Day One: Getting the Assignment.

“Skylar, you’re late! What possible reason do you have for being late today of all days?” “I’m so sorry, Sylvia! My bus was delayed. I will make it up by staying longer.” I say, wondering why she’s so worked up. “Forget your stupid excuses. Just get to the conference room NOW! Ben has called a last minute meeting, so get your ass in there….” Sylvia snaps. I am out of earshot before she can finish that rant.

I work for Rogue Publishing, which is owned and run by Ben Sallinger. The company publishes magazines for teenagers, men and women, so we cover fashion, cars, music, sports and movies. Sylvia Mann is the editor in chief. At my department we write columns and short articles for the different magazines as well as local newspapers. I’ve been at this company for 5 years and aspire to write feature stories. Amongst colleagues you actually only really count when you are a feature writer, because then you get to go out into the world, meet people and do all kinds of cool stuff. Unfortunately even after all this time Sylvia still doesn’t think I’m experienced enough to write a feature. I think she just doesn’t like me and that’s why she won’t let me write them.

Ben is already sitting at the head of the table as everyone starts entering the conference room. I am one of the last people to arrive. Ben looks right at me and smiles politely. I of course smile back and quickly look away feeling uncomfortable. “Thank you all for coming in at this short notice.” he starts. Isn’t he just a lovely man? I think to myself. I still can’t understand why he hires bitches like Sylvia. Maybe he doesn’t want to be the bad guy, so he lets people like her take up that role. “…and that’s why we, or rather, I have decided to buy a seat on a tour bus of the well-known heavy metal band Dreads on Fire to have one of you write a feature about a touring band from a very unique perspective.” Ben says. Look at the smile on Don’s face. It must be him going on that tour. It is right up his ally, since he has been writing about and hanging with a lot of A-list stars and bands. “…and I have chosen Skylar van der Meeren to take the seat on the bus.” says Ben while looking straight at me. In one unison movement everyone in the room turns to look at me. I start blushing and shake my head. Surely he can’t mean me, it is just not possible. He must be mistaking! I’m a column writer! Besides I don’t know enough about bands or music for that matter to write a feature about it. “Yes Skylar, I said your name.” “Sir, no disrespect, but I’m not sure if I can do this. I’m very sorry, but I have no knowledge of bands and how to deal with them.” “And that is exactly why I want you to go.” Seeing the terror in my eyes, Ben then says: “Can everyone excuse us? I can see she needs a little more convincing.” When the rest of the staff has left the room, Ben asks Sylvia to leave as well. As soon as she reluctantly closes the door behind her, Ben continues: “Don knows how the music business works and what to expect. I want it to be…..a fresh, new, exciting, young, inexperienced view of a music-tour. Tell us about your thoughts and experiences while on tour with Dreads on Fire.” “I don’t know about this, sir. I’m not sure I am the right person for this job.” I respond. “I’m giving you a chance to proof Sylvia wrong and write an awesome feature. And I’m confident you can handle yourself on that tour bus.” “I’ve never written a feature story before and am not sure if I can bring you back an interesting enough story. Plus, I don’t really like the band.” “Maybe after three weeks you’ll become their biggest fan. Who knows what will happen? I can’t wait to read the end result.” he says with a confident smile. With an overwhelming feeling of incompetence I start leaving the conference room, not knowing how to convince Ben to choose someone else. Then I turn and ask: “When will the tour start? And where?” “In four days. You will be picked up from your home at 6:00 a.m., so be ready to go then. It takes about half an hour to get to the bus and it’s supposed to leave at around 7:00 a.m.” says Ben. I nod reluctantly and just as I step out of the conference room, he says: “I’m sure you’ll have a great time.” I give him a weak smile and walk to my desk. I barely sit down in my chair, when I’m ambushed by Don. “How in the hell did you land this job? And why? For fuck’s sake! You are just a column writer, you don’t know the first thing about writing features.” Taken back by his bluntness I say: “I…I don’t know. He said he wants a fresh take on tour life. It’s...” ”Are you sleeping with the guy or something?” Don interrupts me. Now I get offended, glare at him and get up from my seat. “Go fuck yourself Don! I didn’t ask for this job! Maybe Ben just got bored with your old school, a dime a dozen way of writing.” He is so blown away by my outburst that for the first time ever he doesn’t retort, stares at me in disbelieve and just stalks off to his own desk. I start blushing as I notice the whole office is staring at me, even Ben. I catch his eye for a moment and he gives me a little impressed look. Before I blush even more I quickly sit back down. I can’t seem to focus on my work, because the idea of leaving home to go on a tour with a bunch of unfamiliar guys is hard to get my head around. When I receive an e-mail from Ben with the details of the tour I check the schedule and see that part of it is in Europe. Totally blown away by this I feel the dread coming up and my mind going into overdrive. Feeling overwhelmed by the whole deal I make my way to the bathroom. As soon as I close the door from the stall behind me, I fall back against it and sigh deeply. How did I end up in this? I want to write feature stories, but why couldn’t I start with something not so far out of my comfort zone. Maybe I can still change his mind before Friday. This simply can’t be happening. Three weeks??? I can’t be away from home that long. Wait, maybe I can use dad as a valid reason, because I need to help him with his groceries and stuff. I’ll call him as soon as I get home and talk to him about it. Kind of relaxed by the possible out I go back to my desk and focus on my assignments until my best friend and colleague Beth comes over to pick me up for our daily lunch date. After my lunch with Beth I manage to get back to work long enough so by the end of the day I’ve finished all my assignments. The minute I get home I quickly punch in the numbers to call dad and when he picks up I sigh deeply. “Oh good dad, you’re home.” “Of course I’m home. Where else would I be, silly? But why are you so relieved to find me? What’s up?” “My boss has given me a feature-writing job.” I tell him. “That’s great! Fantastic! Finally they see what you are capable off! Congratulations, Sky!” dad says, completely beside himself with pride. “Wait, dad. The job is to write a feature-story about being on tour with a heavy metalband for three weeks.” “And you are not at all happy about this? Isn’t this what you always wanted to do?” he asks. He is clearly puzzled by my begrudging sound. “I did…I mean, I do. It’s just that…I don’t know…I have a bad feeling about this. I don’t really know anything about this band or what to expect. And I have to go to Europe with them as well! What if I can’t get along with them?” “Are you crazy? I’m sure they will love you. You have always been able to connect with people very easily. Why would this be any different? This is an opportunity of a lifetime! You will just have to keep an open mind and enjoy the experiences as much as you can.” “Will you be able to handle things without me? I mean, I really won’t go if you need me to stay. Who is going to help you do your weekly groceries? And who will call you every night to make sure you are OK?” “Do you remember Darren and Jax? You know, your brothers….. They can help me with the groceries and only live 15 minutes away from me. Please, don’t worry about your old man! Have some fun out there! I’ll be fine!” dad says. I sigh heavily and then say goodbye to dad and hang up the phone. Shit, he won’t be any help getting taken off this assignment. After trying and failing to think up other excuses for not being able to go on this tour, I throw in the towel and accept Ben’s decision. To get my mind off it I make myself dinner and watch some TV. When nothing is on, I decide to prepare myself for the upcoming “adventure” as best I can by googling Dreads on Fire and learn as much about them as possible. If I at least already know the names of the band members, how they got started and who the most important people on the tour are, I might avoid embarrassment.

Interesting, these guys have been successful for 5 years, but the band was started 10 years earlier. Bass player Jason Hannigan and lead guitarist Dom Marino created Dreads on Fire after having just left their previous bands. The other guys in these bands wanted to go more mainstream, while they wanted a heavier sound. When Jason and Dom shared a stage with their bands, they got along so well that they became friends. Soon they knew they had to start a band together. It didn’t take long to find the other three guys either, since everyone knew each other already. Apparently, when you’re in the scene, it is a pretty small world. Especially when you haven’t made it big yet, you often run into the same bands in your local scene. Eventually, it was an old re-recorded track that was their ticket to success. The song “Raw Emotions” was accidentally put on the album by a misunderstanding between band members and management. Within months they gave up their day jobs to go on the road for a year nonstop. After a break of about a month they went right back on the road. A year later they released another album, which was also a big success. The album after this wasn’t as big as the first two, but it did pretty well. Most recently they have decided to go on a 3-week-tour through the US and some European countries. It doesn’t really say why, but I guess I’ll find that out for myself. So in the band there are Jason, the bass player, Dom, the lead-guitarist, drummer Stephàn Koschenko, singer Yuri Guran and Reagan Smith the second guitarist. Besides the band members there are a few people that were with the band from the start. There is Gino Sarinelli the light technician, Moe Jameson the drum technician and Connor Derby, who came along with his friend Jason to rehearsals and eventually became the tour manager. About a year ago they were joined by Jordy MacIntyre the sound technician and Paul Jones the guitar and bass technician.

“Hopefully they will let me into their tight group; otherwise there won’t be much to write about.” I wonder aloud.