities to deal with, stress, and constant evolving problems with very little means of easy fixes. What the public actually sees (and generally is allowed to see) is usually just a very small part of what is actually really going on.

How did you start your career as a tour manager?

Dink: It’s funny, I was just reflecting on this with my buddy Acey Slade this past weekend while we were catching up at lunch in Vegas. During my college years, I spent a lot of time helping out a few friends’ local bands and going to concerts. I had a lot of family in the Florida area and somehow became friends with some of the guys in Marilyn Manson. Scott (Daisy Berkowitz, Marilyn Manson’s original guitar player) told me I needed to check out this band from NYC that his friend was just starting called DOPE. A few weeks later, a friend of mine, Acey Slade asked me if I wanted to head to New York City with him to check out his friend’s band. Acey was a good friend and his band was one of those local bands I worked with. We spent a lot of time hanging out and going to shows. I replied, ‘Sure… what band is it?’ He replied, ‘DOPE.’ Instantly, I was excited because this was the band Scott had told me I had to check out. So, we drove up to NYC to catch the show. Acey dropped me off outside the venue because we were running a bit late due to traffic and he still had to find parking. I headed inside and immediately dove into the crowded pit as the bands were already on. Word on the street was that DOPE was being produced by Zim Zum of Marilyn Manson who were in its prime at the time. So, the room was packed and full of energy. I was totally blown away and immersed in the show. Afterwards, I headed toward the front of the venue and found Acey. I asked, ‘What did you think of the show?’ Acey replied, ‘I don’t know, I missed it. I just finally parked the car and walked in the door.’ (Laughter) I ended up heading to the next few shows and taking photos as I needed to build a website for a school project. I made a DOPE website and it caught the attention of the band. The next thing I know, I’m getting an e-mail telling me they love my site and it’s better than theirs. They asked if I’d mind turning it into their official site and running it. I obliged with no real thought of it turning it into anything. I started helping them with promo and some other stuff before they were eventually signed by Flip/Epic records after only six shows. The next thing I know, they’re sending me on Ozzfest to hand out promos of the debut album to 1,000 kids a day in different cities across the U.S.. I was having a blast getting paid while hanging out and becoming friends with the guys in Slipknot, Static-X, Fear Factory, Rob Zombie, (Hed) P.E., etc. Toward the end of the tour, Edsel calls me to tell me they’re getting lots of great feedback, I’m doing a killer job, and they want me to head out and tour manage them. ‘I have no idea what that entails, but if you’re cool with that I’m down.’ The rest is history. Oddly enough, Acey actually joined DOPE shortly before our first tour. We toured together with them for many years across the world. He still tours with them from time to time, but is now a member of the recently reformed original Misfits. I’m actually in Vegas right now to see him play.

How is it touring with a band when something potentially damaging comes up with one of the artists? What is damage control like for you?

Dink: It usually depends on the situation. Personal drama with an artist is one thing, but when you are dealing with more serious issues, it can be an absolute living nightmare. I was onstage with Five Finger Death Punch in Germany when the calls came in about the Paris attacks at Bataclan. Our stage went on full lockdown while no one else in the band had any idea. We ended up getting locked down by the powers that be while being forced to cancel a few shows even though we wanted to finish the tour over there. At the time, I was working with 5FDP as their Production Coordinator, Personal Assistant, and stage tech for Ivan Moody. Days after these horrific attacks in Paris, we’re in Denmark on an already tense show day when I receive a message from a friend telling me, ‘You need to see this.’ It’s an article from Anonymous detailing several events ISIS was supposedly planning to attack. As I’m scrolling down, our Five Finger Death Punch show in Milan, Italy on Nov 22, 2015 was staring me dead in the face. We went into full lockdown at that point. That’s some scary shit. This wasn’t anything coming from management or some bullshit created to hype anything. This was the real deal; a real threat, in black and white, where you don’t know the source or real intent behind it. In today’s day and age, you have to take that serious no matter what. Even if you think it’s bullshit, if someone gets hurt, then that is on you forever. That’s just a risk not worth taking.

Much has changed in the music business. How would you describe how bands actually make it on a tour or have the opportunity to go out on the road touring?

Dink: The days of big label funded tour support are over. Most bands today do it through lots of hustle and hard work. Crowdfunding is now a big means of tour support for a lot of bands and artists. It’s a great way for bands to build funds to tour with while giving their biggest fans really cool products as a thank you.

What is your favorite area to tour and why?

Dink: Hmm… I love traveling everywhere, but I’d have to say Europe. There are so many cool, beautiful, breathtaking cities. Paris is unreal and absolutely gorgeous. Vienna is stunning and has so many cool nooks and crannies. Germany is amazing. Russia is always a blast with so many cool people and gorgeous women. Plus I’m looking forward to getting back to Australia and Japan.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about touring/life on the road?

Dink: Well, there are a lot of touring misconceptions. A lot of people think that touring is just one big party where every band is rich. Touring can be a lot of fun with a lot of fun nights. It’s also long hour days filled with LOTS of hard work and stress making those shows happen. The crews are up early in the morning and working well into the early hours of the next day just to make these shows happen. They solve every problem that comes their way just to make the show happen for you guys. The bus isn’t the party pad, but our home away from home. It’s where 12 people are crammed on top of each other trying to eat, sleep, and just try to relax throughout a 14-19 hour day. Most bands aren’t rich and are actually making huge sacrifices just to create and support their art. They give up lives at home with loved ones, live in a world where maintaining long distance relationships is a constant uphill battle, and they rely on you as fans to actually buy music and merch on tour to sustain – not get rich, but just to get by. If you truly enjoy a band’s music, make sure to get out there and support them. It’s getting harder and harder today for bands to keep doing this without support from real fans who actually spend money to support their art.

What would you say are normal challenges on the road that most people can’t begin to imagine?

Dink: Toss out every comfort of being at home and in your own natural surroundings every day. Now, imagine every work day is in a new place, in a new work area that you have to adapt to before you can even start your day. That means walking into a new room, identifying problems that could hamper your day before you even begin to build your office/work space. Then once the office is built and you actually start doing your actual ‘job’ hours later, that is when the problems start flowing in. Once the problems start surfacing, you then have to start trying to find local places just to even begin trying to find ways to fix broken instruments, stage gear, etc. within a small window of time before the other bands need to get their gear onstage. In the Amazon age where local specialty stores are closing left and right due to low sales, this isn’t easy. If you’re lucky, it’s been a smooth gear day and your only problem has been dealing with the 11 other grumpy ass motherfuckers who have been having nothing but gear issues all day or dealing with their wives or girlfriends bitching at them. Hopefully, you don’t have management nor the merch company calling to inform you that 12 boxes of 600+ T-shirts have been lost by the shipping company; the publicist isn’t blowing up your phone with the five more interviews they’re trying to fit into the schedule once the band’s woken up; not to mention we still haven’t even gotten to dealing with the band members who have yet to emerge from their coffins on the bus and who are still drunk from the night before. Their day of the world collapsing because the TV on the bus isn’t working or the wi-fi is down hasn’t even begun yet. Just when you get back to the bus and think you’ve navigated through the day and escaped it all, you find out the bus is broken down and you can’t call the driver because he’s only been asleep for four hours with a 10 hour drive ahead of him tonight. Did I mention all the garages and parts stores are now closed and not open ’til 8:00am the next morning? (Laughter)

What advice would you offer a band going on the road for the first time?

Dink: Invest in good, reliable crew and plan for the unexpected. Also have a good emergency fund in place. Take in every experience as if it were your last, and enjoy every moment of it. Every experience is a gift.

Have you seen touring musicians have difficulty readjusting to regular day-to-day life after touring and what advice would you recommend, given those circumstances?

Dink: Everyone that tours – crew or musicians – struggles at some point with readjusting. For most of us, the biggest issue is the fluctuating sleep schedules. On the road, I tend to go to bed around 4:00-5:00am and wake up around 9:00-10:00am. When I get home, it’s extremely hard to break out of this schedule. It’s also difficult because you kind of feel like a ghost at times; you live most of your life on the road far away from home, so even when you are home, most friends and family just naturally assume you’re not around. This can lead to a lot of missed opportunities and feelings of separation/isolation, which is really hard. The road and travel is fun, but it also can be a very lonely place.

Good points! What’s next for you for 2018?

Dink: Right now, I’m working on quite a few new personal projects that are industry related. They’ve been pretty time intensive, so I’ve been going light on the scheduling for 2018. I’m actually just starting to look into booking work for 2018. If the right opportunity comes along, I might bite.

When you are not on the road, what do you like to do?

Dink: When I’m not on the road, I’m usually at home absorbing as much time with my English Bulldog, Tallulah, as possible. I adore her. She’s really kept me grounded over the years through many relationships and ups/downs. When I’m home, I play hockey, snowboard, and work on my many creative outlets – photography, graphic design, flying my drone, and developing merchandise. I still travel a lot and try to create as many experiences as possible.

Any other words of wisdom or things you would like to promote?

Dink: At the end of it all, all we have is our memories and experiences. Try to create and enjoy as many of them as you can with your loved ones.
I’m currently working on overhauling my website. In the meantime, you can follow much of what I’m doing via my personal Instagram – DinkusMaximus – and my business Instagram – MercenaryMedia.


Eric “Dink” Dinkelmann/Mercenary Media
Website, Facebook, Twitter


Photography by Heather Viereck – courtesy of Against the Grain Photography.


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