Ken Barr Interview (July 2011)
Ken Barr is a long-time road crew member who over his career has worked with artists ranging from Alice Cooper to Debbie Gibson. He has since written of his experiences throughout his career in We Are The Road Crew. Another of his jobs was serving as Michael Steele’s bass tech in early 1989.
KB: Ken Barr
A still from the ‘Be With You’ clip, in which KB is briefly visible.
RIS: How did you get into being a roadie/bass tech in the first place?
KB: I started out as a musician and just sort of gravitated toward tech work. You should check out my book for the full story. It’s called We Are The Road Crew and is available on Amazon.
RIS: How did you get the gig?
KB: I did a tour in 1988 with a guy named Steve Botting,who was their soundman and production manager. We got along, he liked my work, so he recommended me and I got the gig.
RIS: What did your work as bass and keyboard tech involve night-to-night?
KB: Setting up all the gear each night and tearing it down. During the show the keyboard player didn’t need anything, so primarily spent the show watching Micki, in case she needed something. I also kept tuning her other basses to be ready for a bass change.
RIS: What were your impressions of Michael?
KB: She was a sweetheart. We both liked the same music, so we could always hang and talk about other bands.
KB: Micki had a cool groove, but she could play heavy too, like the song “Watching the Sky”.
RIS: What was her bass set-up?
KB: She had a couple of vintage Ampeg SVT heads that sounded great, I can’t remember for the life of me what cabinets. Beyond that just a wireless, no effect gear at all. At the time she was playing a Jackson bass, it might have been a five string, and a fender bass. I would tweak her amp settings for different songs. There was one night she was on one of the upper risers and she started to play, and I had cranked the bass higher than normal, and she looked at me and mouthed “Holy Shit”. But I know we both liked the bass loud.
RIS: How did Micki prepare for gigs?
KB: I used to leave one of her spare basses in the dressing room until showtime. She would warm up with it, although I don’t know what she played.
RIS: Do you recall which songs she used the Jackson five-string bass on?
KB: I think songs like “Watching the Sky” but I’m not sure, it’s been a while.
RIS: How were the band with their road crew?
KB: The band were always cool with us, although we usually didn’t see them until
soundcheck. At that time they were doing a lot of press, radio stuff etc. so they were very busy. Even on non show days they were doing interviews and radio stuff. If there was time on days off we would hang.
RIS: Did everyone in the band get along well at the time?
KB: When I was with them everyone was cool. I know they had their problems later, but that was after I had left.
RIS: How/when did your time with the band end?
KB: I did the first leg of the 1989 tour, they were taking a break before their summer tour, and I was offered the next Debbie Gibson tour which was starting right away. So in order to keep working I had to leave the Bangles. The parting was fine, there was going to be a stretch of no work. It is common in the industry. I still have a relationship with them, I saw them in Orlando not too long ago and ended up talking for hours after the show, just catching up. They were great people to work for, and I would again. I miss Micki though, she’s not with them now.