Have you ever had a dream where you’ve been dropped into a terrifying situation that you’re totally unprepared for; maybe taking a penalty at the World Cup final, or performing open heart surgery?
How about playing songs you’ve only just learnt, on stage, in front of 50,000 people?
That’s exactly what happened to Ben Young – except he was wide awake at the time. After years working as a roadie for some of the biggest artists on the planet he was called in, at the last minute, to play guitar with Linkin Park in Brazil.
It’s what inspired him to start his own band, Knifes, with fellow roadies Warren Johnson and Brian Diaz.
Between them they’ve worked with everyone from the Black Eyed Peas to Slipknot and Fall Out Boy. Now they’re trying to make it on their own.
“We landed in Brazil and our production manager called me,” Ben explains, “I thought he was going to tell me what flight I needed to get on, but he said Linkin Park’s guitarist Brad wasn’t coming – and that I had to play the shows.
“It’s weird because, as a roadie, you’ve been on the stage before – but the actual experience is so different because you’re concentrating so hard on which part of the song comes next.”
Even if you’ve got the notes down perfectly, you also need to perform.
“I rocked out, but in my own little zone,” laughs Ben, “part of me loves performing, but another part of me knows there’s like 60 people in the band’s crew, and they would not stop making fun of me if I took it too far”.
As it turned out, though, another member of that crew was in a similar boat – Warren Johnson, now Ben’s bandmate in Knifes, had filled in for Linkin Park both on drums and behind the DJ booth.
“Linkin Park’s drummer is also a film director, so it started out with me covering for him in rehearsals when he couldn’t make it,” Warren says.
“And it got to the stage where if we were playing in my hometown or it was my birthday, he would let me come up on stage and play a song instead of him.
“My birthday was actually the last Linkin Park show ever. I played a couple of songs – it was the ultimate present.”
After Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington took his own life in 2017, both Ben and Warren started working for Fall Out Boy – where they recruited yet another roadie, Brian Diaz, to be their bassist.
They’ve since recorded two EPs – the first of which is out next month and was, sneakily, made using some of the finest equipment money can buy.
“We were working with Linkin Park while they recorded One More Light and they had this room set up with like three different drum sets,” Warren explains.
“They left it set up that way for like two weeks and they weren’t using it the whole time, so we snuck in one day and recorded our first five songs.
“Then, in order to get the second set of tracks up to par, we had to do the same thing with a different band… but I don’t think we’re allowed to talk about that.”
Before lockdown, the band were all still working in the industry (Warren operates Slipknot’s animatronic masks) – but they say, ideally, they’d like things to be different.
“I try to underplay what our goals are for this because, like, I’m a just a roadie, but secretly of course we’d love to be bigger than the bands we work for,” Ben says.
He also admits that, after fifteen years of touring, he doesn’t have the same hunger for it he once did.
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“The most partying and debauchery I got into was in the van and trailer days playing tiny clubs – these days, with the big bands who’ve got families and whatever, it’s just a job.”
Brian adds: “I go back and forth from playing tiny bar shows with Knifes, to working on massive stadium shows with other bands.
“It’s really taught us to be flexible.”