Nb Folio


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Nb Folio

  1. 1. STYLE I STYLE n early 2000, during a musical milieu dominated by Eminem, Limp Biskit and Britney Spears, a group of young indie rockers called The Strokes exploded onto the scene as the leading group in garage rock revival. Ryan Gentles, working as a booker at Manhatten’s Mercury Lounge heard their demo tape and was overwhelmed to the extent that he resigned to become their full-time manager. Frequently referred to as the sixth Stroke, his role as manager is above and beyond that of a mere booking agent, administrator or behind the scenes manager. The Strokes, including Ryan, operate as a rare democracy, to the extent that the band splits all profits in equal proportions, six ways. (Normally managers receive 10-20%). Esther Couch caught up with him to ask a few questions. Have you always been interested in music? Yeah, definitely. I have two older brothers who were always kind of the ‘marker for cool’ as you’re growing up, as older siblings tend to be. I would listen to my brothers’ albums - they were in high school at the time, so I would World fashion be listening to The Doors and Led Zeppelin, Queen, Guns n’ Roses and The Beatles. I remember not knowing what the hell they were singing about, the lyrics were obviously way over my head at that point…actually a lot of them still are. Both my brothers were very musical. I remember going to nightclubs when I was about 13 or 14 (accompanied by my parents, of course) to see my brothers play in some shitty bar or club and being blown away by the whole spectacle of actually seeing bands play live. It was so loud, and impressive like A Stroke something that I thought you only get to see on MTV. I went to my first real concert in 1990 at Giant’s Stadium, it was Billy Joel’s Storm Front tour! Then when I went to the Lollapalooza summer festival in Philadelphia in 1994 it was all over… I saw the Breeders, Nick Cave, Of Ge- The Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, and Courtney Love do a few songs, and it changed my life forever. I started a band that summer, got a job at a local record store and that was it for me. I was 16 years old.Was there a key nius moment when you decided that you wanted to work in the industry or was it something which you just seemed to fall into?I did some YLE - internships; first at Geffen Records in the Throughout the history of A&R department, and then at a local NYC music venue, The Mercury Lounge. I really popular music, managers have enjoyed doing all the ‘management’ aspects of often played an integral role in STTER promoting our band. At the end of my internship the formation and exposure of at Mercury Lounge, they asked me to stay on their bands. Many managers rest as a paid employee - something like $8 per behind the scenes, others adopt a hour or something. more aggressive approach. 30 IN VIEW Russell Lock up your daughters STYLE need to do as a business decision is not street and we were sold out an hour before what they want to do as an artistic decision. they hit the stage, and turning people away. If anything, being such closer friends helps While I was helping The Strokes during this discussion, not hamper it. Sometimes those early months, they asked me over I win and they’ll try it, but most of the time and over again to be their manager, and I they win and they shoot down the idea and always said “no”. I was really happy booking don’t want to do it, even if they acknowledge the venue and helping them, but I wanted to that it might help their short-time goals for stay at the Mercury. It was as the excitement success. The point is that I’m a manager grew around what we were doing, and as it who acknowledges that ultimately it’s their became more fun to help this one band that career, and their identity and their legacy. My I truly loved and these guys that I truly loved, only responsibility is to present these options that I started to seriously think about it. for them, let them know that this is what I think is the best way or this is what I think would be the repercussions of doing either I’d sent a copy of the demo to Rough Trade Brand X, Y or Z and let them make the decision in the UK per my boss’s suggestion and they about doing it or not. I try to keep my ego in bit right away. It was at that point that my life check and realise it’s their art not mine and changed, and I considered for the first time so they should always have the final say in leaving my dream job at the Mercury Lounge how to promote themselves the way they to be a manager; a term that I felt uneasy feel comfortable. about, as I was barely 23 years old, had no money in the bank and could hardly afford rent at my apartment (which I shared with 3 Is there a breakdown between the other dudes all sleeping in one big bedroom, creative role you may play as a manager just so we could afford the tiny, disgusting and the marketing aspects? place on 33rd street and 2nd ave). I was scared. I had never managed a band, I had Ryan Gentles Yeah, there is totally a no experience, and I had only known these breakdown between these two. Even when on to bigger and greater things and left guys for a month or two. I didn’t know any Ultimately, I ended up getting more it comes to touring, they’ve always been their mark on the music industry, and it’s conventional way to manage a band. All I responsibility and more confidence from VERY vocal about where they’d like to go, really rewarding to remember that I was could think of was just to try and get them the owners at the Mercury Lounge, and when they’d like to be home, and how they down there booking these bands in this whatever the hell they wanted. the woman I consider to be my ‘mentor’, want themselves “represented” with regards little club. Theresa Chambers. She was the lead to marketing and probably more importantly talent booker for the Mercury Lounge At what point did you decide to become a how they DON’T want to be “represented”. and Bowery Ballroom and about as Throughout the history of How and why did you become the full-time manager? My job is to take the language that we speak tough and street wise as they come popular music, managers manager of The Strokes? to each other and the decisions we make in in the music business. When she left, have often played an integral that room together, and try to get the huge It was sometime in November of 2000 that and the position became open at the wheels that turn at the labels to turn in a way I had a friend who would send me bands I became the full time manager, after I got Mercury Lounge to book the bands, we role in the formation and that reflects most accurately the way that she liked from the local music scene. the call from Geoff Travis in the UK saying managed to talk the owners into letting exposure of their bands. we envision it, so that THE BAND doesn’t She sent me a CD of a band called The he wanted to put out the demo I sent him as me book the room, at the tender age Many managers rest behind have to worry about that, and can just focus Strokes that she told me I should have a record, and fly The Strokes to the UK to of 21, which is pretty crazy, now that STYLEMAG. the scenes, others adopt a on being creative while I’m putting together into the Mercury Lounge. I listened to do a tour. At that point, I got them a music I think about it. At the end of the day, COM 28 more aggressive approach. what they would consider “the boring” part the CD, and that was it. It was the best attorney, a publicist and a booking agent. At they just wanted the best local bands of it. thing I had heard the whole time I had that point, I was like “OK, I’m building a team with the best draws to fill their club night From a stylistic point of view, the band has been at the Mercury Lounge, and we At first we just didn’t think of it. Then around this group….well, I guess that makes after night, and that’s what they relied evolved quite dramatically in the last six in the music business know about this got about 100 demos per week there. I someone in the band, probably Julian me their manager, I might as well stop on me to do. So, thinking that I had my years. band. Working at The Mercury Lounge listened to the three songs on the demo [Casablancas], said “hey, you don’t have denying it, and just take this chance”. I told dream job, I left school during the final you get to meet everyone, because 30 times the first day I got it in the office. any experience, and we don’t have any them I’d do it. I quit the Mercury lounge in weeks of my final class just 3 credits Have you played any role in helping their they all come through that door to see The demo was rough, but that voice experience… we both have the same to lose January 2001, borrowed $2000 from Albert’s shy of a bachelor’s degree from Pace image to evolve? some band or another at some point and those guitar sounds were brilliant and same to gain… let’s just split everything dad to pay my rent for 4 months because I University. I wanted to book local acts, in time…the lawyers, the label folks, and completely exceptional and stood we make 6 equal ways…”. We sat in a literally had no money and lived cheque to the ones without record deals, playing No, absolutely not. This isn’t the 60s the booking agents, the promoters, the apart. I booked them their first show room for less than an hour with the same cheque while working at the Mercury, and the local music scene, that’s what I $4.99 anymore, and there are no more Andrew publicists. They all have to come there at the Mercury Lounge, giving them a lawyer and worked out something no longer borrowed money from my old boss at Geffen found exciting. I can remember booking Loog Oldham’s or Brian Epstein’s or even at some point, and I made sure I made Thursday night closer spot which is a than a page or two, and signed it together (now our new publicist!) to buy a laptop, and so many bands that are now quite big, Malcolm McLaren’s. If you’re not a boy tons of copies of a new demo that The very coveted spot. I actually remember the same day. That was it. Is it difficult at didn’t look back. I got on my first airplane and back then they were just the bands band then no-one has any say in what you Strokes had just recorded (it became getting a lot of flack for giving them that times trying to maintain a perspective of the day that the 5 Strokes and I boarded a that hung out at all the same bars or wear or the way you comb your hair except known as “the modern age E.P”). We spot from my boss, but I just told him to what is best for the band when you are all plane to fly to London, courtesy of Rough at least played the same shitty, tiny for the musicians in the band… not in any sent it to all these people with a typed, trust me on this. such close friends? That is probably the Trade, to sign a label deal in the UK and do clubs. I booked Interpol in there several self-respecting rock band I’ve ever met to professional letter, inviting them to see most difficult thing about managing a band a tiny club tour of England. times, sometimes on the same bill as date, anyway. If anything, since we’re all this “great new band”. I had the Strokes I broke up my fledgling band about a like The Strokes that all have such very the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I mean, maybe similar in age, they influence me. I’ll see play every Wednesday night of the month later and asked The Strokes if strong convictions and are quite astute 40 or 50 people would come through How were the management fees some shoes that Fab got or some suit Albert month that December. The first night, they wanted some help in promoting about making the right decisions in trying to the room the whole night, that was it… 30 negotiated when you first became bought, and think ”wow, that’s sweet!” and about 70 people showed up. By the their band. They said yes, and I set do the best thing for their art and for what but the music was awesome. Now of manager? then end up picking up a pair for myself. 4th Wednesday, the line was down the out to let every contact that I had made they believe in. Sometimes what I feel they course, both of those bands have gone