Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Crew: The Drivers

“This is it, we've made it” I thought to myself as we pulled away from the scrap yard cum garage Frank's dad owned, the place were Frank worked and we practised a few times a week.  For the past couple of years we'd been travelling around the UK, playing every shithole that would take us, driving around in an assortment of fucked up old vans and sleeping anywhere we could.  It had been a fucking blast, some of the best and worst times of my life, but this here was about to go to another level.  I'll never forget the scene as we pulled away, my girlfriend at the time stood arm in arm with Frank's girl, the two of them crying their eyes out as the tour bus pulled slowly away, me and Frank sat up in the top lounge, looking out the back window and waving to them.  As soon as the bus turned the corner and we lost sight of them, Frank turned around, clapped his hands together and chortled, “Right, let's fucking party!”.  It was barely seven am and we were setting off on a two day journey towards Helsinki, Finland.  This would be our home for the next six weeks.  I could barely fucking believe it.

Those six weeks would become three months and without doubt, they would be the most fun three months of my life, as well as the hardest drinking period my body has ever had to endure.  When I finally came home, a few days before Christmas, my mum burst into tears, so withered and pale was I.  I'd been swept up in the euphoria of touring around the continent on a night-liner, drinking copious amounts of booze every single day and night, feeling indestructible.  I have to say though, I understood my mum's anguish, if I looked like shite, it was nothing to how I felt inside.  But that moment, when you're twenty years old and you climb aboard the bus, claim you're bunk and crack open a beer and settle down for the journey towards the mainland, well, it was like nothing else.

It's almost hard for me to fathom now, looking back, that Speedhorn got to a level where we could afford a tour bus to travel about in.  Not that I had much of an idea what it was costing us, I didn't really care then, we had someone else taking care of all that, something else I now find hard to fathom, but that's what they call hindsight and experience and I guess you only get that one way.  And of course, I would do it all over again if the circumstances were the same, which let's face it, they never will be.  If we'd travelled in the back of a Transit van and slept on floors the whole time then of course, we would have made a lot more money out of touring, but that's a way of doing things I'm much happier with now in older age, weirdly enough, than I was then.  And we'd done a couple of years intensive touring already by that point, literally taking food from bins on occasion when we had fuck all else.  No, I was ready for some time living like a fucking rock star, kind of.  It didn't last long, but it was fun whilst it did.

During our era of tour bussing it about, there were three people who manned the wheel over a longer period of time.  The first was an old Yorkshireman called Bob.  We only travelled on Bob's bus for a couple of tours, but it was my favourite of the few we travelled on.  It was old and falling to pieces in places, I imagine it was the cheapest bus Bianchi could find but that suited us fine.  As Bianchi put it, “It doesn't matter if you trash it since it's already trashed”. It was a license to party, and even if Bob didn't always see it that way, he left us to it for the most part.  Bob always reminded me of my uncle George for some reason, he did that miserable man routine to a tee, barely ever smiled, completely hamming it up.  He had wispy white hair around the back and sides with none on top and he always wore knee length shorts, no matter the weather.  Didn't really matter since he was only ever on the bus or in the canteen in the venue.  A couple of days into that first tour Doug had overheard him talking to his boss on the phone, “I dunno, Speeding Racehorse or something.  Bloody rubbish anyway!”  Doug loved him from that moment on, we all did.  The main thing for us is that he left us to party the night away, up there on the top floor where the lounge and the bunks were as he drove us towards the next city.  He never complained, not really, not even on those occasions when we had to make a sharp exit from the police, the night I threw a pint of piss over some German meathead's back and then Roddy pepper sprayed the club and had the whole place evacuated, or the time we had a battalion of police cars chasing us down the autobahn after a knife had been pulled in a service station, or even when we were thrown in jail for a couple of days in Spain, there was never anything more from Bob than, “What the fuck are they up to now?”.

I'll never forget the relief upon seeing Bob waiting for us in that car park when we got out of Spanish jail, he'd waited for us without any knowledge of how long we'd be, I guess he was getting paid all the same but anyway... I do remember him talking to me one day though, when it just happened to be the two of us alone on the bus, it almost felt like fatherly advice at the time.  He told me he could see I was the calm one of the bunch and that I had an influence on the rest of the guys.  “You lot have got to calm down, otherwise it's going to end up fucking bad for you.  You're a nice bunch of lads but you act like idiots a lot of the time, you should reel it in a bit.  I can tell you're the responsible one, have a word with them for fuck sake”.  I felt really touched by this at the time, I could tell he cared about us.

One of my favourite memories of Bob is when for some reason he let Gordon and John dye his hair.  He may even have suggested it himself.  He wanted it red but entrusting that pair of berks with the job wasn't the wisest decision he ever made.  It turned out a purplish pink colour.  I remember looking at him sat back stage, holding a towel around his shoulders as the dye was setting thinking to myself, “That doesn't look very red to me”.  Bob still had the stern Yorkshire look on his face as he sat there holding this towel.  Fucking brilliant.

We did the two tours with Bob and his bus, the two back to back European stints that lasted those three months, and then we never saw him again.  I guess he quit the music scene after that.  He had been complaining about how driving bands wasn't really worth the hassle and that he missed driving the pensioners around the Alps on their ski trips and how he missed having the “Trolley Tarts” alongside him (the women who used to serve refreshments on such trips (Bob's terminology)).

Our next driver was the guy who was with us the longest and by far the most eccentric of what is a pretty eccentric breed.  Chop, a chirpy Welshman with an absolutely absurd mullet, Chuckle Brothers spiky on top and crawling straight as an arrow half way down his back.  He almost always had a smile on his face and loved having the crack with us, although he was extremely professional when it came to his job.  After coming home from the second of those European tours we had one last little stint before the three months came to an end, a run of headlining shows in Ireland.  We jumped off Bob's bus and on to Chop's, which was a far newer, cleaner, shinier beast and Chop was very proud of it.  It was his home and he demanded it be treated with respect.  It was ok to party but if you fucked the place up there would be trouble.

Since the Ireland shows were all short drives we stayed put every night so we could enjoy the power cable from the club until morning.  It was only the second show I think, somewhere down south, when Chop came in to take part in the evening's festivities.  He stayed on the bus the first night, but being a sociable chap and with a very short drive the next day he came in to watch the show and party with us.  I remember looking into the mosh pit about half way through the gig and there's Chop, one arm around some young Irish metaller, beer in the other hand, huge smile on his face and calling us cunts between songs.

As I say, Chop was an eccentric.  He had this huge ring through his bell end and tattooed around his piece, a devilish face that gave the effect that his knob was the demon's long nose.  We all got to see his cock on many an occasion, he would gladly show it to anyone, no matter how long he'd known the person.  He also kept a couple of different fold up bikes underneath the bus in the holding, and on most days he would get them out as soon as we reached the next venue and he'd be off.  You'd often see him riding about the city, wherever you were, that trusty smile on his face.  He was the kind of guy who had friends in most cities since he would approach people wherever he went and start a conversation.  A crazy, but very friendly chap.  And he loved us like sons.  It was Chop who coined the phrase, something that I think described Speedhorn perfectly, “You're a bunch of cunts, but you're loveable cunts”.

We were with Chop and his bus for the best part of a year.  One of my absolute favourite memories of that time is from the Speedhorn/Charger tour, the two bands on the bus together.  One night we'd been travelling after a show and we were on some back road, pitch black outside.  We were all fast asleep when Chop pulled the bus over to attend to some quick maintenance.  It only took a minute or so and then he was off again.  A little while down the road he notices the red lamp on his dash board warning that the back door is ajar.  He pulls over to check it our and right enough, the door is slightly open.  He thinks it pretty strange since he was sure he'd closed it, so goes upstairs to the bunk area to check everyone is on board.  Everyone in their rightful places he satisfies himself with the conclusion that he couldn't have closed the door properly and carries on down the road.  It continues to bug him though, he was sure he'd closed that door... About a half hour later he's still struggling to shrug the doubt and decides to pull over again for another check of the bunk area.  Yep, the full mob of snoring, booze stinking lads are in their place...but wait a minute.  He checks Jez, the Charger bass player's bunk, a little closer.  Fuck.  It's not Jez lying there but a pile of clothes and pillows underneath the quilt.  No Jez!  He turns the bus around and speeds back the way he came.  About twenty minutes later the headlights shine on a very cold and frightened looking Jez, standing shivering in the dark January night wearing nothing but a t-shirt, kecks and trainers, holding his mobile phone desperately.  Chop can barely fucking believe his eyes!  The stupid sod had felt the bus stop and got up for a piss, not thinking to tell anyone or most importantly Chop, that he was doing so.  The stupid fucker could have frozen to death if it wasn't for Chop's gut instinct winning him over.  Amazingly Jez had taken his phone with him for some reason and in the morning we all pissed ourselves laughing as we listened to the array of desperate voice messages he'd left on Jay and Jim's phones.  “Please guys, it's not funny any more, come back!  I'm going to fucking die here, it's freezing!  I'm scared, really scared”  Poor bastard.  He took it pretty well to be fair and could see the funny side of it.  Chop lambasted him for the rest of the tour, completely took the piss out of him.  I'm sure Chop has relayed the story many times to other bands and drivers over the years.

One of the old stories Chop relayed for us, one of my favourites, was from his days of driving the black metal band Immortal around.  Chop pretty much always wore his Immortal hoodie on tour, he seemed very proud of it.  It seems Chop and the Norwegians were good friends and enjoyed each others company on tour on a regular basis, although the relationship started off on a somewhat shaky footing.  On the first tour they did together Chop and the band's singer and leader, Abbath, were at loggerheads over driving times during one particular stretch of road between shows.  I don't remember the exact story but I'm sure it was along the lines of Abbath wanting to be somewhere on a day off and demanding Chop drove there and Chop refusing because it was too far for them to reach within Chop's legal driving hours.  The situation came to the boil with the two of them arguing where they would be driving to and Abbath gets in Chop's face with one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard, “I am Abbath of Immortal and I demand you drive to such and such (wherever it was)!”  Chop then grabs Abbath by his pierced nipple and twists it, causing the tit great pain as he shouts in reply, “I am Chop of Wales and this is my fucking bus and I will fucking decide where I will drive it!”  Chop and Abbath have been great friends ever since.

I was sad to lose Chop's services as he was a great driver and we loved him and his bus.  Unfortunately we got into a disagreement over payment with his boss Tony and it made continuing to tour with Chop rather impossible.  Things would never be the same again.  In his place was a guy called Barry.

Barry was a timid, middle aged man, small and skinny who shook like a fucking leaf most of the time.  We couldn't work out what the deal with him was at first but it soon dawned on us that the man was a raging alcoholic.  He looked a little like the character from Fawlty Towers, Mr. Leeman, the guy who dies in his sleep and Basil thinks he's killed him with some dodgy kipper.  He didn't look too healthy I guess you might say.  He was also very quiet and kept himself to himself most of the time.  We realised things weren't that great when we noticed the bus swaying slightly one night as we rode the motorways of Europe.  At first I was sure it was in our heads and everyone was making it into this thing that it really wasn't but it soon became clear that Barry had the fucking shakes at the wheel.  Instead of us confronting the issue directly, we just decided we didn't like the fucker and set about annoying him instead.

The strange thing about Barry's bus was that his bunk was at the front of the top lounge instead of in the drivers compartment like on most other buses.  One night Darren had taken some girl he's picked up to the spacious area that was the drivers cabin, which was the only place on the bus that offered any privacy since it was away from the rest of us and Barry was fast asleep in his bunk.  After he was done he left a soggy Johnny in an ash tray on the dash board, winking to the girl, “He'll love that.”  Daz, like the rest of us, had not a fucking ounce of respect for poor Barry.  We all pissed ourselves laughing the next day when Barry came charging down the aisle to the back lounge where we were all sat, holding the by now crusty Johnny with a biro pen like a piece of forensic evidence, “Whooooooo the fuck left that in my cabin?” The fucker was raging but we simply laughed at him and he retreated back down the aisle.

I felt a pang of guilt later on and tried to make amends with him, get a conversation going with him as he drove, keep him company.  He had piles of old road maps all over the place, fucking loads of them, and that was about the only subject I seemed to able to get him going with.  Poor sod.  Of course, the doubts and suspicions over Barry's drinking continued to feed themselves into a frenzy and of course soon enough Gordon was claiming he'd seen empty bottles of booze in his bunk as Barry rolled out for work.  I don't know how much weight there was to this story but it seemed all the more credible a few months afterwards when Bianchi had been on another tour with Barry, who'd been called in as a substitute driver half way through the trip with another band he was working with.  Funnily enough, Stumpy Munroe, the drummer from the Scottish band The Almighty was drum teching this tour and sat across from Bianchi on the bus when Barry rolls up to save the day, “Ah fuck me, it's Bacardi Barry!”

My favourite memory from Barry's time with us though was one night when we'd pulled over to refuel, some place in Germany I think.  We were all sat about drinking a beer or two as Barry fed the bus with petrol and then when he went inside the garage to pay Frank thought it would be a laugh to give driving the bus a go.  We were all egging him on of course.  I'll never forget pissing myself laughing as Barry came tearing across the forecourt screaming at us as the bus stuttered and choked forward a few meters, Frank laughing his ass off at the wheel!  Barry did his very best to tear Frank a new one, but it had no effect.  Frank just shouted back at him, “Fuck off, I could probably drive this thing better than you, you drunk old cunt!”  What could he say? Turns out not much, he just took the keys away from Frank, asked him to get up and then slumped into his seat and drove.  It was then that the guilt really came and I felt pretty bad for him.  Frank didn't give a fuck of course, and even if he did feel bad he wouldn't show it.  He probably didn't though.

That was pretty much the end of Barry and Speedhorn.  We came home from tour and never heard from him or saw him again.  I don't know if he's sorted himself out or if he's even still alive.  Our days of travelling on tour buses were also numbered and Barry's was the last bus we were out on, except for a couple of short stints and festivals trips here and there.  I've seen Chop a couple of times when he's been in Stockholm with other bands since, but that was a long time ago now.  Things were changing for Speedhorn and the days of travelling on a tour bus would soon become a distant memory as we faced up to life back in a van.  We'd had a good run of it but it was never going to last forever.  The band was about to go through some major changes too, with Frank, Tony and Daz eventually leaving before we took up touring on a full time basis again, a couple of years later.  After a period of time battling record labels, writing a new record and playing sporadic shows we'd finally be back on the road, this time in our own tour van, Betty, an old school bus for the handicapped we bought and done up with the help of Gordon's little brother Sandy, who knew a thing or two about engines.  Sandy gutted the thing and built six bunks inside, as well as installing seats and a table, a tv, Playstation, electric sockets, everything.  Travelling in Betty would turn out to be as much fun, if not more, than we'd ever had.  And now we were doing it all ourselves again, which is all I'd ever wanted.  And now we had a new driver, not just that, a seventh member.  He did as much for our band as any of us did, and he would be with us wherever we went for the next few years until we called it a day.  Wee Lee.  One of the best friends I've ever had.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Baltimore

The drive to Baltimore was a bit of a chore.  The bus was fucking freezing.  The thing is, it was roasting hot outside and the half hour walk from our hotel to the station put a bit of a sweat on, and then when we took our seats on-board and waited for the engine to turn over and it was uncomfortably muggy on the packed bus, I actually joked with Andy, “I hope the air conditioning works..” And then I literally sat there shivering for the next three hours with nothing but a thin jacket and t-shirt to keep out the chill.

I felt exhausted by the time we were dropped off at some park and ride station just outside the city.  There was no sign of our pick up but I couldn't have cared less, I just lay down on the pavement with my bag as a pillow in the baking sun.  I could easily have fallen asleep.  The ride turned up a half hour later, some Californian woman called Lisa, who had apparently been there the whole time, just sat at the other end of the enormous car park.

When we arrived at the venue it was just after three pm.  Pretty good timing really, just long enough before we play to allow us to get sorted, eat and relax and not too long as to have to watch a load of bands I didn't want to see.  Our dear friend Matt Sachs and the boys from Black Breath were stood outside waiting for us.  A smile came to my face upon sighting them.  Good to be around such great people again.  It took a while getting out of the car though since Jon was sorting our lift for later with Lisa and the conversation seemed to drag on forever.

Matt had brought my guitar with him, plus a load of Victims merch.  And in true Sachs style he'd already set the merch up at the stall inside.  I bought this brown Gibson SG on Ebay over here the last time Victims toured the East Coast.  The idea was to buy a guitar, being that the dollar was/is on it's arse it was extremely cheap compared to back home, use it on tour, take it home and sell it for a lot more than I bought it for, therefore basically renting a guitar for free for the tour and then making a profit out of it at the end.  The flaw in the plan was that as soon as I played it I realised I wanted to keep it.  The other problem was that during the tour I bought a load of lp's and ended up being way overweight for the journey home, so I decided to leave the guitar with Sachs since we'd be touring the States again within the year.  And then Andy and Kristin got pregnant again and the tour got cancelled.  And then Polly came along and we had to bin the next tour too.  So today I finally got it back.  It was good to see it, and looking well.  I'd jokingly made Sachs promise me he'd write the next Parasytic record on it but he didn't get around to it due to the fact that he, like the rest of us, became a dad too.

It was great to see the Black Breath guys.  They are some of the friendliest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet.  Elijah and Erik were telling me that they've been in Baltimore for five days now, since they played a show here on Wednesday and they're not leaving until tomorrow, when they start a small tour.  “Fucking great, my first holiday in ages and I spend it in Baltimore” complained Erik, although with a smile on his face as he did so.  I have to say, a day in this city is more than enough for me.

Anyway, I was glad to see Jamie up on his feet, albeit with the aid of a crutch.  He had a bad accident a while back where he was hit by a car and had his leg smashed.  I can only imagine the horror that is his medical bills after a hefty amount of time in hospital.  He's still pretty shaken by the whole ordeal, which is understandable.  I had a pretty lengthy chat with him about it and considering how fucked up the situation is he's staying incredibly strong.  These are the first shows he's done since then.  He said the first one the other night went ok anyway.  Strange that we'd met two friends in the last couple of days who are both recovering from road accidents...

After getting into the back stage room and sorted with the necessary passes and drink tickets we ordered some food.  I restrung my guitar whilst waiting, always a boring job but it had to be done,  the strings on my SG looked diseased.  The food didn't take long to arrive and it hit the spot nicely on the way down.  Another veggie burger, not on par with Five Napkins but chuffed all the same.  There was this big guy sat in our room who I'd never met before, I wondered at first if he was the guy from Iron Lung.  Kind of looked like him.  Turns out his name is John and he was doing sound for Nasum when they toured here a couple of years ago.  Also turns out that Sachs had fixed it with him to do our sound for the show tonight, despite the fact he had to rush off afterwards to catch a flight.  Really nice guy.  It's a big bonus having someone like John do your sound when you're playing in a large, concrete room.  Without him our sound would be truly hit and miss, with him it was guaranteed.

There were a bunch of friends in the place that we hadn't seen for a while so I spent the next hour or so catching up with everyone.  The Greghans were in town, as well as our friend China from Richmond.  Matt's wife Sarah was around too.  I was hoping they'd bring their boy, Jasper, who we haven't met yet but he was still just a little too young for this gig.  Sarah and I spent a while talking kids, funny how things have changed this last couple of years.  I also met a guy called Lee who played in a band called Theories from Seattle, they're out here doing the dates with Black Breath and are old friends of theirs.  He was a really good guy, we had a good gab after he'd lent me his string clippers.  The Dropdead guys were around too, Ben as always, manning the merch table.  And to add to the festivities we were sharing our room with Extinction of Mankind, although they didn't arrive until later.

Suitably relaxed I decided to take my first beer of the evening whilst watching Black Breath's set.  They killed it as always.  Whether you like what they do or not, you can't but help be impressed with the way they go about it.  They're so fucking tight and play their instruments so well it's ridiculous.  I learned a thing or two from watching Eric every night on tour, that's for fucking sure.  They just make everything look so effortless.  Felt bad for Elijah though, he was playing this silly looking bass that he'd lent from a friend.  He'd told me earlier that he'd had his old Gibson Ripper stolen from the boot of his car a while back.  Totally gutted.  Now he had this BC Rich monstrosity with him.  Still, if anyone can pull it off, he can.

The crowd were pretty crazy for them too.  This one young guy in particular, a right fucking knob, caught mine and Andy's eye.  He'd taken his top off before the guys even started playing, flexing his muscle tits and pacing around the big open space in the middle of the floor, making sure everyone could see him.  He then raises his arms in the air and starts shouting things like, “Come on!  Let's fucking do this!”  And then during the set he was down the front and kept picking up Neil's monitor and lifting it above his head and then bringing it down on to his face and screaming in to it.  The guy was a first class tit in other words.  I had to laugh, in fact, it was a pity laugh, I did actually start to feel a little sorry for him when between songs he was shouting at Neil, begging for his attention, and shouting, “I really love your band!  I love your music!  I believe in you!”.  Kid was fucking hyper!

The whole while this kid was at it the crowd was going nuts around him, with big circle pits erupting every now and again and swallowing up the floor like a maelstrom.  I clock these two huge bouncers walking into the crowd and making their way to the front about half way through their set and I get the feeling we could be in for some trouble.  I've seen this before at home in clubs when the bouncers walk in to the mosh pit and just stand there, daring anyone to bang into them, itching for an excuse to throw some kid out the hard way.  I can barely believe my eyes then when these two crack a huge smile and the next thing they're moshing away, throwing kids about and pumping their fists in the air to the music.  After the gig the two of them rush backstage to get photos with the band.  Have to be the coolest bouncers I've ever met.

It was the first time I'd played a Victims show in eighteen months.  The guys had done four shows in Finland without me at the start of last year when I'd hopped off a couple of weeks before, getting cold feet because Polly was due just three weeks later.  I knew she wouldn't arrive if I'd gone but I didn't want to leave Jen, as calm as she was, and I knew I wouldn't have been able to relax anyway.  Johan just faced the same situation now with a couple of festivals we had booked in Europe that we've just cancelled.  Anyway, it was the first show for a while and I had no idea how it was going to go.  The last time we played this festival it was great but that didn't necessarily mean anything.  I got a confidence boost though when Neil gave a shout out to us and a large section of the crowd cheered boisterously, arms aloft.

As it is, the show went really well.  It sounded as good as it could do on such a large stage, and the crowd were really into it, and pretty packed all the way to the back of the room.  I felt a bit of stiffness the first song or two but that soon disappeared.  I had Greg from the Greghans right in front of me, huge smile on his face the whole way through.  Always gives you an extra buzz to spot friends in the crowd, having a good time.  I may have got a little bit carried away at one point though.  During a break Johan turned to me and told me in no uncertain terms to watch his pedals.  I hadn't really noticed that I'd been on them but then again I was kind of flying all over the stage for a while.  What can I say?  I was just really getting into it.  I must have gotten my lead tangled up in his Rat pedal and somehow wound the distortion down to zero because apparently his bass was just plonking along towards the end of the second block of songs, not that I'd heard it.  Johan gets pretty nervous before shows, I guess because he really cares about how the band sounds and performs.  Not that I don't but Johan is the guy that makes sure this band ticks.  The pappa.  I've been there before myself so I know how he feels..

Anyway, apart from that little discrepancy, the show was great.  We ended with This Is The End, fittingly, and sure enough a big circle pit engulfed the room.  Always gives me a buzz playing that song.  When we're done there are some kids who have been down the front the whole time that have stuck around to ask for picks and set lists.  I'm only too happy to oblige of course.  It's kind of weird being in that position though.  I remember what it was like to be that age and the rush I got from watching bands when they came to my home town.  I remember being completely made up this one time when I got a set list from this band called Naked Truth.  I thought the singer in the band who had handed it to me was an absolute legend for taking the time to do so.  And now I'm here doing the same thing for a young kid, it blows my mind.  And of course, I now know that the singer in Naked Truth wasn't this big famous rock star who lived off of his band, he was just like I am now, a regular sap who has to work on the side to pay the bills, just like ninety nine percent of the rest of us.  Anyway, I couldn't find a set list on my side of the stage since I had been peeking at Johan's the whole time and that was most likely already folded up neatly back in his case, so I went and grabbed Jon's, which was written on the inside of the Styrofoam box that our veggie burgers had come in.  The kid looked at me when I handed it to him as if to ask me if I was for real, and then he smiled, grabbed it, shook my hand and went about his business, chuffed.

Soon enough it was my turn to feel like the fifteen year old fan kid again though, when Dropdead took to the stage right after us.  It was the first time I'd ever seen them play live, despite being a fan for a long time, and I was delighted that we were playing with these legends.  I know the word “legend” gets bandied around a lot but in my eyes, these guys really are.  And fuck me did they destroy the gig!  The singer, Bob Otis, looks like he's been lifted straight out of the film ID.  If you put a Millwall scarf around his neck you wouldn't know the difference.  When he walks on stage to join the rest of the band, bomber jacket, number one crop and a look on his face that suggests he'll kick the shit out of you if you even dare glance in his direction, you'd be forgiven for wondering what the fuck is going on when he signals to the rest of the band to wait up whilst he preaches to the crowd about animal rights for five minutes.  And then when they do blast in to the first song it's just fucking magic.  I'm close to running on stage and diving into the crowd a couple of times but I contain myself.  They tear it up for the next twenty minutes or so, playing a bunch of songs from the first seven inch as an added bonus, Otis signalling every now and again to the rest of the guys that he would like quiet so he can give another lecture.  The thing is, it doesn't come across as a pose, as it can do so easily, you know he means it, every single word of it.

And then, as if seeing Dropdead wasn't enough, something unbelievable happens.  George, the bassist, suddenly takes off his guitar and hands it to the drummer Brian before stepping down in to the crowd and turning back towards the stage with his arms folded across his chest.  Just as I'm wondering what the fuck is going on, some old, kind of shaky looking bloke runs up on stage and sits behind the kit.  Bob introduces Robert from the band Siege and tells the crowd they're about to play a few songs by his band.  Fuck me!  Robert sits there, sort of fidgeting for a moment or two, not looking completely sure of himself until he counts in on his sticks, one, two, three, four and all hell breaks loose.  Considering how fast he's playing, the force with which he's belting the snare is nothing short of phenomenal.  Three songs, fast as you like, and then it's over and Robert runs back off stage and hides in the shadows.  Andy is straight over to him and when he comes back to me a few minutes later he's almost drooling, “He told me he really liked our set and he's going to buy the records from our merch table later.  The Siege drummer just said that to me!”

I hadn't really been in the mood for beer up to now, the one I'd had earlier hadn't done much for me and I was still feeling the burn from the few days in New York, but after witnessing that I felt like having a couple.  The trouble is, our drink tickets were only good for piss like Miller or Yeungling.  One was enough for me, or maybe two.. Anyway, we were all in very good spirits as the night rolled in and we hung out up by the merch stands with our friends and the Dropdead guys, who I've only really met in passing before but the other guys have known for a long time.  A couple of cans of piss was more than enough for me and Johan though and when we went back to the bar the third time Johan started negotiating drink tickets and money with the bartender.  Turns out that one drink ticket plus two dollars fifty would get us a rum and coke.  Deal.

I got a hit immediately.  You certainly get your moneys worth when you buy drinks in this country, the booze to mixer ratio is off the fucking chart!  A couple of these and I could see Johan's eyes starting to narrow, the way they do when he's beginning to get pissed.  He was back and forth to the bar at a hefty rate for a while.  The others were keeping the pace too.  Andy seemed to be in a really good mood, never without a can in his hand and Jon was stood with his arm around Matt, banging on in his ear about fuck knows what.  Ben Dropdead seemed to constantly have a drink in his hand too, one side of his mouth sucking on a straw, the other side grinning.  The drummer from Dropdead is a class act as well.  He looks more Grateful than Drop, really has the Tommy Chong thing going on.  Really chilled “dude”, always smiling.   Johan had been speaking to him and had asked if he enjoyed the gig today, “It's a hardcore show” was his simple, smiling answer.

Anyway, after a few drinks, hunger had struck.  Johan and I took off in search of some grub, with Andy initially following but soon giving up after a walk around the block and deciding he was heading back to the venue for more booze instead.  Baltimore really is a pretty depressing place I have to say.  Given that it was Saturday night and we were in the cleaned up touristy area of the city, it was decidedly hard to find something to eat.  A lot of places were closed and those that were open were very non vegetarian.  We ended up eating a plate of uninspired veggie noodles in some Chinese place next to the water, only the two of us there.  Not exactly what I had in mind but it did the job.  By the time we got back to the venue the band Noothgrush was playing, although I paid little attention to them.  The only thing that I noticed was that the singer had this yellow tube through his nose and looked ridiculous and they had this little woman playing drums who looked pretty cool.

We were sharing our room with Extinction of Mankind.  They'd arrived at some point whilst we were gone and I could hear their broad northern accents booming from the room all the way from side stage.  We were greeted with the usual, “Waheey boys!” as we entered the room.  They crack me up, it's the same routine every time.  Steve their singer was already looking a few sheets to the wind, and this an hour or so before they played.  Jim Whitby is now playing bass with them and he was sat in the corner quietly smirking as the rest of the guys in his band held court.  Jim played bass in one of the most important UK hardcore bands, Ripcord, back in the 80´s. If Jim wasn't such a gentleman I'd have been too in awe to speak to him, but Jim is a very humble guy and conversation with him was easy, even amongst the northern cacophony.

I felt pretty bad for Extinction since there was an hour break between Noothgrush and them and a lot of people pissed off instead of hanging around the empty venue.  They didn't even put music on to fill the void so the atmosphere kind of died.  I think Dark Angel were playing the main stage at the same time they were on too so they were up against it.  The place was not even half full when they went on but by the end of their rather lengthy set quite a few crusties had made it back.  We were stood at the back watching them when Johan put another rum coke in my hand.  I took one sip and knew that I had to stop right there.  I wasn't anywhere near drunk, not even tipsy really, the drink had just made me feel sick and I knew if I carried on I was going to regret it.  I spent about five minutes trying to palm if off on Andy, under the weight of Johan's disapproving eyes.  The big guy finally took it off me, it's like he didn't trust me or something, and then near enough necked it.  It was like I'd hit a wall, three days of relatively mild drinking catching up on me.  I was knackered and ready for bed.

The sound from the stage didn't really make it all the way back to where we stood, it was at a mere chatting level by the time it reached us.  As Steve trounced around the stage grunting into the mic all I could hear was Jon, a few feet away from me with Matt and China, pissed as a fart doing his Brit impression to the music.  “Oi oi oi, oi oi oi” over and over, his eyes glazed above his stupid grin.  Me, Johan and Andy headed outside to catch some air and before long Johan had completely flaked too.  He looked like he'd been hit by a steamroller.  I was relieved since now there would be two of us lobbying to head back to the hotel.  We decided to start making moves and headed back to the dressing room where we walked into a scene of carnage.  Steve Extinction was fucking boats, and shouting about how the band on stage after them were fucking shite.  He could barely keep his eyes open.  Jim was sat beside him, calmly sipping on a beer, smirking at him and us.  Steve is falling about the place, rumbling on in a barely decipherable accent by this point and then someone hands him an almost empty bottle of Jim Beam.  I'd say it had about fifteen centilitres of whisky swishing around the bottom.  Steve just takes it and in one fucking gulp it's gone.  Me and Johan are sat on the couch opposite him, both a little whoah!  That was still a hefty swig of booze that just disappeared.  Andy is sat on a chair between Steve and Jim, mainly talking to Jim about Ripcord but breaking every now and again to laugh at Steve.  I knew it was in the post but it still takes us a little by surprise when Steve puts his hand to his mouth and pukes through his fingers.  We all lurch forward to move any bags that might be in the way.  He then continues to swig on beer and puke for the next ten minutes before Dave, this cool American guy who is driving them, convinces him to follow him out of the room.  He doesn't quite make it out the door without falling face first into the wall.  As soon as Steve has gone, swearing and cursing Excruciating Terror as he does so, Scoot the guitarist appears in the doorway, looking almost as boats as poor Steve was.  “Andehh!” he shouts at Andy before lumbering over to give him a hug.  I crack up listening to him tell Andy, “You guys are like famleh to us, you know that?” his arm around Andy's shoulder the whole time.  After a while the tide turns and he starts taking the piss out of our hair instead, “You guys have all got such nice haircuts”.  Jim chirps up and asks Scoot when the last time he had a trim was, and suggests his hair could do with a wash.  And so it continues for the next little while until we finally round up our gear and declare enough is enough.  We need bed.

We also need a ride.  Jon is stood on the other side of the door, eyes now completely gone.  The grin he was wearing earlier has inverted into a confused crescent.  Johan and I ask him numerous times if he can call Lisa, since he was the one with her number, but it's slow going.  Jon is in his famous Ozzy mode by now and every little action takes the longest time to complete.  When we ask him to call Lisa, he says nothing, just slowly pulls his phone out, looking completely vacant, and then puts the phone to his ear.  I'm not sure I actually see him dialling any number and I'm not convinced he's actually talked to anyone when he puts his phone back in his pocket and shrugs his shoulders and tells us Lisa has finished work for the night.  Great...

It's tough wading through a sea of drunkenness when you're stone cold sober and in desperate need of some Z's.  The short little woman who plays drums from Noothgrush has now appeared and she makes Jon look as straight as Ian Mackaye, or Outlast Jon... She's completely fucking legless, quite literally.  She seems chuffed all the same, constantly laughing as she falls on her arse.  Sarah is doing her best to look after her but she's pretty beyond.  We all piss ourselves laughing as this little lady then stumbles into Jon who in turn falls backwards into a pile of bags behind him, too pissed to even throw his arms out to brace his fall.  Sarah finally manages to guide her to the toilet.  

We ask around a little but it seems nobody has much idea about what's going on with rides.  We have the hotel address anyway, some Red Roof Inn out by the airport apparently.  Too fucked to care what it costs we decide to take a cab.  We sold a good amount of merch tonight anyway so fuck it.  We say our goodbye's to everyone, which takes time, and then finally head out in to the street to look for a Joe Baxi.  There are plenty around thankfully.   We throw our gear in the boot and as I'm climbing into the back seat Jon takes another tumble.  He's fallen forwards onto his hands and knees, looking like a decrepit old man in a bandanna and Watain waistcoat.  You can't help but laugh.  We finally make it back to the hotel where we find Ben Dropdead in reception, still with that grin on his face.  We talk about getting up early to share breakfast with them but we don't have to checkout until one pm. and I know the chances of us rising earlier than absolutely necessary are slim.

We ended up getting out of bed around eleven this morning by which time the Dropdead guys were long gone.  They had an eight hour drive back up to Providence so most likely left as early as possible.  We went for breakfast at a Chili's just over the road, which was pretty awful but literally the only alternative around.  A shuttle cab came for us at two pm and drove us to the airport, via a Hindu temple for another pick up.  The cab driver seemed to have no idea what was going on though and we drove slowly around this temple for about half hour looking for whoever had booked him.  Strange little detour.

Anyway, we've been at the airport for a couple of hours now and we'll be boarding shortly.  Looking forward to going home now.  This is the furthest I've been away from Polly and it felt a little weird.  Not sure how I'd handle a few weeks away from her if and when the time comes... Had a slightly better meal here at the airport anyway, a passable bowl of tomato soup and a veggie flat bread.  Hardly gourmet stuff but better than the slop we ate this morning. Dulles airport is a much nicer place than JFK too, far more relaxed here.  Funny how the airport staff are much friendlier to you on the way out of the land than on the way in.  The cop checking my passport even wished me a belated happy birthday.  Doesn't take much effort does it?

Monday, June 9, 2014

New York City

We've been in New York City for two and a half days, a little Victims holiday before we play the show in Baltimore tonight.  The flights were paid for and we had money in our band account to splash out on a hotel so why not take advantage and hang out in the Big Apple for a little while?

Flying into the States is always a little nerve racking if you're in a band and you don't have a visa.  It's actually nerve racking enough even if you are just a tourist, since the attitude the cops dish out at customs can be a little harsh.  Not all of the cops are like this of course, it depends on your luck I guess, but the cop me and Andy talked to was a bit of an arsehole.  It wasn't that he probed with any interrogating questions, just that he refused to look at you as he spoke to you and when he did look you he had contempt in his eyes.  What the fuck is the problem really?  They really do the superiority complex well.  Anyway fuck it, we actually had no reason for concern this time around since we weren't getting paid any fee, our fee was the flights that had been booked for us.  Still, no reason to rock the boat and make things hard for yourself by taking equipment with us and wearing clothes that scream, “We're in a band!”

I was astonished by Jon's effort all the same.  When he'd arrived at my flat to sleep for a few hours before we flew out at seven am. he was dressed in a smart grey woollen sweater, new looking black trucker cap and his hair was washed and flowing down his back.  Even with the wild beard he still looked pretty sharp.  Of course, when we got to the hotel he'd transformed himself during the ten minutes I was in the shower.  Gone was the sweater and cap and in their place a sleeveless Slayer t-shirt under his leather waistcoat and his hair was now pony tailed and tucked under a bandanna.  Johan laughed and asked him, “That feel more comfortable now?” to which came his obvious, grinning reply.

We flew in on my birthday so we went out for dinner and drinks at night, as good an excuse as any to keep ourselves awake and ward off any jet-lag.  It started well enough with a couple of pints of ale and some Mexican food down in the West Village but then a pitcher of Margarita got the ball rolling, hard to resist at sixteen dollars.  The food was great too.  From there we went looking for somewhere else to drink and for some reason ended up in a fancy jazz bar on 6th. Avenue.  Without any discussion Jon ordered four shots of Jameson's and then turned a whiter shade of pale when they came in at over forty dollars.  I felt bad for him but he didn't complain.  The bartender was pretty cool though, I guess he could see the shock on our faces and he poured us another round for free.  A few more beers and then we ended up back at the bar next to our hotel in Chelsea.  The last thing I remember was Johan getting a round of Brooklyn EIPA in.  May have some memory of the first sip but that's about it.

Hungover and jet-lagged is a shit state of affairs I can tell you...

I woke up at five am., sharing a double bed with Johan, head splitting.  I kind of dazed in and out of sleep until nine, feeling just as bad every time I woke.  Thankfully we have Jon in the band and he has pills for all your fucking needs, so when he woke he sorted me out with some ibuprofen.  Apparently in my drunken state Johan had filmed me trying to sleep and put it up on Instagram, I had a slew of texts wishing me happy birthday and laughing about that.  Funny how pictures can help you remember small details though, like a photo Johan had of me doing the Boston hardcore dance whilst waiting at a pedestrian crossing.. Somewhere a bell rang, deep down inside my foggy mind.

We spent most of Thursday walking around looking at shops, mainly shoes and jeans, first in Manhattan and then Brooklyn.  At one point over in Williamsburg Johan, Andy and I were in a cool little kids clothing store, scanning the shelves, Jon was outside having a fag of course, poor bastard must have been bored off his tits, and I looked up at the three of us and thought to myself, “This scene used to take place in a record store”..

“How times have changed” we laughed.  And then got out of there.  With a couple of purchases.

We drank a shit load of coffee all day and had plenty of greasy American food, but it wasn't until we sat down for some late lunch and had a pint of Harpoon IPA that I started to feel normal again.  Sometimes you just have to accept that the only cure for a hangover is that very stuff that caused it in the first place.  It tasted amazing I have to say.

On the way back to the hotel we popped by Generation Records on Thompson Street, a must do when in the city.  Surprisingly though I wasn't feeling it and didn't buy a single record.  Must be a first.  I must really have been hungover...Andy bought about ten items of course.  One cool thing though, the guys from Ratos De Porao were there and we got talking to them.  They were playing a show up in Queens the next night before heading down to Baltimore to play the Fest on Sunday.  They were really nice guys and we had a good chat with them.  They told us they'd been into Victims since the first album that Yellow Dog put out all those years ago.  Always nice to hear stuff like that from legends of the scene.  I wanted to mention that Lucas DB knew one of their guys from the scene back in Sao Paulo but I didn't really get the chance.  I fancied going to their gig the next day but deep down I knew it wouldn't happen, there would be no chance of getting the guys to travel up to Queens for a show when we're here for such a short time and in all honesty I probably wouldn’t be arsed either when it came to it.  Shame though that they'd be playing twice whilst we're here and we wouldn't get to see them on either occasion.

In the evening our Australian friend Nath, who none of us bar Jon had ever met in person before, came by our hotel room to hang out.  He's one of those guys who we share a mass of mutual friends with and he'd been in touch with us all via the internet a while back.  It was fun meeting him at long last.  He was of course a really nice guy.  He's here doing web design for some huge management company who does all these daft bands like Fallout Boy and are closely related to Metallica's people, if I understood it right.  Fuck knows.  He took us over to his office down on the lower West Side anyway and told us a load of stories about different celebrities.  Weird getting a glimpse into that insane world.  Their office was next door to an apartment, or should I say floor that Leonardo Di Caprio had recently bought.

Our friend Affe, who plays in Obnoxious Youth and also in Jon's bowling team, Team Slayer, was here a few weeks ago hanging out with Nath.  He'd won some award,  also in the design field I believe, and been flown to New York for a week, all expenses paid.  As well as telling us all about how much Affe ate, something you'd find hard to believe if you'd seen the skinny bastard, Nath told us about an occasion on his visit when they bumped in to Alec Baldwin in the street.  Affe had gone up to him and asked him for a photo and Baldwin rushed off looking horrified saying he doesn't do photos, much to Affe's confusion.  We all laughed at the thought and after a while came up with a great idea for a blog called photocredit.com where the idea is you approach a celebrity acting all star struck like, “Hey... You're Robert De Niro, I really love your work.  Can you take a picture of me?” and then give them the camera and pose for a pic.  So basically you end up with a load of pics of yourself from various places taken by different famous twats.  Winner.

We went for dinner at a place called Five Napkins that made some amazing veggie burgers, made of red bean and beetroot I think.  They had a load of regular burgers on the menu but they could be made vegetarian if so wished.  It was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten.  Andy was in agreement, getting all lyrical about it.  Washed down with a couple of beers I was pretty fucking stuffed afterwards and could have easily gone back to the hotel and slept.  Tiredness had gotten it's claws far deeper into the camp than it had done the night before.  Our friend Aaron came down to have dinner with us too.  He's a really great guy who used to play in a band called Defeatist that toured with Jon's old grind band Sayyadina.  Jon had introduced him to us a few years back and we've gotten on great ever since.  It was great to see him and catch up.  He was heading off back to Brooklyn to catch a Birdflesh gig but we were in no mood.  Instead we walked down to the Financial District via Nath's office to check out Wall Street by night, which Nath insisted had an entirely different appeal by moonlight.  He wasn't wrong.  I'd only been there in the daytime before but at night the place looks like Gotham City.  We took the opportunity to snap some band photos.  I really love this city and I could imagine maybe living here for an extended time, although not full time because one way or another, it's still the USA and you can't quite escape it's madness.  For example, they have a square down by City Hall called People With A.I.D.S. Plaza.  Now I know what they're trying to achieve here but that's fucking ridiculous.  I think it's called over compensation.

Eventually we took the tube back up to Union Square and went to a bar for a couple of beers before bed time.  We were all flagging, especially Johan and Andy, Jon can always drink a beer no matter the situation, and Nath had promised us a nice calm bar, rather like the one we'd been to in the West Village this afternoon on the way to Generation.  That place was empty and quiet and had a shit load of good beer on tap, I was hoping for something along those lines.  When we walked in to this place the first thing we faced was the most miserable fucking bouncer you've ever seen.  He apparently hated us and everyone around him, although I can imagine nowhere near as much as he hated himself.  I don't know, but if someone says hello to you how fucking hard is to it say hello back?  Anyway, the second thing we all noticed is that it was pretty light in there and there was very bad music being played at high volume.  I looked immediately to Andy's horrified coupon.  Thankfully there were tables free at the back where it was a lot quieter and Nath led us straight there.  We sat and had a couple of drinks, after one beer I couldn't stomach any more so moved on to a rum sour which hit the fucking bullseye.  Andy had a rum with what looked like a dash of Coke and brightened up in an instant and even started talking about going somewhere else for another drink, which suddenly sounded like a great idea but Johan had the eyes of a man dying on his feet.  We walked out into the night air and headed in the direction of the hotel and sure enough, within a couple of blocks time Andy and I had both decided we were knackered after all.

The next day we woke up bright and early and it was a treat to feel neither jet-lagged or hungover, which really is a shite combo.  We headed over to a diner on 6th. for breakfast where we met up with Viv, who is over from London working on Off Broadway for ten days.  Mad how New York is.  It was really good to see her anyway and hear about her trip to Brazil where she'd just come from with the same theatre company.  She never changes and she always makes me laugh.  She started flirting with the Swedes, telling them if they started speaking in their mother tongue she'd slide off the seat.  I think only Andy caught it but it cracked him up.  That's Viv for you.  Crude as a fart in a lift and at the same time one of the kindest people you're likely to meet.  It was really nice to see her, even if only for a quick bite to eat.

After breakfast we went to Guitar Centre and looked at a load of guitars I could only dream of affording and then we went back over to Brooklyn to check out Academy Records.  I actually found a couple of things I wanted here, like the Rational Animals album and a couple of Bill Bondsmen sevens.  In constant need of coffee we stopped off at a café on the corner opposite the store.  The coffee was grand and I washed it down with a peanut butter chocolate slice, which was basically a brick of peanut butter with a slab of chocolate on top.  I was humming and ahhing over it until Nath just went ahead and ordered it for me.  I've been banging on about finding a peanut butter milkshake since I got here and haven't found one, so this would have to do.  Peanut butter milkshake and frozen maragrita are two things that everybody else has had to listen to me repeating since arriving.  I guess I'm on the wrong coast if I want those things, at least if I want them done well.

I really liked the Green Point area of Brooklyn though, it's a cosy little area full of small shops, low rise buildings, cafés and bars.  I'd never been there before and it's always fun to see somewhere new.  We ended up walking back to Williamsburg after a while and met up with John from Baroness for a couple of beers at the Charleston on Bedford Avenue, where we played last time we toured here.  Apparently they stopped putting shows a while back, which is too bad.  Before meeting up with John we took a slice of pizza at the place across the road, this awesome little joint called Anna Maria's Pizza.  The slices are huge and the tomato sauce fucking incredible.  One slice and you're done.  These two guys sat across from us had spotted John out in the street waiting for us and when we got up to leave they asked me if we were in Baroness.  I didn't really catch what he was talking about at first and just replied “yes” as way of being polite.  They then started probing me on whether we playing in the city that evening and the whole thing became very confusing until I just walked out.

It was nice to see John and also meet his mate Jimmy, who works with Guitar World Magazine or something.  Good guy anyway.  We had a common acquaintance in Ross Halfin, or at least, Jimmy works with Halfin and Halfin did a photo shoot with Speedhorn in Japan years back.  Fucking nightmare it was, him being a rock star photographer, he's on both Maiden and Metallica's payroll, and us being hungover and generally useless.  It was good to see John looking well after the crash anyway.  He's obviously still pretty shaken both mentally and psychically but he's still alive and that's the main thing.  Crazy how big Baroness have become too, listening to John recount stories from the Metallica tour was kind of a head fuck.  Don't know if I'd handle that situation very well.  On tour with Metallica.  Fuck that.

John was asking us if we wanted to go to the Trans Am show at the Knitting Factory, their drummer is now playing in Baroness, but we'd already made plans to go down to the legendary Comedy Cellar.  After freshening up at the hotel we made our way over to St. Marks for an amazing veggie hot dog that had jalapeño peppers, cheese and sauce flowing over the sides of the bun, and then we went to a cosy little dimly lit bar across the road and drank margaritas, (on the rocks not frozen) and IPA and played an intensive few rounds of Jenga, something I was new too but immediately taken with, the whole while it pissed down outside and we got crazy uber American sms warnings on our phones about impending flash floods.. It was dry when we eventually left.  For a while.

We got to the Comedy Cellar around midnight for the twelve thirty show we'd booked tickets for, they were all that was left.  It started pissing down again and the queue was around the corner with no sign of moving, the five of us stood there under Andy's umbrella.  Fucking rubbish.  We must have stood there for an hour before we finally got it.  It was worth it though, I guess.  I finally got a frozen maragarita but it was pretty cack, nothing but slushy ice and soon enough water.  The guys pissed themselves laughing the entire hour and half the show was on, Jon making sure he laughed once everybody else had stopped.. He was getting to that level of drunk.. It was funny although some of the subjects were pretty raw and almost not ok, but I'd be a prick to say I didn't laugh because I did, a lot.  It's safe to say Andy and Johan were ecstatic and I found myself laughing at Johan's bellowing as much as anything.  It was cool to check out such a legendary place above all else though.

We ended up jumping in a cab back to the hotel around two thirty.  Every passing night has gotten later and later and of course this morning was the earliest rise yet, the bus for Baltimore leaves at ten thirty.  Nath was supposed to be heading down with us but he texted this morning saying he's getting sick and will have to leave it.  I don't know if he just doesn't fancy the trip to Baltimore or what.  I could hardly blame him if he didn't.  Kind of feel that way a little myself.  After three days of holidaying in New York I'd almost forgotten that we're actually here to play a gig.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Oslo

It's light outside.  My alarm hasn't gone yet.  I check the room.  Everyone is fast asleep, Kev below me on a few cushions, Luk on a small sofa, Vik on a larger one opposite me.  I need a piss.  This bed is not the most comfortable... I check the time.  Six am.  Fuck it, I'll wait with the piss and sleep some more.

I awake again, now in pain from the need for a piss.  Eirik pops his head into the room, “There's bread ready in the kitchen”.  We all slowly arise like a band of undead and shuffle through.  The bread is warm and tasty although a little hard to slice.  The train leaves in an hour.

I take the most miserly of washes over the sink before we leave.  The air outside breathes new life into my lungs and I realise that despite the lack of sleep I feel ok.  Your body really can take more than your head gives it credit for sometimes...

We walk a different way back to town this time, through an open, green park where there are some students partying, obviously been up all night.  They have a sofa and a couple of arm chairs they're sat around on, still drinking.  One girl is lying a little further away from them, face down in the grass.  The rest of them ignore her.  Eirik tells us that there is some special event going on that the students are celebrating, or something or other.  I don't really take it in.  The city looks beautiful in the early morning light.  Kev remarks on how still the place is, considering it's a Saturday morning.  I guess he's used to Deptford High Street.  We get to back to Eirik's office and meet up with the rest of the Mörkt Kapittel guys who look how I feel.  And probably look... Eirik makes a round of Nespresso coffee for us which is most fucking welcome.  We board the train at eight thirty and set off on a seven hour journey across the hills and plateaus of Middle Norway.

The scenery is obviously quite stunning.  This is truly a wondrous land.  We're sat about in a very comfortable carriage with plenty of leg space, eyes glued to the windows.  I want to sleep but I don't want to miss anything either.  Kev says, “Once you've seen one snowy mountain you've seen them all” but he rarely takes his eyes from the window during the next seven hours.  We have a nice chat with the MK guys during the journey, touching on themes such as the right wing government, the history of that beautiful cathedral, turns out Oystein worked there as a tour guide when he was studying, and screamo.  The drummer, Oyvind, is a very nice guy.  He's sat next to Kev and my ears prick up when I hear them talking about bands like Swing Kids and Kaospilot.  Oyvind is the only guy who wasn't in the band when Victims played with them a few years ago.  As well as screamo he's also a big football fan so obviously we hit it off pretty well.

Viktor has set his clock for one pm, which he has earmarked as beer o' clock.  The MK guys have already been by the time we all follow Vik to the buffet carriage.  I have to say I don't honestly fancy a brew right now but I don't think I can handle another coffee and I feel slightly sick from the two feta and spinach pies I've already consumed.  I convince myself that a cold can will perk me up a bit and along with the other two I follow Vik's lead.  It turns out I do feel much better by the time I finish off the can of Ringnes.  Fucking dancer.

We get to Oslo around three and it's even warmer here than it was up north.  Actual t-shirt weather, chuffed.  Atle and Oystein sort a couple of trolleys from the station and we pile the gear on them before the two of them walk right out of the place and through the crowded streets towards the venue.  Atle says they'll return them tomorrow.  Oyvind, Luk and I inadvertently peel away from the rest of the crowd, deep in conversation and before long we've lost them.  I'm telling Oyvind about this great band from Norway called Dominic, whose records Oystein sent me a few years ago.  Turns out Oyvind is the drummer.  Small world.  Small scene..

We meet up with the rest at the venue, Barrikaden, haven taken a different route.  The venue is a squatted building on a busy street corner.  Seems at first like there is nobody around as we're stood waiting by the big iron door for a while, but then a girl opens up and we follow her into an inner courtyard and then into the building.  The gig room is down a steep, narrow staircase made of stone, in fact the whole building is made of dusty stone and graffiti, just as almost every one of these fantastic places I've been too all over Europe normally is.  The gig room is really small with a very low stage.  It's even smaller than last night.  Twenty people here tonight and I'll be chuffed.  There is a bar in the room and in the corridor that joins the two, at the bottom of the staircase is a corner to sell merch in and a urinal, just there in the open.  We head back upstairs and then up another flight again to the dormitory which is connected to the kitchen.  The girl gives us the keys to the room, it has a cardboard sign outside that says PARADISE HOTEL.    

I check the bed situation.  There are six bunks and they all look equally manky.  I realise that foolishly, I have not taken a sleeping bag or a pillow with me.  I figure my rucksack will do as a pillow, as it has done on many an occasion, and my thin rain jacket will have to suffice as a blanket.  Fuck it, it's warm outside and seems cosy enough in here.  We're told dinner will be around six or seven and then we can soundcheck after that.  Going to be a late show then.  It's only four pm so we decide to head out for a while, Oystein suggests we buy a couple of beers and head to a park with them.  Sounds like a majestic plan to me.

Oystein picks up a falafel roll on the way but being that food is coming in a couple of hours time I decide it's better to wait and use our money for beer instead.  We head to a park not far beyond the squat where there are a lot of people hanging out, barbecuing, drinking beer and enjoying the fine April weather.  We find a spot and park ourselves.  Fuck, even Kev looks half way chuffed.  We spend a couple of hours there, just lazing around, chatting, some other friends of the guys stop by and after a while Atle comes with his wife and son.  They're super nice.  His son is a cracker and immediately I think of Polly and begin to miss her.  Atle lives in Oslo these days and drives trains for a living.  He's seems pretty happy with his lot.  I always dreamed of being a train driver when I was a kid...

We head back to the venue around six thirty as the sun begins to weaken.  The smell of food is wafting through the courtyard but there is no other sign of dinner yet.  I'm beginning to get very hungry now.  The sun's rays are shunned from this courtyard and I realise it's actually a bit fucking nippy.  We pop down the gig room to check out what's going on and find that it's even nippier down there, in fact, it's fucking freezing!  No sound check just yet so we head back upstairs.  No food... We grab some beer and sit around in the cold courtyard drinking them.  This isn't quite the park...

Oyvind tells me that the squat used to be much bigger, that nowadays they only inhabit about half of the building whereas earlier they had the whole place but the cops took if off of them.  He tells me there used to be a bigger stage and on the third floor, which is now empty, they used to have a great vegan café that made these great sandwiches that cost next to nothing to buy.  Shame it's gone.  One by one these places seem to be disappearing.

We sound check around seven thirty.  It's again a quick and painless affair although instead of Eirik's head I'm going through a Peavey combo tonight.  Turns out they don't have speaker cabs here.  Fuck it, sounds good enough with my Blues Driver pedal anyway.  After soundcheck Eirik tells me that he thought my guitar sound was great and asked if he could use my pedal, I tell him he can use my leads too and all he has to do is plug his guitar in.  It's nice to keep things simple during crossover.

Sound check done, the wait for food begins to be a tough fucking slog.  Atle tells me he's starving and for the first time his friendly face starts to turn a little moody.  The dormitory is now freezing fucking cold too and I'm really starting to wonder about sleeping here as we sit around on a sofa and look into the kitchen where there are two punks, an older guy and a younger girl, sporadically looking into a huge pot and stirring every so often.  This goes on for almost another two hours.  How much stirring can the fucking thing need?  I can almost read Atle's thoughts, they're the same as mine.  Luk is talking about meeting up with his friend Maya later on tonight and trying to worm his way into crashing at her place.  He's spending the day with her tomorrow and flying back later than me and Vik.  I tell him he should work on that plan although secretly I'll be jealous as fuck if he manages to pull it off.  The MK guys are all staying elsewhere and Kev is staying at his friend, Ing Vild's, with Alec, who is heading in from London to hang out too, leaving just me and Vik in this dormitory in that case.  I've slept in far dirtier places but at least then I've had a sleeping bag and I've been steamboats to boot.  I can't really get too drunk tonight since we're up early for our flight home in the morning.  I notice a small pane of glass is open at the top of the window that looks out on to the courtyard.  A sense of relief hits me, “Tell you what Vik, we'll have to make sure we close that window before we go bed tonight”.  “Yeah well what the fuck are we gonna do about that?” he says, pointing at the much larger section directly below it that is simply a flimsy piece of cardboard box, taped to the frame of what was once a glass window.  Balls...

After much, much more stirring the food is finally ready, around nine pm.  Sure glad I didn't go for that falafel Oystein piled into five hours ago... I wouldn't say it's worth the wait but it tastes pretty good.  There is some nice spuds and salad and then some stewed veggie protein balls.  Right now I'd eat any fucking thing but the fact is I have eaten far worse and gone back for seconds, as I do on this occasion.  And as long as it took, I still very much appreciate the fact these guys have gotten off their arses to feed us.  It's very kind of them.

Fed and satisfied we head down to the venue which is now open and grab a couple of beers.  Apparently we've all got six bottles with our names on them behind the bar.  Nice one.  The doors have been open an hour and there is a good lot of people here, it's certainly going to be better attended than last night and the place is smaller.  Perfect.  Alec and Ing Vild turn up shortly after, Alec looking pretty tired having been up since four am this morning to make his journey here.  It's great to see him as always anyway.  Ing Vild seems like a really nice girl, she used to work at the café with the guys a while back but she's since moved home.  I think she's another of the dancing crew the guys always seem to employ.  Alec laughs at the whole Paradise Hotel thing to which I chuckle... Yeah... Fuck me, I'm dreading tonight.  Maybe I have to just forget about tomorrow and get pissed, otherwise I'm going to lie awake shivering all night.  How the fuck could I not think to bring a sleeping bag?  After all these years...

To my great relief, Ing tells us that we're welcome to stay at her place, even though it's pretty small she's sure we could all fit in there somehow.  Maybe just a little too enthusiastically, we take her up on her offer.  Now much more relaxed I can enjoy my beer.  The place suddenly feels a little warmer.

I notice Luk has been a bit quiet this weekend, now and again.  He's a deep thinker a lot of the time as it is but he seems to have been a little distant at times this weekend.  I notice this mainly when Vik has me pissing myself laughing at his ridiculous imitation of the Gothenburg accent.  If Vik knows he's onto a winner then like my old man, he'll ham the fuck out of a joke all night.  He had me hooked though and I was crying with laughter at one point.  Vik has that cheeky smile on his face that you can't help but crack up at.  I guess after an hour or so of this Luk is pretty bored of it.  I guess it might not be anything more than that.  Understandable I guess.  The thing is, behind the impression is a funny as fuck Nitad story that unfortunately I can't repeat for fear of leg breaking repercussions.  Shame to waste such gold but some things just have to stay on the road and out of my diary...

The first band start at eleven and play for forty five minutes.  I wouldn't say they're awful, I would diplomatically say that they're not my kind of thing.  They can certainly play their instruments although why they would want to play them for forty five minutes is beyond me!  They have a female singer that has an insanely annoying voice.  The punks seem to love it all the same, they must be pissed up already.  In fact, there is a bit of a weird atmosphere in the place.  There was this one chav looking kid walking around earlier, can't be any older than eighteen, out of his fucking box, asking people for a cig.  He'd made his way up to the dormitory a while back and we had to shepherd him out of there.  There is another crusty kid walking around asking people for money for beer and there are some other non punk types obviously off their tits on drugs mingling about the crowd just asking for trouble.  In fact this one guy gets just that when he starts getting over the top with his piss take dancing and ends up with some punks fist in his coupon.  I didn't see it, but Luk who is stood at the merch tells me he was lead out of the place with blood pissing from him.  Weird gig...

Mörkt Kapittel play around midnight.  The order for the night feels a little fucked up, considering the first lot played for three quarters of an hour, MK play for thirty minutes and then we finish things off with fifteen.  Anyway, MK play an absolute blinder!  I thought they were good last night but it's on another level tonight.  I'm stood right in front of the left PA speaker, it's loud as fuck and the small, packed crowd, bar the few stray non punk cats, love it.  In fact, this raver guy who looks like a wiry little Brit, stood beside me, seems to like it too.  Shortly into the set Oystein pulls his mic stand down to floor in front of the tiny stage and plays there, right amongst the ruckus.  I'm a little worried that he's going to get that mic stand for supper, or get knocked down into the broken beer bottle at his feet, that I'm desperately trying to clear away, but somehow he avoids it.  I have to crack up when Atle ventures into the pit.  The man mountain literally stands there, head and shoulders above everyone else and screams into his mic as people simply bounce off of him.  A quite brilliant sight.

When they're done I'm really looking forward to playing, although I am feeling the burn... It's just before one and although I'm set up, all I had to do was plug my guitar in, the other guys are taking a little while sorting stuff out.  I sit on a box behind Vik's kit and wait it out, trying not to yawn too much.  Once we're going though I find the energy, I almost always do.  If I'm honest, the whole yawning thing was probably a little bit posy... kind of... Anyway, the start of the set feels a lot better, more controlled than last night.  We're halfway through the set and the crowd seem to be really into it but something is holding me back ever so slightly.  It's the sound on stage.  If I'm stood in front of the amp it sounds great, but as soon as I move away it's like all the distortion disappears and it's hard to really get into it if everything sounds too clean.  I know it sounds monstrous through the PA but in certain areas where I find myself now and again it sounds plinky and I can hear exactly how untight I'm playing.  Still, one thing I've learned over the years is that how the crowd perceives things and how those playing perceive things aren't always the same.  Normally I don't care what everyone else feels beyond those I'm playing with, but tonight the fact the crowd seems to be having a good time overshadows any misgivings I might be having.  Even when Vik stops halfway through I Hate Your Life it doesn't bother me, it had gotten a bit chaotic and we'd lost each other, but no big deal is made out of it, we simply start it again without saying a word and blast it out properly.  It's only a thirty second song anyway and I doubt many noticed...

We're called back for an extra song tonight and this time we actually play one.  We're not really that kind of band but it was a fun excuse to play a new song from the new tape, I'm Still Drowning.  It goes down great although we play the end section way too slow!  But afterwards Kev is raving about it, saying we have to put it into the set and people were already singing along with the big hook line at the end.  He's chuffed anyway.  Normally is.  We pack down and hang out by the merch and tonight we actually sell some gear.  The drummer from the first band, who turns out to be a very nice chap, buys a shirt and a record.  He tells us he actually plays in a few different bands, hardcore and black metal amongst them.  Kind of makes more sense.  Top bloke anyway.  We have a few beers with the MK guys after the gear is sorted and they're eager to head to another bar but since we're staying at Ing Vild's and Alec is looking dead on his feet we decide to head back to hers for a night cap.  It would have been nice with a last drink with the guys but there will be other times in the future I'm sure.  As we're getting our gear from upstairs Oyvind tells me that the punks had been planning a big after-party in Paradise Hotel... Thank fuck for Ing Vild...

We walk about fifteen minutes back to Ing Vild's, up a hill through a park and snake through some cobbled lanes.  Really nice, quiet area of town.  But then just around the corner from her place, we hear some commotion going on behind us, sounds like a bit of a domestic going on, a guy and a girl, probably both pissed, screaming at each other.  I don't think much of it at first, having heard it every single weekend of my teenage years in Corby, but then Ing Vild and Alec turn back and go to check out what's happening.  The rest of us stand around in the quiet lane, waiting, the sound of screaming by now long gone.  Some young, smartly dressed bloke then approaches us, talking on his phone to the cops I guess, sounding very worried.  I hear him telling the cops on the phone that “Whatever it was, that guy was not treating the girl very well.”  He then tells the cop that there are some English guys stood here talking about it too.. Fuck knows what's going on here.  Eventually Ing and Alec come back but there isn't much light shed on the situation, they couldn't find the rowing couple.  Kev is obviously pissed because he's making ridiculous jokes, saying he saw the whole thing and he heard the guy telling the girl that he was a pilot and that tomorrow he was going to fly her into a tower.  He really is a fucking tit.  Then the zip on Kev's rucksack bursts and the contents of his bag fall out onto the pavement.  This stirs a good giggle from the rest of us.  He's sat there, gathering his gear, moaning about his bag, saying he's had it for ages and it's finally gone, and that he can't find his pants.  Alec comes to the conclusion that since they can't find the girl and now Kev can't find his kecks that tomorrow the girl will be found lying in a bush with said dirty kecks on her head.  We head back to Ing Vild's, some of us laughing, some of us tired, one of us moaning about his bag.

Ing's place is a cosy little studio apartment with an enclosed balcony, or the outside bedroom, as Kev calls it.  She has a few beers in the fridge, some crisps and dip and some chocolate.  We sit around on the balcony for a while, enjoying the late night mini feast, until one by one we drop off.  Vik and I share the sofa bed in the balcony room, it's small but it's warm.  I fall asleep with a feeling of relief.  I've done it god knows how many times before, and I'll do it again I'm sure, but tonight I'm glad that I'm not sleeping in a dormitory with a gang of pissed up punks wanting to party.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Trondheim

Woke up at seven am this morning.  Slept from midnight, completely undisturbed.  Normally I'm up a few times a night to tend to Polly crying in her room before I'll eventually cave in and bring her into our bed.  You get used to the non-sleeping side of being a parent though, as long as you've got plenty of coffee.  Funny thing is, whenever I do manage to get a good night's sleep I usually find I'm more tired than normal.  And as much as it was pure luxury having the bed to myself last night, I still missed Polly's little feet prodding me in the head this morning.

The girls slept at my mother in law's place last night which was really cool of Jen since I'm taking a couple of nights off as it is, and that to go to Norway, play punk rock and drink beer.  Jen knows all too well how tiring playing in a DIY band can be though and I guess she figured I was worth a good night's sleep in my own bed before a couple of nights of laying down fuck knows where.  It's great being married to someone who plays in bands too.  I don't know how it would work otherwise...

Kev flew in last night and we had a good practice for a few hours.  Went through the set a couple of times and it sounded tight.  The new songs from the upcoming tape sounded a lot better than I expected.  Can't help feeling it's a shame we don't get to practice with Kev more often though.  I feel bad for him that he gets to practice new songs like, one time, before we head off and play them live.  He does really well with the situation I have to say.

We practised until around ten and then headed back to my place with some chocolate and candy bought from the garage to accompany a couple of documentaries on the Third Reich I had recorded.  Me and Kev have been enjoying a long tradition of late tv nights since way back in the Speedhorn days.  Top of the list is anything about World War Two or UK's Most Haunted (old episodes with Derek Acorah), failing that When Animals Attack or anything with thick as shit criminals hurting themselves will do.  I made it about half way through the first of the documentaries, a one hour program about Albert Speer, before falling asleep.  Kev had nodded off before me.

It's been quite a while since I enjoyed seven hours of straight sleep and I didn't want to get out of bed this morning but our flight is at ten thirty and rush hour traffic can be a bastard so leaving anything after eight would be asking for trouble.  As it turns out, we breezed through and made it to the airport with a couple of hours to go.  We sat down to coffee and/or beer and a couple of airport priced sandwiches, although these would be cheap in comparison to where we're going.

The journey was pretty smooth, except for a little bit of unnecessary stress at Oslo airport where we had to retrieve our equipment and check it in again for the second leg to Trondheim.  We only had an hour between flights and it took a while for our stuff to show up, and when it did it appeared neither on the belt allotted for our flight or the Oversized Luggage belt at the other end of the room but another belt entirely.  No time to moan we made it quickly through customs and checked in again.  I was starting to worry for a little while there... Bad memories from Chicago O'Hare with Speedhorn seeping in.

I have to say, the Norwegian people seem to be a very friendly race.  They seem to have a lot of time for you.  The guy at the Oversized Luggage check in belt was a very jovial looking man with an impressive moustache.  If only we'd had more time for him.  If only he realised we were in a hurry.  He had a young girl working with him who from the pace of things I'm guessing was an intern and Moustache was guiding her slowly step by step through the process whilst I nervously kept an eye on the lines for the security check.  We dump our gear on the belt one by one and then they check our passports.  “Garret?”  Yes, I give a friendly smile.  He then turns to Lucas and asks him if he's Billy the Kid.  It goes totally over Lucas' head.

The queue through security isn't too bad and we're through in five minutes.  My bag gets checked twice trough though since first off I forget a half full bottle of Coke and then I have two guitar pedals in there.  Normally I hate people like me, when I see them farting around holding the line up I snigger contemptuously.  The only people I was holding up today though was myself and the rest of the band.

The flight to Trondheim is basically up and then down although I do find time for the first beer of the day and a packet of Pringles.  Even if it is Carlsberg it's still pretty satisfying.  I have to keep in the back of my mind that I do get drunk really easily these days though and have to think about what I'm doing.  It's a long way to go until show time.

When we land the sun is shining and we have a couple of hours to spare until the sound engineer will be at the venue.  We take the bus into town, again greeted by friendly people working on the bus who are only too happy to tell us when our stop is coming up and direct us to where the venue is at.  You ask a bus driver in the UK for such a service and chances are the answer you'll get will be preceded by an annoyed sigh, if you get an answer at all that is.

When we arrive we follow the directions to the club where the sound guy, a quiet, long haired chap, is rolling cables and pottering about his business.  The venue is a small cellar bar, almost dungeon like, with huge, thick walls and a low ceiling.  The stage is small and compact at the one end of the narrow room where the entrance is.  This will do nicely.  Always good to play a room where fifty people would fill it.  The sound guy seems to keep himself to himself, save for asking about a drum kit.  We're starving and since the other bands aren't here yet and neither is any drum kit, we dump our gear and head off in search of food.

I'm really in the mood for falafel but the place I had my eye on is closed so I earmark it for later, I'm sure I'll be hungry after the gig.  We check out a couple of places but nothing really tickles our fancy so we decide to get some food from a mini-market and sit in a park somewhere to eat.  It's a beautiful day after all.  I remember last time I was here, when I was tour managing the country singer Mary Gauthier, that I went and checked out the old cathedral which is situated at the top of the city centre.  It's really quite stunning and I thought the guys should see it.  I buy some bread rolls and cheese, Luk picks up some salad that at first we mock him for but later it turns out to be a good idea, and Vik picks up a six pack of Tuborg Grön.  I figure it'll cost the same as the food so we should be about even.  Well... four bread rolls and a pack of sliced cheese comes to about eight quid.  When Vik walks out of the shop to where we're all waiting for him, he looks like he's just seen a ghost.  The six cans of beer came in at about fifteen quid, one hundred and fifty Norwegian kronor.  He's fucking gutted.

Still, when we sit down to our little picnic in the grounds of the church the price has been forgotten..kind of.  It really is a glorious spring day and our spot underneath the spectacular view of the western wall of Nidaros Cathedral is a perfect setting to enjoy a couple of beers and some cheese salad rolls.  We're not sure if you're allowed to drink in public here so we keep it subtle.  I'd like to see someone attempt to take Vik's beer away from him though...

We sit there for a half hour or so and then head back to the venue via a music store to pick up some small bits.  The Paranoid guys are just parking up their car when we get back.  It's good to see them again.  It's always nice to hang out with Jocke, who besides playing in some great bands like Paranoid and Desperat, puts out our records on his label, D Takt och Råpunk.  I don't really know the other two guys but they seem like nice people.  Jocke laughs and tells us that they've sat and listened to an audio book during the entire six hour drive from their home town of Östersund.  Not everyone's a talker like myself I guess.

The Mörkt Kapittel guys are also here now.  It's great to see Atle and Oystein again.  I've kept in touch with these guys since they brought Victims here to play a few years back at the punk house, UFFA.  We had a great time then and we've been trading records and mailing on the odd occasion since then.

I'm not sure what the playing order is yet but we do the honours and sound check.  It's very quick and pain free, in fact, the sound guy asks me to turn my amp up at one point, that doesn't happen very often I can assure you.  It sounds really great on stage though, you can hear everything perfectly and it fills me with confidence for the show.  We play a couple of songs and during the second song a big clock falls off the wall and smashes on the floor.  I guess we're pretty loud.  Everybody laughs except the sound guy who looks gutted as he sweeps up the broken glass.

When the other bands are done we head off in convoy to get some food.  Atle has suggested a place over in Svartlamo, which is a kind of bohemian/anarchist part of town.  It reminds me of Kreutzberg or even Kristiania a little.  There is graffiti everywhere and by the looks of it a lot of squatted houses.  Luk had been talking about this area earlier, having being tipped off by his girlfriend about it.  We eat a place called Ramp which is a really cool, kind of thrown together sort of deal.  The food looks good.  The guy serving us is a tattooed guy with a shaven head who apparently plays in the punk band, Brutal Kuk.  You don't have to be Norwegian to figure that one out.  Atle had actually given me their record last time, so amused was I by the band name I had to have it.  He's a really nice guy anyway and it's fun to meet him.

The three bands sit down to dinner, most of us having the veggie pasta, that although is rather shy in portion, tastes great.  It's grand sitting down with all the bands and having a chat over dinner and a beer.  I had no idea what kind of a deal we're getting from these shows but I was very surprised that Atle sorted the bill out for everyone.  I tell him there's no need but he insists, saying that he'll take back expenses from any money we get in.  He tells me that they'll give us the money for our flights too, which I really hadn't expected!  Atle tells me, not for the last time tonight, that some people buy expensive cars with their money, others invest it in punk rock and having a good time with their friends.  What a fantastic attitude.

When we're done with the food we head outside to some chairs to have another beer in the sun, just as the sun is fucking off behind some clouds.  Fuck it, it's nice sitting here anyway, although Kev doesn't look too chuffed.  He'd been telling us earlier how he doesn't like hanging out in the sun drinking beer.  Strange old sod.  Still, now that the sun has momentarily hidden itself he should be a little happier.  I take myself to the bar and see what's on offer.  I had a pint of lager with dinner and fancy something with a little more taste in it now.  My eyes almost pop out of my fucking head when I notice that a pint of Pale Ale costs about fifteen quid!  A seven quid Ringnes it is tack...

As always whilst sat around talking with fellow punks, we're treated to a pair of interesting stories.  A usual theme on such tale telling occasions is old gigs, or more precisely, weird gigs one has played over the years.  It turns out that Emil and the MK guys have a common acquaintance.  Atle tells us of a show they played up in the north of Norway that was booked by this flakey guy who lives up there.  The gig was this weird little festival that took place on an army barracks, if I understood correctly.  The attendance is pretty piss and the gig not much better and at the end of the night they're just looking to get out of there.  The guy tells them that they have beds available in one of the military huts but Atle says no thanks, they just want to get home.  When he asks for some money for the gig, namely for petrol, the guy looks flabbergasted.  “Petrol money?  There isn't any.  You guys got food!”  Shit gig...

Funny thing is Emil not only knows the guy, it turns out he actually played in a band with him!  The worst gig he ever booked them, probably the worst gig Emil ever played I imagine, was at some junior school that was having a party for the end of spring term, before the Easter holiday.  Emil tells us that he's sat there, looking like he does (face tattoos, crazy mohawk etc) playing drums in this crust band behind this ridiculous perspex wall, humiliating as fuck he notes, to a bunch of small kids running about the place.  The gig is of course in the middle of the afternoon and the daylight is shining through into the school assembly hall, just to add to the atmosphere.  If that isn't bad enough, the only payment they receive for the show is a fucking Easter egg!  I fucking piss myself at that!  I've done some shit gigs down the years but that just about takes it.

Now on to the theme of funny punks we've met down the years, Atle tells us a story that frankly leaves us in a state of amazement, as well as laugh induced stomach pain.  He tells us about this bloke, a real drunk punk, who garnered national attention a few years back after he made a trip to the Philippines.  Apparently he'd been sat one day with his daughter watching tv, listening to the horrifying news of the Indian Ocean Tsunami that devastated so many countries in 2004.  They were watching a particular piece about the Philippines when his daughter innocently asks her dad why they can't help somehow?  A real doer, he tells her that they can help and before you know it he's booked a flight to the Philippines and is on his way to help the villagers rebuild houses.  Very noble indeed, in fact, quite astonishing.  But then it gets weird... I'm not sure how it happened but whilst he's there, he gets drunk one night and insults the mayor of the town he's in and gets thrown in jail!  Fuck knows what he said but I guess it was pretty bad because he ends up sitting there a while, not in prison-prison I might add but in the holding cells.  After a somewhat exaggerated detention he's released but upon leaving jail he's convinced that he's made some enemies and is shitting himself, paranoid that he's going to get done in.  He purchases a gun in case he needs to protect himself.  Thing is, he's never owned or even fired a gun before so he takes it down to a quiet area of town and practices firing it into a skip.  As he's doing this it just so happens a cop car comes driving by and he's thrown back in jail, now on even more serious charges!  By now, people back home both in the punk community and the community in general have heard of his plight and start a support group for him, their mission obviously to get him released.  One of the people involved is your man here at Ramp, Brutal Kuk.  Anyway, whilst this is going on Drunk Punk does an interview with a Norwegian newspaper, from jail, talking about his plight.  Seemingly completely unable to keep his Doc Martin's out of his mouth, he tells the journalist that the situation is under control and the fact is that the Filipino money isn't worth shit and he can easily buy his way out of prison.  It just so happens that The Filipino ambassador to Norway reads the piece in the newspaper a few days later and is incensed by the insult to his country, so he contacts the judge taking care of his case and suggests he makes the fine for his misdemeanour much, much higher.  It turns out to be an absurd amount of money that the guy has no fucking chance of paying.  Fuck knows how long he's over there, but it takes the support group back home quite a while longer to raise the extra money, and they must have wondered why they were even bothering.  By the time Atle is done, I'm literally in tears of laughter.  The waiter guy from Ramp is across the street in a skip, pounding down cardboard with his boots.  “Ahh, Brutal Kuk”...Oystein wistfully remarks.

The sun is making no sign of reappearing and the night is pulling in so we finish up our beers and head over to a squat where the Paranoid guys are sleeping, to check in with the guys there.  As we're stood outside waiting around, a couple of punks come running out of this tunnel at the end of the alley and chase each other around for a bit.  I don't really think too much about it but Lucas tells me one of them had a syringe in his hand.  The squat seems pretty cool though and the people there are friendly.  We head back to the venue via the supermarket to get some beers in for the night, again Atle pays up, very kind of him.

It's Friday and Atle tells me that most people won't come until later on, so there's no rush for anyone to start playing.  We spend the next couple of hours sat around in the bar or in the back room, playing pool, lying down, chilling out, listening to music, chatting, drinking beer... By the time Paranoid are due to start, around ten thirty, I've probably had as many beers as I should before a gig.  Actually, I've had more than I should but they're only medium strength so I'm okay.. Just about.  Vik cracks me up, he said a couple of hours ago that the beer he had in his hand then would be his last until after the show.  The fucker is standing with a beer in his hand as Paranoid begin and tells me that he's stopping drinking when there's an hour left until we play... which would be about the time he's telling me this.  Kev is more pissed than anyone though.  I notice this when he runs up side of me and takes a close up photo of my mug, before laughing and shooting off again.  In fact, it's only Luk who seems to have it completely together and noticing the vibe he suggests we take a walk around the block to get some air before we play.  Kev tells him he'll be right behind and then walks the other way.  Luk doesn't seem to find that too funny.

There still aren't that many people here but that doesn't make any difference to me enjoying the Paranoid set.  The noise they make is pretty insane, full on chaos punk.  I love it.  You play the kind of music we do, you can't let playing to a small crowd bother you...  That said, by the time they finish up the room has filled a little more, maybe thirty people, including band members and it looks ok.

The noise Mörkt Kapittel make is simply immense.  They have a huge guitar sound that drowns the entire venue and I enjoy every minute of it.  They are so fucking tight it's unreal.  And considering they don't play that often that's quite amazing.  Atle, the fucking man mountain that he is, has a solid voice and even if he has the friendliest of faces he still kicks the shit out of the gig.  By the time they're done I'm raring to go, which is a fair barometer of how much I enjoyed their set.

There are still around thirty people in the small bar by the time we're ready, which is about five minutes after MK since we're all using the same equipment.  These are my favourite kind of stage set ups, small, no monitors, no need for them.  Everything sounds solid when we kick into D?B!.  It's a little on the fast side, but not uncomfortable. Into Nausea and everything is under control, now I can relax and enjoy the set.  The stage is pretty fucking compact though and there isn't much room to move.  I feel Kev's presence in my close proximity a few times and every now and then we're banging in to one another.  After a while it starts getting on my tits so I give him a kick up the arse onto the floor space.  Thing is, you never really think about what you're doing when you're playing a show and soon enough I'm on the floor with him and then I've gubbed him in the jaw with my headstock.  Sorry buddy.  The set goes well anyway and it's a lot of fun to play.  There aren't loads of people here but then when did that ever matter?  We put a couple of new songs from the upcoming tape in the set tonight, Good Strong Hand and Hypnotic Eye.  GSH goes a little fast but sounds generally tight but then HE gets pretty fucked up.  The song is the only slower song we've written and the whole thing starts with Vik playing a 4/4 intro, that just randomly starts up through a load of feedback, the whole idea being that it sounds like the set has just come to a grinding halt and then out of the feedback we blast in to the big riff... Well, all goes to plan until said big riff is about to kick in.  When the moment arrives I stand on my lead and pull it out of my tuner pedal leaving me with no sound, it's only Luk's bass playing and I'm stood there feeling like a prize turd.  I quickly rectify the situation and plug the lead back in and join in with the song.. Only I don't because the pedal is set to go straight to tuner mode when you plug in so I've still got no fucking sound.  I guess you could say the impact of the song is kind of lost.  When I finally get it going the rest of the song continues to it's end undeterred.  At least it's a new song and nobody has knows any better.  Guess not many know the older songs either...Still, bit of a fucking brass.

We're all pretty pleased with the set anyway and there are calls for an extra song but we dither about on the side of the stage too long and eventually the PA music comes on.  Fuck it, didn't really feel like an encore moment anyway.  We pack down, cool off and then hang out by the merch, which, nobody bar the guys from MK purchases.  The beer has ran out now so we take ourselves to the bar and buy a well earned cold pint that costs a fortune.  I enjoy the fucker all the same.  I get chatting to Hendrik, the guitarist from Paranoid for a bit.  He's a really nice guy, although he seems a little on the shy side.  We're talking about the Paranoid/I LIKE BUGS tour the guys just did in the UK and he tells me it's the first time he's been abroad.  I'm not sure I hear him right but then he tells me he's only nineteen years old.  For a second I feel old but then I think of Kev, it's comforting to know that he's always ten years ahead of me, even if sometimes to look at us you'd think it was the other way around...it's also comforting to know that the younger generation is still coming through and continuing to drive the scene.  Hendrik not only plays in bands but writes a blog called Lockyard.  Good man.

It's getting late and I'm both hungry and tired.  We're staying at Eirik's place tonight and we have to be up at seven to catch the eight thirty train to Oslo tomorrow.  We take the gear over to Eirik's office which is just across the water from the station and then head off to get some food.  Now it really is time for falafel.  Except it's not, because of course the place Eirik takes us too is all out.  I end up munching through an incredibly salty bag of fries whilst the others tuck into a veggie roll that costs about a tenner.  It tasted good though and I wish I'd bought one.

When you're tired, it's late and you have no idea where you're walking to, it feels like you're never going to arrive at your destination, no matter how often Eirik tells you it's not far now.  We seem to walk the streets of Trondheim forever and it's almost three am when we arrive at Eirik's fifteen minutes later.  He's been telling us about his bread baking machine all night and right enough he heads to the kitchen to sort some out for the morning.  The rest of us grab any spot we can in his living room, I opt for a camper bed that has a few springs popping out here and there but will do just nicely all the same.  It's three thirty by the time the lights go out.  Up in three and half hours... It's funny, I take a break from the sleepless nights at home with Polly and end up with less sleep than ever.  It's not exactly what you'd call a relaxing getaway but it's the life we choose.  And sleep isn't part of the deal I guess...