Friday, October 22, 2010

No. 4 - Cork

In February 2008, at a show we were playing with Victims, in Gothenburg, Kev and I decided we were quitting Raging Speedhorn.

We'd drank a few beers when we'd come upon this decision, but the next day we confirmed to each other that it hadn't just been drunk-talk. We wanted to quit the band. About a week after we got home from the tour I phoned Gordon to let him know. I'd been nervous as hell about telling him, but those nerves soon turned to relief when he told me he'd been feeling the same way. The rest of the guys were soon informed and thankfully, everybody was in the same place. And that was that, after ten years together, Raging Speedhorn were splitting up.

I'd poured my heart and soul into the band since I was nineteen years old, and I was starting to feel drained by it. We'd written an album I was really proud of, an album that I could finally say I was one hundred percent happy with. But writing the record had been a real struggle. Not musically, but logistically. I lived in Sweden, the rest of the guys were spread out over the UK. We had no money. We only made money when we were on tour. We made no money standing about in a practice room, in fact, we lost money since the jobs we had didn't come with holiday pay. As proud as I was of that record, I knew I didn't have the energy to write another one in those circumstances. And I sure as fuck wasn't contemplating moving back to England...

But there was something else. Now that we'd written this record, I finally felt like I could let the band be. I wanted to move on and do something else. The rest of the guys felt the same way. The harmony in the band was better than ever. A lot of the old Speedhorn fans were not into the new record, but we didn't give a fuck about that. When we'd started the band, we'd never expected anyone to be into it, and we didn't really give a fuck anyway. I loved it when the band had that attitude. For the first time, in a long time, that attitude was back. With the band feeling this good internally, it felt like the perfect time to wind it up. I was glad that we could call time on the band, knowing that we were all friends. It would have sucked for the band to break up due to the fact we all hated each other, as might have been the case if we'd broken up after We Will Be Dead Tomorrow.

So the band officially announced it was breaking up and that we were going on a huge farewell tour, playing shows in mainland Europe, the UK and Ireland, and finally Japan. It was going to be the longest stretch of shows we'd played in the UK for a long, long time. And the whole thing was going to be one big celebration.

The first show of the UK/Ireland leg was Cork.

The shows we'd played in Europe had been hit and miss. Holland and Belgium were great, Germany was terrible. Just no promotion whatsoever. The guy putting the German shows on turned out to be a kid with a bit of money that wanted his band to play with Speedhorn. We got paid without any issues, but the guy had very little idea about putting shows on. It had been a disappointing end to things as far as the mainland was concerned. But the shows in the UK and Ireland had been given a lot of promotion, more advertising than a Speedhorn tour had been given in a long time. The tour was getting a bit of hype and we were determined to enjoy ourselves.

We'd played each these cities dozens of times, and although it felt slightly weird to be travelling to these places for the final time with the band, nostalgia, or indeed regret, sadness, whatever, didn't really play a part during this tour. We still had Japan to come after these shows..

So, the first gig was Cork and it was an afternoon show. The venue was already booked that night for another gig, but the promoter really wanted to be a part of the final tour and asked if we'd want to play an all-ages, afternoon show. We were more than happy to. It felt like an easy start to the tour. Play early, go out in Cork afterwards with some friends and get drunk.

Cork is a long way from Corby, which meant we had to leave the day before and get the ferry from Wales in the evening. Since we were driving in Betty, extra time always had to be taken into account. Kev had to work up until the last minute, so he was flying in from London early the next morning. The rest of us met up in Corby and drove off towards Cork on our final UK adventure. Lee was driving the van to the ferry. The plan was to get to Dublin, go out for some dinner and then sleep, before driving the rest of the journey in the morning.

We'd finally gotten around to servicing Betty. We decided that we'd do our best to get her running smoothly before her final journey with us. I'd just assumed that she was just a big, heavy, old girl and and oil change and service wouldn't make much of a difference. But after Gordon's brother Sandy had had a proper look at her, she was now running like a dream, carrying us proudly along the M4 at a steady seventy miles per hour, towards the ferry-port in Wales. Typical us. We'd driven thousands of miles throughout Europe, at painfully slow speeds, we'd driven countless night-time journeys just to make a trip every other band could cover in a day. And all for the lack of a simple fucking service. At least on this last voyage, she was going out with a bit of recovered pride.

With us flying along, the atmosphere in the van was great. Lee sat at the wheel, whilst the rest of us sat hunched up together up at the front, keeping him company, each of us happily swigging from a bottle of wine. I really enjoyed that journey. I knew we were setting off on our last road trip together, in Betty, and the shows were going to be a lot of fun. We were talking about how liberating it felt, going on tour for the last time, not having to care any more about the usual shite. We were only concerned with having a good time, and fuck the rest! I got a really cosy hit of that bottle of red wine.

After a night tucked up in my bunk in the van, we woke up early in Dublin. It took another couple of hours to get to Cork, and we arrived there in ample time, although Kev was already waiting for us. He got a flight out of London at something like 6 am. We found him in a café beside the venue, hanging out with some old guy who had bought him breakfast. Kev looked more than happy with that arrangement. The old guy, who was a very jovial chap, treated the rest of us to coffee, so we sat there and enjoyed his company for a while over a welcome cup of black coffee, before loading into the venue next door. It was now early afternoon. We were playing at five, the venue had to be cleared for six to allow for the next band to come in. It turns out that band is Gorgoroth, although I'm not sure which version of it.

So we load in, say hello to a few people with familiar faces, including an old friend of ours, Neeson, who back in the day, used to make it to a lot of shows. We hung out for a while, he told me he was going to try and make it to all four Ireland shows, just for old times sake. This afternoon's show is looking like it's going to be a good start to the tour. The venue, we've played a couple of times previously, has a good sized stage and usually a really good sound. The apartment above the bar is our dressing room for the day, and is fully stocked up with food and booze. We're all chuffed.

Everything goes smoothly at sound check. By the time we're done, we still have a couple of hours until doors, so we head up to the flat and tuck into the food, and dip a little into the booze. We're talking about saving most of it for after the show, although I notice as people are saying this, the generous rider we have, seems to be slowly diminishing... Gordon seems to be particularly enjoying himself, although he's not the only one. Since I'm tour managing I keep myself in check. Even if I want to loosen up, I have a hard time doing so, at least until I've been paid and the money is safely stored away. I mention to Gordon that he should take it a little easy, to which he just smirks and asks me, “What happened to not giving a fuck?”

Some old acquaintances, Five Must Die, are supporting tonight. They played with us in Ireland years ago and have hung out at shows since then. They're a good bunch of lads and it's fun hanging out with them in the dressing room for the afternoon. Everyone is in good spirits and there are quite a few people in for this early show by the time they go on stage. I'm looking forward to getting on stage, playing, getting paid, drinking a few beers and then heading to the pub.

We go on stage at exactly five pm. Quite a strange feeling going on stage in a dark club when it's bright daylight outside, but the vibe in the club is good.

This gig should have been smooth sailing...

The sound on the high stage is great and although it's compact, there's still plenty of room on it. There are a good few people in the crowd, even though it's Friday afternoon and most of them should still be at work. So the buzz on stage before we kick into Hate Song is great. That buzz though, lasts all of about three songs.

Somewhere during the fourth song, Gordon drops a beat. No big deal, he's done that before. He used to be bad for it in the early days but over time he learned not to let it affect him. He was always a bit of stick-dropper but after hundreds of gigs he'd crafted the art of finding a new stick without missing a beat. He'd joked before about acquiring some drumming gloves, which of course we could not allow to happen. I'd rather have a drummer with no sticks in his hands than a pair of leather fucking gloves! Gordon of course, only said such things to wind me up.

So Gords drops a beat here and there, I'm not concerned about it. We're all playing with a high intensity on stage and I don't think anyone in the crowd notices. Another few songs go by and although I can hear that Gords isn't having his best gig, I don't really let it concern me. The first show on tour is always a bit loose. I catch a glimpse of Jay on the other side of the stage though, and he doesn't look very impressed. I get a bit annoyed by that, because I don't want the rest of the band lagging just because Gords has made a couple of fuck ups. I shout over at him, telling him to pick it up a bit.

We're about two thirds of the way through the set when everything comes to a crashing end. Literally. Whatever song we're playing has ended prematurely and a huge row has broken out on stage. I look behind me to see Jay kicking the shit out of Gordon's drum kit. The bass drum is on its arse and the rest of it is taking a beating from Jay's boot. Gordon is now stood up, threatening to kick the fuck out of Jay. Fuck sakes, a proper fucking fight is kicking off on stage as the crowd looks on. Immediately everyone on stage takes sides. John leaps to Gordon's defence whilst Dave to that of his brother, Jay. I'm either a little tipsy or just seeing things, because I swear I see Dave kicking Gordon's kit too, and promptly have a huge go at him for it. Dave later proclaims his innocence. I must have been confused in the midst of the embarrassing fracas on stage I guess.

The situation is unsalvageable. Gordon and Jay have both stormed off stage, screaming at each other as they walk straight out the side door and into the private car park where Betty is resting. The rest of us pack up our gear whilst arguing amongst ourselves. John announces to the crowd “That's all folks” and we leave the scene, Gordon's drum kit looking beat up on stage, John surveying the damage. So much for being friends.

I head outside to find Gordon and Jay still at it. Gordon is pretty drunk to be fair. And when he's drunk, he can get emotional. He's threatening to kick the fuck out of Jay, a lot of finger pointing is going on, and he's telling everyone who wants to listen that he's quitting the band today. I try and listen to both sides of the story. To be honest, Jay is sober and puts over a compelling argument. He's telling me that he felt like a cunt playing up there with Gordon, who was playing like shit. It's not only that he was dropping beats, sticks and everything else, here there and everywhere, but to save face, he was acting like he didn't care. So we're all up on stage giving it everything and Gords is behind us, fucking around, pulling stupid faces and tickling his drum kit. Well Jay just saw red I guess.

The trouble with Gordon is that he has this self defence mechanism in him when he's drunk, where if he fucks up, instead of saying sorry and trying to rectify it, he just hams it up like he doesn't give a shit. And I know all too well, that he does give a shit. He gives a very big shit. He just tries to cover it up by acting like he doesn't. That's ok, but when he's sat there pulling stupid faces and starts giving up on the show, that's not so ok.

So, I'm outside in the middle of these two arguing and I'm starting to get a picture of what's happened. Gordon is still furious and storms off up to the flat, I chase him and have a go at him, pulling him back by his shoulder. As I do this, I accidentally grab a hold of his t-shirt, which creates a huge tear around the neck. I can't help but crack up laughing. Gordon, like a small drunken child shouts at me “You just ripped my fucking t-shirt Gaz!” He looks really upset, hurt almost. The whole thing is just getting too funny now. Gordon trudges off upstairs with the neck of his t-shirt hanging over his bare, left shoulder, close to tears. The rest of us, left behind in the car park, piss ourselves laughing.

Within five minutes, Gordon is back and by now he's almost laughing too. And so the argument dies down. Within a half hour everyone is back to being friends. Kind of..

So what did happen to not giving a fuck really? I guess Gordon took it a little too far. Or maybe we just did give a fuck after all. By the time I'm done with all the nonsense I head over to Lee at the merch table. He's just smirking at me and shaking his head. He's seen it all before. A few people in the crowd comment to me that that was quite an interesting show, although most people seemed to love it anyway.

The perception from the crowd is always different to that of the bands'. I remember watching Sebadoh at Reading Festival in '94. They got into a huge fight on stage after three songs and stormed off. I thought it was the greatest thing I'd ever seen at the time. I thought that Lou Barlow writing a letter of apology to their fans via NME a week later was really unnecessary, and couldn't understand what he was apologising about. I'd loved that show and him apologising for it almost ruined the experience for me.

Anyway, unexpectedly, I get paid by the promoter without so much as an enquiry as to what happened and why the set was cut so short. He was probably more relieved that his tight schedule was running ahead of time and the venue would be cleared in plenty of time for Gorgoroth.

We pack up the gear and put it back in the van. Everyone is back on speaking terms, although there is still a whiff of discontent in the air. Everyone agrees that yes, Gordon was acting the cunt, and yes Jay's actions were a little over the top and that yes, Jay would pay for the repairs to the kit. Everything being settled, I crack open a bottle of wine.

I end up getting pissed pretty quickly, now that I find myself relaxed. We've got the second record by The Sounds blasting out of the van, (which is our favourite tour "party" album), and in fitting with the soundtrack, we're having a bit of a car park party with some friends. I'm getting really drunk as the sun begins to sink in the sky, and when I start getting drunk, I start dancing. Before long I've kicked the wing-mirror clean off of Betty during an over enthusiastic dance move. I swear it was an accident but the day after, everyone else testifies that I took a running kick at the thing and booted it clean off. I don't remember it that way.

The rest of the band call it an evening pretty early, whilst Gordon and I head off to the pub with some friends to drink a few pints of Guinness. We stagger back to the van together after the pub closes, Gordon telling me that he still can't believe I ripped his t-shirt.

We get back to Betty in very good spirits. The rest of the guys are tucked up for the night in bed. I crank The Sounds record up full blast and before you know it, everyone is arguing again. 

Good times...