Introducing... Nathan Budden, Transport and Stage Manager

How did you become involved with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO)?

I was the Stage Manager at another orchestra when the position at the RPO became available, and I was invited to apply.

What was your first experience of orchestral music?

Other than film scores and so on, the first orchestral thing I ever saw was S&M (Symphony and Metallica) when it was released on VHS. It featured the band performing with Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. I was a massive metalhead in my younger days and not-so-secretly still am.

How did you find yourself on this career journey?

The same way most people find themselves in my sort of job – completely by accident! I started a music technical production course at a college in Australia, and one of my lecturers was a well-known Australian rock guitar player. He asked me to help him out with the gear as he was starting a new band. I then did about 500 gigs with him in the next five years and ended up pulling out of the course as I was too busy working on gigs to go to classes. I did rock and roll and pop stage management and guitar tech work over the next eight to ten years, as well as some classical music stage management at the City Recital Hall in Sydney. I then moved to the UK and worked for another orchestra for seven years before joining the RPO.

What is the best thing about being part of the RPO?

The people here are really lovely. All the members of the staff and orchestra are genuinely nice people. You expect to have difficulties with at least someone in a group this large, but I genuinely don’t.

Tell us about your favourite RPO journey.

I really enjoyed our recent trip to Japan. I love going there, it’s always really well run. Everything in the venues works, the load-ins and outs are really straightforward, and everyone knows what they’re doing. Shouldn’t be a high bar to meet, but given the many venues I’ve been to in my career…

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I actually had to break myself of a pre-concert ritual when I started working for orchestras. When I was working for rock bands, I would always send the band on stage with the words, “Okay boys... Have fun, and don’t f*** it up!" I don’t think a conductor would respond in the same way as a rock band would!

Must listen – if you had to recommend one artist or composer, who would it be and why?

My recommendations would change on a daily basis. One I’ll always recommend to people would be the Tedeschi Trucks Band. It’s a twelve-piece blues/soul/country/rock band fronted by Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. She’s got a voice like a velvet sledgehammer, and he’s probably the best slide guitar player in the world at the moment. He’s so musical when he’s improvising; it’s incredible.

Symphonic crossover – if you could work with any artist on a performance or project, who would you choose?

I think a crossover with a band called Opeth would work really well. They’re a Swedish progressive metal band with a lot of tracks that would work really well with an orchestra. Their music has lots of interesting changes and textures – odd time signatures and polyrhythms, changing keys, all that sort of stuff. There’s everything from heavily distorted metal guitars and growling vocals, to acoustic parts with gently sung vocals, often in the same track! Their music is also written in more of a longer movement-based structure, where songs can be up to about twenty minutes, instead of the verse-chorus structure that’s done in under five minutes, like a lot of rock and pop.

Away from music, tell us two of your favourite hobbies and why they strike such a chord.

My hobbies are also musical but from a different angle. I play the guitar, and I also make and sell guitar effects pedals. I recently built my first guitar amplifier and hope to build a few more.

Dream dinner party – who would you invite, what would you cook?

I’d do Texas-style beef ribs. I’m not allowed a barbecue at my flat because I've only got a balcony, not a garden, but I used to be right into slow smoking of various meaty things. I used to make my own spice rubs and would smoke over different sorts of wood to match the flavours of the meat and the spices. I'd invite Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Page, along with a few friends from Australia and the UK, who would be into having dinner with those three people.

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