Monday, May 22, 2017

Victims Turns Twenty

This year Victims turns 20 years old. We’re not quite the Rolling Stones but 20 years feels like a lifetime in punk rock terms. I guess there are a lot of old bands reforming and playing again, and that’s what it is, I have no real opinion on it either way, but to have been playing together, consistently writing records and touring for twenty years is quite an accomplishment. Fucking amazing really.

26th. April 1997 was the date of the first ever Victims show. The place? Oxelösund, which I’ve since learnt is a small town just outside of Nyköping, the place where the guys, Andy and Johan, Victims two remaining founding pillars, call home. In April 1997 I was nineteen years old and living in Corby, playing in a metalcore band called Soul Cellar, three of whose members would later form Raging Speedhorn, myself included. But that was still a year away. It’s a bit of a perspective fucker for me when I think about the fact that I’ve been playing in Victims since 2009, which is now eight years ago. I played in Speedhorn from start to original finish for ten years. And even though it is now almost ten years ago since we split up, those ten years still feel like the defining decade in my life. They still form a massive part of my identity. What’s weird as shit now is reflecting over the fact that I’ve been playing in Victims almost the same amount of time and yet it doesn’t feel anywhere near as long. Sure, Speedhorn felt like a fucking lifetime, it was intense and often as draining as it was fun. Eight years of Victims have flown by though, and I still feel like the new guy a lot of the time. Ronnie Wood syndrome I call it.

Maybe it’s the fact that there is a large part of Victims history that I’m not a part of. I still refer to the records from those years as “yours” and not “ours”. And they’re still my favourite records. I’m very much a part of the writing these days, with each record I feel it’s more “we” than “you”. The fact is, I’m eternally grateful to be playing in this band and have huge respect for Johan, Andy and Jon, who has as much Victims DNA running through him as anyone. If it wasn’t for the fact that I started playing with Victims almost directly after Speedhorn split up, there is every chance I would have quit playing music a long time ago. As it is, I’m closing in on twenty six years of playing in bands. I formed Morphene in 1991 at thirteen years old, I’ve haven’t not been in a band since.

And to think when Speedhorn split up in 2008 I was convinced I was taking a break. Johan and I were both working at Debaser, this great music venue in the middle of Stockholm, right by the water near the Old Town. I saw hundreds of great bands during my five years there washing dishes, hanging jackets in the wardrobe and eventually working behind the bar, all the time honing my Swedish languauge skills, conversing with drunk people. Johan was the in-house sound engineer and the main man. He’s always the main man. He has that pondus about him, just carries respect. I was taken aback when on my first day, he came up to me and said, “Hey, you’re in Raging Speedhorn right? Great band!” in front of the rest of the staff and the bosses. I don’t know if he meant it as a welcoming present, giving me a bit of slack with the rest of the staff and easing the burden of not speaking Swedish at that present point? I don’t know. Maybe he just actually liked Speedhorn. But my first day at work felt a lot less daunting after that. It was like going to your first day at senior school and one of the older guys from fifth year comes up to you and tells you they’d look after you since they knew your older cousin, and in hindsight obviously fancied her. Kind of like that. Not to put too diffuse a metaphor on it. Anyway, from that moment on I knew I was going to get on just fine at Debaser and I knew that Johan and I were going to be good friends.

So when he started talking to me about the possibility of playing second guitar in Victims I was obviously delighted. Not only were they a great band, but they were active and toured all over the place. The only problem was I was still pretty busy with Speedhorn, although I knew that was slowly coming to an end. We said we’d keep it in mind, maybe try it out some time in the future. As time went by Speedhorn and Victims actually toured together in Scandinavia, and it was during those shows I knew I really wanted to join Victims. Although at the time they were really just finding their feet as a three piece and I was starting to wonder if my chance at joining them hadn’t passed. They were fucking brutal as a three piece.

And so it was. Speedhorn split up in late 2008 and I was immediately on Johan’s case about practicing with them. And I did feel that I had to push it a bit because they didn’t seem quite as sure anymore. After some badgering from my side though we set up a practice. Johan gave me a compact disc of their latest setlist for me to try and work out on guitar and practice to at home before we jammed. I was immediately on the back foot since the only song I’d managed to learn so far, No Reason, from the Killer album, wasn’t on there. That was the slower, more rocking song on the album. Later on at practice when I suggested playing that song Andy just laughed, “What song is that?!”. When I explained which one it was his laugh took a slightly more scathing tone, “Fuck no, that song is rubbish!” I would soon learn that Andy has a disregard for many of the songs from the back catalogue, much to my amazement. Anyway, I managed to work out some of the songs from the setlist cd but it was a bit of a struggle. I was having a hard time with the speed of some of the playing, it was at that time way faster than anything I’d been plodding along with during the previous sixteen years. The thing is, the songs were even fucking faster in the practice room, twice the speed some of them, and then live they went up a notch again. Halfway through my first show with the guys, at Kafe 44 with Mob 47, my forearm was so strained it was cramping and I thought I was going to pass out. Felt like a right prick. Thankfully it got better and I adapted. And funnily enough, those songs have since slowed down a bit and playing with Victims now feels completely natural. Must be an age thing.

Anyway, after a couple of pracitces the guys told me that they had an East Coast States toured booked in a few months time and did I want to come along. I couldn’t fucking believe it! On a few occasions over the months following Andy and I chatted about me being in the band, and he told me more than once that it wasn’t just the fact that they really needed a second guitar player, it was more to do with the fact that it was just nice having me around. In hingdisght I guess Andy and Johan were happy for someone new in the band to ease the strain of trying to keep up with Jon. And for a while I did. Those first few tours I cherished every moment of riding the Jon party train and documenting every hillarious moment of it whilst out on tour.

Last year we released the second album with me on it, Sirens, it took about five years to write. It’s not Metallica’s black album or anything, it just took a long time to write because we’ve all been producing kids and almost seamlessly overlapping each other with periods of paternity leave. Sirens is solid enough but the result of having certain songs on the album that are five years old is that you’re bored of them before they’re even released. Uncharacteristically, we’ve now finished writing a new record, well a twelve inch at least, not even a year after the release of Sirens. I think it’s by far the best stuff we’ve written since I’ve been with the guys. It’s a bit different, Johan has started writing riffs for pretty much the first time in the band’s history and now that particular genie has been released from the bottle there is no putting it back in. He’s gone mad, writing songs all over the place. Johan’s “The Wall” I’ve been calling this new record. Although, as always, we’ve all been very involved in putting it together.

Whatever this new record is going to be called, I think it’s going to be by far the furthest step away from Neverendinglasting that the band (we’ve) written. Not that we’ve written a Mr. Bungle record or anything, it’s still Victims, but a little different. I had to laugh when we started talking about new material. Andy was very firm with the idea that he wanted us to “think outside the box”, that he didn’t care about writing stuff that people want to hear, that it has to first and foremost be interesting to us. Sure enough, Johan wrote his first riffs for the first song on the record and it was pretty different. “Woah”, I thought, “We’re onto something a bit out there with this”. And then Andy started banging a d-beat over it. And so it was thus. Probably still inside the box, just that the box has been stretched a bit. The song turned out fucking great anyway.

I still love Neverendinglasting though, I still love all the early Victims records. I’m probably the only one in the band that even listens to those records. And it’s always me harping on about playing songs from the first couple of records live, which almost always are dismissed out of hand by Andy and smirked at by Johan. Which isn’t that weird I guess. It’s not always that fun playing songs that are twenty years old. I don’t listen to any of my old albums. You live with them intensely before you release them into the world and then you’re done with them. Anyway, to celebrate twenty years of being a band we’re playing a show in August, and maybe, just maybe then, we’ll get to play some of those old crackers.

Like I say, there is a lot of Victims history before my time in the band, and I’ve heard some great stories in and around the van and the guys over the last eight years. The first time they played outside of Sweden and Johan was really nervous, he still gets pretty nervous sometimes, but he’s not always been the most comfortable talking between songs, Jon normally takes that roll. Anyway, he was so nervous that on entering the stage and taking the mic he said “Hi, we’re Sweden from Victims!” much to the delight of the Skitsytem guys who were touring with them. Johan kept quiet on stage for a while after that.

Andy and food have been the source of amusement now and again, none more so than the first time the guys played the UK and were treated to the famous “punk stew”, which back in the day was particularly rank a lot of the time in the UK. UK food has always been a source of piss taking for most of the rest of the world. Whatever it was they were served at this particular gig in Leeds though Andy couldn’t bring himself to eat it. Not being the best with the English language at the time Andy walked with the paper plate of slop and held it out to the punk who had served it to him, “I’m sorry”, he said sounding genuinely sad, not able to find any other words. The punk though obviously didn’t understand what was happening and the two of them just stood there looking at each other for a while. This is one of Johan’s favourite stories.

My favourite story though is of Jon. Who else? The first time Victims toured the States, back in 2006, Jon broke his leg after the first show whilst fucking around with this friend of his in the car park after the show. They were play wresting and she ending up falling on Jon and snapping his ankle, or foot or something. The story of the hospital visit itself is pretty fucking brutal. Jon said that he was lying in this room with his foot pointing the wrong way, and eventually a doctor turns up. After a bit of preparation the doctor looks solemly at him and says, “John, this is gonna hurt”. He then yanks his foot back into it’s correct position as Jon screams in agony. For the pain Jon was given some pretty saucy medication and his leg was put in a cast. Jon is a fucking hero though and he did the rest of the tour, playing people’s basements for the most part, sat in a wheelchair, playing guitar and banging his head. The guys only had to cancel one show, and they did one other show without Jon before he was ready to join back up them. That show was in Richmond, and they did that as a three piece with Little Andy on guitar and no bass. It was at a roller rink and Baroness were the support band. The absolute cherry on top of this story is though that Jon had an alergic reaction to the pain medication he was which resulted in his lips puffing up like a fucking balloon! I’ve seen the pics and he looked like a Hollywood botox effort gone horendously wrong. I can only imagine the first show they played with him after the accident, Johan rolling Jon into the gig space in his wheelchair, plaster cast leg pointing the way forwards and insanely big lips hindering Jon from talking properly. “Hi, we’re Victims!”

“No shit”...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nottingham

Woke up to Luc moaning at me about my phone, saying it had been buzzing and plinging all night. I’d left it charging on the table and hadn’t turned the sound off. I could have volleyed back with a complaint about his talking in his sleep but didn’t bother. I guess he can’t turn the sound off on that though...Still, it’s like sleeping next to a fucking serial killer. Buffalo Bill in the bed beside me. Don’t even want to know what he was dreaming about.

It’s nice with the lie in this morning. The train to Notts is at 1pm and we don’t have to leave the hotel until 12. Dancer. The lobby is still full of lads as we check out, different lads though. Same shite banter coming out of them though. They must advertise this place as lad friendly or something. There are a bunch of old Geordie boys checking out as well, we’d met the same crowd in the hallway last night, they’d spotted us carrying the guitars and lept on it immediately, “Oooh boys we’re ganna be rocking the night!” and “Sorry lads, ain’t got nae change on me”. Brilliant stuff. Kev just leaves the keys on the desk and we fuck off out of there. We find a pretty nice cafe on the way to the station, with some friendly woman serving us. She asks if we’re in a band and where we’re from and all and she’s really chatty with us the whole time we’re there. The food is decent too, I have avocado smash on toasted sourdough bread and a cappuccino. I’m feeling good again this morning. I could get used to this no hangover on tour lark.

The train to Nottingham takes around two hours and Kev tells us that our old mate Steve Heresy, who plays with Endless Grinning Skulls who we have the pleasure of playing with tonight, has booked us a table at the amazing Annie’s Burger Shack, which is a proper luxury since it’s almost impossible to get a booking at this late notice. Steve works there though and could sort us out. Thing is, as Kev tells us we have a table sorted it springs to mind that Henry, another friend involved in the show tonight, made really nice food for Victims last time we played, and literally not a minute later Henry texts Kev and tells him that he’s made food. Feel a bit bad about that. We apologise and assure him that the food will be eaten during the evening, no problem on that score.

We head straight to Annie’s from the station. The food here is fucking top. One of the best veggie burgers you’ll ever eat. Me and Vik have a Motörhead themed meal with a Lemmy Burger and a Road Crew Pale Ale, which has something to do with the Motörhead brand. Ace just sitting here relaxing with some good scran for a while. When we’re done we head down the road to drop the stuff off at the venue and I’m trying to decide what to do with the afternoon before things kick off tonight. I have a bunch of friends from Corby coming, Snitch and Bean, two of my oldest mates who I get to see not nearly enough these days, but also a few old friends from school who have been in touch and said they were coming. Will be really fun to see them. It’s literally been about twenty years and this is totally not their scene, it will probably freak them out a bit, but they’re great people and I’m looking forward to seeing them. I’m walking alongside Kev and he’s going on about Sean Duggan’s new pub, saying that he feels that he has to pop by and see him. Kev and Sean played in Hard to Swallow together and Sean thinks the world of Kev. He’s a bit fucking mental though and there’s always a danger of being intimidated into drinking booze when you go to his. He’s a difficult man to say no to. Kev asks me if I fancy a walk over there. I’m kinda doing my best to abstain from the event to be honest but Kev is doing his best to convince me. It’ll only be the one, and all that. I tell Kev I think I might just go for a walk about for a bit and then the truth comes out, “Come on Gaz, I need you there with me to keep me from getting fucked”. What can I do?

We drop the gear off, shoot the breeze with Boulty for a bit who is hanging like a soggy sock, says he had a bit of a bad’un last night and was up early recording a band this morning. He’s slowly getting things in order so we leave him to it and tell him we’ll be back in a bit. Andy EGS has some artwork up at this pub called the King Billy just down the road, part of an exhibition with some others that we’d like to check out, so we decide to head by there on the way back from Sean’s pub. When we locate Sean’s pub and aim towards it we spot him stood outside with a big smile on his face, waiting for Kev. We exchange pleasantries at the door and then head in and the first thing Sean does is bark an order at his bartender for five shots of Jager. I immediately decline the kind offer, although I have to stand my ground and politely say no a couple of times, but the others sheepily take the shot on order. Luc and Vik stand there banging on about how actually, Jagermeister is really good for the old digestion and it was actually just what they needed after the big meal. My arse.

Once that’s all done we sit take a table and a drink with Sean and face a barrage of old tales and anecdotes for the next forty minutes. Some of the old Nottingham stories from back in the 90’s, when a huge crowd of punks basically occupied an entire house of flats, are beyond fucking belief. We sit there pissing ourselves laughing as Sean and Kev recount the madness. One of my favourites being the one where they had a party in the backyard and they’d tied a tarpaulin sheet up as a roof from the rain, attached to the yard walls and house windows. Keväs old best mate, Bobby Vimto, jumped from a third storey window onto the sheet and took the fucker straight down, bringing a window and the entire window frame out of the wall with it. There was another one about Hard to Swallow being on tour in Europe and Gords had diagnosed himself with cancer, saying he had a hole in his throat. Sean being the only one with a vague grip on German took care of the situation and went with Gords to sort him out at the dentist. After forty minutes of this stuff we have to leave, although not before Sean tries to force another pint down Kev. Kev looks at me for support and insists that we have to go, gotta get back for soundcheck. As if.

We head to the King Billy to check out Andy’s artwork and bump into the very man himself and Henry, who is wearing a cracking pair of love heart shaped sunglasses and a cheeky smile. It’s great to see the boys, always is. Wonderful people. They’re just on their way back up to the venue though. We tell them we’ll be up in a bit and head inside. The stuff is all upstairs on the walls of the pool room, and some other stuff in a smaller room beside where they have a dartboard. There are a pair of old couples in there playing arrows though and they look at us like the circus just came to town.

We decide to play some pool. Vik helps himself to an IPA, 7% job. Don’t know where he puts the stuff away. When he orders it the old boy at the bar feels the need to warn him about the price. “Just so you know, this beer is five quid a pint. It’s the dearest beer we have”. Kev tells the old boy Vik is from Stockholm and Vik hands over a fiver, fucking chuffed. We have a couple of games of pool and then decide to have a look at Andy’s stuff in the other room, old cunts or not. This one old girl is sat right underneath a big frame of the original artwork for the new EGS record. Kev stands right in front of her to get a closer look. She looks at him like he’s just dipped his knob in her glass. Mardy old boot. Snitch has been on the blower anyway, tells me they’re at the pub next to the venue, so we head off there, leaving them to the darts.

The Vine, which my mate James whose place we’re staying at tonight tells me is a terrifying pub, although James is easily terrified to be fair, is literally right next door to the rehearsal rooms which is tonight’s venue. Right outside the pub is also the spot where some poor bastard got kicked to death the first time we played here. Fucking heavy night that was. Anyway, there is this knuckle dragger stood outside the pub smoking a cig, big fat bloke who looks like a character from the film ID, looks like he hates everyone. We breeze past him and find Snitch and Bean sat in the bar. It’s great to see the big pair of cheesy smiles that these two carry around with them wherever they go. We’re sat at a table cackling like witches before Vik is even back from the bar, chuffed as fuck that his pint only cost two pound forty. There are only a couple of other old codgers in the bar and apart from our howling laughter the place is silent. I get the feeling we’re not too appreciated. It’s bright as fuck in here as well. Vik said he got a couple of funny looks when he ordered a glass of water for me and all. It’s great catching up with two of my oldest and closest friends though. Before long ID walks back in and takes up a position behind a DJ board, looks at us with a face like thunder whilst trying to concentrate on the playlist he’s obviously setting up on his phone. I keep my eye on him for about ten minutes. He looks pure infuriated. When he finally starts the show he kicks off with the Muppets Theme Tune, and some cheap flashing disco lights kick into action to accompany it. Total surreal scene. We get the fuck out of there and head to the venue.

Jeremie is waiting at the top of the steep stairs for me with a big hug. It’s great to see him. And then I spot my old school friends from Corby, sat in the gig room, which is even smaller than it was last time played since they’ve basically built a box in the old foyer to get around it disturbing the other practice spaces. This place now only holds fifty and they’ve sold all thirty advance tickets out. It should be a great evening. Revenge for last night’s pants. Anyway, the guys are sat on the floor drinking tins of beer, saying they couldn’t believe there was no bar and it was bring your own booze. They have three bags full of tins and they seem intent on getting plastered tonight. It’s really great to see them though. Heg, John, Kerry and Lucy. Lucy and John I literally don’t know if I’ve seen since school. Lucy is this really beautiful person that we were all in love with at school, she was one of the popular girls but for some reason loved all us long haired “grungers” and our association with her saved us from various kick-ins I’m sure. It’s great to see her. And Heg is the guy I probably have to thank for being here since it was him who first started playing me Guns n’ Roses and Metallica records when we were eleven years old. I have no idea what they’ll make of tonight.

The entire evening is pretty much spent chatting and catching up with various people. Dave Speedhorn and another friend Sean are here, always fun getting in on the latest Speedhorn gossip. Weird Chris has come down from Sheffield, he’s telling about how things didn’t really work out for him in Gothenburg, which is a shame since he was psyched about moving there. Says he loves Sheff too much to stay away though. I miss the first couple of bands since I’m out on the street chatting for most of them. I’m only waiting for EGS tonight anyway. By the time they start I’ve taken my position into the tightly packed room, right in front of Gords. Andy introduces the show, “Hi we’re Endless Grinning Skulls and we have a new record out. And we’re gonna play it for you now”. I love Andy’s style. They rip through the whole record and I’m doing my best not to tamp on Gords toes, but the crowd behind is nudging me ever slowly forward. I look over at Luc on the other side, banging his fist the whole set, big smile on his face. Kev and our mate Kelly Apple are stood beside me, big smiles. Kev is loving every second of it, eyes closed in ecstasy of the EGS thunderbastard. He’s probably a bit pissed too. The thing is, they’re so fucking good, all three of them super talented. Weird Chris is stood behind the band banging his head with a huge smile on his face. And watching Steve play those drums is a pleasure anyone can indulge in, even my old mate Kerry from school who is stood at the front having a little dance. I think all the four of them are pretty boats, Heg had caught me on the way in and told me he was wankered, apparently he’d fallen over a bollard on the way back from the pub here. Anyway, I enjoy every last second of the EGS set and I’m dying to get up and play, fearful that everyone will fuck off now they’re done. James turns to me and laughs, “Good luck following that!” No shit…

We get set up pretty quick since we’re using all of EGS gear but of course the punks have gone for a quick breather between bands and it’s not that full by the time we’re ready. But we start making noise and the room quickly fills again. Stone cold sober and full of energy, I’m ready for this fucker. Sixteen songs fly by, I don’t think I stop moving and dancing around during the entire set, just totally fucking buzzed. Jeremie and Henry, still in his heart shaped shades, stood right in front of me, big smiles across their faces. Weird Chris behind Vik fistbanging. Even Annie, from the legendary Burger Shack, a very old friend of the scene is in the middle of the crowd headbanging. It’s just one of the immensely fun shows and the energy doesn’t drop for a second. I have one bizarre moment when Lucy grabs me between songs at one point, obviously pretty sauced and shouts something along the lines of, “This is fucking mental!” and then John taps me on the shoulder during the next song and stands there headbanging in front of me for a few seconds. I just crack up and carry on. Feels like everyone has a great show, even Luc who was having trouble with his Rat pedal which I saw him kicking a few times seems to be chuffed as shit.

After the show I stand there sweating my ass off trying to wrap a lead up whilst talking to a pissed up Beany and Snitch who is driving back. It takes about ten minutes to untangle that fucking lead for some reason, Beany telling me he’s disappointed in my lack of skills. James approaches and tells me that if we can make it back to the King Billy for midnight we’ll get a lock in. We have forty five minutes to get there, time to get into action. Boulty gives me a bunch of codes for different doors to the building and asks me not to kick the doors in again like we did the first time we played here. On that occasion Kev had taken the code and then fell asleep pissed in the Old Angel and left the rest of us up the creek. This time I’m totally straight although have little phone battery so give them to Luc to store in his. It’s a bit of a faff fest getting everyone on the move but eventually we manage to move about thirty of us to the King Billy, pretty much half of the gig in essence. James is a bit panicky about the amount of people in tow but seems pretty sure that we’ll be okay.

When we get there we find Iggy and some other classic Notts punks already outside and the door to the pub is already locked. Although there is still plenty of signs of life from within. James looks through the letter box and says he can see Henry in there, trying to explain the situation to the landlord. Luc who is obviously pissed is oblivious to this and is stood knocking the window beside the door. I tell him to cool it but I can tell by the look on his face that he’s in that mood. Just as all is looking doomed and we’re trying to think of a plan B the landlord pokes his head out and says there’s time for one last beer, whilst giving a very sly wink. We pile in and swarm the bar, the young barmaid, very friendly and happy to serve us but looking a little worried by the sheer mass of punks flowing through the door, “Oh my…” she says in a beautifully posh accent.

Happy to have a cold pint of IPA in my hand I take a table with Jeremie, James and Chris who plays with James in Grey Hairs and was also in a great band before called Wolves! Of Greece. He’s really nice and is bubbling about the gig, talking over and over about the energy I had whilst playing. Fucking chuffed to meet him, I really liked his band. In the hour or so we’re there I manage to get around to most people for a chat, and apparently Luc, Vik and Kev have managed to get pretty smashed. Even Boulty is here, dreading yet another hangover tomorrow. By one am it’s time to go and we head back to the venue for our bags and gear. Boulty tells me that we can use the main door since there are still people there and James has the code. We get to the venue and James does not have the code. At least not one for this door. Vik and Luc are very confused, saying they have the codes and whilst I’m trying to explain to them that we have to go around to the back door they’re stood there punching different combinations on the panel. I manage to steer them round to the back door and we take ourselves in that way with the code I have from Boulty, the first of which was easy to remember. The second door is already open which leads us straight back into the venue but I’ve locked our gear inside EGS room. Queue Vik and Luc standing with phones in hand shouting codes at me. Getting on my fucking tits by this point I tell them to shut it and let open the door with another code to this room that Jeremie gave me earlier. They get a bit arsey now, reckon I’m being a cunt. For the first time this weekend I wish I was drunk so I could deal with this pair of jokers. Luc insists I apologise for my attitude, which I do, but he doesn’t accept it as sincere. Fuck this.

As James calls an Uber cab, something he apologises for directly, saying he knows it’s not very punk rock, the guys spot tubs of Henry’s food in the kitchen. A couple of different curry dishes, some bhajis of some sort and naan breads. Everyone happy again we tuck, making curry sarnies from the bread. We stuff it down before the cab arrives and head back to James’ place, talking with the driver about Irish folk music the whole way back. It’s almost two when we get back but we sit up for a while for a bit of a chat before bed time. The guys head off to crash out after drinking a couple of sips of beer but James and I have a glass of wine each and stay up a little longer. James is pretty fucking wankered himself though and when I notice his eyes closing as I talk I tell him it’s time we hit the hay. It’s almost three and we have to get up just before eight, have an early train to London tomorrow. I head upstairs to the top floor and lie down on the mattress on the floor, head clear and wired, thoughts won’t stand still to allow sleep to take me. I lie there for an hour, getting more and more pissed off. “I can’t get no sleep..” Gords line from the old Geriatric Unit comes to mind. Going to be fucking knackered in the morning. At least I won’t be hungover though. Is this the start of a new era? I wonder..

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Leeds

Dad clock. Wake up at seven am. Dying for a shite. The flat is enveloped in a blanket of silence. Kev’s bedroom door is firmly closed. I empty myself in the toilet, grab a glass of water and head back to the mattress and will myself back to sleep. It’s u not happening.

Around nine the first signs of life begin to appear. Christie is up and out of bed, walking around in his kecks with his newly done tattoo, a huge black V (according to Viv it was in her honour) starting at the top of his scrote and ending under his nipples. What a sight. From Bloody Kev’s room there are murmured sounds. A bit of chat. Some giggling. Vik is playing something loudly on his phone, grumbling at me and Luc for talking loudly. We begin to speculate on Kev’s night, who it was he ended up going home with. Slowly a clearer picture of the situation begins to appear. There are two female voices coming from his room. Not long after Kev walks into his living room wearing nothing but his kecks and a guilty smile. “What the fuck Kev? Were there three of you last night?” one of us asks. Kev sits down with hand over his mouth, trying his best to hide his grin, “I’ve had an accident”. Dirty old fecker. And to think we were debating yesterday about whether he was contemplating retiring yesterday. He’s by far the oldest of us and yet he comes home hours after we go to bed and then with two girls. He makes some joke about how the Magick Gods are looking out for him. Love him, I really do. He heads back into his bedroom and the giggling continues. It seems like there is a lot of joy in the room. And what’s wrong with that at the end of the day? Consenting adults and all that.

A while later one of the girls walks out into the hallway and finds a newly showered Luc, “Where is the toilet? Whoever you are”, she bluntly asks him. Lucas cracks up. Like her style. Kev laughs and says that apparently in the midst of booze ridden haze she’d texted her boss at work telling her she wouldn’t be coming into work today, “You are the worst human being I’ve ever met since the dinosaurs,” and some further explanations of her contempt for him. I guess that’s the end of that job. Kev puts a pot of coffee on and after a quick shower the three of us head down to the Waiting Room for breakfast, leaving Kev to carry on with his morning.

The Waiting Room. It’s my favourite place in London. The food and coffee are fantastic and there’s always the chance of catching up with members of the Deptford family. We sit and eat with Alex from the tattoo shop, and later Christie appears from work. After breakfast we do a bit of shopping at Poundland, where literally everything costs a pound. Vik went in looking for a toothbrush and yet I find him in the queue with a multipack of Square Crisps. When I spot him I ask him if he got a toothbrush, “Ah fuck, forgot about that”.

Just down the street from Kev’s flat we meet some old crazy tramp shouting at nobody until he turns his sights on us. He approaches Luc first, “Alright John, give me a pound”. He then turns to me and I hand him a two pound coin. He face lights up, looks genuinely shocked. “I fucking love you!” he shouts at me and then grabs me and gives me a huge sloppy kiss on my cheek. The old boy has a surprisingly strong grip. When we get back to Kev’s he’s just getting his shit sorted, the girls are just getting ready to leave. We smile and say hi and then head into the living room to get our stuff sorted. I hear Kev’s voice from the hallway as he says goodbye to his friends, “Well thank you for a lovely evening”. Creamy sod.

Time to leave for the journey to Leeds, we walk along to Canary Wharf and take the train up to St. Pancras. As cheap as it is I’m glad we’re not taking the fucking Mega Bus. Saying that, our train carriage is inhabited by a gang of wankers, mouthy lads on their way to Leeds for some football game, making sure everyone knows they’re in the place. Fucking nightmare. Kev zones them out with his headspace app, I get to writing. Luc lies with his head on the table willing the lads to death. Vik tucks into the three tins of IPA he bought at Marks and Spencers.

When we get to Leeds we follow Kev’s phone map, trying to locate the Ibis Budget Hotel we’re staying in tonight. Twenty quid a room, can’t knock that. There is a lot of farting around with that fucking phone map, walking around lost in Leeds is a drain. This is a miserable place. I’ve never seen the sun here and there are lots of homeless people everywhere, just looking vacantly, no hope in their eyes. Reminds me of so many I work with at home. A lot of other people here just seem to have a harsh look on their faces too. Luc picks up on it, saying people just look so worn out and miserable. And there are so many fucking “lads” prowling the streets too, wearing nothing but tight muscle tops. We walk past this one shower and I hear one of them say, “Fucking hell look at the fat arse on that. I’d fuck the shit out of it”. The rest of his gang don’t even laugh at it, it just seems to be taken as a general statement. Fucking scum.

At a set of traffic lights we’re waiting for the green man and a trio of young yobs walking down the street towards the junction from the other side of the road. A bus is coming at a good pace from behind them and turning in and the three guys just carry on walking without even a glance, completely absorbed in their own shitty little world. We all realise what’s happening and everything starts going into slow motion. “Wuh…Woah.. WOAH!” the four of in alarmed unison call out. The bus misses the one guy by centimeters. As we pass them on the crossing they look at us laughing and I say to one of them, trying to make light of it, “You scared the shit of us”. One of them turns back acting the cunt, mocking us. This enrages Vik and he powers down the road saying he wished the twat had been mowed down. Me and Luc agree that we’re glad we didn’t witness someone being disintegrated by a bus but Vik is having none of it.

Of course the first thing we see when we get to the hotel is the gang of lads from the train, one of them shouting “Rooney, Rooney!” Fuck sakes… We hang back whilst Kev sorts the room keys, Luc finding it hard to hide the pain in his expression as he looks at the lads dominating the lobby area. After a quick shower and settling into the room I skype home to the girls for a chat, Polly mainly wants to talk to Lucas and the other guys, I have to show her around the hotel and she’s asking where the pool is. If only darling. Afterwards we head over to the venue which is just nearby, to drop the stuff. We played The Temple of Boom a few years ago with Kylma Sota and Perspex Flesh. That was a fun night. Lecky Voorhees owns the place and it’s a really nice space. Unfortunately tonight is not going to be anything like that night. This is one of those festivals with a hotchpotch line up, everything from ska to Oi! What the fuck we’re doing on the bill I don’t know. Everyone Kev knows is at this big party tonight for some scene legend called Kilvo. And there are some hardcore bands playing that too. This gig won’t have a chance. Kev had met a couple of old friends earlier as we were walking to the station and the first they said was that they couldn’t make the gig. I’m already feeling like I just want to play the gig, go to a quiet pub somewhere for a pint and then enjoy the hotel bed. The guy running the show is friendly enough, the first thing he does is pay us and then ask us if we want weed. We politely decline, understanding what kind of show this is going to be. A loosely run free for all most likely. When the guy leaves Kev sits down on an old sofa and slumps, propping his cheek up on his fist, looking miserable, “I’m not gonna be getting laid tonight am I? I’ll have to boof Gords tomorrow.” We all piss ourselves laughing.

We go off in search of some dinner, Vik is on to a tip he’d gotten about a pizza place. We find it after a while, it’s some big place that is heaving with people. Kev turns to me straight away, “It’s one of Vik’s fucking “beer” pubs init!” We check out the prices but it’s actually pretty reasonable and there happens to be a table by the window. It’s loud as fuck in here though. We decide to stay anyway and take turns at going to order. Vik and Kev go first and then Kev comes back having ordered and me and Luc head off through the crowd. I spot Vik at the bar talking to the bartender, trying samples of ale. Fucking typical Stix. He loves it. The pizza and the beer is good though, I have a nice pint of IPA from Scotland, low strength and full of taste. I’m deciding again to take it easy today, I enjoyed being completely hangover free last night not to mention sober during the gig.

After dinner we head back to the venue, there’s not really enough time to do anything else but head there and gear up for the show. As we walk into the gig room the first thing I see is some young kids soundchecking some kind of grindcore ska music and they’re all wearing Kiss makeup. This does not bode well for the show tonight. Does not bode well at all. We walk through to the backyard where they have the bar and I clock my old friend Jamie drinking a beer. I’d almost forgotten that he was driving down from Scotland to come see us tonight. My first thought is, “Why did he have to come to this show?” thinking about how great last night was and how tomorrow will be the same. Oh well. It’s great to see him anyway, as always. His mate Daz from his band is with him too. We take ourselves outside to the courtyard and sit around catching up. I help myself to a bottle of water whilst Kev and Vik are cheekily tucking into a bottle of Hooch. Fucking Hooch. Vik looks chuffed.

Kev catches up with Lecky for a bit who tells him he’s totally baffled by this “festival” this weekend. Three days and no red thread whatsoever. Lecky is obviously just hiring the place out and he has to be here the whole weekend. Doesn’t seem that chuffed. We go to check out the band before us, some two piece powerviolence/hardcore effort. It’s so insanely loud though that it just causes pain watching them. Well that and the music. The room has a bit of a vacuum effect though and the PA is about three times too powerful for the room. I head back in when they’re done and find the drummer talking to someone, looking chuffed with himself. Politely I say to him, “Fuck mate, it was insanely loud”. “Ah glad you liked it man. Glad you enjoyed it” he says. Well I didn’t say that, I think to myself.

We set up as soon as possible, I got to check out the amp on stage and the guitarist from the band before asks me, “So you wanna use my amp as well then?” A bit a mardy tone in his voice. Fair enough I suppose if nobody has asked his permission but that guy running the show told me I could use the amp on stage. It was a simple mix up though, and there is an in-house amp to use. As soon as Vik hits his snare you can tell what tonight is going to sound like. Chaotic. There is no need to put mics on anything and yet everything is miked up. The twenty or so people watching must simply be getting their faces melted by the PA. Although Jamie and Daz tell me afterwards that the thing kep dropping out all the time so all you could hear was the vocals coming out of the stage monitors. We play okay anyway but it’s a dead show compared to last night. This was always going to be the wild card though. Of course, I break a string about two thirds of the way through, but it feels like too much hassle to change it so I just struggle through to the to the end. That takes the enjoyment factor down another couple of notches though. Luc’s bass drops out completely at one point and is gone for about two songs. Rubbish. Luc says afterwards that it didn’t really matter since the amp sounded like a fart anyway.

Afterwards we head back out to the bar area and I’m already thinking about packing up and heading to the hotel. I feel bad though if Jamie and Daz want to hang around a bit more since they’ve made the drive down but Jamie says they’re heading back soon anyway, his boy has a cricket tournament the next morning. Magic of them to come down, but I feel bad about the show. Feels like Jamie didn’t know what to really make of it.

I’m pondering having a beer but there’s nothing I really fancy. I’m certainly not going to drink a can of Stella that I see Vik has in his hand. I’d rather wait, go to another pub somewhere and enjoy a pint of something decent. I mention this to Vik and he looks at me and says, “I’m gonna get wankered!” and then bursts out laughing. I hadn’t noticed until now but he’s pretty sauced. Kev is sat at the merch stall hanging out with some little girl on the sofa, she must be around seven, cute as anything, and her punk dad. Feel kinda sorry for the young child, she looks tired and bored, watching some horror film showing on the projector screen on the wall across. I ask Kev if we’ve sold any merch and he points at a pound coin lying on the table, “A patch.” Great. Jamie and Daz buy an album each though and want shirts but we only have three shirts left, one small and two youth large. We give them a couple of the shirts for free and say maybe their kids want them. Fuck, it was really nice of them to come down.

Jamie and Daz get going and we head off to the hotel to drop the gear off before going in search of a pub. We find a place across the road called The Palace which will do the job. It’s pretty dead, only a few punters left, two of which are terrifying looking skinhead football yobs, and a stroppy bartender. Luc is desperate for some food and is gutted to find the kitchen has just slammed shut. The smell of chips are still lingering in the air and as I walk away with my pint one of the skinheads turns to me sniffing the air and asks, “What’s that smell?”... I get the feeling he’s mocking us, my arse is getting the feeling it’s about to dump a load in my kecks. “I don’t know…” I offer is meek reply, barely audible. I hurry off to the table which Vik and Kev have located. It’s nice having a quiet pint, good way to end the day. The yobs have turned their attention inwards again and all, thank fuck.

We only manage the one before last orders but it’s all I require. I’m taking it very easy on the booze this weekend, makes a refreshing change. We head outside and find the yob sat at a table engrossed in his phone. Fuck, don’t need this. Vik is in the pisser and I’m willing him to get a fucking move on. Yob soon clocks us though, “Where are you lot from?”. Sweden, we reply, knowing that it’s going to encourage further conversation but not quick enough to able to avoid it. “Sweden! What the fuck are you doing in this shithole?!” That’s that, he’s over. Sweden seems to have acted as a peace treaty though and now he’s really interested in us. He asks our names and I realise that Gareth is going to give things away but I again can’t think fast enough to make something up, he totally misses it anyway. “My name’s Barry. I know, sounds like a peodophile!” he barks. Thankfully Barry’s cab turns up shortly after. He gives us some directions to some chip shops and fucks off. As do we.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

London

So much for plans. Our ten thirty flight became a three thirty flight. First world problems I know but still, a bit of a fucking pisser. We’d planned to spend the afternoon in Deptford with our friends, hanging out in the sun, eating dinner at Alec and Mucky’s new pub the Full Nelson, bit of record shopping at DIY Space maybe? Nah, flight is fucking delayed five hours. Still, we got a couple of hundred kronor food coupons to get some scran whilst we sat waiting by the gate. Vik spent his on beer, Luc on croissants and me on a selection of snacks, one item of which a packet of dried almonds that had no salt or oil and literally likened eating wood chips.

The atmosphere by the gate was tetchy, tempers were frayed. People get so wound up over delayed flights and the poor bastards manning the gate were taking it from all sides. When the two thirty pm London flight ended up leaving before ours it drove a pair of ladies mad, they couldn’t believe that they wouldn’t just let us take that flight instead. As if that’s how it works. Like Vik said, typical behaviour from people who don’t travel that often. It was a relief to finally get going though. The flight over was pretty nice anyway, we were on a brand new plane, actually the first ever passengers on it. Never experienced that before. We get talking on the plane, debating the likelihood of Kev retiring from the whole punk thing within the next few years. He seems to have been on a bit of a disconnect with new stuff recently, moaning saying that the only bands he likes are DB and Herätys. Plus he seems to have really gotten into the whole black magic, witchcraft thing pretty heavily and he joked the other day about retiring after DB tour Japan in a couple of years, something Vik has been speaking about trying to sort out with the Kriegshög guys. There is some humming and hawing whilst the debate goes on and we all agree that if he does then he’s certainly given a heroic service to the scene this last thirty years. I mean, he is almost fifty for fuck sakes, it wouldn’t be that surprising if the end was in sight…

We landed around four thirty and were getting off the train in New Cross around an hour and half later. Kev texted telling us to come straight to the rehearsal place. We were pretty fucking tempted to stop off at the Albert pub on the way though. That wouldn’t have impressed Kev too much, he’d already been making trips back and forth to the Bird’s Nest, lugging gear for the show tonight. Would have been a right piss take to stop for a pint.

We met up with Kev at John Conflict’s studio, him and John sat outside drinking a beer. Always great to see John. We had a quick chat with him and then pushed a guitar amp and cab up the road to the Nest. Luc and I went back to Kev’s to pick up guitars. I haven’t seen my red SG in a couple of years and I wasn’t sure how it was feeling. The strings were fucking minging, totally rusty, and the strap smelt like disease, but hopefully a bit of touching up and it would be okay. Last time I played it it sounded shit though, I hope it works out. It’s nice to sit at Kev’s for a bit, but before getting too comfortable we pull ourselves out off the sofa and walk down the road to the Nest. Vik and Kev are sat with Jonah from Fucked Up/Career Suicide having a beer. He lives in London with his wife who is from here, they live on a canal boat and have to move every two weeks. Pretty cool. He’s known Vik for years and biked over here to see us play tonight. We order some dinner from the bar and a beer and head outside to make the most of the fading sun. It’s still pretty warm and for the first time today I feel completely relaxed.

Whilst we’re stood drinking Bird’s Nest IPA and waiting for our food to arrive Jen calls saying Polly wants to say goodnight. They’ve just done with her bedtime story and they’re about to turn the lights out. It’s really wonderful that Polly is now at the age that you can talk to her on the phone. I talk with her for about twenty seconds before she cuts me off, “I want to say goodnight to Lucas and Viktor. Put Lucas on first and then Viktor”. I have to interrupt Lucas and Jonah’s conversation and give him the phone, Luc asks me who it is but I just give him the phone without saying anything. Luc looks a little confused, “Hello?.... Heeeeeey Polly!” a big smile breaking out on his face. And then it’s Vik’s turn. Jonah understands what’s going on and says, “Oh my God, that’s so beautiful!”

We end up getting a table, it’s pretty busy so we squeeze in amongst some other guys. It feels like everyone who is sat out here have been here all afternoon. This young Irish guy in a bright orange building site jacket is eyeing us up, obviously a bit boats. It’s the usual, “Are you guys a band?” and “Where are you guys from?” stuff but it turns out he’s actually a really nice guy. This builder associate of his, some Italian guy starts spouting some racist shite at this beggar guy who comes around and the Irish guy, Joe, gives him a slap and asks him why the fuck he’s saying that shit. Italian is steaming and just mumbles, “I’m bored”.. He starts trying to talk to me and I tell bluntly I’m not interested in talking to him. We shunt him out and engage fully in conversation with Joe for a half hour or so, me, Luc, Vik and Jonah. I feel kinda sorry for Joe, he has a real melancholy vibe about him. He’s pretty pissed though, so it’s probably got a lot to do with that.

After the food I head back into the pub and downstairs to the cellar to change the strings on my guitar, doing my best to scrape the rust off of the pickups whilst I’m at it. I miss a couple of the bands that are playing upstairs during the time it takes, they sound pretty good too. Jamie comes down after a while and I sit catching up with him for about twenty minutes. It’s been ages and it’s really nice to see him. When I’m done with the guitar I head up to the pub with Jamie and watch his band Split Veins play their set. There aren’t exactly loads of people in whilst they play. There are a few hanging outside still and all of our crew haven’t arrived from the Nelson yet, they’re all either working or hanging out there. Kev is looking a little stressed, reasoning to himself, “It is Thursday after all. Fuck knows.” I enjoy Split Veins set anyway, they sound great. Carlos has a great voice. The few that are there watching in the tiny little space in front of the stage start moshing and before I know some punk has spilt his pint all over my arm. Wonderful. He apologises for about the next five minutes, seemingly unwilling to accept my assurances that’s ok. I eventually move off to the side and watch the rest of the gig, gutted that my nice grey sweatshirt is covered in stinking beer.

We get set up pretty much straight after Split Veins finish since the music has to be done by eleven and it’s getting on. I guess the short set is always an advantage in these situations. The family start arriving as we’re setting up anyway, Karl and Jules, Alex, Viv has been here a while and Misa is walking around with two pints laughing at everything. The sound guy is some old boy who used to play in Ozric Tentacles and he’s being a bit pissy because a mic seems to be missing. Luc doesn’t have one and he’s moaning saying that one has been nabbed or something. It seems to resolve itself soon enough though. After the most basic of line checks we’re good to go. I give Vik a quick look, tell him to watch the tempo, and we blast into Viles. From the very first moment you can feel it’s going to be one of those really fun shows. The space is pretty packed now and people are flying about. During the second song Kev gets thrown into me as I’m facing Vik’s drum kit and I in turn fall into Vik’s crash cymbal knocking it over into the wall. Vik doesn’t notice until he goes to hit it and only finds air where the cymbal should be. Love it.

Normally we play really fast, like too fast, because we get carried away, which means that a lot of our shows I struggle to enjoy because I only end up playing half of the notes, and it’s not that fun feeling like you’re playing really sloppy. Tonight it’s perfect. And my guitar sound is good too. Pretty clean in contrast to Luc’s bass which is simply screaming out of the amp he’s lent. People seem to be having a really good time too and I spot Jonah stood right in front of Luc with a huge smile in his face, filming certain songs. We play sixteen songs in about twenty two minutes, which must be a record for us.

Afterwards we pack up, sell some records and then head down to the basement to gather our stuff, once we’re dried off. Jonah is there and is telling us it sounded like good old Cleveland hardcore, which will do for me. We get talking about other things and then somewhere in the mix someone mentions that we’re having a party for me and Kev next year, fortieth and fiftieth respectively. Jonah looks shocked as fuck, “Wait a minute! There’s no way Kev is fifty! He’s not a day over twenty nine!” Kev looks at him, puts his arm around Jonah and then looks at us, “I like your mate now Vik. I thought he was a cunt at first!” We all burst out laughing, none more so than Jonah.

We get paid and get sorted. The Bird’s Nest staff are getting a bit annoyed with the time it’s taking to clear the place and keep shouting at us to move. The thing is the kick drum pedal from Kev’s kit has gone, someone must have taken it by mistake and left the Nest’s inhouse pedal. Trying to work out what to do Kev asks Vik, “Is the Nest’s one better than ours?” Vik looks at the sorry thing stood on the floor, puts his foot on and tests it out. It literally falls apart. “That’s no good”, affirms Johna. We decide that Luc and I will push the cab and amp back to John’s studio whilst they sort this shit out and then we’ll all meet at the Full Nelson where they’re having a lock-in in our honour. It’s fucking raining when we wheel the amp out though so we have to lend a plastic bag to drape over the amp to keep it dry. We push it down the high street cracking up at the situation.

We get back to the studio and hang out with John and Sarah for a little while. John tells us he’s making one of the practice room into a gig space soon and we should come over and play. Would be great. Sarah is offering an assortment of olives and humus around but we’re in a rush to get to the Nelson and hang out. We say bye and head back up to New Cross High Street. The bar the guys have is fucking magic. First time I’ve been since they opened. It’s really small and intimate and looks like a bar you’d find in New York’s Lower East side or something. All of our friends are here and the atmosphere is brilliant. Vik and Jonah are both looking pretty sauced, Vik smiling broadly telling me to get a pint of the Gamma Ray IPA. I’ve only had the one pint all day and I feel fresh as a daisy. Was really nice playing a show completely sober, Now I’m ready for a nice beer. And fuck me, it tastes like heaven.

It’s really nice being sober amongst everyone when everyone is drunk. I love these people and I enjoy drinking a couple of pints of superb beer whilst making sure I get around to have a good fifteen/twenty minute chat with most of them. Tobs, Karl, Jules, Viv, Alec, Sean, Misa, as well as chatting with Luc, Vik and Jonah at the table we’re sat at. This is the perfect end to the night. I barely see Kev though, he’s at the other end of the short narrow room, eyes all wonky chatting to some girls. Ordering my second pint I have a really good chat with Alec who despite working behind the bar is pretty sauced. It’s his pub, I guess he can do what he wants. As we’re talking a couple of guys who were at the gig are stood just down the bar, really pissed and lively. They nudge one of the metal drip trays off the bartop and it makes a crash on the floor behind the bar. Alec gives them the evil eye for a brief moment and they look over at him like a pair of kids who know they’ve just made dad angry. Alec walks over silently, picks the tray up and then slams it down on the bartop right in front of them with an almighty crash, stares at them with a look that could freeze water, and then walks back over to me and continues telling me about life with his new baby boy.

After a couple of beers it’s time to head down the road to Kev’s. There have been some shots going around that I’ve happily avoided and now Vik is looking fucked. His eyes are barely half open and he’s sat beside me, nudging me as I talk to someone moaning, “Gaz, are we going down the road?” I tell him yes, in a minute. But seconds later he’s repeating the question, slightly more annoyed. I tell him yes and go look for Kev to get his keys. Kev is properly pissed, hanging out with some girl, slurring all over the place he says to me, “Pappa”. I laugh at him, asking what he’s going on about. “You are the pappa int you. You are always the pappa in the band. Is it ok if stay out for a bit?  I’m onto something here”, a pissed smirk peeling out of his mouth. I tell him it’s no problem of course and ask him if they’re going to be getting it on back at his place later, thinking to myself that I probably shouldn’t sneak myself a spot in his bed later in that case. “Dunno, my place, the bog, doesn’t matter” he says like a sleazy old bastard. I just take his keys, laugh at him and walk back over to Vik to put him out of his misery and tell him we’re going home.

Jonah is leaving too, repeating a few times that he’s smashed. Cycle helmet on, he bids us farewell and waddles off on his bike. Luc and Vik are wanting food and Luc starts walking to the LFC chicken joint in the search of chips. Both me and Vik tell him that the chips there are bogging and there’s a lot better chip shop at the end of Deptford High Street closer to Kev’s flat. Luc not totally convinced steams off down the road. Of course when we get there the place is long closed. Luc looks at us with utter contempt in his eyes, “I hate you two right now”. Vik is perplexed by the whole situation and gives knocking on the steel shutters a go, as if that’s going to reap any rewards.  Fucking desperate attempt.  There is some ridiculous talk of dropping the gear at Kev’s and walking back to LFC but that is quickly dismissed.

We get back to the flat and as I open the main door to the apartment building Vik charges through ahead of me moaning about the need to eat. Now. I hold the door behind me for Luc and finding him stood with his cock pointing forward out of his jeans pissing in the bushes, silly smile on his face. The smile remains as he then walks up the stairs to Kev’s flat with his cock still pointing out. When we get into the flat we sort the spare mattress out on the floor and Vik says he’ll take the couch, that he doesn't give a fuck about bed right now, he only gives a fuck about food. Pickings are slim in the kitchen though. There are a few slices of bread but no butter. I find a bit of peanut butter and have that on toast whilst Vik decides he’ll go for Sriracha Hot Sauce as a butter substitute. He fucking plasters is on as if it was Bregott and walks around the small kitchen eating it wincing every time he takes a bite, “Argh. it’s fucking hot!” He doesn’t stand still the whole time he battles through the slice. Fucking pillock.

We retire to the living room and I get ready for bed and join Luc on the double mattress and climb into my sleeping bag. Vik grumbles as he lies down on the couch, shoes still on, fully clothed and pulls Luc’s jacket over him as a quilt. Lights out Bergman. Goodnight London Town.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mother's Day

We never really bought into the whole Mother’s Day/Father’s Day thing in our house. My dad used to label it “American bollocks”, suspicious of the capitalist consumerism at the root of the whole affair. I just happened to see somewhere on social media today that it was Mother’s Day in England. It was always a bit hard to keep up with after I moved to Sweden since it’s celebrated at a completely different time of year over here. That was always my rock solid excuse every time I missed sending a card, although I always called home to wish my parents all the best and tell them I loved them when the big day arrived, admittedly after having received a heads up from my sister via text message the week before. It wasn’t really a big deal in my eyes. I told my parents I loved them every time I called home.

As much as I agreed with dad that the whole charade of spending money on presents and cards was consumerist nonsense I have to admit that I felt racked with guilt the one year I missed calling home to my mum to wish her happy Mother’s Day. I’d been on tour in Europe for about five weeks, and this was long before the days of having a mobile phone on tour, and when I found a phone box this one random day my mum told me that she’d been pretty sad that I hadn’t called on Mothering Sunday. Conflicting any sort of sadness upon my mum was always enough to fill me with terrific anxiety. It’s still something that rankles me today, thinking back on it. Even more so now that she’s gone.

Seeing that it was that day today got me to thinking about my mum, not that she’s ever far from my thoughts. Every time our daughter Polly develops some trait, says something funny or enters a new period in her life, I think about my mum and wish more than anything that she was here to see it. She only had the last ten months of her life with Polly, and even then not as much of that time as she would have dreamed of since we lived in different countries. But I know she adored her. She was a pretty amazing woman. Sure, she drove me mad with certain quirks of hers, she could be proper crackers at times, the Beaver gene my dad called it, but she was an incredibly loving person and she cherished her family. And I always cherished the love she had for me.

Today got me to thinking of one of my favourite ever memories of my mum. It was 2001 and Speedhorn were about to release The Gush single. The record label were giving it the full whack, putting everything behind it. Our manager Bianchi seemed to see it as some sort of personal crusade to get the single into the UK top forty charts. We would surely have been the least commercial band ever to break into the big league, at least at that point in time. With the upcoming Ozzfest show on the horizon the label saw it as the perfect opportunity to take the band to the next level. Thing is, I hated that fucking song, or at least the version of it I felt we were being coerced into releasing. Young and naive I guess. Anyway, as said the label were going all out. And I was miserable.

It was my birthday and I was deeply in love with my future wife. It was that time where everything is magic and excruciatingly painful all at once. I hadn’t made the move to Sweden yet so Jen and I were still living in a long distance relationship. We’d planned for her to come over to the UK and we were going to spend a few days together in London around my birthday before I had to go back out on tour again. We toured pretty much constantly then. Jen had bought her flights and everything was set and then the label told me that Tony and I were going on a fucking press jaunt up in Scotland to promote the single. I tried everything to get out of it but to no avail. Again, young and naive and bowing to pressure, Jen and I cancelled our plans and I headed up to Scotland to do radio interviews all day, to promote a single I had no heart in whatsoever. It felt like the worst birthday ever. I know, first world problems. Either way, I was fucking gutted.

Our dear friend and co-manager Andrew Carter was along for the trip with us and I have to give it to him, he tried everything to cheer me up. After a day of driving around to different radio stations in Glasgow and Edinburgh we finished the night off with a drink before heading back to the hotel. I had tried to put a brave face on it but I was always useless at hiding my feelings. I missed Jen in that intense way only a new love can punish you with. The fact that it was my birthday and I wanted to be with her just amplified everything. Carter, love him, tried his best. He treated me to a twenty five year old single malt from his favourite whisky bar in Edinburgh. How I despise myself now for not devouring that dram with the respect it deserved. And then out of the blue Carter turned to me, “Come on buddy, let’s get you back home to Corby”. He told me he could see how I was suffering and he called and rearranged the short flight back to London for that same evening. I can soundly say that I’d never felt so happy to travel back to Corby. If I couldn’t be with girlfriend on my birthday at least I could be with my mum.

I called home to my parents and told them I'd be back earlier than expected. It was already late, dad was just heading to bed and mum was already off. She always loved her bed. I told them that I’d make the last train home back from London to Corby that night and I’d see them in the morning. All of sudden things didn’t feel so bad. When I got through the door of my parents house at about one am I was shocked to find my mum stood in the kitchen in her night robe waiting for me. She was stood there with a birthday cake. She’d gotten out of bed and baked it in the middle of the night. I was absolutely floored.

My mum was a wonderful human being. She was taken away from me and my family far, far too early. I think about her and miss her dearly every single day. Unfortunately I don’t have a God, I don’t believe that there is another place waiting for us afterwards. She’s just gone. What’s left of her lives in me, my sister, my dad and everyone else who knew and loved her. And of those there were many.

By the way, The Gush made it to number forty seven in the charts. Close but no cigar. That’s life I guess.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Copenhagen

“Fuck guys! I forgot my passport..” Received that text from Lucas on our DB chat group just as I was arriving at Central Station on the tube. We were taking the Arlanda Express in twenty minutes time and Luc was coming straight from work. He was clearly troubled. His troubles weren’t helped by a barrage of pisstaking from me and Viktor. Luc was asking for advice, what should we do? Should he go home and get his passport? No he’ll never make the flight...all the while Vik and I write nothing but pisstake in reply. I tried to get all concrete for a minute and comfort Luc by telling him that he should be fine with his ID card. He writes back and says that his ID wonät work. “Where’s your ID card from? ICA?” I’m almost crying at my own humour by this point. I sense Vik is enjoying it too. I sense Luc most certainly is not.

The problem is potentially serious though. They don’t normally check ID on flights within Scandinavia, although they do check the at the borders if you travel by train. This situation has intensified since the Swedish government closed the borders in the face of the refugee crisis. With Luc being Brazilian and on temporary residence it’s all the little more precarious. When Luc explores the option of going back for his passport and getting a later flight Vik’s tone changes dramatically. He’d been banking on him and Luc taking the two for one option on the otherwise arse-rapingly expensive Arlanda Express. “OK, Gaz, we have to take the suburb train in that case. There’s no way I’m paying full price on the Express!” He’s been banging on all afternoon about drinking his favourite, expensive beer in Copenhagen and all of a sudden that dream is dying a sudden, violent death. Being a student, I get the Express train cheap anyway. Seizing the opportunity, I turn my pisstaking sights on Vik.

Luc decides to chance it and we agree on rendezvousing at the meeting point at Central Station known as the Gay Ring, which is a place that was a notorious pick up spot for the stigmatised gay community back in the 80’s. Even with that there’s a fair bit of fucking around since Vik ends up in a different spot than me and Luc. It’s one fucking spot and for a minute we manage to end up in three different places. Frantic text buzzing continues until manage to coordinate ourselves. Fucking joke… I laugh with the guys when we’re finally on the train about John in Speedhorn once turning up to Irish Sea crossing to Dublin with nothing but his forklift driver’s license. Thing is, we’d turned already turned back once after Kev had realised he’d forgotten his passport, but then we’d only been on the road about ten minutes. Of course, everyone took the piss out of his rookie mistake, John happily included, and then when John flashes his forklift drivers license, proud as fuck having just taken his test, we’re all amazed that he’s brought an ID card with no photo on it. No passport to back it up. He’d obviously been dying to put the driver’s license into action. Amazing.

We check in without a hitch and end up having about an hour to kill before boarding. We head to Max and tuck into some veggie burgers. Right next door O’Learys have a little table set up with some guy in a chef’s hat giving away mini Oumph Veggie burgers, so we tuck into them whilst we wait in line. Brilliant. We land in Copenhagen around eight thirty and get stuck behind a fucking convention of middle to old aged golfers by the Special baggage delivery belt. There must be about eighty of the posing old bastards and we have to wait an age for them to clear their mountain of golf bags before our gear is brought forward. Always hated golf and the wankers that indulge in it. Actually it’s not so much the golf that’s the problem, more the wankers. Anyway, it’s getting late by the time we’re on the train into town and by the time we get to our friend Sander’s place in Frederiksberg where we’re staying tonight, and we’re sat on his couch with a can of Tuborg Grön, I can feel the energy sapping from my body and the couch imploring me to stay. Vik is determined we’re heading out for a beer though and once back out in the fresh air I feel myself perk up.

We head over to a bar in Norrbro and Sander head’s straight to the bar and buys a round of IPA in. It’s good stuff and the spacious, generously lit bar is pretty cool, lots of good looking people enjoying their Friday night. The beer here doesn’t seem so expensive but then I remember that the Danish kronor is currently bullying it’s Swedish sibling mercilessly. Everything is the same price as back home, except it’s worth about 25% more. Hoping there is plenty of free beer going around at the gig tomorrow or it’s going to be a pretty dry weekend. I have a good chat with Sander, spend most of the time at this place talking to him about fuck knows what, this, that, everything. I’ve never really spoken to him all that personally, he’s an old friend of Luc’s from school, but I have a really nice time hanging out with him tonight whilst Vik and Luc chortle on like an old couple out at the bingo.

We have a couple of beers and then tell Vik it’s time to go to a cheaper place. Time’s up on his hipster beer for tonight. We walk about ten minutes until Sander directs us into a decidedly dimmer bar. Looks more like the typical pizzeria bar we get back home, only bigger. I do the honours and get in four pints of Tuborg for just over half the price the small beers cost at the last place. I have to admit, Vik’s hipster beer tasted better but the Tuborg does the job all the same. We take a couple of free seats at the end of a table where some others friendly looking faces are sat and get chatting a little. As they’re leaving the guy in the group offers me a date from the pack he’s eating, to which I happily accept. Was never a big fan of the old dates but this one tastes pretty fucking good. Either he’s got some special hook up or I’m feeling the buzz of the four beers I’ve consumed. Before I get to finish of the fifth beer Luc gets up to go to the toilet and his jacket swipes my glass of the table and into my fucking lap. I’m up in arms, appalled by his clumsiness and my now soggy crotch. “You should have had your hand on your glass”, the cheeky fucker says. “That’s what I was using the table for!” I reply miffed. Luc is a bit sauced up though and just swans off nonchalantly to the bogs.

We have one more before heading home, stopping off for some really top notch falafel at some joint with this mardy faced fucker who wrongly accuses Vik of not paying for his can of Coke. Vik pays the man a second time, pretty much throwing the money at him as he does so, telling him to cheer up. Falafel is top notch all the same.

When we get back to Sander’s small living room I can sense there’s going to be a bit of debating about who’s sleeping where so I throw myself immediately onto the blow up bed, scoring myself the best spot in the room. Luc negotiates himself on the camper bed leaving Vik with the small couch. He’s obviously less than chuffed with this arrangement. Sorry buddy, it’s each to themselves by this point! Vik, with a slightly mardy tone says he’s fine and then announces he’s sleeping with his shoes on, says he doesn’t give a piss. Luc the cheeky fucker is on the camper bed and has doubled up on mattresses, which I feel maybe he could have shared with Vik on the floor, although obviously I have no intention of giving up the old blow up bed. Sander is stood looking at us, reprimanding us for not brushing our teeth before bed. I’m a hazy mixture of tired, drunk and wary of losing the bed so just roll over and close my eyes, knowing fine well I’ll have a minging mouth in the morning.

I wasn’t counting on the fucking headache though. I have one of those real bastards behind the eyes. One of those where just the slightest inch of movement sends a piercing pain through your skull, like someone slowly pushing a knitting needle through your eye, and you feel like you’re going to throw your guts up. Thing is, although I didn’t feel that drunk last night, and I certainly hadn’t counted on a severe hangover of any kind, I did account for a contingency plan in as much as bringing a couple of headache pills with me for the trip. Thing is they’re in my bag somewhere in the room and the thought of getting up and searching for them is enough to make me cry. What the fuck is this headache? I actually catch myself thinking back on that first beer, about how it tasted a bit suspect, but then realise I’ll be open to ridicule if I actually mouth those words.

I check on Luc and can tell from the slits of his eyes that he’s suffering from the exact same condition that I am. Maybe there was something wrong with that first beer? We didn’t drink THAT much for fuck sakes. Vik is also awake, seems we’ve all plugged into the same built in alarm clock and set it far too early. He’s looking at his phone and talking really loudly though. Just random shit. “Kenko’s birthday today”. Luc looks at me pleading, and then asks me under his breath why Vik is talking so loudly. I lie there for about an hour, mouth like a dead dog and head in the process of imploding before I finally crawl out of the wobbly air bed and find the magic white pills in my bag. They kick in after about twenty minutes and I get back to sleep. A couple of hours later the headache is just a distant, bad memory.

Sander arrives in the room bright and breezy and tells us the room stinks like men. Luc asks him if he can get some water to which Sander replies, “What am I? Your dog?” He then proceeds to make woofing sounds as he goes and fetches Luc a glass from the kitchen. Kev arrives after we’ve showered and we head off for some breakfast at some nearby café that is all ecological, all good, all expensive. Kev has been here since Thursday hanging out with his friend Sarah, who is actually the sister of Rebecca who has booked us for the show this weekend. He seems ok, a little down maybe. Says the café back home is having a bit of a hard time since the bastard Tory government released their new budget which is small business unfriendly to say the least. The thought of the Waiting Room being forced to close fills me with great sadness, can’t imagine what Kev’s next step will be if that happens. After slagging off the Tory filth for a while over a mug of black coffee and bread rolls we go for a walk in the welcoming sunshine. What a difference an hour’s flight south makes. Spring is alive and kicking here. Back home the skies are grey and the ground is covered in wet, slushy ice.

We walk through the Assistens cemetery where HC Andersen is buried and then on through Norrbro until we come to Vik’s target destination, a brewery called Brus. He buys a few pricey beers for after the show tonight and then a pint for the now. We gather around him as he sips through it, enjoying the bright sunshine streaming through the windows. We’re practicing at our friend Lasse’s studio this afternoon so we head back to Sander’s place to get the gear and take a cab down to the lakes where the studio is situated. Jesper from Night Fever meets us and let’s us into the place. It’s a beautiful afternoon and it feels quite the shame to descend into the dark, dank underground corridors of the rehearsal complex. Practice is good though, feels worthwhile going through the set with Kev. When we come back up to the daylight it’s turned markedly colder, the afternoon sun slowly fading into evening. We get another cab over to the venue, Jesper tells us he’ll catch us later.

The venue is right in the city, pretty new looking place and very fresh. Has one of those longer, shallow stages that runs along the back wall. Wolfbrigade have already been and gone and their merch is already in place. We set up beside them and hang one of shirts over theirs just to see if they notice. Luc has made flyers for our upcoming LP and he slides them into the Wolfie’s vinyl’s as a little bit of free advertising. It’s nice to finally meet Rebecca. I’ve mailed back and forth with her a lot over the course of the last year. We were supposed to play this event last year but had to cancel due to Luc’s visa extension not processing in time. The show was in March, Luc’s application was approved in August or something…

With little else to do we head to the side room and eviscerate three large bags of crisps that are sat on the table and tuck into a couple of bottles of the old Tuborg Grön. I wasn’t really feeling the beer, still pretty tired from last night, but looking at everyone indulging it felt rude not to join in. The Wolfies arrive back at the venue, having been to drop their gear off at the hotel. They’re all starving and look forlornly at the empty packets of crisps on the table. Tommy the drummer picks one up and inspects it to make sure there really is nothing left, “Three packs, all gone?” he asks no one in particular. We say nothing. Dinner is soon served anyway.

It’s good catching up with the guys over dinner. They’re a good bunch. Dinner is pretty good as well, I was expecting the usual punk stew but there are a few different options including potato wedges. Funny how spuds are always seen as some sort of luxury when served as dinner at a punk show. We sit about chatting about this and that and then head back down in time to see the first band, Bliss, which are some young kids from Copenhagen that look like they’re from New York. Some of the Deptford lot had been here a couple of weeks back on Tobs’ stag do and had seen them, Karl had said they were great and advised us to check them out. They are indeed pretty good. The singer cracks me up, he talks the whole show in English since the drummer seems to be from somewhere other than Denmark. He introduces the band before the start the first song, “Hi, we’re punks”. They kick in and rattle through the first song but the drummer seems to be struggling with the kit and it gradually falls apart before. “Hi, we’re punks”, the singer snorts again. This really cracks me up. They play the first song again. They are good value for the twenty minutes they play anyway and I pick up one of their demo tapes. I ask Kev how come he wasn’t here on the stag party a couple of weeks back since he loves Copenhagen so much. “I didn’t have the money. And besides, I couldn’t think of anything more awful”.

The second band are quite horrible. They play some metallic hardcore and the singer is a poseur extraordinaire. He has this mardy pout on his face and keeps making these motions with his non-mic hand whilst making sharp movements with his head from one side to the other. He’s a good looking guy and he knows it. He looks like he craves fame. Of course, none of us talk to any of them, this is all just judgement from what we see during the gig. Which makes us absolute wankers I suppose. They’ll probably think we’re shit too. “Fucking daft!” Kev texts our chat group as we’re stood in various parts of the crowd watching.

The next band are something else though.  They have some Danish name I can't pronounce, or barely read to be honest.  The singer is the guy from Cola Freaks and they are fucking brilliant. His voice is so good, screamy but clear at the same time, fits perfectly over the breakneck US hardcore style the band plays. Me, and Micke Wolf stand to the side watching them the entire show. They’re the kind of band that make you smile and get you in the mood to play a gig, which is perfect since we’re on next.  I set up for the gig really buzzing.

The flipside is that you have a lot to live up to. And although we play tight enough I don’t think we really manage the task. It’s a bit disappointing since we sounded really good in the rehearsal space. I don’t know, maybe I have too high expectations, it’s not bad at all, but just not as good as it could be. It’s a little on the wrong side of fast in the beginning and Kev manages to sing the same song twice during the set. The second time he sings I Want to See You Die, we’re actually playing I Hate Your Life. He doesn’t even notice. Which I guess says a lot about our music. It’s nice to finally play to a crowd in Copenhagen all the same. The eighty or so people here tonight is more than the previous three shows we’ve played here put together. And it’s nice with some friends faces in the crowd. Beside the Wolfies, Ronnie has made the trip over from Malmö, and Jesper is here as well as Jakob from Junta and his girlfriend Christine.

I ask Ronnie afterwards how it sounded, and he said with his usual big smile, "It sounded hectic, but it in a good way.  As always".  Kind of confirmed my suspicions over the sound tonight.  The drummer from Bliss approaches us in the side room after the gig and tells he loved the show, thought we were the best band of the night. I smile and thank him, unconvinced. “No really man, just great intense, straight up hardcore. I loved it!” Luc and I tell him we really liked the Bliss gig too but he’s adamant they sucked. I assume we’re now into the whole false modesty routine but when we ask him if they have any more shows coming up, or if they’re coming to Stockholm, things become clear. “No, we’re splitting up soon. I’m starting another hardcore band, but not like this one”. Bad vibes…

Wolfbrigade do what they do and they do it so well. It feels like you could put them in any shitty venue anywhere in the world and they’d sound the same. I watch Jocke for most of the show, admiring his playing. He’s a total professional, in every sense of the word. I always crack up watching Erken on bass too, always has a cheeky look on his face. I remember the first time I saw them, years back at 44. They were all on stage waiting to play but Erken was nowhere to be seen. He finally arrives carrying a plastic shopping bag with his leads in. Punk as fuck, I thought to myself at the time. After the show we retreat to the back room and enjoy a few drinks, the room is full and there’s a good atmosphere. Rebecca is looking pretty pissed up, walking around with a bottle of champagne. She offers some to me and Jocke who are sat on the step and then thanks us for coming to play the show. She seems chuffed. Afterwards us and the Wolfies head over to a table in the corner of the venue and tuck into to a crate a beer as well as some booze. One of the guys from Halshug is on the dj decks, playing old punk rock to a handful of people. I look over to the dancefloor and Luc is pissed up, dancing on his own wearing a skin tight black vest that he’s acquired from somewhere. Fuck knows how he got so pissed. I taking it easy tonight though, just enjoying the company and the chat. I shift back and forth between the Wolfie guys and Vik and Jesper, who is recounting old Hjertestop US tour stories.

Luc and Kev are hanging out with Sarah and some other punks, having a bit of a dance when the mood takes. When Cock Sparrer comes on you can hear Luc “Whooo” ing a mile away. At one point I go to the toilet and find Luc sat on his own, eyes closed, mouthing the words to whatever song is currently playing.

The night peeters out to a close around one am when the house lights turn on and Rebecca informs us regrettably that it’s time to go. There is confusion for a while over ordering cabs. Vik is on the case apparently but he’s obviously pretty pissed up too. I’m really tired by this point and just want to get back to Sander’s place, who had headed home a while before. The Wolfie guys are waiting for a cab too but when our cab comes I make sure everyone gets their asses into gear and into the car. We wave bye to the guys as we head off back to Frederiksberg. We take a quick walk over to 7 Eleven for some late night snacks before heading to bed. This time I brush my teeth before climbing on to the inflatable matress, confident that there will be no repeat of this morning’s headache tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Helsinki

I’ve never been a morning person. Even the transgression from spotty teenager with greasy long hair to enforced skinhead, thirty eight year old parent has done little to change my sleeping habits. I get up a lot earlier these days than used to be the rule, but I sleep far too little, and I’m still fucking useless in the morning. Arousing myself from bed when it’s still pitch black outside is in particular strict opposition to reason as far as I’m concerned.

It’s five am as I pull the car out of the garage and pull it around to the front of the house. In the two or three minutes it takes for me to run back upstairs to the flat and gather various instruments I have stored at the house the windscreen has frosted over. I sit and drink my coffee and listen to Vinyl FM whilst I wait for the window to once again become transparent. It’s just after six when we get to Arlanda, we’re in plenty of time for our seven fifty flight to Helsinki. Just as well, I hate being stressed for a flight, nothing worse.

This show was booked a long time ago, back at the start of the year. It’s one of those that has kind of just sat there, booked in the calendar and been forgotten about a little bit. We’ve had more booked this year than we have for a long time. It’s been a strange old summer. Played a few shows around Europe, and the bookings have all been pretty solid, at least on paper, but it’s played out as a bit of a bumpy ride. Cancelled festivals, lost money for flight tickets, lost baggage… The shows themselves have all been really good though, a lot of fun. And despite losing all of our gear on route to France, we now have it all back. Except the merchandise bag. For this trip to Helsinki, we’ve finally bitten the bullet and bought more merch, a morale sapping, final adieu to the best part of a grand. It’s been almost four months now. The merch ain’t coming back.

Still, it’s nice to at least have the new album to sell at shows in Europe. First time since it came out in April. And we’ve got some Finnish style white and blue shirts for sale. I have no idea how this show is going to turn out tonight though. The guy we’ve had contact with has been extremely correspondent and helpful. He seems very concerned with everything running smoothly for us. I knew we were on to something a bit special when he mailed and asked if there was any particular beer we wanted on the rider. Not often you hear that. He also asked if we wanted wine. I told him a bottle of red would be pleasant. He said he’d sort two. Thinking of Jon, I told him to make it one.

It turned out the flight here was a bit early but from a purely selfish point of view, it will be nice to get in Helsinki early and relax for a bit. On the flight over we bump into Gustav and Per from Kriget, two people Johan and I are well acquainted with from our days working at Debaser. We chatted with them for a while before boarding and as we’re sat on our row waiting for everyone else to get on board they shuffle past us down the aisle. I don’t know if Jon had been completely oblivious to us chatting with them before but when he spots Per he excitedly shouts out, “It’s the fucking Breach drummer!” Per hurries past, looking a tad embarrassed. Surely Jon can’t be on the pop already…

The quick hop over the water lands us in Helsinki just after ten am. We’ve got all day to do not much. Perfect. A couple of young lads, one of which being Otto the promoter, that works for the club we’re playing at picks us up and drives us the short distance into town. We share a little chat on the way in, they do indeed seem very friendly. It’s quickly apparent that this is really luxury stuff today. The kind of set up that leads to Vik calling us the “Foos”. We load the guitars and stuff into the back stage of the venue, before being driven over to the Radisson Blu, a couple of hundred yards back down the waterfront, where we’re staying tonight. We’re all pretty chuffed with this crack. As we were stood around outside the venue, the Nosturi, I had a quick reflection over days gone by. That venue was the first place I ever played outside of the UK, all the way back in 2000. Sixteen fucking years ago, almost to the day. How life has changed since then.

We check into to the hotel, me and Andy sharing a room, and sprawl out on to the beds for a little while. There is something quite heavenly about lazing on a hotel bed in the middle of the day with a few hours to kill. I’ve always loved hotels. After a quick shower and a cup of coffee Johan, Andy and I decide to make the most of some free time in Helsinki and go for a walk around town. Jon said he was going to stay at the hotel and study, he has his final exam next week, and he’s insanely nervous about it. Johan jokes that he’d hidden the complementary red wine that had greeted them in the room.

It’s one of those brisk winter days. The sun warms a little but it’s nuggets in the shadow. We walk around, half heartedly looking for somewhere to eat some lunch, passing a market and some record stores on the way. With no money to spare the record store is of little interest to me. I’ve almost deprogrammed myself from record purchasing this last couple of years, the combination of being a parent and a student at the same time simply not allowing for such luxuries as buying records. I try not to think about it too much. You tell yourself that the shelves of records you have at home contain more than enough to last you well into old age as it is. The fact is, I dream about the day I finish my degree and get a job and throw myself head first back into record collecting. Until then though…

We walk around for an hour or so before heading to some Mexican taco joint with decent veggie options that Andy had found on his phone. This is touring in 2016. We laugh about how back in the day you’d walk around in pure hope of finding somewhere decent to eat, and more often than not just end up somewhere random and shit. The age of direct information has a few upsides I guess. The taco place is a cool, little rustic joint, no frills, just decent food. We get stuck in and enjoy the warmth of both the food and the locale. It’s getting colder by the minute out there. After eating we cruise around a little more in search of some coffee before heading back. We end up in some sort of coffee show room place, which has a coffee counter but seems more focused on selling coffee making products, so we end up paying for a pretty fucking expensive, pretty fucking middle of the road coffee, before heading back. Johan cursing Finnish coffee as we do so.

We pick up Jon from the hotel and head walk over to the venue. It’s going to be a while before soundcheck so after fixing merch we hang around in the bar area and drink more coffee. Except Jon who is on the beer. I get talking to Otto for a while who explains that his nervousness is due to the fact that this is the first show he’s booked here. He runs the bar and they’ve given him the chance to book his own gigs here. He’s certainly nailed the whole “looking after the band” part anyway. He bashfully adds that he had to put his own band on the bill tonight since he’s a massive fan of Victims. He admits it’s a bit geeky and that he probably won’t do it again. I don’t know though, I don’t really have a problem with booking gigs and then putting your own band on. Happens all the time as far as I can see. And what the fuck, if nobody else can be bothered to get off their arse and book bands to come and play then why shouldn’t you put your own band on the bill? I had asked him way back about getting some other friends bands on the bill tonight though, since I have a bunch of friends here playing in great bands, but it seems like the bill was already sorted. My friend Niklas from Famine Year did manage to get his new band Harhat on the bill anyway.

Another band playing tonight, Bob Maelström, are here and hanging out. I have a vague connection to them through Kev, who has booked them at the Nest a couple of times and gets on well with them. Says they’re a bit strange but good lads. They are certainly a strange band, but what I had no idea about is that they have a whole “act” thing going on, where they portray themselves as suited up, toffee nosed, Swedish speaking aristocrats. They kind of remind me of the WWF wrestler The Million Dollar Man, but in grindcore band form. Out of act though they are the sweetest guys, as I soon find out upon meeting them. We get speaking about Kev and then quickly onto Speedhorn. One of the guys in the band reveals himself to be both a big Speedhorn and Victims fan. Can’t be too many of those around. He tells me that he saw us play here in 2000. He starts to probe me on the early Speedhorn records, seeming well impressed. Cracks me up. The conversation moves on to politics and the desperate state of the world after a while. He’d noticed the book I’m reading by Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler, which had nudged the conversation in that direction. All in all, we enjoy a pleasant half hour or so, chatting away. Of course, stories from touring Poland also come in to the arena after a while. I mean, you’re always going to end up on that subject at some point…

Soundcheck is taken care of with relative ease, the professional in house crew here making it very smooth. Afterwards we tuck in to some grub and enjoy the first beer of the night, a lovely little amber ale from a local brewery. I could easily devour another five or six but keep myself in line. To pass a bit of time we play a couple of games of table footy which stands in a darkened corner of the bar, requiring us to make our own floodlight system from the lamps on our phones, which are precariously balanced on various high tables and shelves around the pitch. It’s pretty hard going though, can barely see the ball, so give up after a couple of tense games.

I head to the merch table and sit there for a while. I really enjoy selling merch, it’s always a good place to meet new people. Which is pretty much the most fun part of travelling and playing in a punk band as far as I’m concerned. We seem to be shifting a good amount too. Pretty much all the bar staff have been up to buy various items. Otto wants to buy a couple of shirts and albums. We nod unanimously to each other that Otto will not be required to pay for these items, being that he’s taken such good care of us. He refuses to accept this fact though. After a round of quite frankly surreal bartering I get him down to only paying for the two albums and accepting the shirts for free. He sighs and gives in and accepts only paying 20 euros. I hand over the gear and before I can react he throws 40 euros into our case, laughs and runs away.

After a while I head upstairs to the top floor of this large building where our dressing room is located. It’s right up next to the big stage in the large room of the venue. We’re playing the smaller, bar stage tonight. Much better. The memories come flooding back when I get up to the dressing room above the stage though. I take a walk on to the large, high, empty stage, covered in darkness and stand there in silence looking out at the shadows of the empty room. Totally alone. It’s quite spooky in a way. I stand there, reflecting on the loss of youth, a little sad that a life once had has now left. And then I give myself a shake and head up to the dressing room and tuck into one of the IPA’s Otto has placed in the fridge and concur with my inner self that you just have to roll with life.

Jon is sat there with an old friend of his, some girl he knows from way back. She’s a good friend of Helena and Marko from Kylmä Sota and we get talking about them for a while. There are common friends wherever you go in this scene. She says that she was at The Cure concert last night and that Marko was there, steamboats. Explains his absence tonight. I literally spoke to Marko a couple of days ago and reminded him I was coming over. This was like Tuesday or something. He wrote, “What day you come again?”

“Saturday” I replied.

“OK, I write it down”. No sign of the fucker…

We sit around chatting for a while over beer and peanuts and then I head back downstairs. Another friend Petri, who sings in Famine Year, is now here, along with Niklas and the Harhat guys. It’s a bit of a shock to see Petri. He looks really down in the dumps and isn’t doing much to put a front on it. It’s almost a little comical because he’s normally so bubbly and jovial. It’s like that scene in Friends when the character Fun Bobby gets all depressed. Only a Friends geek like myself would understand. We chat away for a while, but can’t really get to the bottom of what’s going on. He sticks around to watch the Harhat set but then he has to leave. The more we drink through the night, the more the phrase, “Poor Petri” will appear in conversation, with the faintest of smirks. I hope he’s okay.

I really enjoy the Harhat set anyway. Pretty brutal sounding punk, with elements of crust, hardcore and noisepunk all thrown in. Niklas is a solid bass player! And the singer has a desperateness to his voice as he throws himself around the stage, that always agrees with me. It’s one of those rooms that has a vacuum sort of quality to it. It seems to suck all the noise into the space and compress the air out of it. I watch parts of the other three bands but spend most of my time by the merch table in the bar area on the other side of the wall, listening a little as I chat to various people.

We play around midnight and I’m starting to feel the tiredness of having only slept a few hours and being up all day. I’ve only had a couple of beers and Johan and I decide we need a little nip of something stronger before we hit the stage. I’m not one for shots any more but the Finnish do have this deliciously sweet liquorice booze that is very easy to drink. It hits the spot perfectly. The gig goes pretty well. Sounds solid on stage and we play well without maybe ever really hitting the absolute heights. If this were a football game it would be a solid two-nil win with a goal in each half. It’s professional without being wild. The crowd, although hard to see in the blue and black lit room, seem chuffed enough to keep shouting for more as we come to the end of the gig. I don’t see us going back on but to my surprise, we eventually do and play two more songs. Job well done. Simple as that.

There is a good crowd of people wanting merch afterwards and as Johan stands there selling, I head off and pick up a couple of beers with little chasers to keep them company. We have a good time standing there mingling and drinking, the pre-gig tiredness now just a distant memory. I have to laugh when one crust punk girl comes up to me to enquire about prices, “How much are the shirts?” she asks in very Finnish English. I tell her the price and then about twenty seconds of awkward silence follows. I break the silence and ask if she wants to buy one.

“I have no money”, she says. More awkward silence, followed by her walking away.

After an hour or so a very apologetic Otto tells us that they have to close the bar. It’s closing in on two am and I tell him that it’s more than fine. Tiredness has come back with avengence anyway. We see to that the stuff is all gathered neatly on stage and then start to leave. Niklas is pretty drunk and I can’t make out much of what he’s saying, but there is talk of an after party at some rock bar, or something. As it turns out I end up losing Niklas somewhere between getting our gear sorted and leaving the venue and we end up simply plodding back to the hotel. None of us were truly in the mood for an after party anyway. Now if only the bar at the hotel was still open…

The hotel bar and lobby is very brightly lit, which suggests that they’re closing up for the night. Therefore all the suited business types sat around drinking leads to some confusion. We ask the girl at the reception what the crack with the bar is and she tells us her name and to relay it to the bar in the restaurant and they’ll sort us out. We’re really not that bothered, could just as happily go to bed, but we don’t want to seem ungrateful so we pop our heads into the other room but find no staff willing to serve us. The reception lady clocks us coming back in the lobby empty handed and heading for the lift and comes running over to us to sort us with drinks, insisting we sit down and have a beer. Love Finland.

The beer is good but it’s a little wasted on us to be fair. I’m so tired by the point that it’s not as enjoyable as it should be. After struggling through the beer and some very weary conversation we all head upstairs to our rooms. I shower before bed knowing I’ll be grateful for the extra minutes in bed in the morning.

I sleep pretty well through the night, only waking up for a piss the once. It’s pitch black in the room and I haven’t the faintest idea of what the time is. On my way back to bed I bump into Andy coming the other way and we scare the shit out of each other. Hazily I slump back into bed and fall straight back asleep.

We enjoy the hotel breakfast in the morning whilst discussing plans for the next year. Johan and Pia are having another baby in February so things will be quiet for a while again. Johan and Andy seem to be very keen on using the time to write a new record of some kind. I can’t say I’m all that in the zone for writing just now, I’ve done two albums this last year and feel kind of worn out on it. But to be fair, the last Victims album was written over the space of five years and I like the rest of the guys, am in truth, a little bored of it already, despite the fact it’s only been out half a year. Guess we’ll see what the future brings. One new song that inspires is usually enough to get me back on track though.

Otto can’t make it to take us back to the airport but his companion from yesterday is here to drive us. Alex I think his name is. It’s almost a silent agreement that I take the front seat and take care of social duties. I do that with pleasure. I really love the opportunity to talk to new people and make new acquaintances. We get talking about subjects like the education and social security systems in our respective countries. It’s a very inciteful talk and treat for me to talk to him. The other guys all sit in the back quietly, listening to us babble on. Maybe sometimes I talk too much… Maybe sometimes I write too much...

We split up at the airport in different directions. Johan and Andy hitting the duty free stores, Jon hitting the bar and me plonking myself at the boarding gate with my book. I have a quick chat with Per and Gustav who are also returning from their gig and then settle down with the book. I have an exam on Tuesday, tomorrow I’ll dedicate to re-reading my final notes on Marx and Weber et al, but for now I tuck into to a bit of German social history. Sociology is the new punk rock.