Tuesday, December 20, 2016
It’s five am as I pull the car out of the garage and pull it around to the front of the house. In the two or three minutes it takes for me to run back upstairs to the flat and gather various instruments I have stored at the house the windscreen has frosted over. I sit and drink my coffee and listen to Vinyl FM whilst I wait for the window to once again become transparent. It’s just after six when we get to Arlanda, we’re in plenty of time for our seven fifty flight to Helsinki. Just as well, I hate being stressed for a flight, nothing worse.
This show was booked a long time ago, back at the start of the year. It’s one of those that has kind of just sat there, booked in the calendar and been forgotten about a little bit. We’ve had more booked this year than we have for a long time. It’s been a strange old summer. Played a few shows around Europe, and the bookings have all been pretty solid, at least on paper, but it’s played out as a bit of a bumpy ride. Cancelled festivals, lost money for flight tickets, lost baggage… The shows themselves have all been really good though, a lot of fun. And despite losing all of our gear on route to France, we now have it all back. Except the merchandise bag. For this trip to Helsinki, we’ve finally bitten the bullet and bought more merch, a morale sapping, final adieu to the best part of a grand. It’s been almost four months now. The merch ain’t coming back.
Still, it’s nice to at least have the new album to sell at shows in Europe. First time since it came out in April. And we’ve got some Finnish style white and blue shirts for sale. I have no idea how this show is going to turn out tonight though. The guy we’ve had contact with has been extremely correspondent and helpful. He seems very concerned with everything running smoothly for us. I knew we were on to something a bit special when he mailed and asked if there was any particular beer we wanted on the rider. Not often you hear that. He also asked if we wanted wine. I told him a bottle of red would be pleasant. He said he’d sort two. Thinking of Jon, I told him to make it one.
It turned out the flight here was a bit early but from a purely selfish point of view, it will be nice to get in Helsinki early and relax for a bit. On the flight over we bump into Gustav and Per from Kriget, two people Johan and I are well acquainted with from our days working at Debaser. We chatted with them for a while before boarding and as we’re sat on our row waiting for everyone else to get on board they shuffle past us down the aisle. I don’t know if Jon had been completely oblivious to us chatting with them before but when he spots Per he excitedly shouts out, “It’s the fucking Breach drummer!” Per hurries past, looking a tad embarrassed. Surely Jon can’t be on the pop already…
The quick hop over the water lands us in Helsinki just after ten am. We’ve got all day to do not much. Perfect. A couple of young lads, one of which being Otto the promoter, that works for the club we’re playing at picks us up and drives us the short distance into town. We share a little chat on the way in, they do indeed seem very friendly. It’s quickly apparent that this is really luxury stuff today. The kind of set up that leads to Vik calling us the “Foos”. We load the guitars and stuff into the back stage of the venue, before being driven over to the Radisson Blu, a couple of hundred yards back down the waterfront, where we’re staying tonight. We’re all pretty chuffed with this crack. As we were stood around outside the venue, the Nosturi, I had a quick reflection over days gone by. That venue was the first place I ever played outside of the UK, all the way back in 2000. Sixteen fucking years ago, almost to the day. How life has changed since then.
We check into to the hotel, me and Andy sharing a room, and sprawl out on to the beds for a little while. There is something quite heavenly about lazing on a hotel bed in the middle of the day with a few hours to kill. I’ve always loved hotels. After a quick shower and a cup of coffee Johan, Andy and I decide to make the most of some free time in Helsinki and go for a walk around town. Jon said he was going to stay at the hotel and study, he has his final exam next week, and he’s insanely nervous about it. Johan jokes that he’d hidden the complementary red wine that had greeted them in the room.
It’s one of those brisk winter days. The sun warms a little but it’s nuggets in the shadow. We walk around, half heartedly looking for somewhere to eat some lunch, passing a market and some record stores on the way. With no money to spare the record store is of little interest to me. I’ve almost deprogrammed myself from record purchasing this last couple of years, the combination of being a parent and a student at the same time simply not allowing for such luxuries as buying records. I try not to think about it too much. You tell yourself that the shelves of records you have at home contain more than enough to last you well into old age as it is. The fact is, I dream about the day I finish my degree and get a job and throw myself head first back into record collecting. Until then though…
We walk around for an hour or so before heading to some Mexican taco joint with decent veggie options that Andy had found on his phone. This is touring in 2016. We laugh about how back in the day you’d walk around in pure hope of finding somewhere decent to eat, and more often than not just end up somewhere random and shit. The age of direct information has a few upsides I guess. The taco place is a cool, little rustic joint, no frills, just decent food. We get stuck in and enjoy the warmth of both the food and the locale. It’s getting colder by the minute out there. After eating we cruise around a little more in search of some coffee before heading back. We end up in some sort of coffee show room place, which has a coffee counter but seems more focused on selling coffee making products, so we end up paying for a pretty fucking expensive, pretty fucking middle of the road coffee, before heading back. Johan cursing Finnish coffee as we do so.
We pick up Jon from the hotel and head walk over to the venue. It’s going to be a while before soundcheck so after fixing merch we hang around in the bar area and drink more coffee. Except Jon who is on the beer. I get talking to Otto for a while who explains that his nervousness is due to the fact that this is the first show he’s booked here. He runs the bar and they’ve given him the chance to book his own gigs here. He’s certainly nailed the whole “looking after the band” part anyway. He bashfully adds that he had to put his own band on the bill tonight since he’s a massive fan of Victims. He admits it’s a bit geeky and that he probably won’t do it again. I don’t know though, I don’t really have a problem with booking gigs and then putting your own band on. Happens all the time as far as I can see. And what the fuck, if nobody else can be bothered to get off their arse and book bands to come and play then why shouldn’t you put your own band on the bill? I had asked him way back about getting some other friends bands on the bill tonight though, since I have a bunch of friends here playing in great bands, but it seems like the bill was already sorted. My friend Niklas from Famine Year did manage to get his new band Harhat on the bill anyway.
Another band playing tonight, Bob Maelström, are here and hanging out. I have a vague connection to them through Kev, who has booked them at the Nest a couple of times and gets on well with them. Says they’re a bit strange but good lads. They are certainly a strange band, but what I had no idea about is that they have a whole “act” thing going on, where they portray themselves as suited up, toffee nosed, Swedish speaking aristocrats. They kind of remind me of the WWF wrestler The Million Dollar Man, but in grindcore band form. Out of act though they are the sweetest guys, as I soon find out upon meeting them. We get speaking about Kev and then quickly onto Speedhorn. One of the guys in the band reveals himself to be both a big Speedhorn and Victims fan. Can’t be too many of those around. He tells me that he saw us play here in 2000. He starts to probe me on the early Speedhorn records, seeming well impressed. Cracks me up. The conversation moves on to politics and the desperate state of the world after a while. He’d noticed the book I’m reading by Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler, which had nudged the conversation in that direction. All in all, we enjoy a pleasant half hour or so, chatting away. Of course, stories from touring Poland also come in to the arena after a while. I mean, you’re always going to end up on that subject at some point…
Soundcheck is taken care of with relative ease, the professional in house crew here making it very smooth. Afterwards we tuck in to some grub and enjoy the first beer of the night, a lovely little amber ale from a local brewery. I could easily devour another five or six but keep myself in line. To pass a bit of time we play a couple of games of table footy which stands in a darkened corner of the bar, requiring us to make our own floodlight system from the lamps on our phones, which are precariously balanced on various high tables and shelves around the pitch. It’s pretty hard going though, can barely see the ball, so give up after a couple of tense games.
I head to the merch table and sit there for a while. I really enjoy selling merch, it’s always a good place to meet new people. Which is pretty much the most fun part of travelling and playing in a punk band as far as I’m concerned. We seem to be shifting a good amount too. Pretty much all the bar staff have been up to buy various items. Otto wants to buy a couple of shirts and albums. We nod unanimously to each other that Otto will not be required to pay for these items, being that he’s taken such good care of us. He refuses to accept this fact though. After a round of quite frankly surreal bartering I get him down to only paying for the two albums and accepting the shirts for free. He sighs and gives in and accepts only paying 20 euros. I hand over the gear and before I can react he throws 40 euros into our case, laughs and runs away.
After a while I head upstairs to the top floor of this large building where our dressing room is located. It’s right up next to the big stage in the large room of the venue. We’re playing the smaller, bar stage tonight. Much better. The memories come flooding back when I get up to the dressing room above the stage though. I take a walk on to the large, high, empty stage, covered in darkness and stand there in silence looking out at the shadows of the empty room. Totally alone. It’s quite spooky in a way. I stand there, reflecting on the loss of youth, a little sad that a life once had has now left. And then I give myself a shake and head up to the dressing room and tuck into one of the IPA’s Otto has placed in the fridge and concur with my inner self that you just have to roll with life.
Jon is sat there with an old friend of his, some girl he knows from way back. She’s a good friend of Helena and Marko from Kylmä Sota and we get talking about them for a while. There are common friends wherever you go in this scene. She says that she was at The Cure concert last night and that Marko was there, steamboats. Explains his absence tonight. I literally spoke to Marko a couple of days ago and reminded him I was coming over. This was like Tuesday or something. He wrote, “What day you come again?”
“Saturday” I replied.
“OK, I write it down”. No sign of the fucker…
We sit around chatting for a while over beer and peanuts and then I head back downstairs. Another friend Petri, who sings in Famine Year, is now here, along with Niklas and the Harhat guys. It’s a bit of a shock to see Petri. He looks really down in the dumps and isn’t doing much to put a front on it. It’s almost a little comical because he’s normally so bubbly and jovial. It’s like that scene in Friends when the character Fun Bobby gets all depressed. Only a Friends geek like myself would understand. We chat away for a while, but can’t really get to the bottom of what’s going on. He sticks around to watch the Harhat set but then he has to leave. The more we drink through the night, the more the phrase, “Poor Petri” will appear in conversation, with the faintest of smirks. I hope he’s okay.
I really enjoy the Harhat set anyway. Pretty brutal sounding punk, with elements of crust, hardcore and noisepunk all thrown in. Niklas is a solid bass player! And the singer has a desperateness to his voice as he throws himself around the stage, that always agrees with me. It’s one of those rooms that has a vacuum sort of quality to it. It seems to suck all the noise into the space and compress the air out of it. I watch parts of the other three bands but spend most of my time by the merch table in the bar area on the other side of the wall, listening a little as I chat to various people.
We play around midnight and I’m starting to feel the tiredness of having only slept a few hours and being up all day. I’ve only had a couple of beers and Johan and I decide we need a little nip of something stronger before we hit the stage. I’m not one for shots any more but the Finnish do have this deliciously sweet liquorice booze that is very easy to drink. It hits the spot perfectly. The gig goes pretty well. Sounds solid on stage and we play well without maybe ever really hitting the absolute heights. If this were a football game it would be a solid two-nil win with a goal in each half. It’s professional without being wild. The crowd, although hard to see in the blue and black lit room, seem chuffed enough to keep shouting for more as we come to the end of the gig. I don’t see us going back on but to my surprise, we eventually do and play two more songs. Job well done. Simple as that.
There is a good crowd of people wanting merch afterwards and as Johan stands there selling, I head off and pick up a couple of beers with little chasers to keep them company. We have a good time standing there mingling and drinking, the pre-gig tiredness now just a distant memory. I have to laugh when one crust punk girl comes up to me to enquire about prices, “How much are the shirts?” she asks in very Finnish English. I tell her the price and then about twenty seconds of awkward silence follows. I break the silence and ask if she wants to buy one.
“I have no money”, she says. More awkward silence, followed by her walking away.
After an hour or so a very apologetic Otto tells us that they have to close the bar. It’s closing in on two am and I tell him that it’s more than fine. Tiredness has come back with avengence anyway. We see to that the stuff is all gathered neatly on stage and then start to leave. Niklas is pretty drunk and I can’t make out much of what he’s saying, but there is talk of an after party at some rock bar, or something. As it turns out I end up losing Niklas somewhere between getting our gear sorted and leaving the venue and we end up simply plodding back to the hotel. None of us were truly in the mood for an after party anyway. Now if only the bar at the hotel was still open…
The hotel bar and lobby is very brightly lit, which suggests that they’re closing up for the night. Therefore all the suited business types sat around drinking leads to some confusion. We ask the girl at the reception what the crack with the bar is and she tells us her name and to relay it to the bar in the restaurant and they’ll sort us out. We’re really not that bothered, could just as happily go to bed, but we don’t want to seem ungrateful so we pop our heads into the other room but find no staff willing to serve us. The reception lady clocks us coming back in the lobby empty handed and heading for the lift and comes running over to us to sort us with drinks, insisting we sit down and have a beer. Love Finland.
The beer is good but it’s a little wasted on us to be fair. I’m so tired by the point that it’s not as enjoyable as it should be. After struggling through the beer and some very weary conversation we all head upstairs to our rooms. I shower before bed knowing I’ll be grateful for the extra minutes in bed in the morning.
I sleep pretty well through the night, only waking up for a piss the once. It’s pitch black in the room and I haven’t the faintest idea of what the time is. On my way back to bed I bump into Andy coming the other way and we scare the shit out of each other. Hazily I slump back into bed and fall straight back asleep.
We enjoy the hotel breakfast in the morning whilst discussing plans for the next year. Johan and Pia are having another baby in February so things will be quiet for a while again. Johan and Andy seem to be very keen on using the time to write a new record of some kind. I can’t say I’m all that in the zone for writing just now, I’ve done two albums this last year and feel kind of worn out on it. But to be fair, the last Victims album was written over the space of five years and I like the rest of the guys, am in truth, a little bored of it already, despite the fact it’s only been out half a year. Guess we’ll see what the future brings. One new song that inspires is usually enough to get me back on track though.
Otto can’t make it to take us back to the airport but his companion from yesterday is here to drive us. Alex I think his name is. It’s almost a silent agreement that I take the front seat and take care of social duties. I do that with pleasure. I really love the opportunity to talk to new people and make new acquaintances. We get talking about subjects like the education and social security systems in our respective countries. It’s a very inciteful talk and treat for me to talk to him. The other guys all sit in the back quietly, listening to us babble on. Maybe sometimes I talk too much… Maybe sometimes I write too much...
We split up at the airport in different directions. Johan and Andy hitting the duty free stores, Jon hitting the bar and me plonking myself at the boarding gate with my book. I have a quick chat with Per and Gustav who are also returning from their gig and then settle down with the book. I have an exam on Tuesday, tomorrow I’ll dedicate to re-reading my final notes on Marx and Weber et al, but for now I tuck into to a bit of German social history. Sociology is the new punk rock.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
"Bought some chicken soup from the store, help yourself to a can if you want"
"Thanks dad but I don't eat that"
"What do you mean? You don't eat chicken soup?"
"No dad, I've been a vegetarian years. You know this"
"Yeah but there's no meat in that. It's just soup".
"Well it's chicken in the soup isn't it?"
"And you don't eat that? Why not?"
"Because it's meat dad".
"I literally have no answer to that statement"
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Home shows as always, are strange. Had a bit of a mixed day today, starting with taking Polly to this kids dance group thing in Bagarmossen. She seems to enjoy it for the most part, but it’s one of those things where they want you as the parent to partake in the dancing too. Makes you feel like a right prick. But Polly enjoying herself is the main thing. After that we went to Love, her friend from nursery’s birthday party. They live just across the road from us and we were hanging outside eating hot dogs and drinking coffee whilst the kids ran around playing, doing their thing. Whilst we were doing this Kev and Lee went for a walk in the woods. Lee texted me asking how they should lock the door, I wrote back saying they didn’t need to. “Crazy Swedes!” he wrote back. I guess you don’t leave your door unlocked in Glasgow. Or anywhere in the UK for that matter. Kev choked in amazement yesterday when I left Polly’s pram unlocked outside the house. “Fuck me, you did that at home and some fucker would nick the wheels off it!” Horrible people, as Luc would say.
All the kid stuff done with, we take the bus to the practice room. Polly and Jen are coming by later to the show, will be the first time Poll has seen me play a gig. Looking forward to seeing her there in her big cute ear protectors. Whilst on the way Luc texts asking if anyone can bring headache tablets to practice, saying his head is banging. I ask him if he’s hungover, knowing that his uncle is in town visiting. He vehemently denies this is the case though. “No, not at all. It’s just I was up at fucking seven am this morning to meet my uncle at Skansen at nine. And I didn’t get home until midnight last night!” Jesus Christ… He’s the oldest young person I know. He has a strict sleep routine in the week, where he’s tucked in bed by ten thirty. He cherishes a bit of shut eye. What he’s telling us now is that last night’s lack of sleep, just shy of seven hours, has caused this headache. Love him.
Luc turns up and we hang outside for a while, catching up with Lee whilst we wait for Stix, who is late. The fucker was at the Madness gig at Gröna Lund last night, where incidentally we’d been with Kev and Polly, but left before all the numpties started turning up for the show. We had good fun pissing around on the cups and saucers and the fun house etc. Poll seems to have inherited her mother’s love of carousels and roller coasters. Kev wasn’t so in to it, we got him on the ladybug mini coaster and he sat there cursing at it as we zipped about, Polly laughing her head off. Anyway, Vik turns up hungover to piss, clutching a can of ready made Gin and Tonic, saying Madness were shit. Kev just shakes his head and tuts, “Fucking Madness...daft”.
Practice goes pretty well anyway, Kev singing the songs pretty tight and Vik raucously clearing his throat between each block of songs. We pack up and take the bus with all our gear over to Cyklopen. Last time we did this it was packed and the old bag driving the bus showed no mercy, made us all alight at the front and struggle down the aisle with all the big cases. Thankfully this time the bus was empty. We get to Cyklopen a little while before it opens and hang out doing not a lot of anything until doors open and people start filling the place up. Ronny has organised the show nicely though, he’s cordoned off the room on the third floor as a band bar and hang out room. Perfect, we sit up there munching on crisps whilst Luc, Lee and Kev head off to Luc’s to pick up a box of merch. Stix is straight on the free beer, although he’s brought a couple of his own, actually went and bought a fucking cooler bag to bring them in, he’s been moaning about the lack of quality brew that normally accompanies these gigs. Unbelievable.
By the time Luc and the guys get back, Polly and Jen are already here. The weather isn’t too bad, so we’re hung outside for the most part, although we take a bit of a peak at Utanförskapet. The sound is a bit muffled. Even though you’re allowed to use your own gear here now, they’ve finally done away with that nonsense in-house combos rule, the place just isn’t really made for punk rock gigs. It’s a great house, I really love it, but the sound is always a downside. It does sound better than last time I was here though, I have to say. Utanförskapet are pretty good. Never been a big fan but they get people going, especially when they burn off a Svart Parad cover. Whenever I see the old boy on vocals with the silly hat doing the hand moves though I think of Jon, the two of them get on pretty well. Me and Luc met them outside a gig here once, both of them fucked. Jon introduced us, but the old boy totally blanked us. Cracked us up.
Next up is Strul and fuck me do they blow me away. It’s a bit emotional too, since their drummer, Granath, passed away a few months ago. Really strong of them to go on with the gig. Andreas starts by dedicating the gig to him and after that they just don’t let up. Great energy the whole show. Polly loves it too, bouncing up and down by the merch table with Jen, those big ear protectors cupping her adorable round cheeks. Makes your heart melt. The place is packed watching them, and still early, you know it’s going to to be a good night. Last nights hangovers reset to square one for a lot of the punks here.
I have one beer before we play, being early and having had no grub I need to take it easy. I’m looking forward to playing a set of songs primarily from the new album, first time for most of them, so I want it to be good. There’s a bit of a delay with the punks coming back at the start of our set, but they gradually filter in, although there aren’t as many people as there were for Strul. I’m not really sure we fit in with the crust crowd to be honest. I don’t know where we fit it, maybe a bit in-between scenes, I seem to have a habit of playing in bands like that. Anyway, the set feels pretty good, and a showing of mates are down the front. The Axe Rash guys, as always are dancing away smiling as we play. I have the feeling the sound gets a bit better as the set goes on too. More than anything, it’s great fun watching Cornelia get up and sing Magick Hour with us. It’s been awhile since she’s been on stage and she gets a great reception. Think she had a great time too.
Pretty satisfied with the gig I head outside to find Jen and Poll. I noticed Jen taking her out near the start of our set. Guess Poll digged Strul more than us. Jen said as soon as we started playing Poll asked her, “What’s pappa doing with his head?” and then after the first song said she was hungry and they went out to get food. Brilliant. To be fair, the vegan food truck outside was serving a mean kebab! Something I ravished a while later. Once packed up I take my guitars to the car over in the parking lot by the skate park. There is some punk there who is loitering about and he tries to start a conversation with me, but Poll has other ideas, she wants to show me something up on the hill. I apologise and leave him with Jen whilst Poll points to the skaters flying around the park. When I get back the punk, who is wearing a Victims shirt, is still there, obviously waiting for me. I say bye to the girls and then walk back with him. He asks me what band I play in. I tell him as well as the band he has emblazoned across his chest that I play in Diagnosis? Bastard! He tells me he’s never heard DB and doesn’t like the new Victims album. Good talk. He then tells me In Blood is his favourite Victims record and he’s tried to book us in Göteborg a few times but it hasn’t worked out for some reason. It has the slightest undertone of something, but I can’t put my finger on it. God knows… I need a beer.
I get back just as Sikas band Swordwielder is starting up. The place is fucking packed now. They seem to have a good buzz going on around them, chuffed for Sikas. They sound great as well, playing a lot slower, kind of Bolt Thrower meets Amebix. The only thing for me is that it goes on a bit too long, but then anything over twenty minutes I deem too long, but in general I enjoy the gig. Good band to drink beer to. And it's great to see Sikas play, he's owning it up there, totally in his element. The crowd are into it big time too. Kev reckons it's daft though. I look at Lee and he’s well into it, keeps smiling and saying to me, “This is more my pace!” I crack up, I didn’t really take into account that this show isn’t really his thing as far as music goes, but Lee is never one for letting that get in the way of things. He just loves hanging out. Fuck sakes, he’s straight edge and toured with Speedhorn for years, says a lot about his social skills.
After they’re done we hang out upstairs for a while, sitting down at a long table with Sikas and a few others and drinking away. There is a box of red wine which everybody seems to be ignoring but me. I enjoy a couple of glasses. It’s a good crack, Sikas is in good form. Always, always with that cheeky grin on his face. At some point he gets up from around the back of the table, squeezing himself out of the tight space to grab another beer and when he gets back instead of going through the hassle of squeezing back around the table to his spot on the bench sofa he simply vaults himself over the table WWF style, no hands, barely spilling a drop.
We catch Kev on the way down, he’s been watching Ursut. Afterwards he tells the guys that he much prefers their album on 45 rpm, saying it’s way better than when played on the intended 33. Kev has no truth filter when he’s had a few. The guys seemed to take it well though. Kev has a knack of talking shit to people without offending them. Fuck knows how he does it. Kev repeats, with the slightests of slurs, this information to us a few times, “I told em, they were alright about it.” He’s obviously more sauced up than I realised.
Anyway, we’re on our way down to watch Meanwhile. I was really looking forward to seeing them again since the last time we played with them, and they really don’t play very often, was with Forward and the sound was awful. Well, the sound was miniscule combo amps. It was going to be great to see them playing on their own, full gear again, even if the decibel limit intruded somewhat on the fun. The place was of course packed out by the time they start the set. I took a higher vantage point on the tables behind the merch stand, along with the Strul guys. The atmosphere in the place was great, everyone chuffed to see one of Sweden’s most legendary punk bands in many people’s, including own, opinion. Just as they’re about to start I catch a glimpse of Viktor down in the crowd, motioning over to Sikas on the other side of the room who I guess is heading to the bar, to get a beer. Sikas throws an open can of beer across the heads in the crowd, the width of the fucking room, and amazingly Vik raises both hands and plucks it out of the air without spilling a drop! I then see Luc a few rows of bodies behind him looking at me, who has also seen this, and we both stand there in jaw gaping amazement as Vik is chugging away on the beer. Cheeky fucking bastard!
The Meanwhile set is absolutely brilliant. So much better than last time. You can see Kenko is really into it this time around too. They just flatten the place. So much so that I can no longer stand hanging back here, and when I see Luc rolling about on top of the crowd for the second time I jump down and get stuck in. It’s not often I get into the old mosh pit these days, I am thirty-eight after all, but sometimes you just can’t help it. And the rest of the DB guys are there too, as well as a bunch of other friends who are probably a bit too old for this crack too. Good times. Afterwards, when the crowd is filtering away for fresh air, Kev mumbles in my ear, “If we had daft hair like their singer we’d be legends too”. Doubt it, buddy. Doubt it.
I head outside with Vik and Bea and tuck into one of those vegan kebabs, the three of us demolishing the fuckers and waxing lyrical about how good they are. They are fucking good. I catch up with my old friend Danne Söderberg, one of my oldest friends in Stockholm, one of those that due to life I rarely get the chance to see anymore. It’s a bummer but that’s the way it is. We’re constantly saying we should catch up over a coffee but then six months disappears in a whirlwind of kids, jobs, school, the rest... Until you’re back to messaging on social media about how we should catch up over a coffee. Funny thing is, we bumped into Danne, Jenina and their kids at Gröna Lund yesterday, totally random. He said he was coming tonight so it’s good to see he made it. Another funny thing is that Jenina mentioned to Kev how they’d been in a van together on tour way back when Kev was in Dead Inside. Jenina was friends with Symsey and Kay and worked in the same circles. Funny little punk rock world we live in.
Anyway, Danne is standing with Luc and Ragnar and some others and we get talking about various matters. I owe him a mix tape, me and Jen are doing a side each, and he’s asking where that is. I reassure him it’s on the way. Danne says he liked the gig, and then he makes my fucking day. He says he hears a lot of screamo in DB, which causes me to jump up and down with joy, since me and Kev are big screamo fans, proper screamo mind, and Luc and Vik hate it. Luc, rolling his eyes, jokes and says, “You obviously didn’t see the gig then?”, to which Danne replies, “You obviously haven’t heard screamo”. Fucking dancer!
The beers are flowing and for the most part we’re sat upstairs chirping like sparrows. I already know my head is going to hurt tomorrow but fuck it. The only other band I see are the headliners, Raw Power, the legendary Italian hardcore band from the 80’s. There is a split opinion about them, but I have a good time, and once again I’m down in the mosh pit, along with Christoffer DS13 who is a dedicated fan, as well as a bunch of others. Sure, the singer is a little stiff, but he’s old as fuck and credit to him for still attempting the odd hardcore jump now and again. More than anything, it’s just really good fun. There are so many friends here tonight who have travelled from all over, having a great time, that you just can’t help get carried away with the wave.
The place empties out pretty quickly after Raw Power, the curfew on Cyklopen is pretty tight due to sensitive neighbours and there is no chance of a late bar here. Ronny kindly directs everyone to the karaoke bar over in Högdalen and we all head there. The DB guys, Kev lagging behind pissed, Bea, Lee, Ragnar, Andreas from Strul, Andy Victims… Real good gang. The place is shady as fuck though. We turn up carrying cases of gear, merch etc. and the bouncers just look at us unimpressed, making sure they direct us upstairs to the bar with the karaoke, determined to keep us out of the lower floor where all the casual kids are hanging out. Fuck that. The upper floor has pretty much been invaded by punks from the gig. We grab some beers and find a booth, sit down and carry on gabbing. Andy and Bea are over by the bar, chatting to someone else, Luc is on the karaoke with this guy we met earlier who used to live in England and play drums in Beast As God, random. The two of them are singing Fight For Your Right by the Beasties, Luc headbanging between every line, waving his beer in the air. Right next to him, sat at the bar, is what must be the only non-punk in the place, some old guy looking bored as fuck. Luc is totally oblivious to him as he wafts his pint glass around. We crack up at the sight of it. Lee has seen it all a thousand times though, and being the routined straight-edger that he is, he’s up there filming it all for the sake of documentation.
I’m starting to get pretty pissed myself now, something that becomes quite apparent when I get up to go for a piss and when I come back Ragnar is holding my wallet in his hand. Bad deal. Thank fuck for Ragnar, I don’t need that anxiety in the morning, the hangover is going to be bad enough. We sit and have a bit more of the crack, the anxiety of nearly pissing my wallet away soon subsiding when I spot Kev sat sleeping in the booth next to ours. Lee whips his camera out again. The house lights come on at one am, and everyone shuffles out. There’s talk of more after party, our friend Julia is doing her best to round up the troops, but I know it’s time to go home.
We head over to the tube station from where Luc decides to take a cab home with the gear. Fuck knows what happens, but as he’s lugging his gear into the cab, a previously unseen quartet of local gangster youths are on our back, or more accurately, in our faces. It takes me a second to work out what the fuck is going on, especially as they are all talking English in ridiculous fake London accents. They must only be about sixteen. I say “only”, they would probably wipe the floor with us old farts. They seem upset, accusing Kev of having told them to “do one”. I guess they were in the way as Luc was trying to make his way to the cab or something. I’m obviously drunk because I get into it with them, taking the piss out of them, as Kev steadfastly inquires into where in London they’re from. They’ve apparently said they are, as a matter of fact, from London. Although they are quite obviously not. Kev is up close to one of them, asking over and over where they’re from, although he’s doing it in the friendliest voice he can muster, feigning interest, telling them he too lives in London. The kid is obviously wishing he hadn’t bothered, and is now sheepishly telling Kev to back up. This other kid, the apparent ringleader, keeps telling me to step back, get out of his face, but not actually threatening anything. I’m not threatening anything either, I’m not actually anywhere near his face. It’s all getting quite pathetic. Lee is with us, and he’s loving it. This is right up the Glaswegian’s street. He’s saying fuck all but out of the three of us, he’d be the first one into the swedge. I can sense he’s hoping it happens. There are two security guards stood around chatting right next to the whole scene, but they’re doing their best to ignore it. Luc is just getting on with sorting the cab out, pissed and uninterested. I challenge Ringleader as to where I should back up to, taking a step back at a time and asking, “Is here okay? Is here okay?” The booze filling me with adrenaline and giving me a buzz.
Ringleader actually utters the line, “Do you kna where you are?”. I just look at him, genuinely confused, “Er, I thought I was in Högdalen..” The mouth on these lads though you could swear you were in Lewisham. They obviously think Högdalen should be treated with respect. Pathetic. Kev is still in the smaller kids face asking where he’s from. This is starting to get a little boring by this point. Ringleader chirps in, “My dad is from Hayes”. Kev quaffs, “Hayes?! Hayes?! That’s in Kent!” looking like he’s about to piss himself laughing. The heat rescinds to a tepid simmer just as Vik and a mob of mates are seen entering the tube station boisterously, totally oblivious to us, a few feet away. The kid defeatedly shakes Kev’s hand and Ringleader skulks off, probably muttering something about Högdalen and Hayes. Total cock.
Luc is long gone and we head down to the train. Me and Lee ask Kev what that was all about really, confused as to how it all started. They seemed really upset by the fact Kev had allegedly told them to do one, something I’m sure was a misunderstanding. “Nah, I did tell em to do one” Kev says, totally unfazed. Fuck sakes, can’t believe we nearly all got into a scrap because of that old pillock. How would I explain that one to Polly in the morning, big fucking black eye on the go, stinking of beer. Shame immediately overcomes me. What the fuck was I playing at? I’m not a fighter. My ass would have been handed to me by those kids. The danger filter had been destroyed by the booze but now it’s back and I’m quickly sinking into the depths of parental guilt. It’s gone by the time we get down to the platform and begin to recount the story to a bemused, amused Vik. I can see he’s wishing he’d been up there with us since he likes a bit of a chat when he’s had drink.
Lee, Kev and I end up walking the twenty minutes from Skärmarbrink station since the 17 train to Kärrtorp is half hour away and Kev is dying for a piss. I don’t mind the walk anyway, always take walking over waiting around. We walk across Nytorpsgärde, a big recreation field that separates Kärrtorp and Skärmarbrink. It’s two am and the field is covered in a low lying dark mist. We walk through it, our feet getting wet in the grass, shivering slightly in the haunting cold. I’m fucking knackered by now. It really is time for bed. Just after a cup of tea and a bit of tv.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
The morning rush hour on the train out to the university. Rush hour on the Stockholm metro is not comparable in any way to the London tube or the New York City subway, not by a long shot, it’s never as torturously hot on the train here, but the squeeze can be just as bad. Getting on in Kärrtorp, third station in, I’m normally in with shot at a seat, my eyes darting around the train as soon as I alight. Anyone going north in Stockholm switching from the green to the red line knows that Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is the place to swap. It’s a simple matter of walking from one side of the platform to the other, instead of dealing with crush on the escalators at Slussen or Centralen. This is my morning routine now, every day of the week, as I make my way out to university campus.
Normally I use the time on the train, providing I get a seat, to study, but being that yesterday I wrote a four hour exam and today we only have an introductory lecture on the next module, I decided to treat myself to some music. I’ve been going through a big Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds period since I watched the 20,000 Days on Earth documentary a few weeks back. I sat on the train from Gamla Stan to University, drinking cheap black coffee and listening to their breathtakingly beautiful album The Boatman’s Call, an album I’ve criminally neglected in large part until now. It’s quite wonderful in it’s piano based minimalism, haunting songs and lyrics that send a chill down your spine as you sit there on the packed train amongst the crowd of faceless commuters.
As the mesmerising ballad Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere? began tinkling it’s first tones we were just pulling away from Ötermalmstorg Station. As a smattering of seats vacated a young girl moved from a few rows down and sat herself next to a young boy opposite me. The pain in their faces was immediately recognisable. They looked at each other in the eyes, sadness seemingly overwhelming them as Nick Cave whispered in my ears. It was quite obvious they were a young couple very much in love, very much in despair at whatever fight they’d had. The boy, a classic looking Scandinavian, so good looking and chiseled, stared at his phone, doing his best to give the impression he was reading whatever words were displayed on it. I could tell he wasn’t reading simply by the fact he didn’t blink, not even once. I observed them in the reflection of the window, the lights in the carriage providing a mirror in the darkness of the tunnel. The girl, darker with strikingly deep, brown eyes, stole a glance at him now and again. The boy continued to stare at his phone. “Where do we go now but nowhere?” It was like I was living in a scene of a love story movie or partaking in interactive theatre, but the soundtrack was solely in my head. The boy finally breaks through the painful barrier and looks his love in the eyes, giving her just enough encouragement to lean her head on his shoulder. “Where do we go now but nowhere?” As Nick Cave sung the last lines of the song the girl mouthed “Sorry” to the boy, and the train pulled into Tekniska Högskolan Station, and they slowly rose from their seats as the piano’s final note rang out into silence. The timing was that perfect, just like in a love story movie.
Then they were gone and in the gap between the songs the hum of the train and the commuters talking become audible once again.
Friday, September 2, 2016
And that is not likely to change in the near future. Although I understand of course that I’m writing right at this very point in time, but I don’t intend to make it a long one. The frequency of my writing on here (which when home from tour has rarely been more than a couple of times a month, granted), is possibly about to drop another gear since this week I started studying towards a degree in sociology and ethnology at Stockholm University. And judging from the first week of the introductory course the pace is going to be quite fucking frantic, what with family, a couple of bands and the extra job at the shelter to fit in and all.
That said, the ideas for things to write about on here are constantly flowing so I’ll try and find the time to get them out, now and again. Either that, or I’ll simply try to contain myself to shorter pieces. But that doesn’t always quite work out for the rambling, bumbling human being that is me.
This first week at “uni” has been a bit of an eye opener. I always hated when my friends and aquaintances of youth that became students used to call it uni, always hated the whole thing with "students" for that matter, thought they were all a bunch of pretentious wankers, probably because I didn’t belong to that group and felt left out. Quite obviously an inferiority complex on my part. Anyway, this first week I’ve been filled with equal parts enthusiasm and self doubt. The schedule is tough, especially the introductory course, as will be the challenge of writing in a more advanced, academic form of Swedish. But the toughest thing to get past in the beginning is the feeling of not belonging. Which is actually one of the sociological themes we’ve touched upon in this first week. Pierre Bourdieau observed as part of his theory on cultural capital, that children from academic families are more likely to go into academia than children who are raised in non-academic families. It makes sense that most children are shaped by the language and environment they are brought up in. Continuing that theory, university students that have been raised in non-academic environments are often left with a feeling of not belonging. And that’s how I felt for a brief moment as I sat on the lawns of the university grounds for lunch, taking in the sun, eating a sandwich, with no one to talk to. I felt both old and a little alone. The feeling soon passed as a half hour later I was partaking in my first seminar and we had been split up into groups to tackle our first examination work. The three others I was coupled with turned out to be very nice young people indeed. I still felt old, but no longer alone.
I’m really into sociology, I think it’s fantastically interesting. I think punk rock has a lot to attribute to that particular interest. As too has my good friend and fellow punk Karl Broome who is himself a professor in the subject. I could listen to Karl talk for hours about the theories of Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and other such giants. Hopefully I’ll get through this first introductory course relatively unscathed and the self doubt will peel away a little. The course ends with a verbal exam and the biggest fear there is making a cunt of yourself in front of others and being doused in shame. But really, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s not exactly a matter of life and death is it? I've had far worse experiences in my life than a verbal exam in a subject and level of education I'm still relatively fresh in, chopping cabbages in half for eight hours a day for one thing...
The first week is now over and for the most part it has been enjoyable. Next week will be a challenge, we have a report to hand in on Monday, followed by opposing that and another group’s work on Wednesday, followed by the verbal exam on Friday. Once past that I have around one hundred and fifty pages to read and devour for the first lecture of the next course that begins the following Monday. But after that things should plane out a little, and then, once I’ve found my feet I should be able to find the time to write on here now and again. Writing here is after all predominantly for myself. It's the closest thing I have in my life to therapy.
One thing did tickle me as I was leaving campus a couple of days ago. The lawns were full of young people engrossed in activities like watersliding down flumes handmade out of plastic sheeting, getting themselves both drenched and drunk in the process. I glanced at them as I hurried my way to the tube station, back still aching from the Victims show at Cyklopen a few days earlier, and thought, “There’s no fucking chance I’ll be signing up for any of that! Way too fucking old. My back couldn’t take it for one thing”. Rubbish back or not, that carry on was never my bag. I would just as unlikely have been involved with those kind of group activites had I gone to uni twenty years ago. Fucking students...
Monday, July 18, 2016
Managed to get my ass out of bed and into town with Jen this morning. Felt pretty knackered when I woke up but it was worth it. Driving out to Skavsta airport in Nyköping today, or Stockholm if you’d be daft enough to believe Ryanair, so a couple of hours shaking of any potential hangover was probably required. We sat and had a really nice breakfast at this place Greasy Spoon, just down the road from Kafe 44 on Söder. Not often the two of us get to do this kind of thing with Polly running the show, I would have felt shit if I’d decided to stay in bed for an extra couple of hours.
Luc texts me in the morning to tell me that he and Kev ended up in some karaoke bar in Högdalen, pissed up with the Axe Rash guys, Kev getting all emotional, saying it was important for him to have other friends in Stockholm besides us lot. Can only imagine the scene… I meet Jon out at the practice space at midday. I find him sat outside on a bench, face red as Santa’s suit. “Late night last night?” I ask him. “Nah, not at all. We left around twelve”. Funny that, I left at one and they were still there then. Andy is already here so we pack the gear into the back of my car and get going. We’re leaving well early, our flight isn’t until five thirty but there has been a bit of chaos by Södertälje bridge, some numpty drive lorry driver ploughed straight into it, leaving the road closed for the summer, which has led to the traffic authorities warning that the journey to Skavsta could take four times as long as usual. Being Friday afternoon we’re taking no chances. As it happens, the journey is smooth. Only takes a couple of hours, Andy up front with me, Jon sleeping in the back, stinking of booze. Andy is laughing about last night, says he left a few songs into Forward because he couldn’t stand the piss sound anymore, says as he was heading home he found Marku the Finn cuddling the lamp post by the zebra crossing outside Cyklopen. Fuck knows how that journey up to Umeå is going to pan out for the guys today.
Johan is meeting us at the airport since he came out last night with the family for what will be the start of their holiday once we get back from Poland. Given that we’re well ahead of time, and given that we’ve already received a text from Wizz Air saying that the flight is delayed until seven pm, we drive into town to find an alternative to eating a shite lunch at the airport. As we’re walking through the small town centre of Nyköping, the birthplace of Victims itself, Andy remarks that he wouldn’t be surprised if we bumped into his dad. Literally two minutes later Andy points over to an old boy sat outside a Greek restaurant with a pint in his hand, “There he is!” We head over to say hello to him. Apparently this is his regular haunt. He’s retired now and does the odd job for the guys who run the place in exchange for the odd brew.
We head over to a kebab/pizza place called Campino’s. Well it’s called something else now, but as far as Nyköping legend goes it’s called Campino’s. This is where you hung out after closing hours back in the day, where the party continued, everyone bringing beer in with them. The pizza is good anyway, although I unintentionally commit blasphemy by not ordering the kebab sauce. A mistake Jon and Andy avoid, both being seasoned in the Nyköping scene.
By the time we get to the airport it’s just around four. Even though the flight is delayed we still have to check in at the regular time. It’s not until we’ve parked in the mid term parking lot that we remember that we have nine pieces of baggage and only three pairs of hands. We stuff the bass pedal into Jon’s big holdall along with the merch suitcase Uriah, and I crack up as he whips the thing onto his back and struggles along with it and a couple of other items. Thankfully some ignorant arse has left their luggage trolley in the car park and Jon is quickly relieved of his last. We meet up with Johan outside the airport entrance and he tells us that he’s already asked about check in and been told you have to do it online. Of course, we’re too late to now do that, being that the cutoff point for that is two hours before the scheduled departure. The guy working the desk if only too happy to tell us that it will cost five hundred fucking kronors per person. After some absolutely pointless arguing we head over to the service desk and pay the bill, although it actually comes to one thousand four, instead of two thousand. I guess that’s some sort of tactic to take the sting out of the price. The boy back at check in beaming again as we approach. I ask him if he knows why the flight is delayed, he jokes, “I’m not actually the pilot, how would I know?” Can’t work out if I like this guy or if I despise every last morsel of him.
Once sorted we head over to the bar for a much needed beer. As fucking cack as this tiny aiport is the patio outside looks inviting. “That they have the nerve to charge “real airport” prices at this place is a scandal!” grumbles Andy behind me as we’re stood in line for a pint. It is nice to sit down outside with a cold one and have a chat though. Still no message on the flight delay though, and longer and we’ll be cutting it a bit fine with set time, which is due for ten twenty. The flight in only short though, and the airport is supposedly a half hour from the venue so hopefully we’ll be fine. Have to say though, these last few trips with Victims haven’t exactly gone smoothly.
I’d almost forgotten how spine tinglingly rotten this airport is. At one time in my life I was through here as much as twice a month, when I’d first met Jen and still had Speedhorn in the UK. Then I had no other choice than Ryanair. I haven’t flown with that abomination of a company since Speedhorn finished, and this is the first time I’ve been back here in a passenger capacity since. Despite the fact that a few more airlines have started operating out of here and more and more departures with it, the building hasn’t grown any. It was always small but now it feels tiny and the place is fucking swarming. I don’t fancy the barman’s job much, fucking noise in here would be enough to drive you to a flamethrower. I therefore do nothing to stress the guy over the extremely long time it’s taking to pour my Guinness.
The flight leaves at seven and only takes forty five minutes. Filip is waiting for us on the other side of customs, a big old smile on his face. It’s been a while. Always good to see him. Filip is a real staple of the punk community in Europe. We tried to make this fest of his work last year but we just couldn’t work it out with our schedule. Glad to be here now anyway. Filip leads us out to his road worn punk van and as we throw our bags into the back Jon’s eyes light up at the stacks of beer crates inside. Warm or not Jon is no mood to haggle and he does the honours and pulls out four of the bastards. I abstain but Johan happily takes one, as does Andy who is sat up front.
We arrive at the festival which is at a venue the guys played with Rotten Sound back in 2008, the last proper tour before I joined. It’s a decent sized place with a high stage in a room that could probably hold around eight hundred with the narrow balcony open. There are a bunch of stalls out back in the parking lot selling merch, food and beer and plenty of punks hanging around. We dump our stuff in the backstage room as Misantropic from Umeå are onstage doing their thing. Sounds solid as fuck from the side of the stage and they seem to be having a great time playing to a room full of sweaty punks. One of the guys running the fest gives us an envelope of passes, beer and food tickets and then heads off again. Not really knowing where to set merch up Johan and I head off in search of somewhere to dump it once Misantropic have finished but can’t really find a decent location. The stalls outside are all distros and the couple of tables up on the balcony feel completely out of the way, where nobody will find them. We head back outside and see our fellow Swedes stood up against the wall, a t-shirt gaffa taped to said wall behind them, one of the guys selling shirts, the other holding them over their arm. We decide we’ll do the same after we’ve played, hopefully the rain that is just starting to drizzle down won’t get any heavier.
The guys from Torso are lying about backstage looking kind of bored. They’ve been out on the road in Europe for almost a month now and they’ve been hanging out here all day. We met them when they played with us in Oakland a couple of months ago and it’s really nice to see them again. Great people. The drummer Giacomo is very bubbly, full of energy, and seems to have a smile surgically implanted on his mug. He’s bouncing around behind the stage whilst the others lay about on the sofa in the backstage room. I’m really fucking hungry but it’s far too close to gig time to eat dinner now and not wanting to drink beer on an empty stomach I opt for coffee. Andy is good enough to head off into the crowd with an empty kettle in search of water. It would have been nice if we’d arrived on time and had time to eat before but what can you do. I do feel pretty weak from the lack of food though, thankfully Johan has some of his protein bars in his bag and he hands me one. It fucking saves me. Ten minutes later we’re up on stage setting up and I feel ready to kick the shit out of this gig. There is a good buzz in the room as we line check the gear and you just want to get going. Our old friend Milosz from Mourne appears just before we start and approaches us all separately wishing us a good show before we play. He looks a little tipsy, the smile and the cheeky eyes giving it away.
Sometimes the sound on stage is so good it’s like you’re miming to a record. It’s like the guitar just plays itself it’s so easy. What a difference from this time yesterday! The room is full and the crowd are going crazy. Jon acknowledges them and says, “It’s good to be back in Gdynia”. It truly is. The only thing holding me back tonight is the fact that we have promised an extra special forty minute set. Given the fact that we’re headlining we couldn’t really get away with twenty five minutes, considering they’re paying for flights, hotel and fee on top of that and given the fact that Doom are headlining tomorrow and playing for an hour. We buffed up the set with four songs making it an eighteen song setlist, must be some sort of record for us. To think that we regularly played an hour with Speedhorn back in the day. How the fuck did we not bore everyone including ourselves to sleep? Anyway, even holding back a little, I feel a crick in my fucking neck about five songs in and it gives me hassle the rest of the set. The lamps on stage are hot as fucking lava aswell and I swear I can feel my bonce burning. That aside, it’s a fucking great gig. Even at forty minutes I feel I could do another couple of songs but when we leave the stage the lights come on and people start to shuffle off. Apart from a couple down front who are pleading for Andy’s drumsticks. All in all, a nice way to finish off this run of shows we’ve been playing since April.
I cool down and then enjoy watching Torso from the side of the stage, just in front of the PA. They sound great and are tight as fuck. Giacomo is an extremely entertaining drummer, full of energy and bouncing all over the kit. The guitarist full of moves, doing the high kick thing made famous by the hardcore crowd. I can’t help but admire him with his moves whilst at the same time playing fast and tight as fuck. Being straight edge and not an unfit twat like myself must make playing that way a lot easier. I wonder if I’ll ever pack in drinking completely and get a bit healthier, it’s something I think about more the older I get. Saying that, it’s something I’ve thought about many times over the years, especially on the back of a hangover. Once when we were young kids in Corby we decided to quit drinking for a while. We actually lasted a few weeks but then when we gave in and started up again my mate Slaven reasoned whilst carressing his pint, “It’s who we are Gaz, there’s no point denying our heritage”, as he looked round the Ev’s at the crowd of old boys long since defeated by it.
After Torso I head outside and decide it’s time to cash in some tickets and get some grub, and a beer to wash it down. I find the other three guys stood outside shifting some merch and talking to a punters. There is still a drizzle in the night air but it’s far from cold. Milosz finds us, looking even more pissed by this point, the cheeky smile all but faded away and his usual hardened look back in place. Part of Milosz charm is undoubtedbly his bleak outlook on life. He fingers Jon’s t-shirt and snorts, “What’s this?” Before Jon can answer he continues, “I get it. Stoner rock”. Jon is actually wearing a Morbid Angel “Altars of Madness” t-shirt, leaving Jon all the more confused. He then turns his stare on me, “What are you going to write about me this time?” referring to when we last met on tour in the States. Milosz had recently cut his dreadlocks off, something that gave our driver and Milosz old friend Matt cause to berate him. It all got taken the wrong way, things were said and written. What I found the funniest was Matt’s reaction to Milosz new hair cut, which I personally found very dashing. Anyway, things have moved on since then and last time I saw Matt he was wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans. I’d like to think we had a positive influence on him.
We miss the first chance of a ride back to Fillip’s place where we’re sleeping since he’s headed off to pick the Doom guys up from the airport. We’re all staying at the holiday resort he ownes and lives at. I could honestly have taken the ride but the other guys seem to be in the mood for anohter beer. Oscar from Ursut and some other Swedes come up and say heloo, he’s playing here with his other band tomorrow. He’s obviously had a few to drink and keeps bangning on about how good we were, but it’s really over the top. “I walked in when you were playing and you were so good I was embarrassed!” His girlfriend rightly points out that that makes no sense. It’s fun hanging out with them for a while though. This other punk girl who is with them introduces herself to me as Moa. She tells me she works with K-Town Hardcore Fest and would love to have us play. That makes two of us, I tell her. We chat for a while and say we’ll stay in touch. Who knows, I might be able to get both DB and Victims on. That would be a hoot to say the least.
Our ride is ready to take us to Fillip’s around one am. It’s about a half hour ride and there are warm beers to pass around in the dark. I abstain again, waiting for the cold stuff that Fillip has on tap at his place. When we arrive Fillip takes us to our challet and then we head back to his house where the Doom guys are already drinking. Last time we were here it was after our own gig iN Gdynia and Jen and Stachel were with us, we had a fantastic night chilling out in the bar, Jon playing bartender behind the pump. I’d hoped that’s where we would be hanging out tonight but I guess with all the people here it’s easier for Fillip to keep us at his house, away from the other guests. Apart from the Doom guys, baring Dennis, there are a bunch of other punks hanging aroud drinking beer that is regularly arriving on trays and tucking into the grub laid out on the dining table.
Johan, Jon and I are stood over in the kitchen area when some long haired guys wearing glasses approaches me and asks if I like hot food, he’s carrying a little bowl of sauce with him. Only too happy I tuck in. He tells me that he’s branching out into the hot sauce business and this is his own recipe. I soon come to realise that this friendly chap I’m talking too is the infamous Mike Champagne, a name I’ve heard many times about the scene and a friend of many of my own. It’s a pleasure to finally meet him. We spend the next hour or so chatting away, mainly about hot sauce and a little on other subjects, like Andy’s old band Suicide Blitz, it seems Mike is one of the few people who liked that band…
There is another guy here tonight, some English guy, who knows Andy from way back it seems. Andy tells me that they were talking about me a while before, the guy obviously curious as to the story with the English guy in Victims. Andy says when he told him I used to be in Speedhorn the guy looked absolutely shocked, or even horrified. Speedhorn isn’t always too good for my punk rock credentials, especially since the band was often ignorantly thrown in with the nu-metal crowd, which is our own fault in essence since we did indeed tour and play a bunch of shows with a bunch of horrible bands back in the day. Andy assured him that I was okay, though, says to me, “I told him you were the most hardcore of the lot of us”. Me and English barely say a word to each other though, I feel too embarrassed to approach him. Silly really.
Obviously having comfortable beds and a late afternoon flight home tomorrow we make the most of a good night’s sleep and head to bed around four thirty. As I said, time off from our kids is never spent catching up on sleep…
I sleep solidly through unttil eleven thirty, feeling pretty damn good when I wake up. I’m the first to rise too. I make the most of it and jump in the shower. When the rest awake we head back over to Fillip’s and sit down to breakfast with Scoot and Bry from Doom. They really are the nicest bunch of people you could meet. Just as we’re finishing up Dennis arrives, usual tired look on his face. He asks us when we’re playing and when Andy says we already played last night and we’re soon heading home Dennis moans, “Aaargh, you guys are the only reason to be here!” Sweet he is. We say our goodbyes to the guys and head back to the room to get our gear. We pass Stick on the way who is looking giddish, don’t know if he’s stoned or what. “Byeeee” he says, giving a clown like wave and giggling like a child up to no good.
This is the last trip for a while. We’ve been busier since April than we have for the last four years. It’s been good to be out playing with the guys again, and the gigs have been a lot of fun, even if getting to them, with all our gear, has been entirely free of hassle. Still, I’m looking forward to a bit of a break now. I’m enjoying working at the homeless shelter, more than I’ve enjoyed any job for a long time, and I’m looking forward to going down to Italy on holiday with the girls in a couple of weeks. Summer is already half way done and before I know it I’ll be starting university for the first time in my life. Twenty years after my mates in Corby took the plunge. I’m really looking forward to studying sociology at Stockholm University. As much as it will be a challenge it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. I think I will be okay.
Next time we play with Victims will be at the end of August, just before I start uni, at Cyklopen. If our demands over using our own gear are met. Otherwise the next show will be in September, with DB, at Cyklopen. We’ll play whatever the deal, although it would be nice to play with a good sound, we’not going to cancel the gig if not. Unlike Victims, who will. I guess the difference is, Victims have been around almost twenty years and have done fuck knows how many gigs of that type. After that amount of time I think you’ve earned the right to have expectations from a show. We’ll see what happens with it. Like Johan said on the way home, “We’ll turn up at the venue with our gear. If they refuse to let us load it up on stage, we’ll leave”. Can’t get much clearer than that.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
We had a quick run through of the set at our space in the afternoon before heading over to the gig. I’ve been working loads at the homeless shelter since finishing school for the summer so have hardly had time to think about this gig, or the Victims show in Poland tomorrow… Plate full as always. Viktor is delighting in showing us pics of the Forward guys. It’s the first time they’ve ever made the trip over from Japan to Scandinavia and they seem pretty chuffed. Kimingo, the drummer has plastered his Instagram account documenting the trip so far, loads of beer involved. Christoffer is putting them up at his place and he texted me earlier saying that he’d spent a couple of hours making them dinner last night, all ready for their arrival after their flight from Osaka, but when they turned up they said they wanted drugs, not grub. No hungry. A lot of the Japanese bands seem to go wild when they travel. Take it to the extreme. The pics from Christoffers flat of Kimingo and the guys getting wasted and clearly loving it, with their host sat in the background looking flummoxed had us all creasing up.
The practice went well anyway, just one quick blast through the set. We get the bus over to Cyklopen in Högdalen with the guitars and drum stuff, plus Johan’s bass which he has swapped with Eric Black Breath who is here on a short holiday with Jude after their tour. They were actually by my place on Tuesday for a very quick cup of coffee. Jon was supposed to take the bass with him after Victims practice on Tuesday, since the guys are staying at his place, but Johan had misplaced his guitar. All in a panic he assumed that somebody had lent it but it turned out it was in the practice space all along, stood in it’s case against the wall, so now we’re lugging it over to the gig where Eric will pick it up. Johan had a bit of a brass on about the whole affair. He’d even been on Facebook asking if someone had lent it.. We laugh at ourselves, as we struggle onto a packed bus with a load of large cases. Just like being on one of Kev's tours in the UK again. I was hoping the driver would have a little sympathy with our situation and let us hop on the middle of the bus but she doesn’t even flinch as we fumble with our travelcards at the front and then shuffle awkwardly down the aisle with all the gear. Miserable cow.
We’re the first to arrive at Cyklopen besides Ronny and the sound guy. Ronny is busy making dinner and Vik is eager to sink a cold beer, the hot weather giving him a thirst. Unfortunately all there is at the minute is a bottle of alcohol free Mariestad. At least it’s cold. The sound guy is looking a little bashful going about his business and he soon asks if anyone can help him hook up some cables. Ronny is chopping an onion and the rest of us just pretend we haven’t heard him. Luc, obviously feeling guilty, goes over to help him. The rest of us fuck off outside and go for a stroll around the area. Total wankers. When we get back a while later Luc looks over at us, and I can tell what he’s thinking. Since there are no other bands around we say that we can soundcheck. Probably a good idea anyway given the ridiculous backline policy this place has…
Apparently they get a lot of complaints from the neighbours way over on the other side of the skate park by Högdalen station. In an alleged attempt to curtail this problem they demand that any bands playing use their little in-house combo amps. It’s an absurd situation really, given the fact that there is still a full sized drum kit set up beside the piddling little things. It’s not as if the volume will ever fall below the sound of the snare drum and cymbals. And of course, it’s not about volume, but about sound, and the combo amps sounds shit. It’s just a real nonsense stance the house has taken, and from what I can make out it actually has more to do with the fact that the rest of the groups operating here don’t want the place to host gigs. Or punk gigs at least. But then it would be better that they just didn’t allow them instead of this nonsense solution. I love Cyklopen, it’s a great place with lots of brilliant stuff going on, I’ve been here with Polly when they have kids disco and stuff, but the house isn’t designed for punk gigs. It must be a nightmare for the people putting the gigs on to constantly have to be embarrassed telling touring bands that they have to play on the toy amps. As is the case for the sound guy tonight when Forward turn up.
The guys come walking in, looking chuffed, all of them clutching a beer, Christoffer walking in behind them wearing short shorts and a bewildered smile. Kimingo walks up to each of us in turn and shakes hands with us, grinning like a child in a sweet shop. I try to engage him in chat, “So, you stayed at Christoffer’s place last night?”
“Very fancy!” Kimingo replies, still smiling and giving me the big thumb. The rest of the guys check the place out whilst Ishiya pulls out a little mirror and starts to fix his mohawk into place. I hear Souichi the guitarist talking to the sound guy and looking at the little amp on stage. The guy, awkwardly explains that he’ll have to play on this little thing and Souichi in perfect Japanese accent replies, “Awwww. Little amp. I normally play Marshall.” He’s not being a dick though, he’s totally nice about it and just gets on with it.
When they soundcheck it’s a bit of a struggle with the sound, but with a bit of tweaking it gets a little better. A little. This big Finnish punk guy, called Marku, who is an old friend of the scene and an avid record collector, is fucking wasted already and stands there in front of the stage going crazy as Forward soundcheck, much to the guys amusement. When they’re done Marku gives a rapturous shout of appreciation. Apparently he’s also staying at Christoffers and making the trip up north with them and DS-13 tomorrow. The Glorious guys have turned up, with Jonas and Love from Skit Kids in tow, looking a little bemused by the backline situation, as everyone else. Jonas has a quick peek at the stage and then says to me, “Peavey Bandit, that’s a nice one”. I can’t tell if he’s being genuine, just being kind, or simply taking the piss. They all fuck off again anyway and leave us to soundcheck.
All things considered, it doesn’t sound too bad. Our friend Fabbe lending his ears and opinion on the matter. When we’re done we fuck off to Hank’s Heaven pub, having eaten a bit of Ronny’s grub whilst Forward were soundchecking. I’m with Vik, gagging for a beer. As we leave the place I notice a handwritten sign to patrons of Cyklopen that reads, “If you’re going for a piss in the woods, take a friend”. Never been aware of any trouble here. Strange. Although Nazis did burn down the old place where Cyklopen was housed… Hence they built this place to be fireproof, the thick plastic walls lending the place a greenhouse like feel.
I’d been hoping for a cold pint of draught beer but the fucking tap is off, so have to settle for a bottle of Mariestad, this time with alcohol, but still not really what I’d been looking forward too. Still, it does the job. Hilda from Axe Rash meets us at the pub and we joke with her that we’re not cool enough for those guys anymore since they’re only interested in speaking to Kev. He’d put them on at the Nest a while ago and it seems like they all hit it off pretty merrily. Most people hit off pretty well with Kev though, if you know how to take him. We just have the one and then head back to the gig in time to see Glorious? There are a lot of people hanging in and around the house, lots of old friends, lots of old faces from the scene that you don’t always see anymore but that’s the pull of having a legendary Japanese band on the bill. And Meanwhile of course.
It’s great catching up with everyone. To think I’d considered taking the car to the gig tonight.. I’m soon into beers two and three, chugging them down and doing my best to ignore the fact they’re a touch on the warm side. It’s one of those nights where everyone seems to be here, absolutely magic hanging out. Even Jon is here. Will be the first time he’s ever seen us play I think. Although, he does live just down the road from here, seems like it takes something pretty special to get him to go to a gig that isn’t at Cyklopen these days.
Glorious? play to a pretty packed house, something I’m sure Ronny is relieved about. He was sweating the fact that nobody had bought advance tickets and had gone as far as selling parts of his record collection off to cover the costs for the Forward guys. Quite a remarkable commitment from the guy. Been doing it ten years this year, which sadly but understandably will be his last. We’re actually playing his ten year fest with DB here at Cyklopen in September, making it three times for me here in as many months… All going well. Anyway, Glorious? play noisy d-beat, although with the volume set to low, it’s not all that noisy. The thing that impresses me the most with Glorious?, to be fair it’s the most impressive thing I’ve seen in ages full stop, is the fact the gloriously (pun) moustachioed bass player is playing with a cast on his arm. Fucking broken arm and there he is, rocking away like fuck. Complete and utter respect to that guy!
The guys play for a while, and the running order is already behind track, this being the case Ronny asks Luc if we can get things moving between sets. Luc assures him that we’ll be up and done with the gig before anyone notices. As it is, there aren’t a whole load of people in the place when we start the show, I guess everyone outside taking air between bands haven’t noticed that we’ve started. Either that or simply nobody gives a piss. It gets better as the show goes on though, the guys from Axe Rash down front enjoying themselves amongst a few others. It feels pretty frustrating knowing that the sound out front is probably cack, since up on stage it actually sounds pretty good. I have a good time anyway, and it seems the other guys in the band do too. Fun to play a couple of songs from the new album, although I was hoping to play more than just the three. Next gig in September I’m hoping we play predominantly new material. Fun to see Kenko at the front of the stage, giving signs to Luc and Vik about the sound. Being that he recorded the new record he has an inside idea of how the chaos is supposed to come across. All in all, a good show, one of the better Stockholm shows we’ve played, at least from our perspective on stage.
The place is packed again for Meanwhile, as you’d expect, it’s their first show in ages. I climb up on a bench behind the merch and watch from above the crowd. A couple of beers on the way and I’m having a great time. Jocke the singer cracks me up when he introduces a song, “This is from our new album, from ten years ago”. The sound, not to bang on about it, is not great, by any stretch. But I don’t really care, it’s Meanwhile, and I have a great time watching them. Marku the Finn seems to be flagging though, he’s now stood to the side of the stage looking like he’s fighting sleep. Somewhere near the end Domar, stood up front as always, takes the mic and asks for a minutes silence for Granath from Strul, Giftgasattack and many others, who sadly passed away yesterday. Not a shock by any means, but very sad. Another fallen compatriot. That observed, the guys finish off the gig with a few of the old Dischange songs, bringing a fun show to an end.
Afterwards Stefan from Trash Palace record store, pissed out of his mind, is up on stage ranting about supporting Ronny and making sure everyone comes to his Dead Rhythm Club ten year anniversary gig, despairing at the fact that he’s done loads for the scene and gets nothing back, how he had to sell his record collection to make this gig work. Incidentally, it was Stefan who bought his collection from him…
I don’t even realise Forward have started until Ishiya goes flying past me in the crowd and out the door with the mic singing to the punks stood outside. As fun as it is watching the guys, and being in the midst of greatness, it’s fucking Ishiya Deathside after all, the gig kind of goes by me a little. It’s just hard to get into when you can barely hear the guitar. And what a fucking guitarist he is too. Total fucking legend.
After the gig we hang outside for a while, enjoying the cool night air. The beer in the bar has pretty much dried up, Ronny bemoaning the fact that so few wrote themselves up to the gig’s mailing list saying they were coming, too right and all. In all honesty, I don’t need any more than the six beers I’ve already drunk. We’re heading to Poland tomorrow and I’m driving the guys to Skavsta and could do without the hangover. I still make my classic move and decline the train Jen is taking home, saying I’ll be on the next one. I’ve made this mistake so many fucking times over the fifteen years we’ve been together. Tonight though, it’s not about staying for one last beer, it’s just really nice hanging and chatting with everyone. Somehow a beer finds its way into my hand anyway though. Outside, hanging with Eric and Jude, Ragnar and a bunch of others I watch the clock slowly tick by the next train from Högdalen’s departure a half hour later and then end up having to make a dash just before the next one. Luc asks me how long I have, “Six minutes”, I hastily reply as I say bye to everyone and run off with two guitar cases towards the station. "Six minutes?" I hear Luc quaffing as I run off. It’s fucking knackering! I have to stop a few times during the five minutes it takes to run to the train. When I get there I’m just in time to watch the train doors close in my face.
The rest of the gang, Vik and Bea, Julia, Kullman, Ragnar and a bunch of others soon arrive behind me, considerably less out of breath, and we hang out on the platform for the half twelve train. When we get to Gullmarsplan the last Skarpnäck train has already gone, so Kullman and I take the bus and a ten minute walk instead. We end up having a good chat about kids and living around this area and decide we’ll have to make a date with our kids over at Fyren park sometime soon. I leave him at the end of our street and curse myself for getting home so late. Jen and I have plans to go for breakfast in town early in the morning. I never, ever make the most of things when I’ve got the rare chance to sleep. I guess that’s how it is when you take time off from your kids or your job to play in a band. “Good gig by the way!” Kullman shouts back to me as he heads off down Sockenvägen. Even though it's already one thirty, I still take time for a cup of tea and some toast before bed. The beer munchies kicking in as I sit there falling aleep in my plate on the sofa.
Next stop Gydnia.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Breakfast isn’t bad for one of these plastic hotel affairs, although the scrambled egg looks like it came straight out of a square box. And the toast is disgustingly sweet. The coffee and croissants work though. We sit around discussing the alternative outcomes with gear. How nice it would be to head over to the airport and find it there waiting for us. None of us truly believe that will be the case though, but you can always hope. We finish up and gather our bags together. Andy and I are stood downstairs by the parking lot for quite a while waiting for the other two. No doubt Johan is sat on the bog as usual. Whilst we’re waiting Rainy from Discharge comes strolling out with his wife. He asks us if we’re the shuttle that’s taking them to the festival. We explain that we’re not and then proceed with a pleasant chat. They’re both very friendly and it’s fun having a natter with them. We tell Rainy about the baggage situation and he scoffs in empathy with us. He tells us that one time they were out playing and their gear ended up in four different countries. He says they were playing this festival and they ended up loaning Jamiroquai’s gear. Funny as fuck thinking about Rainy playing Protest and Survive on some six string bass up around his neck. We talk about the upcoming punk boat gig they’re playing in Stockholm in March, Andy seems pretty psyched by the idea of trying to get Victims on it. Playing hungover on a ferry with no escape doesn’t seem like the best idea to me though.
We head over to the airport, it is indeed walking distance as the itinerary had promised. We head for the luggage claim department where we’re met by a very sweet, but stressed out girl working there. She’s got a lot of work on after the strike it seems and as the phone keeps ringing she rabbles off a load of French, the only word I can pick out of any of it being “Merde!” We go through the procedure of making the claim. She tells us the strike is now over and there is the slightest chance that our gear might be on the incoming flight from Nantes in half hours time. It doesn’t turn up though. As we’re waiting in hope, the Napalm Death guys come trudging off the plane. I spot the guitarist first. I go up to him to say hello and with a pained grin on his mug he tells me that their bags have been misplaced. They have their instruments but their other luggage is nowhere to be seen. After playing Hellfest today they’re flying to Brazil at six am tomorrow. I catch up with Barney for a while, but Embury is clearly in no mood to talk. Looks like the old miserable Shane for a while, the one I haven’t really seen since he became a dad. He’s back in full force now though.
We leave them with a “good luck” and head through security once checked in, a little deflated that the gear is somewhere out there in the world. Jon fucks off for a fag before going through security. Johan and I are stood in line and Johan laughs, recalling yesterday when they went through security at Brussels airport. He says that Jon emptied his jeans pockets of his phone, wallet etc and then put them in his leather waistcoat pockets and walked through the metal detector with it all still on him. He gets really nervous around these situations and sort of goes into a silent lockdown. Johan had asked him what he was doing and he just vacantly replied that the cops had told him he didn’t need to take off his jacket. Brilliant.
Nantes airport is small and the food options are practically zero outside of one little cafe. We sit around and wait for our two thirty flight, watching the football highlights on the tv and reading the news about the British politician that has been murdered by some scumbag Britain First supporting nazi. Funny how this is guy is being portrayed as mentally deranged by the media and not as a racist biggot terrorist. And the American with Afghani parents who shot forty nine human beings at a gay club last week is a Muslim terrorist. Funny that.. I head to the bog and whilst I’m away Johan and Jon spot the singer from Offspring. Jon seems pretty chuffed to tell me the news when I return. Never could stand that fucking band.
The flight to Paris takes less than an hour, just and old up and down job. Third flight of four in four days, it’s been a while since I made a stretch like that. I’ve certainly become a more nervous flyer since becoming a parent. I wouldn’t call it fear, it certainly wouldn’t stop me getting on a plane, and once we’re up and in the cruise I’m fine, but if there’s any bumping around going on then I like to be next to the window. Don’t know why, makes me feel better. This has been the topic of conversation within the band recently, twice I’ve had to ask Johan if he would swap with me. The one place I don’t want to sit is the aisle if the plane is bumping around. I feel like a right cunt though as Andy ridicules me.
When we land, safe and sound, as always, we’re met at the airport by a young guy who looks like he plays in the Doors holding a sign with Victims on it. He takes us to the Fiat Punto he’ll be driving us to the gig in. Lucky we don’t have any gear with us since we would have had to have gaffa taped it to the roof. The ride only takes about twenty minutes though. Doors tells us that the venue we’re playing is in an area called Saint Ouen, which is a district in the north of the city famous for its flea market. The small street are indeed packed with cars and people as we snake our way through traffic to the venue.
We climb out of the car and head inside the venue for a deek around. We’re met by a crew of young people who are putting tonight’s show on. Some big guy called Viktor and then the main man, Vincent, who is the guy that’s been in touch with us the whole time. He’s a bit rushed at the minute since the first of the seven bands have just started and he has some things to take care of, but he soon leads us up the to the next floor where a large communal dressing room is. The Unsane guys are sat around stringing guitars and munching on chips. The place is buzzing with various band members. They have some snacks and coffee on the go and food will be coming around seven. Since we’re playing at eight we opt to eat afterwards and get tucked in to the snacks. Nice with an early show anyway, the whole thing is over by ten thirty.
We hang out with Vincent and the guys for a while, as well as Raphael and his band Bain De Sang. Raphael and Vincent between them have sorted equipment for us tonight. I’m told there is an SG I can borrow so I’m chuffed with that. Raphael is an old friend of the guys, he put out the In Blood album on cd years ago, in Europe, or in France at least I think. Really good guy. They all are. I devour what there is of the crisps on offer but decline the beer for now, although the others are supping away. The Unsane drummer catches my eye. He’s sat against the back wall of the room with some other old guy who reminds me of the American comedian Fred Willard. Looks just like him, has the same smirk and everything. They’re sat there gabbing away and checking out some lady who is in the room, seems to be a photographer. They’re not too subtle.
We decide to go for a walk around the area and see what’s happening. The market is still on so we check that out. This area is really cool. The streets are swarming with market sellers and open bars with lots of gypsy style jazz bands playing. It’s what I imagine New Orleans to be like. There are also lots of galleries with artwork and trinkets for sale. Really cool place, certainly somewhere you wouldn’t end up if you weren’t a well researched tourist. We walk around for an hour so, checking everything out, before heading back to the venue. It’s around six thirty and I decide it’s time for the first beer of the night.
We check out Raphael’s band who start just as we get back. The place downstairs is buzzing with people. There is a cafe area where we would be selling our merch if we had it with us. There is a bar there as well as little corner selling pieces of art. The gig room is to the side of the bar. It’s one of those completely sound proofed box rooms, it’s like walking into a vacuum when you go in. It’s hot as fuck in there too and the sound is kind of dense, like there’s nowhere for it to escape to. I’m sweating my ass off just watching Raphael and the guys. I enjoy their show nonetheless. The bass player is pretty frantic as he plays and I lose count of the times he comes within centimeters of smashing his bass on the pillar on his side of the stage. Really good show anyway.
I head off a little before the end thinking that we’re on next and that I need to get my leads and all that shit sorted but it turns out there’s been a swap around in the line up. Willard and his mate are still sat by the wall gabbing away, I swear they haven’t moved since we got here. With time to kill and no food in the stomach, and in need of a bit of a kick before we play I convince Johan to take a shot with me. Jon is right in on too, of course. Vincent comes up and asks if we’re sorted for the gear and all that stuff. We’re all good except Johan, who isn’t sure what bass he’s playing. Vincent tells him it would be an honour if he played his Rickenbacker. We laugh but Vincent appears serious, “If you’d told me ten years ago that Victims would be playing my bass live…”
Time to play, we head downstairs to the sweatbox. Hugo, the sound guy comes up to the stage and hands me his guitar case. I pull it out and to my delight find that it’s exactly the same model as my brown SG that is currently missing in action. Couldn’t be more chuffed. We take a little while setting up and as we do people gradually filter in from the cafe area and the room is full by the time we start. The sound on stage is great and I’m raring to go. Already this feels better than yesterday.
And so it is. I enjoy every second of the gig tonight. THe stage is the perfect size, it sounds great and the crowd are ripping the place up. It seems Andy isn’t having the same show as me though. I don’t notice until he tells us that we’re dropping Theft from the set. I ask him if he’s okay but he just shakes his head and says he’s pissed off. Fuck knows what’s going on. I try to encourage him but it doesn’t seem to be working. It’s only when we play the next song, Errors, that I notice something is weird. During the chorus when he goes to the crash there is nothing there. At first I think he’s dropped his stick but when I look over I see him hitting the fuck out of the cymbal but there is nothing coming out of it, as if it were made of rubber. Turns out that none of the cymbals he’s playing tonight are whole and it’s making things difficult for him. Thankfully, the longer the gig goes on the more the crowd kicks off the lighter Andy’s mood becomes. I’m surprised when we go back for two extra songs at the end of the set, I was sure Andy would have been straight off the stage. We play Your Life is Red and My Eyes as two last songs and then I walk off and lay down behind my amp on the floor, pissing sweat and totally fucked. Great show.
We hang out upstairs for a while, cooling off by the open window and enjoying a cold beer. The beer isn’t great, but it is cold and does the trick. Once back down to earth and non perspiring I tuck into the dinner the guys have sorted for us. Veggie quiche and tabbouleh salad. And cheese, always cheese. As I’m stood there devouring the brie Vincent comes up to me and says that he’s got some cheese in from his home town down on the Swiss border and we can tuck into it for breakfast in the morning since we’ll be staying at his place. Nice one.
I head down to watch the end of the Unsane set. I’ve seen them a bunch of times so I’m not that fussed. I used to love them when I was younger but that period has passed somewhat. I still like the band but it’s been a long time since I put an Unsane record on at home. Just so happens when I get down there they’re just finishing up with four songs from the classic Scattered, Smothered, Covered album. Good timing. Chris Spencer’s famous baseball cap is dripping with sweat, literally dripping. He never takes the thing off either, I stand there sweating myself over a by now lukewarm Johnny Walker Red on the rocks wondering what his cap smells like. Andy comes over to me and says he’s got goose bumps, so good was the gig. He was stood over in the middle of the room so I guess it sounded better over there, where I was stood the sound didn’t quite carry and it was missing a bit of punch. Wish I’d gone over into the crowd now to listen from there now.
Afterwards we hang out upstairs and start getting stuck in to the bottles of booze the guys have now lined up on the bar. It’s only ten thirty, the night is but young. Being in France we do as the French do and get stuck into the bottle of pastis. I have a really nice chat with Raphael, he’s asking what we all do for work outside of the band, and from there we get talking about school, and kids, and life in general. I really enjoy chatting with him, the booze slowly but steadily going down. Doors appears and heads over to join the conversation. Both him and Vincent had been down the front of the crowd for the gig, huge smiles on their faces, hopping around with the crowd. We get talking about the gypsy music scene around this part of the city, Doors is an avid fan of it and tells us all about the legends of the scene and the history of the music. Fascinating stuff. Something I’ll have to check out more thoroughly.
The night rolls on and before I know it it’s one in the morning and most of the booze is gone. Still, I don’t feel too bad, just nice and warm. It’s been a good night. Chris from Unsane comes over to Jon and shakes his hand before leaving. They’d been chatting earlier. Jon knows every bugger. Chris had lead us downstairs to their merch and said we could have anything we wanted but as nice a gesture as that was I didn’t really fancy any of the designs they had. Still very kind though. I’ve come across him a few times, played with them with Speedhorn once. Always looked hard and serious, but he’s a friendly enough guy. “Respect”, says Jon as Chris approaches him. And that’s that.
We get our stuff together and head downstairs to the street. The people organising the gig are mulling around on the street outside and we stand there having one last chat. As we say goodbye Jon starts kissing everyone on each cheek, embracing the French custom. Cracks me up. We walk with Vincent a few blocks to his car. I thought he’d had a few drinks so I’d figured we’d be walking to his place but he unlocks the Punto and we climb inside. Maybe he hadn’t been drinking.. Or maybe he didn’t give a piss. Sometimes you just go along with things and don’t ask. We drive ten minutes or so to the Stalingrad area where he lives, just on the north side not far from Pigalle where me and Jen stayed on holiday after the last time we played Hellfest four years ago. He has a really cool attic conversion flat. There are two double beds, one in each of the rooms. Me and Jon are teaming up tonight. There are two beers in the fridge. A German pilsner and a can of piss that is 6.5%. “Woah, that’s a proper crust beer”, Vincent comments as Jon cracks it open. I’m not sure if it was here already or if Jon had it with him in his pocket. Either way, as we share the two beers around I end up with a drop of the crust beer and it is absolutely fucking disgusting. Maybe just as well, I really don’t need any more.
We stand around in the kitchen talking with Vincent for a while. He’s a really sweet person. He tells us that he’s sleeping at his girlfriends just a hundred meters away and with that we head to bed. Jon and I lie there talking away, telling old stories, Jon laughing hysterically and extremely loudly. I’d actually say he was screaming with laughter. I can only imagine what Andy and Johan are thinking in the other room. Gradually the stories turn to normal conversation and finally into some sort of pillow talk before slowly ebbing into sleep around four am.
The next day we’re woken by Vincent ringing the buzzer downstairs and when he arrives he apologises for waking us up whilst clutching baguettes and croissants. He had actually come twenty minutes after we’d agreed on so it was our bad sleeping in. We sit around tucking in to this delicious breakfast with his hometown cheese and jam, orange juice and tea. Vincent apologises again for the lack of coffee but explains that he doesn’t drink it. He really is the sweetest guy.
We have the day in Paris since we’re not flying home until nine tonight so we decide to spend the afternoon walking around. Jon stays at Vincent’s since he has to study, he has a deadline for the next day, and Vincent has things to sort out at the venue so Johan, Andy and I head off for the afternoon. We walk for around four hours. First down to Pere Lachaise cemetery, check out the Jim Morrison grave. It’s fucking tacky though, there are people hanging around drinking rum and listening to Break On Through on some small speakers. As we walk away Andy moans, “Overrated shite, one hit wonder”. The cemetery is amazing though, with all the cobbled streets and house like tombs, it likens a city of the dead. I’d been here before with Jen and really wanted to show the guys the place. I wanted to find August Comte’s grave too but unless you know where it is you could spend all day here looking for it. When Jen and I were here last we actually got lost and we started to panic a little as they announced over the tannoy system that they were closing and we couldn’t find our way out. Place is like a labyrinth.
It’s a gorgeous day and after leaving the cemetery we make for Sacre Coeur. When we get to the junction of Avenue de la Republique we hear screaming. There is some hysterical young guy, stood in the middle of traffic, screaming bloody murder at anyone and everyone. He is beyond pissed off. He’s walking around kicking everything and screaming. We walk along, feeling no need to make eye contact with him and for a moment it sounds like he’s following us. It’s a pretty fucking sketchy scene. He turns away and the screams quickly become more distant. I notice the faces of the people in the cafes and bars though, just staring at him with a blend of pity and disgust in their eyes.
Our walk takes us past the Bataclan where the massacre happened. Fucking weird feeling looking at the place. What hits me is what a normal, almost anonymous little music venue it is. It certainly doesn’t look like any kind of symbol for capitalist western society, just a normal little venue. It could easily be Debaser or anywhere else. Fucking horrible. We move on up past Place de Republique where they held the mass and then on to Sacre Coeur take in the views. It is of course, as we should have expected, full of football fans drinking and singing. We see some football trickster guy stood on a column at the top of the stairs juggling keepie ups. He’s pretty impressive to be fair. At one point he climbs to the top of a lamp post, ball wedged between his legs and then hangs there for fucking ages juggling the ball with his feet. There are men walking around selling beer and if I’m honest I could happily take one but we decide to leave it.
We stop for a spot of lunch back down on the corner of a cobbled streets in the back end of Pigalle. I realised this little hole-in-the-wall creperie place is somewhere me and Jen went to on the tip of it being one of the city’s finest. It was really good too. Makes me think of her and miss her, wishing she was here. As much fun as it is doing this stuff with the guys my absolute favourite holiday partner is my wife. We work great together as travelling companions. We sit down across the street from it at an Italian joint and tuck into a simple olive oil and garlic dish and now I can’t help myself and order a glass of cold rose wine. Fucking perfect.
We get back to Vincent’s around five. Jon has just finished up his studying and is pretty chuffed with himself. He reads through his work to me and Johan whilst chugging on a little bottle of red wine. Andy has gone to the other room and has fallen asleep. Vincent turns up around six and drives us to Orly airport in the south of the city, takes around an hour with traffic. We chat all the way with our new friend. When he drops us off we takes turns to hug him and thank him for everything, promising him we won’t leave it another eight years until we play Paris. He says, “Good! Although next time I won’t be organising the gig, I’ll just be there moshing and enjoying it”.
Four flights in four days. I’m getting a little bored of airports now. I’m glad this one is the last one. I miss my girls. And my guitars...