has been a professional musician, performer, recording artist and songwriter for the last 25 years. Most notably the last 18 years have taken him to the recording studios and stages around the world as the bassist for the rock group Megadeth. As a long time Macintosh enthusiast his Macs, include desktop machines, iMacs, iBooks and PowerBooks. For more information on David Ellefson, please visit his
personal Web site.
There is nothing quite as thrilling as of the experience of a great live concert. World-class talent, timeless songs, breathtaking light shows and celebrity glamour are all designed to take the concertgoer into another realm of existence, leaving them with memories for a lifetime.
That magical stage curtain however, which separates the performers from their audience, is really nothing more than the dividing line between fantasy and reality. Just beyond that curtain is a tremendous group of people responsible for getting the show from city to city, night after night — as the saying goes “The band makes it rock, but the crew makes it roll”.
This month we’ll be hearing from veteran concert tour manager Steve Wood. His British heritage and witty demeanor have helped him secure the confidence of some of the biggest names in showbiz, giving him a resume that reads like a “who’s who” of the music industry. Some of the artists he’s worked with include Kiss, Peter Frampton, Soundgarden, Bette Midler, Stone Temple Pilots, Dave Edmunds, Megadeth and Godsmack to name a few. He is also one of the most passionate Macintosh enthusiasts I have ever met.
I recently asked Steve about his Mac experiences and the reasons why it is his computer of choice. He elaborated on some of the demands of his job and the ways in which he uses his Macs to keep his tour operations running like a well-oiled machine. This is what he had to say:
When did you first start using the Mac and how were you introduced to it?
Wood: I first started using Macs back in 1992 while I was tour manager for Peter Frampton. Peter had a Mac and most people in the music business had Macs. In fact, I don’t think you ever saw PC’s in those days. At the time the latest laptop, known as the “Blackbird” or 500 series, was about to be released. So as soon as it came out I bought one for about $2000.00, which I thought was an enormous sum of money at that time. Currently I use the 500MHz G4 Titanium PowerBook on the road and a G4 iMac in my home office.
What programs did you first find useful that convinced you of the machine?
Microsoft Excel, File Maker Pro and, of course at the time, Mac Write. I used Excel for all my tour accounting and concert settlements; File Maker was the program by which the tour itineraries were made; and Mac Write was just a basic word processing program but it served its purpose.
What programs do you use today and what are their applications?
AOL is the only dependable e-mail program if you are going to travel the world and hope to sign on daily without problems. Those not using AOL on international tours will always be asking if they can come to your room to check their e-mail or hogging the computers in most international departure lounges signing on to their e-mail accounts.
Quicken is essential. I use it for all my personal banking such as check reconciliation and bill payment. It is a must if you are going to be away from home and need to have bills paid. Also some professional business managers like the tour accounting in Quicken as it only takes seconds to compute the total expenses in multiple categories. Plus the entire file can be imported and exported via e-mail very easily thus ensuring both parties have up to date accounts.
I still write all the tour itineraries myself in File Maker Pro and then simply e-mail the file to the company who is printing the itineraries. This program is a lifesaver for dealing with immigration details as well. I also use it to create the concert guest lists. It allows me to check back and see if someone was on the list easily and quickly.
I occasionally use the word processing program in Apple Works 6 but most of the time I use Microsoft Word — this is easiest since most people use Word.
E-fax is a must when touring. It’s a free service available from www.efax.com. They provide you with a US based fax number and then all you have to do is download the viewer. After that, people simply send you a fax in the normal fashion from their standard fax machine and then e-fax sends you an e-mail with an attachment that you open with the viewer on your computer. You never miss a fax this way and you can keep a record of all your faxes on your hard drive without all the paper. It’s a great program!
Adobe Reader is also a must have program. Today, nearly every computer comes with Adobe Reader installed and as we Mac heads know PC users often have problems opening our attachments. Adobe Reader lets you convert the files you want to send into .pdf format and then e-mail away. It works every time.
MacLink Plus is another lifesaver. It translates most files from a PC to Mac format in a few seconds. There’s nothing more frustrating than needing important information and not being able to open it and this program solves that problem.
Norton System Works overhauls your hard drive and checks for problems and fixes them. The disc is also a startup disc that is essential if you ever have a problem starting up your Mac from your own system folder. It’s been a lifesaver for me many times.
Palm Desktop Clearly the best address book, calendar and scheduler and it comes with all Macs these days. Simply hot sync with your palm pilot and it always keep up to date.
Power Time is a little program that puts a menu bar at the top of your screen with up to 6 world cities and their local times. This is really handy when you’re on a world tour.
DVDack If you travel the world and watch DVD’s from your PowerBook or iBook you will need this program. Each Mac purchased in the USA is programmed to play DVD’s on Region 1 and will allow you to play discs on any region up to 3 times. However, on your fourth time you play a disc that is set to a different regional code from the last one it will lock and up your DVD player and then you will only be able to watch DVD’s in that region from that point onward.
If you run DVDack, it will automatically reset the region counter allowing you to watch DVD’s from all over the world as many times as you like. It is a truly wonderful program.
Finally, I love Route 66, which, unfortunately, is a program that is no longer manufactured. It’s a route planer and shows distances and the best driving routes between cities. It covers the USA, and the entire continent of Europe. I find it absolutely indispensable for touring. It can also cost calculate fuel costs but I personally never bother with that feature.
You once mentioned to me, when we were in Bogotá, Columbia on a recent Megadeth tour, that you ran the entire operation from your PowerBook. Can you elaborate on the power of a computer that lets you do that for the tours you work on?
As long as you have a fast computer, a phone line, an e-mail hook up and the above programs it’s possible to conduct business from anywhere in the world. Bogotá was no different from Taiwan, Moscow, Istanbul or Tokyo.
Do you encounter PC compatibility issues and if so, how do you deal with them?
See above # 4
How do you customize your Mac?
I do it in two ways. First, I use a program called Kaleidoscope. This is a program that changes the entire desktop look and feel, as well as all of the system fonts to whatever style you want. There are literally 100’s of different looks and feels you can give your Mac which I think keeps my computing experience fun to use. Second, I use Action Utilities, which allows you to navigate your Mac with ease and speed. Simple pull-down menus are located at the top and bottom of the computer and they can be customized to let you access whatever features on your Mac that you want to use quickly and efficiently. It also adds another menu bar at the bottom of the computer reminiscent of a PC toolbar. Being in impatient person, I love this program!
Why is it that you haven’t made the switch to Mac OS X?
The reason I have not changed yet is fear … fear of being in the middle of a huge tour and not being able to do the job. In fact there are many Macs out here and I’m the only person on 9.2 so in a week or so I ‘m going to make the leap into OSX. I’ll have lots of backup and that makes me feel a whole lot better.
On that note, why have you not found it necessary to switch to a PC even though most of the world is on that platform?
I started on Macs since everybody I knew who used a computer was using them and never felt the need to change. I like the way they look and feel and I’m quite attached to my Mac. Also I had heard that there was more to learn when using a PC, which put me off to that platform. I want the “McDonalds” mentality from my computer; you’re hungry, you eat a Big Mac … now you are not hungry! No fuss, no muss. It’s easy and that’s what I want from a computer. I want it to add to my life, not fight with me.
Any comments you’d like to add?
Use and support Apple!