Matt McGinn - 'Coldplay aren't one dude and his hired help'

Matt McGinn is roadie to one of the world's biggest bands. In this exclusive extract from his book, he recalls gigs, Gwyneth and a fight

It's a tough birthing process for any Coldplay tour. They can take weeks, even months, of trial and error to nail into shape, much of which will happen in the full glare of the audience's headlights way before the thing gets anywhere near to being the massive rock'n'roll ball of snow it's destined to become. America and Europe whizz past in a blur of daily changes, crazy routing and TV promo appearances, and the general feeling is a long way from settled.

But, for the band's Viva la Vida tour, before we knew it a whole year had gone by and we were working for the biggest, baddest thing on the planet that was kicking arse so hard we could hardly believe it ourselves.

There's usually a dip in the proceedings on a tour like this – like a lull in the weather – and Viva La Vida was no exception. Somewhere just past its centenary show, we hit a short, nasty American run which culminated in Chris coming to grief on a greasy, post-storm outdoor stage and getting burned by some live pyro. He fell over quite hard in front of one of the few non-sold-out crowds of the tour, following which the lad promptly got sick enough to actually cancel a show, something we've only seen happen three or maybe four times in ten years. Still, it's another measure of the fighting spirit in evidence around here...

By the time we get off tour we're probably all about as wired as each other, and really that's one of the hardest parts – going home. I'm not complaining. Between us we have, without doubt, a handful of the world's best jobs. But imagine it: for a year and a half something exciting/terrifying/cool happens every day, whether it's a massive show, a visit to a new country or a luxed-out (or not), possibly rather scary plane ride. Add to this the fact that for long periods you're doing very little for yourself and it all starts to click into place. Most days, for example, I just concentrate on how best to look after Jonny (Buckland, the guitarist), while everything I need – from food and laundry, to transport, money and a bed for the night – is kindly sorted out for me by someone else. And then, just as everyone's started to feel like this velvet-lined adrenaline trip is normal... BANG! The End. Time to try and be in a house, talk to normal people and go to the shops then, is it?

Things all got a bit nuts around the time that A Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay's second album released in 2002, really started to bare its commercial teeth, particularly in the US. People like Rachel Weisz and what's-her-name from The X-Files began turning up backstage after gigs; Elton John did a guest turn onstage in Atlanta; and one night, after a high-rolling show at The Hard Rock in Las Vegas, I even encountered Spiderman star Tobey Maguire in the hotel elevator. And then, just when you thought it couldn't get any madder and you were allowed to start feeling normal again, Chris fell in love with Massive Amazing Hollywood Movie Star™ Gwyneth Paltrow.

The boys in the crew had – sorry, boss – been speculating about who the new lady in town was for weeks, and of course there'd been a few shady snippets in the media about it, but until she actually started showing up on the tour no one really knew for certain. Luckily, I wasn't totally aware of Gwyneth's work or quite how famous she was when we were first introduced, or I might've been a bit more stunned, what with me still being starstruck over Val Doonican and all. As it happened, I was stomping around scowling in my roadie costume (black T-shirt, jeans, big boots, knife, dirty fingernails, torch) hunting for something before a show, when I burst into a side room and there she was, just sitting on a table. 'Bloody hell, it's her,' I thought. Chris wasn't there, but Jonny was, and I can still clearly recall our first conversation.

"Matt, this is Gwyneth," Jonny said. "Gwyneth, this is Matt, my roadie."

"Oh, hello, how do you do?"

"Hey, nice to meet you," she said. "Are you the Matt that plays guitar on "Yellow"?"

Wow, I thought. A proper actress has heard of me.

"Yeah, that's right."

"Well, it sounds great!"

Bless her. I was lost for a moment, so – for better or worse – I decided to act cocky, since the only alternative would have been to go bright red in the face. It was a big gamble, but I went with: "Cheers. So, d'you think I play it better than your boyfriend?"

It hit the spot; she laughed and so did Jonny. Afterwards I felt a bit guilty for throwing a nice compliment back in her face, and said sorry a few days later, but she brushed it off and asked, 'Why are English guys always apologising?'

Obviously, when I got home and saw my pals again for a pint, one of the first things they asked was, 'Well then, did you meet Gwynnie? What's she like?' Yeah, I did. And she's great. Just a normal girl, really. Well, except for the rock-star husband, y'know?

Bimbo's – a small club in San Francisco – was the scene of a telling drama, not long before the American release of A Rush of Blood to the Head. It was around 4pm and Coldplay – who, with a combined height of more than 24 feet, aren't anybody's bunch of short-arses – were crammed onto a tiny stage, soundchecking for what's known in the US music world as a "buzz gig", which is just a sexy name for a nerve-shredding night's work with no room to move, plugged into the wrong electricity. The audience at a small, sticky event like this is as likely to contain Drew Barrymore as a teenage competition winner and it's usually broadcast live on local radio – which on the West Coast can mean there's a hell of a lot of people listening. Add this to the knowledge that later on there'll be at least eight or nine people in the room who could probably end a band's stateside career with a single phone call and you'll start to get an idea of the kind of pressure Coldplay were under.

So anyway, the soundcheck was ticking along all right until Chris suggested having a stab at "A Whisper", an epic, sweeping kind of a song from the (then) new record. Although the tune was perhaps better suited to the echoey environs of a packed hockey arena than a small empty disco, the lads gamely dove in, making a pretty good start. But after about half a minute, the singer gave in and threw up his hands.

"All right, stop. Stop! It sounds fucking shit."

A few nasty clunks followed as the song drifted up a verge towards the hay bales and old tyres, finally jerking to a halt. Then silence.

Oh dear. "You idiot," exclaimed Guy (Berryman, the bassist), somewhat peeved at the interruption. He rounded on his mate and glared. "Of course it sounds shit," he spat, with the measured disdain some Scots seem to be able to save for the English. "We haven't played it since we recorded it, have we, for fuck's sake!" Whether it was pre-gig nerves, or the fact that he felt foolish because he knew Guy had a point, I'm not sure. Either way, Chris then temporarily lost touch with his niceness and called his friend "a c..." in so venomous a fashion that our loveable Caledonian felt moved to respond thus:

"I'm going to fucking hit you in a minute."

"Well, go on then!" came the retort, sounding more like an order than an invite.

Bloody hell, here we go, I thought.

Guy has confessed to me since that at this point he became so furious that anything could have happened, and he really wasn't much more than a kilt's width from braining Chris with his vintage Fender. Instead, distracted by the sound of Will (Champion) joining in on Guy's side from behind the drums, our chums plumped for a small chunk of pre-fight chat. The bassist was having none of it, and appeared now to be slightly amused by Chris's fury:

CM: (Really angry): "Hit me then, Guy! Come on!"

GB: (Smiling a bit): "No!"

A three-way power struggle continued for some minutes, during which we all hid behind the curtains and wondered whether anyone would have to bring on the bucket of cold water...

Stories like that are good for a titter, but they also show you a bit about how Coldplay function as a unit. For a start, when push comes to shove they really aren't at all scared of one another, which cuts out the tiptoeing that a lot of groups might waste time doing. Plus, despite the generally held public notion that Chris is the boss, I hope you're getting a picture of a gang of lads rather than one dude and his hired help.

Excerpts taken from 'Roadie: My Life on the Road with Coldplay', published by Portico Books, an imprint of Anova Books, at £9.99 ( Independent readers can purchase a copy at the special price of £7.99 plus free p&p by calling 0844 576 8122 and quoting Cp456.



Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.


Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss