Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interview with tour production manager, Richard 'Wez' Wearing, and gluten-free life on the road

Recently, I had the pleasure to interview award-winning production manager, Richard ‘Wez’ Wearing. Living in the UK, Wez has worked with hundreds of bands such as Mika, Take That, Scissor Sisters, Sex Pistols, PIL, Iron Maiden, Manic Street Preachers, Celtic Thunder and Sarah Brightman. He has a demanding career that takes him around the world, working non-stop on a tight schedule.

Diagnosed with celiac in 2007, this added an additional level of challenges to an already hectic lifestyle, but he doesn’t let that inhibit him in any way. (Photograph above, Richard 'Wez' Wearing, Suggs, singer of Madness and Andy Rourke, former bassist of the Smiths)

Wez was recently in Chicago this past October with Mika at the Riveria.

Q - Were you already touring when you were diagnosed? If so, how did it immediately change your outlook on touring?

A - I was already touring, it was a great relief to find out why I was so run down all the time, but it took time for it to completely sink in.

Q - How did you handle the early months after your diagnosis and handle touring with the restrictions of your new diet?

A – It’s very hard just to adapt overnight to a new change of life. I never had to watch what I ate before. At first, it was tough and I wasn’t as strict with myself as I am now, I still fell by the way side, but realized I was not doing myself any favors.

Q - Are you very sensitive if you come in contact with gluten?

A - I have to say no, I am aware that certain restaurants cannot keep cooking areas free from contamination, but a small dose does not set me off, especially when I know I have been on a strict gluten-free diet for a while.

Q - How do you handle your diet when touring in foreign countries, especially when you cannot speak the language?

A - I eat lots of salads, rice and do a lot of shopping myself.

Q - What countries, in your opinion, are the most aware of the gluten-free diet?

A - I would say the USA and the UK.

Q - Do you find when touring in Asia, it is easy to eat, or more challenging because of the soy sauce used? Can they easily understand wheat or gluten-free?

A - I find eating in Southeast Asia ok, I was there two months ago, but didn’t have time to really go to any restaurants, apart from Korea, where we went for a Korean BBQ. Sushi is always good. They use rice flour instead of wheat flour so a lot of the food is ok, but yes, I do stay away from soy sauce, and no, they don’t really understand the whole gluten thing.

Q - Do you plan your meals ahead of time with the venue/catering, or do you just "wing it" when you get there?

A - As I’m the production manager I pre-arrange my own food as I am pre-arranging the show. Also, I google ‘gluten-free’ in every city I have a day off in.

Q - Do you feel that the caterers, on tour, are well aware of a gluten-free diet, and how to avoid cross-contamination? Have you found that awareness has increased since you were first diagnosed?

A - I have been lucky to have had very good catering companies on my tours who where aware of the wheat-free diet and other diets, but being a coeliac was a new one for a few of them. I have found, on the way, that their awareness has increased as the years have passed since being diagnosed.

Q - What are some "go-to" snacks that you carry with you when on tour?

A - In the UK, the terrible ones full of sugar from the ‘Free From’ range of products, otherwise Haribo Gummi Bears, which is a weakness of mine. I do stock up on gluten-free pita breads for the hotel rooms and can always find hummus.

Q - Have you toured or worked with other gluten-free people in the business?

A - Yes, but it’s very rare. Mainly I have people tell me they know someone who is also a coeliac, makes me feel so much better.........

Q - How long have you been in the business? How did your get into the business?

A - I have been in the business 20 years now, by accidently standing in for a friend of mine as a stagehand in Birmingham.

Q – What is your favorite venue in Chicago?

A - I would normally say the Rosemont, but on my last tour to Chicago with Mika, I would have to say the Riviera, because it’s what all old theatres should be about.

Wez will be going back out with Mika for the European leg of the tour next month and is currently nominated by TPI (Total Production International) for stage manager of the year.

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