Vicky Hamilton has balls.
Not just because of her incredible work ethic and passion for breaking musicians into the industry, but because she’s had the unenviable job of managing and promoting one of the most notorious bands in modern music.
Hamilton was in charge of Guns ‘N’ Roses when they first started to make waves back in the 80s, and she doesn’t mince her words when describing what it was like looking after them.
“When I was managing Guns N’ Roses it was like herding cats”, she said. “I lived with all of them except for Duff… It was everything you could imagine and worse.”
Amongst all the sex, drugs and rock and roll, Hamilton has one of several interesting tales about the band for me – unsurprisingly featuring Axl Rose going off his nut.
“The day they signed the contract with Geffen Records, we were three hours late because Axl had ran out of the house because he thought someone had stolen his contact lenses”, she said. “Then we found him sitting on top of the whiskey…and we eventually coached him down to sign the contract. I had the cops bang on my door a few times and there was all sorts of mayhem.”
While she occasionally bumps into all the other band members and texts with Slash, Hamilton hasn’t spoken to Rose for almost 20 years.
“He’s an interesting person: he has one personality like a sweet little boy, then another personality that’s like a devil dog from hell.”
“I hope one day we’ll see each other again and it will all be good.”
The Gunners are one of several bands on Hamilton’s impressive resume, which has seen her become one of the most respected and trendsetting female artist managers in rock music.
She’s also credited with launching the early careers of Poison, Motley Crue and June Carter Cash, the latter of whom won a Grammy for her album on Hamilton’s record label (she created it especially to release Carter’s album).
And now, Hamilton only has one band on her books – burgeoning Sydney-based glam rockers The Art.
So how on earth did a little-known band from Australia impress the woman who has previously looked after some of the biggest rock gods of the last few decades?
“I was booking bands at Bar Sinister in Hollywood while they were making their album and I hadn’t even heard them”, Hamilton said. “I said, ‘What do you sound like?’ and Azaria (frontman) said, ‘we’re kind of like old glam rock’…and we hit if off immediately.”
“They write really great songs, I love them all as people, they’re like my kids, they’re beautiful people inside and out and really creative. The world needs another great rock band…and they hit on all the things I like about rock bands, but they have their own originality as well.”
Hamilton is the sole manager of the band at the moment (she’s looking for a local management partner as we speak) – and admits that coordinating them on the other side of the world is a struggle.
“It’s a little challenging with the time difference… We have to really coordinate with our Skype calls and that. But in many respects it’s a lot easier, because they’re very career-orientated; they’ll do whatever it takes to get there… they’re very organised and professional. I tell them what needs to happen and it gets done.”
“The beauty of managing a band from Australia is if they do a track tonight, they can send it to me and I’ll get it tomorrow, whereas when they send me physical CDs, it takes usually 2-3 weeks to get here; that’s the beauty of technology and the internet.”
Hamilton admits she is “a workaholic” and is “married to her job”. On top of managing The Art, she’s also currently putting together her own biography with poet Iris Berry and workshopping a surf-meet-glam-rock musical – Glitter Beach – with Robbie Quine.
However, her other main passion at the moment is her documentary – Until the Music Ends – which is “about two thirds done”.
Until the Music Ends focuses on the rise of MP3s and illegal downloading, amongst many other changes that Hamilton has seen in her lengthy career in the industry.
“MP3s don’t sound great, it doesn’t have that warm feel of a 24-track, 2-inch tape recording, which is why I have at the end of my trailer ‘Music Is Free… Now What?’” she said.
“The storyline keeps changing because as we’re filming it, more people are getting involved”, she said. “It follows my life in the music business and how it’s changed, also following The Art’s progress. Then we’ve got interviews with Slash, Dick Dale, Crystal Method and The Veronicas; it’s a long list of industry people.”
Hamilton created the documentary partly to shed light on the struggles musicians have to go through to crack the big time – and also to dispel the myths that a qualification will immediately get you a job in the industry.
“The reason I started doing it (the doco) was because I was teaching at the Musician’s Institute and it was astonishing to me that they (the students) thought they would go to MI and get their degrees and immediately have these record business careers – because it just doesn’t just work like that.”
“The music business is about relationships…and it’s not an easy business, which is why I wanted to make the doco. I want to give something back to the music community to help them in their quest, because documentaries don’t make much money either.”
With technology changing the face of the music industry everyday and record companies struggling to have the same impact they once had, Hamilton believes “it’s going to be a social media world from here on out”.
She’s reacting to it by creating a social media label and Merchandise Company based in Austin, Texas – which she hopes to launch in the near future.
It is these two areas (social media and merchandise) that Hamilton believes unsigned acts need to specialise in if they want to stand a chance of making an impact in today’s musical landscape.
“I would say stay in your own backyard and develop a crowd…and get a great social media person because it makes the world very small”, she said. “Just get it out there anyway you can, don’t wait for the record companies…it’s as if they don’t even matter right now.”
“I used to think you had to give away merchandise to sell records, now I feel you have to give away records to sell merch…it’s all in the merchandise and the live touring, sadly. But I hope it changes…and there will be some new system in the future…and artists will get paid for their music.”