Sunday, December 18, 2022


I wake up to find myself in some sort of sleeping capsule. The room is all white and sterile and has that Space Odyssey 2001 vibe about it. I’m on the top bunk. I don’t really remember the details of climbing up here in the first place. Maybe there weren’t that many details to remember. I’m most likely paraphrasing the fact that I was a little drunk when I climbed into this capsule at three am. The nip in my head would certainly suggest so. Once my phone alarm succeeds in piercing its way through the fog of sleep, the first thought that hits me, apart from confirming to myself that I am indeed desperate for a piss, is that I smell like a fucking ashtray.

I still go through the usual inner debate of whether I can sleep the piss away for about five minutes, but then I’m roused out of slumber by someone knocking at the door. Pigge is in the capsule below me, snoring like a horse. Gill is lying in the capsule opposite him, a hint of concern on his coupon. It’s Erik at the door, looking for an Iphone charger. Nobody here can help him though. He says he’s heading out for a walk for a while and we agree on a time to meet in the lobby of the hotel before searching for some breakfast.

I shower away the smell of cigarette smoke from last night’s bar, but it doesn’t really help when your clothes are still fucked. I pull my jeans and jacket on with a feeling of disgust and we head downstairs. Erik and Martin are waiting there for us, but there’s no sign of Paddan. Erik smirks, tells us that when he came back from his walk Paddan was still fast asleep, and when he left again he was sat on the pan looking sheepish. He looks in good enough spirits when he joins the rest of us in the lobby a few minutes later though.

It’s a nippy day and the sky looks as miserable as slapped arse. I have high hopes of finding some warm, cosy cafe with armchairs and sourdough cheese rolls and strong black coffee. I don’t have any particular place in mind, it’s more an image I have. We walk in the direction of the Meatpacking District, where last night's venue was, and where there are loads of trendy bars and restaurants. We find nothing that matches what I’m hoping for though. And the vegan options are strangely limited. I’ve been in Copenhagen loads of times, and past experiences have always been a success. But then I realise, there are seven of us and it ain’t that easy finding something everyone can concur on. We finally end up in some pub/restaurant place that looks sort of German in style. They have an omelette on the menu that looks half interesting, but it costs about 170 Swedish krona. It can’t be that fucking good. Most of them decide this place will do anyhow. I suspect the bar swayed it. Gill, Andy and I head to some bagel place across the street. It’s pretty bland, but it fills a hole.

We’re in no real rush to leave for Malmö today since we don’t have to be there until five and it's only a short trip across the bridge. We head over to some record shop that Erik has in mind, thinking we could leave a couple of records there. It’s a pretty nice shop, a lot of vinyl, a bit salty on the pricing, although I guess like everything else at the minute, records are expensive. The old hard rocker guy running the shop takes a couple of LP’s from us and gives Erik a receipt. Can’t imagine when we’re gonna get the cash on them, may as well have given them away to someone on the street.

Funnily enough, as we’re walking back towards the venue, some lady stops me and Gill, picking us off as we’d lagged behind the pack, and asks us if we’re in a band. She’s speaking English and we’re a little confused. She says she’s from Austria but could hear we were Scottish. She’d obviously heard Gill’s gabb. She says that her boyfriend was really into some Scottish band that was playing in town last night and wondered if it was us. She said that she could tell by looking at us that we were a band and that we looked really cool. We have a good laugh at that. We explain that we are indeed a band, but that it’s extremely doubtful that her boyfriend was one of the three paying customers at our gig last night. We have a good laugh at that, too. She seems really friendly and apologies for the confusion, saying that she will definitely check our band out and start following us online. We part ways and rejoin the rest of the group, who look as confused as we are.

We wander slowly back to the venue, passing some area that seems to have a lot of retro clothes shops, a couple of places selling cowboy boots enticing Martin and Erik in for a look, since that’s their thing. By the time we get back to the venue it’s two pm. We’d arranged to meet the sound engineer but some lady who works in the office on the other side of the courtyard lets us in. “Just the fact that this little venue has an office says it all”, muses Paddan. We pack the cars and head to the bridge.

We weren’t even sure if there was going to be a gig tonight until a couple of weeks ago. We’d originally planned to play a show in Gothenburg with our friends Blessings. But it had fallen through about a month ago and we’d been manically looking for a gig to replace it. Driving back and forth to play to ten people in Copenhagen would have been a bit of a piss take. Although I have driven longer to play to less people in a far bigger venue. I’m looking at you, Inverness. Ok, there were maybe about thirty people at this particular show in Inverness, but the place could have taken in around a thousand. Anyway… with the Gothenburg show caput, and with only a month to find something, we were struggling. It’s not that easy blagging a show for a band no one knows. And having seven in the band can apparently be a bit off putting. But then our dear friend Ronny Raw from Malmö put us in touch with some punk promoter he knew here, Rebecka. She was really cool and was going to put us on this crust punk show she had on the go, until the whole “seven” thing popped up. The place where she had that show on was way too small apparently. Shame, A\\VOID haven’t played with any crust bands so far. We have been playing with all kinds of different bands, though, something I’m enjoying, and it would have been fun for me and Andy to head back to our old scene with our new band. As it turned out, Rebecka hooked us up at a place called Grand, playing with some singer songwriter guy with a Welsh name. They’d pay us money for petrol to get back to Stockholm, and give us beer and food. Chuffed.

I was assuming from the look of the pictures I could find of the place that the venue was the bar of the Grand Hotel.

It wasn’t the Grand Hotel. Thankfully. Although I had been thinking that maybe we could have done a set of our mellower, quieter songs. Which could have been fun. Turns out the place was some posh restaurant that had a gig room to the side, simply separated by a moving wall, that turned into an electro disco afterwards. The whole vibe of the place was pretty cool though, kind of run down in a cosy kind of way. I had a feeling that it could be good. It was free entrance and apparently the restaurant side place always had a crowd in. So who knows, maybe some of them would head our way.

After loading in the gear we had about an hour to kill before soundcheck so we took a walk over to Rundgång Record Shop and hung out there for a while. I picked up a copy of the Scenery LP by Ryo Fukui that the We Release Jazz label put out. They’ve done some really nice represses of Seventies Japanese jazz and I was chuffed to pick this one up. Rundgång are known, in our circles, for having a bunch of great punk and hardcore records in stock, so wasn’t expecting to find this little gem. Bonus!

Soundcheck feels good and the overriding feeling among us is that we’re just happy to have a gig tonight. I’m determined to enjoy it, no matter how it turns out. Hopefully a few friends will turn up too. Dinner feels even better. We’re treated to a pretty decent bowl of tofu ramen as well as a pint of ale from the bar. It’s nice to be sat down, the seven of us together, enjoying a meal together. The music they’re playing in the place quickly goes from slightly amusing everyone to getting on our tits. It’s just some endless blues guitar noodling. It never seems to end. Erik and Martin are particularly aggrieved by it.

After dinner we head over to the hostel that Gill had booked. We put Gill on travel agent duties, and we all agree he’d done well with last night’s place in Copenhagen. Gill warns us in advance that he has a feeling tonight’s offering is going to quite the same level. We head over to the place on the other side of Folkets Park and find that Gill’s suspicion was on the nose. The hostel looks pretty run down from the outside, not in the cosy way, and isn’t much better inside. It’s pretty cold out, though, so it’s just nice to get inside. And then we’re accosted by the woman running the place, who spends the next twenty or so minutes bombarding us with smarmy comments, switching continuously between English and Swedish. It’s all very confusing. She keeps making reference to Gill and how he has his own room in another place, that has a bed for him and a special friend of his choice. We don’t know what the fuck she’s talking about. It takes about fifteen minutes of faffing around to settle on that we’re seven people needing seven beds to sleep in, Gill repeatedly showing her the booking and pointing out, “Seven”. She keeps banging on about another place for Gill and his special friend. I can’t tell if she’s taking the pure piss or if it’s just that all the lights aren’t on. It finally works out that Gill, and his special friend (Pigge) will be staying at an apartment somewhere else, whilst the rest of us will split up into two rooms here. Relieved to have the finally sorted we pay up and assume we’ll be handed the keys, but the woman insists on taking us to the rooms and unlocking for us, presenting the place and giving it the once around.

There isn’t much to present. The room I’m sharing with Andy is cold and dank, the wallpaper is the colour of stale piss. It said on the website that the rooms had cable, which I assumed meant cable TV. But it was just a loose cable hanging from the wall. So… the room had a cable. Which Gill points out is technically not false marketing. We check out Erik, Paddan and Martin’s room down the hall and it’s even worse. The only windows they have are two slats up by the ceiling. At least they have a TV. They look chuffed with that. Not that you’d want to spend any real amount of time here watching the thing. Strangely enough, the hostel seems to be full of guests who are just sitting around in the public rooms, not really doing much. Andy and I head back to our room to lie down and chill out for a while. Andy tries to sleep, but it’s not really happening. I lie and read my book for a bit, but that’s not really happening either.

A couple of hours later we decide to head into town and find a bar to hang out at for a while since we’re not playing until the kitchen closes around ten, and it’s only eight. Erik has already headed off to hang out with his sister for a drink since she lives down here, but we bump into them and join them for a beer. Gill and Pigge walk by the place too, and in the space of a few minutes the six of us have crashed Erik’s quality time with his sister. Gill and Pigge have a good laugh about the hostel and tell us their apartment is pretty good.

We get back to Grand around nine thirty and find the restaurant buzzing. We sit down for a beer before it’s time for the gig. Erik has a few friends coming, Edvin from Morbus Chron and a few of his gang, some other people. Ronnie Raw turns up just before we play too. It’s always great to see him. Ronnie and I became good friends after he drove Victims on tour in Europe years ago. He goes way back with Andy and the rest. Just him being here is enough to lift me for the gig, since it’s always a buzz playing to people you have a lot of respect for. Another old friend of ours from back home is here too, Kurt from Sewergrooves. He’s having a weekend in Copenhagen with his girlfriend and thought he’d pop over. As well as that lot, there are perhaps another twenty or so people in the room when we play. And I really enjoy it. It feels like it sounds really good, and there are even a couple of people I don’t recognise standing in front of the stage, dancing. Funnily enough, they’re both on their own, either side of the stage. Sort of look depressed, the two of them, gently swaying to our music. One of them is the young guy who looks like the actor William Spetz, the other is a girl who looks a bit like a younger version of Julie Cruise.

We seem to get a good reaction and I’m pretty buzzed after the show. That kind of buzz where you feel like it’s job done, good gig, now let’s have a beer. We have some beer tickets in our pockets to cash in. We hang out with Ronnie for a while afterwards, who tells us he’s never been to this place before and by the look of the young trendy crowd coming in, I can see why. The music in the restaurant part of the place is in full flow, playing loads of dance hits. There are two young hipster girls in the stage room who have filled out the dancefloor already. Spetz is still there, on his own, dancing away. Kind of feels like the DJ girls have missed the fact that the Welsh bloke is tuning up his acoustic guitar.

I head back out to the entrance of the restaurant where Pigge is stood with our merch. As Andy and I are saying bye to Ronnie, who has had enough, he had just come straight from work to be fair, a young group of girls approach Pigge. For a split second both Pigge and I are shocked, hardly believing these girls want to buy our record. My head even manages to start wondering into a “Fuck this band really has the potential to reach out across some boundaries” passage of thought. Turns out though that the girls thought Pigge was the wardrobe, and they’re actually trying to pass him their coats.

I watch the Welsh bloke for a while. He’s actually from Gothenburg and his artist name is his Swedish name spelt backwards. He actually starts rabbiting on about that between songs in what is some pretty painful patter. I turn around to find Pigge’s eyes burning a whole in the back of my head, a look of horror on his face. I feel equal parts bad for the guy, since the room is pretty empty, barring his girlfriend and Spetz, who is still dancing, a few others at the back, and equal parts admiration. It takes a lot of guts to sit there on your own with your guitar playing shoegazey folk music, when it’s obvious the DJ girls are just waiting to get on with the party again. It takes a lot of guts just performing on your own, full stop. Turns out that he normally has a band with him, but they couldn’t make it or something, so he decided to try it out on his own. Just for that I watch him to the end. Even if it’s not my thing. We probably weren’t his thing either.

Afterwards we hang around in the restaurant/bar, which is just as buzzing as the dancefloor/stage room is by this point. Can’t say I’m buzzing all that much myself, though. Tiredness from last night is catching up on me. Feels like it is with most of us. We plough on with a couple of beers all the same. Free beer never gets old. And besides, Pigge has been stuck at the merch table with some guy gabbing in his ear for the last hour or so. Can’t really tell if Pigge is welcoming of this or not. We leave him to it.

Pigge finally joins us after shaking the guy off, and tells us what a pain in the ass he was. Martin is holding court and in the midst of some insane story from when he and Jenny were on holiday in New Orleans and were given a present that they assumed was sea salt but turned out to be methamphetamine. Somebody had left it in a package in their room with Martin’s name on it. They didn’t realise what it was until they took it all the way home to Sweden and seasoned their soup with it. Fucked up. They handed it in to the police in Sweden, shocked as fuck. Nothing else came of it though, the police just took it off their hands and told them well done for handing it in. How fucked up is that?

With that banger we decide to call it a night. We’re all tired and ready to hit the hay, until Gill and Pigge decide to stick around and polish the beer tickets off. And then Erik, Paddan and Martin decide to do the same. So it’s just me and Andy then. We get back to the hostel, starving, and so head off for some famous Malmö falafel. You really can’t fail in this city. We take some cheap looking place that looks like a franchise, but it’s all we can find in the vicinity of the hostel, and it’s out of this world. Fresh mint. Just that little detail makes all the difference. And the falafel is fresh and crispy and just to die for. We notice a couple of drunk punks sat on the other side of the joint and assume they must have been to that other gig we might have played. Wonder how that would have been if we’d played it.

When we get back to the hostel we find that Erik, Paddan and Martin are back. We ponder the idea of polishing off Martin’s whisky and chilling out in their room, watching their TV. Of course, the TV has no channels available. And that as a sign, we decide to call it a night. Leaving a thoroughly depressed Paddan behind us.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Well hello again, Copenhagen!

It’s a long old way to Copenhagen from Stockholm. Especially when you understand there is a very real risk that you’ll be playing to pretty much nobody. That’s always a risk when you’re in an underground DIY band I guess. Even more so when you’re totally new and nobody has heard of you. But unless you’re Iron Maiden or something there is always a chance the gig will be a bum turnout.. I wonder what they would consider a bum turnout? Copenhagen, though, feels like it’s a bigger risk than most places. We played what turned out to be the last ever Victims show here. We didn’t know it at the time, of course, but it ended up being a depressingly poetic sortie. “This is the End. That was the end.” There were maybe thirty people there. I’ll be amazed if we get half that amount tonight.

Despite the pessimistic forecast as we pulled away from the practice space at eight this morning, I was still chuffed to be heading off with the guys for a few days. These would be our first shows with A\\VOID outside of Stockholm, and I was determined to enjoy the couple of days away no matter how many people we played to. It’s obviously a pretty expensive hit rate, but even if we only manage to reach out to a couple of people then it would be worth it. We had most of the money for the trip covered from the few Stockholm shows we’d played anyway. This is what starting a band from scratch looks like when you’re totally on your own. The difference now; I guess, is that I’m 44 years old. It’s easier when you’re eighteen years old. Still love it, though.

It was a bit of a bummer to have to travel down in two separate cars. Being in a seven piece band is something new to me, and on this first trip to fields afar it became apparent that travelling together in one van was not all that easy to sort out. It worked out cheaper to travel in two of our own cars than to hire a van big enough to house the lot of us and our gear. Funnily enough, the two companies fell into a pretty natural divide: Me, Pigge, Gill and Andy in one car. Paddan; Erik and Martin in the other. The tames vs. the party boys.

We made it down to Helsingborg in about six hours without incident. Paddan’s car were already there ahead of us, and had even found time to stop at a Metallica museum here in Helsingborg, being that this is where Cliff died. Paddan admits that it wasn’t all that though. Just a few pictures and stuff. We took a short ferry trip across the water to Denmark. It only takes about fifteen minutes and they open the duty free at precisely the halfway point, leaving the party boys with seven and half minutes to buy booze. I noticed there was a full on restaurant onboard, with a load of old people sitting there drinking, obviously just floating back and forth over the strait, enjoying the views of the industrial ports on either side of the water.

An hour or so later we were in Copenhagen. The venue was in the middle of town in the Meat packing village, at some club called Råhuset. It was a nice little venue, very neat and tidy and looked to have a quality sound system and all, but it didn’t look like the kind of place anyone would hang out in unless they were specifically here to see the bands. Although maybe that was just the Copenhagen heebie-jeebies colouring my judgement…

It’s always great to see Ryan anyway. He’s there sorting the Fotocrime merch out as we arrive and me and Andy are greeted with big hugs, followed not long thereafter with questions on Victims’ breakup. Ryan has been a friend to Victims for many years. It’s nice to be able to talk to him about it. One of the other guys in Fotocrime, at least helping out on this tour, is a French guy called Nico. He has a band called Bleakness that Victims was supposed to play some shows in France with, right before the pandemic hit. We mailed back and forth a bit around then and it’s nice to finally meet him in person. For me it’s also a little extra special since Nico played in this great screamo band called Amanda Woodward way back, a band that both Jen and I loved. I never do this shit normally, but I force myself to ask him for a pic with us so I can send it to Jen, just for the crack. Whilst the rest of our lot head off to some pub after soundcheck, Andy and I hang out with Ryan and Nico in the dressing room and reminisce over the old days. As middle aged punks like us are in the habit of doing.

Erik, the self appointed ringleader of the booze brigade, comes marching back to the venue in high spirits just as the first band are playing, raving about some bar down the road they found with some character behind the bar who wants our record. I get the feeling Erik has more or less forced it on him, though. They’d arrived back at the venue on my command since, as expected, there were very few people in the venue as the local support band, Writhe, were about to start. I count a grand total of three. Plus the sound engineer guy and two dudes behind the bar. And the three Fotocrime guys…I guess the good thing about playing with A\\VOID is that you get a bonus crowd of at least seven! This small place would look okay with around thirty people in it, and we’re maybe halfway there. Even if only three of them are actually paying customers.

Anyway, Erik is happy as Larry after finding the pub, saying we have to go back there after the gig. The others straggle in shortly after him and I can see straight away that Paddan and Martin have had a couple. But I can’t help feeling like fucking off the “no beer before gig rule” myself, since on these occasions I can’t help wondering what does it matter. So I grab a draught Pale Ale and enjoy Writhe, who are more than a pleasant surprise with their noisy indie rock. The beer goes straight to my head.

Which becomes noticeable as we do a quick line check before we play. I’m not sure who first brought the subject up, but Paddan and I started joking about the Bad News song “Warriors of Genghis Khan.” I can’t help myself and start farting around playing the riff to it, which amuses Paddan and I a lot more than it does Andy, who is sat behind his drums looking stern and shaking his head at me. We get on with things shortly thereafter and the gig goes pretty well. Another company of three have arrived, some people who are friends with Erik (guestlist), and they take a seat just off to the side of the floor space where Erik and I do our thing. Martin is in a particularly jazzy mood tonight and fleshes out the gaps between most of the songs with some dystopian saxophone drones. Seems like Savage got feeling tonight and he ends up being the star of the show. Paddan was off for a walk with his bass a couple of times during the set, at one point playing a different song to the rest of us, and he knows I know, since I gave him a look a couple of times. He’s a phenomenal musician, but seems like a couple of shots of Jager got the better of him tonight. Pigge is in my ear right after the gig, laughing about it. “Paddan was off on his bike a couple of times there!”

Andy is in my other ear shortly after, telling me off for farting around before the gig. He tells me that we should be completely quiet before we start the set and there is no place for fucking around, no matter how small the crowd is. I feel a little scorned, mainly because I know he’s right. The few people in the room seemed to like the gig all the same. And it was fun to play for Ryan and Nico, if nothing else. One of the three older guys who’d arrived, the ones nobody knew, actually bought an LP. They left after we played, and shouted over to us on the way, exclaiming that they thought we were great! Feels kind of like they just stumbled into the place and we got lucky. Some other big guy who had come on his own also bought a record, as well as the Writhe guitarist. This is our first show since we got the vinyl of the first album, and despite everything, I’m chuffed to have three of them sold in Copenhagen. Good hit rate considering the crowd numbers.

Despite the very low crowd, it was basically just A\\VOID and Writhe by this point, Fotocrime played a nice show. They had these really cool stage lights that had Erik immediately buzzing about how we have to get something similar. I just stood there, enjoying a couple of beers and admiring their professionalism. No whining, no fucking around before their set playing joke riffs, they got on with the job and played. These guys have been around so long, they’ve done it all before, and just like us, played the whole spectrum of gigs, from less than ten to arena support slots and festivals in front of thousands. This was their first night of a three week European tour, I hope this is the bum show, out of the way early.

After the gig I hung out at the bar with Gill, chatting to the two lads behind the bar about their superb tapped beer and the state of shows at the minute. The younger of the two tells me that there are just too many shows going on right now, that the tidal wave after the pandemic is now having an adverse effect, especially now that everything is getting so fucking expensive. This place seems to be one of the state sponsored set ups, where they get cultural grant money, for better or worse. Worse for us, I guess, since they guarantee money but not a crowd. The young guy is really nice anyway, he’s from Latvia and tells me how much easier life is here. I tell him that I’ve been to Riga and really enjoyed it. “Nice city, for sure, if you’re a tourist. Sucks to live there!” I wonder how many places you can say that about?

After saying goodbye to the Fotocrime guys and wishing them better luck with the rest of the tour, we head over to Erik’s favourite new bar, which is a classic Copenhagen place; small and full of smoke. Apparently the law in Denmark is that if a bar is LESS than a certain amount of square metres you’re allowed to smoke in it. If the place is too big, no smoke. Which is obviously mental. Doesn’t stop me enjoying the place, nonetheless. Even if it stings the eyes a bit. The bartender guy who Erik latched on to earlier is obviously intent on being the focus of everyone in the bar, since he keeps making a lot of noise. Every now and again he’ll scratch the music to a dead stop and start shouting instructions at people, or giving loud updates on the state of play, which whilst at first I find slightly amusing, quickly starts getting on my tits. Erik, Paddan and Martin are lined up at the bar talking to some strangers and all three of them are looking like they’re heading to the other side, although Martin looks like he’s got it together more than the other pair. Gill joins them, obviously wanting in on the action. Andy and I retire to a quieter table near the doorway like a couple of old men and chat over a beer, our backs enjoying the rest. We’re joined a while later by the Writhe guitarist, who seems like a really nice sort, and we get talking about venues and gigs in Copenhagen and why is it always so fucking hard to get a crowd here? Oliver, his name, tells us that it is a pretty incestious DIY scene here, and unless you’re super hyped it’s hard to get a crowd if you’re not from around here. Which doesn’t really explain why nobody came to see them. They were really good and all.

What I figured for a couple of quiet beers after the show turns into more than that. Erik is shouting almost as much as the bartender guy, Paddan is looking hazy as fuck, Martin seems to keep control now matter how many beers he sinks, and he’s finished off that hip flask of whisky he bought on the boat, although by the look of Paddan he’s helped him out quite a bit. The shocker though, is Gill, who is stood at the bar smoking a fag. This has me in stitches as it’s so unexpected. Old Triathlon Man himself! He must have tucked a good few away. By this time Andy and I have caught up a little ourselves, I’m on to my third or fourth Tuborg, and we’re back at the bar among the rest of the crowd. Paddan then taps my shoulder and laughingly points at Pigge who is sat at the table behind us in the company of Oliver and a couple of others. “Why is Pigge so old all of a sudden?” laughs Paddan. Pigge does indeed look like he’s suddenly aged about fifteen years. Hair all over the place, skin as white as a ghost and eyes popping out. He looks like he’s in the middle of some drunken lecture. This keeps me and Paddan amused for the next fifteen minutes or so. Shit, Pigge is old. He turned 50 this year. 50! Andy isn’t actually that far behind him, Paddan neither. In fact, at 40, Gill is the youngster among us. The Tuborg suddenly has a bitter aftertaste…

It’s around three am by the time that bar closes and we’re back at the hotel. Inexplicably, most of us, myself included, stay up for another beer at the bar there.. I’m even questioning myself as I drink the thing, knowing it’s a mistake. A pretty tasty mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

I’m certainly not going to feel any younger in the morning.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Goodnight Copenhagen and Farewell

“It’s up. It’s down again…” I grew up with Fawlty Towers. Me and my family watched it all the time when we were kids. The scene with Basil and the painting is still one of the classics my sister and I reference when we’re gagging together. It’s starting to feel like that with this fucking pandemic. I know it’s not a laughing matter, but still. It’s off. It’s on again. Although maybe ever thinking it was off was pretty naive. But two months ago it felt like we were finally emerging from this shit. “Do you not think people were tired of the war in 1943?” I read some doctor saying in the paper the other day. And yeah, totally. I guess we’re spoiled. It was still a huge fucking downer when Omicron popped up though. All of a sudden I was back to manically checking the various news apps on my phone every thirty minutes. Even though I kept telling myself not to.

This was the third gig we’d booked since all restrictions were initially dropped. The first was at Kafé 44 in Stockholm in October. When we said yes to that gig the restrictions were still in place, it was supposed to be a maximum of fifty people in attendance. It ended up packed since they’d dropped everything by that point. It was a blast. The second show was in Göteborg last week, but we had to cancel since Andy was as sick as a dog. He’d tested negative but was still way too weak to sit in a car back and forth to Göteborg and play a gig, covid or not. The third gig was this one tonight in Copenhagen. The offer for it had come in just days after most governments in Europe had dropped all restrictions. It was supposed to be us and Wolfbrigade, but the Wolves had to drop out. Something about someone’s kitchen being renovated… Fuck knows... Thankfully our mates in Massgrav could jump on board instead. Then a couple of weeks before the show Denmark started tightening things up since cases were back on the rise and all of a sudden everything felt very unstable again... As much as I fully respect the rules, and am humble before those who know a lot more about their shit than I do, it still felt pretty fucking absurd to have to put a face mask on halfway across the bridge to Denmark, considering we’d been sat on the same train with the same people for five hours without one. I could see the look of disdain in Jon’s eyes on the opposite side of the table, peering at me from above his cloth mask.

We arrived at the central station in Copenhagen and it hit me that this was the first time I’d been outside of Sweden in just under two years. I was actually abroad. In another country. Even if Denmark is kinda like Scotland to England. Same, same, they just talk funny. And drink more. The guy who had booked the gig met us in the arrivals hall. We decided we’d take a coffee whilst we waited for the Massgrav guys to arrive, since they were on the train after ours. The booker, this young, stocky bloke who looked like he was more into Madball than Victims, wasn’t much of a talker. He sat and looked at his phone most of the time. I tried kicking things along with the usual, asking how he thought the show would be tonight etc. He told us it was Christmas-lunch holiday weekend in Denmark, and that tomorrow, Saturday was the big day. I asked him if that was a good thing or a bad thing, in relation to the gig. I thought that maybe if it was a big holiday weekend then the Danes might be out in high spirits tonight. “So, so,” was all he said. It didn’t fill me with confidence. We sat around at the cafe for a while, going back and forth to the counter, farting around putting face masks on and taking them off again when back at the table, making me realise that we really hadn’t felt anything of the pandemic’s effects back in Sweden, where face masks have basically been scorned.

After a while Johan and I wandered off to the hotel to check ourselves in, thinking we’d save the guaranteed farting around at the end of the night. It was only a ten minute walk, some budget nondescript, grey hotel. We did indeed get the expected look of confusion on the receptionist's face as she looked through the system for our names. It truly is a ball ache going through this routine at 2 am, so happy we got it out of the way now. The Massgrav guys had arrived by the time we got back to the station. Cheeky grins on every one of their faces. Another guarantee cashed in.

If the promoter’s “So, so” comment had knocked my confidence a little, it was now being well and truly drained by each passing station we passed on the commuter train. It felt like we were heading out of the city into the middle of nowhere. Our friend Will, who lives in the city, a true punk connoisseur, had also been in touch asking where the fuck the venue was. By the time we arrived at the place, some cultural centre/gig venue, we’d basically accepted our fate. It was all very new and shiny, and the PA looked banging, but there were tall tables dotted about the large dance floor which I was absolutely certain there would be no need to shift during the evening. The place was obviously supported by government cultural funding and it was obvious that if Wolfbrigade had still been on the bill then the outlook would have been a bit different. Still, the fridge was stocked with quality Danish beer from the superb TÖ brewery, and they had arranged some decent vegan food for us.

We sat about in the small dressing room with nothing to do except eating crisps and stare at the beer, toying with the idea of having maybe one before the show. There was fuck all else to do. I sat and chatted to one of the guys from the local band that was supporting. They’d been on their own tour with another band that was playing tonight too. They seemed really nice, but all this did was make me think about the fact that we’d have to wait things out even longer. Nothing worse than knowing you’re gonna be playing a show to a small crowd and having the night dragged out.

At least we had company. Both Will and our old mate Mackan from Disfear turned up. I spent most of the night in the back room hanging out talking about life and how its been these last couple of years. Will spent most of the night in the bar with a friend of his he’d brought along, and by the time Massgrav were about to start he’d already gotten a bit sauced. I recognised myself in that. Being a sleep deprived parent to a baby and going out for a couple of beers usually produces a consistent result. Will was talking in my ear about how it was a shame we were playing here, and even though it was in a suburb not too far from the city, it was still way off (in a scene sense) and felt like a waste. All that being said, though, Copenhagen has never been a stronghold for Victims. It says a lot that the last time the band played here was thirteen years ago, right before I joined the band.

It was, as always, great fun watching Massgrav. Norse constantly taking the piss between songs, speaking in English and explaining that Danish is in fact not the same language as Swedish, hence the English. He also explained how Stockholm was the capital city of Scandinavia. He explained this a couple of times during their set. It was probably only the Victims gang that found this internal joke amusing. They were tight as a duck’s arse as always, and blasted the shit out of the stage, even if there were only a couple of enthusiastic punks fist pumping in front of them, whilst the rest of the crowd of thirty stood around, me included, a little further back. Felt like I had to contribute to filling the space out a little. I couldn’t help but think of Norse and the effort this shit takes. He was getting up for a train around 6 am since he had to be back in Stockholm for a work thing around midday tomorrow. They could have easily, understandably declined this show. Ola and Fenok had planned a weekend of it in Copenhagen though, maybe that had more to do with it. Still, nothing but respect for Norse. It's a lot of hassle for a pretty cack gig.

And so it was. Nice big stage, sounded amazing, felt like a struggle. Most of the small crowd that was in attendance seemed relatively enthusiastic, with one or two down the front headbanging gleefully. But my amp kept cutting out the whole time, which didn’t help with the whole energy. We got through the show, but it didn’t feel like much more than just getting through it. We didn’t even finish with This is the End, which caused a stir among the Massgrav crew. It was probably one of only two or three times we haven’t played it during the nearly thirteen years I’ve been in the band. Ola asked if it was, in fact, even allowed.

After the gig I went over to the merch for a bit, and sold a couple of things. There was one guy, some proper crust punk, from Portugal. He was so happy we’d played. He said that he was here on holiday and was supposed to have gone home already, but changed his flight when he saw that we were playing. He tells me he’s been raving to his friends about it back home and asked if it was ok to get a photo that he could send back to the gang in Portugal. It’s moments like this that really make you give you some perspective. Here is this guy, here on his own, coming to this out of the way gig with only a few other people, and he’s absolutely delighted. I tell him that I hope we’ll make it to Portugal next year, that an Iberian tour is something we’ve been talking about for a while. I hope that it will be more fun than this. “Nooo man! This was amazing! Victims is my favourite band, I can’t believe I got to see you whilst I was here!” It’s a funny old world…

After the show the promoter is nowhere to be seen. It’s no hassle as far as being paid goes, since he’d already deposited the money a few days ago. Which, funnily enough, I always take to be a bad sign. But we were stuck out here with a few stragglers and a pretty sauced Will, with nobody to help us with a cab. The sound guy says he doesn’t know what the crack is and hasn’t seen him. He tried calling him but got no answer. There are no cabs around these parts either, apparently. After parting ways with Will and promising to come back to Copenhagen again and play in a more “punk venue” next time, we ended up lugging the gear with us back on the commuter train. Our spirits were soon picked up by Fenok laughing at Ola, who looked ridiculous with his face mask on since his long beard was shooting out all over the place and the mask looked like a little plaster stuck on to it. Fenok laughed for about twenty minutes, obviously feeling the effects of a few beers, but his laugh was really contagious. I pissed myself when Ola muttered that they should change the name of the band to “Maskkrav.”

There was a group of young Swedish girls on the same train as us. Making a lot of noise and obviously very drunk. When they spotted us they approached and started asking us questions, filming us at the same time, like some interview situation. I didn’t really get what was going on but Fenok was approachable. They asked him what we were doing here and he told them we had played a gig. “Ahhh cool! What’s the name of the band?” They obviously had no idea about the musical world we belonged to. Fenok, straight as an arrow, “Massgrav and Victims” he informed them. The girl looked pretty confused. I thought it was absolutely hilarious. Fenok didn’t get it. By the time we got back to the central station one of the girls fell right out of the opening door, flat on her face to the platform. I felt like an old, worried parent, looking at the state of them. And then I remembered that I’ve been in that exact same state on many occasions. Still brought a solid reminder that my kid could be in this very state in about eight years time. Fucking terrifying. Thankfully the girl in question seemed ok, and slightly embarrassed, pulled herself up and dusted herself off.

We ended up back at the hotel, dumped the gear in the rooms and then took a beer in the sterile bar/lobby area. Norse had obviously gone to bed since he was catching a train in about four hours. Poor bugger. I’d been looking forward to this point of the night since the first band had taken to the stage, but it turned out to be a bit of an anticlimax. I love hotel bars, something that has definitely transpired with age, but this wasn’t the cosy picture I had imagined. Felt more like a bus station than a bar. Fenok was chuffed enough, and Ola too. They had a full day and evening in Copenhagen planned for tomorrow. Jeppe was nowhere to be seen. He’d gone off in search of food and Jon assured us that he would be gone all night if needs be.

After a large bottle of beer, we trudged off to our rooms. We had a pretty comfortable day tomorrow at least, our train home wasn’t until around midday. Jon and I, sharing a room as usual, lay in bed watching the film Drive for a while before giving up and hitting the lights.

The next morning we went up to the breakfast restaurant in the hotel, but the place was as depressing as the bar. We hadn’t paid for breakfast, and there didn’t seem to be anyone checking room numbers, and for a while we were thinking of just taking some food and fucking off. But then some staff member cottoned on to us and sent us down to the reception to pay. We made the decision that the food wasn’t worth paying for and left for the station instead, back to the same cafe as yesterday. The train journey home was a more subdued affair than on the way down, with the odd discussion about what gigs we would look at next year and when to record the new record. Johan jumped off in Linköping and we agreed we’d meet up early in the new year to finish writing the new record. We had around seven songs and heading to the studio sometime during the spring didn’t seem all that ambitious.

As it turned out, this would be the last show we played with the band. We didn’t practice in January, it was closer to March when that would become an actuality again, since we had a festival in Belgium booked. The one that had been postponed since 2020. The one I’d so looked forward to playing, to walking out on that stage knowing that that would mean the pandemic was over, or at least that the worst of it would be behind us.

And that was that. Twenty five years of Victims and it’s over. Almost thirteen for me. I feel sad that it’s over in some ways, but I’m also incredibly grateful that I’ve got to play with the guys and travel all over the world. I’ve had an amazing time and my life has been so enriched by the experiences I’ve had with the guys. I don’t know if we’ll ever play again. It’s certainly not going to be actual for the foreseeable future. It’s nothing I’m thinking of now. I started writing this blog around the same time I joined Victims, just after having put Raging Speedhorn to bed. I’m not sure if I’ll carry on. We’ll see. I probably will. I have to find things to write about in that case.

My life looks a lot different now to how it did when I started this blog back in 2009. I’m a parent for one thing. I quit my job and went back to university and got a degree. I got a new job in social work, which I love. But all that said, I’m not quite done with music yet. I still have the inspiration to write and play. Whether that will ever be on the level it was with Raging Speedhorn or Victims, we’ll have to wait and see. It feels doubtful right now, but as my dad always said to me, and I know find myself repeating to myself on a regular basis, “You never know what’s around the corner. One door closes, another opens.”

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


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.