Saturday, January 30, 2010

Oslo to Birmingham

I am lying in a hotel bed on the outskirts of Eindhoven. We left Oslo last night at 1am and we arrived here about half an hour ago, twenty two hours since we left.

We've been in the van almost the whole time since we departed Oslo. Martin drove the van all the way back to his place in Göteborg. I'd decided would sit up front with him and co-drive, since I was feeling pretty frisk but within an hour of leaving, my eye lids were as heavy as lead. Trying to keep my head up, straight and focused on the road ahead, was pure torture. My head felt as heavy as a bowling ball. Andy sat beside me was out before I was.

Thankfully Martin was more than fit for the task of driving. Wide awake, sat at the wheel listening to a playlist of classic punk records. It was dark as hell and the snow was hammering down at times, the roads winding their way through the black Norwegian countryside. The sound of Martin's voice and the Adolescents playing behind it, drifting in and out of my conscience. After a while Martin assured me he was fine and gave me permission to nod off. I have a hard time sleeping in an upright position though, especially with the leg room being so sparse. I think five minutes here and there was all I could grasp before we got to Göteborg, just after 6am.

When we said goodbye to Martin and thanked him for his invaluable efforts, I swapped seats with Jon and hopped in the back of the van. Johan took over the driver's wheel and we carried on.

I woke up sometime around daybreak. We were parked somewhere off the side of the road, engine still running and Johan sleeping at the wheel. I'm glad he's sensible enough to pull over if and when he's fucked.

A while later I wake again as the van is pulling into a petrol station somewhere near Malmö. It's still only 9.30 and we still have a hell of a long way to go. I'm not sure if I have slept much at all, but I feel like shit. We're couped up in the back of the van, every time you nod off, you realise your leg or your arse cheek has gone numb and it kicks conscienceness back in like a lightning bolt.

We're in the garage shop, trying to work out our plan. We know we have about twenty four hours to get to Calais. From there we get the boat and then we have roughly a five hour journey from Dover to Birmingham. Just to top things off, load in is early. 2pm.

We had originally planned to head to Stachel's place in Bremen and crash out there for a few hours, before starting off again around 1am and driving the rest of the way to Calais. We had hoped to be in Bremen around 2pm today, but that is not going to happen. It's gonna be at least four hours later than that. We decide to see how far we can get and then find a hotel to sleep in, with the aim of getting as close to Calais as possible. The trouble is neither Johan or Ronnie have slept more than a couple of hours each and the weather is miserable. The snow is pounding the van again and the going is slow.

We take the ferry from Rödby to Puttgarden at 1pm. This gives our drivers the chance to lie down for at least fourty five minutes. We get to Germany and the weather is even worse than in Denmark. This is turning into one hell of a fucking battle.

The guys take turns at the wheel. One driving, the other behind trying to sleep when they get the chance. It's just impossible. The van is cramped. It's impossible to sleep for any real amount of time. The daylight starts to fade as we near the Dutch border. By now we've taken the decision to stop at hotel by Eindhoven. Johan has checked it out on his beloved Iphone and found a good price. Hopefully we can get to the hotel sometime around 10.30pm and sleep until 6.30 the next morning. It's only another few hours to Calais from Eindhoven and it will feel so much better tomorrow if we get some sleep in a real bed.

It's almost easy to forget that we actually have a show to play at the end of all this. God knows how that gig is gonna be. To be honest, I don't really care, as long as we make it there and we play it.

We get to the hotel at 11pm. Everyone dying just to fall into bed. It has been a torturous couple of days in the van and we're all getting cabin fever. Unbelievably, the lady at reception has to break it to us that we were quoted the wrong price over the phone earlier today. They gave us the price for one room and not the two we asked for. Even though it's an utter kick in the bollocks, I'm ready to pay whatever it takes to get me into a bed. Johan spends some time laying into the reception woman all the same.

So here I am. Newly showered with freshly brushed teeth for the first time since Oslo and a stomach churning over the shitload of crap food it's had to endure from the various service stations along the road. Jon is watching Dexter on the hotel tv, Andy is watching some dvd on his mini player. I'm going to sleep.

Looking forward to a proper meal tomorrow. And a pint.

Oslo

The next couple of days are going to be tough. These last two nights in my own bed could not have been better timed.

Again, it's funny how time takes on it's own dimension when you're on tour. It was only ten days ago I kissed Jenny goodbye before the first leg of the tour, here we were again this morning. For me it felt like I had been gone for a month or so, for Jenny it probably felt like ten days...Not so strange that everything gets warped when you drink every day, eat sporadically and sleep is nothing more than a fleeting friend.

Since Jon lives close to me, we'd arranged for the guys to pick us by the pizzeria at the corner of my street. For once the weather forecast was spot on. It had indeed snowed all night and travel conditons were looking shitty. Funny how the weather people always seem to get it right when they predict shit weather. After waiting for a while in the cold, Ronnie finally came trudging up the hill in the new van. The other guys came walking up behind him shortly after, saying something about the van not making it up the hill in the snow, with them in the back of it. That can't be good, surely?

We have another extra passenger with us today. Martin, who played guitar in At the Gates, and nowadays in Slaktattack, is travelling with us to Oslo. He came up on the train from Göteborg yesterday to hang out for a few days. The van is pretty cramped as it is and I'm wondering how we're gonna fit, but Martin ends up driving most of the way to Oslo, which is no end of help to Johan and Ronnie, who have it tougher than the rest of us over the next couple of days.

It takes a while to get out of Stockholm. For a start we have to get out and push the van back onto the main road, since it's stuck on the side street Ronnie had pulled into to let us in. Unbelievable! Feels like I've been here so many times... We do eventually get rolling and for a while the weather clears up and the roads don't look too bad. We make our way to Karlstad without incident, Martin at the wheel, cracking us up with some old stories. This van is definitely a lot warmer than the old one, which somewhat makes up for the lack of room in the back.

We stop for lunch at Max, Sweden's favourite fast food restuarant. As we're sat around eating, Johan mentions that he noticed the front tires are looking pretty worn. We decide we should check it out before we carry on, just to be on the safe side. We can see there is a tire place just across the other side of the motorway, so we head over there. The place is called Johnny Däck, which simply translates to Johnny Tires, and Jon thinks this is great. He insists on speaking to the people at reception on our behalf. He walks in and introduces himself as ”Johnny Victims” and politley asks to see Johnny Däck. The joke seems to be lost on the guy sitting behind the desk. We think it's great though.

A tire guy, don't know if it was Johnny or not, comes out and takes one look at the front wheels and explains to us that we have summer tires on the van. In this fucking weather! Thank you once again Mr. Van Hire! Not only is it illegal to be driving around on summer tires, it's highly dangerous. Johan calls the rental company once again and explains the situation. The guy who runs the rental company must be sweating every time Johan calls by now. By the time we get home, they're going to owe us money!

Johnny Däck don't have the replacement tires we need as it happens. We try three other places before we find the winter tires we need. And then we're on our way again. It's obvious by now we're gonna be late for the get in at the show. I think the venue will understand though, given the conditions we're travelling in.

Having left Stockholm at 8.30 this morning, we finally get to the venue in Oslo around 7.30pm. It's dark and snowing and we do't even have time to piss before we load in. Of all the beautiful cities we've already been to on this tour, Munchen is the only place we've had any time to hang out in. You go to all these great places and a lot of the time you don't get to see fuck all. Looking back, I'm grateful for the tour bus days we had in Speedhorn, that gave me the chance to explore and see a bit more.

We get into the venue after loading into the backstage area and I go check out the room. First thing I notice is that the place is by far the biggest room of the tour so far. I'm not sure I like the look of it. The second thing I notice is that the band currently soundchecking has Faust, the original drummer from Emperor (who served time for murder), behind the kit. The third thing I notice is that they're terrible. Still kind of cool to see old Faust banging the drums though, even if he looks like a school teacher these days.

It feels wonderful to finally be able to get into the dressing room and chill out for a while. I think the Municipal guys are at their hotel. Lucky bastards! After relaxing for a while I go off in search for an internet connection for my laptop. I somewhow get myself trapped inside a stairwell. Total Spinal Tap moment. I walk in and head upstairs, back to where I think the bar area is upstairs, and find myself on the wrong side of a locked door, whichever way I go. Even the door I came through has locked itself. It seems you need a card to unlock these things. I'm probably trapped there for around ten minutes, and I'm starting to need a shit. My mobile phone has no reception either. Just as I'm wondering what the fuck I'm gonna do, someone opens one of the doors, which happens to lead back out on to the snowy street. Totally confused I stumble, freezing cold, back into the venue the way we'd loaded in.

I get to check my mails. I immediately regret it. The first thing I notice is an email from Speedhorn's old accountant, with the heading, Speedhorn tax, urgent! My stomach turns over. This is the last thing I need now. I thought I was done taking responsibility for that fucking band. Thankfully, although the issue at hand is gonna cause me some hassle over the next few days, it's nothing major. Well, it kind of is, but our very kind, former accountant Tansy, who hasn't been paid for years, is helping us out with it, free of charge as usual. What an angel she is. How a hardcore band like Speedhorn ever got to the point where we needed an accountant is beyond me. Another weird chapter in the history of that band.

I head back down to the dressing room and hear that Faust's band is playing. They really are awful. I can't even bear to go and look. Another band plays after them, some band from Ireland who have now signed to Earache Records (why, oh why?). This band aren't my particular cup of tea either, although the Municipal guys seem to dig them. They seem a to be some kind of joke metal band to me, and the problem with that is that it's rarely funny, and even rarer that it's any good. Of course Municipal do things with a lot of tongue in cheek, but at least they have great songs to back it up. I head back into the dressing room and slump into the sofa, the bullshit with the UK tax authorities still playing on my mind.

It turns out the guy doing the in-house sound tonight is an English guy called Rob. It also turns out that he recognises me from the Speedhorn days. He tells me that he was at the shoot for our first video. Not only that, he tells me he did sound for us years ago at a venue in Southend, called Chinnery's. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was one of the worst gigs we ever played, largely in part to the awful sound we had on stage. I hope it wasn't him doing monitors that night in Southend... We chat quickly and laugh about the size of the world, as you do, and then we get on with the gig.

It's a strange show tonight. For a start the stage is fucking huge. There is a big barrier seperating the crowd and the band, and everything feels a bit dead. Even though the crowd is a fair size, the show feels like hard work. It seems the thought of the journey over the next couple of days is weighing down on everybody. I break a string during the third song, meaning I have to take it a bit easier for the rest of the set, which doesn't help the energy I'm lacking on stage tonight. We get through it ok though, and the gig is by no means a failure, it's just missing the buzz we've had the last few days. I think we've most likely been spoiled by how good the shows have been for us on this tour so far.

Martin was standing side stage during the show, and when I came off afterwards complaining it was hard work tonight, he laughed and told me he though it was awesome, saying the other shows on the tour so far must have been out of this world in that case. This is something I've experienced many times down the years. Somtimes you can come off stage really pleased with the gig and buzzing, only to find out someone else in the band feels they had a shit show. And vice versa.

Anyway, we cpack down and take advantage of the backstage shower whilst Waste play their show. Jamie, the Hatebreed singer, is hanging around in the dressing room. He seems like a nice enough guy. Our good friend Marco is also in town and hanging out, so I catch up with him for a while before I head out to the merch and relieve Ronnie so he can go get some sleep before we head off into the night.

There is this one really drunk guy who buys a hoodie from me. He's babbling on and I can only make out about half of what he says. I figure he's bought an lp earlier this evening from us, one of our limited tour edtion vinyls, and that he's coming to the show in London in a few days. I ”chat” to him for a while and then he leaves. He returns shortly afterwards, telling me he's lost the record somewhere and only has the cover left now. He staggers off again shortly thereafter, threatening to punch out whoever has stolen it from him. Steaming!

A while later Jon comes up to me. I think he's a bit drunk. He has his jaw dropped open and he looks extremely happy. Apparently he's just been introduced to Knut from Turbonegro, who is one of his favourite guitar players. Marco works for Turbo quite a lot so he made a dream come true for Jon. Apparently upon being introduced, Knut made a bowing gesture to Jon and told him he loved the show, to which Jon just walked off in stunned silence with a huge smile on his face. I once spent an evening with Knut and Happy Tom in Stockholm, when my good friend Joe was over, recording their album. It was a great night and they were real friendly guys. As most people know, Knut had gotten cancer a couple of years ago. He seems to be doing really well now though.

Since Dave is using our drum-kit tonight, we have to wait until Waste are done before we can head off. Not that we want to miss them play but ideally it would make sense for us to get out of here as soon as possible. I pack up the merch after they are done playing. I head backstage and the dressing room is packed with people, the vast majority being young girls. It seems like we're missing a party tonight but I don't think anyone cares.

We need to go. Next show is in Birmingham in two days time. We have to make it to Calais by 9.30 am Saturday morning, to catch the ferry we have booked. We've got six countries to travel through between here and there.

We load the van around 1am. A couple of the Waste guys come out and hug us all individually, telling us to drive safe. I'm looking forward to seeing them again in Birmingham.

We drive away from Oslo, Martin at the wheel again. It's snowing heavily...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stockholm

Yesterday was spent, almost in its entirety, sitting on our arses in the van.

We were hoping to get into the club early and load out, so we could leave Hamburg by 10am at the latest, but that didn't happen. After banging on the door for roughly ten minutes, we gave in and headed to the nearest café to eat breakfast instead. Hopes of getting home at a reasonable hour and having an easy night on my sofa with Jenny and my dog Bonzo were pretty much fucked, as it was already 1pm by the time we eventually left.

Dave from Municipal had decided he wanted to travel to Stockholm with us so he would have the chance to check out our home city during the day tomorrow. Dave has quickly become a good friend of ours and it was fun to have someone else outside the band along for the ride. We chatted most of the way home and the long journey didn't feel to bad to be fair. I eventually walked through my door around 1.30am, my dog Bonzo, waiting at the door for me wagging his tail. Jenny had even made a pie. Funny home home life and tour life seperates itself the minute you walk through the door to the apartment.

A day at home today, re-charging the batteries, will prove to be incredibly valueable over the coming days, I am sure. We have around thirty hours of van time over the next two and a half days! A couple of nights in my own bed and a day spent hanging out with Bonzo was exactly what I needed.

We leave early tomorrow for Oslo. The weather forecast predicts a ton of snow tonight and the journey has the very real possibilty of being somewhat sketchy. The roads in Norway are not the best. From Oslo we head on the longest route of the tour. Whilst Municipal fly on to play a show in Bergen on Friday, we will be driving through the night and next day to catch a ferry from Calais to Dover on the Saturday morning, eventually arriving in Birmingham sometime Saturday afterrnoon, where we will meet back up with Municipal. I mean, Bergen Friday, Birmingham Saturday? I don't understand what map these booker people are looking at when they plan these things...sucks we had to cancel the Bergen show but we can't afford the flight or the hassle of hiring a new van and equipment in the UK.

The show tonight was a strange experience. Home-town gigs are always a little weird, since a large portion of the crowd are usually friends. The rest of the guys in the band were all super nervous. It wasn't quite the same for me but I understood where they were coming from. What was weirdest for me was probably the fact that the show was at Debaser, where I worked behind the bar for almost five years, and I still have a lot friends who work here. Johan still works here so it may have been even weirder for him.

The show was really great though, as just about all of the shows on this tour have been. The place was packed by the time we went on, and even then there were still people piling in through the doors. I felt bad that our friends in Beast had played a little too early and should have played to more people than they did. It was fun watching Modde play in another band, I've only seen him with Nitad before. He had this great dance thing going on which was I was really digging. I was pumped for the show after watching them.

The crowd really seemed into the show. There were a lot of faces down the front I didn't recognise and a lot of faces of to the side and a little further back that I did. Everyone seemed to be smiling though. There was this one kid down the front who was so into it that he grabbed the mic stand away from Johan and sang a verse at one point, not bothering to put the mic band back in place. A while later he takes a running lunge at the stage and slams his fist down into my foot. The mood was so good though that the kid just cracked me up. Funny the things people do when music takes over. Funny how personal mood changes day to day as to how we react to some of the nonsense that goes on with crowds. I guess you get wound up a hell of a lot easier when you're short on sleep and constantly floating somewhere between hungover and pissed.

After the show I met up with a lot friends, although didn't really have much time speaking to any of them. I guess that's the way it is with home gigs. So many friends, so little time. Less fun was the on-going van problems. We'd apparently fixed it with the rental company that we'd be recieving a new van at the venue tonight. So we'd prepared the broken piece of shit we've had so far, so that all the stuff was ready to throw over into the new van. The guy was supposed to come with it about an hour before we were going to play, that obviously did not happen. He must have come at some point during the show. I checked with Ronnie after the gig and he told me that the new van had turned up and he'd taken care of the gear. He also warned me that the new van was way smaller than the last one we had. He wasn't fucking joking! How we were gonna pack this van later on was beyond anyone's guess.

Dave apparently had a very succesful day in town. The guys showed him around, he got tattoed, bought some dark ale that he loves, bought some cakes. He was glowing when I met him earlier this evening. One thing really cracked me up whilst we were packing our impossibly small van after the show. LG from Entombed was hanging around outside. I noticed Dave hovering behind him. He nervously crept up behind him and introduced himself, explaining he was a huge fan from way back. Funny picture. LG, stood there in his usual get-up, (painter's jeans, football manager jacket, wooly hat), looking a little confused whilst offering his hand back. Both these guys are legends in their own right, but Dave's humility speaks volumes about the kind of guy he is. Great scene.

We somehow packed the van. There is no room left for a sleeper's seat, as we previously had in the broken van. That's gonna be a killer on the guys driving over the next couple of nights. The new van is at least warm. You can't have everyting I guess.

Myself and Jenny shared a cab home with Jon and his girlfriend Ana not long after the van was sorted. Got home early, around 1am, and re-packed my bag in perperation for the second half of the tour. The guys are picking us up around 8am, we're gonna have to take it slow and careful on the road to Oslo. I hardly felt like sleeping as I lay in my own bed, it was nice just enjoying it while it lasted. The thought of spending the next two nights in the van are not the most appealing. I'm sure the shows will more than make it worthwhile though...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hamburg

Today takes a while to get going.

We share breakfast with the guys from AK44, they again show us great kindness as they make a tray of great tasting, vegan pancakes. The sound guy from the club offers to take a look at our van before we call anyone, to see if there's anything he can do for us. There isn't, in fact our van almost kills the battery in his little VW Camper van, so instead, we call in the experts.

Most of the day seems to spent waiting around in various places. Sometime around mid afternoon, after one call out mechanic, one Ford garage and two new car batteries, we get on our way to Hamburg. We're gonna have to change rental vans in Stockholm when we're home, so as long as we make it back tomorrow, we're ok.

The drive today is silent. We've only been driving an hour before the sun disappears and darkness engulfs the van. We sit there in the dark, freezing cold, watching the GPS arrival time tick down.

It's just before doors when we turn up, so we load in straight away and throw everything off to the side of the stage. It's a small club tonight with a low ceiling and the low stage is easilly the tightest of the tour so far. I get the feeling it's going to be a sweaty show.

We seem to be having good luck with the food on this tour. Most of the time when we play our own shows the food sucks. I've lost count of the times we've had the delight of eating punk chilli, that have endless amounts of ingredients in them and a big zero amount of taste. I don't know how that is achieved... My wife is vegetarian and we don't seem to have that problem at home. It's called SALT. There are of course, exceptions. Anyway, we're getting good food on this tour, tonight being no exception. It's just what we need after the boring van drive and we quickly wash it down with a couple of beers.

All three bands are staying in dormitories above the venue after the show. I sense there's gonna be a party. There is a bar above the gig room that has a ping pong table set up in the middle and one of the guys who hung out at the hostel in Berlin the other night, Goran, is playing records. It's gonna be a fun night for sure.

As expected, the room is completely packed out and the stage is intensely hot. Reproach play what will be there last show on the tour for a while. From here they hop off since they can't afford the trip to Scandinavia and the UK, so they'll meet up with us again for the last two shows in Holland. They play a good show as always and by the time they're done I'm ready for it.

We kick off into our first song, Scars, I really have to watch that I don't smash Johan in the head with my guitar. I don't think he'd appreciate that somehow. As we're playing the second song, Who the Fuck Are We?, the packed audience members start pouring on to the stage. Some over excited kids at the front, who are obviously really drunk, push Johan's mic stand so that it falls halfway down, to around about his stomach area. Johan has to spend a large part of the song bent over double singing into his now dwarf sized mic stand. It looks pretty funny and I play out the end of ”Who the Fuck Are We?”, laughing to myself.

It soon becomes obvious that the guys down the front are deliberately fucking with Johan's stuff. And they're starting to get on my tits. They are falling on the stage constantly and screaming ”Municipal Waste!” at us between every break in the songs. Obviously that's fine, we're big fans of the band ourselves, but I think that maybe they could show a bit more tact.

These kids are really drunk and they are dancing around apparently having a good time, but by now I've decided I don't like them. They're right in front of me throwing their long hair around and I charge at them with my guitar and play it right in their face. The strings are literally carresing their eye brows and there are currently no riffs coming out my amp. They respond by throwing beer at me, which I happily take since it's so fucking hot on stage, any fluid is welcome. A couple of songs later one of the long hairs grabs my guitar neck whilst I'm playing and pushes it at me. Whilst he's bent over head-banging, I take the opportunity and kick him the back of the head. He sticks his fingers up at me, I blow him a kiss.

This is actually what I call fun. I have to be perfectly honest, if the guy at the front was a big bastard, I wouldn't have went near him. I know my limits.

Anyway, the show is hard but very enjoyable. We can't even get close to seeing the Waste show after us, so we hang out by the merch in the bar area and watch it on the projector screen they have there. I heard Tony was feeling a bit feisty after watching us and is ready for a bit of a rumble. He's only a little guy but I imagine him to be a bit tasty in a fight. After a few of their songs I hear him warning some guy, ”Don't even try any of that shit you were pulling with Victims!”. Sure enough a few songs later I hear the sound of his mike smashing the guy in the head.

Even though it's Monday night, there are loads of people here who are fucking wasted. One kid in particular makes me laugh. I first spot him stood on the bench next to the Reproach merch guy, windmill head-banging his long hair around. After Bjorn, Reproache's merch guy, has enough of getting sweaty hair in his mouth, he kindly asks him to stop. The long haired kid falls down to the floor, taking half of Reproache's merch with him.

He then heads for the emergency exit, which clearly has a steel fence blockading it. He attempts, to no avail, make his way through. Me and Johan crack up. He then asks what we're laughing at and I tell him. He stands there taking in air. It's freezing cold outside and soon a fog of cold air blows into the building, it actually snakes its way past us. Me and Johan again think this is pretty amusing and as we're laughing the long haired metal kid comes up in my face and asks me if I'm laughing at him. I tell him that this time, I'm actually laughing at the weird loking fog that had came in, to which he tells me that he thinks it looks like the fog at Auschwitz. I tell him at this point our conversation is over. He pays no attention to that. I'm caught listening to his drunken ramblings for at least another half an hour. It turns out he's not a racist, he's just proud of Germany's strentgh. I tell him that although I'm impressed by his adeptness of the english language, his use of it is badly misplaced. Johan finally resuces me by telling me he needs my help at the bar.

After the show, we all hang out in the bar upstairs. There are lods of people up there. Goran is playing some great songs and there are bunch of people playing the game, Killer, on the ping pong table. Our crowd is represented by Andy, Ryan, Lewis and Tim from Reproach. We all have fun cheering them on as they drunkenly run around the table trying to hit the ball back over the net. The beers are flowing and we're having a great time.

There are yet another couple of annoying, over the top drunks, hanging around. There are these two guys dancing around and just falling into people constantly. One bangs right into Tim whilst he's stood there innocently watching the ping pong. He almost goes flying. What the fuck is up with these guys? At one point in the night I point out to one of the guys that he is being a pain in the arse, safe in the knowledge that I have plenty of back up here should anything happen. It doesn't, thankfully.

We have a great time hanging out at the bar with all the guys on tour. We're lucky to be on tour with such good people. Even the Reproach drummer, who didn't make the best impression on us at the start of the tour, is actually a very nice guy. I guess he just had an off night in Stuttgart a few days ago.

Funny how time turns to mush on tour. Stuttgart, which was only last Wednesday, already feels like months ago. Tomorrow, we're making the long drive back to Stockholm. Municipal have another day off on tour. We did originaly try to arrange a gig in Jönköping for tomorrow, but that didn't end up happening, and now I'm pretty glad we'll be home for the night before we play our home town. We'll be home late, but even so, it's nice to spend a couple of nights in my own bed.

Myself and Andy are amongst the last up when we go to bed around 3am. Considering the amount of beers I've drank tonight, I don't actually feel that drunk. I lie in bed, looking forward to seeing Jenny and my dog Bonzo tomorrow. I hope we can get going as early as possile and we get home at a reasonable time. The Liverpool game is on tv at 9pm, wouldn't mind catching it...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Geissen

It just wouldn't feel like a real tour without a little bit of van trouble.

We get up, all of us pretty groggy from the lack of sleep. We're heading to Geissen today to play a show with Burial, since the Municipal guys are having a day off on their tour. The drive ahead of us is at least eleven hours so we've got time for a quick breakfast and then we have to get going.

Reproach also have a gig of their own in Frankfurt, which is roughly the same distance we have to travel. We had arranged to meet them at 7am so they could help us get our van started. We don't really know what the problem is but every time the engine is turned off it needs to be jump started by another cars engine. It seems to be taking longer with each attempt and soon enough the van is just gonna refuse to start all together. If we stall the engine in traffic or worse, on the autobahn, we're really fucked. It's a worrying thought considering the lentgh of the journey today.

So after some more help from our Belgian touring mates, we get going. It takes us a while to find out which road we're supposed to be on since even our GPS system seems to have a problem with Italy. We finally find the road towards the Alps and we settle in for the long journey. Me and Ronnie are up front, armed with cans of energy drinks. I really have to fight hard to stay awake but I don't want to leave Ronnie up here on his own. We do our best to keep each other awake by recounting old tour stories.

When we get to the Alps, once again the weather lifts and the sun comes out and lightens the mood. I sit in awe at the surrounding mountains and the amazing scenery around them. There are small churches dotted around here and there, seemingly carved out on a ledge in the rock. As I'm wondering about who actually to goes to church service around here and how the hell they get there, Jon stirs behind me, telling us to let him know when we reach the Austian border. I wake him a short while later as we drive past the sign announcing we are now enetering Austria and leaving Italy behind us. He says ”Skål!” as he opens his bottle of Fernet and takes a swig.

We soon get to the point where we need to fill up on gas, which obviously means turning off the engine and then finding some kind soul to help us start it again. Jon elects himself to find help. He tells me that he wants to help out when he can, instead of just sitting in the back. Jon actually does more than his share for this band. He's a great song writer and without him I can't imagine Victims existing. It's a sweet gesture of him anyway.

We fill up the tank and Jon says he has found someone to help. Some grumpy old guy starts coming towards the car parked beside us as Jon stands there expectantly, holding the jump leads in his hands. Jon only manages a few words before the old bastard shouts something at him, waving him away before getting into his car and speeding off. Leaving us standing there like a bunch of wankers. We burst out laughing. Johan reflects that maybe we haven't sent the most suitable candidate to find help. Soon enough though, we do get help in the form of two young guys who are more understanding of our situation. And once again we're away.

We repeat this procedure later on in the day when we're again forced to stop to fill up, but not before another run-in with our favourite public service. Not long after we cross the border to Germany we get pulled by the cops. They pull us off the autobahn and we follow them to the nearest police station. We have to tell them that we can't turn off our engine unless they help us start it again. They let us keep it running whilst they go through all the usual routine bollocks. After another half hour wasted they let us get on with our day. We do eventually get to Geissen.

The venue we're playing today is a punk/hardcore collective ran by really good people. It's a converted apartment building by the look of it. It's plump in the middle of a housing estate on the outskirts of the town centre. The set up is great. It looks pretty similar to Kafe 44 back home. They have hot food waiting for us when we arrive. It turns out to be without doubt, the best vegan food I've ever eaten. We get loaded in and chill out for a while, chating with the Burial guys and the people from the venue.

Our old friend Stachel from La Familia Records is here tonight. He's travelling with us to Hamburg tomorrow and he's been busy making calls today to help us with our van situation. He really is a great guy and a true legend in DIY punk circles. He is also hillarious. When he's drunk, which he is tonight, he get's really mischeivous and brutally takes the piss out of anyone in his vacinity. You can't help but the love the guy though, due to the constant smile on his face. He's a rather small chap, so it's easy enough to retort to his abuse. At one point Andy chases him, threating to pick him up and shake him upside-down, although he can't catch him. The pair of them giggle their way throughout the process.

Stachel is constantly on my case. Not only am I the ”new guy”, he also seems to love the fact that I'm English, he takes delight in mocking my land and does everything in his power to get a rise out of me. I hear it all from him...emo boy, gaylord, pretty boy. I think secretly he has a crush on me haha!. He takes delight in mocking me about my blog too, saying I'm doing it because I want people to love me...Hmm? I personally don't see the difference between writing a blog and getting up on stage and playing a show, or putting a record out. There is absolutely no point in trying to get this point across to him, so I just hug him and tell him that I love him. The little bastard at one point comes running into the room and throws a snowball at me, whilst we're sat around talking. It hits me in the chest and he's laughing like a cheeky adolescent. Just exactly as he's joking with me that it's yellow snow, I throw a pile of it back at him and it flies straight into his mouth, leaving him choking and the rest of us pissing ourselves.

We play the show on the floor tonight and it's a lot of fun, although the sound is interesting at best. Burial play. They are fucking awesome but the sound at one point just turns into mush since it's so loud. The room is pure concrete and the sound is bouncing all over it. Nobody seems to mind though and everyone has a great time. I love playing floor shows in tiny places. There are around 60 people here tonight and it's pretty packed. It's a great feeling playing and having the crowd in your face, literally.

It's pretty obvious the sound is not working though. We get to the end of the second song and when we stop, the vocal PA is just screaming feedback. The sound guy either doesn't notice or doesn't care because he does absolutely fuck all about it. We play the next block of songs and the feedback is actually taking over the sound of us playing. I happen to break a string so when I'm changing guitars between songs, Johan disappears into the crowd and takes charge of the sound desk. He scrambles back through the crowd, back to his bass and we carry on. It is a lot fun.

After the show we take our bags to the appartment up stairs where the people who run the place live. We sort our sleeping areas out and then I grab a quick shower, which feels wonderful, before joining the rest of the guys in the kitchen for a beer. We hang out with the incredibly nice people who run the venue and chat into the early hours. It's very relaxed and just what I need. One of the guys who runs the place, Hannes, turns out to have a good friend in common with us. Zach, the guitarist from Black Breath, who we toured the States with last summer, is together with the singer in Hanne's band, Glasses. It's a small, punk rock world we live in.

The rest of the guys go to bed around 3.30 whilst myself and Andy stay up a while longer, chatting away with one of the guys from the house. I eventually climb into my sleeping bag and onto the matress I'm sharing with Johan just after 4am. Tomorrow we're gonna have to work out this problem with the van. At least it's Monday tomorrow, so garages are open again and hopefully something can be worked out.

It's good we have our little German friend, Stachel with us.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Treviso

Wake up this morning feeling human again.
We eat breakfast with the Reproach guys at the hostel. We sit around chatting about whatever over sweet bread and coffee. It has to be said that I haven't found a decent cup of coffee since we crossed the Italian border. I thought this was supposed to be the land that took such pride in the quality of its coffee? All I've been able to find thus far is this horrible, sweet crap that comes out of a vending machine. I doubt whatever it is I'm drinking at breakfast this morning has ever seen a fucking coffee bean.

We have to check out of the hostel by 10am and the drive we have ahead of us today is only a couple of hours. My boss at work told me before I left that, he'd actually been to the venue in Treviso and that it's in an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere. Surprise surprise... So we figure there's no point hanging out there all afternon. We think about going to Venice for a couple of hours but eventually decide on checking out Treviso.

Once again our van is refusing to start. It's becoming obvious that we have a problem. With the help of the Reproach guys again, we get the van going and head to Treviso.

It's a pretty silent drive. Everyone is showered and clean and had a good night's sleep. Even Jon, who seems to have been on one for a few days solid, is quietly sitting behind me, reading a book.

I have to explain something about the history between Victims and Italy. It isn't a happy one.

Before I joined the band, they'd had some pretty rough times on the road in old Italia. The most damaging experience of all, and one they all still hold a grudge over, happened in the autumn 2007 when they were on tour with Another Breath. They were near the end of what had been a very fun and succesful tour. That all changed when their van was robbed whilst parked up in Genoa. It was the middle of the day and they'd gone to get pizza. When they came back they found some cunt had smashed one of the windows and took most of their personal belongings. Their bags were gone, their laptops, ipod's, everything. Worst of all though, pretty much all of the money they had made on tour had vanished. Maybe it was a little dumb to leave the money in the van but that's easy to say in hindsight. One would think the van would be safe parked in a busy city during the middle of the day.

Myself and Ronnie have thankfully both had happier times on our travels through Italy, so as much as we empathise with the rest of the guys, we don't have the same bitter taste in our mouths when we say the word Italy, or Shitaly as the guys call it.

Anyway, we find our way into the small city centre of Treviso and look for somewhere to park, which ends up taking quite a while. It's a pictoresque little place though and we get to check out most of it whilst searching for somewhere to stop. It's only noon so we have a while to relax here. I have two missions. Pizza. Strong, black, sugarless coffee.

Once parked up in a busy car park in the middle of town, we all hop out of the van. The sun is shining, the air is brisk and things feel good. Then Ronnie thinks to give the engine a quick try just to make sure that the battery is charged from the journey we just made. Not a sound. Nothing. It was at least spluttering and making an effort this morning. It's now completely dead and we have a problem. I'm sure I hear Jon grumbling something about Italy...

Johan tries calling the guy we hired the van from back home, but it's Saturday and he's not answering his phone. We leave a message and decide there's nothing else to do than go and get some food. Jon decides he doesn't trust anybody in this country and says he'll stay behind and guard the van. I tell him I'll pick him up some pizza.

We manage to find some extremely good pizza and even better, some coffee worth drinking. We discuss our options over an espresso. We finally get in touch with the van hire guy and sort some things with him. It's the weekend so there really isn't much more we can do than try and find some sympathising Italians to help us jump the battery every time we stop the van, until Monday at least, when we can buy a new battery from somewhere.

We put that plan into action and head to the venue. We get there early. It is indeed in the middle of fucking nowhere, but it's much warmer than the place we played yesterday. The atmosphere is also a lot friendlier. We head inside and just chill out for a while. It's a big place again, though more like a standard club as opposed to the warehouse that was yesterday's venue. The first thing I notice when I get into the dressing room is that the people from the club have already set up a real pot of coffee. Things are looking better already.

This place really takes care of us. We get great food, set out on a big long table for all the bands. We all sit down to eat together. Johan even manages to fix a bottle of red wine for us to accompany dinner. We sit and talk with Scotty, the Municipal merch guy, who tells us about his youth growing up in and around Detroit. It seems like a pretty fucked up place. It's interesting dinner conversation though.

My friend Lorenzo comes to the show tonight. I first met him when he put on a show for Speedhorn when we had a day off on tour. It turned out to be one the best shows I ever played and we've stayed in contact ever since. He's really funny and just hearing him laugh, which he does constantly, cracks me up. We catch up as much as we can in the short time we have. We have to leave as soon as the show is done tonight. We have a monster drive to Geissen tomorrow which requires us to get up at 6.30am and be on the road for 7 at the latest.

The show tonight is probably my favourite so far. My stamina for the shows has generally been improving over the last few days and tonight my strength lasts through to the end of the set. We all have plenty of energy this evening and it's refelcted in the crowd. The venue is again full and the place is buzzing. I notice Dave and some of the Reproach guys watching from side stage, all of them with big smiles on their faces and nodding along. The support of our fellow tour mates always gives me an extra buzz and I routinely spazz out on stage. God knows how my guitar is still holding up. After years of abuse, it is mostly held together by glue and steel rods nowadays. A couple of times during the set I feel the waft of a fixed object somewhere in my immediate vacinity as I flail my guitar about like an idiot. One of these days that guitar will eventually bite the dust and I'll be gutted I'm sure. I know it sounds like bullshit but I just seem to stop thinking whilst we're on stage playing.

After the show we chill out whilst Municpal play. From what I can hear they seem to be having another great show. I spend a bit more time chatting with Lorenzo before the time comes to pack up and get out. We load the gear off stage and when I go to get my bags from the dressing room, Lewis, Municipal's always friendly tour manager, gives me a couple of pizzas to take with us. What a great guy.

We have our stuff packed down on to the dancefloor and we're waiting to exit the building. Johan has gone off to find the Reproach guys to help us with the van. It seems like he's gone for ages. It's probably no more than ten minutes but the fact that the DJ at the club is playing horrible, horrible music by the likes of Pantera and System of a Down makes it seem like hours. I'm tired and probably getting a little bit bitchy, but the sight of a gang of Italian metalheads playing air guitar and screaming at each other makes me want find the nearest flame thrower and set fire to the dance floor and everyone on it. I put it down to tiredness and one too many bad memories of idiots at Speedhorn shows. I'm generally a very easy going guy.

We eventually get out of the building and load the van. Before we hop in the van, Lorenzo brings me the bottle of red wine he had previously promised me. The bottle is freezing cold and half of the cork has snapped off and is now floating inside. I give him a hug for his kind gesture and assure him I'll enjoy it once I've managed to defrost it.

We get to the hotel around 1am. Of course tonight we get a four star hotel! Fucking ironic. Andy, Jon and myself are sharing a room. We share a pizza and then take turns in the shower. Jon has found some really nice looking, black and white, Japanese samurai film on the tv, that I wish we had the time to enjoy, but unfortunately it's now 1.45am and the alarm is set for 6.20.

The lights go out and I lie in bed for what seems like an age, waiting for sleep to take me into its arms.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bologna

Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

Somebody's wakes me at 9am. It literally feels like I've been hit by a bus. The other two bands have already left for Bologna. It's pretty much straight out of bed and over the the gig room to load out our gear. The rest of the guys look pretty fucked too. Johan looks particularly red in the eyes. Ronnie looks as fresh as a daisy though and I think to myself that I would do anything to be him right now.

Somehow I make it through load out without being sick and afterwards I force a coffee and a sandwich down my neck that we pick up from a small bakery beside the venue. We get in the van, I sit up front next to Ronnie and try not to think about the six hour drive ahead of us.

It's grey and foggy as we leave Munchen behind us. My eyes feel heavy and my head is banging like a drum as we head for the Austrian border.

A couple of hours later the sickness has passed although I still feel completely drained. With the Alps fast approachng ahead of us, the sun starts to break through the clouds and everything starts to feel a little better. The guys are sat behind us and are watching the second season of The Office. Me and Ronnie are listening to Neurosis' album Times of Grace, which is of course a masterpiece. The scenery is amazing and the sun is now shining brightly in a bright blue sky. Neurosis provide a fitting soundtrack to the journey. My hangover feels a lot more managable now.

Jon once again has decided to blow off the whole hangover thing with the help of his bottle of Fernet. He's behind me swigging from the bottle and laughing insanely at the genius of Ricky Gervais. Me and Ronnie are giggling to ourselves as Jon weeps with joy behind us.

At one point, somewhere near the top of the Alps, we pull over and grab some coffee. It's actually pretty warm now and we take in the sights and the much needed fresh air. Jon is with us, standing in his old man pose, still with that jacket on, with the hood up. He looks hillarious. ”And people say she's just a pair of tits!” he mumbles to himself before screaming with laughter, a line from The Office which he has quoted to me around fifteen times this last hour.

We stop again around two hours later to fill up on diesel. Jon gets out of the van and walks off without saying a word. I get out and go for a piss and when I come back I spot him stood shaikily on the other side of the courtyard, smoking a cig and staring at a tractor type machine. He just stands there looking overjoyed, like this yellow machine is the best thing that he has ever seen. I look at him and then look into the van and the half empty bottle of Fernet lying in his seat. We need to get him to sleep again. It doesn't take long. We're on the road and he's behind me with his ipod on, he mumbles something about the new Kent record being the best album in the world, ever, before drifting off.

We finally get to the venue in Bologna after what seems like the longest six hour van drive of my life. I'm still not right. The venue, as is normally the case in Italy, is way out of town. The place is literally a huge steel hut in the middle of some field. We walk in and notice immdeiately that it's fucking freezing inside! It's a big room and the stage is really high. We catch the end of Municipal soundchecking. They look just as hungover as us.

They're soon finished and as they leave the stage commotion seems to break out. There are loads of stage hands and one particulary stern looking woman in the centre of it all, who seems to be conducting the chaos on stage. Before we can explain to her that we're Victims and playing on the middle of the bill she barks at us to get up on stage to soundcheck. We're trying to explain that we normally don't need one, that Reproach get a full soundcheck and we can just line check later before we play, since we use the same drum kit. But no, ”Drummer! On stage, you play two songs!” I'm trying to work out if I like her or not. She certainly scares me a little bit, although she has a certain charm.

We get through soundcheck with her off to the side taking care of monitors. She barks the odd thing at us whilst we go through a couple of songs. Amidst all this she does manage to get a really good sound up on stage for us, so I guess there is a method to her madness. I thank her after soundcheck to which she simply replies ”Yes” and ushers me off the stage. I think I do like her.

We head over to another building to get dinner. This building is also extremely cold. We sit there waiting for some food whilst Jon is at the bar trying to communicate to some old guy that he wants some heat putting on. He comes back to the table and tells us for the hundredth time that he fucking hates Italy. He's actually starting to get his point across because I'm starting to agree with him.

The Reproach guys come in a while later and tell us the crazy monitor woman has just balled them out because she thought they were Victims, and we had just wasted her time. She's apparently pissed as hell. We all laugh about and sit down together to eat. Jon mumbles something about fucking Italians as we tuck in to some good food.

We decide to head back to our van as it's the only place we can possibly get warm. We get in and turn the key to the engine. Nothing. It seems the cold has even killed the van. The Reproach guys help us get it started with the help of their van and some jump leads, and finally we get some hot air blowing. As we're sitting there de-frosting, someone comes and knocks on the driver's window. Johan looks confused for a second before realising it's Putte, the drummer from Burst! His girlfriend is from Italy and he is here visiting so he'd decided to show up and surprise us. He's brought a couple of crates of Perroni beer with him too. I decide to take one as nothing else seems to be working today.

The show is another good one. It always feels weird playing a big stage but the crowd are good and after playing the first couple of blocks with my hooded top on, I finally start to feel warm for the first time today. One mean looking skinhead guy in the crowd is getting the crowd moving by simply picking other audience members up and throwing them at each other. Nobody seems to mind though and we play a good show. When we're done my head is banging, but luckily I find some headache tablets in my guitar case, so I bang them down and grab a beer. I start to feel human again.

The Municipal guys had promised us a few days ago that the Italy shows would be crazy. They were right. I stood by our merch table with a beer in hand and watched a truly insane show. The room was now packed and there wasn't five seconds that went by before someone from the crowd was up on stage. Some people have brought foam surf boards with them and they're getting passed around as people are literally ”crowd surfing”. Me and Ronnie have a really good time watching the show from our great view by the merch table. The Waste guys certainly know how to put on a fun show.

When they're done I head over to the side stage room where the beer and food is kept and we hang out with the guys for a while. Dave has been given a big bottle of fine wheat beer by someone and he shares it with us like the gentleman he is. He's a real easy going guy who is a bit of an ale conniseur and he seems to have friends in every town who bring a bottle of the finest local beer. He's very chilled out and likes to relax after each show with a bottle or two, and that's it. I think maybe he's got the right idea.

A short while later we're packing our stuff down and the monitor woman comes up a pats my arm and tells me she thought the show was great! I'm taken aback a little by this. I chat to her for a while and she's actually a nice lady. I thank her for her steller work behind the monitor desk before we head back to the hostel we're staying at, which is just down the road.

The hostel looks like a fucking concentration camp. In fact, the whole area looks depressed. Our room does indeed have the interior design of a prison cell but I'm too tired to care. I'm just glad to have a shower and a place to lay down a close my eyes. The journey tomorrow is a short one and I'm looking forward to not being hungover.

Lights out. Sleep.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Munchen

Despite the bed, I woke this morning feeling somewhere close to healthy for the first time since we left. Amazing what eight hours of sleep can do.

The journey today was a short one, only two hours or so. I was looking forward to getting to Munich in good time. It is one of my favourite cities in Europe and one of my very dear friends Michaela and her boyfriend Marcus were coming to the show. I had the feeling tonight was gonna be a party.

We left Stuttgart and headed towards Munich around noon. The journey out of Stuttgart is something to see. The city is based in the middle of a valley, so the place looks like it has sunk into the ground. The views as you climb out of the city are beautiful.

We get to the venue in Munich a couple of hours early, so we head in to the city centre to get some air. I really do love this place. I think every time I've been here I've treated myself to one of the huge beers at the world renowned Hofbrauhaus. A couple of years ago we had a very messy gig with Speedhorn here, due to the ales at that beer hall. Today we skipped it, which was a bit of a downer, but it was really nice just to get the chance to have a walk around and take in the sights of Marienplats for a while.

We headed back to the venue after a while an we set up our gear. Well honestly said, the rest of the guys did. I managed to miss load in since I went off in search of some reception for my wi-fi, and when I returned the guys were gone and I had no idea which room we were playing in. I hadn't really thought about the fact that this venue has three different stages spread about different buildings and we weren't playing the same one we'd played with Speedhorn a couple of years ago.

I walked around for about fifteen minutes looking for the guys and eventually ended up in some really small gig place. I walked in and bumped into a band I didn't recognise. They immediately started telling me about the set up of their band and some other details that I might need to know as their sound guy. They were obviously just as confused as I was.

I eventually found the rest of the guys and apologised for my missing load in. They were ok with it. Jon was in a particularly good mood. I think he's been on the booze again. To be fair, I was in the mood to join him.

Michaela and Marcus turned up shortly afterwards. It was so good to see them! It's probably been a couple of years since I seen her, and she is truly one of my favourite people on the planet. We had some really fun times partying with Michaela in Germany over the years. Unfortunately they were both working early the day after so it wouldn't be a party for them tonight. We had a couple of hours to chat and catch up over a couple of beers though and that was great.

The gig tonight was absolutely awesome. I really feel like I've reached the auto-pilot stage of the tour now. It normally takes around four shows before the gig starts to take care of itself and I can just go up on stage and truly enjoy it. The crowd was great and circle pits were kicking off all the time, everybody sang along to This is the End and we once again sold a shit load of merch. Perfect.

Jon was in great spirits again. A friend of their's who works at the venue had given him a jacket that has been lying in lost and found there for a couple of months. It was a really expensive, brown snowboarding type of jacket. Not exactly Jon's normal style but he was truly chuffed with it. He had it on the entire night, zipped up with the hood up, so his beard was pointing forwards. His good humour certainly is contagious as everyone around him, including myself, are laughing and partying to Municipal Waste.

The beers start flowing pretty rapidly after that. I hang out a while longer with my friends before the have to leave. They really enjoyed the show and I really enjoyed seeing them. I feel a pang of sadness as I say goodbye to them.

A minute later I'm back at the bar and we're all hanging out throwing them down. We're staying at the venue in the apartments they have in the other building and their friend from the venue is having an aftershow party for his birthday, so nobody is sober.

I also met another couple of people from the past tonight. A couple of people back from the Speedhorn days who had no idea I was playing in Victims now. It was fun bumping into them. And then there was this other young girl who I'd met when we played Fluff Fest last year in the Czech Republic.

I say met. We were playing the show and there were loads of people hanging out on stage, including her. She made her intentions towards me pretty obvious by shouting ”You are sexy!” constantly between songs. I didn't know where to look most of the time. She was right behind my amp during the gig so I couldn't really escape her, flattering as it was.

Well, she was there last night. Her name turns out to be Maria, I think anyway. She actually turns out to be a sweet girl, if not a bit mad. She said she's been looking for me all night and the Jesus guy in the band had pointed her in my direction. I piss myself at this as I understand directly she means my old drinking companion Jon. I explain to her that I am indeed happily married and not interested in anything but making friends with people. She offers to buy me a beer anyway which I accept of course. I'm pretty drunk and we chat for a while, me nervously laughing most of the time. She tells me she loves me at one point which is obviously ridiculous. She must be pretty drunk herself I guess. She ends up leaving pretty suddenly.

Anyway, the rest of the night gets a bit hazy from there. I remember that all three bands were out in full force on the dancefloor for what seems like quite a long time. People I call my friends know it's a sure sign I'm pretty drunk if I'm giving it the old Mick Jagger on the dancefloor.

Myself, Jon, Johan and Ryan end the night in the kitchen of the apartment we're staying at, sat around the table drinking and recounting stories. What a difference a few days make when you're on tour. Only three nights ago I was stood outside Dempe's place in Malmö, in the freezing cold, depressed about my amp, wondering why the fuck I still tour. Nights like tonight is the answer.

I head off and collapse on to the bed sometime time in the early hours, leaving the rest of the guys to it. They are pretty fucked as well and I guess they won't be far behind me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stuttgart

The dreaded alarm clock went off bang on time. Steve Perry singing ”Wheel in ther Sky” greeting me out my short lived slumber..

I actually didn't feel too bad considering the lack of sleep. I wasn't hungover so that helped. I think the other guys in the band, except Ronnie, were probably a little worse off. The first thing I see upon waking is the sight of Andy climbing down from his top bunk in nothing but his kecks, which are half way down his ass. He seems to be attempting to climb down from his bed facing forwards. Just as I'm thinking that it seems like an unneccesarily difficult way of getting out of bed, he indeed trips and falls right into a set of steel lockers that are stood against the wall oppostie his bed, making an almighty crash in the process. This gets my day of to a laughing start.

I force myself out of bed and into the shower and then head downstairs to tuck into the breakfast we'd smelt being made a few hours earlier. We sit around drinking coffee, trying to wipe the red out of eyes. It's another long journey today, so I'm hoping for sleep in the van. That doesn't happen though. For a start trying to sleep bent double on half a van bench is not so easy. Secondly, Jon, who has quite obviously awoken drunk, is up front in the van and being very vocal. I'm lying in the back listening to him rabbiting on. I love him dearly, but the boy is mental at times.

We're snaking our way out of the Berlin early morning traffic. We get to a junction and realise we have to make a right turn and we're in the wrong lane. The lights are on red and it's jam packed with cars and nobody seems to want to move for us. Jon winds down his window and starts shouting in Swedish at some miserable looking bastard in the car beside us. The guy obviously doesn't understand exaclty that Jon is telling him we need to get in front of him. He doesn't look like he gives a fuck either. The lights turn green and Miserable Cunt goes to shoot forward to block us, but his cars jerks to a halt as he's obviously stalled his engine. It looks like he gets quite a shunt too! We all piss ourselves laughing whilst Ronnie cuts in in front of him. Better still the fucker then gets stuck again as the lights quickly go back to red. I'd like to think we ruined the guys morning.

Jon continues to make a racket as we make our way out of the city. He's decided that instead of facing the impending hangover, he's just gonna drink through it. He'd cracked open a bottle of beer before we even left our room this morning, and now he's drinking Fernet straight out the bottle. He must have a fucking stomach made of steel. At another stop in traffic I notice he's spotted a man with his young daughter waiting to cross the road. He winds down the window and screams ”Deutschland!” at them. Johan and Andy tell him to shut the fuck whilst I've hidden by laying down on the seat. He's indeed off on one.

I decide to stay in the fetal position I've climbed into and try a fight myself into sleep. I'm not sure if I catch a wink or two, but if I do I'm soon awake again. We're on the autobahn and Jon is playing the new Funeral Mist album, is in great spirits, and is trying to convince Ronnie it is the best album in the world. Indeed he actually wants Ronnie to agree with him and wants this confirmed by Ronnie telling him so. Poor Ronnie. Jon gives up after about twenty minutes. He just gets on with pulling his black metal poses and screaming along to the songs. I give up on sleep at this point, as it's simply not happening, and instead focus on getting Ronnie to stop at the next service station so I can get some coffee into my system. I promise him I'll swap places with Jon.

When we make a stop, everyone wakes and we head in to the services. I follow behind Jon who is now walking like a decrepid old man. He's got this thing, where he seems to age with every drop he drinks. When he gets to the point of being hammered he takes on the physical appearance of a tired 70 year old man. You have to see him in this state to truly appreciate it, but it's fucking hillarious. Anyway, I follow him in, chuckling to myself, as I spot some other straight people in the cafe area who look completely freaked out by him. One young guy in a business suit looks particularly disturbed.

On the way back into the van, I notice Andy and Jon off to the side of the courtyard, smoking a cig and seeming to have some sort of arguement, although it doens't appear that serious. Soon afer Jon falls on his arse into a pile of hard snow and we all piss ourselves laughing and put him into the back seat of the van. Within seconds he's fast asleep.

The show tonight was again really good. The sound for Reproach was a lot better out front than it was yesterday, and I really enjoyed watching them. The room was pretty small and compact, with the bar off to the side in another room and the merchandise tables in the foyer area. The place had a bit of a school hall feeling to it but the atmosphere was good all the same. The stage was ridiculously hot though, not helped in the slightest by three piping hot spot lights that were at the side of the stage and pointed right in my face. By the time the gig was done, I was soaked to the bone in sweat and completely fucked. We played well though and the crowd moved plenty during our set. It doesn't normally make much sense for us to do a support tour, but Municipal Waste's crowd seems to working out pretty well for us, and like I said the guys in Waste are all really nice, so the vibes are good.

Unfortunately, the Reproach drummer seems intent on destroying that, tonight at least. I spoke to the rest of the guys in the band for the first time earlier, and they seem like really good people. They're obviously a bit embarrased later on after the show by their drummer's antics. He's completely out of his mind. That's obviously not a problem for anyone on the tour. But he's being really loud and it gets a bit annoying after a while. All three bands are sharing a big dressing room and this guy is wankered on one of the sofa's, making sure everybody else in the room hears about how much he loves booze and cocaine. It's boring to say the least. The Municipal guys obviously know him from sometime in the past and seem to be putting up with it.

Then he gets up and moves to a chair which have Johan's wet gig clothes lying on them. When Johan goes to move them away from the guy he throws his beer bottle around his head soaking Johan's jeans in the process. A short while later, after finishing off the rest of the booze in the fridge, entirely on Municipal's behalf, he makes a further show of himself by shouting that the booze is indeed finished and then kicks over the sofa table, which has people's personal stuff on it. By this time Ryan has had enough and tells the Reproach singer in no uncertain terms, that if he doesn't get his drummer into shape then they won't be on the tour much longer. I feel sorry for him to be honest. He looks pretty embarrased, and it's not really his fault the drummer in his band is acting like a retard, though I guess somebody has to be responsible for him if he can't look after himself...

One thing I was chuffed about was that our friend Litty turned up with his distro and I picked up a few albums from him. Two particularly great finds were a couple of Graf Orlock records with the some of the greatest artwork I've ever seen.

We're staying at the venue tonight. The people at the venue hand us a bunch of fold out camping beds which are about as comfortable as a hot poker to the balls.

At least we don't have to drive far tomorrow so I'll finally get something close to a normal amount of sleep for the first time since we left.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Berlin

Today was a much better day on tour. We travelled a long way from Malmö to Berlin, which took around eight hours. During that time I managed to get some sleep on the back seat in the van and also watch the first series of The Office with Andy. We turned up at the venue and were told that Municipal were gonna be about an hour late. That worked out well since I wanted the chance to double check that my amp really was fucked, which it was.

We also had some time to sort our five boxes of t-shirts out before the other guys turned up. It took us a while, but we got through it with an asserted team effort. That soon got put into firm perspective when Municipal turned up with seventeen boxes of shirts! Glad I don't have to sort that lot out.

The venue and the show was everything you want when you're on tour. They took really good care of us, gave us plenty of beer and the food was great. And of course there was coffee and sandwiches on arrival. I mention this only because you really don't get this kind of hospitality outside of mainland Europe. In the England or the US you're lucky if you get given a toilet to shit in.

The gig tonight was much better for me personally, as in, nothing got broke and even though it was hot, there was plenty of energy, both on and off stage. The place was pretty packed when we went on. We played tight and the crowd was really into it. It's nice to play such a rewarding show when you've travelled all day to get there.

I was thinking after our show that since the gig was great and there was nothing to complain about, there would not be much to comment on in today's post. But then something amused me greatly during the Municipal set.

Firstly, those guys put on a great show! They have a lot of fun on stage whilst at the same time play hard as hell. And fuck me, can they play! I mean, for a start they have Dave Witte on drums, who is somewhat of a legend in our circles. Anyway, I was hanging out at our merch table watching their show, or trying to, the place was really packed by now. They had a projector screen behind the bar which was filming the gig, which I was keeping an eye on whilst chatting to some people. I had to break off a conversation with someone when I noticed something happening on stage. The band were taking an unusually long break between songs. There seemed to be a giant of a man, with a kind of Marty Friedman from Megadeth hairstyle, stood still, kind of hunched over, right in the centre of the stage. It soon became apparent that he had his ridiculous hair caught up in Tony, the Municipal singer's, mike lead. It took what seemed like ages for them to cut him loose, during which time Tony brutally took the piss out of him. I pissed myself laughing.

I ventured down to the front towards the end of the Municpal set. Firstly to check them out a little more closely and a lot more loudly, and secondly to make sure that no sleezy fucker stole my Cursed hoodie that I'd mistakenly left on stage after our show. Now that would have pissed me off! Anyway, I get down towards the front and the first person I notice is Marty Friedman. Well, it was kind of hard to miss him I guess.

I can hardly believe it, but he's back up on stage again. Can't imagine the brass bollocks on this boy! I would have ran for the back and hid in embarrasment if it was me..the trouble is sometimes with these people that they get up on stage one time and they get it into their head that they are welcome to intrude for the rest of the set. They make themselves a little too welcome. Friedman would just get up on stage constantly and then instead of jumping back in to the crowd as most others do, would just hang out there nodding his head, trying to look tough. He was getting right on my tits. I think the Municipal guys were starting to feel the same way. At one point Friedman is back up there, this time hanging out behind Ryan, the guitarist's, amp. When he finally decides to go for his self concieved, hotly anticipated stage dive, he not only shoves Ryan out the way without as much as looking at him, he also shoves the neck of his guitar up in the air as to make his way past him, to what I can now imagine he believes to be his addoring crowd. What an utter wanker!

I'm dying for someone in the band to take a swing at him. I don't have to wait long. The next time he goes up, he grabs a hold of Tony, a little too long. As he tries to pull Tony into the crowd with him, he kind of falls loose and into the crowd. I catch the look in Tony's eyes and see his fist clentched. He swings and misses, and as Friedman disappears into the crowd, he quickly regains his party spirit. But just for a minute there I thought it was going to kick off.

I'm sure Friedman doesn't mean any harm, and he's just caught up in the fun of the show and a little too enthusiastic maybe, but some people just don't know when enough is enough.

Anyway, the guys play out the rest of their set and afterwards we help clear the stage and I get my Cursed hoodie back. We do really well on merch tonight, I'm hoping the rest of the tour stays on this form and I can take home some money to pay my bills.

We travel back to the hostel we're staying at and after dumping our bags, head back down to the bar to hang out with the Municipal guys, and another couple of friends of ours from Berlin. They are all super friendly people. Dave, the legend he is, comes over, introduces himself to me, since he's heard I'm English, and soon enough we're drinking beer together whilst rambling on about the early British grindcore scene, that we apparently both like a lot. Sprits are high and we're all having a great time. Me and Andy get into a long conversation about records, as we usually do after a few ales.

By now, time seems to be stuck on fast forward. I notice I'm checking my phone regularly, but it seems that on each occasion, time has inexplicablly jumped forward a great length. Everyone is getting pretty drunk and in as said, in good spirits, so nobody seems to care that we have yet another long journey ahead tomorrow, and another early rise. Thank fuck our good friend Ronnie, who is driving us, doesn't drink and has had the good sense to go to bed early. We hang out until around 5 am. When myself and Johan simmultaneously catch the smell of the hostel staff starting up breakfast, knowing that our alarm clocks are set for 8.30, we both get an anxiety attack and head to bed.

Maybe I'll get some sleep in the van tomorrow, it is afterall, about a seven hour journey to Stuttgart.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Malmö

Today was the first day of the tour.

Early start, got up around 7am. Didn't get much sleep the night before. I never manage to sleep so much when I know I have to get up so early, and I usually, in normal working life, hit the hay around 4am..

Anyway, met up with the guys at the practice room at 9, packed the van and headed off. The first show with Municipal Waste is tomorrow in Berlin, but we'd arranged a show with Dempe, the singer in Sista Sekunden, to break up the journey on the way down. He's got this really great little space where he has his tattoo studio and a rehearsal room behind that. We hung out here the last time we were in Malmö, the night the cops closed down the show at Utkanten...

So we were here to try and make up for that night, it felt good to be back so soon for another gig after that last fucked up event. I was hoping this show would run a bit smoother, or at least run anyway.

Things started well enough. After an amazing home-made vegetarian lasagne at Dempe's place, we headed to the gig space. We set up the gear on the small stage. I had my new amp that I'd just bought from Jon, and I was looking forward to taking it on tour. We didn't bother soundchecking since the place was so small that there was no need to mike anything up. Instead we opened up a can of beer each and got to work on fixing our merchandise. We got a bunch of new lp's for the tour, limited editions of the Killer album. We sat around foliding covers and stuffing vinyl into plastic sleeves whilst the room started filling up with familiar faces.

By the time we went up to play, the place was packed. Around 60 people. I squeezed through the crowd, tuned up my guitars and turned on my amp. No sound. Ok I thought, this happenes all the time. I changed leads, checked my guitar, all the usual things. Ok. Now. Still no fucking sound! I felt the panic setting in. Some voices in the crowd started piping up, giving it the usual banter. Jon and Johan were over helping me, trying to figure out what was wrong. I noticed that even though the power was on, there was no glow coming from the tubes inside. I knew then the amp was dead. So much for taking some new gear on tour. Jon piped up and asked me in his usual tone why I hadn't checked the amp earlier. Not fucking now mate, I just bought the fucker from you and I don't need to be answering that question right now.

Luckily, we had brought Jon's other amp along with us for the tour. Dempe ran off through the crowd to get it for us, whilst I stood on stage feeling like a right cunt. By the time we got some sound up through my guitar, the crowd was pretty buzzed. We kicked into Scars and the crowd kicked off.

We played the set and I tried to put the whole amp thing behind me. It was a really good atmosphere and the crowd were great. After a couple of blocks Jon breaks a string so changes guitar. After another couple of songs I then break a string, so have to revert to my wife's SG. I'm a bit nervous about using it since the stage is tiny, and Jen loves that white Gibson SG! It took me a while to convince her to lend me it as a back up for the guitar, but she said as long as I take it easy and look after it I could take it. In other words, I would have to go a lot easier on it than I do on my own. My guitar is pretty fucked up, because honestly speaking, I haven't been kind to it over the years.

Anyway, I get back on with the set whilst taking it easy on Jen's guitar. As we're getting towards the end of the set, and the sweat is dripping off me like a stream of stink, I notice there's something going on with my lead. What now for fuck sakes? I play on to the last song in the set just hoping it will hold up. It does. We finish the last song and I want to get off stage. My broken amp is once again haunting my thoughts. Good show, let's get off. Except, there is no room to get off stage and the crowd is giving it the usual appeals for another song. I look at Andy and we both shake our heads. It's hot as hell up here and we're both pretty fucked. I'm hoping we're done. We're not. We're gonna play two more songs. Ok, best look at that lead then since I once again have nothing but silence coming from my side of the stage.

I think to myself that if there is anything wrong with Jen's guitar then I'm fucking off home. Not to Stockholm either, to my mum's. Haha. It's not though, it seems a lead has now gone. I fuck around a bit more, to a soundtrack of wise cracks from our friends in the crowd. I get some sound back and I'm ready to go again. I stand up, get ready to start Destroy and Rebuild, and my fucking guitar strap falls off! I look at Johan and we just laugh at each other. Fuck this! I get down and play the last two songs of the set on my knees. I think I put more energy into those two songs than the rest of the set combined. We finish, I get off stage, walk through the crowd shaking the odd hand that is offered to me, head for the car park outside and put my fist straight into the brick wall.

I stand outside for a while cooling off both pyhsically and mentally. First show of the tour and already I'm looking at losing money. I'm only now about to start paying Jon for the amp and already I've got to get it fucking fixed. Life on the road I guess. I stand outside for a while longer mulling over why I'm still here after all these years. I must really love it I guess. After a phone call to Jen, who as ever, cheers me up, I head back inside.

The rest of the night is pretty chilled out. We hang out with the Sista Sekunden and Fy Fan guys and chat for a while over a cold beer, which tastes fucking beautiful. We head back to Peter, the Fy Fan drummer's apartment, where we're staying for the night. We talk about punk rock and plans to get my amp fixed and I head to the camp bed in the kitchen I have previously claimed. I read for a while and turn the lights out around 1.30, knowing we're getting up at 7 to drive to Berlin. I lie there in the dark for a while wondering what is wrong my amp. My last thoughts before sleep are of hope, that everything that could go wrong on tour is surely already out of the way and taken care of on the first night...I'm not that naive though.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

News

This time next week I go on tour with Victims.  We're supporting Municipal Waste in Europe for three and a half weeks.   The shows should be a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to meeting some of my very good friends from around the continent along the way.  The only downside is that there are some killer drives during the tour, but we have a dvd player in the van and Jon has promised me a lesson in the history of Swedish cinema, so I guess the time will be passed watching some classics.

We're also playing some shows of our own on the days Municipal have free.  We're playing with Burial one night in Germany, and we have the honour of playing with Burning the Prospect in Boston, for what will be their final gig.   I'll be keeping the blog updated with a diary from the road, so keep your eyes peeled!

So, one more week of work and then I'm done for a month.  Before we head off, our friends We Live in Trenches are playing Fritz Corner at Debaser, this Saturday.  Don't miss it!

Also, check out the new Shut the Fuck Up recording on the Keep it in the Family blog.  Great, great stuff!

Love, Gareth x