Alright drummers, let’s go over that international travel checklist one last time: suitcase, cell phone, cell phone charger, snare and cymbals (assuming there’s a backline kit being provided at your destination), sticks, in-ears, drum key, and, most importantly, your passport.
What’s that? You left your passport in your suitcase, which you sent ahead with the tour manager, who’s traveling to the next gig by train—and you’ve only just realized this on the way to the airport? Well, good luck getting on that flight and making the gig.
Don’t think for a minute that forgetting your passport is the kind of egregious mistake that only a rookie could make. Dave Mudie was a veteran of many international flights and hundreds of gigs with Courtney Barnett when he allowed himself to become separated from his passport as the band was about to travel from London to play a festival in France, a couple of years back. And don’t think for a minute the show can’t go on without the drummer. Without hers, Barnett played a solo acoustic set at the festival. Meanwhile, Mudie was forced to cool his heels in London, spending a “lonely day and night” waiting for the tour manager to backtrack from France to deliver his passport.
Dave explains what happened…
“We were playing in London, and there was a festival in France the next day. We got to bed at around 4 a.m. and had to get up at 6 a.m. to get to the airport. Our tour manager took my suitcase, which my passport was in, and he got on a train to the south of France. Of course I realized this after the fact. I was at the airport with the guys and Courtney waved goodbye and said, ‘Try to get your passport back and hopefully we’ll see you there.’
“I was running around London trying to call our tour manager, but I couldn’t get in touch until he’d reached his destination about twelve hours later. By that time I’d missed the festival. I spent the night in London, staying with someone from our label. Our tour manager had to come straight back on the train. He got in at 6 a.m. the next morning and didn’t have a very happy expression on his face. So I missed that festival in France, but ended up making the next one, Primavera, with about five minutes to spare.”
And the lesson here is?
“Definitely, always hold on to your passport,” Mudie says. “I’ve got it in my pocket all the time now. It was a teachable moment, I guess.”
That passport will remain in Mudie’s pocket for the foreseeable future, as he expects to be globe-trotting with Barnett well into 2019 behind her new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. The drummer says Barnett’s gradual ascension from small clubs to larger halls and prime festivals over a very busy last four-and-a-half years has given him a pretty good perspective about life on the road.
“It’s the best job ever,” he says, “but it turns into a thing where you’re playing and moving all the time, and the back of the venue is the main thing you see. So you live for that hour or two of the day when you’re finally playing.
“And you’ve got to look after yourself,” Mudie adds. “Eat well, get sleep if you can. You’re doing it for the music, so you’ve got to remember that. I try and learn a new thing every week, something new on drums or guitar.”
In his travels, Mudie has also learned a thing or two about how to handle gear malfunctions. Prior to playing with Barnett, he once fell off the back of a truck—which was serving as a stage—in the middle of a gig. “The back leg of the stool fell off the truck,” he recalls with a laugh. “It was about a five-foot drop, on grass at least. Lesson learned here: don’t set up so close to the edge of the stage. And maybe don’t play on a truck.” And he’s developed a surefire way for not missing a beat when his kick pedal gives out mid-song. “Just kick the kick drum. It’s happened quite a few times to me. The mic should pick it up.”
Mudie plays C&C red and silver sparkle drums (13″ rack tom, 16″ floor tom, 24″ kick), a Ludwig Black Beauty snare, Zildjian Kerope cymbals, LP shakers, and uses Vic Firth 7A wood-tip sticks and, usually, Gibraltar hardware.