As fans of visual kei, it’s natural for us to be interested in the process and activity of artists. But have you ever wondered about the people who enable a smooth sailing concert, the people who take care of all the small errands and big problems? This aspect of things requires us to take a closer look into what a staff member of a band does, specifically in this case, a visual kei roadie.
For this interview, we hit up SHIVA’s roadie Ruvito to learn more about his work as a visual kei roadie. Ruvito now goes under a different stage name, but we will keep referring to him as “Ruvito” throughout the interview as that’s what he was called back when we interviewed him.
First off, please tell us about yourself!
I’m Ruvito and I’m a bassist. At the moment I’m doing session work but I’m also a roadie for SHIVA and I’m preparing a new band.
Can you tell us how you got into this work?
I’ve been a roadie for SHIVA since October 2017, so only recently. I wanted to perform one of SHIVA’s songs for a session band, so I became SHIVA’s roadie.
How exactly did that happen, from performing a SHIVA song to helping them out as a roadie?
I contacted SHIVA through a direct message on Twitter and I asked permission to use their song for a session. At the same time, I ended up being a roadie for SHIVA and I thought it would be a good chance for me to get stage experience.
Is being a roadie your main occupation? Or do you have other things that you do?
I also have another part-time job at a factory.
Do you get any money by being a roadie?
No, I don’t get any money. Because I get a lot of experience from being a roadie—the experience is my payment. (In Japan, a lot of roadies don’t get paid.)
So you’re mainly working as a roadie to get experience for yourself and your band?
Yes, being a roadie helps me gain more experience for my own band.
When SHIVA tours, do you also tour with the band? Doesn’t this mean you have to give up a lot of your time and also skip out on your part-time job?
Yes, I tour with the band, but at times like that, I still don’t get paid.
How do you find the right balance between your work and going on tour?
For me, being a roadie is more valuable than my part-time job.
That’s really interesting.
If I have a roadie obligation, I won’t go to my part-time job. I’ll let them know I won’t be coming in. In my opinion, the experience that I get by being a roadie is a lot more valuable than money.
What’s so special about being a roadie? Why do you choose to continue this work?
As a roadie, being able to study the stage is what I enjoy the most, to see how the bands present their stage. Another thing that I like is the opportunity to make connections and meet a lot of other bands and band members too.
Do you have to be a musician to be a roadie?
A normal person can do it—but it would be really difficult for them. A normal person wouldn’t really understand the visual kei image as much, and I also don’t think they would care about the visual kei experience or study as much either.
For me, it’s okay not getting paid because I’m learning, but if it’s somebody who’s not in a band or has no interest in being in a band, then what do they get out of it if they don’t get paid?
Being a roadie, a big part of it is so you can prepare for your own band.
With new experiences gained, how is it different forming a band now, compared to before?
It has not necessarily become easier, but I have a lot more knowledge—like how things work and the proper way to do things now.
Could you give us some examples?
Of course, a typical thing would be how to properly set up the stage efficiently.
With SHIVA, there’s been a lot of members leaving, so I’ve learned the importance of the band’s music. As a band, even if there are problems between the members, you need to continue creating music for the fans and this is something I’ve learned and want to carry on to my own band.
What’s your schedule like as a roadie?
Usually, I’m really busy, but at the moment I’m only doing my roadie work in southern Kansai. If SHIVA is doing anything in Osaka, and as long as I don’t have a live show performance on the same day, I’ll be working there. I also usually attend in-store events and other similar ones, but I don’t attend studios or recording sessions.
When the band is actively performing, how many times do you usually have to work within a month?
If it’s busy, then usually I would work about four to five days. If it’s not busy, then around two days. It really depends on the schedule of the band.
Were you a fan of SHIVA before you started, how has that changed since you started working for them?
Before I became a roadie I was a fan of SHIVA. I first saw “crimson SHIVA” [their former band] when I was 15 years old, and I’ve been their fan ever since.
Before I became a roadie, I was just a fan of them, but now they have become something really important to me.
It’s more love and respect now?
Yeah, they’re like my seniors now so I really respect them.
Are there any typical annoying requests the band members would give you at times?
Usually, during a live show, it’s typical that a member would ask me to “buy this” and “buy that”, things they don’t have at hand, such as cigarettes or water and such.
Can you tell us about your toughest day as a roadie?
One of the toughest days I recall was the birthday live of the vocalist of SHIVA which took place in Tokyo. I was waiting in the car because they were packing everything up after the show ended, this took two hours and I ended up missing my last train back to Osaka.
Anything else in general that makes being a roadie tough?
A lot of the equipment is really heavy and I’m not the biggest guy out there either. The job can be tiring and exhausting at times, but it’s bearable since I enjoy what I do.
Would you be okay with working with other bands?
Yes, if I could, I would like the chance to work as a roadie for many other bands to gain more experience and learn more from them too.
Even if you have no interest in the bands?
Yes, even if it’s a band I don’t particularly like, I could still work as a roadie for them because I could learn a lot.
We heard you received a bass from SHIVA’s bassist, how did that happen?
The bass I was originally using was a really cheap one, about $400. So Natsuki gave me a bass because it would give me a better sound.
Do you have plans to use it for your own band?
I do really want to use it but I also bought myself another bass. I’d often use Natsuki’s bass to help with tuning.
Has your contribution helped shape SHIVA’s music in any way?
I’m not 100% sure myself, but because I’m helping them do other jobs which gives them more time to get ready, I feel like this helps them put on a better performance? I feel like in some way, I am contributing.
Some musicians grow accustomed to the tour lifestyle and begin to miss it once they’re off the road. As a roadie, do you get the post-tour blues as well?
After finishing a tour as a roadie, I feel like I want to pursue my roadie work even more because I want to continue learning. The normal days are kinda boring so I just want to do more roadie work.
For me, it’s not only about getting experience, studying, and such. It’s also more about it being a lifestyle, “a way of life”.
We got a lot of interesting insight from Ruvito and gained even more respect for hardworking roadies like him! If you want to continue following Ruvito’s adventures, follow him on Twitter!