Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I wake up this morning, feeling rested after a night's sleep for the first time since we left home last week. Even though we only slept for six and a half hours, they were six and a half hours of sober sleep. What a difference that makes.

The bed at Frank's place was really comfortable and hard to get out of, but after a shower and a coffee, I'm feeling healthy. Or at least, normal...

Jon is looking like a different person this morning. Last night was the first night that he slept for longer than four hours, and he looks a lot better for it. He comes into the kitchen to join us for coffee, in new jeans and a shirt, Stachel asks him if he's going to a wedding. He replies, “Please, don't hurt a broken man”. I love how dramatic he is. It's good to see him looking better.

So tonight is the last show of this little run. Even though we've only played four nights, my body feels like it's done thirty. If this was a longer tour then I guess today would be one of those when I'd be promising myself a day off the booze, whether that would happen or not is another matter. The show tonight should be a lot of fun, since we're playing with our friends Kylesa. It's a big show, with Converge headlining. I'm looking forward to seeing them too, it's been a few years. Jake, their singer, put the last Victims record out in the States. It will be fun to meet him.

The drive to Hamburg from Leipzig is a piece of piss compared to yesterday, clocking in at about four hours. We stop by a punk distro place in Hanover on the way, since Stachel is picking up some records for the Kylesa guys to sell on tour. I haven't actually bought that many records on these dates, so my fingers start itching when we're at the distro hanging out, surrounded by punk and hardcore vinyl. I pick up the re-issues of the two latest Baroness records, The Blue Record being the topic of Andy and Jon's boozy debate the other night. Jon is happy that I've listened to him and purchased it. I'm gutted though when Andy spots a Rorschach re-press and it's the only one there. Bastard!

Anyway, we hang out and chat for a while with Michael, the main man at Punk, sell him some Victims records and then get going to Hamburg. The sun is blazing when we pull up outside the Markthalle an hour later.

It's been a long time since I was at this venue. I remember it as being pretty large. We'd played here with Speedhorn on what was a terrible tour with an awful band called Ill Nino. It was a tour that was doomed to fail from the start. The actual shows were good but the two bands were so different, in every aspect, that it just didn't work as a tour. It was tense from the first day to the last. You just can't be friends with everyone I guess...

The first person I see when I walk into the venue is a friend though. Tom, who used to play with the band Bossk. They played a show with Speedhorn a few years ago and we've been friends ever since. They were supposed to be the main support on Speedhorn's final UK tour, but then they went and split up before we did. Tom and a few of the other Bossk guys were really big Speedhorn fans back in the day. He once told me that two of the guys from the band, long before they'd formed Bossk, when they were just pimple faced teenagers, had won a competition in Kerrang magazine, the prize being Christmas dinner with Speedhorn. I remember it being a typical “ply Speedhorn with free booze and shoot it” press gig. I fucking pissed myself when years later, Tom informed me who those two shy teenagers were.

Anyway, Tom is out with Kylesa selling merch for them on tour. It's a small world. Or, it's a small scene, spread worldwide. Wherever you pull the van up, there's normally a friend or acquaintance there to greet you. Tom points me in the direction of the backstage room I'm looking for.

Even though we're playing with friends tonight, I can't help feeling we're crashing the party a bit. There is a tour package of four bands and we've just kind of intruded for one show. We're made to feel more than welcome by the other bands though, who are all really friendly people. I feel guilty when I look at the schedule and see that we're playing in the middle of the bill, right before Kylesa. We assumed we'd be playing first. We're not getting paid for tonight since the tour was budgeted long before we arrived on the scene. We would have been on our way home and driving past Hamburg, so for us it was just fun to play with our friends and sell some merch. Thankfully, no egos involved and like I said, the other bands are super friendly.

Jon is really psyched about seeing the first band, Kvelertak. They are a bunch of young guys from Norway who are out doing their first European tour. Jon loves the band's first record and he's been looking forward to seeing them play live. We hang out with them for a while, talking about all the usual stuff. Nice guys.

We're all taking it very easy tonight. Nobody is in the mood to drink since after the show we're driving home. Well, we're driving to the Puttgarden ferry port and then sleeping in the van for a few hours before driving the rest of the way tomorrow. We're hoping to get home for around nine in the evening. So we chill out with the Kylesa guys and wait for Kvelertak to play.

They are really fun to watch. They sound like a weird blend of two of Norway's finest exports. Namely, black metal and Turbonegro. They're full of energy and put a lot in to their show. I can't work out if they're really fucking good or just, well, fun. For most of their set, I have a hard time taking my eyes off one of the three guitarists in the band, since he's playing his guitar without using a pick. He just plays with his fingers. And he's not exactly picking like Knopfler, he's smashing the shit of it. How his fingers aren't pulp is beyond me.  I'm in the mood to play after watching these guys.

It is a big venue. Of course, it's fun to play with Converge, I love the band, but a support slot in a big venue like this is a whole different ball game for us. We're in our element playing small venues where the stage and the crowd are one and the same. So playing a show like this is something you have to adapt to, and whether we do or not is up for debate.

I'm not sure, but I think it's a good show. The crowd, although not moving a lot, are certainly noisy enough, and seem to at least understand what we're about. I would expect the Converge crowd to be open minded, since it's something the band themselves sternly promote. Anyway, apart from Andy's monitor fucking up before we play Breaking Out, which takes a couple of minutes for the in-house people to fix, and Johan seemingly forgetting his start to Ett Svart År, the gig goes smoothly.

My main issue is the stage lights. They are as hot as the fucking Devil himself! By the halfway point of the set I'm completely fucked, gasping for water, sweat pissing out of me. I look desperately at the set list. Eight songs left! Fuck me!

By the time we get to the end, I pack up as quick as I can, and get off stage, worried I'm going to puke up all over it. Happily I don't, but I'm shaky as fuck. I wasn't expecting that big, open stage to be that hot. I throw some cold water down my throat and start coming around.

Gig done. Happy enough. Completely fucked.

We get the gear out and pack the van immediately. I'm more than happy to volunteer since I need the fresh air. The problem is, to get out down to the street, I have to make my way through the foyer area, which is packed with people. I'm still feeling weak when I bump into Stachel who has the keys to the van. As usual Stachel is titting around, taking the piss. The little strength I have is in no way able to resist his grappling little arms and I just have to wait it out. Eventually he let's go of me, but then I stumble into to some half drunk hardcore kid who happens to be walking past me. The kid looks at me, and for a split second there is trouble in his eyes. I apologise to him but Stachel immediately informs the kid that I'm not sorry. He never, ever, stops taking the piss. The kid laughs though and walks away, Stachel follows me out of the venue, continuing to take the piss out of me. I put my arm around him and we walk to the van.

Kylesa have started by the time we've loaded and by then I'm feeling back to feeling normal. Me and Jen catch most of their set from side stage. They sound great as usual. I'm looking forward to seeing them properly in Stockholm on Wednesday. It's a lot of fun watching Converge tonight. I almost forgot how great they are on stage. It's maximum energy. Fucking unbelievable. I watch their entire set, loving every minute, thinking about getting home and spending a day chilling out, listening through some of their records.

After the show, we hang out with everyone for a while, but the journey home is at the forefront of everyone's thoughts. After a round of hugs, we leave for the van. Nate from Converge follows us down, since he wants a t-shirt.  We chat on the way down.  He says that he thinks the crowd was a bit stiff tonight and doesn't seem overly pleased with the show.  If he thought that show wasn't that good, then I can't wait to see them at a packed out Debaser on Wednesday night.  Nate is asking me about the white SG I was playing, saying he's been looking for one just like it for years.  I tell him it's actually Jen's guitar and that I too with I owned one!  My wife has good taste in guitars at least.  We hang out on the street a little while longer, talking with Corey from Kylesa and then we're off.

Stachel has left for home now, so it's back to the five of us. I sit up front with Johan, who's driving the first part of the journey tonight. The plan is to sleep at the ferry port, so tomorrow we only have Denmark and Sweden to drive. Two countries instead of three is a big psychological difference. It's only a two hour drive to Puttgarden, but it feels like a lot longer, since we don't get away from the venue until just before one am.

A half hour away from Puttgarden and my eyelids feel like they're weighted down. By now, I'm longing for the fucking van floor!

We arrive at the ferry port and we sort ourselves out in the van. Jon and I are on the slithers of floor between the bench seats. Johan, Andy and Jen take the benches. It's a fair deal, we're down in the dark on the hard floor, they're on the soft seats in the light. I'm just happy to stretch out. At that point, the hard floor feels so comfortable that I don't even care if I fall asleep...although before long I do just that.

I wake every time I turn over, but only briefly. The only occasion it takes a little longer to drift off again, is when I wake from a dream and head butt a screw beneath one of the seats. It hurts but it doesn't deter sleep from reclaiming me.

Tomorrow is going to be a long, boring day.  I'm looking forward to a bath and my own bed at the end of it.  I'm happy that for once, I've got a couple of days off at home before going back to work...

Monday, July 19, 2010


I'm woken by the sound of the hotel phone ringing. It's reception informing us we have ten minutes to pack up and get out. It's eleven am. I'm now really disappointed with myself. I was so looking forward to a good night's sleep and relaxing shower in the morning. That is now fucked. I tell the reception lady that I need to shower and she tells me fifteen minutes. Deal.

We gather down in the foyer at eleven thirty. The drive today isn't that long apparently, so we decide to get some breakfast somewhere on the way out from Trutnov, before embarking on the journey to Leipzig. Andy has come down, looking surprisingly fresh again. When he left for his room last night, he was looking pretty drunk. So we're just waiting for Jon...

He finally comes down. He's looking rougher each morning. He's in pain, he's on medication and yet he's been drinking heavily and sleeping sparsely since we left. Andy said he had looked at the clock at six this morning and Jon's bed was empty. The boy needs a proper night's sleep. He comes down to the foyer looking as happy as always however. We get in to the van.

We're picking up our friend Anton, who is travelling with us to Leipzig. He played in Acursed with Jon and is now playing in Martyrdöd. He and Jon are close friends. He's a great guy and it's always fun having other friends along on the trip. The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned.

We head out of Trutnov after picking up Anton from his hotel, looking for a restaurant and a motorway. We drive up the forest road out of Trutnov and after a short while find a restaurant. It's a nice looking place with a view of the valley. We walk in. It's a fancy looking joint and looks pretty full. It feels like every diner in the place turns and looks at us as we walk through the door. Luckily, there is a table for seven free, so we sit down and everyone orders the classic Czech dish. Fried cheese and potato pancakes. I'm starving...

Jon and Anton are already on the beer. They get through three each during the meal. The rest of us stick to coke. I'm starting to worry about Jon. He needs to chill out. It seems like he's drinking to dull the pain in his shoulders. He's desperate to play. It would destroy him if, to what in his eyes, would be letting the band down, he had to sit out a show. But his health and comfort is obviously more important to us.

We wash the greasy food down with some coffee and get back into the van. Next stop Leipzig.

It becomes apparent after about an hour of driving, that a certain new motorway we were hoping to take, is not happening. It's the usual winding, country lane. All the way to the German border. I can't understand how that is possible. I mean, it's the main road out of the country and it's not much wider than the road between fucking Corby and Cottingham. The van is swinging all over the road and the fried cheese is dancing around in my stomach. We put a film on in the back of the van, but I'm concentrating as much on the film as on trying to keep the sick down. Fucking rubbish. The road never seems to end.

We were talking about a four hour journey, but it's already been that long when we finally get to the German border. I've been sitting silently in the back of the van, praying for the sight of the flat autobahn. I'm temporarily dismayed when as soon as we cross the border, Stachel turns the van around and drives back into the Czech Republic. But it's only so Andy can buy some cheap cigarettes from the border shop. I'm happy to put my shaky legs on to firm ground and breath some fresh air. There is nothing worse than feeling sick, I simply can't handle it.

I feel better after about five minutes. We hang out in the car park for a while, eating ice cream and enjoying a breather. Andy has bought a carton of cigs, Jon has bought a bottle of single malt whisky.

We arrive at the venue in Leipzig around seven pm. The four hour journey we'd predicted had actually taken closer to seven. Been a lot of driving time in the space of a few days. We jump out of the van, happy to be at this particular journey's end. By now, Jon is in extreme pain with his shoulder and he's having a really hard time. He's been drinking in the van all afternoon but everything is catching up with him now. We're worried he might not make the show tonight. We send him off for a walk whilst we load in.

The venue tonight looks perfect for our needs. It's big enough for about one hundred people, it's ran by some friendly Leipzig punks and we're sleeping in apartments right above. We load in, get the stuff set up on stage. No sound check tonight. Happy about that. The venue has food waiting for us and we sit out in the street and eat it. Once again, the food is great. We've been well treated at these shows. The hospitality and sense of community that greets you at every show is the crust scene is something that fills me with a great feeling of belonging. You feel part of something. It was never that way with Speedhorn, we were always outside of every scene. Victims belongs to something and for the first time in my touring life, so it seems, do I.

Jon comes back after a walk and is feeling a little better. He has been suffering from a stiff neck and shoulders, like his muscles are seizing up. The doctor told him that basically, he needs to take pain killers, which will allow him to keep active, which will in turn loosen up the muscles. Sitting in a van for eight hours a day is not exactly what the doctor had in mind. It's good to see him in a little less pain when he comes back. We convince him to go the van and get some sleep, which he does.

A few of us go for a walk to stretch our legs, since we're also feeling pretty fucking stiff after the day in the van. Leipzig still looks like an “east European” city in many ways.  Although it's obviously been westernised somewhat over the twenty years odd years since the Wall came down, there are still some scars left. The canal we find ourselves walking along was described to us by a girl at the venue, as beautiful. Well it's not exactly the Stockholm archipelago, but it is charming in a downtrodden, sort of way. The murky water weaves through an area of boarded up buildings, which are covered in graffiti, but in contrast there are beautiful willow trees draping tiredly over the canal edge and into the water. It's a fine contrast of nature and desolation.

After some much needed exercise, we hang out on the street corner outside the venue. There are a lot of punk kids hanging out on the pavement, drinking beer and chatting. It's a warm summer's night with a breeze that is just cool enough to keep the humidity at bay. This feels like a perfect show for a Sunday night.

A friend of ours, Janne, who sings in the great band, Herätys, is here tonight. He moved to Leipzig earlier this year. We'd played with them at Punk Illegal a month ago and we'd forgotten he'd moved here. It's good to see him again.

I wake Jon up as the first band are starting. It takes him a while to come around but he looks better for the little sleep he's had. He says he's good to play. His spirits seem considerably better than they were a few hours ago. I tell him Helene, our friend who organised the Berlin show on Friday, is here. He's happy to hear that. They're pretty close. He gets his stuff together and we all hang out, listening to the first band but not bothering to fight our way into the now packed venue.

The show tonight is great as far as atmosphere goes. The place is wall to wall with about one hundred and fifty people, great for a Sunday night show, far more than we were expecting. Although the place is buzzing, the show doesn't go that smoothly. Jon breaks a string first song, which causes a gap a little too lengthy for it to stay comfortable. Then towards the end of the set I break the same fucking string on my red SG, again...and then break the same string on Jen's white SG during the penultimate song. So even though the gig is buzzing and the crowd are kicking off, it's not one hundred percent relaxed on the stage. At the start of the show, the stage felt relatively cool, but by about half way through it has heated up to boiling point. The sound on stage is also a bit hard too work with, especially for Andy, who is sat behind the amps as opposed to level with them. But all in all it's a good show. They've all been to a high standard on this mini-tour, and tonight is certainly no exception to that rule.

People after the show tell us it sounded great out front anyway, which is the main thing, so we're happy with our night's work. After cooling down outside, we pack up the gear and hang out with friends and drink a couple of quality Czech beers. But it's obvious before long that we're all feeling tired.

We say goodbye to everyone. Anton is travelling up to Berlin with Helene tomorrow, who is going to tattoo his whole back over the course of two days. We wish him good luck and tell him we'll see him at home.

Frank, the guy who booked the show, kindly takes us to his apartment which is in the same house, just the door beside the venue.

My eyes are already closing as I fall into bed.


The alarm goes off at eight. Nobody welcomes the sound. Nobody wants to get up, having only slept for three hours. What's worse, we still have to load the van. And it's raining... The rain is actually warm though, humid as it is. I stand in the courtyard letting the rain fall on me.

Stachel goes off to get the van and we start loading. Jon is still lying on the kitchen floor, passed out. Johan has tried to wake him but has given up. I think Jon was up late last night. When we departed for our sleeping quarters, both he and Andy were at the bar, drinking, listening to Baroness and arguing over the Blue Album. Everyone is in agreement that the Red Album is a great record, but Jon declares the Blue Album to be a masterpiece, Andy doesn't agree. We'd left them to it..

Andy is up and looking fresh in any case. He'd not stayed up so late, I guess he tired of arguing with Jon about music. When Jon is drunk there really isn't any point in arguing with him, since he will just repeat the same thing over and over again. And besides, Andy knows that whatever he says, Jon will say the opposite. Those two are always that way. It provides entertainment for the rest of us.

So we're loading out, minus Jon, in the rain. There is some transvestite guy slumped in the doorway beside the van, beer in hand, whistling at us. He chirps along throughout the entire van loading process. Lucky Jon isn't here right now, since we'd never get the two of them apart if they met each other.

Jon finally appears just as the van is loaded, looking fucking ropey. He'd been up drinking until six-thirty, so he's had about an hours sleep. He says sorry to everyone, the transvestite says “byeeee” to us, we get in the van and go. It's a long drive, made longer by the winding Polish and Czech roads. I'm fucking knackered so I creep down on to the floor of the van between the seats and try to get some sleep.

I wake up when I feel the van stop at a service station. I sit up and put my head between the seats to check out what's going on and get Andy's elbow right in my fucking mouth. I'm now awake and not going back to sleep.

As expected, the roads through Poland and the Czech Republic are slow. There isn't a motorway in existence beyond Germany it seems. The border road between the two countries climbs through a high forest, and if the roads weren't making me feel sick then I would have appreciated the scenery. As it is, I'm just dying for the roads to flatten out and take us to the Obscene Extreme Festival site in Trutnov.

We finally arrive around five in the afternoon. The sky has turned a disturbing shade of black and it looks like we're finally going to be getting that thunder storm that the humidity has been promising these last few weeks. It's fucking pissing down as we pull the van into the back stage area. We wait in the van whilst Jon is charged with the task of sorting out passes and tickets. He's been here a number of times and is good friends with Curby, the organiser. So off into the rain Jon trudges.

After a while he comes back with a beer in his hand and passes for everyone. The rain has stopped, the giant puddle that was literally just outside the van door has already dried. We get some food, get some beer and chill out for a few hours. It feels really good to be out of the van. There are lots of familiar faces here today. Jon seems to know everyone. It is a grind festival...he's like royalty here due to his past with Nasum, Sayyadina and Retaliation. He's having a great time, and the beers are happily flowing down his throat. He gets a bit freaked out when he thinks he's forgotten his bag in Berlin, but Andy assures him it's in the van. He says sorry to everyone again. I give him a hug and tell him I love him and it's cool. Jon just isn't a guy you can be angry with.

He's been feeling really bad all day about missing load out this morning, but really it's not a problem. He's been in a lot of pain with his shoulder recently and is taking some strong medication for it. He doesn't need to worry about loading in and out, he just needs to worry about himself. Unfortunately that's not always something he's so good at.

The atmosphere at the festival is great, despite the fact it's pissing down again. We meet up with the General Surgery and Martyrdöd guys, who played a couple of days ago but have stayed to hang out. Our friend Atle from Mörkt Kapitel is here too, he's as drunk and happy as he was at Punk Illegal a few weeks ago. He's a guy that always makes everyone around him smile. He's always chuffed, and it's contagious.

The rain dies off just in time for us to load the few parts of gear we need for the show on to the stage. By the time we go on the sun is just about coming out. There must be around two and half thousand people in the crowd and the atmosphere is buzzing. Again, touring extremes. Last night was a packed out cellar bar in Berlin, one hundred and forty people wall to wall, tonight is a huge outdoor festival with thousands of faces pointed in our direction.

The show is an absolute blast. The crowd kicks off from the first song. People are up stage diving and the atmosphere is engulfing. At one point Jon announces to the crowd that this is the biggest show Victims has ever played. It feels great to be a part of that. I decided to go with Jen's guitar as my my main guitar tonight since I keep breaking the same string on my guitar every night. Typically, the strap comes off Jen's guitar during Breaking Out, so I'm down on my knees as usual, but it doesn't ruin anything. I get it sorted and get on with it.

After the show everyone is chuffed. As we're hurriedly packing our gear up I notice this strange sound, like the crowd is still isn't of course. It's the sound of the rain, hammering down on the stage roof. It is now rain of biblical proportions. There is now way we can load the van, so we wait it out and watch Misery Index. Fuck me, their drummer can play fast. I watch for a while, but it not really being my thing, I make a run for the backstage beer tent where Jon and the other Swedes are hanging out. By now, most of the Surgery and Martrydöd guys are in very high spirits.

I get a beer and some vegan soup, which turns out to be the tastiest soup I've ever eaten. Chuffed.

The rain shows no sign of stopping so we decide to make an attempt at loading the van in record time. Johan puts his rain jacket on, Jen waits in the back of the van, myself and Andy have the job of collecting the gear from behind the stage, pushing our way with it through the masses of people standing there and then passing it on to Johan who is standing at the entrance to the stage, getting pissed on in his rain jacket. He in turn, runs with the gear as quick as he can to the van and passes it to Jen who is waiting to accept it and put it in place. We repeat this process maybe ten times. It's fucking boring to say the least. When we're done we decide we've earned ourselves a couple of beers. We pick some up and head over to the merch tent to hang out with Stachel.

We hang out for a while, chatting to people and selling merch. After sharing some fried cheese and mushrooms, with potato pancakes, which are stunning, we pack up the merch and Stachel gets the van. Jen and Johan have a had a few beers and Jen is looking a bit merry, so Stachel drives the van back to the hotel we're staying at. Jon and Andy are also looking merry. Andy hadn't drank all day, but has obviously cracked open a few since we played. We get to the hotel. I'm really looking forward to a good night's sleep in a hotel bed. We're not leaving until noon tomorrow, so setting the alarm clock for eleven is a luxury.

When we're checked in we notice that there is a cosy little bar next to the reception. We decide to drop our stuff in our rooms and then come back down for a night cap. Jon has already sat himself on a bar stool and is waiting for the bartender. Someone says to Jon that we're taking our stuff to the room, to which he replies, eyes set firmly on the bar, “I don't have any stuff.” We all laugh as he orders a beer.

We come back down, grab a beer and sit on the sofas in the hotel foyer. Jen sits with Jon at the bar. Everyone is super relaxed. We're talking to Stachel about the new record and the plans for releasing it through his label. The drummer from Misery Index, a guy called Adam, comes in after a while, wearing a Victims t-shirt. He sits down with us and we engage in conversation. He's a really friendly guy. The conversation and the beers flow. I'm not getting drunk in the slightest, but the clock is ticking away and every now and again I find myself thinking about the sleep I'm wasting. The mood is so relaxed though that it's hard to leave. Eventually, after people have peeled off to the rooms, I'm sat there at four am, with Jon, Adam and a D.R.I. roadie. Adam has a taxi taking him to the airport at five am, so he's decided to stay up and wait for it.

I finally decide that it's time to go to bed, the nine hours of sleep I was looking forward to having now become six. I head off to bed, slightly disappointed with myself, leaving Jon and the other two to it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


The five hours of sleep was actually four hours. I woke up at seven in the morning, the sun shining directly into the room and heating it up like a fucking oven. I lay there for an hour, sweating, needing a piss but too tired to get out of bed. That classic vicious circle..

I eventually get out of bed at eight, get a shower and go downstairs. Filip and Magda's place really is something. And Magda has prepared breakfast for us out on the veranda. This morning we're treated to a vegan kind of salsa, which is really tasty. We lap it up with some crusty bread and wash it down with black coffee. Touring with Victims, we're almost always given vegan food, even though Johan and Andy are vegetarians and Jon and I eat whatever is put in front of us. Vegan food and crust punk go hand in hand though, and most of the time it tastes really good. I'm, as a rule, always grateful for free food, whatever it is.

After eating breakfast with Filip and Magda, we hug them goodbye and get in the van, It's a long journey today, eight hours or so. We drive off, following a map that Filip has given to us with a short-cut route drawn out. Our GPS charger is broken, so until we find a store selling one, we're navigating old school. The short cut lasts about an hour and half. The roads in Poland are infamous to touring bands. The roads we're travelling on this morning are at least tarmacked, but they are very narrow and constantly winding.  And the locals drive like they believe they're on a German autobahn, so we have to keep our wits about us. It's a little unnerving and I'm looking forward to getting to the motorway, though the scenic route we're taking certainly is just that. The sun drenched Polish countryside is beautiful. If only the other drivers on the road would let us enjoy it...

We finally get on to the motorway, which is still only one lane, albeit a wider one, and progress picks up. Six hours later, after a stop for some pizza, we arrive in Berlin.

I'm really looking forward to tonight. Our friends, Helene and Elenor are putting the show on, in this really cool cellar bar where Helene works. The room is small, with a tiny balcony above it and we're playing on the floor. A hundred people in here and it's going to be chaos. Helene is really excited about it and is promising a good turn-out.

Stupidly, tonight's show actually has had some controversy surrounding it. The famous squat venue in Berlin, Köpi, has apparently blacklisted us from playing there. There is another show happening there tonight and strangely enough, someone from the venue had contacted Helene last week and asked if Victims wanted to play their show instead. Before we even had the chance to reply, the same person had gotten back in touch with Helene and said that we were actually banned from playing there so it wasn't going to happen anyway.

Now let's get this straight. We wouldn't have wanted to play the Köpi show tonight. Our friend, Helene, has already put a lot of hard work into this show and we would never just blow her off like that. Do Köpi think they are punk rock royalty or something? And the reason we are banned from playing there? Well, nobody in the band knows for sure, but it probably has to do with the fact that Victims have on recent occasion, played Berlin with some bands and venues that don't fit Köpi's agenda. If Victims play a bigger venue with Rotten Sound and Trap Them, or Municipal Waste, then we're turning our back on DIY punk and the squat scene. It's a story that has been repeated over and over since the days of Black Flag and it remains as amusing to me now as it ever has.  But so it persists.

So, it's hardcore politics tonight. People have to decide whether they are coming to our show or the show at Köpi, and by doing so, pledging some sort of allegiance. Pathetic. To make things even more hilarious, a certain member of that scene has spread the rumour that we're not playing Köpi since we need to make enough money to pay for the night-liner we're travelling on. Night-liner? I fucking wish! Amazing all the more then that the venue we're playing tonight is smaller than Köpi. As I said, pathetic...

It turns out that there are plenty of people coming to see us anyway. One of the faces that come through the door that I'm not expecting to see, is Modde Nitad. I'm just about to walk upstairs to the bar when he comes walking in, his usual smile spread across his face. It's a nice surprise. He's here on holiday with his girlfriend and he thought he'd pop in and see his friends play a show in a cellar. Good times. We catch up over a beer.

There's another addition to our travelling party tonight. Our old friend, Stachel, who put out the Kylesa split 7”. He's coming along for the rest of the shows, helping us drive, taking care of things and generally making us laugh. He's always fun to have along.  It's always nice to have a couple of other people outside the band on tour, keeps cabin fever to a minimum.

There is a great buzz about the show tonight, despite the tiredness wrentching through all of us. We're treated to some amazing vegetarian food, the beer in the bar is ours to feel free with and there are loads of people coming through the door.   As Jon would say, "Pepp."

The show is absolutely spot on. One of those shows that, even after all these years, still gives you that buzz. I mean, most shows you get a kick out of, but shows like these give that little bit extra. We're playing on the floor. There are a wall of people in front of us, packed into the small room. There are people looking down on us from the little balcony above and there are people stood to the sides and ringed around behind us. We're playing IN the crowd and I love it. The show is a pleasure to play and despite the heat, it flies by on auto-pilot. Lots of energy from the band, lots of energy bounced back from the crowd. Jen, who is selling our merch for us in the room beside, can't even get in to see us, it's so packed.  It's a truly top fucking night!

We finish the show and cool off in a room beside the "floor-stage". We're chuffed with the show.  I've played big shows in front of thousands of people but there is nothing like the buzz of playing a packed DIY show in a tiny room, full of people who belong to a community.  It's something very special.

When we're packed up the gear, we head upstairs to the bar. It's incredibly humid, even outside in the street, and we need a drink. Unfortunately the barman is a miserable bastard and refuses to make us any, so we have to do with beer. Most of the people still hanging out want to party but after just one glass I can feel sleep taking a hold of me. Four hours of sleep, followed by eight hours in a van and a hot show is taking it's toll.

After a pint in the bar down in the cellar, which is by now far cooler than the bar upstairs, it's time to go to bed. Helene makes me some vodka/caffeine soda drink, but I'm done. I can't manage more than a sip. It's time to go to bed. We've got another long drive tomorrow and it's already gone three in the morning and we're getting up to load the van at eight.

We get taken to an apartment above the venue where we can sleep. It's comfortable and I'm looking forward to putting my head down. Before I do though, I can't resist having another plate of the food we had earlier. Now, head down.  Sleep.

I really wish we were fucking travelling in a night-liner..


The first morning began exactly as predicted. Hungover to fucking piss. Head banging like a rusty steel drum...

We'd taken the ferry from Nynäshamn yesterday at six in the evening. We dumped our bags in the cabins, which were as small and compact as they could possibly be, resembling more a drunk cell than a bedroom, and then we headed for the bar up on the outside deck.

The weather has been nothing short of glorious these last few weeks and yesterday was no exception. The first cold beer up on deck, whilst gazing out at the calm Baltic Sea, was a small taste of heaven. With a fifteen hour journey ahead of us, I had the distinct feeling that there would be more beers to follow, before we reached Gdansk on the other side of the water.

The last time I'd taken this same ferry was with Rowdy Ramblers a few years ago. That night had ended with my arse out on the dance floor, and Olle's arse with an angry Polish boot planted up it! I was hoping that with Victims it wouldn't go that far, but you never know what is going to happen with Jon around. And besides, what else is there to do on a boat for fifteen hours? When the beer tastes good and is very cheap? It was also Andy's birthday a couple of days ago, so there was an excuse to celebrate.

We sat up on the highest deck with a beer in hand, eating some great broccoli and blue cheese pie that Jen had made the night before, and watched the sun setting on the eerily calm Baltic. It's moments like this that remind me that I love playing in a hardcore band.

When the sun disappeared and the night air cooled, we headed down in to the bar. There was that dance floor again..oh the foggy memories. We sat down with some more beers. We'd been drinking steadily since we left. It must be ten or eleven in the evening by this point. We're sat around a table chatting away and the first signs of drunkenness are appearing. We're all starting to get a bit sentimental, talking about the band. You know a group of guys have had a few drinks when they start telling each other they love one another...

As we're all happily drinking away, we're amusingly interrupted by a drunk old Polish boy. He's spotted Andy's tattooed arms and has taken him them in his hands, whilst asking Andy in broken English if they are “original?”. We all crack up laughing. The old boy is soon joined by his other friends who have now all taken a keen interest in Andy's arms. We all laugh along with each other. We take some photo's with the guys and before long one of them has came back with a tray of beer for us. What a nice bunch of old boys. We're extremely grateful for their kind gesture. We sit there drinking with them, whilst being taught some Polish words, such as cheers and thank you.

The old boys head off after a while and we head to the dance floor At least, Jen, Jon and myself do. By this time, we've bought some drinks for Andy and sung the Swedish birthday song, and now we're on the floor dancing to Tupac. There is considerably more action on the dance floor this time around...and I'm well in the mood for a boogie. Jon and Jen are dancing away together, but I've found some new Polish buddies. The DJ puts some sort of Polish dancing music on and I'm dosey- do-ing with some guy who looks like a thug but is actually quite a happy bloke. He's probably as pissed as I am...

And that's about the last I remember...

I wake up in the prison cell cabin. It's completely dark and I'm desperate for a piss, and my head is banging. And it's fucking hot! I'm stuck to the plastic mattress, wearing nothing but my kecks. Mouth is as dry as a desert and not for the first time in my life, I'm asking the question, “Why?”.

A while later the guys knock on the door and ask if I'm coming for breakfast. No fucking thank you. Too busy dying...I eventually get up around eleven-thirty. At least there is now only an hour and a half left of the journey, and the sea is still as calm as a placid lake. I'm grateful for that...

If the first official day of the tour starts as expected, it certainly takes an unusual and pleasant turn. We arrive in Gdansk with the whole afternoon to kill. The venue in Gdynia is only a half hour away and we don't have to be there until six. We drive to the beach.

I have never, ever started a tour with an afternoon at the sea-side. From this day on I demand that it be standard on every tour. We should demand the beach on our rider. The sea and the beach in Sopot are both really beautiful. So much so, even Jon is down to his kecks and heading for a dip. The salty water must be easily over twenty degrees. I fall into it, beneath the surface of the rippling waves, and feel my hangover slowly washing away.

We hang out there for a couple of hours, all of us pretty fucking chuffed with the situation. After some lunch at a beach side restaurant, we head off to the venue in Gdynia. The promoter of the show tonight is an old friend of the band. He's a really nice guy named Filip, who has been involved in the punk scene for years, releasing records, putting on shows and driving bands on tour. He now runs a bed and breakfast lakeside resort as his full time job. We have the pleasure of staying there after the show. Johan promises me happy times ahead.

Getting back to the show. The venue is a really great little bar. The stage is just big enough, and the room is just small enough, as Jon puts it. The one thing he omits from his summary of the venue though, is the fact that it is incredibly hot! Just sitting down, re-stringing my guitar, I'm dripping sweat from every pore. The gig tonight is going to be a hard shift.

The support band tonight, Drip of Lies, from Warsaw, were really good. I always find that to be a welcome bonus. I enjoy watching their set and they really get me in the mood to play. I watch the most of their show before I'm forced outside by the stifling heat. I need some air before I'm getting up on that stage.

The gig is of course as sweaty as expected. I'm out of breath by the half way point, counting how many songs are left. There is a good crowd in the small venue though, and they are really into it. This Is The End goes down a storm, as it usually does. Lies, Lies, Lies seems to be becoming a crowd favourite too, since we released it on 7” through Deathwish. We play two new songs tonight, which are going to be on the album we're recording in the autumn. They go down really well too. I break one of those new strings during the second of the new songs. Why do I fucking bother? Always a waste of time..I change to Jen's guitar, which I've just bought some new strap locks for. The strap of course flies off during the last song. I'm worried the screw has come out and tore a hole in Jen's beautiful, old white SG, but luckily for me it hasn't. I'm forced to play the whole of Your Life Is Red on my knees though. It actually works out well, it's the last song and I'm fucking dying.

After the show, I get out of the building and onto the street as fast as I can get through the crowd. The breeze in the Gdynia air outside the venue breaths new life into my lungs. I sit on the curb beside the van and let it wash over me. The beer I've had with me on stage tastes like warm piss, I throw it and take a gulp of Andy's water instead. Beer actually isn't what I need on this occasion. I don't know why I even bother taking a beer on stage with me since it does nothing for you during the show. Just sits there getting warm and flat, and if you take a gulp it just lies heavy in your stomach. Funny how after thirteen years of touring, free beer still hasn't lost it's charm...

Anyway, we hang out with the Drip of Lies guys for a while and talk about a possible future show in Warsaw next year. They are making the five hour drive back to Warsaw tonight, since their drummer is working early in the morning. I'm very happy that we're staying at Filip's place tonight.

After loading the van and then sharing the final beer ticket, we follow Filip back to his hotel. It takes about half an hour, although it seems much longer on the dark, narrow, winding roads. It's worth the journey though. Filip's place is beautiful. He has this really nice bar with an outdoor veranda. We have a double bed to sleep in. Chuffed. The contrasting extremes of where you sleep whilst night in a tiny, airless boat cabin, the next night in a five star resort in the Polish countryside. You take the good with the bad I guess.

Filip's wife, Magda, has made a big pot of vegan soup for us. It's more than welcome. We sit on the candle-lit veranda, filling our bellies with it. The beer from Filip's bar is a local beer and it tastes great. We sit around chatting, talking with Filip about arranging some shows in eastern Europe next year. I'm really looking forward to getting the new album recorded so we can get back out on tour for real again.

We peel off to our respective bedrooms one by one. After my second beer, I too retire, leaving just Jon and Filip, who is, much too Jon's ignorance, fretting about getting to bed. He has to get up early in the morning for the breakfast service to his paying guests. Jon pretends not to hear him. I thank Filip for his hospitality and say goodnight to them both. Jon, stood at the beer tap, filling his glass, simply replies, “Poof.”

I smile and head up the stairs to the double bed, looking forward to five hours solid sleep.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Victims Mini Tour

Well, the weather is stupendously hot, the beers are flowing and everybody is on holiday.  Except me... 

So I'm chuffed that Victims are playing five shows in mainland Europe, starting next Thursday.  Looking forward to getting away and playing some fun shows, like the Obscene Extreme Festival in Czech Republic and a show with our friends in Converge and Kylesa in Hamburg.  I will of course be writing a tour diary on the blog each day.

JULY 15  Gdynia, Poland - Rockz Klub
JULY 16  Berlin, Germany - Kastenienkeller
JULY 17  Trutnov, Czech Republic - Obscene Extreme Festival
JULY 18  Leipzig, Germany - Plague
JULY 19  Hamburg, Germany - Markthalle

We take the boat from Nynäshamn to Gdansk on Wednesday evening.  I wonder if it will be as incidental as the trip we made with Ramblers a few years ago?  Either way, we get to Gdansk early Thursday afternoon so I'm hoping to get the chance to have a good look around one of the pinacle citites of the Second World War! 

Keep you posted!

Gareth x