Friday, September 19, 2014

Nottingham

I wake up early, around seven. Around about the time Polly normally rises. My body has a hard time shaking the routine. I'm also dying for a piss and go through the usual half hour of convincing myself I'll sleep it off only to eventually get out of bed defeated and piss so hard I'm sure the pan is going to crack. I wake up again around ten, starving. Hungover? Maybe, not sure. Don't feel great but don't feel that bad either. Kev's got the kettle on. Nice one.

A quick shower and I'm ready for some breakfast. We've mistaken check out for eleven, it's actually noon, but I'm in no need of another hour in bed, I need food. Kev pops over to Vik and Luk's room to see what they're up to. He comes back saying they'll be ready in fifteen minutes. I grill him on the situation over there. He tells me that Luk was just getting into the shower and Vik was in his pants. No way. Fifteen minutes my jacksie. We head off and tell them we'll text the info on where we are. I know this will prove to be a wise decision.

Kev, Jack and I actually end up in that oldest pub in Leeds, the Packhorse. Jack had found it last night. We're amongst the first in the joint. Laura joins us shortly afterwards, her and Jack both feeling a little worse for wear. My craving for a beer wins the battle over my conscience and I order a pint of IPA, it's only eleven but fuck it, I'm on tour. I order a Ploughman's to wash it down with. The pint tastes of guilt, not to say it doesn't taste good. The taste of guilt is often sweet. Vik and Luk turn up around twelve and the same, I'm guessing Vik and his conscience are good. “Ahhh, oil”...

Today we're taking the train, changing at Sheffield. Piece of piss. I could get used to touring in this fashion. Would be amazing touring Europe by rail. Vik's wondering loudly where the trolley is at but it doesn't show. There's plenty of space on both trains and we spread ourselves about the carriage, enjoying the space. We get to Nottingham around three and make our way straight to Annie's Burger Shack. She's moved out of the Navigation since we were last here a year ago and now has her own restaurant. The place is stunning. Very New York feel to it, big and spacious with an open kitchen. The bar has some fine choices in ale and the burger menu is just ridiculous, every option coming in either meat, vegetarian or vegan. Kev had contacted Annie a few days before about booking since you're fucked without a reservation, such is the buzz about the place. Annie has come a long way since she arrived from the States back in the Nineties. She's out of town today but she's put us on the guest list and we're taken straight to our table. Pure fucking luxury. It really feels like we're on holiday rather than tour as we're sat in this awesome place, supping on beer, waiting for the grub.

Lee has made the trip down from Glasgow today and gets here in time to order some food before ours arrives. It great to see him as always. He was going to come to Leeds last night and make a weekend of it but he'd picked up the keys to his and Kelly's new house after work and was knackered by the time they were sorted. We've been talking about him following us out on tour if we do a proper stretch in Europe next year, would be like old times again. I hope it happens. Although, any touring from now on will have to be done when I'm on a break from college... Can't risk missing time like this again. Full of burgers we head over to the venue.

Last time we played here some poor bastard was kicked to death in the street, just down the road from the punks stood outside the venue drinking. We pass the spot where it happened, hoping for no such drama tonight. The gig tonight is a bit different from the others on this stretch. Since our mate, Boulty, is the guy who runs the place, we'd managed to get ourselves on the already booked bill. It's a predominantly grind orientated line up, but that's ok for us, sometimes it works being the only hardcore punk band of the night. Plus, we've got a few mates coming down so it should be good. Typically enough though, Endless Grinning Skulls, as well as my old mate Slaven's band Grey Hairs, are playing on the other side of town, supporting the now hyped rant band Sleaford Mods. Really strange. So most of the crew coming tonight aren't actually Nottingham, that lot are all over at the since long sold Mods out show...

One friendly Notts face that is hanging about though is Steve, who plays in Molluch and Beast as God. It's good to see him. I first met him in Leipzig when Molluch were playing with Victims, we've stayed touch somewhat sporadically since then. It's good to catch up with him. It's always good to see Boulty of course, but he's running around like a blue arsed fly during the headlining band's soundcheck. We're not really sure where we're sleeping yet. We stayed here last time, and Boulty tells us we're welcome to do so again, but the room with the mattresses is obviously going to be pretty cosy since two of the other bands are sleeping here already, so we decide to keep our options open. We decide to head to the pub to ponder the situation..

A couple of the old Speedhorn guys, Jay and Dave are here for the show, along with our old friend Jim, who has taken my place in the reformed line up. They were in some pub in town earlier but we’ve missed them by now so we agree to see each other at the show later on. Will be good to see them, I'm chuffed they've come up to hang out. We're deciding on what pub to head to, Kev determined he's not going to the Angel, since whenever we go there he ends up fucked. We argue that we're only having the one but Kev is sceptical. He eventually concedes and we make our way there. Kev leads the way into the pub but before he's even stepped through the doorway we hear a chorus of, “Kev!!!!”

The guys from the X-Rays are stood at the bar, beside a seated Sean who used to play with Kev in Hard to Swallow and is now the landlord of this place. Everyone is delighted with the surprise visit of prodigal son Greenham. The X-Rays boys have obviously been here all day, the lot of them, boats. Sean tells me they'd come in at one this afternoon, decided they were going on a bit of a pub crawl, headed to another pub, drank six pints each and came back. They've been here since. Coop, their bass player, who I've met a few times and is a mutual friend of a lot of people back in the Stockholm scene, spots me and heads over grinning. Coop only has one volume and it's set to shouting. I get caught at the bar with him and the rest of the X-Rays guys, all telling me how much they love Kev, who is presently caught up in conversation with Sean. They've heard we're playing tonight and they ask me roughly around nine or ten times what time we're on. I patiently tell them eight thirty, over and over again. They're all so fucking chuffed that it's hard not to be taken in by their drunken charm. I eventually make my way over to the table where the other guys bar Kev are sat to enjoy what's left of my pint. It's soon time to go and we motion to Kev on his way past our table that we need to leave, he shows us the two pints he's holding in his hands, “Well I told you what would happen if I came here! I've just been bought these two!”

We eventually get out of there, Coop and the X-Rays in tow, the lot of them shouting as we go. We head to the Polish off-licence on the way to pick up some booze for the gig. Gaz, the X-Rays singer is again asking me what time we're playing, he's panicking a bit, saying he's promised his wife he'd be home around ten. I tell him he's got plenty of time. He's worried, saying he has two kids birthday parties to attend tomorrow. One of their other mates that are with us is trying to get through to him, assuring him it's ok, that his wife had told him earlier that he'd could sleep in the spare room tonight, no problems. “What time are you guys playing?”.. Fuck me... We walk into the off license and pick up a few cans of beer each. Gaz buys a bottle of rum and a big bottle of Coke, pours some of the Coke off and tops it up with the bottle of rum. Amazing.

We're too late to see Boulty's new band, apparently they only played for eight minutes. Megaladoom are about to start and after them, we're on. Snitch and Kimmins have arrived, they've driven over to see us play. Really chuffed to see them. I explain to them about the passport situation and tell them I'll most likely see them in Corby next week... The Speedhorn boys turn up a while later, all of them fairly drunk, but Dave is fucking blasted. His eyes are already on the close. Jay is loving every second of it of course. It's good to see Jim. I haven't seen him in a very long time, not since the days that I was in Speedhorn and he in Charger and we toured together. Funny that he's in Speedhorn now. He's a great choice for the job though. It's nice catching up with him.
Megaladoom are of course very doomy, no vocals, just slow, epic riffing for about twenty five minutes. They do it well though. I can see Lee is kind of digging it, right up his alley. Again, we're using other people's amps tonight. I'm on Boulty's beast, whatever it is. If I'm honest then I've had a few, just about on the cusp of reasonable, just. No soundcheck again, just up and blast. I'm pretty chuffed with the sound I've got but I can't hear Luk. I shift my thumb up in the air, demanding more volume from him but he's already on ten. It takes me a while to get to grips with what he's saying until I eventually turn down. I ask Kev if he's got vocals, he shrugs as if to confirm he has but I haven't actually heard anything out of him yet. Fuck it, let's go.'

If it was hard to gage the sound out front last night, it's not that difficult tonight. It's pretty obviously very loud and very chaotic. We're opening with Hypnotic Eye from the split tape with Hello Bastards, the slow song, and then straight into DB followed by Nausea. I've broken a string half way through DB... It replace the string fairly rapidly whilst Luk and Vik make noise but still, it's a pinch in the balls to bring the set to a stop so soon. I don't really take the time to stretch the new string in and Am I Stupid? Or Idiot! is way out of tune. Sounds fucking cack from my side. I tell myself to get it together and by the next song we're ok. But let's face it, it's a pretty pants start to the show. It gets better but the chaotic sound ensues, we've left Boulty pretty much fucked as far as being able to do much with it. The small room has about thirty people plus bands in it anyway, enough to make the place feel pretty decent, and I guess the vibe of our set kind of fits with the backdrop this little DIY space provides.

We spend most of the two headlining bands sets stood outside drinking and catching up with everyone, the sweat is bellowing out of me in the form of stream and I'm in desperate need of the cooling night time air. There are quite a few of us hanging around outside. Kev has clocked how fucked Dave is and has decided to pick on him, give him a bit of hell about the Speedhorn reunion, all in the name of fun. Just like old times again, Kev loves taking the piss out of Dave, it's too easy I guess. Of course, a while later Dave is over to me, little slits for eyes, telling me he's quitting Speedhorn. Love the little berk.

The rest of the Angel crew have left, but Coop is still in the building, down in front of the bands playing air guitar, going mad, t-shirt soaked in sweat. Kev starts taking the piss out of him, playing air bass, but as he does so he catches his thumb nail on one of his belt studs and rips the fucker, blood starts pissing out. I find Kev walking about with a bloodied napkin wrapped a his bulging thumb, looking a little shocked. All he gets out of me and Vik is laughter.

I head inside to catch a little bit of the last band but as is always the case when you play a gig with a lot of mates in attendance, attention is elsewhere. I do get chatting to the headlining band's sound guy afterwards, in one of the rehearsal rooms at the back, he seems a nice enough guy. I come to the realisation whilst we're stood there though that sleeping here tonight isn't really an option. Lee had been lobbying the idea of a Travel Lodge, but the prices are just too high in Nottingham. To think Kev had booked four bus tickets from London to Leeds, two hotel rooms in Leeds, four train tickets from Leeds to Nottingham and four bus tickets back down to London from there for the grand sum of one hundred and four quid, a sixty four quid room at the Travel Lodge in Notts simply wasn't on the cards. And besides, Sean had offered us a place to sleep in the flat above the Angel...

We head over there, leaving Boulty singing nu-metal karaoke at the venue. We arrive with the gear and take it immediately upstairs to the flat. I can't really work out how we're all going to fit into the living room but decide that's not important right there and then. I'm getting pissed tonight and sleep will take care of itself later. To be honest, pissed is the only way sleeping tonight is going to work. We head back downstairs and there's a party going on. Some mate of Sean's is celebrating his 40th and there are a couple of DJ's in, playing old Eighties pop songs. Winner. The Speedhorn guys are in the lounge, along with Dix and a couple of others from Corby. To my amazement, Walpole is also in the building: Jay tells me he'd called and happened to be in Leicester, when he'd heard the boys we're in Nottingham he'd got straight on the train, and now here he sits, shirt buttoned unashamedly halfway down his chest and sunglasses on. He'd best not venture into the bar, he'd get fucking murdered looking like that. Before I even sit down, Walpole has put a shot of Sambuca in front of me.

Everyone is pretty boats but Dave is beyond, his forehead now resting on the table, some band sticker stuck to the back of his head, Jay taking photos. I get talking to one of their mates who has an Orchid t-shirt on, one of my favourite screamo bands, and we blether about music for a bit. Good guy. I recognise him from one of the bands back in Corby. We sit around noshing for a bit longer, Dave invariably coming round now and then to tell me he loves me and he's quitting Speedhorn, Jay lapping up his misery.

They head off to Rock City around one. They ask if I want to follow but there's no fucking chance. Jim has long gone home, probably a good idea. I hug them all goodbye and me and Vik head back into the bar, doing our utmost to avoid brushing Scary Sean, this evil looking punk who plays in The Vile, who is stood at the bar. Fucking terrifying looking bloke. The party is rocking and before long the four DB boy are bopping to Eighties cheese. Luk has got his dancing shoes on. Lee has that smirk on his face. How many times has he witnessed this carry on over the years...

The next hour or so goes by in a blur of bad music, drunken chat with Sean, Luk playing keyboards on the bar top, Kev falling asleep on it, Vik getting his moves on on the dance floor. Luk reminds me of the night before when Vik had been sauced up and moaning about today's skinheads, saying they're all fucking wimps nowadays.. “None of them fight, none of them” he was laughing to himself before shouting at me, “Gaz! Shave my head Gaz, shave my head!” We crack up at him, now with a big grin on his coupon, dancing to Madness.


It must be around three by the time we call it a night, we're amongst the final few left in the bar. I barely remember heading upstairs, although I'm of sound enough mind to brush my teeth and get in to my Don Draper pyjama bottoms. I find a sleeping bag from somewhere, not daring to inspect it for filth, I just crash out on it on the floor beside the table, knowing fine well tomorrow is going to fucking sting...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Leeds

Slept alright once I finally drifted off last night. We were meeting Viktor at Victoria Station to take the Mega Bus to Leeds. We didn't have to be there until eleven so there was no real rush. We popped by Café Bianca for some breakfast, Karl, Alec and Mucky meeting us there. I normally make a point of getting at least one fry up in per trip to the UK but somehow I wasn't feeling it today. I guess my appetite wasn't it's usual ravenous self.

I've also come to the realisation that every time I eat a fucking fry up I regret it immediately afterwards... It's the same with the chippy most of the time. Sometimes you do certain things purely out of nostalgia, things that were habit when you were a kid because that's just what you did, or ate as in this case. The fact is, I don't like a fry up. Haven't done for a long time. I guess that means I should apply for a Swedish passport as the last few ounces of Britishness are slowly sifting away. Wish I had one of those fuckers right now...

Whilst we were sat eating our breakfasts and drinking our greasy mugs of tea, the TV was showing the Oscar Pistorius verdict, live from South Africa. It seems he's getting done for “involuntary murder”. He's getting fifteen years but still, what a joke. His defence has been cringe worthy at best. The power of celebrity is truly wondrous. Kev doesn't agree with the fifteen year sentence either, “I reckon they should take his daft legs away and replace them with little feet on his stumps, keeping a three foot restriction on it him at all times, and on the feet there should be a really big toe on them so he looks like a right twat and there should be little speakers on them playing a little voice that constantly says “I killed me wife, I killed me wife””. I love how Kev's mind works.

After breakfast we head do to the DLR train at Deptford, Kev greeting numerous people on the way as usual. The DLR is almost like one of those futuristic monorails you see at some airports and it provides a pretty great view of the Canada Water area of London, it's like riding a train through Legoland or something. Whilst we're stood waiting at the platform Kev says that we should try and get a seat up front since there's no driver and you can pretend you're driving the train yourself. Chuffed with this idea I dive towards the front seats, completely ignoring the fact there is a guy with his little son who obviously had the same idea I had. I feel like a bit of plank when the little boy shyly shuffles up and sits beside me, his dad taking the seat behind. Kev and Luk are a few seats back, presumably shaking their heads. I feel like a bit of a twat.

We meet Vik with little time to spare, it's a bit of a walk from the train to the bus station, and there's little time to buy refreshments. We board and settle in for the near five hour journey. A couple of the Deptford Irish contingent are on board too, Laura and her fella and another guy Jack, who is going to share a room at the Travel Lodge with us tonight. I'm already looking forward to the luxury of a hotel bed and I feel it would be a complete waste to wake up in it tomorrow with a raging hangover. We'll see how the night pans out...

Five hours on a coach feels like a long time and by the time we arrive in Leeds Vik and I are gagging for a pint. We check in, wash off quick and then head out for an ale, a couple of hours to kill before we need to be at the venue anyway. Jack says he's meeting a friend at the oldest pub in Leeds and wonders if we'd like to join him. Seems like an ok idea so we follow him and the GPS on his phone. There's some sort of mix up though and we don't find the pub we're looking for. After walking around for the best part of five minutes Vik informs us he's already clocked a pub we'd past and leads us there. He's sat enjoying an ale before I've even reached into my wallet. “I love a good point of oil” he chirps in mock Irish accent. I can only agree though as the cold pint of Pale Ale slips down my throat like liquid silk.

Our hotel is right next to the Cockpit, a venue I've played many times over the years, both with Speedhorn and Victims. My favourite memory from there has to be the time Kev's old band Helvis supported us, they'd been added to an already tight bill and given there was a tight curfew Doug our tour manager, and also old friend of Kev's from Nottingham, made them go on before the doors opened. I remember the looks on their faces as they started their set up on that high stage to just the Speedhorn guys, standing about the large dance floor and Doug side stage, having a fag and laughing to himself. What a bunch of cunts we were.

We head back to the hotel to grab our gear for the gig tonight and I make the mistake of lying on the bed for five minutes. The temptation to rip of my jeans and crawl in under the covers is almost too great to resist. I really don't want to wake up in this thing feeling like piss in the morning. We arrange for a cab to pick us up and we're off in search of the venue. It takes a little while to find since it's hidden down some little back road in an industrial estate just out of the city centre where a lot of the students live. Chuffed once we find the place though, it's a really nice set up. It reminds me of the many well run squats you find in Germany. It has a decent sized gig room with a pretty deep stage, and then a little bar room with some sofas and armchairs about the place and an adjoining courtyard area with tables and chairs. There is also a studio and rehearsal rooms here, really cool set up. The place is actually owned and run by Lecky, the singer in the legendary band Voorhees, who were supposed to be headlining tonight but pulled out a few weeks ago when Atko the guitarist realised he was going on holiday the day before. They're playing Bloodshed next month with us anyway so we'll catch them there.

So headlining instead are Kylma Sota from Finland who are over for a run of shows. They’re also a great band so it should be fun. Last time I'd seen them they were supporting D-Clone at Kafe 44 and they were so fucked that the guitarist had to keep playing the riffs to the bass player before each song since she had no idea where she was. They'd taken the ferry over night to Stockholm and had been up drinking all night, and then Bengtsson had found them outside the venue on his way to work where they were stood drinking Jagermeister miniatures and wondering when they could get into the venue. After being told that they wouldn't be getting in until four pm they went and sat in a park and carried on drinking. It was a wonderful mess, punk as it should be, completely stripped of any pretension. Love the Fins.

The show tonight is actually part of a two day Fest and the man in charge tonight, who is sorting us out, is Liam who plays in the band Perspex Flesh who are on later too. He's drinking one of those famous flagons of Weston's Old Rosie cider and has a permanent smile on his face. I like him already. I shoot and admiring glance at his cider, “Wouldn't leave home without it” he smirks.

We dump the gear in one of the rehearsal rooms and sit down with the Fins who have been stood here drinking since we arrived. Kev booked them in London before so he kind of knows them already. Marko, the singer is another one of those people who looks constantly chuffed. He also seems to constantly have a drink on the go so there might be a connection there. Vik heads off to the bar for the first round, it seems the choices are Stella, Carlsberg or Strongbow. As much as I hate Stella there's no way I'm drinking Carlsberg so I order a can of the old Wife Beater. “Fucking hell Jazzy, on the sauce tonight!” Vik laughs. He's fucking gutted when he sits down beside me and I point out to him that his Carlsberg is a measly 3,8% though. “Fuck sakes, that's like folköl” referring the infamous “people's beer” we get back home, which is the only kind of beer you can buy in the supermarket and it's limited to 3,5%. You can only buy real beer at the State ran shops that close at seven pm, three on a Saturday and doesn't even open on a Sunday. Sweden. Marko picks up on the “folköl” comment anyway and asks us if we're Swedes, and hence a conversation and a kinship between the two bands has been struck.

Marko is drinking a cloudy looking pint of Strongbow. He's been drinking them since we arrived. It turns out that it's actually Strongbow and gin and tonic, a heady fucking concoction if ever there was one! It actually doesn't taste quite as revolting as it sounds. When asked by one of the Irish crowd why he's drinking such a thing he replies, “One hand!” as if it's the most obvious thing he's ever had to point out. He explains further how much of a pain in the ass it would be if he had to carry the Strongbow in one hand and the gin and tonic in the other. Love the Fins.

We hang out with the guys chatting for the next hour or so, Marko chuffed that I'm wearing an Angel Hair t-shirt, one of his favourite bands ever apparently. We get talking about everything punk, Swedish and Finnish bands, practice rooms and the scenes in our relative homes. Marko summaries it quite nicely, “One thing I think Seeden is much better than Finland, especially Shtockholm. Seedish people know how to dress. They dress really nice. Finish people dress like sitt!”

The first of the night's six bands starts around eight and there are already a lot of people in the place. I have a feeling it's going to be a really good show tonight. The sound is kind of echoey, bouncing of the brick walls, but the atmosphere is good. The first band is a girl band playing pretty noisy punk, and the second band are called No Form and are about as artsy as it comes, a little too much for my liking. The young lad on vocals is dressed in a suit and is bellowing into an insanely reverbed microphone, since the Spain scene has taken off this last few years reverb has really become the thing.. They're ok but erring towards the silly just for the sake it I feel, the singer pulling out a trumpet at one point and huffing and puffing it into the reverb. I don't know.. I watch about five minutes and fuck off for one last beer before we're up.

As we're travelling by bus and train we don't really have any gear with us, just guitars, cymbals and snare. Band of fucking gypsies. I have a word with Liam about heads and it's all sorted, we can use theirs. He's almost through with the Old Rosie now. I ask him if he's looking forward to playing, he tells me he is although the band is not in the best of shape right now, “The drummer's full of the flu, he'll be turning up just before we play, and I've been feeling a bit gutsy too” he says, swilling round the last of the cider in his flagon as he does so. Not fucking surprised mate, two and half litres at 8,3%, I'd be fucked by now, never mind gutsy!

There is no soundguy tonight, just a small mixing board on the side of the stage, over by Lucas. The amp I'm lending from Perspex Flesh is insanely loud. I start at about four on the master and Luc just gives me those eyes, kind of like a parent looking at their kid and saying, “Come on now..” After the scratchiest of line checks we're ready to go. It's one of those stages where I have absolutely no idea how it sounds out front, I can barely hear Kev at all although that's not important and wherever I move on the stage I get a completely new guitar sound. Still, a few songs into the set and it feels tight, a lot tighter than last night. The room is pretty full and by the look on most of the faces in the crowd I get the feeling the sound out front is good. Kev is up and down from the stage the whole show, really getting into it. It feels like we're all enjoying ourselves. About half way through the set I feel this fucking pain in my knee though, really sharp, as if it's locking up. I have to hobble back towards my amp, mid song, and straighten it out. It fucking hurts, like I've been stabbed just below the knee cap. Once I get my leg straightened the immediate pain subsides but there's a little left, somewhere there in the background. I sometimes wonder to myself if it's time to retire from this game... And then I see Kev down on the floor, ten years my elder, screaming like fuck into his mic, mouth lip bleeding a little from accidentally gumping himself in the mouth. Beside him I see Marko, playing air guitar and smiling broadly.

It feels good after the show, a lot of people seemed to have liked it, there was elements of the crowd building up to kick off during the set, but as always when we play to a new crowd, by the time the tide rises we're done and it's all over. Upon leaving the stage the Kylma Sota drummer grabs Lucas and says, “Thank you for the songs” in typically monotonic Finnish. Chuffed. I'm no longer thinking too much about the luxury of the hotel bed, I'm buzzed from the gig and I want a pint, or two. Vik looks at me and suggests we have a shot, that he's feeling pretty knackered and he needs a shot injection to get him going again. I've been sworn off shots for a long time, I'm no good with them. But tonight I think Vik has a point. Luk isn't interested, he's sat at the merch talking to the Irish girl band who are playing after us, so Vik, Kev and I head to the bar without him. Captain Morgan Gold, reminds me of the many messy nights I worked at Debaser.

We chill out with a beer, or a cider, I'm not fussed which by now. Marko must be on to about his seventh or eight Strongbow GT by now, still smiling, still standing. Love the Fins. We watch a bit of Sissy, the Irish all girl band on after us. I'm not really a big fan of the whole Riot Girrrl thing although I have a lot of respect for it, but these guys do it well. Shame you can't really hear the vocals. I turn to Vik, “It's pretty fucking hot in here!” Vik looks at me, mouthful of Strongbow, “It's time for a shot?”. Back to the bar we go.

I'd been looking forward to seeing Perspex Flesh, I really like the lp they put out recently, but unfortunately the sound isn't so great. Whereas with Sissy the vocals were non existent, now Liam's vocals are literally the only thing you can hear, and there is a tsunami like amount of reverb on them. The music is good, but as soon as he starts singing, it completely fades to the background. Shame. Liam is pretty funny looking on stage though and entertaining with it, he looks like a cross between Paul Diano and our mate from Stockholm, Into. Whilst watching them some guy approaches me and tells me he follows my blog, says he came across it by chance. “I never liked Speedhorn, but I really like your blog.” We get talking and he asks me how it is balancing being a dad and playing in a punk band, he tells me that his wife is expecting and that he plays in bands and he's really worried about it. I reassure him that he's going to be fine, that being a dad is the most amazing feeling and that with a bit of planning you can make being in a band, or two, or three work. I mention to him that it helps if your wife also plays in bands, he shakes his resignedly and says, “No, mine's not into punk at all.” I tell him he'll be fine all the same. He tells me that his band is due to go out on a two week tour about a month after the baby comes.. Not entirely sure that will work out... Nice guy anyway, fun talking to him.

More beers and then Kylma Sota take the stage. This is a completely different affair to the last time I saw them at Kafe 44, although Marko is still drinking that cloudy cider.. I'm almost disappointed that they're not wasted at first, but fuck me, as soon as they start the show that disappears. They are fucking on it. So much energy, the crowd is loving it. Marko is a great font man. They rule tonight.

We hang around for a short while after they're done but not too long, the buzz of the booze has worn off and I'm not drunk, I'm just feeling really tired and bloated now. Just as well maybe, it's been a good night, now would be a good time to head back to the hotel and catch some Z's. Everyone seems to be on the same page so we gather our gear, say our goodbyes and head around to the garage around the corner in the hope of finding a cab. There are a few around, one guy, some old Indian bloke, is filling his tank. Kev shouts over to him, asking if he's free. It seems he is, he asks us where we're going. We tell him and he looks at us confused, “You can walk there.” He gets in his cab and fucks off. What the fuck? It ain't that fucking close. Weird old bastard. We hail another cab shortly after, some guy who apparently isn't opposed to making money, and we drive in the direction of the hotel. It takes about five minutes... Walk? My arse!

We get dropped off on a busy street next to the hotel, laden with shitty kebab shops, shitty nightclubs and hordes of drunken bastards looking to get in them. I convince myself I'm hungry and I need chips and cheese and regret it as soon as the first fry enters my mouth. Where the fuck do I get the notion I like chips and cheese from? It's absolutely horrid and these bastards are amongst the worst morsels of food I've ever abused my taste buds with. I throw about half of them in the bin, that's how bad it is! We head back to the hotel. Unusually for a Travel Lodge they have a bar. I'm all about bed but Vik is still thirsty. The woman working in the bar clocks us, “Are you guys wanting a beer? The bar's open”. Vik demands one more out of me and Kev. I say no but Kev is game, I join them, Vik goes to the bar and comes back with three manky pints of Stella. Kev falls asleep about half way through his, I manage about three sips. It's hard going. Vik and Kev plough on through theirs and I empty my pint equally into their glasses.


Time for bed.

Friday, September 12, 2014

London (Deptford)

Woke up on the floor of Kev's living room and for a minute I thought it was all just a shitty fucking dream.  The feeling of relief was fleeting though, barely there a second.  It wasn't a fucking dream.  My passport was gone.

Somewhere between the departure room at Gate 17 Arlanda and customs at Gatwick my passport had disappeared.  That feeling when you go for your pockets and realise it's not there, and for a split second you tell yourself to calm down, it is there, just look again.  But it wasn't.  I spent the morning on Kev's phone trying to track it down, trying to get a travel document to get me on my flight Monday morning, hoping for a miracle.  It's not happening though, my only option is to head to the passport office in Peterborough on Monday and order a new one.  I'm hoping I can get home by the end of the week.  It's fucked up feeling like a prisoner on your own island, I'll be gutted when the lads leave at four am on Monday morning for their/our flight home that I won't be getting on.

The bastard is we'd had a really fun time on the flight over last night.  When we boarded the pilot had warned of possible light to moderate turbulence on route.  Now light I'm ok with but moderate had me ordering a gin and tonic from the bar service.  Me and Vik had a couple each and we spent the entire flight laughing and taking the piss out of each other.  The turbulence never came either.  I felt a little buzzed when we landed, not pissed by any means, but in a very good mood.  Chuffed to be out playing a couple of shows with the guys.  I was hoping we'd make it to Deptford in time for a pint at The Albert.  Needless to say any such good mood was soon to be extinguished.

Of course, I was expecting nothing but a piss take all day but the guys can probably tell it's not the time.  Grateful for that I decide there's no point in destroying myself over it, what will be will be.  There are still some shows to play and if I don't forget about this shit for a while then there is no point in playing the shows.

I had an appointment with Mucky for a couple of tattoos and although I wasn't exactly in the mood, it was his day off and he'd kindly agreed to come in to the shop already.  It was actually nice getting them done, took my mind off things for a while,  Mucky joked about how I seem to do this every time now, getting tattooed before playing a run of shows.  I guess now it's a tradition you can't mess with it.  When we were done we grabbed some lunch with the boys at the café, adhering to another tradition that is the mighty Sith Burger, quite possible one of the hottest burgers around.  Veggie patty, jalapeño cheese, extra jalapeños, Sarrachi hot sauce, and the legendary Deptford Death Sauce to boot.  It's a fucking monster but it tastes great.  We were joking about the stench that was bound to be left in his living room tomorrow morning, Luk just shook his head at me and my burger, “Plain ignorance”.

We were practising at Overdrive Studio which is ran by Marv and John Conflict, we had a few hours booked in to go through the set with Kev.  Always good to see Marv.  His band are on the bill tonight, Smack Battalion, who has our old friend Pablo on bass, looking forward to seeing them.  It's a great little scene here in Deptford, with the shop, the café and the studio, the Bird's Nest just round the corner.  Kev seems to know everyone here, every one that passes him on the street has a hello for him.  There's this crazy old guy. Rupert, I think he's from Uganda or something, he always sits outside the tattoo shop, shouting and laughing.  We sat and listened to him and Kev talking for about five minutes, I didn't understand a word of it but Kev translated afterwards.  He had been joking about the upcoming Scottish referendum, saying that where he's from you don't get a yes or no vote, you vote no you get chopped up and hidden in a box.  He was pissing himself laughing the whole time he was saying this...

Anyway, practice went well.  The set was sounding tight.  Afterwards we all helped Marv push the back line from the studio to the Nest on a trolley, along the main road littered with brale pavements.  Marv joked, “I bet you won't find Speedhorn doing this”.  I just laughed uncommitted, not wanting to get involved in that conversation.  We had two trips back and forth and then the first thing Viktor has to do once we're loaded in is gaffa tape a leg on to the Nest's bass drum that we're lending for the night.  With enough tape and a brick in front of the drum it should stay in place though, Vik seems fairly confident.

We have nothing to do but hang out in the bar and have a couple of beers whilst we wait for the crowd to show up.  The Nest is so small it doesn't take many to make it good but I notice by the time the first band go on, Don from the tattoo shop's three piece, there aren't that many people in the house yet.  It feels a bit strange since there's been a bit of a buzz about the gig, it's kind of a release fest for our split tape with Hello Bastards who are on before us tonight, as well as a fund-raiser for Jocke D-Takt who lost a lot of his label's stock, including our records, in a flood.  And then the word goes round that some asshole has been acting weird at London Bridge station and causing a security risk, being that it's 9-11 the cops are extra sensitive and the station is closed down, making it hard for anyone north of the river to get here.  Fucking typical.

By the time Smack Battalion go on though a pretty good crowd has amassed.  There are a lot of friends here of course, Jamie, Chris, Karl and the tattoo shop gang, the whole Deptford crew.  And of course Misa, our crazy Japanese friend who always has two pints on the go at the same time and is always laughing.  She always used to obsess over my cabin bag I would have with me on my travels but now here attention had shifted to my new crew cut.  When I meet her the first thing she does is rub my head furiously and then grabs it and rubs bonce against mine, laughing crazily.

Being that we have an eighteen month old daughter at home and I haven't slept properly since she came into the world it usually only takes me a couple of pints before my head begins to numb and I start to feel drunk.  I've had a couple already by the time Hello Bastards come on although I'm actually feeling fine, I still decide not to risk it though and tell myself I’ll look forward to a cold one after our set.  The Hello Bastards set begins with Max their singer talking about 9-11 and makes the point that there are 9-11's going on today, all over the world, in some countries it's 9-11 every day.  It's a fair point well made.  They then blast through about twenty songs is as many minutes and leave the floor over to us.  Good job.

It takes a while to get going.  Marv has hooked up a guitar cab on either side of the small stage but I have no idea how any of that works.  I track Marv down, he's stood outside having a pint, and he's happy to help get me sorted.  Time is pushing on towards the eleven pm curfew and I'm raring to go.  I've got Pablo and his girlfriend Raquel stood in front of me looking chuffed and I'm dying just to do this thing.  It feels a bit strange starting with the slow song from the tape, Hypnotic Eye, but it works as a kind of intro and then we're into DB, back up to normal speed and flying.

The set flies by in a whirlwind of chaotic noise, I can barely hear Kev or Luk although that doesn't effect me, as long as I can hear Vik's snare, which I can, somewhere over there in amongst the feedback.  Not being either a) pissed or b) hungover really seems to work for us when we're playing shows, we should try it more often.  I have a feeling we won't be keeping that up though over the next few days.  It makes a huge difference though when you get to ten minutes into the set and you can still breathe...

At one point in the set my guitar cab over by Luk cuts out and I see Luk motioning to me to stop, Jamie on hand to sort it.  Back up and rolling again and of course I break a string.  Always.  Jeff from Hello Bastards lends me his although I was more than happy to play on with just the five, it would have worked, we only had a few songs left and I could have pulled it off, but when I put Jeff's guitar on I'm happy to have it.  The set ends to the shouts of Kelly Apple, demanding two more songs, but we're done.  The lights in the bar are already on and someone has put Black Sabbath on the PA.  I didn't want to do more anyway.  I hadn't noticed but Kev's tells me as we're packing down that the pub had cut half of the PA off during our set due to noise complaints from the neighbours.  Luk jokes, “Good gig review: Noise complaint”.

There's a good buzz after the gig though, it felt hard to judge during the set, although it always is since I never really look at the crowd.  We sell a lot of merch though, Kev and Luk are chuffed.  Vik's girlfriend Bea has been shifting a load of shirts for us.  Good girl.  Funny that this is where the first met just over a year ago.  Misa comes up to me afterwards, laughing and toasting a glass as always, “Gaz your band is so awesome!  You play your guitar above your head!”.

Kev is chuffed with the all-star array of old punks in attendance tonight.  One of the guys from Icons of Filth is here and he's bought a couple of shirts and records, another guy from Corrupted is here, John and Sarah Conflict.  Kev is in his element.  We pack down as quick as we can once money is sorted in order to make it to The Albert for a pint.  It closes at midnight and me and Vik are fucking gagging!  Kev is stressing a bit about getting up early for the old Mega Bus in the morning and Luk is starting to hint that he's tired but we're having none of it.  I don't want to get pissed by any means but I do want an after show pint and I want to be able to hang with our mates for a while and have a chat.  Kev moans about The Albert being a hipster pub but he's always fucking moaning about hipsters.  Soon enough there is a convoy of us striding determinedly up the road with all the gear.  A beer will be had.

We only manage the one but I'm happy with that.  It's fun just hanging out with everyone.  Kev is taking the piss out of Misa, proposing to her on one knee, telling her they could have beautiful yellow babies.  Misa is shouting and laughing at me, “See, see he's laciest!  This guy, fuck him!”  I often think Kev and Misa should marry, they'd be a great couple.  The girls from the café are here hanging out too, they seemed to really enjoy the gig.  It's obviously way beyond any kind of music they normally listen to but being artsy dancer types themselves they really seem to appreciate the whole sub culture vibe of what we're involved in.  Kev is chuffed that they're into it.  He keeps saying that.  It's only twenty minutes and then the lights come on and it's time to leave.  Could've done without hanging maybe a little longer anyway...Wayne and Clara have just turned up after finishing work, asking if we want to come back for a drink at their place.  Sucks not have seen them more tonight but an after party would be a bad idea, of that I'm sure.

There had also been a hint of the New Cross Inn up the road and for a second pint and I'm tempted but I know it will only lead to regret in the morning.  We're all stood around outside the pub, chatting away, Misa holding dearly to the last dregs of her pint, Kev holding her arm and dancing, singing to her, “Misa, do you believe in love?...”,  Luk is showing off some tropical dance moves to the café/dancer girl squad, Kev moaning, “Look at that cunt!”  Eventually Vik and Bea jump in a cab going back to her place and we head down Deptford High Street, carrying our gear towards Kev's house.  Luk is moaning about his heavy bass case, asking to swap with me, just for a minute, just so I can appreciate what he's going through.  It feels like he's got a fucking corpse in there.  Fuck that, he gets it back immediately.

We end up back at Kev's place around one thirty, hell of a difference now Pat and Gemma have moved out, the place feels about twice the size now.  We check through the money and the merch before settling down in front of the box with a cuppa and Marmite on toast.  Alarm is set for eight, not too bad.  I takes me a while to get to sleep though, thoughts of that fucking passport floating around in my head.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Crew: Wee Lee

It was American George who first introduced him to us.  We were playing a show in Glasgow, back in the early days when we'd play at this club Arena with our mates Co Exist to barely anybody and the promoter, Kelvin, would tell us he'd pay us as soon as his giro came through.   The money would be in the post.. Poor Kelvin.. Anyway, this one night we found George hanging out on the street, it's not like he had people queuing to buy merch, talking to a gang of lads on BMX bikes.  One of them was called Lee, he had his arm in a sling, banged up from an accident.  He seemed like a really nice guy and we got chatting for a while.  We'd come back to Glasgow many times over the years and the crowds would gradually grow to the point where we'd be selling out The Garage, something that would have seemed nothing but wild fantasy back in the days of Kelvin and the Arena club.  Glasgow turned out to be a good town for us.  And every time we came back Lee would come hang out with us.

For a long time he was known as BMX Guy, which later would become Wee Lee.  He's actually not very short and I don't know where that name came from.. Anyway, the fact we were up in Scotland so much meant we'd see a lot of Wee Lee over the coming years.  He was someone who for a long time I thought of as being a friend of the band until one day I realised he was actually just a really good friend, full stop.  Later on Wee Lee would become an integral part of our crew, in fact, he would become a seventh member of our band, being involved in almost everything outside of the music, designing and selling merch, creating the artwork for the Before The Sea Was Built album, driving us all over Europe, helping take care of and maintaining the van, helping me tour manage, everything.  I relied on him a lot.  Wee Lee would eventually just become Lee and in turn one of the best friends I've ever had.

All that said, we really treated him like shit sometimes...

Lee became a fully fledged member of Speedhorn during the second era of the band.  The era that gathered apace after Frank left and hit full throttle once Darren had handed in his notice, a year or so later.  Things had changed in a lot of ways.  We'd been away a while due to various troubles, both internal and external.  We'd released the album How The Great Have Fallen but barely toured it due to Frank leaving before it was even released.  We made the best of it and headed to the States for a tour as well as some European Festivals but by the time Darren left and Dave joined we had already begun writing Before the Sea Was Built, which was a big change for us in many ways.  It was the album I'd wanted to write for a long time and when it was done I knew it would be the last we'd record.  Anyway, after Darren's departure we pretty much immediately scrapped the How the Great songs from the setlist, maybe it was a reminder of a bad time for the band, maybe the songs were just crap... For me, the Before the Sea album represented another time, a time when we'd left the major labels, had taken control of our band, both in management and artistic output as well as touring.  We'd also began to turn our back on a lot of what the old Speedhorn was, and in turn, our old fans.  We'd grown up and we all realised that we had little left in common with the people who still really loved the early albums.  We felt like we were growing apart from a lot of our old fans.  It was no reflection on those people who'd supported us, it was we who had changed.  It's just the whole Metal Head Pantera shirt wearing, devil horn toting, beer belching vibe had lost it's charm.

Nothing represented this new era more than two things though.  Firstly our newly acquired van, Betty, and secondly Lee.  For the first time in a few years we'd be hitting the road regularly again, both in the UK and Europe, and Lee pretty much sacrificed his job to be able drive us on tour and help me manage the band.  Since we could sleep in Betty, DIY touring was really easy since we could play gigs for little money if there was little money going, all we needed was food and petrol, we could sleep anywhere we chose to stop the van.  The thing is, Betty, for all her finer sides, was a slow old bird and a lot of the time, especially on the European tours, we'd have to drive through the night to stand a chance of getting to the next gig in time for load in.  The deal we had was that Lee would do the night driving with one of us up front with him, reading the map and keeping him entertained.  Those of us in the band with a license would have to do any eventual daytime driving.  It didn't always work out that way though...

The amazing thing about Lee is he's straight-edge.  That's not that such remarkable a thing in itself but the fact he was out driving us idiots for so long and the fact he didn't kill anyone really is quite an achievement.  I always admired his self discipline.  There was only one occasion that his discipline failed him, and that was in the early days when he'd just started to hang out with us on a regular basis.  He'd never been a drinker but hanging out with us had made him curious and he decided he'd give it a go.  As is the case with most straight-edge people I know, it's either one extreme or the other, moderation is nothing they atone to.  So it was with Lee.  We were playing the Cathouse in Glasgow and we had Charger and Vex Red supporting us on tour.  I was shocked when Lee turned up with a bottle of vodka and a two litre Irn Bru to dilute the fucker with.  He drank the lot within a couple of hours and ended up puking on the jeans of the Vex Red guitar player, a young kid who didn't know what the fuck was going on.  That, to my knowledge was the last time Lee drank.  It's clearly not his forte...

Like I say, Lee for all intents and purposes, was a member of the band.  He lived and breathed it as much as any of us did and when we went on tour, instead of paying him a fee from each gig for the work he did, we simply split the money at the end of the tour seven ways instead of six.  He was more than worth his share.  The countless hours he sat at the front of the van, driving through the night with one of us sleeping beside him with a map on our face was worth his share alone.  Kev was more often that not the man for the map job, something he really enjoyed to be fair and the two of them became pretty close.  It always felt safe and secure to see them up front chatting away as I'd pop my head through the divider curtain and say goodnight.

On the odd occasion Kev was knackered or steaming someone else would take a shift.  I had some great nights myself.  I remember one night fondly.  We were driving from Warsaw to a small town just on the other side of the German border called Rudolstadt.  For us it was a good ten hour drive.  We set off around one am and I remember feeling that there was no way I was going to be able to stay awake until Lee's usual six am clock out time, but we loaded up on coffee and Red Bull's and before I knew it was six thirty and I felt like there was no need to stop.  We'd been chatting all night, about this, that and everything, listening to Tiger Lou records whilst the rest of the band slept cosily in the back.  Even now we talk about the Tiger Lou times on tour.

It's fair to say that some people put more effort in than others.  Dave, bless him, claimed he couldn't read a map.  The fact he was always pissed by drive time probably didn't help.  The thing with Dave though is that he has a heart of gold and his intentions were always good.  I told him that he didn't need to worry about it, he should just have a good time on tour, but this one night he insisted he wanted to help and that he was taking a shift as the Map Man.  Lee was unsure but Dave insisted.  Dave was drunk of course.  Before Lee had even pulled the van out of the car park Dave had fallen asleep.

Like I say, it was mostly Kev on map duties and it was Kev who has the majority of the stories to share from those times.  Those two took the shift over the Alps, something we did a lot, almost every time.  I remember one night leaving a show in Switzerland and heading for the mountains, the rain and wind howling as if warning us of the perils ahead.  But we had a journey to make and waiting it out wasn't an option.  I remember falling asleep as the incline began.  Within half hour the van had screeched to the side of the narrow mountain road and Lee, Kev and Gordon were outside in the pissing rain arguing.  One of the windscreen wipers had flown off the side of the mountain... Quite why the three of them were all screaming at each other I'm not sure, I guess desperation does that to you.  The three of them did their best to make amends of the situation, I think they actually recovered the wiper somehow and gaffered it back on and Lee and Kev soldiered on.  When we awoke the next day it was to the clearest of blue skies and the two of them were in a blisteringly good mood.  They were telling us of how once they'd reached the peak of the mountains the weather had just changed and the views were amazing, that they'd stopped at dawn at a mountaintop café and had breakfast together, looking at the scenery and scoffing at the rest of us sleeping inside and missing out on it all.

Another classic experience those two shared I've written about before but it's worth a reminder.  The time we were driving from Prague to Warsaw through the night and the motorway just stopped dead.  Kev was looking at the map confused and had mentioned to Lee that it seemed very much like the motorway just stopped, and within seconds of him saying this the breaks have been stamped on and the van comes grinding to a halt opposite a wheat field.  They have a simple left or right to choose from and being that the only lights, however small, are to the right, they choose that direction.  Those lights belong to a small village with a dirt road going through the middle of it.  All about the road, scattered everywhere, requiring careful navigation, are dead cats.  Loads of them.  As they're creeping through this fucking village of the damned, wondering what the fuck is going on, a car comes flying up behind them, headlights blaring, zooms past them splatting the head of one of the dead animals as it does so.  To say they were freaked out would be an understatement.  Lee decides he's had enough and puts his foot down.  Before they know it they're away from the village and the motorway picks up as suddenly as it left off.  I've wondered many times over the years if this story is really true or at least maybe grossly exaggerated, but then I'll remember the pale look on Kev's face as he told us about it the morning after...

Despite all his hard slog driving through the night, Lee was the only one of us who didn't have his own bunk.  Often I'd wake up for a piss in the morning to find Lee scrunched up on a bean bag, or on one of the merch boards stretched over two of the bench seats.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the roof leaked if the rain was heavy enough and the drips of water always found their way to where Lee was sleeping.  Of course, when the rest of us woke Lee would creep into one of our bunks but we were always loud as fuck and he could hardly have gotten any Z's.  He rarely moaned though... He had the patience of a saint.  Of course, even saint's have their limits...

This one night we were in Hanover and some people from our label had come down to the show and were getting the drinks in.  Obviously we were chuffed.  We couldn't give a tom tit about the label otherwise but if they were getting the bevvies in then their presence was tolerated.  Lee could see we were having a good crack but at the same time he was fretting a bit, knowing we had to drive through the night.  We made a deal.  We agreed that if we took the merch after the gig then he could head back to the van and get some sleep.  We could pack up, stay and have a few drinks and then we'd head off around one.  We were finished by eleven so it was fair enough.  Of course, one o' clock came and went.  It was a quarter past before I even thought about it and I'd just started on a new pint.  I looked at Gordon and motioned to the clock and then to our drinks.  I suggested that we head back to the van, that Lee would be waiting.  “Ah fuck it, he'll already be pissed off!  You know what he's like.  We may as well stay and drink these, what's the difference?” was Gordon's reasoning.  Of course, I was half pissed and what Gordon said sat perfectly well with my conscience at that present time.  One fifteen became three thirty... We were boats, the fucking lot of us, by the time we crept back to the van.  We were shitting ourselves, imagining the rage on Lee's face and what he'd say to us.  To our surprise though there wasn't any sign of Lee as we approached Betty.  I'd had a picture in my mind of Lee being sat there with crazy eyes, rocking back and forth at the wheel but the driver's seat was empty.  We stumbled onto the van to find a note resting on the steering wheel, it read in large, bold letter “CUNTS”.  Lee had gone to one of the bunks to sleep.  One of us would be driving in the morning with a hangover, of that there would be no discussion.  Lee didn't speak to me or anyone else until later on in the afternoon, only breaking his silence as we pulled into the next venue for load in, “I expect it from those cunts Gaz, but not from you.”  The shame weighed heavily upon me.

Every now and again though, the option of Gordon or Jay driving in the daytime was simply not on the table.  One such time was the day after mine and Kev's birthday bash.  We share the same date of birth but funnily enough only once have we been out on tour for the occasion.  This particular time we were in Slovenia's capital city, Ljubljana.  We were out on a three week European tour and the only and only day off happened to be the day before our birthday, which fell between a festival show in northern Italy and Lasko, Slovenia.  We'd started the day off at the beach in Trieste, which was fucking wonderful.  The sun was shining and the sea was glistening in it's rays.  Trieste is a beautiful place.  After we'd spent the morning and early afternoon there we headed off across the mountains to Ljubljana., where we'd stay for the night.  The plan was dinner and then drinks.  Drinks turned out to be an extremely cheap affair, we found one bar where they had happy hour seemingly all night and the cocktails were two for one.  One cocktail cost about two quid which obviously led to the lot of us being absolutely twatted!  The last thing I have any recollection of is drinking something called a Flaming Lamborghini which entailed the waiter bloke lighting the drink with a lighter and then pouring in two shots of something vicious simultaneously whilst I drank the fucker through a straw.

I woke up in John's bunk, he'd carried me back to the van and put me there around eleven pm.  Kev and Jay had wandered off and got lost in town and haven given up on finding the van elected to kip down next to a fountain in the middle of one of the town's plazas.  John had found them and led them home.  When I woke up the next day, on our birthday, I felt like fucking shite!  The only thing that saved me was the ghostly looks on the rest of my comrades faces.  All except Lee, who was sat there bright as sunshine, reading a magazine.  I soon realised that we were parked up at a service station somewhere.  Lee had driven us a bit out of town towards our next destination.  He was of course committed in his stance that he wouldn't be driving another meter until his next shift started after that night's show.  We were left with a bit if a stand-off.  We coweringly asked Lee if he could drive.  “Nope” came the reply, his eyes never leaving the magazine he seemed to be engrossed in.  We bartered with him for a while but got nothing from him.  This was after the whole “CUNTS” episode so we knew where on thin ice already.  Eventually Gords throws his arms up in the air, “Fuck it, I'll drive. Fuck you twats!”  He hobbles off to the cockpit, flat cap and sunglasses disguising his disposition.  I'm not sure this is a good idea but I let it go, feeling there is no point in pleading anymore with Lee.  Gords starts up the engine and we start to move across the car park towards the exit for the motorway that awaits.  We're moving very slowly.  Very.  Slowly.  And we're driving on the wrong side of the road... I know something is terribly wrong and I jump up front with Gords.  I ask him if he's fit to drive.  He confirms he is without shifting his gaze from the road.  I inform him he's on the wrong side of the road and then I remove his sunglasses.  I've never seen such small eyes.  Like two little piss holes in the snow.  Exposed, Gords turns to me with a look of resignation.  “Please Lee, look at him!  There's no way he can fucking drive!” I shout from the map seat.  At first Lee refuses to budge but bows under the pressure of our collective pleas and comes up front to take a look at Gordon's little face.  “Fuck sakes”... he mumbles as he kicks Gordon out of the pilot seat and takes the wheel.

The fact Lee put up with us for so long is a measure of his character, and his great love for the band and it's members.  He was especially close to me and Kev and we had some amazing times together.  The one time we headed out to Europe without him, when we supported Carnivore for a few weeks, he was greatly missed. It was right before Christmas and he couldn’t get the time off work.  We had a great time on that tour but it wasn't the same without Lee.

Our farewell tour would be in Japan and I was really happy that we could pay for Lee's flight from the money we'd made on the preceding UK tour that was funding it.  It felt like a wonderful present to be able to give him after all the many hours of work he'd put in to our band.  That Japan tour was one of the best experiences of our lives, it was an amazing way to bow out with the band.  We were so close, for the most part, by the band's end, unified in what we were doing and it felt almost daft to be putting an end to it all, so great were the shows and so high were the emotions surrounding them.  I'll never forget walking off stage in Yamaguchi, I'd left my guitar feedbacking against my amp, Gordon and Dave droning on amongst it, one last stand, tears in their eyes.  I found John slumped on a step backstage, shaking his head, he too fighting back the tears, “I fucking love you man!”.  It was poignant to say the least.  And throughout the entire final set, there was Lee, in the middle of the mosh pit with a load of Japanese kids and weirdly enough, some American Marines... Lee felt it, exactly like we did.  I'll never forget his face in amongst the crowd as we played those songs for the last time.

It was a surreal feeling, landing back at Heathrow and saying goodbye to each other as bandmates for the very final time.  I was heading back to Sweden, unsure of what the future held, although rehearsing with Victims was very much on the cards.  Kev had a bunch of bands and we'd made a pact to one day play together again.  The others, I wasn't so sure how much I'd see them.  I knew I'd be seeing Lee though, he was a regular guest of ours over in Stockholm, although when the next time would was uncertain.  He'd given up his job to come to Japan with us.

He's doing well these days, working as a designer for IKEA.  He always did love Sweden so that job suits him pretty well.  We don't see each other nearly enough but I could say that about many of my friends, that's adult life I guess.  Whenever we do hook up though it's like we've never been apart.  And of course, me and Kev did end up getting another band together, Diagnosis? Bastard! I'm hoping one day Lee will join us back out on the road, it would be amazing the three of us being back together travelling the highways of Europe again.  I won't allow him to quit his job next time around though...although he probably would if we had enough gigs booked.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

R.I.P. Warzone

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Andy “Warzone” Coupland this last week.  It seems that once again that fucking horror, Cancer, has sunk it's wretched claws in and taken one of us too soon.  Through unwanted personal experience I've learned a little more about this disease over the past couple of years and it's given me a somewhat broadened perspective of life and death.  They say that one in three of us will at some point in our lives fall foul of cancer.  Of course, with each passing day the research being carried out by experts in the field is progressing towards a cure.  There is already a vaccine for cervical cancer and they are close to developing others.  According to my sister, the progress made over the last ten years, the period she has worked as a Radiographer, is nothing short of astonishing, and yet there is still a long way to go.  I'm pretty sure that in a hundred, maybe one fifty years time cancer will be spoken about then as Tuberculosis is now, or Polio, or any other disease that at one point in time wiped out the masses.  The thing is, when they've cured cancer, something else will take it's place.  That's just the way it is.  Watching my mum succumb to the disease it really fucking hit me.  The two out of three who don't get cancer aren't going to live forever.  And who would want to anyway?  It's an old cliché but it's true, every day fucking counts, at least if you're lucky enough to be born into a privileged life here in the First World.  You can interpret “privileged” however you will.  Anyway, all that said, it doesn't change the fact that at fifty two years old, Warzone was taken far too soon.

The first local gigs I ever went to were put on by Andy Warzone Coupland.  If it wasn't for him, and I know this is also a cliché, then I may never have taken the whole band thing further.  When our little gang of greasy, long haired “grungers”, as the other school kids called us, started up our first bands we had no idea about playing gigs.  It was just something we talked a lot about, argued about a lot, like what would the setlist be if we ever realised our dream of supporting Megadeth.  But in reality, we had no fucking idea what we were doing and playing a gig was nothing but a pipe dream.  But one of us, James Slaven, knew Warzone a little.  At the time he was putting on smallish shows at the Willow Room in the Civic Centre, and every now and again some bigger bands in the larger Festival Hall above it, although that was pretty rare.  We were only about fourteen at the time, and on the promise that we would stay away from the bar, we were allowed in to see the bands play.  As much as the main reason was always to see bands, like Krust, Ethereal, Monster, Metal Messiah, Envy, Saxon and fuck knows how many others, we would on occasion wander into the bar, sometimes the outcome of such a venture was successful, others not so much.

A couple of years before Warzone had been putting shows on at the Earlstrees Club, Lawnmower Death and Annihilator being particular highlights of the time.  Our friend, Roddy, who later became a long time associate of Speedhorn, was embedded in the Earlstrees scene.  His old band Ignorance played there a bunch of times and he'd become a good friend of Warzone's.  For me the best band of the Willow Room era was Roddy's band, Krust.  I really loved them, and as much as he'd take the piss out of me for saying so now, we all really looked up to Roddy.  He fucking knew it too.  Anyway, if it wasn't for Warzone then I would have been a lot poorer for not experiencing those gigs.  I've told the tale here before, but the night we were reluctantly refused entry to the Willow Room due to crack downs on the age limit, remains one of the biggest buzzes of my life.  With little choice, we hung out at the back of the building, behind where the stage was, and moshed to Krust's set.  Word spread and before long both Roddy and Warzone campaigned to let us in and we were giving a standing ovation from the crowd inside upon eventual entrance.  Warzone really did believe in supporting the scene from it's roots and making sure the kids were a part of it.  If it wasn't for him we'd have nothing but our boom box and shit cider in the woods on Friday nights.

Warzone, like so many other honest promoters I've met down the years, was never in it for the money.  Bad game to be in if you are I guess.  I don't think he ever made much out of gigs, he just got a buzz from bringing bands to play in Corby and feeding a scene there.  He can't ever have made much out of the Willow Room gigs, there was rarely more than sixty people there, but that didn't stop him.  And then one day, a huge day for us, he'd booked a big show in the Festival Hall, an all-dayer with bands like a reformed Ignorance, Naked Truth from the States, Terrorvision and lots more.  The place was pretty packed, must have been a good five, six hundred people in.  It was one of the best days of my early teenage years.  Fucking magic.  Warzone DJing in his sweat shorts, band t-shirt and tye dye cap, looking akin to a heavy metal Timmy Mallet, was buzzing.  He was always enthusiastic but this day the smile was really beaming.  I remember seeing him early on in the day, walking about the hall, talking to people here, there and everywhere, looking fucking chuffed.  Maybe finally he'd made some money, maybe not.. But then a few hours later the smile had gone, replaced by a look of utter desperation.  His fucking house had been burgled during the day!  Couldn't fucking make it up.

After the Willow Room era, Warzone moved on to Bip's Nightclub, one of the two places to go at the weekend if you wanted to drink, fight or fuck.  I noticed over the years that those who didn't do much fucking usually ended up fighting.  Weird that.  Anyway, Bip's had a different atmosphere from the Willow Room, for us it felt like going into enemy territory, being that it was where all the Trendies hung out, the people in school who used to shout such ingenious insults at us like “Grunger”, or “Metaaaaal” or even, “Jumper!”  To be fair we did go through a phase of wearing ridiculously oversized woollen jumpers and probably deserved all the abuse we got.  Thanks Kurt Cobain.. Anyway, the gigs never really took off at the Willow Room, despite Warzone's best efforts.  Bands like Headswim and Terrorvision were booked, bands that were appearing on Headbanger's Ball at the time, but it never really drew a huge crowd.  The room was too big and looked too like a trendy nightclub, which of course is what it was.. One banker, so Warzone thought at least, was the band Reef.  Now, Reef were to my ears, an absolutely fucking awful band.  White students playing funk rock and singing in fake American accents?  Fuck off!  Thing is, they'd appeared on a Sony Minidisc advert that had the country asking, “”Who is that band?”  The advert obviously got a lot of airplay.  Warzone was sure the place would be packed.  Unfortunately for him, the band had a strict stipulation that they were in no way to be advertised as, “The Band from the Sony Minidisc advert”.  No no, they were to make their name through their shite music alone..

Our friends in Nervebomb, who subsequently were being managed by Warzone in a loose sort of capacity, were supporting that night.  I'd went along with them for soundcheck and was amazed when Reef turned up and kicked us out of the backstage area.  Fucking wankers!  I couldn't believe it.  If not for Warzone's sake, I was absolutely delighted that there was barely anyone at the gig.  I can only imagine what kind of ridiculous fee they were charging.  I'll never forget the disappointed look on Warzone's face as he stood in the DJ booth, mic in hand, the usual dodgy cap, t-shirt and I think purple sweatpants on, ready to introduce the band.  “Ladies and gentlemen, please give a big Corby welcome to....” I knew what was coming after the anguished pause...”The band from the Sony Minidisc advert, Reef!” Cue smattering of applause.  The band walked on, the singer's poncey face awash with fury, looks over at Warzone, “Nice pants”... “You wanker!”.  Some thanks you get.. To my utter disbelief, Reef went on to become pretty fucking big for a while, at least in the UK.  I'm sure nobody else ever gave a piss about them though.

My favourite memory of Warzone though has to be from the time our band Sect, along with Nervebomb, played a school over in Uppingham, a town in the countryside about ten miles from Corby geographically, although a million miles away in every other measurement.  Warzone being Nervebomb's manager had set the gig up and had been good enough to drive us all over in his work van, which was a little Ford Escort or something similar.  The gig was pretty shit to be honest.  We played in this big hall on the floor in the corner of the room.  Even though there were quite a lot of people there, school kids like us, the brightly lit room did nothing but show the look of disapproval on a great many of their faces.  What did we expect really?  We are from Corby and pretty much every one of our neighbours hates us because we don't talk like they do and we don't think like they do.. It was the first time I remember playing a gig and feeling like we were up against it, feeling like I just wanted to get the fuck out of there.  It would be good training for the future.. By the time Nervebomb took to the floor the atmosphere had grown pretty hostile, I remember Tom, who also sang in Sect, was sat up on top one of the big PA speakers, shaking his head in disapproval as he sang.  Posey as fuck really..

I don't recall if anything had fed the hostility in particular, more than the fact that we were from Corby, it's highly possible one of us had made an attempt at chatting up one of the local girls or something, I really don't know.  What I do know is that as soon as Nervebomb were done we loaded out and piled into the back of Warzone's van.  There were the two bands and a few other mates.  We were sat there in the dark, lying on work tools and whatever other scrap, packed in like sardines as Warzone sped away from the car park, a lynch mob of locals shaking and banging the van as he did do.  Fucking ridiculous situation.  It didn't end there though.

It's ten miles of windy country lanes between Uppingham and Corby.  We must have been about half way home when I heard Warzone cursing to himself up in the front as the engine began to slow down.  “Right, keep quiet back there, I've been pulled over by the cops” Warzone warns us from the cockpit.  It was equal parts scary and exhilarating as we sat there in the dark listening to Warzone talk to the cop, putting on the chummiest voice he could muster.  It was hard to make out the mumbled tones.. It all seemed pretty calm though and for a minute I thought we were going to be ok.  But it was taking it's time.  These cops are never in a rush.  We must have sat there for ten, fifteen minutes and we were starting to get a little restless in the back and then I heard the cop ask, “What have you got in the back of the van?”.  Fuck... “Just some work tools” came the reply but there was no conviction in it.  “Lets av a look.”

When Warzone opened the back doors he yelped, doing his best to sound surprised, “Oh yeah, and a few bodies!”  We were crammed so tight that those of us at the back of the van almost rolled out on to the road.  Warzone was left with nothing but a look of resignation.  To be fair to the cop he looked like he was doing his best not to laugh and he was pretty good about the whole affair.  A few of us took a ride in the back of his car and followed behind the rest in Warzone's van to Corby.  We were kicked out as soon as we got to the town boundary.

I don't know if Warzone got a fine but he never moaned, it was just a shit end to a shit night.  Our relationship with him fizzled out a little afterwards.  The gigs became less and less frequent until they just stopped and for a while we had nothing until Franny Lagan started putting shows on at the Nags Head and a new era begun.  Andy's contribution to the scene was priceless to us though, he'd given us all our first taste of what it was like to be involved.  The years went by and we all moved on and Andy became just one of the many figures in our musical history.  In later years he would become a part of Corby Radio and once again his name became heavily associated with music in the town.  Anyone who ever worked with him spoke of him with great admiration.  His professionalism behind the board and his enthusiasm for music were unflinching.  I paid a visit to the station last time I was home to do an interview with Pat McMahon about amongst other things, my life with Speedhorn and growing up in Corby.  Pat told me that Andy had been on the sick for a while and that his outlook wasn't good.  I was sad to hear that.  You hope things will turn around but you know the deal when the person telling you the news has that look on their face.. I've seen it before.  Pat also told me that he'd learnt a great deal about radio DJing from Andy, about timing, technique, professionalism, the lot, and like everyone else, as a person he held him with the absolute highest of regard.

A part of our old scene has gone.  He will be missed.  Fuck cancer.

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.