Timm Cleasby was standing in a Miami hotel suite drinking complimentary champagne and preparing to go to dinner with Puff Daddy, one of America’s richest and most famous music stars, when he had a sudden moment of realisation: he would swap it all to be back home in North Anston.
The then tour manager of the Arctic Monkeys had spent the last five years guiding the High Green band from four scamps playing tiny pubs in Barnsley to one of the world’s biggest cultural phenomenons. Along the way there had been Brit awards, sold out stadiums and more business class air miles than he could keep track of. He’d partied with Paul Weller and Steven Tyler, been side stage at Glastonbury, and once had to tell David Bowie to move seats to make way for the band’s family. He was so well regarded by the group, when they won their first New Musical Express award for best band, he was dragged on stage with them.
But standing there in that hotel room - rich, still young, and fully aware he was living the rock n roll dream - he realised he was unhappy.
“I loved the band and I loved the job,” he says. “But at that moment, more than anything else, I just wanted to be at home with my wife Sam and our three kids. I realised I was missing out on them growing up. I was getting ready to go out with Puff Daddy - Puff Daddy! - and I thought if this doesn’t make you happy, it’s time to stop. It was simple as that. I told the band a week or so later I’d be leaving.”
Today, four years on, Timm is sat in his new home, a sprawling stone cottage in Horseshoe Lane, just outside Maltby. He’s ended up, ironically, not in New York City but near Rotherham.
He’s still involved with music - he helps organise Tramlines and loosely manages the Sheffield band Dead Sons - but these days he is determinedly turning another passion into a profit: photography. He and 32-year-old Sam (they married in Las Vegas in 2004 after meeting at The Leadmill in 1998) have just set up The Picture Foundry, a company which specialises in family portraits and commercial projects. Their rambling garden - river, bridge and hand-made swing all present - makes up a lush outdoor studio.
“I genuinely love photography,” he says. “I studied it at Stradbroke College when I was 19. I bought a nice digital camera when I was on the road, and I would take pictures of the band. I always thought it was something I’d like to pursue.”
Birdwell-bred Timm - the extra M is a teenage affectation - had been in the music industry since his late teens. He worked at The Leadmill for some years before becoming the tour manager for a series of American punk bands, including Modest Mouse and Rocket From The Crypt. He was then employed by momentarily-mega British rockers The Darkness when a friend asked him, in 2005, to work with four Sheffield teenagers causing something of a stir in the city.
“I was 33 at that point and my initial feeling was The Darkness would be my last band,” he explains. “Five songs changed my mind. I was played the Arctic Monkeys demos, and it was so fresh and exciting.”
Sam, originally from the Manor, urged him to do it. “They were sat at our kitchen table and they were just so shy,” she remembers, “but when they went on stage they were something else.”
He went to Glasgow with them, saw the reaction of fans, and signed himself up.
“What does a tour manager do?” he muses. “Everything, basically. You’re given a list of dates and venues, and you have to organise everything else - transport, sound, lighting, visas, food, whatever you could possibly need. Everything is your responsibility. You’re the first up in a morning and often last to bed. I probably spent more time with the band than anyone. I guess I was like an older brother. It worked well.
“There’s a lot of bad people in the music industry who will offer you a lot of bad things, and they were four young lads. I considered it my job to look after them. I got on well with their parents, and they trusted me which helped. You have fun but you also have to be aware of the dangers in that world. I like to think I did a good job.”
His favourite memories are organising the famous Old Trafford shows in 2007 - “I’d always wanted to manage stadium gigs,” he says - and later being named Tour Manager Of The Year by his peers.
But he also recalls with fondness meeting Karen Gillan, the then Dr Who assistance.
“She was a little...worse for wear,” he says diplomatically. “I had to help her to a taxi. But my kids are all huge Dr Who fans, and afterwards she sent us loads of signed stuff. That was lovely.”
He still misses it all, he admits, even now, three years after he left in 2010. Watching the Don Valley Bowl show that year and the Olympics last year were especially hard.
“It’s the five minutes before they go on stage, I miss,” he says. “That’s when all your work has come together and you can relax a moment and enjoy it.”
But he wouldn’t change that Miami hotel room decision for the world. Not now he’s here with Sam, their three children - Charlie, 12, Ellie, 10, and Thom, 8 - two dogs, two cats and five chickens. “We’re glad to have him with us all the time,” says Sam, who also photographs for The Picture Foundry.
“We missed him just as much as he missed us.”
See Timm and Sam’s work at www.thepicturefoundry.com
David Bowie? Move along please, sir
THERE are probably few global superstars as instantly recognisable as David Bowie, a cultural superstar who has been at the top table of the music industry for more than four decades.
Still, that doesn’t mean he can just sit in a seat reserved for Jamie Cook’s old man. Not when Timm Cleasby’s around.
The Thin White Duke had gone to see the Arctic Monkeys in New York City, and he and his entourage had taken seats reserved for the families of the band.
“I didn’t actually recognise him,” explains Timm, the Sheffield group’s then tour manager. “I saw someone had sat in these reserved seats in the balcony and went up, and asked them to move. They were really polite about it and apologised and did move.
“It was only when I came back downstairs and looked up again that I realised it was Bowie who I’d ejected. What can I say? It was dark.”