Everyone loves a good ol’ bargain, right? Well folks, this month you’re getting two for the price of one as we delve into the lives of the incredibly hardworking and absolutely glorious Anthony and Louise Tillman. They’ve been showering Newy with their combined technical prowess for more than a decade, making them a total shoo-in for Local Power Couple of the Year.
The dedicated duo run and own Scion Audio and Events, a one-stop shop for Novocastrians who feel like making their gigs/awards ceremonies/corporate events look and sound bloody bonza. Their long partnership began after Louise bought the company (and Anthony) in 1999, with the couple eventually opting to extend their marvellous partnership even further by getting married in 2007.
‘Scion itself has been operating since 1974. It is the longest-running single company in Newcastle for audio hire,’ Anthony told me. ‘We’ve been at the forefront of rock ’n’ roll, and then evolved into one of the main AV corporate companies for Newcastle.’
Louise is the one who deals directly with the clients, and organises everything from trucks to staffing to tablecloths.
‘My job is really to guide the client, to make sure they get the right thing for the right job,’ Louise said. ‘I do the logistics of the staffing, the truck movements… and then I just spend the rest of the time reading Facebook or something.’
And while Louise works the phones (and occasionally social media), Anthony works the audio gear.
‘My role is a lot different now to what it was when I first started at Scion – I was just the shop boy back in those days. I’d load and unload trucks and do as I was told when I was told to do it,’ Anthony added. ‘Now I run the boys out on the jobs, and liaise with the clients in the field.’
The captivating couple are obviously industry veterans, having immersed themselves in both music and performing arts from a super-duper young age. Anthony, in particular, first slid onto the music scene when he began mucking around on a few instruments.
‘I used to play music when I was younger. I was a bass player and a piano player, but my forte really wasn’t on the performance side, it was more on the production side,’ he explained.
Shortly after, he started lugging around speakers for a local band named Blast From the Past, earning himself a decent wage of unlimited fizzy drink and ample amounts of Twisties.
‘I started when I was 14,’ he said. ‘I was still at school, working for a band part-time on weekends. I was a lighting person back then… They used to call me “the trog”.’
‘At first I was doing it for drinks, just like cans of Coke and a packet of chips or something like that – just doing it for the experience. But then they progressively started paying me.’
Louise, on the other hand, popped out of the womb donning platforms and a top hat, choosing her path along the yellow brick road of performing arts just before primary school. During her teens, she went on to work for prominent organisations such as the Hunter Valley Theatre Company.
‘My mum is an opera singer, and my dad was one of the founding members of the Maitland Repertory Society. I think I did my first Repertory show when I was about four,’ Louise said. ‘I started working in professional theatre when I first left school, so I’ve always been involved in productions and performance, and from there I went into marketing and public relations.’
If you’re anything like me, I’m sure most of you have wondered whether your university degree or TAFE diploma is really worth all the mi goreng and major debt. Well good news, my friend: it’s time to burn those terribly overpriced textbooks, because both Louise and Anthony managed to shimmy their way to the top with no formal qualifications whatsoever!
‘My dream was to always be in this sort of industry, a performing industry, but I went to university to be a schoolteacher… Ultimately, I stopped doing that because I spent too much time doing all the shows rather than going to history lectures,’ Louise laughed. ‘But I moved from performance into box office, into stage management, into sound… For me, it was just a progression.’
Likewise, Anthony believes that the easiest way to learn any trade is to just chuck yourself into the industry pool and start swimmin’.
‘I learnt on the fly; I’ve been taught by people in the industry. I mean, when I started there was no such thing as qualifications; you were taught by somebody else, and TAFE and SAE and the other schools just didn’t exist at all,’ he said. ‘The real school is out there in the field, doing it hands-on.’
As you can imagine, the terrific Tillmans have hung out with a number of equally terrific artists, including multiple Australian Idol and The Voice winners – as well as one of Australia’s sweethearts, ‘Whoever Smelta’ Delta Goodrem.
‘Jessica Mauboy comes to mind as being the nicest person we’ve worked with,’ Anthony said. ‘And the same with Delta. Seeing her firsthand with her audience, when she’s doing signings and things like that, she’ll stay there until the last person in line gets a signature and a meet-and-greet with her.’
Other unreal Scion clients consist of Jimmy Barnes, Grinspoon and the delightful Mr Chopper Read.
‘I worked with Chopper Read before he died – that was really interesting,’ Anthony mentioned. ‘He was a straight-up-and-down sort of guy. He told it how it was… And if he didn’t like you, he’d chop ya, hence the name.’
But the absolute best band they’ve ever worked with is one that’ll surely tickle the fancy of all you Gen Y kids out there.
‘People say, “What’s the most famous band in the world you’ve worked with?”, and we say The Wiggles,’ Louise laughed. ‘We’ve worked with the old ones and the new ones, so both.’
Not all acts are as yummy as fruit salad, however, which can pose some awkward issues for the technical staff. But as the Tillmans say, you can’t polish a turd!
‘Sometimes you get to hear songs being massacred. But you know, we just turn that down a little bit,’ Anthony chuckled.
And of course, working in such a demanding industry can make for some damn cold spaghetti, with the couple busting their butts a full seven days a week, meaning they often miss out on spending personal time together.
‘We’re so busy here – the hours are very long. We do breakfasts, where we have to be there at five am; we do dinners where the boys get home at two or three o’clock in the morning,’ Louise said. ‘The challenge is for us to make sure that no matter how busy we are, we deliver the best service we possibly can. We treat our customers like they’re our friends and our family, and ultimately a lot of our customers become friends and family.’
And their hard yakka has certainly paid off, with the pair recently receiving the Hunter Business Award for Customer Service.
‘Winning that award was fantastic, because a lot of our clients were there. They know we work hard and they know we care about them, and they were just so happy. It was such a beautiful moment for us,’ Louise said.
Well, as you can see, these guys are pretty bloody brilliant – and if it were up to me, they’d get at least twenty more awards for just being great, delightful people.
Keep up the good work guy, Newy loves ya!