Behind every great band is a team dedicated to making sure fans get to know and see the best out of their favorite musicians. Typically when people hear the word “agent” they may think of businessmen in suits and ties with Bluetooth phones constantly attached to their ears, but that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to the men and women of The Agency Group. Meet Dave Shapiro and Tim Borror, top-notch booking agents at The Agency Group’s LA and New York divisions, respectively. For years these guys have been booking shows for some of the heaviest bands across the nation. Both coming from their own local metal and hardcore scenes, these extensively tattooed guys have been repping the music and lifestyles they believe in for their entire careers. Having combined resumes of booking massive tours that extend from GWAR to Asking Alexandria to Lamb of God to A Day To Remember, these guys are not your average agents.
What first made you to want to work on the business side of the music industry?
Dave Shapiro: I was playing drums in a band that I started in middle school with my buddies and we ended up signing a deal with Victory Records right out of high school. I toured for a number of years and really fell in love with more of the business side during that time. I don’t think that there was any sort of plan to be an agent, it just kind of happened. After my band broke up I tried a number of different things–I was a promoter in Albany, New York; I worked at Elektra; I worked at Equal Vision Records; I tour managed; I drum-teched; I kind of tried everything. Then when I started working on the agency side, that’s when I was finally like alright, I think I’ve found the thing that I really enjoy and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Tim Borror: I got hooked on going to shows when I was a teenager and when I started having to think about being a person in society and working I fell back on what I always loved, which was music and going to shows. So I made a decision around 18 or 19 years old that I needed to stay close to music if I was going to try to have a life. I made the decision to go to college for music business. There weren’t a lot of schools back then for that, and that situation opened me up to an internship at a place called Fox Management. Ultimately they gave me a bunch of jobs there, a bunch of odds and ends for the management division. From there they asked me to start booking some shows for their bands. That went pretty well, so I started doing the same thing for some of my friends’ bands, bands that were popular on a regional level, but really weren’t professional bands. Once I got in doing it, I just stuck with it.
You both work closely with the metal side of music at The Agency Group. What led you to that area?
Shapiro: When I was growing up in the ‘90s in Albany, there was a really big movement going on in upstate New York for heavy music. At that point in time we had all of these local bands that were really making their name all around the country. My whole group of friends and I would go to these hardcore shows and were really into all of these bands. I got really into heavy music and it became a big and important part of my life, and it just kind of never left. When I started booking bands I gravitated towards what I knew. For me that was heavy music, and I’ve been working with that ever since. Of course, I’ve diversified since then and worked with all sorts of bands, but that’s definitely where I think the bulk of my roster is, in a heavier genre.
Borror: I’ve got a similar story. When I was a teenager going to shows, I was pretty much only into metal shows, hardcore shows and punk rock shows. By the time I had gotten that internship and was starting to book tours, a lot of the bands that I started booking were all bands from punk rock and hardcore, like Vision, Sheer Terror, and Type O Negative. I got a little bit of a reputation for just doing a good job with that stuff and built a business out of what was my life’s blood at the time. What was fun for me as a kid became my business and as that business grew it was hard to turn away new business. The last band I worked for would usually vouch for the next one so it was easy to just keep going with it because it kept coming to me as much as I was going with it.
What do you look for in a band when you want to start booking them?
Shapiro: I think it all comes down to how great the band is. I like to work with bands who I think are great bands. I can definitely do a better job for a band if I believe in them just as much as anyone; I’m a really big fan of my whole roster. If you get in my car and drive somewhere with me there’s a 95% chance you’re going to hear me listening to something that I’ve booked. From there there’s all sorts of other variables due to if I think I would be a good match for the band. Do I get along with them on a personal level? Do I get along with their management? Do I believe their management and I can make a great team and get this band to the next level? But it all boils down at the start to just being a great band.
Apart from working with heavier bands, you are also both heavily inked. What first got you interested in tattoos?
Borror: Hardcore music, metal music, there’s definitely a cultural connection that goes back to when I was a kid coming up with the music in the mid ‘80s. A lot of the people that I grew up with, if they weren’t in music, they got into being tattoo artists and owning tattoo shops. The tattoo shops had a bunch of different feels back then, a lot of bikers and scary atmospheres. It was awesome to go to those places, get tattooed by those people, share stories with them and be a part of that world. But over the years it’s just stayed a part of my life and my lifestyle, just like music has, and it never seems to end.
Do you have a particular style or artist that you choose to go to?
Borror: I like a shitty tattoo done by a person with a real bad attitude. I prefer that kind of tattoo. I’ve actually had to go out of my way to find those people at this point.
Shapiro: I’ve had a number of artists over the years, but about four or five years ago I met a guy named Mike Blackstone who lives out here in California. He doesn’t work at a shop; he actually comes to [his clientele]. He comes to my house, which is awesome. I met him out on Warped Tour four or five years ago when he was out tattooing The Devil Wears Prada on their bus. I asked if he would be down to tattoo me as well and he tattooed me that day on the bus. He’s been tattooing me ever since.
What has been one of your favorite pieces by Blackstone?
Shapiro: I’m a massive Iron Maiden fan, so my whole left side is this giant collage of Eddie [the Iron Maiden mascot]. He did a phenomenal job on it.
And Tim, what would you say is your favorite piece?
Borror: My friends and I all started getting tattooed in the mid to late ‘80s by a guy out of Pennsylvania named Tom Johnson. There’s one tattoo that I have that’s been labeled “Skull Mountain.” It’s just a pile of skulls with a skull Viking guy on top. It looks awesome; it looks ‘80s. It’s definitely a great tattoo done by a guy with a really bad attitude. I also have a tattoo on the back of my left calf which is a crucified skin head with the head as the skull of The Exploited and its hands are giving you the finger. It’s just a weird tattoo that we made up and had fun with.
Tattoos and the music industry, especially on the rock and metal side of things, seem to go hand in hand. Do you think there’s an underlying reason for that?
Borror: I think there’s probably some sort of lawlessness and statement that the two are making together. Freedom, I think music and tattoos both represent freedom and people that are beating to their own drum and living in their own lane. I think that’s where they tie together.
Shapiro: I agree, I think that any time that you have any sort of cultural movement or a group of people that is about living on the edge that tattoos go hand-in-hand with that. I think that’s true for music, for extreme sports, for any of that sort of stuff.
And both of you also partake in extreme sports.
Shapiro: My passion, my love in life, the reason I work all day is so I can afford to go do the things that I am obsessed with, which are mostly extreme sports. I’m really big into aviation–I’m a helicopter pilot and I’m also an airplane pilot. Predominantly most of my airplane flying is aerobatics, so stunt flying. I’m a sky diver and I do a lot of base jumping all over the world, jumping off buildings, cliffs, whatever I can find tall enough to jump off. I love it; that is what motivates me to get up every day and do what I do.
Borror: I wouldn’t say my motorcycling leans on the side of extreme; it’s actually probably tied to the early years of being into tattooing. A lot of the people that I hung around were leaning a little bit in the biker direction. It’s a little bit like how my father used to be, so having motorcycles, whether they’re bikes on the streets or dirt bikes, is where that comes from. I’m also into fishing and I’m on a race car team with my brother. So it’s cool because I think Dave and I are both way into stuff that’s really not in the norm. A lot of people aren’t jumping out of buildings; a lot of people aren’t going to some off the radar dirt track race.
Since you book so many tours, is there a favorite venue that you really like to go to or work with?
Borror: I still love going to the Troc [Trocadero Theater] in Philly. I saw most of my favorite shows as a kid or in my twenties at the Troc. I still look forward to going to shows there. I live part time in New York, too, and I love going to a lot of places up there. I love what the guys at Saint Vitus are doing with that room. It’s pretty awesome.
Shapiro: Well, lately I’ve been a big fan of L.A. Live in downtown L.A., mainly because it’s five blocks from my house. [Laughs] I really like going to The Fox Theater in Pomona; there’ve been a lot of good shows there lately. It’s just a really nice venue with a great vibe in there. The other venue that they haven’t done a ton of shows at lately, but maybe my favorite venue, is the Mayan Theater in L.A. It’s just beautiful, like a really great, old theater. I don’t go to too many shows there, but I’m always pretty excited when I do.
Keep on the look out this fall and winter for some of Dave Shapiro’s and Tim Borror’s upcoming tours from GWAR, Black Veil Brides, Asking Alexandria, Black Label Society, Pierce the Veil, Circa Survive, Of Mice & Men and a host of others.