Machine Gun Kelly didn’t realize it at the time, but during his 2015 he was kind of rehearsing for his role in Roadies, Cameron Crowe’s ode to the unsung heroes of music tours.
“I decided to actually start playing guitar on stage, so I became my own guitar tech for my own band,” said the rapper, who uses his real name, Colson Baker, for the Showtime series. “And now I play the guitar tech for this band on the show.”
Executive produced by Crowe, Winnie Holzman and J.J. Abrams, “Roadies” premieres at 9 p.m. CT June 26 on Showtime. (The first episode is streaming online now, watch below.)
The comedy follows the dysfunctional family of backstage workers who do all the heavy lifting to make the fictional Staton-House Band arena tour a success. The ensemble cast includes Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, Rafe Spall, Peter Cambor and a lot of musical guests.
Baker portrays Wes, who joins the tour so he can spend time with his twin, Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots). Wes is hired as a guitar tech, but unofficially he acts as the new manny for the lead singer’s bratty son.
With his rock-star barista talents, he quickly becomes the tour’s official espresso maker. And his easy-going attitude makes him a hit with his coworkers, which kind of infuriates his more uptight sister.
I spoke briefly with Baker in January during a “Roadies”-themed reception at the TV Critics Association winter tour in Pasadena, Calif. The cast had only filmed the pilot episode at the time. Here’s an edited Q&A.
You acted as your own guitar tech on your last tour. You were rehearsing without even knowing it.
Machine Gun Kelly: That’s exactly what it was. I was learning so I had to go through the trials and tribulations of crazy feedback and how to stop certain things from happening.
Do you feel any special responsibility to do this right?
Big time. You fall in love with the people behind the scenes. They’re usually the nice ones. The band guys are usually the egos. The people, the tour manager, the road manager, whatever, the guitar tech, whatever—they’re usually the ones that are fun, like go out and kick it.
What do you think it cool about arena rock tours like this?
I feel people think rock and roll is something of the past and it’s not. Rock and roll is what fuels the entertainment business and people don’t even know it. The idea of a rock star is what keeps us motivated to keep recording. You just hope that that one person comes along who walks in the room and blows your fucking mind … I guess I’m just trying to be part of a revolution in the culture we’re in.
Are you excited about the musician guest stars?
Oh man, Cameron will email me every once in a while and tell me, “I’ve got this person, I’ve got that one.” I’m just waiting to see who they are. He won’t tell me. But I’m a big fan and I’m not scared to be a fan.
How much of your character’s personality quirks are you bringing?
I think I bring a lot of it, but my character is based on a real guitar tech. Yeah, he was the same exact thing that my character is with the same people—same everything. It’s just really a name change. I’m kind of taking some of the legends about him … and I’m taking a little bit of myself and throwing it in there. But a lot of it is him.
Do the roadies on various tours keep in contact with those on other tours. Is that idea of a roadie grapevine factual?
One hundred percent. … Personally I know a lot of roadies and keep in contact with them as well.
In the show we see some band members acting kind of diva-like. Are you nice to everyone?
Am I nice to everyone? Oh yeah, yeah, I think so. But you know what? I stand for what I believe in so I don’t believe in certain media attention. I don’t believe in like doing things for the wrong reason. … I believe in keeping it very straightforward and blunt and like saying what needs to be said. And if people don’t agree with that they can think I’m an asshole but, you know, fuck them.
Give me your pitch for the show. Why should people watch “Roadies?”
We’re all looking for something to belong to and this series is basically just us going through the same thing. We all just want to belong. We all come from histories of broken homes, broken marriages, broken relationships with friends, family, et cetera. I mean we’re all just trying to find somewhere to belong and we always just want to coexist. And so what’s wrong with watching somebody do the same thing they’re doing in real life? What’s wrong with watching somebody on screen do some of the same thing you’re trying to do in your life?