by Cameron Cooper
In 2011, Dead City Ruins – led by front man Jake Wiffen, drove from Melbourne to Sydney to play The Townie. A song or two into their set and a mishap resulting in some broken lights meant the show was cut short. But some broken glass and a long drive home are barely blips on the radar for one of the hardest working bands around.
It was also in 2011 that the band – having never toured Australia – piled onto the ship “The Blue Bastard” and began a tour around Europe, playing every show possible while sleeping in vans, tents and occasionally on pub floors. While the tour wasn’t without its trails Wiffen states it was the only way forward.
“I grew up in Wollongong and when I was 19 moved to London. I realised the scene there was massive. Every other night bands like Helloween, Queensrÿche and W.A.S.P. were playing for cheap. I knew when I went home and started a band I had to move it to Europe. I moved down to Melbourne in 2009 and got a band going,” Wiffen explains. “We just put all our cash together, bought a van and went door to door looking for shows. We ended up playing something like 50 shows in 60 days all through Europe. From then on, people took us seriously.”
Making sure to return every year, the band’s tenacity for world domination saw them land touring slots with Skid Row & Ugly Kid Joe both in Europe and Australia, which in turn caught the attention of Metalville Records, who backed the release of the groups second record in 2013: a heavy, doomy self-titled affair that showcased the band’s evolution.
One thing is clear about Dead City Ruins: they’ve done the hard yards, have the battle scars to prove it, and are on a constant upwards trajectory. With that in mind, here are five touring lessons HEAVY learnt from chatting with Wiffen:
Lesson 1: No one is going to do it for you – make your own opportunities
“The music industry is weird. There is no rhyme or reason behind anything,” Wiffen says. “The only advice I’ve got for people is don’t sit around and wait, don’t think that it is going to happen – it’s not. If you’ve gotta book all the shows then that’s what you’ve got to do. If you play one show and a manager comes up to you and they are awesome, then go for it! You’ve just got to get out there and do what you can. No one is going to do it for ya, that’s for damn sure.”
Lesson 2: Prepare for some major low points
I wouldn’t really recommend anyone do what we did, it was pretty insane – but that was the only option we had,” says Wiffen, referring to the band’s first European tour. “We got robbed of everything we had. I’d just taken out the rest of my money, so I had about 1500 Euros in my wallet. All our clothes were stolen and our passports; we were stuck in Rome for five days waiting for emergency passports with no money.
We got into some massive street fights in England. We’d drive for fifteen hours, play a show, sell merch, pack up and drive for another fifteen hours, try to get an hours sleep, then play another show. There were some hairy moments, but a hell of a lot of good times as well. The most important thing was people saw how serious we were and we were able to make the connections we needed to go back.”
Lesson 3: Be smart with your resources
“I always looked at the music industry with a five year plan. A lot of bands have come undone when they’ve been killing it in Australia then head to Europe and no one cares. They fall apart because they can’t handle that. We’ve spent the last five years touring Europe and getting known there, so now it’s time to come home and make a bit of a scene here so we can play shows while we’re at home. Make no mistake, touring Australia costs money and when you’ve got a bigger picture in mind – which we’ve had from the start – it made more sense to save our crumbs and throw them at Europe.”
Lesson 4: Be relentless
“Everybody has to know it is not good enough to go to Europe one year and think ‘Maybe we’ll go back in a few years’, you’ve got to every year. If you leave it more than 6 months people will just forget who you are. There’s so much new music and so many bands touring, so if you aren’t constantly on the scene people will have other bands come up and they’ll just go see them instead.”
Lesson 5: If the scene sticks together, the music will never die
“From the venues, to the bands, to the fans – if everyone just sticks together, we don’t have any problems. It doesn’t matter if venues close down, people will come up with other ways: venue owners will always find other places to rent. Bands will always find somewhere to play. Right now is one of the best times for music, there’s so much great music coming out so don’t sit at home and say ‘There’s nothing cool going on,’ there is! Get out there and find some new tunes and look after each other. Although it’s terrible venues are closing, it certainly isn’t the end of music.”
Dead City Ruins are touring Australia throughout December and January.
Fri, Dec 4: Caledonia Hotel, Wonthaggi, VIC
Sat, Dec 5: Musician, Bendigo, VIC
Fri, Dec 11, Club 54, Launceston, TAS
Sat, Dec 12, Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS
Fri, Dec 18: The Loft, Warnambool, VIC
Sat, Dec 19: Cranker, Adelaide, SA
Sat, Dec 26: Boxing Day Slam, Geelong, VIC
Sun, Dec 27: Frankies Pizza, Sydney, NSW
Thurs, Jan 7: The Cambridge, Newcastle, NSW
Fri, Jan 8: Captain Cook Hotel, Sydney, NSW
Sat, Jan 9: Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Sun, Jan 10: The Bended Elbow, Albury, NSW
Wed, Jan 13: The Brightside, Brisbane, QLD
Thurs, Jan 14: The Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast, QLD
Fri, Jan 15: The Helm, Mooloolaba, QLD
Fri, Jan 22: Saloon Bar, Traralgon, VIC
Sat, Jan 30: Barwon Club, Geelong, VIC