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 ahead...so 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...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No. 3 - Southend

The vast majority of stories I've written on this blog about Raging Speedhorn, could easily have given you, the reader, the impression that we were a bunch of wankers, who did nothing but get pissed and cause trouble.

I want to state as a fact, that that is not the case. It just so happens that throughout the ten years of the band's history, most of the good stuff, the stuff worth writing about, happened under the influence of alcohol. We were just a gang of kids, constantly on tour and constantly in the vicinity of free booze. Sometimes, two and two, simply makes four...

We weren't a bunch of wankers, sometimes we just acted like it. We certainly never set out to abuse or hurt anyone. We were just having fun. Sometimes that got misinterpreted, sometimes it got out of hand, but we never meant any harm. One of my all-time favourite quotes describing the band, is accredited to our old tour bus driver, Chop. “You are a bunch of cunts, but you're loveable cunts”. I liked that. And I think he had it spot on.

There is though, a slightly more famous quote that springs to mind as I write about this particular show.

- For every rule, there is an exception.

That exception would be Chinnery's. Southend. July 7th, 1999.

If you are a member of one of the bands that shared the stage with us that night, and you somehow just happen to be reading this, then I sincerely apologise. If that night happens to be the one and only time our paths crossed, and you think I and the other five guys in my band are a pack of aresholes, you're justified in thinking so. This is one night we really did make ourselves out to be a “bunch of cunts”, not the loveable kind mind you, the regular straight-up kind, and this time we didn't even have the booze to blame...

We were ten or so shows into our first ever trip around the UK, playing small venues to no people on what many affectionately call the “toilet circuit”. The show in Southend was only the twelfth gig the band had ever played. It didn't matter to us then that the average attendance at the shows was around ten people. We knew we were a good band and we didn't really cared who shared that opinion, didn't care a fucking jot. This was the first band any of us had played in that had actually played more than two consecutive shows, what one might call a tour. That was more than enough for us at that point.

I have to admit in hindsight though that we were in a very fortunate position. We had a home town friend who worked for a big management company in London, who had, until we came along, a predominantly “R&B” tinged roster, and no, I don't mean The Rolling Stones or The Hollies, I mean Mark Morrison and that bird with the eye patch. Our friend, Dave, was very good at his job, even though he was working with music he had no real relation to. Luckily for us, when he got a sniff of our band, he really liked it, and coupled with the fact were from his darling Corby, he just knew he had to take care of us.

Dave worked out a deal with the owner of Green Island Management, a somewhat shady Jamaican character who went by the name of Johnny Laws, that stated he could take us on as part of a side company called Black Island, which would obviously cater to a more alternative form of music. When Dave go the go ahead, he got his friend Andrew employed, and the two of them together went about making our band then next big thing in the British metal scene. I've no doubt that Dave genuinely loved our band, but I think a big part of it was the challenge involved, and it was a challenge. Of course, they got some backing from Johnny Laws but Dave and Andrew were our men. And we were happy to go along for the ride. It was a simple deal for us, especially in the naivety of youth. Their plan was to just put us out on the road. It was a plan we were more than agreeable with. We were an extreme band who didn't have a decipherable lyric in any of our songs, if Dave thought he could make us big, then sure, give it a fucking go. We were just happy to get the fuck out of Corby for a while. Even playing to five people on a Tuesday night in Boston was better than working in a warehouse back home. As long as we could get our hands on some booze...

So even though we were living life very rough, sleeping in vans or in tents by the side of the road in freezing weather, sharing two tins of stewed steak and a bottle of White Lightning Cider between six people, we still had somebody looking after us, booking shows, getting us support slots and planning out a career for us. We had nothing to complain about. Although of course, we did complain.

As part of Dave and Andy's aim to get the band out on the road every day of every week, at least in the beginning, we ended up playing a lot of support shows to bigger bands. Dave had a lot of contacts at his dispersal and it was a relatively solid plan. Unfortunately, we ended up supporting a lot of crap bands, or bands that I certainly had no time for. It didn't bother me then as it would bother me now. In fact, today it would simply not happen, but these are lessons I've learned. Back then we adhered to the philosophy of just getting the band seen. If we played a support show to three thousand people, and of that three thousand, thirty liked the band, then that's still thirty that would possibly come to our own show next time around. The trouble this plan ultimately brought was that we overkilled it a bit. We became known as a support band. Don't get me wrong, they took us all the way to headlining the Astoria in London to three thousand ourselves, but by the time we got there, the band, or at least that version of it, was almost spent. We'd given everything by that point and didn't have much more to offer.

The very first such show was at the very same London Astoria, supporting Ministry. Dave and Andy had booked us a small tour around this show, since we'd only played four gigs at that point. So we were going to go on a small spate of shows, with the Ministry show at the Astoria somewhere near the end of the run. Our own shows were attended by crowds of ten or so people, the Ministry show was going to be in front of a crowd of two and half thousand. Quite the fucking jump. Andy was coming out to these shows with us, preparing us for the first of “the most important show of our careers”. Southend Chinnery's was the night before the big show, and seen by Andy at least, as a full on dress rehearsal. For some reason, he was way more nervous than we were.

I had a bad feeling about this show from the moment we arrived. The “vibes” weren't that great. For a start, it was Southend, which is basically like Corby, but with sea and some tacky arcades. It was a Wednesday night and the venue seemed rather large to me. It could take at least two hundred people. There was no way that we'd play to even a quarter of that amount. To make things worse, we were headlining, or playing last on the bill. There were three other bands playing, and one of them, a band called...I want to say All? (but I can't really remember), who were from Southend anyway, did not seem too pleased with the line-up arrangement. They had a point to be fair. This was their home town (of which they seemed very proud), they'd been playing for a few years and certainly had more of a name then we did. Who the fuck were we really?

I've since learned that playing last, or headlining, is not always the best slot to play. If you're a nothing band, then playing last, after a band of local heroes, is actually a shit fucking slot. Everyone fucks off after the local heroes are done, so it's really them who are “headlining” anyway. You go on stage, but the party is over.

Anyway, the Southend boys were not happy with their slot on the bill, and they didn't try to hide it. They were a big bunch of fuckers with skin-heads too, and I found them a tad fucking intimidating. So, we just quietly go about loading in, sound-checking, and try to be polite to everyone in the venue. Andy, being American (sorry mate), doesn't find being quiet to be quite an easy a task to perform as we do, and couldn't give a piss about what the other bands think of the bill. He let's everyone in the place know what the deal is. Speedhorn have a hugely important gig tomorrow and they're playing last and going through the exact set that they'll be playing at the Astoria the following day. So, if things run late, then the bands on before us will be getting their sets cut. Tonight is all about our set. Now, Andy is just doing his job, but I remember myself and Tony being hid away in the van outside, dying of embarrassment. Gordon and Frank didn't seem to give too much of a fuck though. Gordon, unlike me, loves getting people's backs up. He actually seems to get a fucking thrill out of it.

So the vibes are bad. Andy keeps telling us how important the show is tomorrow and how tonight is the perfect opportunity to iron out any creases in the set. And of course, we're not allowed to drink. In truth, that's not exactly a law he has to enforce since we're all completely skint and the only way we'd be getting our hands on any booze is if he buys it, which tonight, he isn't...

We certainly ain't getting a rider out of Chinnery's, that's for sure.

So the first band plays and there are around twenty people in the venue. I can't remember a thing about them except the fact that they play for thirty minutes. Andy and Roddy, who is out driving the van and kind of tour managing us, are fucking livid. All the bands have been told that they have a twenty-five minute set list. If they play over-time then the rest of the bands get their set times cut, except Speedhorn of course. There is a curfew at the venue, but no matter what happens, Andy and Roddy will be seeing to it that we play the whole forty minute set that we're in essence, rehearsing for tomorrow.

So, Andy and Roddy give the first band a bollocking, and we hide in shame. The second band are Enmity, who's bass player, Paul Ryan, will later become a good friend and eventually our booking agent when he scores a job at The Agency. Paul is friends with Andy and tells him that he understands the deal, even though their set is cut down to twenty minutes. Paul always was a good guy. I'm sure he had to break it to his guys that they'd driven all the way to Southend just to play twenty minutes, and I'm sure his guys weren't happy about it. He never mentions it to us though, and they just get on with it. They play their set and sure enough, as soon as they're done, Roddy is up on stage ushering them off and loading their equipment for them.

So then it's time for Southend to go on stage. They don't look fucking pleased. Apparently Andy has just told them they have got sixteen minutes worth of set time to enjoy, due to the delay in change over time, and that it's nobody’s fault but their very own. The singer comments on this a few times during their set. I'm stood in the crowd, which by now is maybe thirty strong, and I'm wondering what the fuck is going on. Even though the guys in the band do seem like a bunch of turds, this doesn't seem right. They obviously go over their allotted set time, because before long Roddy and Andy are stood right in front of the stage, gesturing at them to cut their set but waving their hands in front of their throats. You know the gesture. Tony and I look on, laughing nervously. I know they mean well, and they don't care about any band but the one they're looking after, but for fuck sakes.

So it's finally our turn to get up and do our thing. It feels bad from the get go. Not the fact that, yes indeed, two thirds of the crowd have fucked off once Southend have finished playing, but more due to the fact that the sound on stage is absurd. I've played over eight hundred shows since I was sixteen years old and I still haven't found an answer to the mystery of the sound-check. I'd say that maybe forty percent of the time, the sound on stage that we've had whilst sound-checking, has somehow dramatically transformed into something else completely by the time you get back up there and play the show. The sound we had whilst checking tonight had not been the greatest, but it was a shit load better than the chaos that greets us by the time we go on stage for real. I wouldn't be surprised if the sound-guy hadn't deliberately fucked us over, due to the actions of some during the night. I wouldn't blame him if he had really. Nevertheless, when we kick into our first song, Superscud, we're greeted with a throbbing wall of muddy noise.

I'm looking at Gordon and I can see him playing, but I'm fucked if I can hear a beat coming from his drums. The same goes for Frank and John, and Tony on the other side of the stage may as well not even be there. All I can hear is myself and Darren's bass. Gordon is apparently having the same trouble. But whereas the rest of us are trying to put a brave face on it until we get to the end of the first song, Gordon is making no such effort, continuously mouthing to me and everyone else that, “he can't fucking hear shit!” It gets to the point where we're all playing different things. It sounds like fucking shite and almost...almost comes to a stop. At the start of the song we'd been bouncing around the stage, throwing shapes and giving it all, but by the end of the song we're strumming along, looking at each other, lost and confused. They say that the band on stage are far more sensitive to fuck ups than the crowd are, but even though the people here watching tonight have never heard our song Superscud, I'd be amazed if they believed it was supposed to sound like this.

We finally trudge to the song's end and Gordon goes off on one, shouting at me, at Frank and at the sound guy. He's shouting at us to turn everything in his monitor up and waving his stick in an upward motion to demonstrate what he means. We go into the second song and the sound is only worse. Gordon's monitor is now so loud that it's the only thing anyone on stage can hear. Gords looks equally as pissed of with this new monitor set up as he was with his previous. I look at Frank, who is getting on with it, but I can tell he's losing his rag.

In Speedhorn, Frank just screamed on top of our songs, but in reality he was the most talented of any of us. He was both an amazing drummer and guitarist. Gordon, being Frank's oldest friend, is a little sensitive to this issue. Insecure I guess you could say. Of course, Frank giving him dirty looks every time he fucks up doesn't help. This gets on my tits a bit. Frank played drums in our old band, and without doubting he is a great drummer, I think Gordon's simple battering style was more suited to us. But with Frank and Gordon being childhood friends, Frank has a hard time containing his frustration with what he deems as inferior drumming. I couldn't give a fuck about that. What I did give a fuck about is Gordon's total inability to hide his anger/embarrassment whilst on stage. Roddy spoke as much shite as sense during the years he toured with us, but if there is one thing that always stuck with me, it was this. You never show you're divided in front of anyone, you never argue in front of anyone and if things fuck up on stage, you get on with it like it's no problem. That is something Roddy definitely had right.

So we're half way through the second song and it's a fucking mess. By now Gordon is shouting at anyone who'll listen, or can hear him at least, that he wants his monitor turned off completely. The guy taking care of the monitors gets a barrage of abuse from Gords. I look over sympathetically at the man, but he just crosses his arms, shrugs his shoulders and smirks at me. He's obviously decided we're a bunch of cunts and he's fucking our gig off. So that's that.

The second song somehow makes it to the finish line, although barely.

Well this is going well.

The small amount of people left in the venue, stood in front of the stage, look bemused. Roddy and Andy look worried. Frank, looking like he wants to be anywhere but on the stage, offers a half assed apology to anyone who cares. We trundle on into the third song but we only make it half way through. Gordon loses us again and this time he just throws his sticks over his shoulders and the song comes to an abrupt halt. Frank doesn't even look at the rest of the band, he doesn't say anything to the small crowd, he just walks right off the front of the low stage and straight out the front door. Tony follows suite in exactly the same fashion. And then Daz, and then John. I put my guitar down and look at Gordon who is still sat behind his drums. “I hope the show tomorrow goes a bit better” he offers, with that cheeky smirk of his spread wide across his face. I can't help it, I burst out laughing.

We pack up and walk out the front of the venue to find out the score with Frank. Within seconds he and Gords are shouting and screaming at each other, Gordon giving his usual attitude, “Who gives a fuck anyway?” You have to love him really. He knows he fucked up, but there isn't a chance he's backing down if it means backing down to Frank. Frank just looks exasperated. The screaming continues with Roddy and Andy in the middle, trying to calm things down, as the remaining people who were at the show walk out and straight past us. Tony then points to the fact that the other bands on the bill must really think we're a bunch of wankers. After all that shit from Andy and Roddy, we only play two and a half songs. Even though it shouldn't have been funny, we all crack up anyway.

Andy pulls a bottle of vodka from somewhere and suggests we all head down to the to drink it. It's pretty fucking cold but the thought of drinking some booze by the sea after an alcohol-free disaster seems like the best idea I’ve heard all day. We all get pretty tipsy before everyone heads back to the van to sleep. For a while, Andy, Tony and I traipse around the back streets of Southend's sea front, looking for a cheap B&B for the night at the expense of Andy's credit card, but every single one declares itself full, so we join the other five guys and the eight of us bed down in whatever scrap of spare room of van floor we can make for ourselves.

The show the next night turned out to be a bit of a nothing event. We played on that huge stage at the famous London Astoria, to a shit load of people who couldn't have given a piss about us. We played ok, and although it wasn't a bad gig, it wasn't that great either. It was just...nothing really. And I've since come to the opinion that those shows are the worst of all.

Within four years, we'd be back on that stage, headlining, and playing what really was a great gig. And by that time, Gordon was a great drummer too.