Sunday, October 10, 2021

Stockholm, Practice Space Show

It’s a couple of weeks shy of two years ago. We could never have imagined then what the future held in store. That it would be two years until we’d be together playing music to an audience again. Eighteen months ago we sat in this very practice room, an impromptu band meeting with Victims before we practiced the set, to decide on whether we should cancel the festival in Belgium we were booked on two weeks later. Things were beginning to get a little scary by that point. Up until that point we’d tried our best to ignore it, but then our booker Zoli mailed us with a simple question, “Guys, it’s time we confronted the elephant in the room. Covid.” It was an elephant in a room then. Even though it was by then absolutely rife in the north of Italy and a lot of people were beginning to die. We cancelled the Belgian festival out of fear of getting stranded in a foreign country. It still only felt like a slight risk, but it was enough of a risk for us to decide to call it off. The next day we announced publicly that we were cancelling the festival. There were a few groans written in reply, along the lines of “Oh not another cancelled band”. I remember Wattie from Exploited going out with a statement along the lines of how there were lots of “so called punk bands” cancelling gigs and tours for the sake of a cold and that he, as a true punk, would never cancel a gig. About two days later the festival was cancelled completely and the entire country of Belgium was in total lockdown. Country after country followed suit, except Sweden famously, and it would be another eighteen months until we’d play a gig. The year 2020 would be the first since 1994 in which I would not play a single show.

I remember the sadness I felt on the day of what would have been that festival, thinking about what an absolute feeling of elation it would be when we’d finally take to that stage and play to people again. It wasn’t quite elation tonight, it wasn’t quite a festival stage abroad, but it still felt pretty fucking magic. Our practice room turned out to make for a pretty fucking great gig space. It’s been our sanctuary since everything turned upside down. If we hadn’t had this place to hide away and play music I don’t know how I would have coped. Society didn’t lock down here in the same way it did in many other places, but everyday life still changed dramatically. Being able to get together and play in the practice space was by no means a given. Victims couldn’t practice since Johan was working from home in Nyköping, and we couldn’t really claim to have a Victims bubble. Instead we created a bubble with A\\VOID. And being that there were seven of us, it wasn’t always a given that we could rehearse as a complete entity very often. In fact, before this show tonight, we’d only ever played together as a whole band three times. Three times in the space of eighteen months. In this practice space. Even the recording of the album was done in staggered phases. Still, it was A\\VOID that kept us going. As Andy said, “If we hadn’t started this band when we did I would have gone insane by now.” Family is the most important thing in my life, of course, but creating and playing music isn’t far behind. I knew exactly what Andy meant. I’m happy we started this band together. We certainly talked about it long enough.

Being that Covid restrictions hadn't been lifted entirely yet, this gig would prove to be a couple of weeks too early for that, we were limited to the amount of people we could invite. So it was more like a private party with around forty people plus bands. And being that it was both ours and our practice room buddies Neutra’s first show, it felt kinda like a celebration. A celebration of releasing our new bands into something concrete, a celebration of life slowly getting back to normal again.

Funny how some things feel normal straight away. Andy had already shifted most of the extra gear and equipment that we weren’t using tonight towards the back or out of the room, whilst Erik, Bea, Vik and Patrik buy beer and booze from Systemet. Of course, leaving Erik in charge of the booze situation you know he’s not just gonna stick to the decided amount of crates of beer. I’m not surprised in the slightest to see a few boxes of wine, bottles of bubbly and a couple of bottles of Jagermeister in the back of Patrik’s car. “Its supposed to be a party for fuck sakes!” he remonstrates as I stand there smirking at him.

We soundcheck each other’s bands, everyone helping out to get levels sorted. We have the set up now in gig mode as opposed to the practice circle set up and I had no idea how it was going to sound this way, but with all the other stuff removed from the room there’s not as much ricochet in the room, so it sounds nowhere near as chaotic as I’d feared it might. In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that it sounds great! After Neutra soundcheck Bea tells me that she’s literally shaking with nerves, just playing in front of us. This will be her first ever gig. I’m so happy for her, almost jealous of that buzz I know she’s going to be on after they’ve played later. I remember my first time when I was sixteen years old like it was yesterday. I was nervous for about a month before my first gig, could barely sleep the few nights leading up to it, and then have never felt so high as I did after it. Adrenaline is an amazing rush. Music is an amazing rush. I’m so glad I found it when I was a kid in Corby. How the fuck would my life had turned out if I hadn’t?

After soundcheck we head over to our regular bar in Midsommarkransen, Tre Vänner. Well,Tre Vänner is normally where we have a drink before practice. And if we have one after we head to the Swan. Erik is no stranger to both, and he’s already buzzing about the after party later. We all sit down to dinner at Tre Vänner, everyone except Martin who is working until around five. It’s the first time I’ve actually ever eaten there. I’d stayed behind to finish stringing my guitar, and when I arrive at the pub I’m greeted by a table full of pints. Proper pint pots with the handle and all. I could devour one in seconds, but have to contain myself since I really can’t drink before shows anymore. I have a sip of Patrik’s, just to experience the taste of the golden elixir, and then order a perfectly good non alcoholic Pale Ale. The food is pretty decent too. The usual barmaid is there and she always enjoys the crack with us but she’s not used to us all dining in the place. She treats us all to free coffee afterwards.

It’s only around two by the time we’re done with the grub and we’re now left in the familiar scenario of having a few hours to kill before “doors”. I remember this now, it’s all coming back, it’s just like being on tour again. Except we’re in our home town and going for a walk around would just feel daft, just plodding about Midsommarkransen. We joke about wishing we had a van with us that we could sit outside the venue in, and then someone makes a crack that we could sit in Pigge’s car and drive it over to the garage to buy shitty snacks. We end up just heading back to the room and laze around for a couple of hours. Vik watching Djurgården on his phone, me watching Liverpool on mine with Gill kind of hovering around over my shoulder, both me and Viks making grunts and groans at the game whilst Erik lays on his back on the floor in the corner having a power nap. All the while a playlist from Andy’s old iPod he’d just dug up the other day rolls along in the background.

When the footy is over and it’s almost time to get things going I decide to put my amp on, some obscure old ritual about warming the amp up before the gig. I don’t really know if this is an actual thing but it’s something I’ve always done. I decide I’ll let it warm up during the Neutra set. NOTHING. What the fuck? Now it really does feel like we’re on tour again. The proper fucking genuine experience: Amp sounds great during soundcheck. Amp no longer turns on right before gig. Now this is something I haven’t missed. That 0 to 100 on the old stress scale because all of a sudden your amp is fucking dead. Unbelievably it turns out the actual power switch has broken, hence the no power. Unreal. What are the odds? Thankfully Bea is on hand to save the day and lends me her amp, which is another Fender, similar to mine. As happy as I am for that, it still bugs the shit out of me that my amp broke.

Before long people are streaming in through the door and Erik, with help of our friend's kid Rufus, are pouring complimentary glasses of bubbly as they arrive. Nice touch, Erik. The smiles on every one of the faces that enter the room are a joy to behold. I was at my friend’s Ragnar and Danne’s book release party a couple of weeks ago and it was the same then. It’s as if we’ve all been let out of some invisible prison and we’re all taking tentative steps out into freedom again. If this is what it’s like here, I can only imagine what it must have been like in places like Italy and the UK where there were full-on lockdowns. Actually, I imagine the steps there were not so much tentative as a thundering stampede.

As Neutra starts their set and I look around our completely transformed practice space I can’t help wondering why we never did this before. It’s not just that we’ve been starved of live music and culture this last eighteen months, we’ve been starved of music spaces like this in Stockholm for a long time. Our friend Henke is in my ear saying how much we should make this a regular thing, that it’s so fucking nice not to have to stand at a bar for twenty minutes making puppy dog eyes at the bartender, desperate to be noticed, desperate to be served. Lucas is moaning that we should have done this ages ago, and that he said this very same thing many times during the time his band Vidro shared the space with us. Maybe it takes a pandemic for us to get our shit together, I don’t know, Neutra have their shit together anyway. They play a great set and the sound is spot on. It’s so fun watching Bea play, I don’t know if it’s the case or not, but she doesn’t look nervous in the slightest, she’s just there looking cool as shit. It’s great seeing Viktor play drums again, too. After spending six or so years playing with him in DB, where he just played stupidly fast all the time, it’s incredible to see what a brilliant, unique drummer he is. You can certainly hear his jazz heritage coming through more in Neutra’s stuff, than it did with DB. I’m psyched to play by the time they’re done. It should be fun to see how people like it since what we do is completely different.

Whilst Erik and Patrik take five before getting into gear for their second set of the night, I try and get a sound that works for me out of Bea’s amp. Patrik soon comes to my aid anyway. Once I’ve got it as close as possible to my Twin Reverb sound, we level check Martin’s sax through the PA and then get going. We start with a new song, which amuses me just thinking about it, since we haven’t released the first record properly yet, and this our first gig. Thing is though, we already have the second album written and ready to record in January, and if this last eighteen months had been anywhere near normal we would have played our first show about twelve months ago. The two songs we’ve released in public so far have been heavier, so I like that we open with a “new one”, Autonomia, which is a lot mellower. It’s not until about four minutes into the second song, A Black and White Sky, that things get heavier. By that point any sort of nerves have dispersed, not that I had many, but it’s always a little bit special playing a first show with a brand new band that nobody has heard yet. Our friend Ika grabs my leg at some point during the second song as she’s crouched down taking photos and shouts, “This is so fucking good!”

The rest of the set floats by in a happy cloud. I can see most people are really enjoying it and it really feels like after eighteen months of regular practice, we deliver exactly as I hoped we would, which given that we’ve only ever practiced with the full constellation three times, comes with a bit of relief. It could easily have fallen flat on its arse. The set ends on an apocalyptic high with Erik on the floor, fiddling with his pedals, as the rest of us blast away at the end of When the Wind Blows, until Erik joins back in with his guitar for the last two bars. Totally thought out by Erik, even if he makes it look spontaneous. He’s always been the showman. Although to be fair, he’s exactly the same even when it’s just us in the practice space. He’s always been the same. He genuinely loves playing music and his energy never wanes.

After the gig our friend Hjalmar, who is a bear of a man, grabs me and licks my face. I guess the pandemic really is over… Judging by the blue tone of his lips he’s been on the red wine, but he’s ecstatic about the gig. He just keeps repeating “Roadburn” over and over, saying we have to play there. I tell them that if he can fix that for us then I’d be delighted. I love the big guy, he’s the same as Erik, fanatical about music. In Hjalmar’s case, slow, heavy music especially. Henke liked it too, although he admits he’d been skeptical beforehand, “I was thinking with three guitars and blah blah, it was going to be some boring Mogwai shit. But I really liked it. You guys should play more of the fast stuff like that one you have with the Stooges piano bit on it, though!” That made me think of two things. First, I love Mogwai, although this didn’t feel like the right time to tell Henke this. And second, I was pretty proud of Pigge being able to hammer that chord on the synth for around the four minutes the song lasts, considering he just had half a fucking rib removed a couple of months beforehand. Fucking legend.

I head over to where Jen is standing with Alma and Mattsson, and they’re all smiles. Alma said she had no idea we were doing this film music stuff, and that she absolutely loved it. Mattsson, obviously a little bit sauced as well, tells me his review of the band is “Hawkwind on heroin.” I tell him I’ll gladly take that, whilst wondering to myself if Hawkwind actually did take heroin? Or was it LSD? Or meth?... Anyway, glad they all liked it.

We hang around and chit chat, mingle for a while, before we decide to call it time. We’d put on the flyer that proceedings were to be between 5pm and 8pm. Again, something that can happily stay permanently as a new normal as far as I’m concerned. Erik is itching to get the after party going at the Swan pub around the corner, and with the lights on, and is walking around the room shouting the news, but it’s to little effect. “It feels like nobody is listening to me Gaz.” A few minutes later, he starts shouting again, “After party at the Swan! Please, fuck off!” He happens to be right in the ear of Big Matte, one of Vik’s old football firm mates, which makes me laugh. Matte laughs at him and carries on. We do eventually clear the room, and after a quick clear up, we get going ourselves.

Andy, Vik and I lag behind and by the time we get to the pub, the place is heaving. It’s karaoke night. Gill and Pigge have taken a seat outside underneath the heater, it looks absolutely perfect, and I’m making eyes at Gill’s pint of stout. I’m a little surprised when the bouncer engages us and asks us how we’re feeling. For one, I’ve never seen bouncers here before, and for two, by the look of things through the window, it’s absolutely raging inside, and for three, I’ve only drunk two people’s beers. He tells us it’s full inside, but we reason with him that we’re in the same company as Gill and Pigge and we only want to sit outside. Reluctantly the sour-faced bouncer lets us in. A couple of minutes later a sweaty, goggle-eyed Erik practically falls out of the door to greet us, telling us he’s up on the karaoke soon. He’s obviously hit the sauce full on since he got here thirty minutes ago. It appears also that Sour Face is only concerned with what’s going on out here, and that once you’re inside the pub it’s no holds barred.

After the first pint we head inside, Sour Face seemingly no longer arsed with us. There are about twenty or so of us from the gig inside, and the atmosphere is pretty wet. Henke is at the bar asking Andy how things in Nyköping are, Andy tells him he hasn’t lived there for seventeen years. Erik is steamboats and hopping about with anticipation at his slot on the karaoke. He tells me about five or six times he’s gonna be doing Whole Lotta Rosie. Right then Bea and Erik’s girlfriend are up, doing Whitney Houston. After that some trainspotter looking guy does a very serious China Girl by Bowie, which sets me and Gill on what a great fucking album Let’s Dance is. Then it’s Erik. And exactly as expected, he’s up on the chairs and tables, screaming along to the words, only catching about every third or fourth line. It’s all about the show. “Total poseur” comments Patrik. We all agree. We all agree we love him to bits though. He certainly gets the place rocking. The bartender looked horrified at first but when the entire pub, even all the old farts in the corner, are up on their feet clapping, he’s soon smiling. Shortly after he’s finished the tune he’s talking to the bartender about us playing a gig there.

Erik is soon on the shots and insisting on buying us a round. I tell him I’m good, as he well knows it, I don’t do shots any more, haven’t done for years, although Erik will always try me, so he takes mine himself. He’d bought four of them, and Gill and Andy were with him when he made the order, so I assumed he was buying with them in mind, but the shots seem to go elsewhere. Gill decides to buy himself one, and then immediately afterwards declares it as a complete waste of money. He was about to head home anyway, and just sort of shakes his head and makes to leave. I’m close to joining him since we live in the same part of town, but decide to stay for one more pint.

Our friend Kalle Blix, the doctor, is pretty blasted. Haven’t seen him for a while. He tells me how much he loved the gig. He also tells me how boats he is. He will end the night checking into a hotel in the center of town at four am. since he will realise that he’s forgotten the keys to his parents house, and his wife and kids are on Åland, where he now lives. This will be after first being taken care of by some guards at the station who tell him he’s too drunk and should accompany him in their car. “I’m an adult man, and a doctor!” he will decry. Fucking nightmare.

It is just the one more and then it’s time to head home. It’s only eleven and I’ve only had three pints plus the two peoples beers. I can still tell that I’m going to be feeling it tomorrow though. Not drunk in the slightest, but can almost feel the hangover already kicking in as I put myself to bed around half past one. Still, it was nice to finally play a gig again. I can’t wait for more. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

A\\VOID

We began writing new material for Victims at the start of 2020. We were planning to record four songs and maybe release a split 7” with our friends Svalbard, who we'd just toured Europe with a few months earlier. When everything got cancelled Victims also came to a halt. With Johan now furlonged and no longer commuting to Stockholm from Nyköping we stopped rehearsing, stopped writing, stopped everything.

Things felt pretty fucking dire for a while. They still do now and again. But those first few weeks felt pretty apocalyptic. I had planned three weeks off whilst in between jobs and had dreamed of taking time for myself, pottering about in the city in the daytime, visiting museums, doing some toursting in my own town. Instead I pretty much lay on my bed for three weeks reading since it was the only place in our flat I could block out the sound of Jen’s endless Zoom meetings as she herself adapted to the new reality of home working. If I wasn’t laid up in bed reading about the Russian Revolution, which was strangely comforting in the sense that reading about crises from times past made me realise that we humans have gone through tough and tragic events many times over, that this situation we’re in now isn’t unique and frankly as bad as the poor sods in 1917 had it, then I was watching the news for the latest updates on the spread of the virus. When I went to the local shop and saw the empty shelves it really did feel like we were heading into a war.

A few weeks later Andy and I spoke about starting that “slow band.” We’d spoken about it many times before. We’d even gotten as far as practicing with a couple of different constellations. We practiced as a three piece with Luc from DB/Vidro a couple of times before it fizzled out. Jen played with us a couple of times too, but nothing really came of it. But with the onset of a pandemic and Victims being temporarily on hiatus, it felt like if ever it was to be then now was the time.

I don’t know if it was all the spare time, or if it was the impending doom all around, but I started writing pieces of music immediately. Every time I picked up a guitar at home something new came out. It felt easy and natural. And since we’d decided that we wanted to make some kind of instrumental, cinematic music, it felt liberating not being constrained by standard song structures with verse/chorus and where are the vocals gonna go? I had just re-entered a phase of listening to Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor again, as well as the Swedish jazz band Tonbruket, and all this was swirling around my head as I sat and plonked on Jen’s beautiful ‘75 sunburst Les Paul at home.

With ideas flowing I found myself getting pretty excited about things. Now Andy and I had to find some people to play with us. I knew I wanted it to be a large constellation, make it a kind of collective, with lots of different instruments. Having played previously in Battle of Santiago, a band with three guitarists, I fancied trying that setup out again. I’d loved the idea of three guitars ever since seeing Sonic Youth perform that way when Kim Gordon went over to guitar on the Washing Machine album. And with that idea firmly in mind we decided Erik from Battle of Santiago/Mary’s Kids would be a natural choice. He’s a great guitarist, very unique, and one of my oldest friends. We had a great time playing together in BOS and Rowdy Ramblers before that, and it always felt like we would play together again sometime. He said yes without a moment’s hesitation.

I asked Gill to join as third guitarist as we were squatting in the swimming pool at Sandsborgs Simhall, keeping an eye on our daughters as they played about in the shallow end. Gill had moved here from Edinburgh with his family three years earlier, having gotten a job with Spotify and fancying a move abroad. Data analyst or something. His daughter was in the same class as Polly and Jen had got speaking to him one day at pick up. A few months later we’d begun hanging out a bit after discovering we had a mutual love for a lot of the same music. Gill had played bass in a band called Broken Records who had released a couple of albums on 4AD, he said they sounded a bit like Arcade Fire, as well as guitar in a folk band called The Douglas Firs. It had been seven years since he’d last played with anyone and he had mentioned before how he missed it. He was also in without having to think too long about it.

For the first couple of months it was just the four of us. No bass. It began as naturally as it would continue. We set up the amps, tuned in, and Erik started playing some riff. It was a simple, driving sort of thing. We didn’t discuss it, we just played along, jamming it. It didn’t sound anything like the stuff I’d been writing at home, it sounded more like Neu! I really liked it, though. And what was most pleasing was how easily the other three of us fell into it. The three of us on guitar noticeably had different styles of playing but we seemed to be complimenting each other as opposed to fighting each other. I was playing the backbone of the thing, mechanical and structured, Gill is full of melody and intricate picking, whilst Erik is just out there doing his own chaotic thing. From the very first moment Andy and I could tell it was working. It was a nice feeling. Something to feel positive about amidst all the negativity outside the practice space.

I began introducing my material and that in turn began setting the broader tone and theme of the band. Dark, apocalyptic sounding music, each christened with a pretentious title based on sociology and politics. I liked the idea of having a political band with no lyrics, just song titles that reference something I find interesting. Often something I’ve read about in a book somewhere. Although I was writing most of the stuff, I was only providing the basic ideas, the other three would come up with parts to put on top that I could never have begun to conceive of. It became clear from the beginning that we would not restrain this band with rules, that we would be open to everything. By the time we had three of four pieces of music in the making we began looking for more members.

For a long time we had the idea of having Erik’s friend Aurelie playing synthesizer and piano. I knew Aurelie from when she played records at the bar I used to run. I hadn’t met her in years, though. I liked the idea of the band having several nationalities. For a long time it seemed Aurelie would join us, but unfortunately for us she was constantly busy. For a while she was performing some sort of art installation in Lithuania, which was telling of how her schedule looked. She seemed to be into the idea of playing with us but simply never had the time. And then we heard she was stuck in Lithuania due to restrictions being what they were. In the meantime we’d asked Patrik to play bass with us. He played third guitar in Santiago and is an all round superb musician. He’s played in loads of bands, varying instruments between bass, guitar and drums. He’s one of those that only needs to hear a song once and then he’s on it. He knows music. He knows where all the notes go without having to be told, or look at what he’s doing. Unlike myself.

After nine months or so, with the odd pause for a few weeks here and there when the virus caused the government to take tougher restrictions, we were nearing a complete album’s worth of material. Aurelie told us that she wasn’t going to be able to be part of things, she simply didn’t have the time. We turned to Pigge, another synth wizard, who was delighted to hop onboard. He’d played Fender Rhodes and sang in The Worthy, in which Patrik played drums, which was a kind of soulful 60’s sounding pop-rock band. Pigge and Patrik later played together in a jazz prog band called Sly. We had two or three practices with Pigge before he recorded his parts on the record. He's another one of those who understands the theory of music and what key shit is in etc. Stuff that is totally lost on me. Patrik and Pigge would laugh about how everything I wrote was in E or A. I still don't get it. There is simply a certain section of the guitar neck I like the sound of.

Martin Savage had already joined on saxophone, and likewise he’d only practiced two or three times with us before recording. His approach to things was simply, “I’ll just toot over everything and you can cut out/keep whatever you want”. We kept about 95% of it.

During the course of the year or so we’ve been playing, all but Gill have had a dose of Covid-19, which is quite strange considering his wife works in a school and the schools have stayed open here. Our first attempt at the studio was cancelled due to Stefan Löfven calling a press conference a couple of days before, announcing that Sweden was enforcing its toughest restrictions yet. It didn’t really feel like the time to be going into the studio. The government said we should limit our gatherings to four people. There were seven in the band. A week later I got infected with Covid at work.

It was gut wrenching then, postponing the studio. It was the only thing we’d had to look forward to all winter. And now the darkness was coming and the second wave was hitting. It was a miserable period. The music we’d been making certainly felt fitting for the times we were living in. The situation gave time for reflection, nonetheless. I realised, as disappointed as I was about not recording then, starting the band and having such a creative streak this last nine months had kept my spirits up considerably. It made me realise how important music still is to me. As well as A\\VOID, as Andy had now christened us, I was also playing guitar on some recordings a hardcore band my friend in Barcelona had started up. Completely remote. Very Covid. But that’s another story. Anyway, what this time has taught me, is that all I need in life is my family and music. And football. Even if it is crap without fans. And books. And I’m good. A job I enjoy helps, too. I don’t need much, is what I’m saying. Although I can’t survive without music in my life.

It was a lot of fun, recording the first album/record/twelve inch/whatever it will be. We already have a second one of those written, which felt kind of strange, going into the studio to record a first album with a whole other bunch of material waiting in the wings. And we haven’t even played a show yet. Don’t even really know when we’ll be able to. Linus, who recorded and mixed the songs, thought it was hilarious that we played this dark apocalyptic music whilst being the biggest bunch of goofs he’d ever met. Every second that wasn’t filled with music was filled with arseing around and laughter. It feels like we have a good thing going.

What happens next I don’t know. Hopefully some shows. Hopefully a physical release of our songs. It’s a bit trickier when the music we’re playing is outside of our normal hardcore/punk bubble. But if we don’t find anyone to release it then we'll do it the hardcore/punk way and release it ourselves.

Here’s the first song on the album, with images borrowed from Jan Svankmejer's film The Fall of the House of Usher.

The title is taken from Raymond Briggs' animated book of the same name. It depicts, in haunting fashion, the fate of an old aged English couple, living ignorantly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear bomb. I had the images of their innocent faces, slowly greying as they sat around drinking tea, whilst I played around with the main riff of the song. It’s quite reflective of a lot of the thoughts that have been floating around in my head this last year or so.

When the Wind Blows:


Saturday, May 15, 2021

I Just Can't Turn It Off

Next week I turn 43 years old. I started my first band when I was 13. 30 fucking years ago. I haven’t not been in a band during that time. There have been times when I’ve felt like stopping, but that has never gone beyond the stage of muttering to myself that maybe it’s time to give it in. The fact is, being in a band is a huge part of my identity. For a long time, it was my only identity. Now there are other aspects of my life that are vying for the position of “Who am I?”. Parent. Social worker. Book nerd… But when I was sat eating dinner with my friend Gill and his family, Gill plays guitar in our new band A\\VOID, and Jen, discussing the bands we’ve played in, it hit me just how fucking long I’ve been doing this, and for how long music has been the dominating element in my life. My life has almost entirely revolved around music. Quite a thing.

Things have evolved and adapted over the years, of course they have. That’s only natural. I don’t spend five or six hours of a day listening to music anymore. I don’t have the time. I’m maybe down to one or two hours a day, when out walking the dog or biking to work. Although podcasts have taken over a lot of that time, too. I still get a buzz when I begin on a project, though, normally in the guise of taking on a band’s entire discography and listening through in chronological order. Sonic Youth, Jesus Lizard, Tonbruket, Black Flag, Fugazi, Mogwai, David Bowie, Brainbombs, Shellac and Iron Maiden (up to Fear of the Dark), have been some of the latest projects. But listening to music doesn’t take anywhere near as large a chunk of my waking hours as it used to, as it did up until about seven years ago. Incidentally about the time we had Polly and I began studying again.

But one thing has not changed since I was 13. And I realised as I was talking about it at dinner this weekend that this thing is the reason that I’m still playing music after all these years. Playing live has always been a big part of the rush, as has touring and journeying all over the world, playing to new people, making new friends, absorbing new sights and cultures. Touring, though, especially the way we do, has become more a physical and mental strain with age. I still absolutely love it, don’t get me wrong, I love the adventure of it, but the length of time on the road I can handle in one stretch has reduced dramatically these last ten years or so. It’s not just that it’s physically tiring, it’s also hard being away from my daughter for more than ten days or so, especially at the age she is right now. When she’s older things might change again, who knows.

All this being said, something else quite staggering hit me as we were on this subject. 2020, the Vile year of our Lord, was the first year since 1994 where I didn’t play a single live show. That made me think about a lot of things, and I’ll probably write another post about that.

The thing is, whilst the attraction of touring for months on end no longer exists, I’m still, after all these years, playing in bands. Three right now as a matter of fact. Four, if you count D?B!, which you probably shouldn’t. But there is Victims, A\\VOID and Nubenegra. So, if not touring, what is there? Well, I assumed a few years back that what kept me playing in bands was the issue of Identity. Since I was 13 it’s been “who I am”. If I didn’t play in bands there would be a huge hole in my life, a massive part of me would be lost. And holding on to that for that reason is purely based on fear of changing. But that’s not why I’m still playing in bands. I have other aspects to my identity now, aspects mentioned above, that I’ve fully embraced. The reason I’m still playing in bands is because the need to create music, to make things out of thin air, to produce things and put them out into the world, no matter the scale of it, is something I can’t simply turn off.

Maybe one day it will no longer be there. But until then, I will continue to play and write music with other people. That could be next year, it could be when I’m 70, who knows?

But as it is, right now, it’s still an obsession that has a hold over me.

When one of my bands has a new record on the go, whether it’s Victims where Johan has been writing most of the music recently, or A\\VOID where I’ve been the main writer, the new songs we’re playing around with orbit around my head for months on end. I play them over in my head from start to finish. I do it when out and about in town, out with the dog, lying in bed at night in the short space of time between putting my book down and falling asleep.

As in the case with A\\VOID right now, I’ve been in a long period of inspiration, thinking about new songs, writing something every time I pick up a guitar at home, it just seems to be flowing out of me. It’s truly like a spring that’s been tapped and I can’t help but drink from it. And at almost 43 years old, 30 years after being given my first guitar as a Christmas present, this still has me as excited now as it did then. Without wanting to sound cheesy as shit, it makes me feel alive, creating music. As long as making music makes me feel this way, I’ll most likely keep on keeping on with it.

In the midst of everything that has been completely and utterly shit during this pandemic, starting up A\\VOID and being asked to play guitar in Nubenegra has kept me sane during what otherwise has been a down period for Victims. Of course, my family, my job and all that, they give me meaning in my life, but making music, I realised maybe more than ever during this last year, is simply something I can’t live without. It’s not even a question of will, it’s simply something I can’t turn off.

As I write this, I dare to hope that the light at the end of this tunnel we’ve all been in, truly is the end of the tunnel, and not an oncoming train. I hope that in a few months time we might just be able to start opening up society again, as it should be, and start playing shows again. And then maybe I’ll have something to start writing about on here again.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Zoltan Jakab

There is a certain beauty in guesting on a blog that is called Punk Rock and Coffee. Especially that both punk rock and coffee-nerding run on street scene credit points, and I’m at 50% best case. Now why on earth would Gaz invite any random coffee nerd to blurt about coffee, so you my dear reader must have guessed I just gave myself 100% punk rock scene credit points (how brave of me to do so), while I’m still thinking coffee is one of the worst things ever and tastes like ass. Now hello there, how do you know what ass tastes like, Zoltan?


It must probably suck, just as bad as coffee, just as much as the overly romanticized quarantine isolation, that at least made me grab my pen (liar, keyboard!) to be one of my beloved Gaz’s guests of honors here.

Years ago, a bunch of like-minded individuals and myself did a talk-show kind of thing at a couple Hungarian music festivals, where we were put on a podium to talk tour stories. And that’s when it hit me how dull and boring we must be with our shitty little inside jokes on a sunny afternoon, while those who were unfortunate enough to lurk around and sit in probably wanted to hear more about the ho’s and drugs than random hopeless, washed up wannabees talk boring, subpar tour stories of which asshole got how drunk after what insignificant show / tour.

Funny I’m dissing tour stories after dissing coffee, because this blog is very much about tour stories. And I love touring and punk rock (but not coffee, I do sure as hell sound like a broken fucking record), but maybe just maybe now isn’t the time for me to tell a funny story. As previously mentioned above, a bunch of these are shitty little inside jokes anyway, totally irrelevant to those around us. Like THAT couple, that we ALL have in our circle of friends, who are so compulsive that they go a little too far on the PDA and the pet names all over and something inside of you just wants you to repeatedly punch them in their happy little faces.

I don’t think it’s happy face and/or tour story time. I certainly don’t think it’s too much complaining time right now, either. I think now is the time to reflect. To be better and more. And to do the punk rock thing (our so-called duty) and build a better world. At least a better microcosmos.

The excellent lads in Death By Stereo once sang ’Are you ready for the revolution? Cause when it comes, what are you gonna do? Are you just going to sing about it?’ Quite ironic, isn’t it? The world we have screamed about in our short and fast emotional outbursts that we commonly refer to as punk rock songs, the impending doom, the apocalypse, the nearing end of consumerist society is right around the corner – okay, maybe impending doom and apocalypse not so much, but I sure did get your attention there, didn’t I? And we sort of wallow in self-pity, want to undo this whole pandemic, and scream like entitled little babies for our commodities. And how much we want them back. How much we want the cafe-fucking-latte, our vegan burger eat outs, our Ikea record shelves. Maybe this isn’t the right time, just like it isn’t happy face and/or tour story time.

Many of us – artists, tour crew, promoters, etc. – are freelancers, making a living off of the industry and it’s a shocking revelation when taking an in-depth look behind the so-called curtains to really see how many in the industry have no backup plan, no savings, living day to day. And for some of us, isolation and quarantine are hell. Not only because we miss our commodities, but because maybe, just maybe we haven’t learned how to live. We haven’t learned how to reach deep within and face our demons. We haven’t learned to live well enough to deal with a proper, boring life in between tours. Post Tour Blues is something even the scientific world is now taking more seriously, you saw the articles, the studies dealing with the mental well-being of the touring industry, whether it’s DIY bands playing short and fast emotional outbursts that we commonly refer to as punk rock songs or significantly larger bands with a larger apparatus behind them playing music that we commonly refer to as ‘this fucking blows’. Post Tour Blues just got real, and really long at that.

I myself have a rich history of mental illness. Panic disorder, anxiety, depression – you name it. I might be lucky; I am fighting my battles one by one and manage(d) to come out stronger – for the time being anyway. Some never want to be better, as it’s just as much of a comfort zone, as many things we do in life without taking proper risks, plus it’s always so much fun to lay the blame on someone else for our very own shortcomings. Some never learned how to be better but wish to. And a whole lot of us never really learned how to listen properly.

You all saw that meme probably that says how we used to start business e-mails with ‘Hi’ and how we quickly went into starting with ‘hope you and your loved ones are safe’ nowadays. I do practice that, to be honest. We are all parts of something larger than ourselves and it’s time to give back. I also work as a booking agent and I am trying to pay extra attention to speak to all partners in a manner I’d expect any normal human being speak to me, I exercise more patience and more kindness. I text my bands, I call my bands. Right now, I know just as much as Metallica’s agent: no fucking shows are happening, and God knows (thank God I’m an atheist) until how long. So, the main thing I can do is be present to the best of my ability.

Our line of work, or I’d rather say, our passion, is deeply defined by the term perpetuum mobile. We are in never-ending cycles, we’re constantly on the move. We meet friends, fans, co-workers, artists, promoters, crew every single day. We leave some sort of impact; they leave theirs and we move on to the next city and we’re no longer physically present. I’m not saying this because I’m cold-hearted. Moving on from places / friends I hold dear is actually like leaving a piece of my soul behind. I keep feeling I have unfinished business with places and people. A very recent, untimely passing of a friend has made me realize how much I am missing out on. How he’s been a force of stunning creativity and how he saw some creativity in me, that I myself have long forgotten. It made me feel ashamed. It made me think that any time we meet a friend, we might not meet ever again. And it broke my heart.

If you still follow my hopefully not so disjointed train of thought, this brings us back to a lot of us not knowing how to live. Not knowing what to do outside our comfort zones. Not knowing how to deal with a new reality where the information highway is faster than ever and you get new, profound information not every day, but almost every hour that might have a tremendous impact on what you do – unless said, profound new info is either Plandemic, the Bakersfield doctors, or any other idiot with a doctor title in her/his name your fake ass enlightened high school friend / distant cousin / former mosher friend just shared as facts – and it changes your outlook on the future and it might give some hope, might take some away. We don’t always know how to live. We don’t always know how to love. We don’t always know how to battle our demons. And we’re definitely too proud to reach out for help, so we normally won’t.

Do the punk rock thing yourself. Connect. Reach out. Share. Build. A new microcosmos where you don’t write off your colleagues, partners, bands, friends as lunatics. Where you don’t shrug it off if they haven’t checked in with you for weeks. Reach the fuck out and speak your heart out, when someone needs to hear from you. Reach the fuck out and shut the fuck up when someone needs you to listen.

Someone who had an impact on you on one of those days you’ve spent in a city between two shit smelling gas stations, someone who you had an impact on with your witty stage banter and short and fast emotional outbursts we commonly refer to as punk rock songs might just want to hear one thing: you’re not in this alone.

Music I have listened to while crafting my half assed wisdoms (still wiser than fucking Plandemic):

Secrets Of The Moon – Black House

Death By Stereo – If Looks Could Kill I’d Watch You Die

Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury

Strike Anywhere – Change Is A Sound

Zoltan (Zoli) Jakab – based in Budapest, used to sing in Newborn, Bridge to Solace and currently fronting Ghostchant, a ghost band that hasn’t played shows or had any social situation where all members were all present in the same space and time since 2018. All three bands have subpar tour stories, but all three bands have something in common – the fight to be better, to do better, to battle my demons and to offer hope the same way my favorite bands have offered hope to me. I am a booking agent at Doomstar Bookings, and I tour manage metal bands. Links you can find via google. I am imperfect and I have many demons I face, one ugly mug at a time. I am not alone. Neither are you. 

zjakab80 at gmail dot com is where we can connect.





Monday, May 18, 2020

PRC and Friends

I started this blog back in 2009. The main idea behind it was to share stories in written form, to recount all those great tales that have been told whilst sat around somewhere, sometime, waiting to get somewhere or for something to happen. Stories that could only happen on tour. Stories sometimes you’d have a hard time believing had you not been there yourself. There were many stories like that from the ten years we toured with Raging Speedhorn. There were many others I heard along the way that had me crying with laughter.

As time went by the blog developed into a platform for my tour diaries, written in real time, from wherever I was with Victims or Diagnosis? Bastard! These stories, sometimes funny in their own way, oftentimes a window into the real life of touring in a DIY band. Writing tour diaries became a great way to kill a few hours every day as we drove from city to city. And I’ve always found writing to be therapeutic.  Whilst I’m writing everything else stands still. When I'm writing, "Nothing else matters", as The Het so eloquently put it.

The world right now is kind of upside down. In the space of a few months everything has changed. Borders are closed, the news is in principle dedicated to a virus that is causing havoc across the globe, friends from all over the world are living through the dystopian reality of quarantine. There are no new gigs. No new tours. No new stories.

It feels like the perfect time to realize something I’ve thought about doing for a long time now. Opening up the blog to the many friends and acquaintances I’ve made over the years and inviting them to share their own stories and thoughts, as guest writers. For a long time I thought about conducting interviews and publishing those in zine form through Punk Rock and Coffee, recording conversations and documenting them. But this blog is very much about writing. It feels much more fitting to let my friends recall their stories, their thoughts, themselves, in their own words. I’ve asked to everyone to write freely about whatever they want, as long as it’s someway connected to being involved in underground music. But be it serious, lighthearted, goofy, philosophical, it doesn't matter. It’s completely open.

More than anything, it’s about inviting people to share their joy of writing, and I’m honored by the fact that those people I’ve asked have accepted the invitation gladly. I’ll be continuing to write, of course, but interspersed with my own waffling will be this series of guest writers. 

I hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoy writing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

This Too Shall Pass

An inner monologue with myself.

“Your flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle has been cancelled”. We were supposed to be playing in Paris tomorrow night. And then Lille on Friday. And then Aalst on Saturday. But a week ago the world turned upside down.

This time last week we took the very tough decision to cancel our trip. We spoke about it with Zoli, our booker, he’d brought it to our attention as the “Elephant in the room”. Until then, we’d been planning ahead as usual. Practicing the set, arranging merch and the van situation with the Bleakness guys in France. Just kind of hoping this virus thing would stay away. Stay in some part of the world, that, as awful as it is, didn’t affect us over here. That was only a week ago. Since then Italy, France and Spain have implemented a nationwide lock-down. Other European nations will surely take the same drastic measures in due time. Maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after. I don’t know. Time has taken on a completely different perspective. Everything's happening so very fast.

Two weeks ago we were on a skiing holiday in Norway. The virus was already all over the news, but it was mainly contained to Hubei in China. And there were a few cases in Italy, which was slightly worrying. But at the hotel, on the cotton white slopes that gleamed in the sun, it was easy to push it back to the nether regions of your consciousness. Then came the news of a boat in Japan being quarantined with thousands of tourists on it, and then over a thousand in a hotel in Tenerife. I imagined waking up in the comfort of my Radisson Blu hotel bed and finding a note on the floor, pushed under the door, “STAY IN YOUR ROOM”.

The scary meter was ever-so-slowly starting to creep up a notch or two. But it still hadn’t come to Sweden, or Scandinavia for that matter. Containing this thing would still be possible. But imagine being fucking quarantined in another country, unable to get home. That started playing on my mind. There were no drastic measures being taken by France yet, or the UK. Two places we had booked in over the next couple of weeks. It’s just a fucking cold, a flu. How many people die of the flu every year? The things they’re talking about are going to destroy the global economy. Has the world gone mad? When Jen hinted at us cancelling our trip to the UK I reacted angrily. It was my dad’s 70th birthday! There were only a few cases in the UK, a few cases in a country of over 60 million. Don’t be ridiculous. If there is one person on this earth I knew wouldn’t be worrying about this shit, it was my dad. Not that he would be silly about it, he would act accordingly, but he’s never one to panic. He’s never let me see it, anyway. Which is the number one job of a parent, right?

We made it to the party. It was fine. It was a really nice do. A lot of my dad’s old friends were there, people I hadn’t seen for a long while, but people I was very close to. Or had been when we were kids. There wasn’t that much talk of Corona, although it was by then dominating every news channel. We were watching in the morning, and the evening, but I was trying not to let it bother us. I didn’t want Polly to have to deal with this, I didn’t want to have the news on all the time when she was around. She’s seven years old. She has the right not to to have to worry about this shit. The party was really nice, though. As were the few days at my sister’s, and the couple of days at Kev’s in London before that. I was happy we went. Although we had been sat across from some woman on the train who was coughing into her hand the whole time. And the flight home was packed. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t playing on my mind.

That was only a few days ago. Sweden has closed the borders now. As have the rest of the EU. And the USA. And Canada. The aviation industry is at a standstill. That tough choice we made last week about cancelling the gigs this weekend seems abstract now. It was all cancelled anyway.

This is the most dramatic thing our generation has been through. You could say this is our World War. Except there are no bombs dropping on our heads, we’re not hiding in metro stations with the terrifying sirens wailing overhead. We’re being told to stay and work from home, if possible. Of course, it’s a bizarre situation, life at a standstill, of sorts. But it also shows you what a privileged generation or two we’ve been. We in the western world that is. There are parts of the world where this is the reality of life, all the time. You know that war in Syria that’s been going on for ten years, the one that none of us can longer bear to engage in, look at on the news, because we’ve reached a saturation point with it? The lives of those people have been put on hold for over ten years. No job? Lock-down? Queing for food at the grocery store? This has been their reality for over ten years. Plus bombs. At best, we might have to put up with this for the next few months. And we might even get sick, we might lose loved ones, which would be awful, the thought of my dad being isolated at home kills me, but it will get better. When the Syrian war does finally come to an end, the chances are they’ll still have Assad dictating their lives. Or some other equally heinous asshole. As will many other people around the world. There are conflicts everywhere, but they only ever enter our lives in fleeting moments on the broadcast news, or in the newspaper whilst we drink our morning coffee. Our lives will return to normal a lot sooner than those in Syria, or Palestine, or those living through one of the fifteen wars currently waging in Africa. In fact, they have no “normal” to return to. Living in constant worry over making it through the day is their normal. Our normal doesn’t even exist in the same dimension as theirs.

That doesn’t mean to say that this virus is not causing me anxiety. Of course it is. And the hell that healthcare workers are going through right now in the countries worst affected I can’t even imagine. But my personal anxiety is over how much this will change the world we live in. The economy, not the virus, as for everyone else I know, is the biggest personal worry. But again, we have to remember, this will get better. We’ll recover. This too shall pass. My friends like Kev, who work in the service industry, or Tove, who work in the film and entertainment industry, are in real trouble if this lock-down goes on for too long. But governments all over the world will have to work out a way of helping millions of people like them. In a strange kind of way, the one thing that reassures me, as far as the economy goes, is that we’re all in the same boat. All over the fucking world. The world will have to get back to normal. No government on the planet fails to understand that a lock-down is unsustainable in the long run. The only winner here, is of course, the planet herself. It does make you wonder if Mother Nature has simply had enough. Or if Malthus and his theory of positive checks had a point.

What causes me anxiety more than anything, though, is the feeling that “It’s happening”. As I said, our generation and the one before us, in our part of the world, the privileged part of the world, has never gone through a societal crisis of this magnitude. Almost every other generation before us has done. Plague, famine and war have been the norm for as long as humans have existed on earth, yet it only takes a generation or two to confine them to history books and con yourself into thinking that it will never happen to us. It’s easy to cast it off as something that happened before. Fuck, even my dad’s older siblings were children of the Second World War. We really are, or were, the first generation to have thought we were saved from something so dramatic that it affects the entire planet. I have anxiety that Polly is only seven years old and it’s already happening to her. It feels so unfair. But then I remember that it’s our job to hide that anxiety from her and protect her from this. I think about what my dad always says, something that still comforts me. “In a -insert amount of time-, we’ll look back at this and think about how long ago it seems”. In less grave matters he would say that we’d look back and laugh. But I think about Polly, and about ourselves, and think about how we’ll be watching a documentary about the Coronavirus in ten years time, and it will once again be in the abstract realm of our consciousness. It will all have seemed like a weird dream. Unless, of course, we extinguished ourselves fighting over shit roll.

This too shall pass. Life will go back to normal. This is not the first pandemic the world has seen, and it won’t be the most deadly. Far from it. This is the third of its kind my mother in law has lived through. We’ll adjust and we’ll survive. I’ve already spoken to friends in Spain and Italy, and they are all on board with the lock-down. It’s a bummer, but they're doing okay. Their biggest concern is for the old and infirm. As should it be. It seems to me though that they almost feel like, once the decision is made for you and enforced, it’s easier to deal with. Then you’re in the stage of it being “just the way it is”. When it’s beyond your control I think it’s easier to deal with. You just have to get in with things. If the lock-down comes to Stockholm then we’ll deal with it by watching Netflix and reading books, playing Mario Kart and thinking of every way possible to keep Polly entertained. We will have to put a daily limit on YouTube, though. There is only a certain amount of Tic Tac Toy I can tolerate before throwing myself off the balcony. And I’ll have to start some sort of exercise program. I’ve been social distancing for only a few days and already I’m consuming far too much sugar. The thing is, in two weeks I start my new job. And then I won’t be isolated anywhere. Social workers will still be going to work. I imagine how strange it will feel, biking through a deserted Södermalm on my way to work, and then walking through the doors and into the world of heroin addiction. What a strange reality that will be.

That is still two weeks away, though, and much will happen before then. It will probably get a lot worse before it gets better. They seem to think Sweden will be hitting some kind of peak around about the time I’m due to start my new job. What a happy way to start. But after the peak, it will get better. Restaurants, pubs, cinemas, airports will open again. Maybe the holidays I’ve booked for the summer will still be put to use. And we’ll start playing shows again. We already agreed to play the festival in Aalst on whatever date it is rebooked for. I look forward to walking out on that stage, whenever that will be, and feeling the joy that we finally made it there.

Until then, I’m gonna write a bunch of tunes, read a load of books, and try and be the best parent I can be to Polly. I’m hoping that when she’s older she’ll barely remember this. I’m also hoping that we, the adults in the room, learn lessons from this and maybe give Polly and everyone else her age a future worth living. It’s a nice thought, at least.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sthlm -> GBG

Within seconds of exiting the Universitet tube station my feet were sodden. Properly fucking squelching through the grey brown slush as the sleet came down like icy needles. I had not prepared for this. It was the first day of winter and it had taken me by surprise. I had a lot of work on at uni, being in the middle of writing a bachelor's thesis, and I’d planned to go straight to the gig when I was done for the day. Trainers were a truly piss poor choice of footwear. My socks would agree. Thing is, I can’t play in winter boots, can I? Clamping around on stage like BigFoot. The situation would need to be remedied.

My thesis partner Freddie was in the same boat. The two of us walked over to campus cursing ourselves and the weather. Mainly the weather. We needed to use the computer hall today since we were in the middle of analysing the statistical part of our work and neither of us could be fucked with paying for the necessary software when the campus computers provided them for free. Problem was the main hall was closed today, it had been taken over by the Nobel Student’s Ball committee for their upcoming soirée, so we had to find somewhere else to work. We also needed a radiator to hang our socks on. The whole Nobel shabang got me thinking about how I would soon be finished at university and how over the last three years I’ve never once embraced any kind of “student life.” I’ve simply come and gone to the place like you would any job. When I was younger and most of my mates left Corby for uni, I used to tell myself that I hated students and could never have stuck being around them all day long. Even then, I knew deep down that that was just bitterness talking. The reality is that I felt left behind. Although I doubt I would ever have fully adapted to the student culture. I’ve spent long periods over the last three years feeling like an outsider at university. Not just because of my age and life situation, but also because I come from a working class background in England. Bourdeau was definitely onto something with his theories on social and cultural capital… Anyway, standing there in wet socks, looking at the sign on the door of the computer hall “CLOSED IN PREPARATION FOR THE NOBEL STUDENT’S BALL” I scoffed inwardly, “Fucking toff bastards!”

Freddie and I ended up finding another computer room over in the main campus building, a room I’d never paid any notice to over the three years I’d been here. It was kind of hidden away on one of the upper floors. I don’t think any of the other students knew about the place either, since there were only three people occupying seats, dotted about the room, and they were all old men. Fucking weird, the lot of them. One was breathing heavily at his monitor, grumbling to himself as he tried to make purchases through various Black Friday offers online but was seemingly failing at every turn. One of the others was looking at something dubious with his milk bottle glasses pressed up against the screen, and the third one looked like he was here just to keep warm. Apart from Black Friday’s grunts, it was totally silent, and Freddie and I sat next to each other communicating by Messenger. “What the fuck is this? A Lynch film?” There was in any case a radiator here, and although it wasn’t turned on, we still hung our sodden socks on it. Black Friday was making it impossible to concentrate on the multiple regression analysis we were supposed to be tackling, though, and after a while we sorrowfully drew our wet socks back on and left.

When I left university three hours later they were still wet. I had to jump off the tube halfway to the gig to buy a new pair. I was by now going fucking mad with the wet feet, so changed socks right there on the platform at Skanstull station, drawing, I imagine, similarly strange looks from passers by as we’d thrown in the direction of the three old stooges earlier on.

We’ve had a relatively busy time of it since we released the album in June. We’ve been out once a month since then, at least. Twenty-odd shows over the space of half a year ranks as “busy” these days. Overall the shows have been good, anyway. These two in Sweden are the last for the year, and the first since the short European tour we did a month ago. It feels kind of weird, as always, playing Stockholm. I have no idea how the show will be tonight, there is a lot of other stuff going on in town. Mayhem are playing Fryshuset, Boris are playing right next door at Slaktkyrkan, and Baroness are supporting Volbeat just across the road at the huge Tele2 Arena. John had texted us a couple of days ago and asked if we’d wanted to play with Baroness last night, at the same venue we’re playing tonight, Hus 7. But two shows in a row at the same venue felt like a bit much. Would have been more fun if Baroness could’ve jumped on our show tonight. Would have been fun playing with Baroness in a small venue again, though. One of the funniest Victims stories for me is the fact that Baroness supported Victims at some roller rink on their first tour of the US back in 2004 or something. Victims played as a three piece with Little Andy playing guitar and no bass, since Jon was in hospital after breaking his leg the night before. Baroness and Victims have embarked on rather different journeys since then…

Johan and Jon were going to head over to the arena to watch them play tonight, since they were on early. Johan had some business there with one of the sound engineers and through that had blagged him and Jon AAA passes, meaning they could watch the show from the comfort of the sound desk. Unfortunately for Jon, we’d left our van in front of the entrance to the club and Johan had the only key. Ronny asked me if we could move it, and the upshot was that Jon had to come running back with the key, since Johan was in the middle of some work thing. Jon was proper gutted when he was denied entry back into the crew door of the arena when he returned. Felt sorry for him. He really wanted to see his beloved Baroness play an arena. He was sat in the backstage room with a face like a bag of wasps, not really wanting to talk. He only interrupted the silence to inquire if there was any dinner left. When he returned with a plate of cold punk stew his mood hadn’t lightened any. Sensing it wasn't the time to make any kind of crack, I got up and left before the smirk on my face gave me away.

It’s a strange place, Hus 7. It’s literally Slaughterhouse Number 7, right in the middle of the old meatpacking district. The off-white tiled walls and grey concrete floors give the place a very cold feeling, as does the minus degrees seeping in from outside through the heavy plastic strips hanging over the holes in the walls either side of the stage. It's a bit off-putting when punters are walking in and out mid-gig to go to the bog, or whatever. That and the fact I have a hard time shifting images in my head of cows being put to their death and the blood flowing away through the drain in the floor. 

I’ve never met the Blessings guys before, and I’d never heard the band either. Andy had been raving about them, though. Their guitarist, Johan, recognised me. He was a good friend of my old buddy, Marco, who played drums in Logh, Cult of Luna and a bunch of other bands. He was one of the first really good friends I made after arriving here. He moved to Malmö a long time ago, though, and I haven’t seen him in ages. Johan wanted to take a pic of me to send to Marco. It was nice to meet him, real nice guy. It wasn’t the first time I’d had my picture taken to send to an old friend in Malmö tonight, strangely enough. Emma, the production manager of the venue, is best friends with an old work friend of mine, Amira, someone else I haven’t met in ages. Bit of a strange theme going on tonight.

Blessings are absolutely great. Really impressed by them. And whereas the place was pretty much empty five minutes before they started, not that strange given that this place isn’t exactly somewhere you hang out at at this freezing time of year, it felt like the majority of the hundred or so who had bought tickets for tonight had arrived. Loved every second of Blessings set, really liked the drive they had going on in all of their songs. It was nice to have a mixed line-up at the show tonight, with Horndal in the middle, blasting out their Entombed styled, social-issued concept metal. Pontus and Henrik’s parents were in the crowd too, and they got a big shout out, much to the crowd’s pleasing. Took me back to our show in Vienna a month before when my dad had received the same welcome. Made me smile.

Hometown shows are always weird, though. I’ve said this many times, I know. It’s strange though, playing mainly to friends and acquaintances. Tonight it was extra weird, given that four of my work colleagues were here, of which one was my boss. It must have been a right eye-opener for them. I had a hard time shifting them out of my thoughts for most of the gig, which seemed to manifest in a tense forearm, making it hard for me to relax during the show. Nerves, in other words. They would never have seen this side of me before, I’m always Mr. Calm and Humble at work. It loosened up a little as the show rolled on, although it never completely left. Luc and Vik were stood right in front of me the whole gig, which helped. Although I could tell Luc was wishing that this show was somewhere smaller and more punk, Vik was seemingly not arsed. For all the piss taking he gives me over Victims, calling us The Foos all the time, or lyx crust, every time we play he’s always there, in front of me, pulling at my legs and shouting along to the songs. Tonight was no different. Love him. At the end of the gig I notice John Baroness and a couple of the Wolfbrigade guys are stood side stage. Afterwards Micke Bull tells me that Wolfbrigade had been invited by the Volbeat guys to their show and given AAA passes to any show on their World tour. I didn't understand any of it. Haven't got a clue what Volbeat is. All I've heard from Andy is that they're huge and that they are papp.

I’d been looking forward all day to a nice, social beer after the show, but by the time we were done the place began emptying out. Again, not surprising. There are cosier places to hang out. I was a bit gutted though. The only people that were left were three of my work mates. They were pissed up and chuffed with the gig and had decided to get tattooed at the all night place here at the venue. That sure escalated quickly. First tat for Alex, which I couldn’t help wondering whether he’d regret it in the morning. Klara, my boss, had a few already, although she was apparently so drunk she was getting on the tattooist’s tits. Fucking wild. They really went all in on the punk experience.

So apart from that lot, who were busy doing that thing, most other people left. Even Jen, who had been on an after work with some colleagues since five pm, had fucked off home in a Joe Baxi, pretty boats herself. I ended up just drinking the one and driving Johan’s work van back to our place. Johan had driven home to Nyköping with Pia. We’d pick him up on the way to Gothenburg tomorrow.

It was just after one am when I got home. I cracked open a tin I had in the fridge, put on my cosy slippers, and watched an episode of QI.

Jon was taking the train to GBG, since there was only room for three in Johan’s work van, and since only Johan and I have a license, and Andy is too long to squeeze into Horndal’s car, it was Jon who elected himself to make his own way to the gig. I understood that he didn’t want to squeeze into a car for five hours with a bunch of guys he didn’t really know. That would have been more of a job for me I guess, but my license to drive was required in our van.

Given the shitty, shitty weather yesterday, and the predicted icy roads on route today, we left a little earlier than usual, but it was still a pleasant enough start to the day. Left around ten thirty. The drive turned out to be no bother at all, though, in actual fact it was really pleasant. It was one of those blue sky winter days, crispy air and glorious sunshine. The five hours flew by. The Horndal guys were already at the venue and packed in when we arrived, and within an hour we were soundchecked and ready. There wasn’t a whole lot left for us to do. The room we were playing in at Musikens Hus was pretty fucking big, and the stage was really high and wide. It sounded great, for sure, but when I heard that there was a much smaller venue in the basement, I couldn’t help but wish we were playing there instead. There was no way we were filling this room tonight. The old rocker doing sound, a chirpy chap, insisted there would be no way we could play the small room with the gear we were playing through. “It wouldn’t be fun for anyone, the noise would be too much.” We’d have to agree to disagree on that one.

We noshed into some grub from the small restaurant they had here, and then after speaking with the promoter, Jonk, for a while, we should play later on after the Mayhem show at Pustervik was over apparently, since a lot of that crowd would come here afterwards apparently, we went to meet our friend Samsa and go for a nice hipster beer somewhere. What was with fucking Mayhem following us this weekend?

Samsa already had some beer in his parka jacket, he’d come from some home party of this guy who runs a brewery, and said we were welcome to head back there if we wanted. Free beer and all. I had the feeling that was what he’d wanted to do, but he was more than happy to take us somewhere for a quiet beer. It was just what was required. Gothenburg has certainly got this beer game sorted. So many good places to eat and drink here, lots of great veggie places too. Samsa is certainly chuffed with his lot in life.

We sit around talking about the old days, what else do us old timers ever do really?, and laughing about a certain classic Swedish hardcore band and their new album. We get to talking about Samsa’s days with Satanic Surfers, since we’d just played with his old band in the Czech Republic this summer. Happy Andy came up in the convo, of course. Samsa was saying how Andy was always late and how this one time they were flying off somewhere and for Andy’s sake, set a cautiously early time for the train out to the airport. When he didn’t arrive, they finally had no choice but to get on a train and head off without him. As they were sitting there waiting for the train to leave, they saw him running towards them. Just as the train doors were closing he thrust the neck-end of his bass case between the doors and pried them open. Totally chuffed with himself he was laughing, “Told you I’d make it on time!”

After the one, drawn out, but delicious 4,2% ale, we took a walk back to the venue. Even after the one I had the beginning of that warm, fuzzy ears thing going on that I normally get if I approach anywhere near Tipsy Town. It was cold out now. The warm ears didn’t do anything to help.

When we get back to the venue Jon is sat in the grandiose little foyer of the venue where we have the merch table. He’s sat hanging out with Charlie Cimex, with the usual overawed, star struck coupon he normally has on when hanging out with a legend. He shows us some white Victims t-shirt that some giffer had made himself. It had a pencil drawing of a horse, with a red pentagram and also written in red, Malin Baryard, which is the name of a famous horse rider. He told Jon that he always thought our song Scars was about her and that he’d mistakenly thought the line, “Scars in my eyes”, was “Malin Baryard”. Hence the horse on the t-shirt.

Dennis Doom was milling around with Charlie too, both of them looking pretty pissed up, although Dennis was certainly the worse for wear. I received the usual sloppy kiss on the hand and an “Alright mate” from him before he stoated off. That’s about the usual content of our conversations when we meet. We’d already missed the local punk band when we were out drinking, but I managed to catch the second half of Horndal’s set. It’s a weird set up. The sound is massive, they play great, but the room is about a third full, and up on that big stage, with two metalheads gripping on to it’s cusp as they bang their heads, it just feels odd. I’m not exactly bursting with enthusiasm before our set, and getting on for midnight, I don’t envision that many of the Mayhem crowd arriving. That said, Johan from Blessings turns up and he’d just come from there. Shame they weren’t playing tonight. Jonk had insisted on the other band.

Despite the empty pockets or air dotted about the crowd, it always helps a little when it sounds huge on stage. It at least makes the “playing” part of the gig more enjoyable. I feel like I’m going a little through the motions in my head by the end though, as much as I put every ounce of energy I can muster into playing. I would never allow anything else.

Afterwards we hang out by the merch for a while before finishing the evening off having a quick beer with Charlie up in the dressing room above the stage. He’s sat there telling dad jokes and taking the piss out of Jonk, who after about thirty minutes of harassing him, finally convinces him to join him at a bar for one last beer. The rest of us wait for a cab to the hotel.

And the wait goes on.

It’s fucking freezing by now, the streets surrounding the venue are completely dead, and I want to go to bed. We’d called for some Uber-type deal called BOLT, which was ordered through Jonk’s account on his phone. Jonk has now fucked off with Charlie and we’re waiting with our nuggs shivering. For every car that passes that isn’t ours I get more pissed off. Horndal left ages ago, and we’d planned to have a quick beer in the hotel bar, but that time has now surely passed, I imagine.

When the car finally arrives, the old boy driving is so chirpy, that it’s hard to stay pissed off. The rage returns as soon as we walk into the deserted reception area of the hotel and are faced with a confused looking lad, “Victims? No, I don’t have any booking with that name? Jonk? Musikens Hus? Concert? No. Sorry. No.” How many fucking times have I heard this spiel at this time of the morning at after-gig hotels?! After a lot of fucking about, he arrives at the conclusion that he gave out eight room keys to a group of four who arrived earlier. So the upshot is this: For the two bands, we had one family room with four beds and two twin rooms. Eight beds each. Turns out Horndal were given all the keys and they’ve now spread themselves out over the three rooms. About twenty minutes later a tired, sheepish looking Eken arrives with our keys.

Finally in bed, about four hours after finishing the show. Originally we were supposed to have a hotel five minutes walk from the venue, but there was a balls up with that of course, so now we’re way out on Hisingen. No fucking matter. It’s nice to finally be in bed. I’m sharing with Jon, and when I’m getting ready to nod off I notice him rolling up a huge joint. I can’t imagine for a minute that he thinks he’s going to smoke that fucking thing in here, but then he has stripped down to his tight orange longjohns that pose as his pyjamas. When he’s done rolling, he tells me he’s off downstairs. I laugh to myself, imagining him walking through reception in bright orange longjohn’s and then standing outside in a bush puffing away on his spliff. That image tucks me off to sleep quite nicely. Snug as a bug in a rug.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Eindhoven

And then we were four. Strange feeling having one show left but it already feels like the tour is over and your mind is set on home. I felt like I just wanted to get this festival in Eindhoven over and done with and then get home. We have a fucking monster journey home, though. We’re driving to a hotel by Bremen after the show, which will take about three and a half hours, and then leave early tomorrow for another fourteen hours or so. Hard to get your head into a gig when you’ve already clocked out. It would have felt different somehow if Svalbard were playing this show, too. Maybe.

We all slept well, at least. The room at the punk house was warm and cosy and the bed comfortable enough to make me want to stay in it all morning. I was determined to make something of today, though, since the last two days we’d basically spent in the van and we’d be doing the same tomorrow. Since the drive to Eindhoven was short we decided we’d stop off in Köln on the way and do something human again. First we took breakfast with the house crew and the local band from last night. It was of an equally high standard as the dinner the guys made last night. Nice start to the day. After thanking Timo for everything again, we loaded the van and made our way out of little Wermelskirchen. Timo said they were having a big anniversary festival here next year for the house’s 20th. anniversary or something, which sounded good, although Timo’s estimation of being able to fit two and a half thousand in the place and it’s surrounding grounds seemed a little optimistic, to say the least.

Köln is on the opposite scale to Vienna, in that, I’ve also been there loads but only ever played one show. It used to be a regular day-off-spot on the Speedhorn tours in the era of the nightliner. We always used to park up by the river and then walk around the cathedral for a bit before hitting some bar. I remember one time waking up here and finding Roddy our guitar tech sat on the bottom lounge of the bus, looking distraught. He’d hooked up with some girl but then cacked his pants when he got to her place and had to make a sharp exit. And then when he got back to the bus he was caught throwing his dirty skidders in the bushes by some old couple walking their dog by the river. I think about that every time I think of Köln.

The couple of hours we spent in the city were much needed. The cathedral is an incredible building. I’ve seen its magnificence from the outside many times, but today was the first time I’d been inside, if my memory holds. Johan abstained and waited for us outside among the masses of tourists. Something about the inside of church buildings freaks him out a bit. It was of course, mind blowingly grandiose inside. I know what Johan means, though. There is something quite fucking heavy about being inside a gigantic church. Upon leaving we checked out a photo display depicting the devastation the bombs of the Second World War had left on the city. It seems like the cathedral was the only place left standing. It’s hard to imagine living through that, seeing Europe in the throes of war, but it really wasn’t that long ago. It’s easy to live in the now when both the past and the future are terrifying.

After taking a coffee down by the river at some cafe that had roofed outdoor seating, we walked back along the river to the van and made the short drive to Eindhoven. The information said we should check in to the festival at two pm, but we weren’t playing until seven-thirty and I couldn’t imagine what we’d be needed so early for. And then when we arrived at four we were immediately relieved that we had decided to do something else during the day. There were shit loads of people mulling about the massive, three staged-venue, most of them white men with skinheads, which made Andy a little nervous. I pointed out that we were also skinheads, although not completely by choice and not with sideburns, muscles and boots to match. We did meet up with our old friend Peter, though, who we’d sorted with some guestlist spots, although unfortunately we didn’t get much of a chance to talk and he no doubt had a bunch of classic HC bands he wanted to check out. We didn’t even have a dressing room available until five, confirming the point that we’d have been well pissed off if we’d have arrived three hours ago, so Johan, Andy and I went for a walk whilst Jon volunteered to fix the merch table in the huge hall with the main stage. I was glad we were on the smallest stage, at least.

There wasn’t much happening around the area, it looked like one of those places that is halfway between industrial estate being fazed out and culture moving in. The centre was about twenty minutes walk away, although we didn’t know that at the time, we just got lucky and stumbled across the correct direction. We only made it to the outskirts of the centre, though, since the first street we walked into that had any signs of life provided me with my target. A chip shop selling chips and peanut sauce. And fuck me, they were absolutely magnificent! Well worth the walk.

After that we made our way back along the same boring road we came along. I’ve been to Eindhoven a few times this last few years, and there isn’t that much to see. All I needed was the chips, and the walk there and back. When we get back to the venue Johan and I sit in the shared dressing room and watch the end of the Liverpool game.

Even the smallest stage that we’re playing is still in a big room that would normally constitute a massive gig. It is, of course, empty bar a couple of punks, one wearing a Tragedy t-shirt, whilst we line check. I wonder how this is going to go down, but Jon tells me he met some guy at the merch that had flown in from Greece to see us. Andy says he hopes he hasn’t just come to see us here. Doubtful. That would be silly indeed.

To my surprise the show goes pretty well. I guess the thing with Victims is that we end up somewhere between the crust, punk and hardcore crowds, which means that when we play these heavily niched shows we sometimes act as a welcome break. We probably still play to one of the smallest crowds of the festival, but there must be five or six hundred in by the midway part of the set and there are some mohawks flying around the empty semi circle in front of the stage. The sound on stage is a bit chaotic which makes it a little bit hard to totally commit to, but the crowd reaction is way better than I thought it would be. Johan took the merch afterwards and he says there was a long queue waiting for him when he got there. Sometimes you never know. I head over to see how he’s doing and en up watching most of the old New York HC band, Outburst, set. It’s pretty naff if I’m honest. The guitar sound is as dull as dishwater and after every song the old boy vocals bangs on about how punk rock they are. I don’t know, seems a bit lame. Of course, there are about fifteen hundred people watching them going mental, so what the fuck do I know?

It’s now officially over. We want to get going as soon as possible and the merch seems to be done. We’re driving three and a half hours tonight and then doing the rest tomorrow. There is nothing to do but suck it up. We grab a quick bit of dinner from catering before we go, as well as packing a bin bag full of Red Bulls, water and other snacks.

I drive the first two and a half hours, leaving is nervously close to emptying the tank of diesel before finally finding a twenty four hour place. I could not imagine the horror of being stranded in the middle of nowhere at this point. I saw the tank was getting low but then all of a sudden all the petty stations just seemed to disappear. It’s a relief to get into the hotel bed around two am. I just wish I’d be able to sleep in a bit longer than five and a half hours before continuing on the long road home tomorrow...

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Wermelskirchen

Last night’s gig t-shirt proved itself to be only marginally better for drying myself off after a shower than a paper hand towel. I felt pretty well rested at least. Nice to have a lie in until nine-thirty, even if we knew we were risking being late tonight. The drives have been longer towards the back end of the tour, and we have the monster journey home on the horizon so need to store energy. After a pretty shabby breakfast in a thoroughly depressing grey canteen we hailed a cab back to the venue. We ended up with some little old boy who was full of chirp. Jon did a bit of talking with him. When he heard we were from Sweden he said something about Ingemar Stenmark, who was obviously a hero of his since he drove his cab in the same manner that Ingemar threw himself down the slopes.

The drive to Wermelskirchen was fucking tedious to say the least. Jon took a ride with the Svalbard guys today, so it was just the three of us. Johan and I taking turns at the wheel over the course of the eight hours it took. It was solemnly miserable weather, pissed down the whole way with pockets of fog as we went through the hills. I’m sure it would have been some nice sightseeing if you’d been able to see further than ten feet ahead at any point. The only thing of note we saw, apart from the odd stau, was a car completely engulfed in fire on the other side of the autobahn. Thankfully it didn’t seem like anyone was hurt. It’s times like these where you wonder to yourself what you’re doing here. Jen sent me a photo of Polly curled up on the sofa with popcorn, watching a film. I would have happily teleported myself there if I had the chance. Hits like these always have a bigger impact at the end of the tour, though. It was also a bit of a bummer that this was going to be the last show with Svalbard, and that they had to leave for Calais straight after their set. It would feel empty without them tonight. Only one more show to go, though. I’m ready for home now.

A couple of things immediately cheered me up upon arrival. First off Liam told me he’d stood in dogshit at their last break and the rest of the guys were livid with him stinking out the van, meaning they had to drive the last hour with the window open. The second thing was that Timo, the young punk booking the show, was very happy to greet us to the punk house where we were playing, and assuring us there was no stress. To top things off, the dinner they made for us was absolutely superb. By far the best of the tour. This was the perfect place to come after a long, dark old day in the van.

We let the local support band soundcheck whilst we loaded in and set up and then noshed into dinner. We played here back in 2011 on the A Dissident album shows and they still had the poster up in the gig room. Can barely remember it, though. Been some time since then. After dinner we hung out in the big bar room where we had the merch. It was a pretty cool setup with a pinball machine as well as foosball table. I played a game with the Svalbard guys, Serena and I taking the game home in a next-goal-the-winner thriller. Jon was glued to the pinball machine most of the night and taking it very fucking seriously. At one point we’re stood around watching him play and Rob points at something over Jon’s shoulder, which Jon irrittadely swipes away without breaking focus on the marbles.

An old acquaintance, Rob from Plastic Bomb, was here selling records on his distro. He’s a bit of a special case, has a constant smile on his coupon, even when he’s moaning. And he’s constantly on the flog. He was trying to sell me the original copy of Virgin Killer by Scorpions, the one with the fucked up cover with the young girl on it... Even for it’s time that was a pretty naughty piece of artwork. No wonder it got banned.

I felt a little emotional watching Svalbard tonight. I stand in the middle of the room and watch the entire set. They’re absolutely on fire, and the sound is magnificent. They smash every fucking note. The crowd are well in to them as well. I can tell that they all really enjoyed their gig tonight. I’m happy to hear from Liam afterwards that they’re going to stick around until after our set to say goodbye, which is really cool of him since it’s he that is doing the night drive. It would have been completely understandable had they left straight away. We’ve been in that position a few times.

Our show is a bit of a different experience. The room hasn’t quite filled back up by the time I go to start the long guitar intro to The Horse and Sparrow Theory. I shout across to Jon, asking if we’re ready and then I literally break a string with the first fucking note. There’s nothing to do but stop and change guitar and start again, which causes a ripple of laughs among the slowly expanding crowd. I guess it’s better to break on the first note than at the end of the forty second intro. We’re a bit sloppy during the show tonight, I think it must be tiredness playing it’s hand. Jon is struggling the whole gig with annoying feedback coming out of his monitor, with the sound engineer seemingly scoobied as to what’s causing it. The gig is saved by Serena making a guest appearance on This is the End, which gives everything a lift. Even if I do break another string during the end of the song. It feels like a good ending anyway, I could have left it there. The crowd hadn’t seemed that enthusiastic for most of the gig, barring a few punks dancing down front and one pissed up old boy jumping up stage and staying there for an age, so I’m surprised by the chanting for an encore. I borrow Jon’s guitar, Judas, for the last block of songs. Before we can get back on with things the old boy is back up and seemingly refusing to leave. He puts his arm around Johan, who encourages him to sing. He shouts “Victims in Blood!!!” into the mic, much to everyone’s amusement except Jon, who seems to be fuming over something.

When we finally come off, Jon is shouting about how Serena saved the gig and otherwise it was the worst gig he’d ever played and that he’s going to punch a German if one talks to him. We all laugh at him, but he’s on the warpath. This only encourages us. Jon’s humour abates only for the short while we spend hugging the Svalbard guys goodbye, gutted to see them leave. When they leave, Jon goes immediately back into wrath mode. I piss myself laughing when I clock Rob trying to talk to him and Jon dramatically gesticulating with his arms that he does not wish to be stopped to talk. Rob just looks at me with that usual big smile on his face, which just gets me laughing all the more.

We get packed down and leave the gear on stage for the morning since we’re sleeping upstairs tonight. Johan and I grab a much needed couple of cold brews and we stand around the merch table selling bits and bobs whilst talking to some very friendly punks. When we’re done we join Jon for a game of pinball but he’s still in a stinking mood. Poison Idea is blasting out of a speaker directly above the machine and he’s not amused in the slightest by Andy and Johan’s singing along to it. They only amplify the situation by blowing in his ears as he’s banging the table around. And then some punk asks us if it’s too late to buy a shirt I ask Jon if he can help the guy out since it appears to be my turn on the flipper, to which Jon closes his eyes and lets out an exaggerated sigh.When some older guy (someone about our age) comes up and asks for a photo with us all, we all happily oblige bar Jon, who silently backs away, staring us out as he does so. We manage to encourage Jon to come take a photo and stop being an arse, and I hear Jon asking Johan if the guy wanting the photo is the bastard who was blowing in his ear. He seems disappointed to hear that it was in fact Johan.

We leave Jon to it and head upstairs to finish off our beer in peace and quiet. A couple of the punks from the house are up there and want to know if we will party with them, but we politely explain that we’re goosed after the day we’ve had, which they are completely sympathetic about. And when we mention our plans for a trip into Köln tomorrow on the way to the festival in Eindhoven they give us some tips on what to do there. Our main intention is to see the cathedral and just do something in general that doesn’t involve being in the van all day. Shortly afterwards the big singer from the local band appears in the doorway to the dining room we’re sat in wearing just his kecks and a t-shirt, “I did not see you guys play tonight. I will catch you next time,” and then stoats off back to what I assume is his bed.

Jon joins us a little while later and is finally back to his old self, thank fuck. We sit around for a little while longer and then call it a day. Nice not to have the alarm set tomorrow. We have breakfast here and then a short drive lined up. Which is most welcome since we’re driving after the gig to a hotel in Bremen to break up the journey home a bit. I lie in bed reading The Idiot by Elif Batuman for a while before turning my phone lamp off. Jon is sat on the bed opposite me in the meditation position. It takes me a little while to nod off, knowing he’s sat there in the dark like a phantom.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Munich

The first thing I had to accomplish when waking up was how to navigate my way down from the eight foot high bunk bed I was in. And I was only on the second bunk of a tower of three. The top bunk was simply fucking lethal. I sat there trying to work out how to twist my body around the thick wooden ladder without destroying my back for ages, and then I spotted Johan lying on his bottom bunk, looking up at me laughing. The thing with being last to bed is that the best beds get taken.

The big friendly promoter had left us a bunch of breakfast materials in the little kitchen outside the sleeping room, and after a quick shower in the freezing cold bathroom, I enjoyed a cup of filter coffee that Jon had made. I was relieved to find that this place provided clean towels, too. At the hostel in Budapest yesterday there were none, and disappointingly, I’d realised that I’d misplaced the towel I’d bought with me somewhere along the road. I first tried drying myself off with the pillowcase but that just pushed the water around, and ended up using paper hand towels from the dispenser on the wall. Proper fucking rubbish.

We decided that we’d spend a couple of hours looking around the shopping mall before leaving for Munich, since the end of the tour was in sight and we needed to get something for our kids before going home. Can’t go away from the kids on tour and come home empty handed, it’s just part of the deal. The shopping mall in the old gas tower was pretty spectacular from the outside, but on the inside it was dying. It’s glory days were obviously long behind it and bankruptcy was in the post. Strange place. And a little depressing. Kind of wished we’d just taken the metro back into the city centre instead. There was an outlet store opposite the venue that, although equally depressing on the interior, was a bit more of a success on the kids present front. And the middle aged woman serving at the counter was chuffed as shit for some reason. She giggled the whole time we dealt with her, which cheered me up a good deal.

The drive to Munich was, not for the first time in my life, somewhat of a disappointment. The scenery along this highway can be quite amazing, with the Alps off on the horizons along stretches of it, but today it was so foggy and grey for the most part that you couldn’t see any of it. And then Liam texted from up ahead and said there was a big accident and a long detour. We managed to pull off the autobahn just in time, it would have been a nightmare getting stuck in it, but the parallel country lane we ended up on seemed to be infinite. I was very relieved to finally get back on the main road. Johan drove the last bit of the way into Munich and I sat there in the back of the van looking at the rush hour traffic we were crawling through, about an hour late for load in, and contemplating our losses. I really like the city of Munich, I was here a lot in the early days of touring and always had a great time, but today, we would be seeing nothing of it. It was always a tradition to go to the famous beer hall with the giant pretzels and beers and the oompah band, the one that was the infamous venue of Hitler’s beer hall putsch. I was a bit gutted that the tradition would be broken today. I hope I donät have to wait another eight years for the next opportunity. It kind of felt like we could have left earlier this morning and had a couple of hours here instead since we didn’t really do any more of Vienna this morning, anyway. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Liam texts saying they’ve just arrived and apparently the promoter is panicking a bit over our lateness, but when I meet the guy as we jump out of the van he is nothing but a broad, beaming smile. We’re a bit rushed, but it’s only us and Svalbard tonight, so the guys soundcheck and we sort our merch out. The slightly depressed feeling I had upon arrival, I think we’re all suffering a bit from weariness today, you can sense it in the tone in the van, dispersed as soon as I saw the room. It was small and we were playing on the floor. All of sudden I could feel the buzz again. From the sounds the promoter was making, it was going to sell out tonight, too. The tiredness was forgotten, rubbed out, just like that.

We had dinner in the house next door, this place, Sunny Red, is part of the whole Feirewerk cultural park. There were already people queuing up to get in, which felt promising. When we were here eight years ago, we played in the larger Orange Hall with Municipal Waste, but tonight there is a brass orchestra playing there, which means they’re taking the band apartment and we’re in some hostel a few kilometers away. Shame, since the apartment here was really nice. Still, the in house catering is banging and the vegan lasagne they’d made for us was absolutely beautiful.

It was another early show tonight, Svalbard on just after nine and everything done by ten-thirty. I went back over to our venue and found the room pretty packed already. The promoter told us there was only three tickets left on the door. From tired and slightly down to happy and buzzing in the space of an hour or so. On top of that, my really old friend Micha was just turning up. I met her through touring with Speedhorn back in the very early days, and we’ve been friends ever since. She’s one of the sweetest people you could meet, and always so happy and positive. When she comes walking through the door we laugh and embrace in a big bear hug. We haven’t seen each other since I was here last time, which sucks. But we stay in touch with each other and tell all about how it’s going with our families, etc. Micha met her husband Markus at a Speedhorn show in Essen in 2007, which is quite a thing. She was there to hang out with us and he was there to see Carnivore I guess. Still, just another nice little detail to add to our story. It was so great to see her. Her friend, although looking maybe a bit unsure of the cultural experience she was about to endure, was also really friendly, and we stood around talking about our kids and life in general. I only wish I had more time to catch up properly.

The show was by far the best of the tour so far. Berlin was great since it was a big venue and pretty full, and all the shows have been good, not a stinker anywhere in sight, but you just can’t beat a floor show for atmosphere. It kind of just runs itself. And when you’re playing in the crowd it just gives you a massive buzz. Although my body is starting to scream for home and getting back into some sore of exercise routine, the thirty odd minutes we played tonight just flew by, and I spent the entire time dancing around the space I had, singing along with the crowd at all the usual parts. Jon still went ahead with the barefoot routine, credit it to him. I noticed that part of his routine is that he takes them off during my long guitar intro at the start of the set. He knows what he’s doing. Cracked up yesterday when Liam told me that Jon had said to him at one of the gigs that the sub bass vibrating through the stage had given him an outer body experience and he felt he was being abducted by aliens. He’s on another plane from the rest of us sometimes. Love him to bits.

We don’t bother doing the mandatory break between set and encore, it would be silly to wade through the crowd, just to come back, so we blast through the quartet of old bangers and then call it a day, Jon encouraging everyone to take ahold of their lovers beside them and have a dance to This is The End. I’m floating after the gig for a while, and have a great time at the merch stall, selling and socialising. Johan is buzzing, too. He’d seemed a but quiet all day, but he’s now smiling like a toddler on Christmas morning as he fetches us a couple of beers. We aren’t moving the van anywhere tonight. It’s safer here than by the hostel, anyway, according to the happy promoter, who is telling me that the night was “Absolutely, kick ass amazing!” Chuffed.

Being All Hallows Eve, it’s a national holiday tomorrow, and we’re warned that the traffic on the autobahn is going to be a bit of a mare. It’s a six hour drive if all goes smoothly, so that’s my already wafer thin plan of getting up early and heading into the city for a quick walk around firmly quashed. The venue closes as soon as we’ve loaded the van and there are no bars open around here. Some other friends of ours, Claudia and Harry, who know Jon from Sayadina days, and were also big Speedhorn fans and came to the anniversary show last year, tell us there are some Halloween parties going on in town if we want a drink, but the thought of the drive tomorrow has put a bit of a cold wet flannel on things.

We’re told there is a bar at the hostel, but that turns out to be a disco in the basement and doesn’t entice in the slightest. Otherwise we’re just on a big long, faceless avenue, and the only thing in the immediate vicinity is a garage and a McDonalds. Johan and I head to the garage to get come crisps and I pick myself up a pretzel. We’re sharing an eight bunk room with Svalbard tonight, although Serena wisely takes her own room, since she knows the snore orchestra will keep her awake all night. We all sit around for a while and munch on snacks and enjoy an accompanying beer, although, the beer isn’t as enjoyable as the beautiful Pils I had directly after the show, the first one is always the best. The pretzel is the saltiest thing I’ve ever eaten, I can almost feel my liver shrivelling as it goes down. I give half of it to Serena who somehow manages to finish it off before agreeing it was indeed bizarrely salty.

Liam literally lies down on his bunk and begins to snore. I actually wonder if he’s joking, but Alex assures me he’s not. Sounds like a horse up there. And with that we decide it’s time for bed, and one after one, the snores join the choir. Serena made the right choice, sorting out her own room.