Monday, April 14, 2014

The Crew: The Sound Guys

One of the many things I've noticed over the years is that in the sub-world of touring there are a lot of “Dave's”.  It must be the most popular roadie name there is.  Of course, we had Bianchi, our manager, commonly known to many as Corby Dave, we had Little Dave who was our “drum tech” for a while, I add the inverted commas since very little drum teching was done, he just used to hang out with Gordon, get pissed a lot and chat up girls.  He was commonly referred to by Gordon as Bitch Dave because although a lot of teching wasn't seen to Gordon would make him carry out countless other chores and generally treat him like his butler.  Bitch Dave would later go on to play bass with us after Darren left.

For a while there we did actually get to the size where we could justify taking a big crew on tour with us.  Well, I'm not sure we could justify it, or maybe we could, but in truth we probably wasted a lot of money paying people to help us carry gear just because they were our mates and we wanted to party.  But fuck it, why not?  It was a long time ago and the money is long gone and it's nothing worth regretting now.  I'll never be in that position again so fuck it.

Although we did piss a lot of money away in our time, when we could afford it, paying a sound engineer was always money well spent, if they were good at their job of course.  We went a long time without one, we held the belief that the in-house person at the club most likely knew the PA better than anyone else and not only that, if we happened to be touring with another band that did have an engineer then the “in-houser” would always want to do a better job than the “professional”.  This proved to be true a lot of the time (although you always encounter the odd wanker) as long as we were playing smaller clubs but when we started getting shows at places like the Astoria, and then later on the big festivals, it became apparent that we needed someone working our sound.  We had a few over the years and a couple of those just happened to be called, Dave...

Long before the days of hiring a full time engineer, our first try out was actually a guy called Lee, or Fat Lee, ingeniously christened so because he was a big old boy.  He came out with us for a few shows in the early days for what must have been very little money.  Roddy had picked him up after a show in Northampton where he'd impressed whilst doing the in-house sound.  Roddy seemed to suddenly insist we needed a Sound Guy, although it was nothing the rest of us seemed particularly bothered about.  That said, we didn't really bother about anything in those days and with Roddy doing all the sorting out we were happy to go along with his suggestion, we really weren't arsed either way as long as we didn't have to take care of paying him.  We left Roddy to deal with that.  We left Roddy to deal with pretty much everything in those days.  It was funny looking back on it, there was the six of us in the band and Roddy, who did everything for us then, and then for a while there was Fat Lee, who as far as we were concerned, was Roddy's own little employee.  Roddy seemed to be chuffed.

Lee was actually a really nice guy, although nothing like the rest of us.  He was polite and quiet, a really mild bloke who wouldn't harm anyone.  He did used to sweat a lot though and wasn't all that keen on changing his clothes from day to day.  Don't get me wrong, our personal hygiene back then was nothing to be applauded but Lee was on a slightly worse level.  Again, we weren't really that arsed but this soon began to be an issue for Roddy and before long he was lobbying to have him fired.  I think the truth of the matter is though that Roddy had grown disillusioned with Lee soon after taking him on, not only had they been arguing a lot about the sound but it was pretty obvious Lee just wasn't like us.  He was a good sound engineer I'm sure but he just didn't really get us.  The fact he sat in the back of the van stinking and eating like a horse was just a minor detail.

I'll never forget one occasion when we were driving along the M11 on a gloriously sunny day, heading somewhere south, and the back tire of the van, right underneath Lee's arse, exploded!  Fucking bits of rubber all over the motorway behind us.  We fucking shat ourselves as Roddy swerved into the hard shoulder.  Of course, Roddy got it into his head this was somehow Lee's fault.  He'd only been out with us about a week and it had already reached that point.. Roddy finally decided that Lee was for the chop and when we turned up a few days later at a gig in Colchester, Roddy dropped him off at the train station and bought him a ticket.  And that was that.  Never did see Lee again.  I hope he's doing ok.  It would be a few years until we employed another Sound Guy.  

We were rapidly assembling a crew from the old Nottingham scene, through the contacts Bianchi and Roddy had.  We had Tall Paul out for a while, drum teching, and Doug was living in Nottingham at the time and a big part of the scene there, and then we had Dave Stokes.  Stokesy as he was known to all.  Stokesy was the first real sound guy we employed and the longest serving too.    

Stokesy was a quiet guy really, although you had the feeling there was some darker, more mischievous side bubbling under the surface there somewhere.  He was part of the old goth/punk scene in Notts, I think he used to crew for the cult band Every New Dead Ghost.  That was how he knew Bianchi.  He had a skinhead although looked friendly with it.  He was a bit of an enigma really.  He just got on with his job quietly and professionally, would never refuse a beer after his job was done and would always be close to hand if the scent of a fight arose, which it inevitably did.  I liked the fact that he blended in with the gang mentality we had, which was always us against the rest of the world.  The thing I liked most about Stokesy was that he almost always wore a smile upon his face, just a pretty content kind of guy.  But like I say, if there was a confrontation he would be there, somewhere thereabouts anyway.

My favourite memory of Stokesy was when we were playing the Tattoo the Planet travelling festival, which was something like five shows in the UK.  It was one of those festivals that never really seemed like it was going to last.  It started off the first year with crap like Pantera and Soulfly headlining and about another fifteen or sixteen similarly rubbish bands in support, and by the time we played it a couple of years later it was basically a Slayer gig.  Besides us there was Biohazard and Cradle of Filth, there were maybe a couple of others at the London show, but this particular night it was just the four of us, playing the NIA in Birmingham.

It was a big show, maybe four or five thousand in attendance.  My mum and dad had come up to see us.  I think it was the only big indoor show my mum ever came too.  I remember looking over at the two of them, sat in the dark beside the stage on a flight case as we played, nobody else around, just really chilled out watching us.  It was weird how playing shows of this size had come to feel completely normal, that they had lost all sense of awe, and my mum and dad being there watching as if it was just any other gig seemed to sum it up really.  I guess when I look back now I realise that it had all began to feel like just another job.  I digress... The thing is, for being a big show and all, there was no sense of party, everything was pretty relaxed.  We had the tour bus outside which was were we'd be sleeping for the night and we'd be waking up in London the next day.  Just another week at work.      

After the show my mum and dad left for the short drive home, not really arsed about seeing Slayer.  Neither was I to be fair, I'd seen them a few times already by that point and as much as I love the early records, if you've seen them live once you've seen them a hundred times.  And let's face it, Kerry King looks like a right tosser these days and there's only so much you can stomach.  As is always the case at these events, the backstage area is completely over the top, with each band having their own Porta Cabin dressing room, a full on canteen for band and crew catering etc. etc.  All very luxurious and at the same time completely soulless.  We of course received our food tickets earlier in the day which were duly exchanged for a plate of grub but come the end of the night, after a couple of beers, we were hungry again.  Stokesy told us that some runners had just taken a load of pizza into Slayer's cabin, which would be there after-show grub.  “Why the fuck weren't we getting after-show grub?” Stokesy wanted to know, a half pissed frown/smirk on his coupon.  Of course we weren't getting any pizza, we weren't the guys on stage right now that six thousand people had come to see, we were simply the first band of the night.  Still, with some gentle encouragement from Stokesy we were soon robbing Slayer of their pizza, pissing ourselves laughing while we were at it.  Fuck em.  We weren't even drunk, just bored, if anything.  Stokesy seemed to be on one though.  He had that look in his eye.  The Biohazard boys had witnessed the whole thing and found it hilarious.  “What I love about you guys is that in ten years time, when it's you that are up on that stage headlining, you fuckers will still be stealing pizza!” laughed Danny.  I guess he'd prove to be half way right.

We headed back to the tour bus, satisfied on pizza and ready to chill out on the bus with a film and a couple of beers.  Billy Biohazard and Stokesy had other ideas though.  Billy is a trouble maker of the highest order, one of the reasons we got on so well with him, and Stokesy, as Doug would often comment, was a “dark horse”.  Billy had found his way on to our bus and seemed determined to get a party going, whether we wanted one or not.  “What the fuck's going on with you guys?” he enquired, seeming genuinely shocked by the sight of us lazing around the top lounge of the bus watching a film whilst John sat at the back, rolling a joint.  I'm not really sure how it happened but within five minutes chaos had broken out.  Somehow Billy and Stokesy had gotten into a “toy fight” that, as is usually the case, soon escalated into something a little more serious, not really a full on fight but neither would back down.  We sat there, pretty amused at the sight of Stokesy wrestling with Billy, and before we fucking knew it, something, I guess it was a bottle of some sort, had been launched and gone straight through the back window!  The window just shattered into a million pieces and a good section of it rained down on John.  I looked over at him and he was sat there, with little pyramids of shattered glass on his head and shoulders, still rolling his joint, “Argh for fuck sake..” he moaned.

I can't really remember how the situation resolved itself although Bianchi was far from amused.  Billy was though.  Or at least, he made out he was, not really wanting to admit to feeling any guilt.  He'd committed worse crimes through the years I'm sure.  Stokesy got pretty quiet afterwards though as our bus driver read us the riot act.  John carried on with his joint.

I still don't know exactly who threw the bottle though...

Stokesy actually left our service a little while later.  No big break up or anything like that, he just had a more regular gig with another band he was doing sound for, InMe.  A rubbish grunge/metal/indie band that I couldn't understand for the fucking life of me.  The last time I remember seeing Stokesy was at show in London where we happened to be on the same bill as InMe.  I remember thinking to myself, “What the fuck are you doing with these guys?” but I guess Stokesy had his reasons.  Maybe they were less trouble than we were.  They probably paid better anyway.

After Stokesy we had another Dave, Dave Lamb.  Now I liked Dave, he was a happy guy, kind of posh, very enthusiastic and a decent soundman.  But, as was often the problem, he was nothing like us.  He came from a more indie background, which was by no way a problem for me, in fact he'd worked with one of my favourite bands of that era in Swervedriver, something I was really impressed with and I would gladly listen to some of the stories he had to tell from his time with them.  I could tell the rest of the guys weren't really feeling the same connect though.  And I had the feeling he got on Doug's tits, being that he was a bit of a whittler.

As friendly as Dave was he too gave the impression that there was a darker side in there somewhere and one thing I did notice is that as soon as there was a whiff of the white stuff around he'd be off.  And to make matters worse he seemed to be rapidly racking up debts with everyone.  It wasn't long before the tension started to tell and some of the guys were wanting rid of him.  It's a really hard situation when you have to sack someone, especially if as in the case here, it was someone I liked personally.  As it happens Gordon took care of the situation with typical Morison efficiency.  He threw a stink bomb into his bunk one night and in the morning Dave was gone.  Gordon said he'd lobbed it in and then jumped into his bunk and hid whilst Lamb came crawling out in shock, cursing and ready to vomit, shouting at the rest of the bus.  I'd slept through the whole thing.  The next time I met Dave he was doing sound with the band Oceansize and we were sharing the bill at an awful gig in Redhill.  We spoke a little but it was bit awkward, to say the least.

The last soundguy we had of note was Mole.  Mole was a lot older than the rest of us, very experienced and again, a good engineer.  He'd been doing in house sound at Nottingham Rock City for a few years and was a fixture of the scene there.  He had long grey hair and looked like Killer Bob from Twin Peaks, although a slicker version.  I remember one time my friend Erik was hanging out on tour with us and the first time he met Mole he was pretty pissed up and when he set eyes on him he got really freaked out and hid, screaming, “It's Bob!”.  Mole thought the whole thing was hilarious.

Mole was a real gentleman and had a calmer head on his shoulders than everyone else.  He liked to party and hang out, have a drink and all, but his main interest seemed to be the girls.  He was a right slick talking fucker when it came to that.  As calm and collected as he was though, like everyone else I've ever met, there was another side to him.  It's a good thing that Mole had quit the band before Kev joined us because there was a bit of history between them.   A long time before when they were all living in Notts, Kev had had his jaw broken by the bouncers at Rock City.  The reason being that he'd walked up to one of them and called him a cunt.  The reason he did such a ridiculous thing is because he was steaming and Bianchi and the lads had egged him on to do so.  Of course, Kev can be a danger to himself when he's drunk but still, this was stupid, even for him.  The thing is, after calling said bouncer a cunt and then getting into a scuffle with him, he was taken a hold of by a few of them and none other than Mole held him from behind in a Full Nelson headlock while the insulted bouncer lined up and took a shot at him.  Bianchi and the lads went to visit Kev the next day in hospital and found him with his jaw wired together.  “Er, sorry mate” they said, trying not to giggle.  Kev doesn't hold a grudge to be fair and admits he got what he deserved.  I doubt whether Mole would even remember, that kind of thing went on at Rock City all the time.

Mole took his job very seriously and was good for us for a while.  Of course, it started to erk him a little that we didn't take our band as seriously as he seemed to.  I remember one night after a gig at the Astoria, a euphoric Mole came into the backstage, praising the gig and was gushing about the sound he'd worked for us.  He had been on at me and Tony about adjusting our guitar sounds and backing off the bass a little, something we were not entirely on board with.  But we'd tried it this night and after the show Mole was buzzing about it to me and Darren, “You guys sounded brilliant tonight!  It was so much better, you could hear everything, but it was still as heavy as fuck.  But you know, everything sat so much better, and the guitar sound, awesome!  You could hear notes, you could hear tone...” at which point Daz cut him off and turned to me, “You must be Notes!”  The pair of us pissed ourselves laughing, kind of missing Mole's point and pissing on his onions a little.  Still, I thought it was one of the funniest things Daz had said.

What I admired most about Mole though was his love for Metallica.  He adored them so much that he had his own tribute band (he was the drummer) called Moletallica.  Fucking genius name!  They were kind of a big deal in Nottingham, playing to big crowds at Rock City now and then.  I remember probing him one night about the band and about the setlist, enthusiastically going through the old classics and wondering which ones they played.  We all started to crack up though when we saw a pattern emerging.  “Battery?”  No... “Hit The Lights?” No, not that one.  “Fight Fire With Fire?” No, too fast, the boys can't keep up.  It seemed that the only songs the old boys played was the slower paced ones.  The thing is Mole is one of those Metallica fanatics, just like our old mate from Corby Metallica Bob, who stands by everything Metallica have ever released.  Such is their devotion to the band that they will look you in the eye and tell you Reload is a great record.  I just don't get it.  But they are not alone.

As was often the case with the guys we had crewing for us, our relationship with Mole started to fray a little after a while.  To be fair, it was mostly our doing.  OK, Mole was probably way too serious for us but we did nothing but moan, about everything, all the time, and after a while it started getting on Mole's nerves.  Can't say I blame him, looking back.  It was becoming apparent this was the case when Mole's frustration started to manifest itself in petty little arguments.  As in one night when we were on the bus and Gordon was moaning about wanting some food.  I don't remember exactly what happened, just that at one point Mole and Gordon were in a bit of a stand off and Mole was rabidly clenching an egg sandwich, “You fucking lot don't know how lucky you are!  Do you know how fucking long most bands have to work for this?  Most bands never get to this level!”  To be fair, I think Mole was referring to the tour bus.  “Fuck me!  An egg sandwich?  If you think that's luxury mate then you've had a harder life than I have!”

I thought it was great but the whole thing boiled over and the two of them very nearly got into it.  Doug stepped in of course and took Mole to the side for a quiet word.  Before long he was apologising to us and the thing was done.  Except for Gordon.  Gordon had decided Mole was a prick and was now on a mission to wind him up... It escalated a few nights later.  The air conditioning on the tour bus was fucked and it was insanely warm at night.  You'd be lying in your coffin-like bunk with sweat pissing out of you.  I think I slept naked most of the time.  It was fucking horrible, waking up in the middle of the night, drunk and dehydrated, gagging for water.  Well of course, Gordon thought it would be funny to empty Mole's water bottle while he slept and replace it with vodka.  Mole got quite a fucking shock I can tell you.  I'll never forget him crawling out of his bunk in agony, sweat pissing out of him, having just downed a shit load of Smirnoff.  Mole wasn't around much longer.  From what I can tell, he seems to be doing better without us.

Apart from the odd one off occasion when we'd play a big show, we didn't really have any other sound engineers.  As I've documented, things tailed off a bit and we couldn't really afford them any longer.  And who in their right mind would want to work for us anyway?  When we got things up and running again, after Frank had quit and left us in the shit, things were on a different level.  It started well enough, with a show to a huge crowd in the tent at Donnington, but apart from a couple of big Euro festivals, the crowds slowly started to erode and we were back to playing small clubs and gig spaces.  We couldn't afford anyone to crew for us any more.  Except for Lee, and he was like a seventh member of the band.  We didn't deserve him...He certainly deserved better than us...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Crew: Bianchi

“If you name your band Raging Speedhorn, I swear, I'll manage it!”

And history was made...

This was maybe the second or third time I'd met David Bianchi.  We were sat around a camp fire at Reading Festival, must have been ´98 I guess, and he'd just been recounting the story of an acquaintance who had had a rather rough night on speed.  The guy had taken a shit load of the stuff, come home as randy as a dog on heat, only to recoil in horror at the realisation his wife was away from home.  With no other alternative available, he climbs into bed and starts rabidly beating off.  Of course, speed may well make you horny but it can also turn you anorgasmic, the guy, whoever he was, was not to be beaten, or actually he was, and he went at it all night until he chaffed his bobby ruby red.  “He had a right raging speed horn!” laughed Bianchi at the climax of this non-climaxing story.  I knew right then what I'd be calling the band, I knew the guys back home would love it.  And so it was.

Bianchi was Roddy's best mate from back in the day when they both attended Lodge Park School together, the very same hell hole I went to.  I hear it's a lot better these days.  The first time I'd seen him he was playing bass in Roddy's band Krust, at the annual Battle of the Bands that took place at The Welfare in Corby.  I say “playing bass”, he was actually just jumping around the stage like a tit playing very little from what I could hear.  Still, you couldn't take your eyes off him.

The first time I met him officially was at a show my old band Soul Cellar were playing, at the old Mean Fiddler in London, sharing a bill with Cathedral and Acrimony.  Bianchi had come down to meet us, via Roddy, to talk about the possibility of managing us, or at least helping us out.  At the time he was working on the tv show TFI Friday, working with the music side of it I think.  This was around about the time Napalm Death had appeared on the show and it was a huge thing, given that the usual fare appearing at the time were the likes of Paul Weller and Ocean Colour Scene.

Bianchi had left Corby with Roddy and moved to the punk scene in Nottingham, where he was known as Corby Dave, and still is to most of that crowd, before moving down to London to make his way in the music business.  Roddy and Dave were always top value entertainment, always bickering about what was better, metal or goth, sometimes the bickering cranked up a notch, but they were as thick as thieves and always will be I reckon.

Bianchi always cut an impressive figure.  The man can fucking talk for England, confidence oozing from his every word, bullshit or not, it doesn't matter, the man can make you listen and what's more, he can make you believe.  When I met him the first time I was really unsure.  I mean, I liked him, you couldn't doubt he was funny and he commanded respect, but being the little hardcore kid who was shit scared of the music industry, I didn't quite trust the guy.  This was nothing personal, I just had an ingrained mistrust of anyone in the “business”.  But trust him or not, you couldn't help being drawn to him.  I didn't know if he was going to manage Soul Cellar and I really didn't know if he could do anything for us, but certain members of the band were convinced we were going to be huge with this loud talking southerner (he was originally from Kent) taking care of us.

It didn't work out.  Bianchi sorted us out with a gig at the old George Robey Club, an opening slot on the Terrorizer Magazine Christmas Bash, incidentally the night I first saw Iron Monkey and my life changed forever, but the band soon disintegrated thereafter, for one reason or another.  We were never going to cut it if the truth is told, we were ok, we could play, but we didn't have that spark.  What we were in fact, was a perfect band to be in and learn from, the band before the band that does something.  And besides, after seeing Iron Monkey my head was already turned.  I knew I no longer wanted to be in a “metal” band, I wanted to do what they were doing.

As it happens, Dave's head had also been turned that night and shortly afterwards he was indeed managing Iron Monkey.  This was the state of play when Roddy brought him over to that camp fire at Reading 98´.  Being that we were sat around a camp fire drinking beer as opposed to sat around a table in a club having a semi-formal meeting, me and Dave hit it off a lot better in this relaxed atmosphere.  Well, I liked him a lot more I guess you can say.  He still had all that big shot thing going on, and his tongue could still tie you in knots, but I realised he was also funny as fuck.  Unsure before, I was now desperate for him to manage my band.

Roddy, well aware of what was going on, kept Dave up to date on events and told him that we were calling the band Raging Speedhorn and recording a demo pronto.  Would he keep his vow I wonder?  Roddy assured me if the demo was up to scratch then he would because Corby held a huge place in his heart and he would love nothing more that to manage a gang of twats from his beloved home town, providing there was something to work with..

We recorded four songs at Premier Studios with our old friend Iain Wetherell and the rest is history.  We sent it off to Dave via Roddy and within a couple of days Bianchi was our manager.  It just happened to be that he'd started working for a Jamaican R&B guy, not actual rhythm and blues I must stress but the piss that stole it's name in the Nineties, i.e. cack like Mark Morrison, Destiny's Child et al.  Anyway, this Jamaican, a charming gangster by the name of Johnny Laws, was Bianchi's boss at this management label called Green Island.  Somehow Bianchi managed to talk Johnny into funding a subsidiary label called Black Island that he would run with the help of his mate Andrew Carter.  Black Island of course would be more geared towards rock and metal.. I have to admit, once again I was pretty fucking freaked out by meeting these other industry people and Laws scared the piss out of me when I first met him, but I now fully trusted Bianchi, and Carter, and knew they'd look after us.

The plan was simple.  Get out and play.  Here, there, every fucking where.  Don't matter who with, just get out and tour your arse off.  They'd provide a van and money for petrol out on the road and little else.  We didn't need much else, it was a dream deal for us.  All we wanted to do was escape Corby, play our ten songs every night and get pissed.  I didn't think it would last forever, I didn't care.  I didn't care that we had no money for food and that we played to around ten to twenty people a night.  It all beat the shit out of working in a warehouse in Corby and it was all part of a bigger plan hatched by Bianchi and co.

And for a few years it worked.  Brilliantly.  Like us or hate us, you couldn't go anywhere in the metal scene in the UK and not hear our name.  And we played so fucking much that we became a tight unit live.  We also began to hate each other but that's another story.

Funnily enough, during all the groundwork days of the band, when we were touring the infamous “toilet scene” in the UK, Bianchi rarely came out on the road with us.  It was mainly just the band and Roddy, and then later Big Doug.  Sometimes Carter would show up but he soon got pretty sick of us demanding his money for beer and then not allowing him to sleep in the van with us.  Bianchi would show up to the bigger stuff, which at the time usually meant support slots in London, but he kept away from the van.  And then when we hit the road in Europe, travelling on a night-liner for the first time, he decided it was appropriate for him to come out on the road with us, stating that now things were getting bigger he needed to come and help Doug out with the tour managing since he was still learning his trade.  It was a pretty see-through move to be fair, but we were all chuffed nonetheless.  Bianchi was always good for a laugh and everything always felt that little bit safer with him around, or should I say, we felt like we could get away with anything because no matter what situation we got ourselves into, he would be able to talk us out of it.

Bianchi travelled with us around Europe, Japan and the States for the next couple of years and they were some of the best years of my life, without any doubt.  Bianchi was a huge part of that.
As much as he was a business man, determinedly making his way up the industry ladder and hungry for success, he absolutely loved coming out on tour with us.  He loved a piss up as much as we did, in fact, he could drink us all under the table, which he did on many an occasion, although Roddy has always stated that he must cheat somehow, and as much as his manager head came on whenever needed, he was as usually in the middle of the nonsense right along with the rest of us.  More than anything though, you really felt he was a genuine fan of the band, it was like the songs were as much his as ours.  It's a wonderful thing to have that kind of support.

During that first European tour, supporting Biohazard, we had a bit of an icy relationship with their tour manager, Bob Bulldog.  It was the general consensus that he was Evan's man, and he treated him like a fucking God.  He treated us with an ever so subtle air of condescension and you could tell that he didn't really trust us one hundred percent.  Fair enough I suppose.  But Bianchi and Doug were determined to out tour manage him, which they did it's fair to say.  Bob was very loud and very American, Dave was very gabby and assured, but in a more charming, southern lad way.  I remember a night in particular when we played in the Bavarian town of Lindau and Bulldog had some beef with the promoter over money.  I don't know the exact crack, but I'm guessing he wasn't being paid the full amount.  The situation got heated for a while but eventually it was sorted.  The thing is, Bianchi was calm the whole time.  He spoke to the promoter with respect and at the same time authority and needless to say we were paid what we were owed.  Whilst Bulldog was stomping around shouting his mouth off but not really getting much achieved, Bianchi was getting us our money.  Not only that he was somehow charming the promoter into giving us a load more booze and by the end of the affair the promoter was telling him we'd be welcome back any time.  I remember being sat on the bus with Doug and Bianchi afterwards, Bianchi smug a fuck, explaining to Doug the cruciality of knowing when the need for talking over fighting comes into play.  An hour or so later we're having an after party in one of the backstage rooms with all the newly acquired booze and Bianchi is off his fucking nut!  He goes on the rampage with a broom, sweeping a table full of booze and glass onto the floor, laying waste to the place, and a couple of hours after that he's brought a skinhead onto the bus to ride with us after we've just had a full on riot with some Nazi's.  Weird situation.  But that's another story that will be explained later... In fact almost all of those major stories involve Bianchi, such as the jail incident in Spain and the hash cake affair in Holland, and they deserve their own dedicated time to be told in full.  They will be at some point.

The thing I loved about Bianchi though, is no matter how business like and serious he needed to be, the Corby boy in him was never far from the surface and never needed much convincing to come out and play.  I remember one time on the bus, one of those decadent nights where we'd all drank a ridiculous amount of booze, after watching Daz down a third of a bottle of Grouse, not completely willingly if I'm honest, Bianchi went one better and drank a huge gulp of aftershave.  I remember him choking on his own poisonous saliva and shouting he's gone blind.  Fucking nonsense.

As with all the guys involved with the band in those days, Bianchi didn't just work with us, he also became a good friend, and for a while we were pretty close.  His wife Alison was a huge Liverpool fan and that alone was enough for me.  And as with all good friends, they can tell you when you're being a prick.  Bianchi never had a problem telling you how it was, which is exactly what a gang of idiots like us needed a lot of the time.  Like the second time we went to the Kerrang Awards... The year before had been an absolute disgrace, the year of Eklandgate, and I was determined not to let the same thing happen again.  In fact, I was wholly against going at all.  I'd gotten it into my head that I despised such events and all the people who went to them.  I couldn't stand c-list arseholes in their shit indie bands telling me that they loved my band when clearly they didn't.  I determined that this time if I was forced to go then I would be in no way forced to drink or indeed enjoy myself.  I stood there in the lobby beside Bianchi, explaining this to him, over and over, sniggering at different cretins in amongst the crowd, “Look at that fucking wanker!  Fuck this place!” and so on, sipping at my martyrical glass of water.  Another five minutes or so of this and I was actually beginning to bore myself, and is if reading me like a book, Bianchi cut me off, “Oh for fuck sake Gaz, shut up and have a fucking drink!” as he whipped a pair of champagne flutes from a passing waiter.  Two hours later I was lying in a bush outside the venue.  Bubbly gets me every time... Thanks boss.

Another classic Bianchi tale, yet another that is actually part of a bigger story was the day after a very bad night in Vienna.  We'd met at breakfast in a café just down the road from the hotel, all of us in sombre mood.  A bad crack had gone down the night before... Bianchi was very serious.  He told us in no uncertain terms that if we didn't start reigning things in immediately then he would no longer want to manage us.  It was a bit of a bombshell at the time.  We're all hungover to fuck and one by one assure him that we'll sort things out.  With that we finish breakfast and with a whole day to kill, head to the Tivoli for a day of roller coasters and fun.  We convince a boastful Roddy to go on that daft fucking ride that shoots you up into the air at stomach emptying speed, like the Freefall, but opposite.  Roddy agrees to take the ride on for a collection of our money, which we agree to.  The thing is, the whole time we've been watching the ride, it's only been going up the once.  Whilst Roddy is awaiting his turn in the queue, just as he's about to go on, the ride suddenly goes up and down twice.  “What the fuck?!  It's only supposed to go once!” shouts Roddy, failing to hide his concern.  We all convince him to proceed, wafting what amounts to about a tenner in the air as bait.  Roddy alights the ride, by which time we're all pissing ourselves laughing at his pale face.  The ride does indeed shoot up and down twice.  When Roddy comes sinking down to the ground after the second time, looking a little sad, he catches sight of Bianchi stood at the cabin that houses the guy controlling the ride with a wod of money in his hand...”No... No Dave!  Dave!!  Daaaaavvvvvve!!!” screams a terrified Roddy as he flies back up into the air, Bianchi peeling off the notes and placing them in the Controller's hand.  I almost threw up laughing!  Poor Rods didn't find it so funny and when he was finally able to disembark, a couple of rides later, he told us he had to go off and be on his own for a while.  We later found him in a crowded area, sat eating a cheeseburger looking gutted.  Only a few hours earlier Bianchi had been threatening us with quitting.. but how could he?

Well, eventually he did.  In a way.  In fact, things just fizzled out between us, just like they did with the first era of the band really.  We actually parted ways with Johnny Laws and Black/Green Island after our relationship became unfixable and we were left in a bitter mess with our record label.  It was a horrible affair in truth, for six months I did nothing but speak to our lawyer, we didn't even set foot in our practice room, I just lay low in Sweden, constantly on the phone.  How the breaks had been stepped on.. The sad thing is, amongst all this chaos we were forced to cut ties with Bianchi and Carter, which really did hurt at the time.  They were bound to Johnny and we couldn't be any longer.    Of course a short while later Dave and Andrew were off as well as things went rapidly pear shaped for Laws, but by then we had a new manager, which turned out to be another disastrous episode.  But that's another story...

A couple of years after parting with Green Island, Dave came back.  I'd bumped into him at a record release party we were having in London and he told us he missed us.  Fuck me did we miss him!  We booted our manager, a nice enough woman called Lisa who just couldn't handle us, in spectacular fashion in Japan, again another story, and Dave was back!  Carter had left for the States by this point which was too bad.  The truth is though, things weren't the same the second time around.  They rarely are...  We'd gone missing from the touring circuit for too long and a large part of the fan base had turned their attention elsewhere.  And we were becoming increasingly hard to manage, with Frank finally quitting having threatened to do so for a long time.  The timing was shit though, right before a UK tour for our new album.  I kind of took over the manager's role in the band, with Dave there to help me when needed, but we became more and more distant.  He did manage to sort us out a full scale tour of the United States, which was amazing in many ways, not all good/amazing but something I'll never forget, or regret.  The thing is as Doug before him, Bianchi was on to bigger and better paying things and we were heading in a more DIY direction, which is all I'd ever wanted anyway.  Don't get me wrong though, I'm thankful we got to do what we did for those few years, and we're in debt to Dave and Andrew for that.  Changed my life forever.

I don't think Bianchi ever really officially stopped managing the band, just one day he didn't any more.  I was disappointed at the time but in hindsight I know it was fair enough.  We'd been a ridiculously thankless band to manage and we got far more out of it than he ever did I'm sure.  We don't see each other much any more, although there is always the odd catch up.  On the rare occasions I have hooked up with him I've ended up fucking steamboats, he still has that nack of getting you.  One time he was in Stockholm on business, it was a Tuesday night and I went out to meet him for a few drinks.  I promised Jen I'd get a cab home since she was worried I'd end up sleeping on the suburb train travelling back and forth all night, and she knew how things normally went when Bianchi is in town.  Needless to say I was awoken by Jen calling me at six am, very confused finding myself lying next to Bianchi in his hotel bed.  We were both fully clothed, I might add.  And I did  get a cab home..

The last time we actually saw each other was at a Victims show in London a year or so later but we had to leave early for a ferry back to the mainland and although he managed to get one shot of Tequila down me I resisted any more.  My lasting memory of Dave though always makes me smile, whenever I think of it.  Just a silly little memory, but I like it.  We're sat on the tour bus driving somewhere through the night across Europe, we're all in good spirits and the booze is flowing.  I remember how happy I felt at that time.  We're singing old kids tv theme tunes and at one point somebody starts up Button Moon.  We all softly sing along to that song's strangely melancholic tones, all of us together.  When we come to the end of the verse we fade out as one, all except Bianchi, who blasts into the next verse, eyes closed, with all the enthusiasm of an opera singer.

Funny how all the things you go through together and it's little memories like that you hold most dear.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

I began this blog in late 2009 and have written a lot of text in that time. There are few things that give me more inner peace than when I'm sat in front of my laptop, lost in the flow of typing, either in the van out on tour or late at night in my kitchen whilst the rest of the household sleeps. But recently life has stood in the way and I haven't had the time or indeed, will to write.

I don't want to get into things too deeply but at the start of January my mum lost a two year battle with cancer. It's been a tumultuous couple of years, especially with me living in another country and not always being able to be there. Of course, I've had our daughter to concentrate on and she has given me great strength but it's been hard being away from home during the course of my mum's illness. We've always been a very close family and when the news of mum's diagnosis came, it turned my world upside down. We had just found out about Polly and were figuring out how to surprise my parents with the news that they'd be having their first grandchild when my dad called.

Anyway, my mum fought bravely for two years and stuck around long enough to meet not only one but two granddaughters, my sister falling pregnant five months after Jen had. In general she kept in good form and kept her spirits high, although I obviously didn't have to go through a lot of the darker days my dad endured, and she was an inspiration to us all. When she realised at the end of last year that her treatment was no longer working she made a pact with herself to at the very least make it through her first Christmas with her two granddaughters. She passed away peacefully and unafraid on January 4th. We were all there with her.

I don't want to linger sombrely on the subject because this blog really isn't the place for it, I just wanted to inform you why, recently, I've not been spending so many late nights recounting old stories and typing up tour diaries. Of course, Polly has also decided that five thirty am is a far more reasonable hour to begin the day's activities than seven thirty am, and that leaves one feeling kind of fucked come ten pm, and if there is indeed any energy left by that time then it's just about enough to watch a game of footy on the box.

On top of everything else we took off on holiday to Mexico for a couple of weeks, right after mum's funeral, which was exactly what I needed and could not have come at a more suitable time. And then the day we come home from Mexico we moved apartment and being on paternity leave, I've since been spending any spare time whilst Polly sleeps, unpacking boxes.

Sometimes, life does indeed get in the way..

There are of course plenty of plans moving forward, both musically with Victims and Diagnosis? Bastard! as well as something else new that me and Jen are starting up, we figure we need some “we” time outside of chasing our laughing, screaming baby daughter about the house, and there are plans for a fanzine Lucas DB and I are starting up. It's all good.

Since last I wrote, DB played a show in Stockholm with Institution, Paranoid and Parasit. It was a great night with great bands, especially Institution and Paranoid. For some reason, Parasit found it fitting to play an almost hour long set and then even find time for an encore! For the life of me I fail to understand why they would want to play that long and the fact that there was a curfew and the mighty Institution were playing last makes it all the more baffling, but maybe that's just me.

It was a good night though and we had a fun time with some beers and some friends. Pungen, Institution’s legend of a drummer, hung out with us for the evening, having met Viktor earlier in the day and was absolutely steam boats before load in. He's such an amazing drummer though that you would never have known, and he did actually call his last beer a few hours before they played..He then went on stage and blew us all away. Another fun note was that UK hardcore legend Jim Whitby was in attendance. Don't know who he was with or why he was there but Andy Victims was chuffed as fuck!

In other news, we've just spent a very relaxed couple of days in Studio Knaster here in Stockholm, recording four songs for an upcoming DB/Hello Bastards split tape which will be released by the lovely Ljudkassett Records. It's been in the pipeline for over a year now so it's nice to finally have it done, and fittingly, the day we went into the studio our new seven inch came through the post. That will be coming out on D Takt och Råpunk in a few days time. But all that you can read about at DB's own page.

Victims is writing a new record, we're up to around nine songs and who knows, we might just record it this year. If we can all just get ourselves into the practice room at the same time..

So what now, well, it's snowing, it always comes back one last time, just when everyone starts to fool themselves into thinking spring has arrived, and I still have four months at home with Polly and Bonzo. When Polly goes to nursery in August it will be time for me to start something new. We'll see. But until then, I intend on enjoying our dad/daughter time together.

Anyway that's that. I'm sure I'll be back at the kitchen table again, sometime soon, tapping away on the keys. Whenever the rest of my life allows it.


Gx

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stockholm

Playing the show without a hangover last night made a refreshing change.  It makes a hell of a difference.  It was nice getting to the half way point of the set and not feeling like you're going to pass out or throw up, instead you felt good, filled with energy, like you could play on for another hour, no problems.  Vik said after the gig last night that it was the first time we'd played where he felt the set seemed a bit short, that it would have been perfect if we could have thrown in a few of the new songs.  We'll have to try this sober lark more often.  Tonight would not be such an occasion unfortunately.  I can categorically say that I felt like fucking piss this morning.

I was surprised to find that I'd actually managed to get myself into my sweatpants before I went to bed and my clothes were folded neatly beside the mattress I was sleeping on, although I almost always manage that irrespective of the state I go to bed in to be fair, and I do have a very vague memory of brushing my teeth in the bogs before climbing up the wooden staircase that leads up to the hole in the ceiling that was the gateway into the dormitory.  But still, no mistake, after barely four hours sleep I felt like I'd been dragged through the proverbial hedge backwards.  After registering where I was, the next thing I realised was that Thin Lizzy's album Jailbreak was playing full blast in the venue below.  I mean, loud as fuck.   I pull the sleeping bag over my face in vain hope of drowning the noise out but it's no use.  It occurs to me then that this has actually been going on since we went to bed, that some punk has obviously put the album on repeat and then passed out drunk.  I recall, or I remember a feeling, stirring a few times to the sounds of Lizzy creeping into my dreams like a poisonous fog.  I lay in bed for almost one full revolution of the album before kicking of the sleeping bag, aggrieved.  I don't mind Lizzy, although I think they're criminally overrated, and like most self respecting record collectors I've got a few albums, but I simply don't understand the concept of putting on music, whatever it is, full blast through the PA and fucking off to bed.  Even harder to understand is the fact that despite the fact that people are clearly up and about downstairs, nobody seems to bee inclined to turn the fucker off.

I pull myself up and shake myself down, the first thing I notice is Åke sleeping on the other side of the room with his jacket on.  And then Kev, beside me, looking like he might actually have snuffed it in the night.  I chortle to myself and head downstairs through the hole in the floor.  There are indeed a few people moving about, zombie like, except Jocke who is fresh and ready to go.  One day I actually will give up booze, I'm sure of it.  I head over to the bar where there is some breakfast on the go and Jimmy, one of the main guys involved in the running of the venue, has put a pot of coffee on.  I'm desperate for a cup and barely notice it's pale complexion as I lift it to my mouth.  “That has to be the worst coffee I have ever made, I'm actually ashamed of it” Jimmy confesses.  I have to agree with him.  As desperate as I am I can not drink it.  We'll have to stop as soon as possible to organise some caffeine.

One by one the boys rise like corpses from the dead and we sit about together and eat what we can.  There are more than a few comments passed about Jimmy's coffee.  And then, as if to save my day, as if he was put on this planet just to make me feel better about myself, Lucas appears from his slumber, no longer wearing his blouse.  It's a wonderful thing how seeing someone that is so obviously far worse off than yourself can make you feel like a million quid.

It's time to go and after loading the van and saying goodbye to the guys we head off for Stockholm.  I won't be listening to Thin Lizzy again for a good while...Kev tells me it's a good thing they didn't play the song Sarah as that would undoubtedly have reduced him to tears, that name having a special place in his heart.  We stop almost immediately and grab some petrol station coffee and a few snacks for breakfast.  The Desperat guys are all looking perky and are blatantly enjoying our state of affairs.  Chrille is on at Luk, waving his little metal cup around and asking him if he wants a dram.  Luk looks like he's going to throw up on him.  Jocke is of course driving this morning, there is no way I would get away with sitting behind the wheel.  The journey up to Stockholm is a little more subdued than the reverse trip yesterday.  At least from the DB side of things.  Luk hasn't even bothered to put product in his hair, a most unusual sight, and spends periods of time with his head in his hands cursing Chrille.  Chrille and Johan are sat at the back with Kev, playing bizarre umpah style music with saucy lyrics, laughing to themselves, their laughter contaminating the rest of us. Outside it's grey and miserable, the rain pattering on the windows provocatively.  It's going to be a long trip.

Jocke drives most of the way back to Stockholm, an effort I'm very thankful for.  As the day rolls on though I do start to feel a little better, a couple of cups of coffee along the way helping somewhat.  If I was at home and feeling like this then I wouldn't be fucking laughing but when you're out in the van you never really reach that same depth of awfulness, and plus, there's plenty to laugh about, not least my Brazilian friend sat beside me looking as pasty as a Scotsman in winter.  At one point he lets go of a fart, doing his utmost to sneak the fucker out, and looks at me hopefully, “Maybe it will be one of those that doesn't smell..” he barely emits the words from his mouth before the stench engulfs the van, “No!” he panics whilst the rest of the van heaves in disgust.

The journey isn't as bad as I suspected it would upon leaving this morning and by the time Jocke pulls over for a coffee just outside of Nyköping I feel ready to take the wheel again and steer us down the final stretch into Stockholm.  I spend the last couple of hours chatting away to Åke, a real diamond of a bloke who's grin never seems to quite leave his face.  We're close to town when Lucas tells me he needs a piss and I end up pulling over into what I think are services but is in fact a narrow road into the dark countryside.  It takes a while to find somewhere and when we do it's not the safest of places to stop, a tight turn in the road that leads to a little church path in the dark, car headlights coming the other way.  Fuck this.  My phone is starting to buzz too, that familiar buzz that accompanies a home town gig, except today is even worse since we're kind of organising the show.  I wish we could just turn up ad play but instead I feel a little stressed, concerned that the gig will go well and everyone will enjoy themselves, that we can make enough to cover ours and Desperat's costs and that everyone else will be sorted out.  Still, I'm confident it will be well attended, it's a good line up what with Tortyr playing their first show in ages and Red Doves who are always great.  It should be a top night.

Claes Tortyr texts me as we're driving into the city, telling me they've dropped their gear off and have gone for a beer.  I'm looking forward to seeing the guys.  Tortyr are the same four boys that make up Tormented.  Tormented are Tortyr's death metal alter ego if you like, they simply switch vocal duties between Claes and Drette respectively.  Pretty cool.  I saw this in full effect when we played a punk squat in Groningen with Tormented and about halfway through, catching the vibe a little, Claes took the mic and they changed to Tortyr.  Left all the punk kids scoobied for about half a song and then when they understood what was happening they went mad.  It was a lot of fun, I was right there in the middle of the crowd pumping my fist to Bombarna Faller.  Great times.  It will be brilliant to see the guys again.

We pull up to Kafé 44 around five pm, load in, talk a little with Bengtsson who is occupied with his computer playing Solitaire and not saying a whole lot, not giving much away about whether they're going to have a bar tonight, something a lot of people have been asking about this week, something which a lot of punks view as quite critical in determining their presence at the show.  We've been telling people all week not to expect a bar but as it turns out Bengtsson grumbles that they're going to open one anyway and we have to scramble around the internet letting people know this fact, a half hour before doors.  I wish it wasn't like this, that you didn't have to sell beer just to get the punks to come on a Saturday night but that's the way it is.  Otherwise you end up with a best case scenario of a well sold show but nobody there when the bands start playing, being that they're all at the pub during intervals.  For DB this would not be good since if you miss the first ten minutes all you've got left are the last five.  One day we'll probably start playing a little longer, one day we'll get into the habit of not being hungover on stage and having the energy to do so, though as said, tonight is not the night.

I'm feeling a little better now anyway but Lucas is still feeling pretty piss by the looks of it.  We head down to La Neta to get some good, cheap Mexican food with the Tortyr guys and catch up on old times.  They're a great bunch, funny as fuck, they don't even mean to be a lot of the time it's just the way they are.  I've never laughed as much on tour as the three weeks we spent in a van with Tormented.  The Desperat boys have joined us as well and we sit down to a big communal enchilada feast together.  Jocke has put out some Tortyr records along the way and as usual, everyone knows everyone.

Suitably filled and satisfied we head back to the Kafé and upon arrival I feel it's now time for my first beer, time to recover and shake this shit.  I sound like a fucking alcoholic!  In all honesty I don't actually drink that much anymore, only when we're out playing and even then it doesn't take much to get me pissed anymore.  By the time we get back there are a good few people in and there is that buzz about the place that having the bar open creates.  The first time I ever went out in Stockholm was to a party at this place and I've been enchanted by the old building ever since.  A can of Norrlands Guld in hand, ironic name given that it tastes like piss, I head into the gig room to see Red Doves.

Henke is one of my favourite punk rock vocalists.  I loved his singing in Trapdoor Fucking Exit and it's really fun to see him once again playing in another great band.  It's been a while since Trapdoor split.  Red Doves are a little more snotty California, early 80's style punk and their newer stuff seems to be reaching further into latter day Flag when they started weirding out.  Nirre is a fucking great guitar player, again, I loved his work back in the Section 8 days, so with these two guys in the band it can't really go wrong.  The room is almost full when they take the stage and I take my place near the front, looking forward to their set and to playing ours afterwards.  They don't disappoint.  I have to crack up, during their set I notice Luk has made his way to the stage to obtain a better view. Surrounded by punks clutching beer cans, Luk has a huge mug of 7 Eleven coffee, quite the contrast to last night.  He ends up making his way over from the steadily rousing moshpit and landing just in front of me, although he hasn't noticed I'm stood there.  I clunk my beer can to his coffee, “Cheers buddy!”  Per automatic he raises his mug and gives me an enthusiastic “Cheers!” back without looking away from the stage, when he turns mid toast and realises it's me the façade drops and a look of sorry defeat washes over his face, “No” he groans, shaking his head.  Again, I still feel pretty useless but this guy is helping me feel good about myself.

When Red Doves are done we slouch up on stage and set up.  Set up, tune up and slurk off again, pick up some water and slouch back again.  We must look a sorry, pathetic lot.  Somehow though, as always, we find the energy from somewhere and give it all we've got.  When I think about it, this can't be healthy.  Feeling like a sack of shit all day and then going up on stage and going nuts for a quarter of an hour.  They say you shouldn't exercise when you're hungover and doing what we do must be the equivalent of going on an all out sprint for fifteen minutes whilst feeling like dog turd.  Saying that, it seems to work because I always feel a lot better afterwards and in due course I'm ready for a beer again.  Funny that.

Our show flies by and it's an overall good vibe.  It was almost exactly a year ago that we played the first DB show, at this very same venue, and the difference between the two is palpable.  I thought then that that first show went well, for a first show, but a year later and I can now see how shaky we were.  Tonight felt completely controlled.  Strange, something that seems to be becoming a bit of a recurring theme is what Jocke Tortyr said to me afterwards, “You guys were great!  Much better than I thought it was going to be!”  I don't know what that means really but I'll take it as a compliment from my buddy.  Anyhow, it's nice to be a year along and feeling a lot more comfortable about playing live with the band.  The room was pretty full when we played and my mate Joran, my reliable, fellow immigrant who I buy coffee from every morning at Il Caffe, was down the front in his DB shirt going for it the whole show.  Brought a smile to my face.

It's a real pleasure seeing Tortyr play a whole set this time around.  Stood there watching them I longed to be back on tour with the guys.  I feel a huge amount of love and respect for these boys. Just looking at Jocke's cheeky little face when he plays the drums tickles me, and fuck can he play the drums!  It's been a long time since they played Stockholm and they get a good response from the crowd, especially when they play the song Piss Job which I guess resonates with quite a few of us in the room.

Desperat close the show tonight and the first thing I notice is how much clearer Jocke's vocals are compared to last night.  The second thing I notice is what a great vocalist Jocke really is.  He has that thing going on where he can scream, hold it forever without breaking and still bring a melody to it.  I mean, it's harsh as fuck but there is tune in there somewhere too.  Desperat top off a really solid night of bands.  I'm completely satisfied with how everything has gone, it couldn't really have been any better.  This considering the legendary Sham 69 are in town!  What a joke.  Not really conflicting crowds I guess, for the most part, although once person that gig did steal from us is Jon Victims who was playing in the band Stilet who were opening up for them.  But that's another story...

Once Desperat are done Bengtsson takes a hold of me and gives me a wad of cash, thank you very much sir.  The bar is now closed and it's time to get everyone out of here but after all the worries about tonight and the costs being covered it turns out Bengtsson is now in a very good mood, as am I, because I can give Claes more than enough money for Tortyr's petrol and nobody in the DB/Desperat camp ended up having to fork out any money to play these two shows.  We settle up and everyone is happy, shit, DB and Desperat actually have a thousand kronor to split between ourselves, about fifty quid each, not bad for two nights work.  Jocke laughs as he informs Åke of our profits, Åke seems chuffed as always.

We sold pretty good on merch tonight too, so after packing away the gear and saying a long goodbye to the Desperat guys, plans for a UK leg already beginning to hatch, we take our winnings and head to the nearest bar with the Tortyr guys.  I say nearest bar, it's not quite that, but it's the cheapest option, where all the other punks have gone to.  It's a new place on Folkungagatan called No Name Bar, Drette mentioned it earlier but I didn't have a clue what he was going on about.  It turns out to be quite an odd place.

It's a sports bar that sells cheap beer and there are loads of punks hanging out in it.  Kev is delighted with the prices, saying that it's even cheaper than back home, each time he comes back from the bar with a new beer he looks more chuffed than the last.  We're sitting at a table with the Tortyr guys and Andy Victims, having a good old chin wag over a couple of pints, when some young chav kid stoats by our table carrying a round of drinks stops, a look of confusion on his face, “Sorry, have to ask, but is there some sort of hard rock event going on tonight?  This place seems to have been invaded.”  Or something along those lines.  I don't know if he's trying to be a wise cunt and start trouble or if he's just genuinely curious.  I tell him there was a punk gig on at Kafé 44 and that seems to clarify things for him.  “Ahhhh..” He then says something about there being some artsy after party on at the studio besides 44, or something, I don't quite catch it.  Turns out Luk is there anyway...Luk actually turns up a little later with some of his hip crowd, hip as in young and happening as opposed to the old farts that are we sat around our table drinking beer and talking about “the old days”.

It's great catching up properly with the Tortyr guys and it's too bad they're not sticking around tonight.  We had organised places to stay for them but Robban was happy enough to hang out for a while and then drive home.  We say goodbye to them and talk about seeing each other more often but in truth it's never that easy.  They live a couple of hours drive away and these days I barely see my mates in Stockholm, outside of those I play in bands with, more than a few occasions a year.  I guess that's life when you grow up and start a family and everyone else is doing the same.  

By the time they turn the lights on in the bar I'm ready to go home but Kev and Vik are really up for another beer and as Kev is going home tomorrow and Jen is staying at her mum's with Polly tonight I decide to go with.  Andy is pretty pissed and declares it's time for him to call it a night.  I can't help thinking I should follow suit.. But then, I'm sober, the way you are after a heavy session the night before, when it seems you can drink all night long without being affected.  Andy is actually on a whole other level to that I'm on it must be said, his eyes are going, the way they do when he's pissed, and his parting shot is a cracker.  He's stood talking with Luk and his mate Philly Bee, quite a hip left-winger, and somehow manages to knock Philly Bee's red wine out of his hand and down his shirt.  Andy slowly looks down at the red stain on his shirt and then up again and by way of explanation offers, “I'm sorry, I'm very drunk” and then turns back to Luk and continues his conversation.  I hear Philly Bee, stood by Luk's other ear, “Who's this guy?”  Luk does his best to explain..Andy heads home.

Luk ends up coming along with me, Kev and Viktor, as well as our friend Ragnar, a brilliant and respected artist who designed one of our shirts, the white one with the red skull on it, for one last/two last drinks.  The options in this part of town at this time of night are pretty shite though.  Actually the options in any part of town at this time of night are pretty shite.  We try the hotel bar at Malmen first, fuck knows why, it's a hell hole with utter tripe for bouncers.  As it turns out, the particular walking steroid on the door on this occasion takes one look at Ragnar and tells him he's not coming in, informing him he's too drunk.  Arguing is completely and utterly pointless of course.  We turn around and try the next place, although Kev is bitter, convinced they only knocked Ragnar back because he's got long hair.  “I fucking hate cunts like that!  Turning Ragnar away just because he looks like he does, fucking fascist!”  To be fair, I'm sure Steroid was only to happy to turn Ragnar away...

We end up in an equally horrid establishment a little further down the road called Charles Dickens, where apparently everyone is welcome irrespective of how drunk they are.  The place is absolutely rammed, uncomfortably so.  We shuffle our way to the bar and after a good twenty minutes manage to order some beers and find an air pocket in the corner by the bogs to drink them in.  We stand there blethering for an hour or so and despite the shocking surroundings we find ourselves in, venture back to the bar for a refill.  The night deteriorates into slurred words and bleary eyes and Kev telling Ragnar about our friend Robbie from London who isn't gay but sucks old man's cocks, Ragnar's jaw agape, Robbie is a special guy it's fare to say, and it's three thirty by the time I decide enough is enough.  We head down to the tube station and there I say my goodbyes, a little sad to see Kev leave as always but there will be plenty of other good times to come I suppose.  I'm still nowhere near drunk, just knackered and a little disappointed I haven't take advantage of a good night's sleep since the girls are away and I've got the flat to myself tonight.

But the I figure... fuck it, you can sleep when you're dead, as they say, or in my case, when Polly is a teenager and I'm too old to be playing in punk bands anymore.  Or?...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Göteborg

We were supposed to play in Malmö yesterday.  The show was cancelled.  Or should I say, the venue, Svalvet, was closed down.  Hårda Tider had their release party there a couple of months ago and according to hearsay the punks at the gig had pissed and puked all over the place afterwards, the landlord then received complaints the following day from neighbouring tenants and the punks running the place were duly kicked out.  This is just hearsay of course...

This was the first punk house the Malmö scene had owned since Utkanten.  Strangely enough, Kev and I were present when that place was raided by the pigs and closed down, we were there to play a show with Victims, Regimes and Pyramido and the cunts had raided the place like they were busting an Al Qaeda hiding hole, the whole thing was absolutely pathetic.  We were literally sat there eating cinnamon buns and drinking coffee when these idiots bust through the door with a battering ram and march in dressed in full riot gear.  It was fucking surreal.

Malmö doesn't seem to have much luck with housing it's punk scene.  I've always found it strange that a city with arguably the strongest scene in Sweden, with such a wide array of bands adhering to the DIY ethic has so little to offer in the way of gig venues.  When Svalvet closed we still had a couple of months to find something else but the efforts of an assortment of various friends in the city had failed to materialise into a gig, for one reason or another.  So we're just left with Göteborg and Stockholm for this little “tour”.  Shame, we have a few costs to cover, I'm hoping we can make that work from just two shows.  We've paid to play a few times with Diagnosis, by which I mean our costs have heavily outweighed our income, and we'll do it again if it feels worth it, but it would be nice to just have the money go round, just once...

It's also a shame that we couldn't make more of a weekend of it with the Desperat guys.  I'd been really looking forward to sharing a van with them for a few days but now with just the two shows, and with tomorrow's being Stockholm, we'll just have to make the most of hanging out tonight in Göteborg.

Something I love about being involved in punk rock is the friends you make along the way.  Jocke, the singer in Desperat and the man behind D Takt och Råpunk, the label that has been kind enough to release our records, has become a good friend of mine since I first got in touch with him via email about releasing our first seven inch, a little over a year ago. The thing is, today would be the first time we'd met in person.  I never had a pen friend as a kid but Jocke has become something of one to me in adulthood.  We first wrote back and forth about the record, but soon enough we started corresponding about a whole load of other stuff, personal stuff.  We just kind of clicked, realising we have a lot in common.  I was almost nervous as we drove over to their practice room to pick them up.  A strange situation meeting an already good friend for the very first time.

As it turns out, Jocke was just as easy to talk to as he is to write to and the other guys in the band, Chrille and Johan, we're just as easy going too.  I'd been mailing back and forth with Chrille this last week, just about the usual planning stuff for the shows and it turns out both he and Johan live down the road from me. Some people just give you a really good impression upon first meeting them, and that was definitely the case here.  As we set off in the van we'd barely gotten out of Stockholm before the laughter in the back of the van behind me erupted.  I really wish we were doing a few more shows with these guys...

So, everyone in the van, except Åke who plays guitar in Desperat and lives in Malmö and will meet us at the venue tonight, we head off on the four hundred and fifty kilometre journey towards Göteborg.  This is actually the first time I've driven a van, well, a van full of band members at least, and I'd been a little trepidatious about the whole thing, but by the time we stopped for the first coffee break, just after Södertälje, I felt like I'd been driving band vans all my life.  Piece of piss.  Except when it came to parking the fucking thing in a tight space at said coffee break, that got a bit sweaty.

At the start of a tour when you're sharing a van with another band the two bands usually stay segregated. One band sits up the front, the other at the back.  I remember thinking about this when Victims did a three week tour sharing a van with Tormented.  It was exactly that in the beginning.  After a week or so, a long time on tour, usually everyone has mixed, for the good of everyone's enjoyment.  If things go well that is. Can't actually imagine how shite sharing a van with a band you didn't get on with would be.  As it was today, Jocke, Chrille and Johan were occupying the back bench and Kev and Vik were in front of them, me and Luk up front.  Give it a few days and this would change but we only have tomorrow.  Shame because I know given the time we'd have a blast with these boys as Victims did with our now close friends, Tormented.

I'm sure every time I've travelled south by road in Sweden, towards Göteborg or to Europe, I've stopped at Max about half way there and eaten a veggie burger.  Today was no different.  It's almost like an unwritten rule.  We normally stop in Jönköping but today we went a little further and ended up in some sort of roadside burger emporium.  It had every burger joint Sweden had to offer and on the way in we were greeted by a huge sculpture of a potato in the middle of a roundabout.  The place looked more like Mid West United States than Swedish bible belt.  Really, we should have taken Sibylla, which has a soya burger and is way better than Max's deep fried vegetable patty, but unwritten rules are unwritten rules.  I can get a little tired of Max's veggie burger though.. At least they exist I guess, I shouldn't moan.  When I think back to the time I was in Stavanger with Santiago a while back and drunkenly ordered a veggie burger from “Burger King” only to receive a bun, some salad, onions and fucking ketchup, no sign of any sort of burger, and still had to pay about four fucking quid for this piece of shit, it still fries my piss!

We all sit down to our meals, once I've timidly parked the van in a seemingly very tight parking space, and begin the process of getting to know each other, talking old times and other bands and different faces.  I always love talking to other punks about their experiences in the scene.  Meals eaten we're back in the van and heading down the last stretch of motorway towards Göteborg, the sky already darkening and it's only three pm.  We make one last coffee and piss stop around forty kilometres away and then Jocke takes over the wheel, I sit beside him and we chat our way to the venue.  

It's so easy these days, now that everybody has GPS on their phones.  This place would have been a classic victim for fucking Google Maps back in the day.  How many times I've been in a van on the way in to a big city, rabidly following the list of directions printed off the computer and then you miss that crucial exit on the motorway and you're fucked!  Had a horrible experience in Munich one time but that's another story.  Anyway, without GPS this place would have been a fucker to find, out in the middle of Hissingen in an industrial estate.  Viktor had warned us there would be no point in us turning up early as there was the sum total of fuck all to do in the area.  He wasn't joking.  As it is, we turned up bang on time, just as the guys running the place were getting some food ready for us.

The venue, named 128 A, is housed in a warehouse unit that they've done up into a very cool punk house.  The stage is a perfect size, the room is big but set up so that forty people in front of the band will give the place a good vibe.  There are sofas spread about the room, a kitchen area behind the bar where they do all the cooking, a free shop where people can leave and pick up clothes, books and whatever else and also a stall where information about the Punk Illegal movement is on display.  It's these people who are behind the running of the place.  A very good set up indeed, although one wonders if people can really be fucked coming all the way out here from town?  If this was Stockholm it wouldn't stand a chance!  No tube station, no go.

We walk in and Johan and Chrille's first priority is figuring out where the nearest off licence is.  They needn't worry, we're told there are more than enough beers in the backstage room and if we do manage to drink them then the beer is only twenty kronor a pop in the bar.  It turns out Chrille has a quart of whisky in his pocket anyway!  That cracks me up.  I already love this guy.  As we wait for the food the guys take beers to one of the sofa areas and quench their thirst whilst waiting for dinner to be served.  Even though Jocke doesn't drink it doesn't exactly feel fair to just assume he's going to want to drive the van after the gig to wherever we're staying so I hold off on the beer, weakly attempting to convince myself and everyone else that I'm not in the mood for a brew just yet.  When it turns out that we're actually sleeping at the venue tonight though, in a dormitory above the stage I crack a beer open immediately.  Guess I was thirsty.  We spend the next half hour or so sitting around having the crack, taking the piss out of each other.  I like Chrille, he has a constant, cheeky look on his coupon...

The Desperat guys head off to pick up Åke from the train station and when they return the food is ready.  And fuck me is it good!  A vegan potato granting with a smoked tofu salad.  Absolutely superb.  Nothing like great grub to get your night going.  I'm looking forward to playing tonight.  Not sure how many people are going to turn up but since Mob 47 are playing, which is everyone from Desperat bar Jocke, and they haven't played Göteborg for a very long time, I'm guessing it should be a healthy turn out.  Mob 47 are a legendary Swedish punk band who split up in the eighties and reformed a few years back, one of the fastest of the d-beat bands back in the day.  My first show with Victims was actually with Mob at Kafé 44. Another of the many things I love about punk rock is that there are no fucking rock stars, well, not in the scene we're involved in anyway, and even legends like these guys are easy going, humble people.  It's funny, Åke is one of Jon Victims' idols, not so much for his punk rock status but for his bowling skills.  Åke is right up there with the best and is a bowling freak just like Jon.  He actually moved down to Malmö to open his own alley. He's one of those people that just make you smile, he always looks absolutely chuffed and it's contagious.

After dinner we tuck into the twenty four pack of beer and gear up for the night ahead.  The other band playing tonight is an all girl band called Svärta, who are all really friendly.  The guitarist knows Viktor from the Stockholm scene and seems really easy to get along with, they all do.  It's their first show tonight and they're playing after us and before Mob, meaning Desperat play first.  Svärta are a completely different kettle of fish from the rest of us and it breaks the bill up nicely.  By the time Desperat start, about nine pm, there are a good lot of punks already in.

They play a blinding show.  Jocke is a great vocalist and frontman, going crazy on stage with his now liberated hair, which has been hidden under an Entombed beanie hat all day, flying about all over the place. The only downside is that his vocal mic sounds pretty muddy and it's a little hard to pick out what he's saying between songs but overall the sound when they play is great.  Jocke spends a good part of the show on the floor, which is just a low step down from the stage.  Always love seeing a singer right in the crowd.  They get a great reception and I get a real buzz watching them.  I love it when the band playing before you really gets you psyched up to play your own show.

We're set up and ready to go a short while after they finish and I'm chuffed with the amount people stood in front of the stage.  First time in Göteborg with DB, well, most places we play are our first time, but this is a perfect first gig in the country's second city.  It sounds great on stage and I'm exploding with energy as we rake through the first two songs.  So this is what it feels like to play a show non-hungover?  I'll have to try it more often.

The set goes off without a hitch, well I break the one string, but that's a given, and the carpet underneath Viktor's drums, which takes up a large area of the stage, is sliding all over the floor every time I stamp on it, causing my thigh muscles to tense up and giving them a good work out in the process, and my tuner pedal is still on the piss, but everything else is great.  I love looking across the stage and seeing my buddies having a great time.  And the large amount of punks down the front seem to be enjoying it as much as we are.  There is another DB first tonight.. When I start the guitar intro to No Exit this one punk kid pumps his fist in the air and shouts “Yes!!!” and then proceeds to sing along to all of the words, or at least, scream along to Kev's indecipherable howls.  It's a great feeling having a record out and somebody recognises one of the songs when you play it live.

Fifteen minutes later and we're done.  We pack up immediately, sweaty and out of breath.  Some young punk kid grabs me as I'm coiling leads and asks me the name of the band.  He tells me he loved it and seemingly he wants to talk for a while.  Always a tricky business trying to be polite to an enthusiast whilst at the same time doing your best to clear the stage for the next band.  When we're packed down me and Viktor head outside to get some fresh air whilst Lucas and Kev take the merch table.  It's a cold night and for about five minutes it feels fucking heavenly standing in just a t-shirt, beer in hand, cooling off.  This must be the gig equivalent of a sportsman’s post event, ice bath.  Åke and the other boys are all outside, as is a large contingent of punks from inside.  I get talking to Åke, who has a beaming smile across his face and a can in his hand, about the Mob 47/Desperat tour of the US west coast they did in September.  It was the first time either band had been there.  It blows me away that Åke, Chrille and Johan, all boys in the vintage years of their lives, can go and play two shows a night for a couple of weeks without a break.  No tour bus, no hotels, no fucking frills, they just do it because they love it.  Fucking inspiring.

There are shit loads of people in the house now, and the beers are flowing down my neck like a triumphant river.  Svärta play a good show, taking the pace down for a half hour or so, playing a droning, progged out style of punk, kinda like Black Angels meets later Crass, and then Mob take the stage.  By now we're all well on the way to pissed and in the mood to get down the front and have a sing along with the boys.  Magic. The crowd of predominantly young punks go wild, bouncing on and off the stage, grabbing Åke's mic and taking over the vocals for him.  It's a hell of a feeling seeing punk rock when it's done like this.  By the time they're done we're in overdrive and intent on doing our very best to empty the bar.  To add a bit of spice to the proceedings Chrille has got his bottle of Grouse on the go and with it a little metal cup that he apparently always carries with him.  It doesn't take long for Chrille's Cup to become a thing of legend amongst us. Lucas gets particularly friendly with it.

The whole place is buzzing and the music is blaring, punks are dancing, the bar is being bombarded and we're stuffing ourselves with these mushroom toasties they have on sale, munchied up to fuck as we'd say in Corby.  Loving life right now.  Before long I realise Luk is pretty fucking boats, the fact that he has found a white, frilly blouse from the Free Shop and is wearing it proudly giving it away somewhat.  He's bouncing about the place telling anyone who'll listen that Chrille's Cup is evil and that “It's a really beautiful blouse”.  In all honesty I'm pretty pissed myself but compared to my little brother here I feel positively dapper.  About an hour later Luk has passed out on an arm chair and there is no moving him.  Everybody lines up to take photos with him.

Due to Luk stealing the show I haven't quite noticed how pissed Viktor is, until, that is, I find him wondering about the place in a haze, looking for somewhere quiet and spacious to sit himself and eventually choosing the stage as just the spot for this.  He just plonks himself on his arse and sinks his head into his chest, closing his eyes for a nap.  I get my camera out...

At some point in the night Kev comes stumbling up to me and tells me he just met some guy in the bog queue who asked him if he wanted to see photos of his girlfriend and then proceeds to show him lewd pics of said girlfriend dressed in Nazi regalia.  Kev tells me he intends to find the guy and head home with him.  He doesn't see him again though..

The night rolls in to early morning, people are flaking out one after one, I spend some time upstairs in the dormitory hanging out with Jocke, thinking now is a good time to catch up properly but obviously it's not because he's sober and I'm slurring the majority of my words.  Vik is awake again and hammering down beers with the Desperat/Mob boys until like me they finally give up the ghost.  Last up is Kev, who calls it a night around five thirty, about a half hour after the rest of us have passed out.  Apparently the final straw for Kev was when he'd been stood talking alone with a girl at the bar, by which time there was only a handful of people left in the building, broken off the conversation to go for a piss and when he'd come back found that there was now two girls at the bar.  He couldn't remember which one he was talking too so he just went to bed instead.

Goodnight Göteborg.  Good night indeed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bradford

There is simply no good reason for my alarm clock ringing at four am.  Nobody should have to arise from their pit at this ungodly hour.  I'm the first to admit that I'm a fucking nightmare in the morning but this is beyond the joke.  Four am.  Polly sleeping still in her crib, Jen rolls over agitatedly at the melody of my phone doing it's best to sing me out of bed.  Fuck off.  Just fuck off.

It's still pitch black outside and the thermostat reads a couple below zero.  I've only slept a few hours.  Polly awoke at two and took a bit of settling before dozing off again.  She's stirring again when I come back from the shower.  Bonzo is curled up on the sofa, oblivious to everything.  I throw an espresso down and see to Polly before heading out into the dark, cold morning.

I walk down to Sundbyberg station, shoulders pulled in, trying in vain to keep out the cold.  The train arrives on time, thankfully.  Vik and his dad meet me at Jakobsberg station twenty minutes later.  Vik's dad, Tommy, drives the car at an insane speed.  This is something he likes to do.  As much as I'm grateful to Tommy for the lift, and despite the speed he tears along at I trust him behind the wheel, I could do without the joyride.  At this rate we could just skip the flight and have Tommy drive us to Bradford, he'd make it back in time for work I'm sure...

Lucas meets us at Arlanda, the fucker has taken the express train since he still qualifies as a youth and therefore enjoys youth prices, meaning he's got an hour's sleep on us.  After a huge, piping hot cup of coffee I'm back on track though.  Still, I'm glad Kev has thought about us and booked us in for early check in at the hotel in Bradford.  I'm going to enjoy every second of my afternoon nap later on.

We board the plane on time but then it takes a while to get going and when we do pull away from the terminal a snow storm has engulfed us and the wings are soon covered.  The pilot tells us we'll have to head back and de-ice again before heading off.  I'm not a nervous flyer but I'm still relieved to hear all precautions are being taken.  We're in no rush anyhow.

We land at Manchester airport after a nice, uneventful flight around ten thirty.  Behind us on board were a band on cheesy heavy metallers on their way to a gig somewhere.  I can't remember what their name was, I overheard when some old rocker bloke had spotted them and started up a conversation, but it escapes me now, sounded crap anyway.  I recognised one of the guys, possibly from the bar, but I doubt he recognised me.  I can't help smirking to myself at the thought of the three of us sat in front of them, on the same mission as they are albeit way more subtle about it.  There's no fucking mistaking these boys behind us, they look like every heavy metal band you've ever seen, whereas we look like a trio of office boys.  The guy behind Lucas spends long periods of the journey tapping away on the back of his seat, getting right on Lucas' tits.  I guess he's the drummer.  No manners on the cunt anyhow.  Of course, we say nothing.  We just quietly mock how pathetic they are.  I guess that makes us pretty pathetic too...

It's a smooth journey to Bradford with just a quick change at Leeds station.  I haven't been here for a few years, the last time was a house show with Speedhorn which was one of the best gigs we ever played.  We played in a room in the basement which was crammed literally to the roof by us and around twenty five other people.  Then there was another basement room opposite the one we played in that had about another thirty people in,  who obviously couldn't see us but were moshing away nonetheless.  It was an amazing night. Most other times I've been here though is to play the wonderful 1 in 12 Club, the very same place we're playing tonight.

We arrive at Forster Square station around one pm and I'm delighted to find that our Travelodge hotel is literally right across the car park, meaning it's only a fifteen minute walk to the club later on.  Bradford isn't really that big a place, but still.  We check in to our room and the three of us dive into our beds, me and Lucas sharing a double and Vik in a single.  There is no better feeling than tucking yourself in under the cool sheets of a welcome hotel bed, especially when you're fucking knackered.  Even if you are sharing it with a horny young Brazilian... The fact is I'm too tired to sleep but it's so nice just lying in bed watching the BBC World News service that I don't care.  I eventually do drift off, I think at least, but it's only that very lightest of sleeps, right at the very surface, where you catch yourself nodding in and out of conciousness and the only real sure sign you've slept at all is the wet patch of drool on your pillow.

After a couple of hours rest we walk into town and make for the nearest reasonable looking café, which oddly enough is called Smorgasbord, although as far as I can tell the name is the only Swedish thing about the place, well that and the free wifi.  And of course, as soon as we discover that, we're all online and ignoring each other.  One of my best mates, Lee, who used to drive Speedhorn on tour, is coming down from Glasgow to hang out for the weekend.  He arrives just as we're finishing our coffee.  It's great to see him, unfortunately an altogether far too seldom occurrence these days.  The pair of us practically used to live together on board our van Betty for weeks on end, driving all over Europe, Lee putting up with just about everything we could throw at him, but nowadays we lead different lives.  He's still someone I consider a brother though, and when we do see each other we pick up from exactly where we left off the time before.
Lee is a very easy guy to hang out with and he gets on with Lucas and Viktor immediately.  We drink up and pass the next couple of hours with a trip to the National Media Museum, one of Bradford's highlights, it's like a play park for adults.  We fart about, taking pictures of ourselves posing in front of a blue screen that up on the monitor shows us hanging out with the Teletubbies, flying about on a hoverboard and reading the weather report etc. etc.  There are loads of gadgets to fuck around with and we have a good crack watching Lucas read the BBC news.  We of course spend a long chunk of our visit in the old school games room where they have a bunch of old arcade machines from the 80's.  Lucas and I get involved in a pretty intense game of Pong, the fucker eventually beating me two sets to one.

Whilst waiting for Kev and Jamie to arrive, as well as Vik's girlfriend Bea, we head to a chippy for some dinner.  Luk and Vik are weirded out by the institution of British gastronomy that is the Chip Butty.  Luk kind of pokes it about a bit whilst me and Lee wolf ours down.  Vik goes for the safer option of fish and chips. Afterwards we head back to the hotel to wait for Kev and Jamie.  Vik goes off to meet Bea and when everyone is finally gathered we head down to the club.  We had planned earlier to go for a curry before the gig, something one simply must do when in Bradford, but there isn't time.  Maybe afterwards.

If I still lived in the UK then Means to an End Fest is something I would attend whether I was playing or not, which isn't always the case with gigs we're on.  I'm chuffed to be on this bill though since there are a lot of other bands I want to see.  For once I'm happy we got here the day before we play.  Later on tonight our mates from back home, Infernöh, who are also playing tomorrow, are arriving, so it's bound to get messy.
Just walking into the building brings all the memories of previous visits back.  The smell of the moist brick walls either side of the thin staircase, the stickiness of the floor, the poorly lit bar selling Sam Smith's beer in plastic glasses, it's simply wonderful to be here.  The bands that have played on that stage over the years, the building is simply drenched in punk rock history.  It's always an honour playing here.  We played a few times with Speedhorn back in the day but the best show I ever had here was a few years ago with Victims.  The place was pretty packed that night.

We check in with Steve, sort passes out and all that stuff, although we're a little early, so we  head to a local pub with an friend of Kev's, Russ, who used to play in the brilliant band Stalingrad.  He's a real character, big as a fucking house and gruff as a bear.  We pass a few pubs that Russ labels "fucking shite" before settling on a place that is no frills interior-wise but has a healthy selection of beer, and at a more than fair price.  I get a hit off the very first sip of the very first pint, a lovely English IPA.  I thought I'd made a mature move and gone for the weakest ale they had on tap, which at 4,2% I would have thought was more than safe, but a combination of old/dad and sleep deprivation have fucked with that idea.  For now though, sat here with a great gang of mates, pint in hand, all warm and fuzzy inside, I feel good.  I know it's only going one way though...Only if I stop now will I be able to avoid the inevitable.  And that's simply not going to happen.

We've been sat at a table beside the door for about twenty minutes when some guy who is obviously a junkie and pretty wasted, pops his head in and asks if any of us have cats.  I see he's carrying a bag with him and for a brief second of horror I think he's got a cat for sale.  Turns out he's got an array of stolen junk he's looking to offload and amongst his selection is a multi-pack of cat food, or I should say a half opened pack of cat food tins.  Russ tells him he's got a cat and the junkie shuffles over to him.  The poor bastard can barely speak nevermind negotiate a price.  When Russ asks him how much he wants for it he's told eight quid, to which he scoffs, "Fuck that!  A whole pack costs a fiver, forget it."  The junkie then asks how much Russ will give him for it to which he's told one pound fifty.  He simply looks defeated, "Well give me that then.." Fucking tragic.  Russ is chuffed enough though, "There you go, fucking cat food!"

We head back up to the club in time for the first band which is Nu, Pogodi! a trashy, grind d-beat three piece lead by two girls, one of which happened to be the girl we sold a t-shirt to at Fuk Reddin' that received a free massage from Luk during the transaction.  I buy myself a pint of Sam Smith's Old Brewery and watch their set.  I enjoy them a lot more than the beer I have to say, there is something not quite right about the taste of it.  Maybe it's the plastic glass, I don't know.  What I do know though is this beer, I've drunk it enough at the Rock, and this sour taste is not fucking right.  I'm on the verge of returning it before realising that will be a completely pointless exercise and so I battle my way through it.

Another two pints and I'm drunk.  Not just I've had four pints and now I'm feeling pretty hazy but I've had four pints and now I'm feeling pretty fucking boats.  I'm not sailing alone though, the Sam Smith's has gotten everyone.  The Infernöh guys are here now too and their presence has only excelled the party to the next level.  They were already steaming when they turned up...

We all end up hanging out in the bar upstairs on the second floor and of course missing the majority of the bands on downstairs.  We're all too fucked to either notice or care.  For a while we hang out by the fussball table, singing and dancing every time team Lucas/Gaz scores a goal.  Then our attention turns to the dartboard, Lucas throwing the arrows as hard as he fucking can and generally failing to hit the board, they just hit the wall and flop down to the floor.  At one point I go to retrieve them and in what I believe will be a funny joke lob one over to Luk and tell him to catch, which he of course does, with the palm of his hand and then lets out a yelp.  "Why would you do that?!" he implores me.  I feel a little bad I have to admit. Sometimes the asshole in me comes out to play when I'm back on the island, I've done a good job at hiding him from the Swedes for the most part but being in the UK or with other Brits when boats is normally a bad combination.  Everyone else has a good laugh about it although Luk calls me a cunt for a while and informs me he doesn't much care for Brit Gaz.  The night rolls on...

Before things get really hazy and collapse into a mass of hugging and photographs one thing sticks in my mind.  There is an unopened bottle of champagne with a Union Jack covering on it.  Attached to it a note that reads: "Donated to the 1 in 12 Club to commemorate the death of Thatcher.  To be corked the day Cameron joins her!"  A nice touch I thought.

By the time I've drunk my sixth and final pint, I am absolutely wankered!  What the fuck do they put in this stuff?  Four percent alcohol my fucking rana!  My only solace is that everywhere I look I see faces that appear as drunk as I feel.  Lucas is particularly fucked and doesn't seem to notice Bea cheekily pouring her cider repeatedly into his beer when he's not looking.  Or maybe he does and he doesn't give a toss.  For that mater, Bea looks pretty sauced too.  As does Kev, and Vik, and Jamie, and the Infernöh guys and the other two skinhead punks who have passed out upright on their chairs over there.  The only sane one, as always, mentally documenting it all, is Lee.  Like old times...

I really wanted to see Disguise and despite missing pretty much every other band tonight I tell myself to get it together and follow everyone else down to see them.  I remember very little except that there are a lot people and Lucas does a couple of stage dives during their set.  Shame because I like the band and had been looking forward to seeing them.  Fucking alcohol, stupid.

Pretty much the last thing I can remember of the night with any hint of clarity is being back upstairs in the bar with everyone, sat about a table and getting Lucas to suck on one of Lill Jonas from Infernöh's dreadlocks.  I do this knowing fine well Jonas can be a bit aggro when he's drunk, or so his reputation decrees.  Lucas asks how much we'll give him if he completes said task and I tell him a tenner.  Before I know it Luk is sucking that dirty dreadlock like a pipe.  Jonas is as expected, not amused and asks someone, not looking at Lucas but irritably thumbing in his direction, "Who the fuck is this guy?"  Luk spends the next couple of minutes talking his way out of the situation, explaining he's with us lot.  When he's done I tell him I need my tenner back.

There is also a fuzzy picture of me and Kev sniffing a bottle of poppers and laughing our heads off.  I haven't done that for a long, long time.  Weird that that stuff is legal since it drives your head fucking crackers.
And that's about the last I remember.  There is a vague memory of buying some disgusting chips and cheese from a kebab shop and me, Luk and Lee trying to take a band photo by capturing our image on their CCTV monitor, and there is another hazy recollection of not finding our hotel key and having to be allowed into the lobby by some unamused night porter and then trying to explain to him what room we're in and under who's name it's booked.

The next thing I know is I wake up beside Luk in the double bed and my head feels like it's about to expolde!  I look to my phone to check the time and that action alone almost brings the vom to the surface.  A glance at my phone tells me not the time but that both Kev and Jamie had called me at three fifteen am.  I look over to Kev's single bed and it's empty.  I look back at Luk and see he looks about as horrible as I feel and tell him I'm in trouble, that I don't know if I can play the show tonight.  Literally every fucking breath hurts my head some more.  I use every breath wisely in that case, begging Luk to either find me some headache tablets or text Bea and ask if she has any since she's a girl and bound to have thought of such things.

It takes almost two hours for salvation to arrive in the form of Bea.  She'd actually gone and bought pills this morning since her head was thumping too.  Kev finally arrives having slept on a spare matress in Bea, Vik and Jamie's room (Lee had been sensible enough to book his own) apparently the first thing he said, or shouted, when he woke up was, "Where the fuck am I?!"  He doesn't remember a fucking thing and is gutted to hear he went for a curry with Jamie and can't recall any of it.  He's still pissed when he arrives in our room, something I have a hard time dealing with.  He's gone and bought a breakfast box from the vending machine which is packed in a plastic wrapper and spends about twenty seconds trying to open it before it explodes all over the floor.  I realise I have to get some food in me if I have a chance of dealing with this day and Kev calling me a ponce and make an attempt on a chocolate digestive from a half eaten pack beside my bed.  I manage half a biscuit before I have to stop.  I can do fuck all until those tablets kick in so I simply lie back down in bed and ignore Kev.

I do gradually start to feel better though and about an hour later I've even made it to the shower and had a cup of tea.  By the time Lucas tells us he thinks he's pissed his bockies I'm feeling positively festive!  He says he thinks he may have been dreaming in his drunken slumber that he was pissing and then woken up and realised he actually was.  I'm expecting to see a fleck of moisture on his kecks but he reveals a huge patch of piss that has me and Vik rolling around with laughter.

A couple of hours down the line and we've gone into town and I've managed a pretty decent cheese toastie, a black coffee and we've found a pub to watch the Liverpool game in.  I even have a pint of Guinness which is well beyond expectation and probably sense.  The game is shite and ends in a two all draw despite Newcastle being down to ten men for the majority of the game.  This of course pisses me off but I'm comforted by the sight of Lucas sleeping on the sofa opposite with an unquenched pint of Carlsberg stood in front of him.  The Guinness wasn't great but it's levelled me out at least.  It's time to head back to the hotel, pick up the gear and make our way to the 1 in 12 Club to do what we came here for.  Some day we'll have to try this lark sober...

There is a really good crowd in early doors tonight and Rat's Blood, which is some of the guys from Disguise, there are a shit load of bands from the Irish scene from the same nucleus of people, get a great response.  I really enjoy watching them and it's nice to be watching bands play when I'm sober and can appreciate them, the hangover is still hanging around a little but all in all I feel pretty good.  A miracle considering I was at death's fucking door this morning.  Die had started the night but I'd missed most of their set, and when I did turn up they were in the middle of a very long breakdown.  The bass amp had blown and it took them a long while to sort out a new one.  Not a great start to the night since everyone is sharing the same gear.  When they did get going again they played this brilliant song, slow in pace and stomping, almost akin to Shellac.  I wished I'd seen more of them.

We chill out upstairs for a while on the top floor café and tuck into the band food.  It's the usual punk stew but as with anything else, you pour enough Tabasco sauce on it and it works at treat.  There are some other guys hanging out, some friendly French lads, the Rat's Blood crew, one of which, the bass player, Viktor knows from way back through Nitad ties.  It's nice just sitting there, chatting away, drawing up set lists for those who need them and stringing the guitars.  Now it's just waiting time for the gig...

The French guys are on before us and they play some chuggy, melodic hardcore.  It's done well but not really my thing.  There are a lot of people in though and I'm ready to get up there and kick the shit out of this place.  Just as the French guys finish up their set Steve, one of the organisers of the Fest asks us if we can do our best to get straight up on stage and play, being that they need to make time back after the enforced lengthy delay Die had.  I have a feeling our set will get things back on track.

We're using pretty much the same equipment and a few drum changes aside, we have little to do but plug in our pedals and go.  We make a bit of noise to let the punks outside on the street taking some air know that we're about to start but the place fills out in no time.  I give Vik one last look and motion to him to keep a check on the tempo, he nods back to me and we fire into D?B!/Nausea. The tempo feels perfect.  Fast but not out of all control, although I guess it might only be us that hears it that way.  The sound on stage is blasting and by the time we get to the end of the first block I know it's going to a very enjoyable fifteen minutes.

The crowd get into it more and more with each song and although hot as fuck and still a little hungover, I feel the energy tonight.  One of those gigs were you can tell everyone is feeling it.  The only slight niggle from my side is my fucking tuner pedal, which is still playing up, but that aside everything is perfect.  The place is really busy and the crowd are going for it.  I love playing stages where the crowd filters down the side and behind you, giving you the feeling that you really are in the middle of it all.  There is a big bearded, bandana wearing dude, a little older than myself maybe, who seems to have a part in the running of the Fest who's really digging it.  When we finish the last song, he immediately approaches my ear and tells me that we have time to play more if we want to.  I politely inform him that we've played all the songs we've got, to which he laughs.  And that's that.  Easily the most fun DB show yet.  There is something fucking magical about this old venue and once again it hasn't disappointed.

We pack down and chill out at the merch stand with the Infernöh guys.  Jonah and Pungen give us the thumbs up.  They're both looking a little "tired" today.  I'm really looking forward to their set in a short while's time.  We head out to get some air and find the Rat's Blood guys there, as well as Beard/Bandana, who comes up to me and tells me he loved the set.  He seems to know me but I have a hard time placing him and spend the short conversation calling him mate.  Hate it when that happens.

It's raining a little but it's more than welcome to, it was fucking hot up on that stage.  Lee has to leave for home, he's got a long drive back up to Glasgow.  It was so great to see him and I'm touched that he could be arsed coming all the way down to hang out.  We're all on his case, telling him that if we go out on tour at some point then he has to come out with us.  I promise him he'll get a better deal than he did with Speedhorn.. I think he might just be tempted.  I give him a hug and he heads off.  Once he's gone me and Jamie head back to the hotel with the gear in his car, nice to have it done so we can relax with a beer or two to Infernöh.

By the time we get back they're just about to start so we head down to the side of the stage in prime position to see them basically slay the crowd.  They're a great band.  I love the records but live it's just something else.  They're simply superb musicians.  Jonas is a great guitarist and Pungen is simply ridiculous on drums. He can certainly play that d-beat, and then some.  Lucas is jumping around down front and Kev is looking like he's wanting to.  That party vibe is in the air again... At one point some punk shoves a bottle of poppers up Jonas' nose mid song and he doesn't even miss a note on his guitar.  He just gladly inhales and carries on.
By the time they're done all that's left is FUK.  I almost feel a bit sorry for them because they obviously don't want to be playing last.  It's quite apparent that a lot of the crowd are spent after Infernöh and around half of them have fled by the time FUK play.  That said, they still play for what feels like an hour.  Maybe it's not, but it feels like a long time.  They're ok, nothing more than that really.  Not really my kind of thing.  I can't stop looking at the old boy on guitar who looks like Robert Blake's character in Lost Highway.

Vik and Bea have left with some friends and gone for a curry, feels like a good idea.  Not going for curry whilst visiting this city is criminal actually.  Luk has been walking round saying "Spacy curreh" since he heard Lee say "spicy curry" yesterday.  Luk seems to love the Scottish accent thing... Anyway, I start lobbying with the guys for a late night meal, Jamie and Luk seem to be on board.

Somehow though, Kev is boats again.  Not sure when that happened. We find him upstairs in the bar stoating about with a beer in his hand.  Stick from Doom, who is sitting with a gang of familiar faces opposite, spots him and shouts at him to cut his hair.  His do is a bit wild at the minute...  Kev is of course old friends with these guys and slides over to them.  We hang out for a little while although being sober and Kev being this pissed, all I can think about is eating.  It's too late to reach the level Kev is at now and I can't even be arsed trying.  I'm trying instead to get Kev to come along and eat some grub but he's not interested.  He's talking all kinds of nonsense and Jamie has cottoned on to him and decided to take advantage.  Jamie sat one side of Kev, Stick the other but chatting to another crowd and not really hearing what Kev is blabbering on about, Jamie asks Kev mischievously why Stick plays in Varukers, being that Varukers are rubbish these days.  Kev swivels on his arse towards Stick like a drunk puppet and blurts, "Why do you play in that shit band Varukers?"  

I laugh the most cringe worthy of laughs whilst Stick tries to explain that the guys involved are nice people, all to no avail, Kev just repeats that they're rubbish and that's that.  Jamie, Luk and I decide with that it's time to leave Kev to it and we fuck off for some dinner.

It's a wonderful quirk in British dining culture that Indian restaurants are always open late.  I wouldn't ever think to go our for a curry at this time back home but there is something about going to an Indian restaurant on the way home from the pub.  Bradford has more curry houses than most places and the three of us head in one determined direction across town.  The International.  One of Bradford's finest.

The scene as we walk across town is bordering on loathsome.  It's like being on the set of one of those reality police tv shows.  I have little sympathy for the pigs but I wouldn't want the night shift in Bradford on a Saturday night for any fucking money.  They're welcome to it.  The place is crawling with Ralph Lauren shirts, pissed up mini skirts, puke, aggro, shouting and snogging.  What a fucking place!  We head through as quick we can.  As we approach the restaurant I realise that it's at the bottom of the street of the house show we played here years ago with Speedhorn.  I tell Luk this, more than once it turns out, repeating myself to the point that I figure maybe I'm just the slightest bit tipsy after all.  After the third or fourth mention of the "house show" Luk tells me he gets it and tells me to stop banging on about it.  Fair enough Lukey boy.  To be fair I'm almost boring myself with it by that point.

When we walk in to the restaurant the head waiter, a middle aged man, greets Jamie with open arms and a big smile, "Hello sir!  Where is your drunken friend?"  We piss ourselves laughing, understanding immediately that he's talking about Kev.  When we sit down Jamie shows us some pics he took of Kev here last night, asleep at the table with his dinner in front of him.  Brilliant.  The food is of course great, even Luk, who doesn't normally agree with Indian food, enjoys it.  It's a very nice end to a great weekend.

We walk back to the hotel stuffed and satisfied.  The madness of Saturday night Bradford still going off around us.  It's around one thirty by the time we get to bed.  We watch the late night news for a while before falling asleep.  Kev comes in around three-thiry, banging about the room in the dark like a fucking whirlwind.  I pretend I'm asleep but I hear Luk is in the bog.  "I'm fucked!!" Kev's voice repeats over and over in the dark.  I hear Luk come out of the toilet and Kev grabs him and starts giving him grief, "Come ere you bastard!"  Kev is trying his best to wrestle Luk, Luk is trying his best to put Kev into his bed.  I just continue to lie there with my eyes closed, trying in vain to keep the smirk off my face.

It's nice to wake up in the morning minus yesterday's hangover.  Kev looks a mess.  Luk and I take great pleasure in photographing him.  Vik and Bea come by a little while later, Vik laughing his ass off as he recounts the scene last night.  After their meal they'd gone back to the club to see what was going on and as they walked in the after party disco was in full swing, the intro to Beat It booming out of the PA.  Without even noticing them stood in their way, Kev barges past Vik and Bea, dancing his way to the floor, giving it the big moves, the one with the point from floor to ceiling in diagonal motion being a particular favourite.  Kev loves a disco...

It's soon time for us to divide up the group.  Bea is heading back to London, Kev and Jamie are heading off in the car, Kev jumping off at Reftord to see Bloody Joyce for a few days, the three of us heading over on the train back to Manchester to meet my sister and her family for dinner before catching the evening flight home.  It's been a great weekend and yesterday was easily the best DB show yet.

Feeling good about this band right now.