Gabriel Kerbrat has loaded tons of equipment in and out of clubs, night after night. He could put long-haul truckers to shame with the distances he's driven between gigs without sleep. He's "band wrangled" the likes of the Murder City Devils, the Blood Brothers, Sparta, and Dead Low Tide, cracking the whip and making sure everyone's out of bed, in the van, and onstage on time. He's a man who can make a beer bong out of anything. He has Flavor Flav's leftovers shellacked on his wall and packs a cooler full of clothes and a folding armchair for tours. And he has a skull and crossbones tattooed on his nether regions. A man like that should really need no introduction. But here he is—Gabriel Kerbrat: the man who is happy he's not known as the Infamous Northampton Butt Poker. Just don't ask him to work when he's wearing all white.
Take us on a journey through your rise to the top of the roadie empire, starting at the very beginning.
It started simple enough: I was in bands with Nate Manny, and after the bands broke up, Nate joined Murder City Devils. I did every Murder City Devils show on tour, except the first West Coast tour. I also missed one Breakroom show. I was on tour with Amazing Crowns, and there was a period of time that I was banned from RCKCNDY, so I was not allowed to do those shows. As [MCD] got bigger, I took on more responsibility. And when they finally broke up, I had become completely unemployable except for the touring industry. So, luckily, our friends in Sparta offered me a job. Over the course of my touring career, I have done a ton of jobs: van driver, merchandiser, tour manager, band manager, RV driver, guitar tech, monitor engineer, Pro Tools engineer, truck driver, production manager.
[That is] what I am now. I am a production manager for a local company, organizing and running a tour called Sonic Temple Live. I also am still lucky to be working with some of my best friends, managing their bands, A Gun Called Tension and Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death, for Hell Bound Management.
Who all have you headed out on the road with?
I have toured with the Cleavers, the Unabombers, Murder City Devils, Amazing Crowns, At the Drive-In, Dead Low Tide, Sparta, Hot Water Music, Modest Mouse, Blood Brothers, Coheed and Cambria, and Sonic Temple Live.
Of the many shenanigans that have occurred over the years, what situations have been the most...
1. Frightening: I was on tour with Modest Mouse as a guitar tech, and we were at this outdoor amphitheater in Northampton, Mass. I think the venue probably held about 3,500 people, and the stage was about 36 inches tall. This is the perfect size stage for a little 60-person all-ages show, but for 3,500 people, you need some sort of barricade in order to keep the crowd safe and the band safe. They wouldn't bring one in, and I knew it was going to be a bad night. As the show started, people started being stupid. A guy threw a full can of beer at Dann [Gallucci ]. I jumped into the crowd, since there was no security, and told him to cut it out. He continued to be "a jerk," so I jumped down and had to "walk" him all the way through the crowd. Then came the crowd surfers. There was no room on the stage, so I was pushing them "politely" back into the crowd. This continued for the entire show. Finally, some dirty hippie kid came over the top of the crowd, and I couldn't push him back into the crowd. So I grabbed him as he rolled off the front of the crowd, and carried him in a basket carry to the back gate where I told the guy working to kick the kid out, which he did. Show finally ended, and I was pissed off. It was a horrible night, and my suit was covered in stupid hippie sweat. As I was relaxing, having a beer and smoking a cigar, all of a sudden a cop came racing up, lights going. He wanted to talk to the band's security guard that was wearing the suit. It finally came out that it was me, and he said that the kid wanted to press charges and that I would have to go "downtown" to talk to a detective. Once downtown, I was put in a small little room and had to sit there for about 30 minutes. The whole time, I could hear this kid in the next room, kind of crying like a baby. I could not believe it. Finally, the detective came into the room and asked what happened. I told my story and then was informed that I was being questioned because the kid wanted to press charges for sexual assault. The stupid hippie said that I pulled his pants down and touched his butthole. Not butt, but actually put my finger in his ass. It took about 30 minutes of questioning, including the detective asking to see the size of my hands, before it was clear that there was no way I could have done something like that. I had 3,499 witnesses to prove that it had not happened. No charges were pressed, but as I was let go, the detective was like, "Whoa, I'm not going to shake your hand," and wanted me to know that charges might be pressed and that I might be contacted. Nothing ever came from it, but for a few minutes I was afraid that there would be a headline like "Gabe Kerbrat Is the Infamous Northampton Butt Poker."
2. Debaucherous: See above.
3. Hilarious: See above.
4. Embarrassing: See above.
5. Awesome: Seeing Spencer Moody and Dann Gallucci of Murder City Devils end a run of dates with Pearl Jam with a collaborative cover of Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer" in Dallas, Texas. Later that night, challenging a sleep-deprived Dennis Rodman to a drinking contest, he said no because he was "afraid" of me.
I've heard tell you can make a beer bong out of anything, à la MacGyver. Can you recount the most challenging one?
It is hard for me to say which one is the most challenging, since I have never come close to failure. They have all been pretty simple. The most challenging part is keeping it fresh, and pushing myself to try things that I have not tried before. One of the reasons that I no longer do it is that it has all been done. I have built a beer bong in the festival field at 4 a.m. in the Netherlands (concert poster/duct tape/water bottle), at a backyard party (broke plastic ends off of a metal broom handle and bent it over the edge of a fence till it was shaped correctly/soda bottle), and even did it on an airplane back when you could get away with carrying a piece of rubber hose with you.
Would you really keep all of your clothes in a cooler when on tour?
Close. Touring in Europe is sometimes a pain in the ass. If you are with a band that is not a major draw on some of the festivals, you kind of get treated less than well. Usually the dressing rooms are small, there is nowhere to sit, and the meals are sparse and seldom. It only took six years of touring for me to realize that I needed to solve my own problems by doing a little preplanning. I packed all of my clothes into a rolling ice cooler, placed that in a military-style duffel bag, and slid in a folding easy chair. Upon arrival, I then went to Tesco and picked up some disposable BBQs. I then was able to have a fun BBQ whenever I wanted, and it made the trip perfect.
What's the reason behind the all-white day-off uniform?
My favorite part of touring is a day off, and because of the requirement of tour managing, there actually is seldom a true day off. I decided that if I was wearing all white, it would be my signal to people that they should leave me alone. How could you ask somebody to do anything if they are wearing all white?
Have you ever shellacked a half-eaten hamburger?
I have never shellacked a half-eaten hamburger. I have, however, shellacked a one-third-eaten hamburger that hangs in my kitchen. It belonged to Flavor Flav, and if you think it looked gross when I got it five years ago, you should see what it looks like today. I have learned that you need to make sure to completely cover the entire food item when you are attempting to preserve it. Even the smallest little hole to allow air in will wreak havoc on the food item. What was once an overly cooked meal to a true star is now a disgusting thing hanging on my wall.
You have many tattoos, but legend has it one is placed in a very sensitive region. How did you wind up with "TCB" ("Taking Care of Business") inked on your, y'know, and what does it mean?
It is basically the result of a stupid game of chicken between Nate Manny and me. He didn't think I would actually ever do it, and I didn't think I would get him to tattoo it on me. I guess we both lost. Or maybe I won. I am the one with the skull and crossbones/"Taking Care of Business" tattoo.
A weekly peek behind the curtain of the Emerald City music world, Behind the Scene sheds light on folks you won't see onstage, but who make it all happen.