Friday, December 17, 2010

Observations of an Innocent By-Stander

Whilst walking Bonzo around Sundbyberg today, I saw a guy pull up beside me in a military green HMV.  The "car" itself looked like it was ready to rape someone, whilst the guy behind the wheel just looked very chuffed.  The personalised registration plate simply read, "DÄRFÖR", which in English translates to, "BECAUSE", or "THAT'S WHY".

I can only imagine what an utter arse the man is...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Studio Update: Johan Loves His Iphone

I went by Nico's studio the other day to check in on how everything was going with the vocal tracks. Johan has been putting in the hours when he's been able to find them, juggling work with the studio. It's not easy and it means that the record is taking longer than hoped for, but it's coming along nonetheless...

Nico wasn't joking when he said that his studio is compact. I meet him at the cafeteria in Fryshuset, where we share a coffee and have a chat. Johan and Jon turn up a short while later and we descend into the labyrinth of corridors that is Fryshuset. I haven't been here for ages. We played here a few times with Speedhorn back in the day. Right now, Helloween are sound-checking in the big hall beside the café. Didn't even know those guys were still around. Jon assures me that everything since Pink Bubbles Go Ape has sucked...

Like I said, Nico wasn't joking about the size of his studio. It's not much bigger than a broom cupboard, with a small vocal booth inside. Nico said there would be no point in the rest of us being there when Johan is putting vocals down. I now see what he means. Before we get to listening, Andy turns up. The four of us cram in around Nico and his desk and we listen through what Johan has laid down so far.

It's a little hard to gain a true impression, since the music is set way in the background. I'm sure though, that when the vocals are bedded in in the mix, it's going to sound really great. Johan is a very solid, very controlled vocalist. He really doesn't need us to be there with him through the recording process, only for us to be able to come by and listen in now and again, and give some ideas, which I guess is what today is about.

I've already worked through the lyrics with Johan, since I'm the so called "English expert" in the band. He seems to be comfortably rolling along now. He's put down six songs. Hopefully he'll be done and the record will be mixed before Christmas. Is it really that time of year again? 

We're talking with the labels about a release in early April, so we need everything finished by the end of January to have a realistic chance of making that happen.  I don't think that's going to be a problem though.

Otherwise, Johan has been playing with his Iphone and has been sending me some pictures documenting his perspective from the vocal booth.

Anyway, we hang out for about an hour in the studio, after which time I'm completely hot and bothered and feel the need to leave. It's very claustrophobic in there with five people. We leave Nico and Johan to their work.

I take the tram home with Andy and Jon. As we're sat on the train, somebody else, in another part of town is blowing themselves up with a backpack bomb.

Thankfully, he only manages to kill himself...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day Eleven

Well, for the most part, my work in the studio is done.  Now it's back to work for a while.  The process continues to roll onwards though.  Johan and Jon are working with Nico in his small studio over in Fryshuset, putting vocals down whilst Nico mixes in between.

I'm looking forward to hearing some mixes of the album towards the end of the week.  Everything seems to be on track right now.  We've sorted things out with the record company side of things, my good friend Richey Beckett from the band Shaped By Fate, is working on the album artwork.  He's an amazing artist who has been working for a lot of bands this last couple of years, so I'm sure he's going to produce something we're going to be very happy with.  It's a bit early to plan too far ahead yet, but we're planning for the album to come out in April next year, and to be on tour shortly after that.

I worked eleven hours in the bar today.  I slept a full twelve hours and still felt knackered this morning when I woke up.  I'm not shaking any more, but I feel far from one hundred percent.  Being that today was Monday, work was pretty easy going, so with the help of a few hot cups of ginger, lemon and honey, I got through the day. 

Johan and I messaged each other back and forth during the evening and it seems like things are going well.  He's got two songs done.  So that's thirteen to go.  I got home at three in the morning to find this film that he'd mailed me...

Pretty funny, he looks kind of wild in this clip. He also looks like he's singing in a phone booth.  I haven't seen Nico's studio, but I guess it really is very small...

I don't know why, but the picture seems to have sped up somewhere between transfering it from my computer to this blog.  It's pretty funny anyway.  Like I said, computers aren't really my thing...

This is a song called Broken Bones, it's the first song I wrote for Victims.  Well, I wrote the verse riff, Jon and I concocted the chorus riff  together during one of the Balcony Sessions.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day Ten

I felt like fucking shit when I woke up this morning. How could I feel this bad?  Am I really getting that old? Maybe those days of being able to stay out until four in the morning, drinking beer and being able to shake it off enough the next day to function half way feasibly, are truly behind me.

I didn't even feel that drunk last night. A hangover like this normally comes after a night where I've been so drunk that I have lost large chunks of memory from the night before. Last night was nowhere near that. This truly fucking sucks.

I'd woken briefly this morning, on the couch, with an episode of Family Guy running on the tv. It was eight-thirty. I went straight to bed. Jen didn't even notice. When I woke up five hours later, I felt like dog shit. I've said it a hundred times before, but I'm really starting to wonder if worth drinking any more? Maybe not, if the hangover far outweighs the piss up.

We're meeting at the studio at one pm. I get up, shower, throw a cup of tea down my neck, get dressed and get out. One good thing about being in the studio, or at least having a booked schedule is that you're forced out of the door. That is why hangovers are always at the worst when you're home with nothing to do. It's too easy to lie on the couch and do fuck all all day except feel sorry for yourself.

I call Jon on the way down to Sundbyberg station. He's in the same boat as me. He tells me the works party got out of hand last night. Shocking. We arrange to meet on the train in.  It's freezing out, which actually helps a little bit.

When we get to the studio, Johan is already there. He's looking pretty tired too. We listen through some of the bass tracks from yesterday and Nico has discovered that Johan's bass is quite badly intonated. His bottom string, the big one, is way out apparently. Nico quips, “It's ok, I guess there aren't that many songs where you use that sting so much...” and winks at me as he's tuning Johan's bass up.

I wish Nico had been here with us in the studio, more day to day, throughout this week. He's really into it, and he creates a good atmosphere with his constant piss taking. I guess the way we've been doing it though has saved a lot of time in the long run.

With Johan's bass newly intonated, we listen through the fifteen songs we've recorded for the album. I think Johan picks out five that he wants to re-do. I spend the afternoon watching Johan do just that, from my view on the sofa, where I lie feeling sick. Andy comes by for a while too. It's the first time we've all been together in the studio since the first few days. When Andy was done with his drums, he got the fuck out. Typical drummer haha. Seriously though, he's got a daughter and a day job so it's hard for him to be away too much. He needs to save that free time for when we go on tour. We all do I guess...

Johan gets done with the bass for good, after dubbing some tracks with an Octave Divider pedal, which gives the bass sound a huge, fat tone, kinda like Jared's from Big Business. Again, this pleases me. When we're done, Johan, Jon, Linus and I go to Verona for one last pizza. Tomorrow, we're moving things over to Nico's studio in Fryshuset. Johan and Nico feel it will be more suited to recording the vocals there, and that is where Nico wants to mix the record. We've left Linus a bit short, since we had booked fourteen days with him and his studio. Johan had told Linus about the situation yesterday and Linus was fine with it, and they said we'd work out a fair price for his time. I feel really awkward as we sit around, eating pizza, discussing how much we're going to pay Linus. It's hard for me since Linus is a good friend of mine, and also I know that the guys haven't been totally satisfied with how the sessions have gone. There has been a lot of technical difficulties along the way. Although nothing that one could class as major.

Johan, as usual, steps up to the plate for the band, and barters a price with Linus. I really respect Johan and the way he leads this band. He's definitely the pappa in the band, much like I felt with Speedhorn a lot of the time. He has no problem talking straight and laying things out in a fair way with people. I find that hard when I'm dealing with friends. In the end though, everyone is satisfied. The recording we've laid down sounds great after all, even if the road along the way hasn't always been the smoothest, we've still managed to get where we are now right on schedule. I'm glad Linus is happy with what we can pay him and I'm glad that everyone is friends. Linus is one of the nicest guys around and I wouldn't want him to feel bad in any way about working with us. Gladly, he doesn't and everyone is pleased with the outcome.

We go back to the studio for a listen to the leads I put down yesterday. I was sure the food was going to help, but I'm feeling worse by the minute. When everything is checked off, we decide we're going to get Linus to put up a real rough mix and listen through all of the songs. I can't hold on though. I'm feeling worse and worse and I have to go home. I hug everyone goodbye and leave. I need to get home to my flat and my wife.

I get home after a train journey that feels like forever, get into cosy clothes and get under a blanket on the couch. Within thirty minutes I have to go to bed. It's eight-thirty pm. By the time I get into bed, I'm shaking with a fever. As I lie there under the covers, shaking, despite the fact that I've got a bathrobe and slippers on, I realise that this has to be more than a hangover.

Of course, the hangover hasn't helped, but it's most likely a cocktail of an intense week, sleep deprivation, work, too much coffee, not enough exercise, too much beer, not enough fresh air and too much shit food. I've been categorically weakening my own body during the course of the previous ten days.

The hardest part is over for me now though. Nico's studio is way too small for the whole band to hang out in anyway, so there's no point in us all trying to hang out there. I'm working forty five hours this week anyway. Johan and Jon have vocals to do, and then Andy and I will pop by from time to time to check on how the mixing is going. Johan has sung on five Victims lp's in the past, I'm sure he doesn't need me there the whole time, checking on him. I'll pop by when I get the chance though.

Quote of the day:  Nico - on discussing the drummer from Korn being paid nine thousand dollars a week to play in the band before he was officially a member:

" If I got nine thousand dollars a week to play in Entombed, I would look like Elvis within a minute!"

Day Nine

Finally got something close to a normal amount of sleep last night. I felt so much better for it this morning. I had no rush to get to the studio today since Johan was going to be there early, setting up his bass sound with Nico and Linus. So before I headed into town, I went out for a long walk with the dog and had time with a coffee and a sandwich with Jen in Sundbyberg. It felt good to do something normal.

I met up with Jon on the train on the way in and we turned up around one pm. Johan had already laid down a few tracks and it seemed like all was going well. His bass is sounding amazing. He's hooked it up through the Orange guitar rig, Lemmy style. Although it sounds closer to Bob Weston from Shellac's sound. This pleases me.

We spend the afternoon hanging on the sofa watching Johan put his tracks down. It's great to watch him at work. He's a really solid bass player. He gets the job done without making any fuss.

A couple of hours later and Johan has put bass down ten tracks. When he goes to pick up some lunch, I take over and set up my guitar for the last time on this album. All my rhythm tracks are done, all I have left is over-dubs and solos. The dreaded fucking solos. I hate this part. I'm not a guitar solo kind of guy. Sure, I can sit there with the guitar on my lap and widdle away for hours whilst the man at the desk is setting up sounds, but as soon at the “record button” is hit, it's a whole other story. Suddenly my fingers feel like blocks of lead.

Jon has left for the night. He has a Christmas party with work, which means bowling and then getting pissed at Ali's Bar. Ali's has to be one of the city's dingiest fucking bars and it happens to be situated right across the street from Jon's work. They're normally there for a pint after work, at which time the place isn't so bad. But at night time, it's a whole other story. Once I was there with some friends from work on the piss. I don't know why the fuck we ended up there really, but we did. We're standing at the bar trying to order another round of drinks when this skinhead cunt barges into my friend Sofia. She looks at him and asks him what his problem is. He just looks at her and then pushes her in the chest and she almost goes to ground. What the fuck? So before I know it I'm face to face with this guy and I'm asking him what the fuck is going on, realising that I'm seconds away from a kick-in. The bouncers see what's happening and intervene. Thank fuck! But then amazingly, they ask us to leave. On the way out the bouncer explains to me that even though they hate that guy, he's a friend of the owner and there is nothing they can do about it. I haven't been back there in the evening since then, since obviously the scene there is fucked.

Anyway, to get back to the studio...

Linus and I set up a guitar sound and Johan sits and eats his lunch whilst we go through each song and check out what needs to be done. I end up laying three solos and a bunch of melody parts and then I'm done. It takes a while and my fingers shake a little through the whole solo process, but Linus and Johan offer kind support and after an hour or so I'm finished. I'm very happy to be done with my parts.

Johan gets back to business and lays down the rest of his tracks. Linus has to leave around seven pm. so for the last hour, I sit at the desk whilst Johan plays bass. Now...if I'm no solo guitar guy, I'm most certainly not “Desk Engineer has a fucking clue about Pro-Tools Guy”. Linus shows me the ropes, but I'll be fucked if I can understand what he's going on about. Johan has to guide me through every step whilst he's tracking his bass. Hit Apple Z. Press 3 to punch me in. He'd be better off sitting here himself and doing it, since I just sit there like a dummy. Computers just aren't my thing. My one year at college studying “computer science” will attest to that. I spent the entire year writing up set-lists and drawing up logo's for my band at the time. Besides that, by the time Linus leaves the studio I've drunk a couple of beers and I feel a little bit tipsy.

Johan gets done around eight pm. He's not entirely convinced everything is good but he's done for today and will check it out with fresher ears tomorrow. Jen comes by just as we're finishing up and we invite Johan back to our place for dinner. Johan and I decide we're going to a gig at our friends squat club in Solna, which is not far from where I live. Local Oafs and Makarbert Fynd are playing. I want to check out the club and the show. It feels like a nice way to end an intense week of work in the studio.

We get back to our place, Jen makes a fantastic dinner and I treat Johan to some samples from my Single Malt collection. We sit around chatting and watching our favourite tv show, “På Spåret” before heading to the show around midnight.

The club is great. It's in Solna tube station. You go out of the ticket barriers, turn left up the tunnel and knock on a black door. The door opens and you go inside, giving your name and date of birth. Everybody here has to be officially a member, even though it doesn't cost anything more than contacting them in advance with your details. It's just a technicality needed to get around an eventual cop invasion. If everyone has their name and details on a piece of paper by the door, then technically it's a private party and there isn't anything the cops can do about it.

The club looks great. Our friend, Frasse, has done a great job with it. Another friend of ours, Klara, has booked the bands and is playing records. It's great to see people getting involved, keeping the scene going.

Makarbert are fucking crazy tonight. Kalle, the drummer, is pissed out of his mind and my friend Anders on guitar, normally a big quiet, shy kind of guy, is smashing his guitar into pieces on the floor. Apparently he's had enough of his guitar going out of tune. The tiny space is packed and it's hilarious watching Anders smash the shit out his guitar. Even funnier when the song is done, and the singer in the band announces they haven't finished their set yet and asks if anyone can lend them a guitar. Me and Johan piss ourselves, but of course, Local Oafs lend them a guitar without any hesitation. Great guys.

Local Oafs are as always, unbelievably entertaining. They are a great live band and always give a full on show. I love how the singer and guitarist constantly swap roles during the gig. Both guys are great at both guitar and vocals, so why not? They play for quite a while and by the time they're done it's almost two-thirty am. and, unsurprisingly the crowd has thinned out quite a bit. People have either left or have started to flake out in the bar room of the club.

Johan and I leave around four am. I don't feel that drunk but I already have a headache from the shitty cans of Åbro beer that the club was selling. I can already tell that tomorrow I'm going to be suffering.

Quote of the day: Fredrik Local Oafs - “What's the difference between the Sex Pistols and Jay Retard? Both of them were fake but the Sex Pistols were good.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day Eight

Barely five hours sleep the last two days I've slept less than eight hours and worked twenty three. I can barely get myself out of the sack this morning.

And then I remember I'm meeting up with Eric at eleven thirty, and before that I have to take Bonzo to my sister-in law's place. Not even time for a cup of tea this morning. Up, in the shower and out.

I'm stood on the corner by Skanstull station, waiting for a coffee and a cream cheese bagel, when I spot Eric trudging past in the snow with his suitcase. It's good to see him. We head down the road to the studio and catch up. It seems like the Black Breath tour went really well. I'm pleased to hear it. He tells me they were really shocked with how well they got treated over here, that they got hotel rooms seventy percent of the time. That would never happen in the States. In the States you have to rely on friends to let you sleep on their floors.

We want Eric to put a solo on a song called Theft, which for the longest time has gone under the working title Dismember. Obviously, it's perfect for Eric to lay a Black Breath style guitar solo on it. It's really fun watching him work. He truly is a great guitarist, certainly puts us two idiots to shame. Eric gets to work and it sounds amazing! The original idea was for Jon and Eric to do a dual solo here but I tell Eric just to do the whole thing since it's sounds so good. I know Jon would agree. He tries out a bunch of different stuff but in a very short time he's nailed it.

It seemed with Eric's schedule I was going to be the one to miss him when he was in Stockholm, but as it happened it worked out just right. Eric is going to Düsseldorf this afternoon for a couple of days before heading home to Seattle, it's really great of him to squeeze in the time to come by the studio when I know he's stressed for time. Johan comes by just as Eric gets finished up and we sit around and chat for a while, before Johan walks Eric to Södra Station, leaving me to get on with the rest of my guitar tracks.

Five songs to go.

For the most part, it all comes pretty easy. Johan comes back from the station with a new bag of coffee beans, and the afternoon is fuelled to go. Fuck how I need the coffee!

After a while Johan heads off to work for a couple of hours. He'll be back later. I know he's itching to start playing his bass on this album now. It hasn't really worked out that well for him that we're recording his bass and then his vocals at the end of the session. Tough finish for him.

By the time Jon and Andy come by around five pm. I have one song to go. Maiden, or as it's now called, Nowhere In Time. And then it happens. The fucking nemesis song. The tiredness is catching up with me now. My hands seem to have disconnected with my brain and my fingers are turning to rubber. What the fuck is going on here? I patch together one take of the song, but I'm not feeling good about it. Linus tells me to take it easy and relax but I can feel myself getting angry and frustrated. I didn't think it was going to be this song that was going to fuck me up. I try and play a second dubbed track, but it's just not happening. It's actually just getting worse. I'm now screaming all sorts of obscenities every time I come to a halt and finally I take a pause. Breathe now.

I decide to give it one more go, standing up this time to see if that will make a difference. It doesn't. Twenty seconds in and the song comes to a halt again. I throw my guitar on to the stool and announce that I'm done for today. Jon asks me if he wants me to have him play the dubbed track. I tell him to go for it. I don't have an ego when it comes to that kind of thing. Whatever is best for the record. He puts the bare bones of it down in the first take. He's not laughing though, he knows what it's like. Andy certainly knows how I feel. Mentally blocked.

As soon as I sit down and Jon finished up the track I feel better about it. I'm just glad that all the rhythm guitar tracks are done. I only have over-dubs left now, which I'll do tomorrow. That stuff is far more fun. Johan comes back in a very good mood, and he's brought glögg with him. Glögg is something else I love about Sweden. It's like muld wine. It smells like Christmas and it's beautiful. We warm some up in the coffee maker and we all share a glass. It's a very cosy moment.

Andy and I head off around seven thirty, leaving Johan and Jon to track some of Jon's solos. I'm going to meet Jen for dinner. Today is the day when we met each other, ten years ago. We're meeting at this great little French restaurant called Bergamotte on Kungsholmen. And after dinner is done, I'm going to bed to sleep.

Day Seven

The recording schedule has been a bit all over the place since everybody is working their normal jobs as well as finding time to be in the studio. That said, seven days into the recording of the album and we're pretty much on track to get it finished by the end of next week, which is our goal.

Whereas yesterday was a twelve hour shift at work, today I was back to doing both work and studio. I had a couple of spare hours before I started work at three pm, so I was aiming to get another couple of songs worth of rhythm guitar tracks down, leaving me with the daytime hours of tomorrow to get finished with the rest. And then I'm done.

I got less than five hours of sleep last night though, so I'm pretty tired. I meet Linus at the studio around one thirty and throw back a couple of cups of strong, black coffee. Nico is also there, and with those guys discussing how they're cutting all the different tracks, and how they're going to transfer them from Linus' computer to Nico's back at his place, before I know it time has crept away and I only have forty five minutes before I have to head off to work.

I only manage to get one song done, and it doesn't come easy. We're going through a song with the working title of Dio, and on hearing it I'm completely thrown by the fact it's twice as fast as the demo version we recorded in The Bunker. I can't get my head around it at first. I wasn't here when Jon and Andy lay down the drum tracks, and now I'm really regretting it, because I would have told them to slow it the fuck down.

Jon had told me yesterday that he'd gotten nine songs recorded, but had given up on Dio at the end and called it a day. Now I understand why. I discuss it with Linus and decide to just try and nail my track and then get Jon to do the same and see how it sounds. It won't be like we intended it when we wrote it on my balcony back in the summer, it will be something else, but maybe it will be great anyway.

It takes a while for me to get both guitar takes done. We're recording the guitars as two tracks each, one main track and then a dubbed track with another amp, thus making that crust punk-guitar wall thing happen. By the time I'm done and have to rush off to work, I feel really unsure about the whole thing. I tell Linus to get Jon to listen to it when he gets to the studio and see what he thinks to it. I don't cross off the track on the song worksheet just yet...

I'm not in the fucking mood for another eleven hours of work tonight. I've sorted someone to take my shift tomorrow though, so after tonight I'm off until Monday. I have to be done with my guitar stuff by then. I work alternating weeks, with one being thirty five hours and the other being forty five. Next week I'm working forty five... so if I'm still laying guitar tracks next week I guess I can forget about sleeping!

I call Jon on the way to work and tell him about what happened with Dio. He says he'll see what he can do with it today, now that he's rested. I'm not at work ten minutes before I get a text message from Jon. “Dio. Done. 10 min.” That's that sorted then... Cocky twat!
It's funny when you start out recording an album. You look through the song worksheet and you kind of automatically draw your eyes to certain songs. Some of which you think will be easy, others that you're not looking forward to so much. And it's usually always the case that there will be at least one big surprise in there, be it good or bad. I thought Dio was going to be one of the easier songs. It wasn't.

Another ten minutes go by and I get another text from Jon. “Lemmy. Done.” Fucking hell, another song done in ten minutes. He's flying. What the fuck? It seems like when I'm there I spend all my time waiting around just to play my fucking guitar. Jon turns up after work, all is good to go and he hits it.

I get text messages from Jon every ten minutes or so, each one wreaking of his self satisfaction, until all the songs are done. The last message I get from him for the night, tells he's going to start laying his solo tracks. And then it all goes quiet.

Work gets busy and I forget about him for a while. Until he turns up at the bar four hours later. I don't even notice him come in. I just look up and there he is, standing at the bar, looking pretty boats. I guess he's been hitting the sauce in the studio. I ask him how he is, he demands a beer and a shot. Well nice to see you too you cunt!

I pour him a round, regretting it as I do, and ask him again how it went. It takes him about thirty seconds to answer. “Oh no, he's at that stage”, I think to myself. I'm too busy at work to engage Jon in a conversation at this slow pace, so I leave him there with his shot and tend to some of my other customers.

I finally get it out of him about twenty minutes later. He tells me that he's done all the solos, except for a couple of songs. Great news you would think, but he doesn't seem to happy about it. He starts moaning about Linus, saying that he left him alone in the studio to track by himself for a while, since he was going for dinner. That in itself isn't a problem, it's just that one of the songs Jon had made a good take of, he'd recorded with one of the two amp heads he's using, set on standby. I don't really understand why Jon is so pissed off about it. He admits that it was his mistake but then blames Linus for not being there to notice it. I mean for fuck sakes, Linus had been there for seven hours straight, the guy is entitled to a fucking dinner break! I tell Jon to be happy for the fact that he got a lot done today and cheer the fuck up.

He sits there grumbling over another couple of beers, just as the other night, they're lower strength, but he doesn't notice.  I realise I have to get him to go home. He's working early tomorrow and then coming to the studio straight after.  I convince him to get the last train home, assuring him he'll thank me tomorrow. I love the guy, but right now I can't be arsed with his drunken nonsense. It's ok when we're drunk together, but right now we're not.

After he's gone I notice he's left me a thirty kronor tip on the bar. At which point I want to chase after the silly sod and give him a hug. I hope he gets home ok.

Just as I'm winding up the  night in the bar, about five minutes before I officially close the till, Eric walks in! I've been waiting to hear if he's going to hook up with us before he leaves for Germany tomorrow. Bad timing, but it's still great to see him! He's been staying with our friend Maria, who sings in Beast, for a couple of days, since the Black Breath tour finished. I'm really glad to see him after what has been a weird night at work. He tells me he's leaving for the airport tomorrow around one pm. We arrange to meet up at eleven, grab some coffee and head to the studio so he can lay down a one and only Eric Wallace guest guitar solo on the album. We have the perfect song for him to play on.

I know this means yet again I'm going to get less than five hours of sleep, but it will be worth it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day Six

Out of the studio and back in to work today. In all honesty, after the long day yesterday it was good with the break today.

Today Jon was taking over from where I left off yesterday. I was hoping that he would be able to hit the ground running once he arrived. We're hoping that we can get all the ground guitar tracks done before the weekend. For that we need to have a working environment today where Jon can at least catch up with me. Which means him putting nine songs down.

I keep in touch with the goings on throughout my twelve hour shift at work.

Our friend Eric Wallace, from the band Black Breath, who we toured the US with last year is supposed to be coming in to town for a few days. We're hoping he's going to have the time to put a guitar solo down on one of the songs. He's a great guitarist and it would be fun to have his touch on one of the songs. Those guys have been on tour in Europe for a few weeks and Eric is coming to Stockholm to hang out for a few days after the tour, before he goes home. Andy and I went to their show a few weeks ago when they played Stockholm with Crude. It was a great night. It was only the two of us though, since Johan was in South America working on tour with Millencolin. Jon had intended to go but ended up boats at a party before the show and had to go home...

I'm disappointed to get a message this morning from Eric, saying he's going to be in town today and tomorrow before leaving on Friday. Typical! I'm working both days and will probably miss him.

I go to work and wait for news of how it's going.

The first six hours of work drag by really slowly, with the temperature outside at -15 degrees I'm guessing most people can't be fucked leaving their warm homes to walk to the bar. But then, as usual, by eight pm. the place starts filling out and the second six hours of work go by a lot quicker.

I speak to Jon around ten-thirty when he's on his way home. He's had a good day and got down nine songs, which means he's level with me. Great news! He tells me Eric came by the studio today and hung out for a while. He didn't get the chance to play any guitar though since shortly after he turns up Jon's amp starts sounding weird and they have to spend some time fixing that. Hopefully he's coming back tomorrow and we'll get him on the record.

I'm really glad that today was a productive day in the studio. Jon tells me things with Linus and Nico are working far more amicably now too, which I'm glad to here. It's funny when I think about the difference between playing in Victims and Speedhorn. With the Victims guys everybody is really supportive of each other and when you're sitting in the studio laying guitar tracks down you constantly get a pat on the back for your efforts. With Speedhorn it was always a complete piss take. It was fun of course, but you got the feeling half the time that the guys in the band were hoping you would fuck up so they could take the piss out of you, even though it's completely against the band's best interests. In a way it worked, since you were always looking to nail that first take, just so you could shove it up their arse. With Victims everything is a lot friendlier. I guess these days we're all a lot older though..

So, good news from Jon and I get back to work. I get out of there at two-thirty and walk to Central Station in the freezing cold of night. Tomorrow I'm going into the studio for an hour or so before I go to work. It would be great to get another couple of tracks done, meaning I can finish the rest during the day on Friday.

The album is starting to come together now.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day Five

I woke up this morning ready for a full day of hard work in the studio. After getting Lifetaker nailed within a couple of takes last night, I was ready to thrash out a large chunk of my main guitar for the album today. I'm working in the bar all day tomorrow so I want to get as much done as possible today.

It was a beautiful day in town, the sun shining in a clear blue sky, the air cold and crisp. I picked up some breakfast for myself and some Lussekatter for the boys from a bakery besides Skanstull train station, and enjoyed the walk down the road to the studio. I love Lussekatter, which are these saffron and currant buns that you get in Sweden around Christmas time. I was in a great mood as I walked to the studio, ready for a days work.

Before I went down into the studio, I took one last look at the blue sky before bidding it farewell for the day. As I was stood there taking a picture of the street outside, I felt a large snowball hit me on the arm. I took it for granted that one of the guys had crept up on me and were having a laugh at my expense. I ignored them and took the photo. When I was done I turned around, only to find nobody there. I looked up at the overhanging gutter from the four story building above me and noticed some rather sharp looking icicles that were in the process of melting. Oh shit! I hurry inside, trying not to think about the fact I could have been the first horror story of the winter...

This afternoon it's Johan, Linus and I in the studio. Jon is working from nine until three every day and then coming straight here and sticking around until we finish at ten pm. Long days... Nobody can doubt his commitment to the cause, that's for sure.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get in, drink some coffee, have some chat and then get cracking...

I really don't get where all the time goes, but by six pm. we've only completed two songs. It feels once again like I've spent most of the day with my guitar on my lap, waiting to put it to use.

We need to get Linus and Nico's lines of communication working better. Nico is clipping stuff at his home studio whilst we're tracking here with Linus. When Nico comes by for a listen in the late afternoon, he finds something he doesn't like with the way Linus has laid it up on the Pro-Tools rig and an argument between the two breaks out. We sit there listening to it, getting bummed out as the atmosphere in the studio turns sour. This isn't what we need. I really like both guys but they don't seem to be able to talk to each other. We decide to take a break as it's time for some food anyway.

Johan and I go to Verona for the third time in five days. I'm pretty fucking sure I won't be eating pizza for a while after this album is done. Jon stays behind in the studio for a nap on the sofa and Linus and Nico go separate ways. Johan and I discuss the situation over a beer and a Fungi.

We conclude that this actually isn't the first time we've been in a studio and this is just how it normally works. Nothing ever runs completely smoothly or on time, and we should be used to that fact by now. What we have got so far is sounding great and that's something to be positive about. We head back down to the studio determined to get some good vibes going and thrash out some songs.

Linus comes back from his dinner break and we have a constructive discussion about how he and Nico have to work together. Linus is my friend and a really nice guy and we all feel better for the talk afterwards. To make things even better, Nico happens to ring a short while after and chats to Linus, and it seems like it's a lot friendlier between them this time around. He has an idea about the Pro Tools set up which Linus is very positive about and it seems to do the trick. I'm relieved to hear it.

Nico is a really funny guy, always laughing and cracking jokes, but he doesn't hold back if something has pissed him off. After the phone call things feel a lot better and everything starts to run a lot smoother.

In three hours I work my way through six songs and I'm really happy with my evenings work when I'm done, although my head is a little done in. It's pretty stuffy down in the control room and the days work has taken it's toll on me. We're all in good spirits as we check off the completed tracks on the song worksheet. I have six more to lay down but they'll now have to wait until Thursday at least.  Jon is going to start on his guitar tomorrow whilst I'm at work.

Jon and I take a walk to Södra Station together and jump on the train home. We discuss the pros and cons of recording at home in Stockholm as opposed to being in a studio somewhere else. There's really only one main item on the cons list: work. And that's where I'm going to be for the next two days.

Unfortunately punk rock does not pay the bills, but then, that's not why we do it.  We do it because we love it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day Four

Today was a listening day.  We sat around whilst Linus checked through the previous day's drum takes, and clipped together different tracks.  It was a painstaking process which took about three hours, all I wanted to do was get started on my guitar.  We'd spent the bulk of the early afternoon with Nico getting a weighty guitar sound together.  Its sounding great and I'm ready to go.

I didn't get much sleep last night.  I left work at two in the morning and it was fucking freezing. Minus fifteen degrees!  Of course, my night bus was late due to the amount of snow on the ground.  It's only November and already we're talking minus fifteen degrees. 

It's really cosy down in the dungeon that is Linus' studio though.  I had Bonzo with me today, he was well behaved despite all the noise.  The little guy did me proud.  Having the dog with me provided me with a nice break now and then, I got to go out and throw the Frisbee around for him in the park behind the studio.  It's great seeing him hop around in the snow, he loves it.

I had a strange experience when I went to System Bolaget to pick up some beers today.  It was my turn for the beer run.  The guy at the counter asked me for my ID, which I was only to glad to show him.  They're pretty strict with that in Sweden.  If you look under thirty they'll ask you.  Once even Bloody Kev got asked here.  He was forty at the time and very fucking chuffed to have to show his passport.  Anyway, this kinda rough looking guy in the queue behind me gets asked to show his ID too.  He's got this big beard and looks around twenty-five, but he doesn't have any ID with him so he doesn't get any booze.  Although at first he seems to think it's funny, when he realises he's not going to be able to buy his two cans of beer his humour changes and he gets fucking angry.  I'm standing there packing my beer away and I guess I must have some sort of smirk on my face because he stares me out as he walks past me.  He then stands in the doorway waiting for me.  Fuck sakes, what's this I'm wondering?  I'm not much of a fighter but I realise I just have to stare back at him and walk on past.  He stands right in my way and I have to brush past him as I leave.  He doesn't say anything.  Bonzo's waiting for me outside and as I'm untying him from the lamp-post I feel the guys eyes in my back the whole time.  We stare at each other and part company in the busy street.  That would have been typical.  Coming back to the studio with a black eye when I was just going out with the dog...

I get back anyway and we sit back and drink some beer whilst listening to drum takes.  A friend of ours, Marcus Eriksson comes by.  He's got a pretty cool Kiss hat.  He worked with me and Johan at Debaser before.  He still does shows there now and then, but he's mostly out on tour.  He's working with Christian Kjellvander right now.  He also used to play in Roach Powder with Linus, so they're  old friends too.  It's good when other people pop by and you get a break from the the other five guys in the small room.

Jen comes by and picks up Bonzo around six pm. and a couple of hours after that we start laying down guitar.  By the end of the day I've put down guitar on Lifetaker.  It's sounding good.  We call time on it at ten pm. and Johan and I go for a beer.  We check by Nada who are having their last ever night.  It would have nice to hang out there but it's fucking packed with people and we can't even get the door open.  Fucking Sofo...we head to Garlic and Shots where our friend Frasse works.  We have a beer with him instead.  Anders from Makabert Fynd is there and we stop and chat for a while.

Around midnight I head off to catch the last train home.  I can't be fucked waiting for a night bus tonight.  That would be totally unnecessary in this cold.

Looking forward to a day of laying down guitar tomorrow.

Quote of the day:  Nico - “Anyone who says they like Rush is a fucking liar!”

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day Three

I only spent a total of about thirty minutes in the studio today. Working in the bar for ten hours at night instead of hanging out with the guys in the studio kind of sucked dick but that's the way it is and you just have to deal with it.

Jon is working Monday to Friday and having to come into the studio after work, so he has some really long days really my situation could be worse. Anyway, I popped by the studio at around two-thirty today to check in on the guys. Ronnie came up to let me in. He's not travelling back to Malmö until five pm. so he's been hanging out for a while today too. He tells me it's been going pretty slowly again, but the last hour things have started picking up.

I head down into the depths of the studio to find Andy and Jon in surprisingly good mood. They've had a pain in the ass morning again, Linus' computer still freezing and causing problems. Andy says the last hour has gone smoothly though and they've nailed three songs. So we're now up to song ten, which is good enough progress.

Linus is pretty fucked off with his computer, but I tell him not to worry about it. I guess it's embarrassing for him but it's just one of those things. I'm getting the feeling that Andy has been venting his frustration pretty loudly this morning. He seems happy enough now though. Andy is getting towards the end of a hard shift this weekend. He's been battering his drums non-stop since Friday the poor bastard. I wouldn't be a drummer. I hope that after tonight he will be done.

I sit in the control room with Ronnie and Linus whilst Jon and Andy go through some takes of a song called In Control. Andy is playing really well and solid whilst Jon is pulling shapes and ripping off guitar solo's.  He's only playing a guide track for fuck sakes!  I think he's been sipping on the wine.  Ronnie and I crack up as we watch him, you just have to love the silly sod.  

It's sounding good though. The drums really do sound huge. I'm happy we've got a really good base for the album in that drum sound. I leave the guys after half an hour, feeling very jealous of Linus whilst he sits there supping on some red wine. It's really cosy in here and I have to go to work, when all I want to do is kick my shoes off, grab a bottle of beer from the fridge and tuck into that bag of Lantchips whilst relaxing on the control room sofa. Instead I have to go open the bar and serve people beer all night.

Johan got called into work today too, the mixing board at the club has fucked up so he has to go deal with it. I call him on my my way to work and he's just heading to the studio. He says that he might come by for a beer later on, I tell him I'll be expecting him.

Around ten pm. Johan shows up at the bar with Jon. Jon looks like he's on his way to getting boats but I pour him a beer anyway. They're both happy. Andy has laid down the drums to all fifteen songs. This is great news since it means tomorrow I can start playing with some guitar sounds and then lay some ground tracks. And it also means we're keeping a good schedule. Nico had also been by and picked up some more files, so he's mixing some stuff at his home studio whilst we're tracking at Linus' place. All is starting to feel like it's flowing now. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.

Johan and Jon hang out for the bar for a bit, drinking some beer and chatting to some of the regulars. Jon is knocking them back pretty quick though and really is starting to look pretty pissed.  He's talking in that intense way, with that intense stare, and every sentence lasts an eternity. He hands me his empty glass and wants me to re-fill it whilst he goes for a piss. I ask Johan if he thinks he'll notice if I serve him low alcohol beer. We both agree he won't notice a fucking thing, so it's low alcohol he gets. He'll thank me tomorrow since he starts work at eight in the morning. Well, he would have thanked me if it wasn't already too late...

After that round they pay up and head off. I've got a couple hours left of work tonight before I can close the bar at one am.

By the time I leave for the night bus home it must be ten degrees below freezing outside, and it's only getting colder this week.  I get a text from my good friend Linus who tells me that it went really well in the studio tonight after the tough morning they had.  I'm glad the atmosphere in the studio is still good after the intense weekend. 

I'm looking forward to going back to the studio tomorrow.  Tomorrow I get to work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day Two

So the idea today was to get to the studio for ten am. and get rolling. We'd tracked three songs yesterday, but we decided that now we had a sound we were one hundred percent happy with, we'd start from the top today and get through it.

We're still waiting for Nico to turn up at eleven-thirty. Nico lives right across the road from the studio yet he's one and a half hours late. We eventually decide to just go ahead with Linus at the desk as we need to get moving.

Linus' computer still is feeling so well and even today there were a few glitches, where we'd record a track and the computer would freeze, requiring Linus to turn it off and re-start it. We'd laid down one really good take of a song titled On The Run when this happened. Andy had been struggling a little with the track anyway and then the fucking computer crashes when we get a good take. Andy was not too amused.

Within a couple of hours though, we've got at least two good takes of four tracks. It feels like progress is being made. Just when we're wondering what the fuck happened to Nico, Jon gets a text from him. It reads, “Uppsala, Police, Puke. Explain later.”

Nico arrives about a half hour later, looking pretty fucking rough. He tells us that after the Entombed show in Uppsala last night, he got caught smoking a spliff outside the club by some cops. He was pretty boats anyway and didn't do the best job of explaining himself, and so he ended up in the tank until six in the morning. The rest of the guys waited in the van for him, not too amused I guess. So he got to bed at seven am, but not before puking his insides up.

What can you do? We just crack up. The poor bastard looks pretty shaky. The funny thing is, he claims it was the Irish pub food that made him sick. We all take the piss out of him as he sits there muttering to himself, saying he'll have to ring the rest of the Entombed guys and check if they got sick too. Something with the burger didn't sit right with him he says.

Anyway, we play the takes that we've got down for Nico and he's pleased with the drum sound. We try and get another take of On The Run but it's not happening. We decide it's time for lunch. I'm fucking starving and I've decided on another banana and curry pizza, with one of those tasty beers they have up at Verona.

Nico has decided on a new plan. He's going to take the files home later tonight and start getting a rough mix of it together at his place, since he has all his gear there. Tracking with Linus at the studio is going well enough so it's actually a really good idea if Nicko can work parallel with some other stuff, across the road at his flat.

After lunch, we get back on with tracking. Jon is sitting in the control room, keeping a check on tempos whilst myself and Johan are in with Andy playing guide guitars for him. By the end of the day we've got multiple drum takes of five songs, which is a third of the way to the finish line as far as Andy is concerned. He's done well today, even if there have been some drum sticks flying around here and there.

A nice surprise today was a visit from our good friend Ronnie. He's been out touring with Familjen and was in Stockholm for the night, so he comes down to the studio to hang out. We haven't seen much of him since the Municipal Waste tour as he lives in Malmö.  He brings Andy and I copies of a couple of split records his band Pyramido have recently released. We're chuffed with this. Get to hang out with Ronnie ad he comes bearing vinyl.

We wrap the day up with a beer and some chat. Nico has come back to pick up some files. We sit around listening to the new Accept record that Nicko is loving right now. It's great, it sounds like they haven't left 1982, and not in a bad way. They just refuse to do anything else. Nico imagines them talking about the songs as they're writing them, imagining somebody saying to them “Come on guys, it's over, let it go.” Nico is standing behind Jon, playing a guitar along to the riff coming out of the studio speakers, “No, it isn't.”

Quote of the day. I crack up as I finish my beer and head home. I'm working tomorrow so I'm only going to manage to pop by the studio briefly, which sucks, but there isn't much I can do about that. My rent still has to be paid. I'll be back in for another days work on Monday though...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day One

When I was young I used to think recording was really fucking boring.  For me, recording an album was something that had to be done in order to be able to sustain touring.  To tour, you had to have a record to promote.  I remember being pretty miffed by our label's explanation of that point before recording the first Speedhorn record.

Things change as you grow up though and these days I enjoy working in the studio.  I guess I've learned a bit about it as the years have gone by, and the more you know about what you're doing, the more you tend to enjoy it. 

If experience has taught me anything about recording a record though, it's that nothing every runs smoothly.  This is something I happen to forget before every album, only to be reminded at some point during the first day of recording...

I get to the studio a little later than the rest of the guys, who have been there since ten am.  Upon arrival Linus tells me things are going slowly.   The first day in the studio is always a bit of a drag though, since most of it is spent getting the drum sound together.  So even though I turn up a few hours after the rest of the guys, I still get to spend a couple of hours listening to Andy hit his drums.

Drummer's have the worst and the best of the recording process.  Getting the sound must be a nightmare, since it entails playing drums non-stop for the best part of a day.  But then, they're the first one finished on the album, so when they've done tracking it's just sit back and relax and listen to the rest unfold.  Andy is having a proper work out today though.

Once Nico and Linus get near to a sound they like, and it is sounding good, the pro-tools rig on Linus' computer develops a bug.  It seems to be refusing to save any takes.  So the next few hours are spent trying to figure that problem out.  What ever happened to good old analogue recording?

Nico then has to go for the night as he has a show at an Irish sports bar in Uppsala with Entombed.  He didn't actually seem that psyched about it haha.  He'll be back tomorrow morning.

We decide to rack our brains together over a pizza and a beer at Verona, the restaurant above the studio.  Time for a break.  The pizza is awesome too, banana and curry.  Something I never knew existed until I moved to Sweden.  Fucking beautiful!  The other guys laugh at my choice of topping as I wolf it down.

After the pizza and a cup of shite coffee, that we think is free with the food but turns out not to be, and is quite frankly a slap in the face at 20 kronors, I head back down into the studio with Linus, whilst the other guys take a trip to the off-licence and get some beers.

After a while Linus works out that we can, at least as a temporary fix, record on an external hard-drive and make regular back-ups. 

So around seven pm. we finally start tracking some drums.  I sit on the sofa in the control room, drinking a superb bottle of Anchor Christmas Beer that Johan has kindly bought me, whilst Johan and Jon play some guide guitars for Andy.  The drums are sounding really good.  We get three tracks down and call it a night.  Considering the hinderances we've had today, that feels like pretty good prgroess. We'll see how it sounds in the morning, but tomorrow we should be up and running...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Back To The Present...

Tomorrow we go into the studio with Victims to record our new album.  It's snowing here in Stockholm and the weather forecast for next week promises temperatures of -13 degrees, so where better to be than in an underground studio for a fortnight recording some punk rock songs?

We're recording at my friend Linus Wiklund's studio, with Linus and Nico from Entombed taking care of the knobs and faders.  So whilst they're doing that and the other guys are doing their stuff, I'll be sat on the control room sofa, drinking caffiene and writing a studio blog.

Keep you posted!

Gareth x

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No. 1 - Corby

Of course it had to be Corby. Where else?

Over the years I grew to hate home town shows. Well, "hate" is maybe a bit strong, but they were a pain in the ass. London shows were just as bad, for the same reasons. There was always so much fucking around with these shows. People to see, friends to sort out on the guest list and the phone endlessly ringing. And then there was the fact that you're on stage playing to a room full of friends and acquaintances. The only shows that ever made me nervous were those shows. I could play in front of thirty thousand strangers without a second thought, but playing in front of thirty friends made me nervous as fuck.

I preferred the Corby shows in the early days. Before we started touring all over we used to play at a venue called Page Three, which had a metal and alternative music night on Mondays. We played there maybe four or five times. In those days, nobody from home gave a fuck about us. In fact, if there was any feeling at all towards us it was more likely one of disdain. We only encouraged that, of course. We went out of our way to be the outsiders. We looked down on all the idiot kids who were in to shite like “nu-metal”, who'd paint their fingernails black and wear eye-liner. We'd go up on stage, play as loudly and as slowly as possible and hope everyone hated us. In those days we had a five song set-list that lasted almost an hour. The set ended with about ten minutes of feedback.  Anything to piss of the kids wearing the Papa Fucking Roach t-shirts.

Anyway, as time went on and we started touring more and more, and eventually started appearing in all the national music magazines, our popularity started to rise. Even in Corby.

We always had a love/hate relationship with that town.

This show, at the Raven Hall, was the first show we'd played at home for a couple of years. It was going to be by far the highest attended show we'd ever played there. It used to make me laugh, because as soon as we started getting popular, people from Corby started sending emails to the band's website, asking us why we never played our home town. Even better, some stated that we owed the town a show. Unbelievable.

Anyway, we'd decided the time was right. We'd been touring for ages, we'd played the Ozzfest and were now touring on the continent regularly. I'll admit, we wanted to play a packed out show in Corby and show everyone who didn't believe in us from the beginning. Quite pathetic really, but deep down, that was the reason I wanted to play the show.  I guess we wanted to show off.

There is something about going home though. Even after eight years of living in Stockholm, Corby is still my home. And when I go home, I drink. Going home is now like going on holiday. My dad wants to go for a pint, my mates want to go for a pint, the first thing anyone suggests as a way of passing the time, is the idea of going for a pint. There isn't really a whole lot more to do. I haven't drank heavily for a long time, not since the early touring days of Speedhorn, but when I'm in Corby or around those home-town mates, the piss-head in me comes to the surface. I love going for a pint in an English pub. There is no other drinking culture in the world that is quite like it. And one pint normally leads to a few more.

Anyway, we'd been on tour just before this show at the Raven, so the gears were well oiled, and I felt confident that the show was going to go really well. There were a lot of people said to be coming, many of whom were old friends that I hadn't seen for a long time. It felt good.  The sun was shining on a glorious day as we sat there in the early afternoon, drinking pints in the beer garden at the Raven. I hadn't been this buzzed about a show for a while.

The set up for the gig was simple for everyone too. There were a few bands playing before us, but since it was Corby and there wasn't a lot of organising needed, our touring crew pretty much had the day off. So we all sat there in the sunshine, drinking beer and having a great time. Chuffed.

A few mates came by as the afternoon went on and the spirits were very high as the evening rolled in. I guess you might say we were all a little too relaxed.  You could almost definitely say we were too cocky. The beer just kept coming out from the bar and on to our table. We drank the entire day away. By the time the doors to the show opened at seven pm. I was pretty sauced, as was everyone else. But it wasn't until I was stood in the crowd watching the first band that it really hit me just how drunk I was.  But by then, more and more mates were turning up and the beer just kept on flowing.

We were going on stage at ten pm.

I have never been so drunk on stage...

I've played shows where I've had a little too much, but still been in a firm enough state of mind to realise I have to reel it in a bit, when the show has taken a bit of concentration to get through, but I'd been ok. I don't like playing a show drunk. I'm not the world's greatest guitarist as it is and booze certainly does nothing to improve that. Some people say that they play better when they've had a few, but not me. I know my absolute limit is three pints before a show, any more and it's pushing things. By the time we went on stage at the Raven, I must have drunk eight or nine pints! I was fucking steam-boats.

As I'm sure were the rest of the boys.

The place was packed with around three hundred people inside. It was buzzing. Now, I really only have a foggy memory of the show, something I now consider a small mercy. I think we open with Knives and Faces, which has quite a long intro riff played by yours truly. Even through my pissed ears, I can hear that I'm playing it sloppily.  The band come in with me and we're off.  To make up for the fact that I can't play very steadily, I put more energy in to going mad on stage, which of course doesn't help the playing, but I figure, fuck it, if it's going to sound like shit, it may as well look good.  SILENCE.

Half way through the song, the power on stage cuts out. It takes me a good few seconds to even realise. We stand on stage looking confused as a half pissed Roddy scrambles around looking for the power outlets. We stand there like dumplings for what seems like an eternity. Eventually the power comes back on and we try again.

Before we get to the end of Knives, the power goes again.

Fuck, this is getting embarrassing. Cue Roddy darting about behind the amps again. I'm so pissed that I can't quite register what is going on. Frank looks equally baffled. Gordon just sits there, taking the piss, playing some sort of jazz drum shuffle and winking at people. The crowd is starting to murmur... Another five minutes go by.

Roddy and someone from the venue think they have now figured out the problem, so again, we continue with the set. We decide that two half versions of Knives is enough though, so we re-start from the second song in the set. I think it's Redweed.  This song actually makes it through to the end.  I think we actually play it ok too.

But fuck me I'm drunk. I don't really know what I'm doing. During the third song, I spot my old mate Woodsy, who I haven't seen for ages, standing at the front of the crowd. Without even thinking about it, I just stop playing, swing my guitar around my back, step off of the low stage in to the crowd and give him a hug. “Alright Woodsy! What are you doing here?” I ask him, gleefully surprised by his presence. Woodsy had always just taken the piss out of me and the Speedhorn stuff. Corby love I guess. Anyway, I find myself in the crowd hugging him. He laughs and shouts at me through the noise, “Yeah I'm good mate, what the fuck are you doing?”. It's only then I realise. Shite. I laugh and sloth back up on stage and re-join the song.

That song over, I stand there trying to tune my guitar. It takes longer than it should. I look over at the rest of the band, and everyone is grinning. I only really know what's going on with myself, so I can't speak for the rest of them, but they all at least look as drunk as I feel. Frank looks particularly boats.

Before going in to the fourth song of the set, I tell myself to get it the fuck together. I spot my dad stood in the crowd and and my unconvincing smile to him is returned with a cringe. Need to get this sorted out. This actually is pretty embarrassing.

With that decided, I concentrate on making the rest of the set somewhat excusable. We're playing the fourth song, and with the added concentration it's actually sounding half decent. And then the power goes again. For fuck sakes! What the fuck is going on? Cue yet another long pause. Frank is babbling in his microphone to the crowd, John, far more sober, explains to the crowd that we're having “technical difficulties!”. No shit. Physical difficulties too.

The power is fixed yet again but by now my jovial mood is turning sour. I decide that if the power goes again, I'm fucking off.

We don't even make it through to the first chorus before it does indeed go again.

And then it happened... Now I like to think of myself as quite a calm, mild type of guy. I don't loose my rag very often but when I do, I kind of explode.  The Red Mist, my old friend James used to call it.

Every morsel of sense has no abandoned my thinking. I'm stood at the front of the stage as the power goes for the fourth and final time. I take my red SG (yeah the same one), and hurl it across the depth of the stage at my amp. It crashes head first into the speaker cabinet, which then collapses on top of my guitar. My poor guitar is now buried in the rubble of my amp, it's neck split in two at the bottom. Gig over. We exit the stage. I walk off the front, through the crowd and past my dad. I steal a look at him. “Well that was shite!” he says. I can only agree with him and walk out of the building.

I find myself outside in the car park, pissed as a fart, wondering what the fuck happened. Once the venue starts to empty I head back inside. The mood is a little sombre. I look over at my amp, which is still lying on top of my guitar. I attend to the sorry mess. We're all pretty drunk, and we're trying to work out what happened with the power. It's not long before we get an answer.

Frank, steaming, contemplates aloud to himself. “I took a piss in that room behind the stage, in the corner right before we went on. There might have been some cables lying around in there, I don't know, it was pitch black...”

Yes. Frank had pissed all over a mass of power cables behind the stage. The dirty, stupid fucker. We'd fucked our gig up, our big home-coming, we're gonna show Corby what for gig, because our singer took a piss on the power cables that hooked up the stage.

We're all so drunk, that we can only laugh at our own stupidity. We pack the van up and still pissed, I constantly ask Gordon if he is still my mate. I do this when I'm drunk and full of angst. He tells me not to worry about it, but I'm feeling “the shame”. The day after Gordon informs me that I rang him about ten times during the night, just wanting to make sure that we were still mates...

And that I think, is a fitting end to the list of the stupidest shows Speedhorn ever played.

I remember Johan in Victims asked me a question whilst we were on a ferry to Poland this summer, when we were travelling down to play a few shows. We were sat in the bar recounting stories, some of these shows were mentioned, and Johan asked me how the hell the band managed to function at all.  Like I said at the beginning of this count-down, I feel, for the most part, that we were a very good live band. We played over six hundred shows, and although these twelve shows were pretty ridiculous, most of the others were good shows, and some were great. Ninety nine percent of the time we delivered, and I'm proud to have been in that band.

It's just that the shittest shows from back then, provide the fondest memories for me now. And they're obviously a lot more fun to write about.

Monday, November 15, 2010

No. 2 - Bristol

This show was the actual inspiration for the Top 12 list, a list that has recounted the stupidest shows Speedhorn ever played. I'm almost certain that this show bears no major part in the memory of anyone else involved, because it wasn't really "Speedhorn's" worst show. It was mine. And mine alone.

I had almost forgotten about this particular gig, or maybe I'd banished it to the depths of my mind. But, somewhere on the journey home from Uppsala, the day after the night of Tompa's (drummer in Battle of Santiago) stag night, whilst sat beside Patrik in the back of the van drinking a beer aimed at washing away a lousy hangover, the memory of this show came flowing back to me.

We were talking about the worst shows we ever played. We've both been in bands for years and we each have horror stories to tell, but as I told Patrik of this night, the details coming back to me as I spoke of them, he pissed himself laughing, as did I, and the idea for the list struck me.

Before I go into the details of the night we played the Bierkeller in Bristol, I should explain what I think makes a great show.

For me, a great show is when every member of the band manages to find themselves in the “zone”, as a cheesy American sports athlete would say. When each individual member clicks into the same gear, and the machine that is the band works in perfect harmony. It's when you're on stage and the sound coming from the monitors is like a high fidelity recording, when your instrument seems to be playing itself, and whilst looking around the stage at the rest of the band you see they're experiencing it with exactly the same buzz that you are. Right there and then, the guys in your band are your best friends, the people you care about more than anyone else on the planet, and you want to give them all a hug and tell them you love them. I know that sounds painfully cheesy but that's the high a great show gives you. It is like a drug.  That's how it is for me at least.

Now, a responding audience, an audience which is giving back as much energy as you are putting out, is obviously a major factor in making the step between a good gig and a great gig. The size of the audience is not the absolute be-all and end-all to how I experience the show, but of course it helps. A packed out show, be it in a basement in New Jersey or an arena in Japan, is a pretty crucial ingredient of a great show. There have been shows where the audience has been on the small end of the scale, or shows where the audience haven't been in to it, yet all the other factors on stage have been in place and the show has still left me with a buzz. As far as I'm concerned, what happens on stage is more important than what happens in the audience, because ultimately it's about the band, but those shows still only fall into the “really good show” category. For a show to be great, all of the factors need to fall into place.

Our slot on the main stage at the UK Ozzfest in 2001 is one such show. There aren't many on that level, because those shows are special. The show in the tent at the Download Festival in 2005, our first major show with Kev, is another such occasion.

Although I'm always more than happy with a regular old “good show”, or even better, a “really good show”, I'm still contantly looking for that next level.

And now I'm beginning to get the point of this ramble. It's really disappointing when you yourself have had a great show, when everything has flowed and you feel you've felt the magic, and then you come off stage buzzing only to be greeted by a disappointed band member, who hasn't experienced the same gig you have.  It's a right fucking gutter if you come off stage, totally chuffed, only to find someone in the band backstage complaining about their show. The usual stuff...monitors were crap, broke a string etc. If you come off stage buzzing then you want everyone else in the band to be buzzing with you. It's disappointing when this isn't the case. But then, truly great shows don't come along that often...

This show in Bristol is my own personal shittest show ever. It's the kind of event that is the substance of angst filled dreams. You know, not nightmares exactly, but the really heavy dreams.  Like when you're in school and all of a sudden you realise you're naked, that you just totally forgot to put your clothes on that morning. Or, you're lost in an area that you know really well but no matter which direction you take, you can't get to where you know you want to be going. Or closer still, when you're on stage with your band in front of an audience and absolutely everything you do goes viscously wrong.

Well, this is that show. If anyone else in the band came off stage that particular night buzzing, I'm sure one look at my face would have killed it instantly.

It starts with the first song. In fact, I hardly even make it into the first song. We're stood on stage in silence, waiting for Frank to scream the first line of Hate Song.  All very dramatic stuff you understand.  The stage is really broad yet not very deep. The P.A. speakers are hung from chains in the roof, instead of placed on the ground by the side of the stage, so the place feels wide open.  There is nowhere to hide. The dressing room door is at the back of the stage and in full view of everyone in the crowd. The crowd itself is maybe two hundred or so, but the venue is so big and weirdly laid out, there are all these little side alcoves and adjoining rooms, that the venue feels pretty empty anyway.

Frank bellows in to Hate Song and on cue I swing my guitar around as I belt in to the first chords.  And the show is off and running.

Except, it isn't. My guitar immediately sounds like it's completely down-tuned. I'm so busy trying to work out what the fuck has happened that it takes me a few seconds to realise that the rest of the band aren't playing the song. John is stood beside me, still, silently staring at the crowd, arms hanging by his side. And then I see it. My guitar neck is hanging in the air, the strings swinging it like a pendulum from it's otherwise decapitated body. I figure out pretty quickly then, that with that first swing at the start of Hate Song, I've smashed the guitar neck into John's arm. The beefy fucker hasn't even flinched, he just stands there staring forward, doing his best to look intense. My red SG on the other hand, is fucked. Great fucking start! I only just got that guitar fixed as well...

So, next guitar. I go behind my amp to the case that has my spare guitar in it. Only when I open my case does the realisation hit me. The spare guitar I have is not going to work for a Speedhorn show, not for very long at least. My Fender Jazzmaster is a beautiful guitar but it isn't set up for the kind of abuse that Speedhorn's music hands out. The guitar has a floating bridge, which means that the strings just rest on top of some cylindrical rollers, instead of wedged into a groove, as on a normal bridge. So in essence, anything more than tickling the guitar will make the strings pop out and become unplayable, until you've manually pulled the string back into place. There is a reason the guitar is called a Jazzmaster I guess. I'd only brought this guitar with me as a desperate measure...

I'd broken my black Gibson SG at a show in Worcester a while before. I'd gotten a little over excited by the show that night, which had been a packed out floor show, and I'd smashed my guitar continuously into the ground at the end of the set, not stopping until the neck had snapped off. I have no fucking idea what I thought I was doing. Adrenaline brain freeze I guess. As soon as things had calmed down after the show, I was ready to fucking cry. For a start, I loved that guitar, it still hangs on the wall in my apartment today, and for a finish, I sure as fuck couldn't afford another one at the time. Hence, the Jazzmaster was with me this night. I should have known better. I guess I was still learning. The thing is, I'd broken the red SG in similar fashion only a few weeks before, at the show which is Numero Uno on this list... What the fuck was I playing at? Anyway, this show tonight had been the first show I'd played with my newly repaired red SG, and it had lasted all of two seconds thanks to John's fucking tree trunk of an arm!

Not having any other guitar that I could call my own, the Jazzmaster was brought along. So once I've got it on, we start the set again, after much delay, and once again kick on in to Hate Song. The song is only a minute and a half long, but in that time, the strings pop out of the bridge on the Jazzmaster at least three times. By the time we get to the end of the song I'm fuming. I realise this isn't going to work. Cue another delay...

I look over at Roddy, by now our guitar tech/driver/tour manager (that guy filled a lot of positions over the years), who is looking back at me confused. I tell him I've got to get another guitar from somewhere. He immediately darts off and retrieves a spare guitar.  I think he's got it from Medulla Nocte, who are supporting us.  I hurriedly put it on and we finally get going into the second song. We, or at least I, must look like a right shambles from the point of view of the crowd. We've been on stage around ten minutes and we're only now going into the second song. That sinking feeling in my stomach is spreading to the rest of my body like a slowly moving lava flow of shite.  So we go into Scrapin' The Resin. I'm so het up that I haven't even thought to adjust the strap, and so spend the duration of that song with the guitar up around my rib cage.  I figure I must look like that tit from Rage Against The Machine. I'm already wanting this show just to just end.

I get through that song, although it's painfully uncomfortable. I get the strap adjusted as soon as the song ends and make an inner pact with myself to try and forget how this show has started, put it out of my mind, and just get on with the rest of it as best I can. Obviously my broken guitar is making me want to fucking punch someone, but I have to forget that for the next thirty minutes and leave worrying about how I'm going to afford a new guitar after my job here is done. Of course, I'm going to have to take it easy from here on in since a broken string is going to cause yet more delay.

Another three or four songs go by without incident. I'm hardly enjoying myself but I do start to wonder if the shit luck for this show is now over.  Of course, during the next song, a string snaps. I bluff it through to the end but when the song is done I have to string the guitar up, which causes yet more delay. I really am just wanting to get off of this horribly wide open stage as soon as fucking possible now. This gig sucks balls.

After another few minutes of farting around re-stringing the guitar, all the while Frank laughing and taking the piss out of me, we finally get on with it again.

I look at the set list, two songs left. Thank fuck. If anyone thinks that I'm playing an encore tonight they can go fuck themselves. I'll just be glad to get to this over with and piss off out of here...and worry about how I'm going to sort my guitar out for the rest of these dates.

The end comes even quicker than expected. We go into the penultimate song and the strap from the guitar comes off. So I spend that song on my knees, playing through it. I almost start laughing at this point.  Just as I'm wondering what could possibly happen next...I realise that the strap from the guitar hasn't just come loose, it's fucking snapped in half! That is it. Enough is enough. I walk off and leave the lads to play the last song without me.

As I walk behind my amp and towards the dressing room door, a red mist descends upon me and out of pure rage I kick the back wall, the wall that separates the stage and the dressing room itself. I kick the fucker with everything I have.

Much to my surprise the wall is made of paper-thin plywood and my foot and half of my leg go straight through it. So now I'm stuck in the wall, in full view of the crowd. Gords has noticed me stuck there, trying to wiggle my leg free, and he's pissing himself laughing, as is I imagine anyone else in the crowd who has happened to notice me. After what feels like an age, I pull myself free and huff into the dressing room. I sit there on the sofa feeling like a right wanker, looking at the hole in the wall which I figure is going to cost me too.  I console myself with the thought that maybe one day I'll look back at this night and laugh..

By the time I'm done re-counting this story to Patrik in the back of the van, he's pissing himself laughing, as am I.  I've laughed about it many times over the years.  And that is what led me to writing this series of stories. 

If you are wondering?  The red guitar I somehow managed to mend again, I think Darren's dad worked his magic on it.  After two neck breaks and various other "accidents", it's hardly the prettiest looking guitar today, but I still play it live with Victims. It's like an old pair of socks that are just too comfortable to throw away. I can't remember what I did guitar wise for those following shows with Medulla Nocte though...

The Jazzmaster, I sold to Darren a short while after. He bought it off of me with the strict condition that he'd hold on to it and make some use of it.

He sold it about four months later. Probably for a tidy profit too, the cheeky bastard.  

So that leaves just one more show on the list.  And I think all who were there would agree it deserves it's place at the top of the charts...