An Interview with Andrew Stahl of the Gamelan Interactive Group
by Chris Zahn


Explain the infrastructure of Gamelan Interactive:
GIG bookings is the booking agency that represents Soulive, Jiggle the Handle, Dr. Didg, the New Deal, Living Daylights, John Brown's Body, Babatunde Olatunji, Shuman, and Karsh Kale. Todd Walker runs the booking agency, and Lee Seelig is his assistant. GIG management represents Jiggle the Handle, John Brown's Body, Shuman, and will announce some additional signings in the near future. Andrew Stahl handles all the Jiggle the Handle management affairs; Todd handles most of the JBB and Shuman affairs and relies on the infrastructure that is in place within GIG management. Gamelan Productions remains intact as the talent buyer producing many events throughout the Northeast. Andrew does the talent buying for Gamelan Productions. GIG marketing carries out all the publicity for GIG bookings and all the marketing for Gamelan Productions. Howard Turkenkopf oversees this department, while Steve Robinson (aka Stevie Wonder) oversees our grassroots campaign. Jennifer Reynolds is our office manager and the glue to our organization. God bless her soul for putting up with us. We also are partners with the High Sierra Music folks in the Berkshire Mountain Music Festival. Throughout half the year we set up a separate staff for that event.

How old are you and what college background do you have?
I'm 30 and i went to the University of Hartford for 2 years and received a BA in Economics from Northeastern University.

How did you get started in the biz? Were you a musician?
I never played in any bands, but I started playing music when I was 9. I started out trying piano then moved into harder things like electric guitar. I played classic rock & hard rock like Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Judas Priest. Currently I play mandolin and acoustic guitar. Although I did play in a band for a week when I started my business. The band was called Grandma's Secret Recipe.

Tell us about the first show you ever promoted:
About a year before I got out of college I started Gamelan. The first event was at this place called the Barmuda Triangle outside of Kenmore Square in Boston. I made $15 off the show, and got a $20 parking ticket. That was Gamelan Production's first month's revenue.

Why did you decide to manage a band?
It just sorta happened. I started booking and promoting shows throughout Boston, and was approached by the Groove Tubes. I really enjoyed their music, and said, "Sure, why not?".

What's the best piece of advice you have ever received in this biz?
Here's a few: Success is a journey not a destination. Get out while you're still alive. Be nice to people on your way up because those are the people that you'll be passing on the way down. Baby steps. Always wear clean underwear.

Explain the evolution of Gamelan over the years:
I was scared shitless to get a job for anybody else. The year before I got out of school, I came up with the idea of bringing people together through music, and I just went for it. I first started booking local acts in Boston into different venues around town. I then became the exclusive booking agent for Thursday nights at Ed Burke's. After about a year and a half I became the Thursday night booker for Harper's Ferry, and right about that time I started promoting shows at Bunratty's and the Middle East. Eventually that evolved into full blown promotions at most of the venues in the Boston area. One of our big goals and dreams is to produce events around the world. In the mean time we will continue to grow the different facets of our company one foot in front of the other.

How did you meet Jiggle the Handle?
I used to book Jiggle at the Ed Burke's when I was doing Thursday nights there. Gary & I became good friends very quickly. I was managing another band called the Groove Tubes, then they became Elements Watson. They broke up, and I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to stay in this psychotic industry. In the peak of my indecision I was approached by Gary. He's such a virtuoso on the guitar, and one of the best human beings on the planet. How could I say no?

Care to enlighten us with any horror stories from the road?
The summer before last, Jiggle the Handle had one crazy adventure on their first national tour. In four short weeks the band: got side-swiped by an 18-wheeler, dropped their transmission six times, dealt with a hotel that was on fire while they were in it, had their guitarist almost break his finger, got two flat tires, got flooded out of a festival show, had two band members get food poisoning, saw a tornado, had a wind sheild smashed, and on top of all that played their asses off. Musical highlights included a great set at High Sierra, a private party for the Further Festival in Colorado, and played a water park in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. The previous story was true, and believe it or not some positive things came from it. The band got incredibly tight - both personally and musically, and this wacked incident inspired the album "In It Again"

Do you ever feel you have too much on your plate to deal with? Or do you feel it creates positive synergy-all this activity working together as a whole?
Never. I have a big appetite. All kidding aside, we are picking and choosing the projects we are really excited about, and staying focused on those. Our team is really committed and we have divided the labor well. It wasn't always the case, but we're getting to a point where we're really organized.

You guys have a new live album on Phoenix Presents...
We really like the album a lot, and it's catching a huge buzz especially down south.

Tell us about The Berkshire Mountain Music Festival?
I had been trying to organize a music festival for quite some time. I attended my first High Sierra in 1997. Mike Luba (SCI's manager) introduced me to Roy Carter at the event. Roy & I had known each other because I had tried to get Jiggle the Handle on the festival. He also really dug our artwork and the shows that we promoted back east. I asked Roy if he had any interest in partnering up to do a festival back east, and he said, "if you find a site, give me a call". We kept a telephone rapport, and in early 98, we found a site in the Berkshires. We decided to meet at SXSW to discuss the possibilities, and the rest is history... Our West Coast partners are our long lost family.

What can we expect from this summer's Berkfest?
I'm writing this from the High Sierra office where we have been meeting all week. We have big plans for this summer's festival. We're not at the point where we can announce it, but brace yourself for the best festival yet.

Some words on the fire and how you're managing to regroup?
It was a huge pain in the ass. Although I'm thankful that no one in our organization was hurt, we busted our butt for the last two weeks to re-coup our data, and relocate. We have found a new office, and are back on track. It brought our team closer together.

What's the game plan for Jiggle in 2000?
Southern tour in April, Northeast in May & June, we'll be recording a few songs in the early summer. Gary will be having a baby in mid-June. We will fly out to do High Sierra. Summer plans include festivals and writing. Northeast in early fall, and full-blown national tour mid-Fall. Look for a new album in 2000/2001. In general, we will continue to pursue bigger industry opportunities. The band continues to build and strengthen their team. We have recently acquired a well-respected business manager who represents some of the biggest names in the industry.

How do you structure band meetings?
We meet at least twice a month, sometimes more. We have a great division of labor. I run all the meetings, and the meetings are very interactive. The communication is very open and honest.

When it comes to submitting feedback. Are you hands-off and let them do what they want or do you voice a more authoritative opinion on their songwriting and live shows?
It's always difficult to be critical of somebody's art, but because of our closeness, the band as a whole is very open to feedback, especially negative feedback. The band is always striving to improve.

Where do you see this 'jam-band' scene heading years from now?
There will always be bands out there that enjoy the art of improvising, and who like to tour, and there will always be people to listen. I do believe we are unifying collectively, and as long as we keep the communication open, we will have the ability to promote the music that we love. It is my hopes that the scene will unify to make a positive impact on the environment. We certainly have the ability.

Anything else you would like to add?
God bless Bob Marley....