Friday, September 17, 2010

No. 7 - Osaka

This show was shit.  No doubt about that.  We played like a bunch of front of a crowd of twenty thousand.

As is often the case on this list, the forty minutes or so on stage were affected enormously by the dire mess that was surrounding it at the time. The circumstances surrounding this show meant that it never had a chance of being anything other than a complete failure. Bad timing though that it happened at the Summer Sonic Festival in Osaka, a show we'd travelled thousands of miles to play.

It was a time in our career when our future was viciously spinning out of our control. And we were blaming everyone but ourselves for the web of bullshit we were slowly becoming entangled in. We'd had a hard time with our label during the recording of the second album. We'd had a worse time with the guy running our management company. Our solution, was to start firing everybody around us. I've heard it from so many bands over the years since...when things start going wrong, fire everybody. We were the same then.

As I've mentioned before, parting with our management company meant parting with the two people who had helped make the band what it was. There was no other way around it. It was a dark time.

Once we'd parted with the management, our next step was to start working our way out of the record contract we were in. We'd employed a new manager, a woman, who's first job was to get us away from the record label.

I feel bad about it now. If the truth is told, we used her to help us get away from the label and that is that. Of course, she got paid, but she had plans for a future together and we didn't. As soon as we were free of the label it became pretty obvious that things weren't going to work out for us as a partnership. It was a total clash of personalities. She tried to reign in our behaviour, tried to cut out some of the nonsense that often surrounded us. She was pretty straight and we were anything but. She would never be able to get her head around the constant in-band fighting for one thing. Or the fact that we liked to drink as much as we did. The thing is, that was the formula that worked for that particular group of people. It was the fire in us that made us what we were.

Things changed over the years, but it was a natural change. We grew up in time, members changed as did certain attitudes. Maybe if she'd managed the band a few years later she would have coped a little better with it. Or maybe not. Even at the end, when were tighter than ever, we still fought from time to time. That's just how it was. We were always a fine balance of love and hate.

The relationship between Speedhorn and our female manager only lasted six months. She'd gotten us away from our deal and our old management company and we'd played a few shows under her stewardship and then we were ready to part ways with her. Our constant battling with everyone and everything stressed her out to the maximum.

There had been an incident at an all ages show in Dublin where we'd gotten into a battle with the bouncers, who were kicking the shit out of kids that were moshing during the show. As soon as anyone started moving in the crowd, these big, thick, fucking Nazi bouncers were picking these kids up and manhandling them before kicking them out into the street. We were enraged by it. The scene got ugly when we took action against them. The whole thing caused a big stink and we ended up being banned from Ireland, according to the promoter. The whole thing was pathetic. But instead of wanting to hear our side of events, our manager had a huge go at us and told us we had to sack our tour manager. Our relationship with her was affectively over after that. We couldn't accept having a manager who wasn't on our side. She was naïve to try and come between the band and Doug. We were a tight group that had been through a lot together, and Doug had long been a part of that.

So, having decided her fate, and being the wankers we were, we had to find a way of making her split up with us. We were typical fucking guys...

We were going to Japan for a week to play the Summer Sonic Festival, which was two shows, one in Osaka and one in Tokyo. Two shows, five days. Beautiful. Only that, our manager insisted on coming along with us. She didn't trust Doug to do his job any longer. What the fuck? She insisted that she was paying her own ticket, but I seriously doubted it. I think she knew our time together was doomed and she wanted a holiday out of us. To be fair, we owed her that much.

We flew out there with the objective of making her quit her job. It took one night.

We all got hammered on the flight over. She spent the entire flight threatening to dock money from our p.d.'s, but we just laughed at her. The flight crew were even threatening us at one point. We were being complete assholes, if the truth is told. Doug, our trusty tour manager, just sat on the plane, smirking to himself the entire journey. We were determined to drink ourselves stupid and show her what managing our band truly entailed.

We get to the hotel in Osaka fourteen hours later and the vibes are pretty bad. She tells us that we have to stay awake for a few hours, explaining to us how jet lag works. She didn't get how condescending she was. She told us, TOLD us, that we were banned from drinking for the rest of the night, since we had to be in good shape for the important show the day after. We laughed at her, checked our bags into the hotel and ourselves into the bar. Flabbergasted, she stormed off to her room in a huff.

A couple of hours later, she appears back in the bar, obviously with a new tactic in mind. She's going to get back on side with us and join us for a drink, trying to keep the situation contained from the inside. We invite her to join us, suspicious of her motives. Her plan backfired.

About six hours later, we're in our favourite bar in Osaka and we're all fucking boats! Her included.

Everything gets extremely fuzzy, but I remember her and Tony getting into an argument, the two of them shoving each other, her being so fucked she falls on her ass, us pissing ourselves laughing and then mocking her all the way back to the hotel. Tony is enraged by their earlier argument and is randomly shouting insults at her. I remember the faint pangs of guilt setting in, but say nothing. I know the band has to stick together through this shit.

It was six in the morning before the first of us went to bed. Tony and Frank were in particularly bad shape, although the rest of us weren't much better. We were playing on the main stage at two in the afternoon.

When we converge in the hotel lobby about five hours later, she's refusing to speak to us. In fact, she refuses to even travel with us to the festival site. So the band, Doug and our worried looking record company contact, Yoko, get into a van and head to the show. Frank and Gordon sit there, starting out of the window, looking like a pair of ghosts. My stomach is doing flips at every bump in the road.

Question: How the fuck are we going to pull this off? Answer: We're not.

It's two in the afternoon, it's over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, there are twenty thousand people waiting for us to go on stage, and Frank is being sick in the toilet. Our manager appears, making one last attempt at appeasing the situation between us. She's running around, all of a sudden acting like nothing happened the night before. In essence, not much really did, but we're taking the opportunity to blow up even the smallest argument into something big. We take no offer of help from her. Even though we're all hungover to piss and the sun is brutally glaring down on us, we tell the Japanese festival crew that we don't want a fan on the side of the stage, simply because we heard she'd demanded one for us.

As we walk on stage, she wishes us good luck. Gordon tells her to fuck off and we all crack up laughing. We really were a complete bunch of wankers.

The show of course, is beyond lame. After a couple of songs, most of us are about ready to throw up. There is hardly any movement whatsoever, we all just stand there, jaded, strumming through the songs. I remember at one point, starting Scaramanga, and Gordon completely forgets what comes after the intro, so just continues hitting his cymbals without going into the beat. He's just stuck, looking at me, completely bemused, shaking his head, lost. We make it to about half way through the song before realising that we're all playing different riffs. We're all at different stages of the song, which is bumbling along at about half it's actual pace anyway. We give up and the song collapses. It's a fucking mess.

Hate Song isn't much better. Gordon goes into the first chorus way too early and before I know what's going on, we're all playing different parts of the song again. I mean, it's two riffs, verse/chorus, verse/chorus. It's not exactly complicated. The song shamefully drags itself to the end...just about.

Tony starts the intro to Iron Cobra literally three times too slow and the song agonisingly trudges along like a psalm at a funeral.  It's painful, since this show is fast becoming just that for us, a fucking funeral!

We are literally playing like a bag of stinking shit. It's so fucking hot on stage, and I'm trying to keep the sick down. As are the rest of the band. Of the six hundred odd shows we played, this has to go down as the least energy ever produced on stage by us. Our manager is looking over at us from the side of the stage, sunglasses on, pale faced and shaking her head. I'm wondering who the fuck this person is, and how she is involved with our band. Although I know today we're letting ourselves down badly. Even the usually insane Japanese crowd is having a hard time convincing us with their polite applause between songs.

The eternally smiling Yoko, who works for our label in Japan, is trying her best to keep our spirits aloft with the odd thumbs up from the side of the stage, but that just makes it worse. I'm just dying to get to the end of the set and get off stage.

Before we leave though, we have one last humiliation in store.

Since we're playing in Japan, and when playing a big festival there you can generally ask for whatever equipment you want and the promoter will organise it for you, we have a gong on stage today. It sits proudly behind Gordon, just waiting to be smashed. We'd sampled a gong at the end of Heartbreaker on the last album. We'd never used a gong on stage before and we'd decided to take advantage of the fact we were playing a festival in Japan and incorporate it into the set. Of course, we'd never actually tried one out in rehearsal or anything...

We finish the set with Heartbreaker, with the intention of having Gordon smashing the shit out of the gong as a dramatic end to the set. Of course, this would have been way cooler had we played a normal, high energy show, and not fumbled our way through every song like a gang of pissed pensioners. I'm almost hoping by the time we get to the end of a lacklustre Heartbreaker, that Gords will just leave it alone and we can get off. But he actually grabs the gong beater as we hit the last note of the song. It's just a no win situation by this point. If he goes mad on the thing, then it's going to look ridiculous since the rest of the set was absolute piss. And if he hits it lamely it's going to be fucking Spinal Tap.

As it happens, he just stands there up on the platform with the gong, fluffy beater in hand, looking confused. We're standing there, feebacking, waiting to see what he's going to do, and I'm silently imploring him to hit the gong. I want to get off stage. He just continues to stand there for all to see with a daft smirk on his face. “What. Are. You. Doing?”, the words pounding in my head.

When he eventually goes to work on the gong it's just embarrassing. He's barely tickling the thing. I can't even hear it as he brushes the beater against the golden bronze of the gong. And now I look at it, I realise it's not even that big. Kind of small and silly looking really. It's just a pathetic end to a pathetic gig.

We walk off stage and nobody is happy. Our manager says nothing. Doug tells us it was shite. Some members of the band try to save face and say they don't give a fuck, that it's only one show, but I'm fucking disappointed in us. We travel all the way to Japan to play a show to thousands of people, just to look like a bunch of cunts. It's not on. I know it, everyone knows it. I apologise to the promoter and our label, who do their best to sound convincing when they tell me it wasn't that bad. Their kindness does nothing to appease me.

We have a sit down after the show and we realise we have to sort our shit out. I don't think our manager talks to us for the rest of the week. We ask her to stay away from the Tokyo show and she goes as far to change her seat on the flight back, so she doesn't have to deal with seeing us. We get home and that's the end of that. I actually never see her or hear from her again. Mission accomplished, but we'd paid for it. The Tokyo show was incredible and went some way to making up for Osaka, but the atmosphere during the trip was hardly golden.

I feel bad now, thinking about how we treated Lisa. She meant well, but she just didn't have a clue how to manage us and she had bitten of more than she could chew by taking us on. The longer we continued together, in the knowledge that things weren't right, the worse things got, although we hardly be accused of handling the situation well.

When did we ever do that though?  Rarely...if the truth is told.


  1. "management" "manager" "D.I.Y."?

  2. You so nailed Andrew's personality! It's perfect.