Monday, December 28, 2009

Punk Rock Stories: Somewhere in Germany...

I'm gonna recount some old stories from the last 11 years of playing in bands. Most of them, I imagine, are a little hard to believe. I even find myself looking back after all these years, wondering if I have the details right. These tales have been told and re-told by myself and others involved, on many occasions, over many a pint throughout the years though, so I'm pretty sure most of it actually happened.

Somewhere in Germany... We were out on tour with Speedhorn a hell of a lot in the early days. I think we played something like 200 odd shows in our first year as a touring band. In the early autumn of 2000 we embarked on our first European tour. We were going out for seven weeks supporting Biohazard. I didn't really think at the time that that was such a long tour, I just looked at all the cities on the tour schedule we would be going to. It was all over Europe and we were excited as hell! We'd been playing shows solely in the UK for about a year and a half. Every toilet in the UK you've ever heard of, and many you probably haven't, I can almost guarantee you I've played there with Speedhorn.

Going out to the mainland to tour was my biggest ambition at that time, looking at all those cities and knowing I was going to them to play music, was a dream about to be fulfilled. The icing on the cake was that we were also going out on a tour bus for the first time. I couldn't wait to get on that boat at Dover and fuck off for a couple of months! As it turned out, we would end up going straight on another European tour for four weeks, supporting Amen, right after we finished with Biohazard, and after that to Ireland, to play some more shows of our own. I left for the Biohazard tour at the start of September. I finally came home to Corby three days before Christmas, somewhat a changed man...

A lot of strange and funny things happened in those three months.

This particular occasion we were travelling through the night, somewhere in Germany. I can't remember exactly where we had played that night or where we going to, but we were following Biohazards tour bus in convoy, to our next destination. We were a few weeks into the tour. We'd been up, pretty much every night, getting drunk after shows and partying on that bus. Our tour bus was pretty old and knackered but we all had a bed, there were a couple of lounges to hang out in, a stereo and a tv. For us it was heaven. Being that it wasn't the fanciest looking thing, we felt we had a little bit of license to do what we wanted to it. In addition, the driver was this guy called Bob, who was this grumpy old boy that looked like he could have be our drummer Gordon's dad. Although he obviously thought we a bunch of tits, he seemed to like us. Luckily for us he put up with a lot of nonsense. We loved him.

So we're driving through the night, everyone in very high spirits. The music is blasting and we're dancing down the autobahn. After a while I feel the bus pulling over into a service station, most likely to fill up the tank. When we pull up we all hop off and head into the shop. The Biohazard guys are in there too. It must have been around 3am. The only staff at work is this one little lady stood behind the counter. We all stumble in. A pack of about 20 guys, half Brit, half NYC, all very drunk, very hungry, very dirty. Probably very loud. The old lady must have been terrified! A bunch of us head straight over to the porn mag section of course, some others to the toilet and the others to see what food they can steal. Shoplifting at service stations in the middle of the night had become the norm, especially for the likes of our singer Frank. I don't know why this felt like it was ok at the time, it just did. When you're young and drunk and on tour, you allow yourself the impression that you're above the law. And the serivce stations were always faceless chain companies. Although we were travelling around on a tour bus and we were getting a meal at each show, we didn't have much money of our own. The record label and tour support was paying for the bus, but we didn't have any money in our pockets. Any spare money we did manage to get our hands on was normally spent on booze.

Anyway, we're in this service station just milling around. Although Frank is checking out the food section whilst everyone else is flicking through magazines, he hasn't actually put anything in his pockets. I think maybe he'd noticed the old lady on her own behind the counter and got an attack of bad conscience.

I'd probably been in the shop no longer than a minute before the night took a very weird turn.

The old lady, completely out of nowhere, starts shouting and screaming at us. To my knowledge, none of our guys had done anything in particular to cause her to get so upset. We didn't look too great and we were as said, in high spirts, but even Frank had seemingly changed his mind about causing any mischief. I'm not sure that the Biohazard guys, who had enetered a few minutes before us, had done anything wrong either, they were just relieving themselves in the toilets. This woman is screaming at us in German and obviously we're a bit confused by it. I guess she wants us to get out and I can't be bothered with the drama so I go to leave and head back to the bus. Wrong. When I get to the sliding glass doors I find that they won't open. The woman is still shouting and screaming and I think she's going on about the police. I try the doors again but it's obvious by now that she has triggered something behind the counter that has locked the doors. We're all now trapped inside. And nobody has actually done anything wrong. I try to communicate with her and find out what she is doing. It's not easy. I'm pretty fucking drunk, she's very German and by now, completely hysterical!

Just as I'm thinking about how weird the whole situation is, Billy, the Biohazard singer/guitarist, comes out from the toilet. He asks what the fuck is going on and is told that the crazy old lady behind the counter has locked us in and is most likely calling the police. Without any hesitation, he walks up to the sliding doors and pulls out this huge fucking Rambo knife! What. The. Fuck? I stand there in shock and before I can even ask him what the fuck he is up to, he jams the knife between the doors and starts forcing them open. He manages to get them open a slither and then jam himself in between. He motions to everyone to go climb through the gap. We all squeeze through whilst Billy is laughing his his ass off. The lady is still screaming. By the time the last of us get out we're all laughing at the madness of the situation. We run back to the bus and start shouting to Bob that we should probably leave pretty rapidly!

We head off back down the autobahn somewhat in a state of shock. The music is off and nobody is in the mood for dancing anymore. Where the fuck did Billy pull that knife from? What turned the lady in the shop that crazy? We're about ten minutes down the autobahn, discussing the events, when I decide to look out of the back window just to check that there aren't actually any police cars following us. Hmm. There actually is a police car behind the bus. It's not flashing its lights or sounding its siren but it is behind us. "Ha ha Gaz" is the general reaction when I tell the rest of the guys. I tell them I'm serious and for them to check themselves if they don't believe me. Someone else looks and after staring through the window for a few seconds, sits back down pale faced. There isn't one police car following the bus, there are around TEN! I look again and fuck me! There is indeed a whole fucking squadron of police cars now following the bus. And now they ARE flashing their lights and sirens! I instinctivley look at our tour manager and he looks like he's seen a ghost...

I hear Bob at the front cursing and shouting back down the bus at us, asking us what the fuck we've been up to now?! He tells us he's gonna have to pull over and tells our tour manager to get ready to do some talking. Without saying a word, our tour manager gets down on his knees and starts rooting around in his rucksack. He pulls out a couple of suspicious looking plastic bags. You can't be serious?.. He then starts emptying a rather large amount of cocaine on to the lounge table. "If any of you lot does this stuff, has done it in the past, or has thought about doing it in the future, get down here with me and start fucking snorting!" I sit there in a state of shock. I don't really know much about coke, in fact I've always generally hated the idea of it. It's been offered to me a few times, but I've never been interested.  It seems to me that most people who are into coke are wankers! Anyway, as I looked at the scene before me I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was pretty comical to be fair. I feel Bob slowing the bus down. He shouts to us that he's pulling over along with Biohazards bus in front of us.

Our tour manager is on his knees throwing white powder on to the glass table on the back lounge of the tour bus. A few of the guys in the band have come to his aid and our on their knees too, circling the round table, scrambling for money notes or any other pieces of paper they can roll into a tube to hoover up the mess. They all start snorting like hungry, terrified vultures. It's pretty chaotic! The people who aren't snorting, myself included, are cheering them on as if we're watching some kind of sport. At one point our tour manager takes a huge snort. So big in fact, that when he lifts his head up, still holding the 10 Euro note to his nose,  coke just spills out the other end and back onto the table! I actually think this is hillarious. It looks fucking ridiculous! There is no way they are getting rid of it all, even though they give it a good go. The bus comes to a standstill. Our tour manager gathers himself, tells us to give him our passports and shut up. He heads down the stairs to the back door of the bus and we sit there in silence.

Around twenty minutes pass...

I hear the door downstairs open and I prepare for the worst. The police are gonna come upstairs, see this mess and throw us in jail.

To my amazement it's our tour manager. "We can go". We're all stunned. What? We drive off. Our tour manager, who looks like he's about to be sick, tells us that he simply handed over our passports, explained the situation to the cops, that we on tour, explained what had happened at the service station, how the lady had locked us in, and that was that. The Biohazard TM backed up the story. He said the police sounded very interested when he explained how she had locked us in...

We all sit up for around another hour, in stunned silence, small piles of coke still on the table. I'm too stunned to even think about how idiotic it is to travel on the bus with stupid shit like that in your bag. I check the back window another couple of times, and when I'm convinced that there really are no cop cars behind us in the dark, go to my bed. Stone cold sober.

At the venue the next day John, our other singer, finds me somewhere, and tells me whilst laughing like fuck, that he's just spoken to the Biohazard tour manager. Apparently the police had phoned him that day. They called to let him know that after they had talked to us the night before and listened to our version of events, they had headed back to the service station and arrested the old lady on a charge of unlawful imprisonment! Apparently it's against the law to lock people into a building and hold them against their will.  I found the rest of the guys in both bands rolling around laughing at the old lady's expense, I just felt really sorry for her and thought about what a bunch of cunts we all are.

I also thought about how much I loved being in that band.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Trondheim - punk rock and coffee...and moonshine

This last weekend we travelled up to Trondheim to play a show with Mörkt Kapitel, at a great punk rock space they are lucky enough to have there, called UFFA.

By the time I got home, late on Sunday night, it had felt like a very long weekend for just one show, but as is often the case, more than worth the trip.

I was up before the sun rose on Saturday morning. We were flying out of Stockholm at 10.30 with a three hour stop-over in Oslo, before flying onwards to Trondheim. By the time we got to Trondheim at 4.30pm I had been on the move for almost 10 hours, all for the sake of 90 minutes flying time.

Anyway, we got to the airport and met up with Atle from Mörkt Kapitel, who was organising the show. We headed straight to the club from there. It was a cool, dingy little place, with a general hang out room up front and a gig room in the back, which was big enough for about 100 people to fill. The place had a good stage and it sounded great in sound check.

We quickly ate some food, drank a few cups of coffee and then went to hang out at Atle's place with the rest of the guys in his band. They were a good bunch of guys. We hung out at his place drinking some beer and talking about records. Atle has a distro that he runs from his home, so he had lp's all over the place. His own personal collection, which was probably 95% Swedish punk, was also pretty fucking impressive. He had loads of rare stuff that was fun to look at. Whilst flicking through, Jon found around 10 copies of a certain Totalitär 7". We started joking with him that his collection wasn't actually that broad, that he just had loads of doubles. Atle promptly showed us that the 10 copies were all in fact various copies of the same record. Different coloured vinyls, test pressings, test covers etc. We soon realised there were quite a few similar examples in his collection. In short, Atle is a bit of a record nerd! A bit like our drummer Andy. Over a few more beers we shot the punk rock breeze, Andy and Atle playing a sort of Punk Rock Trivial Pursuit with other, and then headed back to the venue. I've often thought of Andy as a kind of punk rock encyclopedia, but Atle was pretty impressive himself.

The first thing that hit me when we got back to the club was how young everybody was there. I mean, we had the idea earlier on that the crowd would be kind of young, since it's an all ages set up, but shit, I felt fucking old! The average age of the kids there must have been around 15. And the booze seemed to be flowing out of the bar...I wasn't sure how this was gonna work out. I was assured though that the older crowd always come later on, which proved to be true.

Anyway, Mörkt Kapitel played and I thought they were great. I didn't really know what to expect from them but was really put in the mood to play whilst watching them. They sounded a bit like earlier His Hero Is Gone, but a little bit darker and more epic sounding. Me and Jon were really into it.

So, as I had expected, by the time we were ready to go on and play, the young, young audience were generally fucking steaming!! When did I get so old really? I know 31 isn't really that old, but most of the kids in that place probably though we were ancient...

Well we had a really good show anyway, and there were still plenty of people watching us, a lot of the older crowd had by now turned up. Obviously some "real" punk fans too, because about half way through the set, just as I brought my head up, I got cracked square in the forehead with a full can of beer. Fucking bulls eye! I played on, wondering what had hit me, trying to show whoever threw the thing at me that I wasn't bothered, making it through until the end of the song to see if there was any blood around. There wasn't, but I could already feel tomorrow's headache..

What the fuck is that about really? I know it's been going on since punk rock started, fans spitting at bands, trying to beat them up, throwing bottles at them, whilst seemingly loving the show! It's like, "Yeah I love this band, fuck ya!" I don't know, I guess these people think they are real punks, but it's not where I'm coming from. Maybe my ethics are different to some other peoples. To some, it still seems to be about having a stupid fucking mohawk and wearing the right clothes, and performing the right party pieces. Whatever, fuck it.

After the gig we hung out at the place for a while, by the merch table, meeting and talking to some friendly Trondheim punks. The merch was set up in a little side room that had some record and book stands. All punk and anarcho stuff. At some point, our friend Atle, brought me a cup of the apparently infamous "Trondheim Special". A mixture of black coffee and 96% proof moonshine! I trepidly supped a couple of times at it. At first it tasted ok, coffee with a bit of a kick to it, but as the cup emptied the drink's original black coffee colour, became more and more transparent. By the bottom of the cup, the thing was completely undrinkable. At least as far as this poncy Englishman was concerned. The Norwegians seemed to be happily chucking it down there throats though! Atle just gave me a wry smile and I thought to myself, no more of that thank you very much. Until I attempted another cup about a half hour later, but with much the same results..

One young girl in particular, must have had a few cups. We found her lying outside the back door, sleeping in the freezing cold. We pulled her inside. She was completely out of it. We got her in and she seemed to shake herself around. She scurried off. Five minutes later we found her in the same spot again! This routine repeated itself another two times before she was finally taken care of by Alte, who I think got her some real help. She was probably no more than 15. I guess I've been there myself a few times. I guess most of us have.

After hanging out some more with the local punk people, and then a failed attempt at an after party in Trondheim's apparent equivalent to Kristiania, we found ourselves back at Atle's place, at 4am, drinking some more beers and listening to some more punk rock records. The conversation went from talking about punk rock to deeper subjects, as it normally does at that time of the morning and with all that booze in your system. It was pretty cosy though. He has a really nice place with a view over the bay. When the bottles of Fernet and Jägermeister came out I hastily bade farewell for the night and went to bed. Jon and Andy stayed up with Atle to what I assume was long into the approaching morning..

The next day we spent walking around the beautiful city of Trondheim. I was here last year touring with Mary Gauthier and I remember from that occasion how amazing the cathedral was. I was as taken aback by it this time around. The sight of the of the outer western wall with all the carvings and scultptures adorning it is spectacular.

And it's as impressive inside, which is dominated by the huge, circular stained glass windown that sits in the centre of the western wall, as well as the two gigantic pipe organs. It's a real must see for anyone visiting this part of the world.

Anyway, from there we walked around for a while, taking refuge from the cold in the form of an english pub and it's pool table. After that and then an extraordinarily expensive pizza we headed back to the club and then on to the airport.

So that was our last show with Victims for 2009. Our next shows will be with Municipal Waste for 3 weeks on a european tour, starting January 18th. Until then we'll be back to writing the new record and getting on with our normal jobs.

Next up for me is some recording with my other band Battle of Santiago. I'll be putting down some guitar tracks for a joint recording with playwrite/poet Stig Larsson. Not to be confused with the dead guy who wrote the books that became the films, but a legend in his own circles and indeed in our eyes. He wrote the script to the newly released film, Metropia. Check it out! Anwyway, we've recorded some instrumental tracks that will accompany four of his readings. We'll be releasing this sometime next year as a prelude to our first full length album. We should be out performing live with Stig at some point too.

Also, Oystein from Mörkt Kapitel has a great indie record label that is releasing some awesome bands. Check it out at:

And Atle's distro website is currently down, but when it's back up I will put a link on here to it. He's got a lot of great punk records there.

P.S. I've still got a fucking purple mark on my forehead...