Ex Pat Files: Simon Baeyertz
Author: Zoe Hooper (photography by Marija Kuzina)
As one of the industry players behind Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson it's quite likely Simon Baeyertz has some of the more interesting stories of any ex-pat we've talked with. But unfortunately he's not telling.
"Well there's this thing that what happens on the road stays on the road, so any touring stories are out under legal advice," he jokes.
Oh come on... pleeease?
Okay, well there was this one time...
"We were detained by German riot police in Munich when Manson walked off stage after two songs - whilst headlining a 50,000 audience festival. The stage and all equipment was destroyed, but Tony Ciulla (Manson's manager) and I managed to extricate ourselves and fled for the shelter of a Munich hotel. We later realised it was the third time Manson had cancelled Munich, which may explain why the Bavarians got that upset!"
So how did a Kiwi get all the way from the cultural capital of Hamilton to touring with Marilyn Manson? Well, it began with a degree in Apparel Administration and Manufacturing at what was then the Auckland Technical Institute. Student life being what it is, it wasn't long into his degree that Simon discovered nightclubs.
"Before I knew it I was DJing at Cream in the early '80s and then Retro in O'Connell Street. It introduced me to both the music industry and bars - both life long loves."
After discovering his passion lay in music rather than sewing Simon landed a job doing promotions for Festival Records in Auckland, which eventually turned into head of marketing. His off-shore career began in 1987 when he was offered the job of creative director at Mushroom Records in Melbourne.
"I never wanted to live in Australia, but they flew me over to Melbourne one weekend and I came back and resigned straight away. I found the Australian music business really exciting and loved Melbourne and its music scene... it was a great time."
His legacy in Oz includes establishing the successful imprint White Records and signing and developing a clutch of respected artists including Frente! Christine Anu, Archie Roach, Grant McLennan, Paul Kelly and Hunters & Collectors. He also oversaw the merger of Mushroom and New Zealand's own Flying Nun, which he is now a director of.
"Although the label is now in the hands of Warner Music, it has survived to this day and the spirit of Roger Sheppard (FN founder) lives on in some way, I am very proud of that."
Simon moved on from Mushroom in 1992 when, having signed Frente! to the label, he decided to manage them. The result was a multi-platinum album in Australia and gold in eight other territories - including a top 40 single in the US. The American success meant Simon was spending as much time there as he was in Melbourne, so he cut his losses and made the big move to New York to continue managing Frente! and set up his own marketing company, Tortured Management.
"In the space of a year I visited more states than most Americans know exist, drove tour vans, learnt about booking, publishing and fell foul of the evils of what is now called payola. In short, the entire music industry in the US squashed into a very short space of time. We still went on to sell over half a million records so I guess I learnt something!"
After six years flying solo with Tortured, Simon landed a job at Interscope Records. He was responsible for the international marketing of its artists including Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Smashmouth, Mya and The Wallflowers. The job petered out when the company merged with Universal/Polygram, and he gave up a job offer in LA to do the mandatory big OE.
Eighteen months later he returned to New York and his old company Tortured. This time around he had more contacts and began working as international consultant for Nothing Records (the stable of NIN and Manson) where, incidentally, he collected the Manson v Munich story. When he wasn't being chased by the riot police he was also making the most of his Aussie and UK connections and consulting for his old employer Mushroom.
In 2003 he landed his latest job at V2, where he is Head of International. He looks after the label's US artists when they're overseas, including The White Stripes, Raconteurs, Greenhornes, Josh Ritter, Toots and The Maytals and Blood Brothers. He also has a role in most marketing decisions and makes sure tours run smoothly (which often involves trucking along with the artists themselves and adding to the top secret story catalogue). Basically, he's a very busy man.
Life at V2 seems to be ticking along quite nicely at the moment and he's happy living in Manhattan where, after 15 years of trying, he's finally discovered the place to buy a decent pie. But he does miss New Zealand and visits at least once a year.
"There is something about the ruggedness and youth of the terrain that's unique. Then of course there is the spirit of the people and, despite opinions perhaps to the contrary, the multi-culturalness and the fact that the Prime Minister turns on the Christmas tree lights in Franklin Road!"
Simon's other home away from New York is Riga, Lativa, where he is soon to wed to a young Russian gemologist. As for the future, he hopes to one day return to A&R but would prefer to do it outside of the US. The plan is to either move back to Australia or New Zealand, and if that fails to perfect his conch fritters on an island in the Carribean.
"If one could harvest conch in the Coromandel it would be the best of both worlds!" he muses.
Until then there's more artists to market, tours to attend and secrets to stash.