Thursday, June 3, 2010

Punk Rock Stories: Rambling Around Europe...Part One

Before we started the band Battle of Santiago, most of us played in another band called Rowdy Ramblers.

That band had started some five years before, the core members being Erik, Tompa and Olle. There had been various people involved around the band during it's existence, in one way or another, I myself had been friends with them all a long time before I ended up joining the band. I'd been involved in recording their 10” The Maple a year before. When their guitarist Martin left the band a while after that recording, I told them that I may as well hop in and play with them. I never did like the name of the band too much but I loved the attitude they had. And they were some of my best friends here in Stockholm, so I knew it would be fun playing with them.

Later on Patrik would become involved with the band, initially as a producer on what would have been the second record. Then, one night out at our log cabin in the woods, whilst sat on the porch, drinking to the approaching dawn, listening to the latest Fall of Efrafa record as I remember, I suggested Patrik join the band as third guitarist.

He did, we wrote a bunch of new songs and became Battle of Santiago.

About a year before Patrik came along, when  we were still called Rowdy Ramblers, still playing what you could label garage rock, albeit a far messier and heavier version of the term, we headed on what would be our one and only European jaunt. The only gigs we ever seemed to play with that band were small, weird shows in Stockholm, mainly in front of friends only. I was looking forward to heading off on a DIY, internet booked tour in Europe.

Now to say “tour”, is a slight over-statement. It was five shows. Five shows in something like nine days, in June 2008. It was actually, half holiday/half tour.

We'd set up an initial couple of shows in Poland, one in Warsaw, one in Bydgoszcz. Erik had got chatting to some crazy rock guy on Myspace, called General Burner, who was nuts for Swedish garage rock n' roll and had heard the Ramblers and wanted to book some shows for us. Ok, what the hell, why not? He turned out to be this great big guy who looked like Lemmy and was a real gent to us. He set up those first two gigs and that set us up for the other shows in Europe financially. We hooked up another show in Berlin through a friend, another show in Prague and a final show in Rostock.

It really was a piss take of a tour. We lost a lot of money in the end since it was nothing more than an expensive holiday, but we ended up spending two free days in both Berlin and Prague and of course, we had a blast. The shows were all pretty cool, except Rostock, but that's another story.

There are two nights from this “tour” in particular though, that for the rest of my life, will make me smile whenever I think about them.

The first night is actually the first night. We were getting the ferry from Nynäshamn just outside Stockholm, down to Gdansk. It's a long old ferry ride, the bulk of the passengers being rough and ready looking Polish truck drivers. We board the ferry, get settled into our cabins and then rendezvous at the bar. Where else?

It's a long journey ahead and being a Polish ferry company, we're all hoping that the beer prices are going to be Polish too. We're all delighted when we find out that the price of beer on board is indeed very cheap. Chuffed we head to the bar and start purchasing beer.

It's all very relaxed at first. It's around 2pm, it's a beautiful day and there is a little bar up on deck. We're sitting in the sun drinking half decent beer from plastic mugs and eating fatty grey sausage. My wife Jenny is with us for the first few days of the tour. We all sit there in the sun enjoying ourselves thoroughly. The fact that almost every other passenger on board looks akin to a character from the movie Roadhouse, raises a small pattering of amused chuckles from us. We take in the scenery and sit there in the sun, drinking for the next couple of hours.

The sun slowly fades as night engulfs the Baltic Sea. We head down to the restaurant and eat a cheap and pretty useless dinner, before heading to our cabins for showers, preparing for a night of entertainment on board the boat to Gdansk.

We hop around the different bars on board, drinking beers and having a great time, all of us slowly getting drunk. There is a nightclub on board which is opening later on in the evening. We decide we're partying it up there later on, but until it opens we need to find another bar. We're all getting a bit full in the stomach from the beer consumption so decide to move on to drinks. As we're scouring the boat for another bar we bump into a bunch of Swedes, one of which myself and Jenny are kind of acquainted with. He's the trainer of the AIK women's handball team, the team which our close friend Annica plays for. We'd previously met this trainer guy at a couple of parties. We laugh at the fact we're bumping into each other on a Polish ferry. Apparently they're going down to Germany to watch a couple of the football games in the European Championships. I tell him what we're up to and we politely chat to each other for a while. The conversation isn't really flowing that freely but it's pleasant enough. He seems like a nice guy, although a little stiff for my taste. Anyway, after a while, we make our excuses and note that we'll more than likely bump into each other later.

We end up in a small bar which is empty except for the bartender. He seems like a friendly chap and we get talking to him. I want to order Grasshoppers for everyone but he doesn't seem to know what that is. I drunkenly...proudly, tell him the recipe and we get chatting, barman to barman. We sit there drinking all manner of cocktails for the next hour or so. The barman really wants us to try out his special own cocktail recipe that he himself has created. We tell him we'd be more than happy to, so he gladly goes about making the drinks for us. It turns out to be pretty disgusting. I don't really remember what it was, something with Jagermesiter and a couple of other spirits. We don't have the heart to tell him that the drink stinks, so we painfully gulp them down as quick as we can, nodding throughout the ordeal and doing our best to look like we're enjoying it.

After another couple of these drinks, we decide it's time to test out the night club. We're all pretty fucking pissed by this point and Jenny decides she's heading to our cabin. I am nowhere near done though. We still have another ten hours or so on this boat and the nightclub just opened! Jen heads off and we make our way to the bar, and soon afterwards, the dance floor. We're throwing back everything and anything by this point and everyone is steaming.

Memory defeats me from there. It's only Erik's later account of the story I have from here on in. As has been said before on this blog, and as most people who know me, when I'm on the dance floor at 1 am, then yes, chances are, I'm pretty fucked! So there we are, dancing away. There is literally nobody else on the dance floor, only us. There is barely anyone else in the nightclub actually. A couple of bemused looking trucker types, a bored looking female bartender and a DJ playing records. If we weren't all out of our minds, it would be a thoroughly depressing scene.

Since we're single-handedly owning the dance floor, I decide I want to make a request. For some reason I want to hear Phil Collins. Phil Fucking Collins! The DJ guy gives me a half interested smirk and then carries on about his business. I head back to dancing, but then after another few songs and Phil still hasn't been on, I head back to DJ man and inquire as to what is happening with Collins. He can't even be bothered amusing me by this point, just grunts "No" at me and tells me to piss off, or at least I guess that's what he's telling me. I can't understand Polish, but his tone says it all.

Disgruntled by the DJ's attitude I grumble back to the dance floor By this time, the rest of the band have given up and sat down to some more drinks. Not I though. No, no. I stand in the middle of the dance floor, pull my arse out and stand there mooning the DJ for the duration of the song he's just started playing. It's just me on the dance floor and I'm standing there mooning the DJ cunt. The rest of the band are sat off to the side, steam boats, loving every minute of it. The bartender still looks bored, the two trucker guys look like they want to kill me, or at best rape me, and the gang of Swedes led by the handball trainer I kind of know, who had only came in about five minutes ago, well they look a bit shocked.

Erik eventually walks me off the dance floor and tells me to pull my fucking jeans up. I think there are another couple of beers that go down, some failed conversation with handball guy and then Erik leads me back to my cabin where my wife Jenny is innocently sleeping.

On the way back I decide I'm going to bang loudly on every cabin door along the corridor. Erik has had enough by now. Can't say I blame him. We get back to my cabin and he throws me into it, calling me a tit, before wishing me goodnight.

The night still has one funny turn in store for Erik though, before his night is over...

He gets back to the cabin he is sharing with Tompa and Olle and knocks on the door, wanting to be let in. No answer. He knocks again. He hears Olle's faint voice calling from within.


-”Let me in for fuck sakes! What are you up to?

Olle then opens the cabin, his head peering around the door, the room completely dark. Tompa is passed out in his bed, Olle looks white and terrified, wearing only a t-shirt. Erik asks him where the fuck his pants and jeans are but Olle just hurriedly pulls him into the cabin, whispering to Erik, telling him to be quiet. Erik now has to know what the fuck is going on, because knowing Olle, this is going to be good!

Olle is a really mild guy. He's a great friend, the kind of person that would do anything for you and would not intentionally cause harm to another soul. But maybe once or twice a year he has some mad, wild blow-out when he's drunk where he gets himself into trouble, much to the amusement of the rest of us.

Olle, still looking terrified, tells Erik what's happened.

Apparently, when Erik was doing his best to get me back to my cabin, Olle and Tompa had wandered off to theirs, somehow getting separated on the way back. After a short while, Olle realises he has lost Tompa and that he has no idea where their room is. He continues to stumble around the cabin corridors looking in vain for their room. After what was probably five minutes, though Olle swears it was longer, he realises he is lost and what’s more, in desperate need of a piss. In blind, drunken panic, having looked for a toilet for what was probably all of thirty seconds, he decides to piss in a quiet corner of the corridor.

I'm not quite sure why but in order for him to do this, he deemed it necessary to pull his jeans down to his ankles. He's barely started taking a leak when he hears a screech from behind him. “Scheize!” Before he understands what is happening, there is some angry Polish truck driver screaming at him. Not only that, he has firmly planted his boot up Olle's arse! Olle yelps in pain and starts staggering off in blind panic, his jeans still around his ankles. The truck driver chases after him though, screaming all kinds of venom in his direction and continuously kicking Olle in his bare arse! Olle is screaming in fear by now, and his arse is starting to hurt. His only reaction is to kick off his jeans and kecks, and run the fuck away from there. The guy gives chase but Olle finally manages to get away. He has by now, of course, pissed all over himself!

When Olle recounts this story to Erik, back in the cabin, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and stinking of piss, Erik of course falls to the floor laughing hysterically!

I wake the next morning, head fucking banging! We all meet up in the ferry lobby, myself and Olle looking very pale and sheepish, wanting to get the fuck off the ferry as quick as possible. Olle is shitting it, worrying that he'll bump into the angry trucker, I'm worried I'll bump into handball trainer. We mutter to ourselves as the boat finally docks and we make our way to the car platforms. As we're hurriedly heading down the stairs we do indeed bump into the handball lot. Fuck. I feel my stomach go. That guy kinda looks at me a bit put out, and I grumble something like, “Whoo, heavy night last night!”. He doesn't look impressed. I make my excuses and hurry to the van. Oh well, I guess you can't be friends with everybody...

We head off the boat and start making our way to Warsaw from Gdansk. It's hot as hell, we're all hungover to piss and within thirty minutes on the road, we're pulled over trying to fix a puncture. Well actually, the guys are, I'm desperately walking around with a bog roll in my hand, looking for a bush to shit in.

As I'm squatted there, relieving my stomach of filth, I realise that these guys are as prone to trouble as the Speedhorn lot were. Or maybe not quite, but they sure as fuck like to drink. I wonder what the rest of this trip has in store, as we haven't even played the first fucking show yet!

It was to be an eventful little trip...

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