9 April 2019

BLAOW! is a photo book about the Wu-Tang Clan 36 Chambers 20th Anniversary Tour 2013


It was spring 2011 when I had a call from a man with a New York accent.

“Hi my name is Divine and I’m the manager of a band. The band are coming to Europe and I’m searching for a tour manager. I’m frustrated with European tour managers as they can be weak, collapse under pressure and they don’t last the whole tour. I need someone who is strong enough to hold this band down. I heard you are a great tour manager and you are strong. Is that you Simon? Can you handle this job? I will be honest this band are a handful and scare most people to death”

I said “who’s the band?”

Divine said “Wu-Tang Clan”

I said “yes mate I will be proud to do it”.

And that’s how I became the tour manager for the greatest hip hop band of all time.

Fast forward to April 2013 and Wu-Tang Clan are preparing to embark on the 36 Chambers 20th Anniversary tour. By this time I was fully embedded in the management team. I spent long days and nights working with Divine in Los Angeles, negotiating fees, contracts, the route, technical specs, tour buses, hotels, flight bookings there were a million tasks to complete before we rolled out.

The tour began at Coachella in California. While working I was snapping photos with my iPhone. For no reason at all. I sent the photos to family and friends so they could see where I was and what I was doing. The photos featured shows, back stage, friends I had met, airports, food, hotels, food, city scapes, national boundaries and the random moments I was experiencing on the road. By the end of the tour I was holding 840 photos. I dropped them into an archive folder and moved on.

In 2019 Wu-Tang Clan announced a 25th anniversary tour. This triggered fond memories and I returned to look in my photo archive. I had captured a special journey. I thought maybe I could do something concrete and permanent with my archive. I decided to publish a photo book.

BLAOW! is that photo book.

I have curated the images to show the energy of the band, the wall of love from the audience, the repetitive back beat of show road show road show road, the relentless ebb and flow of touring. This book is a personal glimpse of life on the road with the greatest hip hop band of all time.

I learnt so much working with Wu-Tang Clan, it was like a university. I learnt about survival… I learnt about life. I worked with Wu-Tang Clan for 7 years before stepping back to take up the offer of a staff retainer in Beverly Hills with my old friend Duke Dumont. I went to the Wu-Tang Clan office in LA to tell Divine and Torrie face to face. They both wished me well. Nobody is indispensable and Divine is always happy when a member of his team rises. Divine said he was proud of the way I had progressed in the industry and now that his boy was working inside Live Nation he could call me when the time was right, he could call me to set up a meeting to discuss that global arena tour we had visualised during the re-birth in 2011.

Having said that, to this day I still occasionally work for Wu-Tang Clan. A few months ago Divine called “Hey Simon… mate… how are you? I see you are studying at university… that’s good.. education is positive. Please can you have a look at finding some sleeper buses for the Gods of rap tour? … and a production company who can handle building a stage… and we need video production…. and lighting… a sound company and im not sure what I will do about hiring a security team…. the stage plans arrive soon they are being drawn up in Los Angeles I will send them to you… blah blah blah”

The saga continues. Wu-Tang Wu-Tang.

I have full blessing from Wu-Tang Clan to publish this project and sell associated materials.
Zenith, Paris – during the show GZA would often beckon me over for a chat about all sorts of things.

We are wearing Paris Saint-Germain F.C. football shirts.

Photograph by Nico Skgz
Here I am at Coachella 2013. It’s the end of the first show of the run. The audience was massive. I have never seen so many Wu-Tang Clan t-shirts in one place. It seemed almost everyone was wearing one. There were a lot of big shot promoters and agents in that audience, including industry colleagues from the UK. This is the exact moment the promoters understood that Wu-Tang Clan were back working hard and the show rocked.

Wu-Tang Clan comin’ at ya.

BLAOW! was launched on 3 May 2019 at The Print Manufactory, Coventry, UK

If you would like to host a BLAOW! book event please get in touch. I can organise the exhibition prints, the tour jacket, I can give an interview, answer questions, sign books and relay anecdotes about touring with Wu-Tang Clan … and if you want to make a night of it I could even DJ.

Catch a flavour of the tour on youtube // Wu-Tang Clan – Festival d’ete de Quebec 2013

Working consciously ‘post-digital’ cannot mean to work without digitality. Digital tools, instruments and systems are surrounding us and are inherent for our cultural production and perception. To work beyond digitality — as an ideology and a hegemonial practice — means to reach beyond the glossy surface effects the digital is able to organise” – Siegfried Zielinski 2014