“Just ask them to call me”

(Non) Disclosure

From 1994 to 2010 I worked for Peter Gabriel as computer manager. My first priority in 1994 was recycling office and studio paper which I did by programming all the printers to malfunction. If you want to follow up this reference Peter assures me he will answer your call.

This video is from the Growing Up Live tour in 2003. I was asked to provide computer screens for each performer to display the digital time sequences in bold colours, discretely placed on stage so the whole band could follow along. I had a few attempts but in the end I suggested the band listen to each other and try tapping along with a foot or something. Other, more technical engineers made it work and it is now common practice for most stage musicians to follow along with computer timecode displayed on a screen in front of them. Apart from Peter Gabriel of course, he still prints it all out on paper like I told him to.

The Wire

Joking aside, without reading this, my first job was to install a telephone system to gather together over a dozen separate PSTN circuits. Within two weeks I had made a huge change to everybody’s telephone experience, mostly thanks to a great manager who prepared the ground for me. We installed a copper wired telephone system covering over eleven distribution points and providing nearly 100 extensions, revolutionary to some. Most people thought it was weird to have to go on a training course to be shown how to use a phone, some visitors working in the studios came along for a laugh, consequently the early morning shift receptionist persisted in demanding that if you cannot provide the extension number then you cannot be put through, I think it was Bez who provoked this attitude whilst eating a mid-morning chocolate croissant. Before my first month was complete I had also connected up nearly 30 Apple Mac computers to a network trundling along at 128Kbps using Localtalk. The following year WOMAD production staff carried a Mac LCII and a Mac Classic with a 1.44Mb floppy drive both hooked up to a Localtalk network to print to a very expensive Apple Laser II in the temporary office of WOMAD Morecambe Bay ’97. They still took the box files of all the paperwork, just in case. My first encounter with Robert Plant was in this office, he was eating a pasty and being rude about the Queen, he didn’t have a smart phone, he wasn’t who I thought he was. By the end of the following year I had installed a thin-wire ethernet network joining nearly a hundred computers together at up to 10Mbps. Using clever unix routing configurations I enabled up to ten devices to send and receive emails and connect to Apple’s eWorld, music forums and bulletin boards, etc. These early adopters were using my own private Demon Internet account to connect to the internet. In the evenings only clients in the studios used the connections, I dread to think what subjects Robbie Williams Alta Vista’d on my behalf. Later, actual people from the internet were told by Bill Clinton to visit and help. They generously gave me a Sun Workstation to use as a mail server / dns / dhcp router and somehow also got a BT guy to give us a Class C IP address and ISDN connectivity at 64Kbps bursting to 128Kbps as required using a beta NAT router provided free by Bill Clinton’s mates. The experiment was concluded early on; most people will send an email to the person they sit next to at work.