About the Author

Image for Heathen Skulls: Sunn O))) have "created a shit storm of controversy"

Heathen Skulls: Sunn O))) have"created a shit storm ofcontroversy"

Heathen Skulls promoter ROBERT MACMANUS explains how the cancellation of the planned October tour by Sunn O))) has created a “shit storm of controversy” and backlash that will now and forever reflect badly on everyone concerned”. Earlier this week, the band issued a statement declaring that Heathen Skulls “has shown complete inconsideration towards the basic requirements of our agreement together”. But MacManus has stood firm, saying his biggest mistake was agreeing to the band’s demands in the first place.

If anyone knows anything about touring as a band, or touring bands as a promoter, the first thing they’ll know all too well is the high costs, huge financial risk, and the logistical complications of going out on the road and touring.

When you factor in touring Internationally as an independent band with no major label backing, no commercial or mainstream appeal, and a niche audience that’s limited to small clubs and bars, then the risk factor goes up ten fold. These are only some of the issues I face with my agency Heathen Skulls, all the time, on every single tour I present.

These are also some of the variables that fans don’t take into consideration when seeing their favourite bands live. It’s all good and well rocking out and seeing bands, but think about what needed to be done for that band to travel to other side of the world so as to rock out for you in the comfort of your own town.

When tours get cancelled, fans always get bent out of shape and take to public forums venting their anger at who closest the easiest target, without even considering the larger picture, like the huge financial risk that promoter had to take, and what it actually took to stage a production for a band from another country.

I started Heathen Skulls back in 2006 to tour obscure and underground artists, all of which have very limited appeal, and for the most part, have never toured Australia before. As a musician myself, I tour these bands first and foremost as a fan. It’s the reason why I started as a promoter. Very few other promoters were willing to take the risks touring these artists, so I made it my mission: If they didn’t, I would, as I personally wanted to see them live.

Regarding the Sunn tour, after touring countless smaller profile Southern Lord bands over the years, all of which toured Australia for the first time, I had a meeting with Greg Anderson of Sunn in the Southern Lord office in LA to discuss how better to promote his labels artists in Australia.

“They had a bone to pick and they made their point, publically, and for the whole world to read.”

The idea of touring Sunn was never my intention, as I knew, and had heard countless stories, about the complications of presenting their production, not to mention dealing with them as a band. Locating their backline was the biggest concern, and the cost of their International flights from every point of global stratosphere being another. The first mistake I made was letting [Sunn O))) member] Greg Anderson convince me that touring Sunn was a good idea, the second mistake was agreeing to their exuberant flat fees.

As a fan of the band, and the legend they’ve created, when you get to know them personally, it’s hard not to be somewhat awe struck with the thought of getting offered to tour them, which is what happened in my case. It was a great honour. I had trouble saying no.

If I’d done more research into the band and realised they’re not quite the draw they once were, maybe I could’ve gotten them on a much better deal (far lower fee with a backend deal). Because of this, their fees and production costs were so far out of my reach that I struggled to meet their demands. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong to agree to this tour and that I personally didn’t have the financial means and resources to make this tour happen. I thought I did, but then again, I also thought some of my previous tours would’ve done far better than expected, so as to offset Sunn expenses. Obviously this wasn’t the case.

With the high costs of presenting a Brisbane show at the Tivoli Theatre, and Brisbane being the way it is, always having lower than average ticket sales than Sydney, I was reluctant to present the Brisbane show in the end. That’s why it never went on sale, as pre-sale tickets for their Sydney and Perth shows were selling quite poorly. The Melbourne shows were the only shows that showed any potential of actually drawing a profit.

As for the band and their agent complaining about me advertising the tour and putting tickets on sale without their knowledge, once they agreed to the tour and the contracts had been drawn up, they knew I was announcing the tour and tickets were to be made available immediately. The issue in question was that I did so before paying the artist’s 50 per cent fee deposit, hence why the band never officially announced the tour from their end. They weren’t going to announce till the fees were paid.

After delaying the fee deposit due to logistical issues with the tour, this ultimately eroded any faith the band and their agent had in Heathen Skulls, which ultimately made the negotiations of the tour far worse, to the point of un-reconciliation. In the end, with the high costs of presenting the tour and the complex nature of their production, not to mention a complete break down of communication, there was no other choice but to cancel the tour.

The final nail in the coffin was their choice to hang their dirty laundry out to dry by the way of a completely unprofessional press release detailing the personal inner-workings of a tour that had nothing to do with the general public. A simple and modest press release announcing the tours cancellation would have been suffice, but clearly that wasn’t their agenda. They had a bone to pick and they made their point, publically, and for the whole world to read.

Ultimately they’ve now created a shit storm of controversy and backlash that will now and forever
reflect badly on everyone concerned.


Heathen Skulls have been touring “obscure and underground artists” since 2006, presenting tours by acts including Dead Meadow, Russian Circles, and Lightning Bolt. Upcoming Heathen Skulls tours include Tortoise, Russian Circles, Chelsea Wolfe, and Earth.


www.fasterlouder.com.au arrow left

berlinchair101 said on the 4th Sep, 2012

A shit storm of controversy... among the four people who know who they are.

Silver Surfer

Silver Surfer said on the 4th Sep, 2012

Bummer about Sunn - maybe AJ can get them for Soundwave '14.

Meanwhile can I say a massive thanks to Heathen Skulls for the Fu Manchu Black Cobra tour back in April/May.

The HiFi gig was fucking magic.


mainlander said on the 4th Sep, 2012

putting on any kind of show is a completely thankless task (even if it is a sucess) and it's a surprise that anyone even bothers. mostly it's the audience beating up on organisers, but when the bands also want to take a turn then it really is a losing game.


gumbuoy said on the 4th Sep, 2012

You shouldn't be allowed to do that to the English language.


Braveheart81 said on the 4th Sep, 2012

He's using Post-English.

Napoleon Solo

Napoleon Solo said on the 4th Sep, 2012

Considering the band in question is Sunn O))), I think it is rather apt.


gumbuoy said on the 4th Sep, 2012

Turns out, Sunn are no better.

Maybe the tour was progressing fine, except the two parties lacked the ability to communicate basic sentences to one another?


truthlies said on the 4th Sep, 2012

The moderator of the tours Facebook page and heathen skulls rep kept reassuring fans that this tour will happen and Brisbane show will be up for sale inevitably. Who makes these promises amidst such uncertainty? They deserve the bad rep.


Braveheart81 said on the 4th Sep, 2012

People who are trying to sell enough tickets to ensure a tour can go ahead.


tokirules said on the 4th Sep, 2012

but sunn are the greatest band of all time.... they should have people to wipe their arse for them if they come down to australia. also ticket prices matching the bands greatness exceed 100,000 dollars sunn just want ticket prices to be the same as normal bands to be nice


tokirules said on the 4th Sep, 2012

yeah.... i took the 1 minute to make the account just so i could express how devistating this is to the country


radiocide said on the 4th Sep, 2012

Given he basically only tours Southern Lord acts, might have been a wise move to bow out of this one with a bit more tact...


tokirules said on the 4th Sep, 2012

he shouldn't have backed out of it. i mean c'mon what would their tour demands be... a keyboard, amps two les pauls, two druid robes and about 100 fog machines. they also have a decent following so theres probably a lot of people who are pretty pissed.


Braveheart81 said on the 4th Sep, 2012

By the sound of things it was the deposit and overall payment that were the issue.


Stugalug said on the 4th Sep, 2012

Carbon Tax is a killer with so many smoke machines.


jacegalvin said on the 4th Sep, 2012

Where's my Pelican? Where's my Pelican?


berlinchair101 said on the 4th Sep, 2012

I think if this was the case the tour would still be on.


tokirules said on the 4th Sep, 2012

all in all there was a pretty major screw up so no more sunn and we can only hope for soundwave or a 2013/14 tour.


rdomain said on the 4th Sep, 2012

i have zero ill will towards heathen skulls. they've been one of the best touring companies bringing some of the finest music available. i love it! and bringing bands to adelaide which is very much appreciated even though sa is probably not the most profitable city. keep up the great work.


truthlies said on the 4th Sep, 2012

Yeah it couldn't have been much. Extensive production my arse. I know they have some pretty cool equipment and a giant Gong don't forget.
I hardly listen to their music at home but their last tour (at the Guild Bar) was a shock of pleasure. Sunn are in my top five live acts so i guess you could say im a fan.


Demosthenes said on the 5th Sep, 2012

Can't decide from the accent whether it's the kiwi invasion or Pauline Hanson.


grattan said on the 5th Sep, 2012

triple j's Lochlan Watt has posted this on FB:
Feel like I should weigh in on this Heathen Skulls situation. I've been helping out Robert MacManus with bits and pieces ever since the first Monarch tour in 2008, and he's always been a pleasure to work with. Easy going, always pays my bands on the night when we play his shows. The Sunn situation sucks - and I suspect everything would have worked out for them at the end of the day if they had just run with it - but I know first hand what it's like to get in too deep with a band with retarded requirements and have to pull the plug on a tour. But then he managed to get said band out here after I failed so he must be doing something right? John Wiese sounds like a bitter old fuck, putting the boot in only after someone else did it first. I know it can be a different situation in other continents with more established scenes, but this is Australia, and to complain about getting paid for an expenses-paid trip when you play drone is lame as hell.


mondo22 said on the 5th Sep, 2012

theyd bring their own instruments. But they would need to source the right amplifiers and venues with suitable PAs to produce the show that theyre well known for. The idea is a massive overdose of bass ridden drone and this is definitely not just something that can be achieved by chucking a few things together.
Having said that, I can totally appreciate MacManus's side and am with him all of the way because it's always been clear he's a man for the music first and money second.


lateleigh said on the 5th Sep, 2012

Sunn sound like a bunch of sugar coated arseholes who are far too used to getting their own way. Fuck em.


bjw1 said on the 6th Sep, 2012

eating a cat