I first saw Kendo Dolar on Qbert’s Australia DVD. I thought he was funny and full of life. I met him at the DMC USA Finals and realized that my initial video impression of him was correct. Kendo loves what he does as DJ Qbert’s tour manager and it shows. Find out more about Kendo’s business ventures, his special connection with Qbert, and what you need to succeed as a tour manager.
CCB: When did you realize you wanted to work in the music industry?
KD: When I was in high school I did the whole mobile DJ thing, since I was a freshman. With my family there was an outward push to be a nurse or a doctor. I always kind of knew because I grew up around it. Right after I got out of high school I really wanted to be in the industry.
CCB: You grew up in the Bay Area?
KD: I grew up in the Bay. Not a little of people know it, Q is actually my first cousin so throughout the whole process where scratching grew I was there firsthand. I remember I would stay over and he’d baby-sit me. It’s funny. I happened to just grow up into it.
CCB: What appeals to you about DJing? Was that Qbert’s influence?
KD: It was a different type of influence because he was more into scratching. I really like mixing. I like party rocking. I tried all different types of thing. I tried rapping. I can’t rap. I tried to draw. I can’t draw. I tried to dance. I’m OK. I’m not the greatest at it. When it came to DJing it was something that I could actually excel at. You make people happy. You have them sing along. Q got me to dabble in it and I expanded from there.
CCB: How did you get involved with Thud Rumble?
KD: For the most part Yogafrog asked me. During that time that I joined Thud Rumble I was 20, that was five years ago. I was working for the city in the Bay Area. I was in charge of Recreation Management. I actually threw events for the kids, did fundraisers, basically a corporate job. I was getting paid pretty well. I was getting burned out. I was working 60 hour weeks, 20 hours overtime trying to get the city stuff together. So, Yogafrog talked to me because he knew I’d DJ’d before. He said, “Hey, you are putting in all these hours, if you want a change of pace?” When I had my first free time I went on the road with Q. This was about five years ago. I remember the first show I flew out to was Dallas at the Lizard Lounge.
CCB: You said you started mobile DJing at 13. Did you DJ prior to that?
KD: You just dabble. When I was 14 I joined a mobile crew called Rhythm and Motion. I had a lot of mentors there, teaching me the ropes, how to set up sound, this and that. It turned out really well because that is how I got in. When I first worked with Q I wasn’t his tour manager per se I was more his tech manager because his tour manager before didn’t know much about setup. Especially with venues, all venues vary, having that mobile background allowed me to basically do a lot of risk management. The amps quit, I knew how to reset them. Sometimes the inputs weren’t right to his mixer and the sound-guy had the wrong cords. I’d have adapters. Eventually I took over all the positions, tech and tour, like I’m a super manager. (Laughs)
CCB: Is there a typical day on the job as a tour manager?
KD: As a tour manager I bare most of the responsibility or even all of the responsibility. I would say my daily responsibility, would be to advance the show. It kind of refers to setting up the show. I usually call the venue like a week in advance before we come. I talk to a promoter or a production manager or even the venue. The reason that I do it is to make sure the venue has all the specifics on Q. To find out about the show if it’s sold out or if ten tickets were sold, all that stuff. It helps to keep things organized.
CCB: How did you learn about being a tour manager? Were you kind of just thrown into that?
KD: It’s almost like on the job training. It was good because Q’s manager of course is Yogafrog and Yogafrog was Q’s previous tour manager. So, I was in pretty good hands. I had a good mentor to teach me the ropes.
CCB: What goes into planning a tour, deciding where you are visiting?
KD: The booking agency they book the tour. So the booking manager or Sondra from Premiere Artists decides where to go with management, with Yogafrog. From there I get reports and I advance my shows. For the Four Masters tour I was doing a lot of the production stuff as well. I was in charge of the San Francisco show. I put the timeline together, did the promotion. It’s usually up in the air.
CCB: Does most of your work revolve around scheduling?
KD: Definitely. It’s all logistics and organization. It’s similar to any other managerial position but in order for me to run an efficient tour I have to keep a daily schedule.
CCB: Being a tour manager is it just for Qbert or are there other artists?
KD: At this point in time Q is the bread and butter, he keeps me busy.
CCB: So, Premiere Artists books the tour and then you are in charge of the day to day stuff when you are on the road?
KD: Exactly. The night of the show we’ll do the load in, usually four hours before doors open. Then we set up. Then sometimes as dictated I’ll be the merch (merchandise) guy at the same time.
CCB: What qualities do you need to succeed as a tour manager?
KD: You have to be organized. You have to be an all around guy. You have to be the sound-guy, the security. You have to be ready for anything. You have to think really well on the fly. If you can’t think well on the fly there is no way you can be a tour manager.
CCB: Have any advice for people interested in working with DJs or being tour managers?
KD: My advice is to let the people know up front that the work is long and hard. The experience you get is priceless. If you really want to do it the best thing is to bone up on logistics coordination. I know it sounds like it’s on the job, but you can learn it from anything. I know that San Francisco State has courses as well as a lot of other schools.
CCB: When you are on a tour date and you’ve already loaded in and Q is on stage, what are your responsibilities at that point?
KD: It depends. If I have merch during that date I would go to the merch booth or set that up. I would talk to the promoter and get to know the venue. After Q checks in I make sure all the rider stuff is there and everything is backstage. The rider is the catering stuff. I would be the representative on the road, the guy to talk to.
CCB: What are your responsibilities when you aren’t on tour?
KD: When I’m not on tour I help Thud Rumble (thudrumble.com)
with production. Right now I’m doing stuff for Skratchcon. (Upcoming DJ Scratch Convention in December) I’m helping to produce that event. Not only that I help with distribution as well trying to get Q’s product out. We are a big company but we are still a small company at the same time. They can basically hit me up directly and start an account with us.
CCB: What is your involvement with Mixsterious?
KD: I run Mixsterious. (mixsterious.com) I basically own that company. Mixsterious back in the day was originally named Mixsterious Sounds and it was an idea from Q. He envisioned an elite sound and lighting production company, like a hardcore mobile DJ crew. I took the initiative to expand on his vision. What we are is a marketing firm and we consist of different ways of marketing media. We fuse it into one type of synergistic entity. What I mean by that is we are a media company that is based on events. If we can’t produce an event for you there is no media to talk about. I produce events. I help with artists’ booking, stage management. I have a crew that does light and sound reinforcement. We have a production team of creatives. We’ve done stuff in-house with Thud Rumble. We’ve also worked for Viacom and Clear Channel as well.
CCB: Can you talk about the Thud Rumble philosophy? I spoke with Yogafrog about it previously.
KD: It’s innovation. We sit there and we look for a lack. We have to look for that lack and push the envelope. We can’t keep this art stale. It’s all about innovation and giving back to the people that support us, like the fans. Being with these guys (Qbert and Yogafrog) I feel so driven because we are never satisfied with what’s going on. My next goal is to push the new movement of the female elite turntablist.
CCB: What is the most difficult part of your job?
KD: The long hours, being a tour manager you have to put in the extra hours. You basically sleep the least. My job is to make sure that everybody is on time meaning I have to wake up a couple hours earlier than everybody, to get everybody ready, and everybody motivated to go. If we were late it would be my responsibility no matter what. The night before we leave for the next show I go over everything. I go over for the contracts, the logistics, and make sure that I have everything in front of me internalized so I don’t rely on pieces of paper. It’s just a lack of sleep, that’s the hardest part. I’ve learned to cope.
CCB: What has been the most rewarding thing about the job so far?
KD: Seeing the faces on the people after they see a good show. Seeing the artists enjoy how a production is. That’s the most rewarding thing, bringing Q’s art to the people.
CCB: Are you surprised that you get to do something that you love?
KD: I talk about it with Q all the time. What kind of job is this? (Laughs) We get to travel, eat sushi, hang out, and get paid for it. That’s so bomb.
CCB: As far as your DJing do you do anything with that, like in clubs?
KD: I’m sort of retired. One of my friends just had a birthday party and she begged me to come out. It’s almost like riding a bike. Once you learn how to ride a bike you’ll never forget. It’s hard to back out when people demand your services, want you to come out.
CCB: What are your career aspirations?
KD: I want to push this Mixsterious thing. We have a lot of chapters opening up, believe it or not. We try and stay underground. We have a chapter in Texas, Seattle, and Vancouver. We are trying to open one up in New York. I have tons of clothing designers. Eventually I want to open up my own store. It’s actually closer than I think it is. That’s what people tell me. Hopefully that goes. Anything that deals with innovation I’m there.
See what keeps Kendo busy here: