Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don't Ban the Bru!

I was awoken this morning by a very alarming text message. It was from my mate Lee, who works for IKEA in Glasgow, telling me that his employers have banned Irn Bru due to the E numbers it contains. At first I laughed at the thought of IKEA banning the Bru, but then a wave of panic came over me...

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and let his text message sink in. It isn't just IKEA that are banning the Bru, but the Swedish government! Fuck! Does this mean that the English Shop at Medborgarplatsen will no longer be selling Irn Bru? Or does the English Shop run on the same principal as the British Embassy, as in if you're in the English Shop you are on British territory and therefore under British law. I fucking hope so! If not, then I may have to start a campaign to make it so.

Those who come from my home town, Corby, will empathise with me here.

Irn Bru is a classic Scottish pop drink. And with Corby still being ninety nine percent Scottish (or so the town's folk would have you believe), it's hugely popular. It has an almost cult like status. It's hard to pin-point, magical taste, it's orange colour, it's mythical power to fight the hangover! I can't tell you how many times an ice cold can of Ginger has eased the pain of a vicious hangover. It has to be a can though. Some pop is far better in a glass bottle, like Coke for example, but Irn Bru is meant to be in a can. And it works ten times better than any other medicine.

So to hear that it could possibly be banned in Sweden, due to the E numbers in it's ingredients, is quite literally horrifying! What the fuck is a E number anyway?! Apparently it causes ADHD? Well it also gives Irn Bru it's beautiful, rusty orange colour! I've been drinking Bru all my life, and I don't have ADHD. I don't think I do anyway. But seriously, if you actually took into account every warning over different foods, you would fucking starve! I'm sure I heard a few years ago that potatoes can cause cancer. What a load of bollocks! I couldn't imagine a life without spuds...

I love living in Sweden, and even though I miss certain home comforts like the Chippy, it's not enough to make me want to move back to England. A life without Irn Bru though? I don't know... It's not like I drink it every day, but at least I know it's there if I want it.

A couple of years ago, I nearly shat my pants when I walked into a 7 Eleven and saw that they had Irn Bru on the shelves! I couldn't believe it. I was overjoyed! It didn't last though...within a few months it was gone again.

My wife thinks it's horrible and tastes like bubblegum. Certain ignorant friends of mine from the USA think it tastes like puke. These people know nothing. Nor do the Swedish people it seems. I knew the Swedes wouldn't get it.  I was more disappointed than surprised when 7 Eleven took it away. But I knew I always had the English Shop... Those days might be numbered too now.

The hysteria of government health and safety chalks up yet another victory it seems. When will the madness end?

Good Coffee/Bad Coffee

Fucking wonderful coffee!

You know that situation where you know someone, but you don't know their name? Like, for example, this guy I kind of know from around Sunbyberg. He used to work at the Elektra Greek restaurant, just down the road from my flat. Me and Jen used to go there now and then and we'd always get talking to him if he was working. And then I'd bump into him in the street and small talk would ensue. Nice guy, haven't got a clue what his name is. And the time for asking each other's names has long passed. It's just too awkward. It's not like after all this time you can just come out and ask, “What's your name, by the way?”. Well, I can't anyway. So instead I find myself going through my inner thesaurus. Mate. Buddy. Man. Mr. etc. etc.


Our Greek friend has since left Elektra and gone and opened his own café in Sumpan, Café Caldo. The wife and I popped in a while ago and were really pleased to find that there is yet another top quality café in Sumpan.

I was out walking Bonzo this afternoon, taking a well earned break from the mountain of laundry that has once again overflowed from it's basket in the wardrobe, and I decided to pop in to my buddy's café for a spot of lunch.

One café latte and a chevré cheese ciabatta later, I'm excitedly trying to get through to Jen on her work phone to tell her about it! She's in a meeting so I text her. For a start, the coffee is fucking great, and at twenty eight kronors a complete bargain, considering what Wayne's Coffee and the like charge you for a cup of black piss. But the ciabatta is to die for. Chevré goat's cheese, fig marmalade, balsamic dressing and a crisp green salad with red peppers. I didn't want it to end, if sex was a sandwich, it would be this bad boy! And to think I almost went for the roast beef. When vegetarian food tastes this good, it makes you ashamed to eat meat. Sorry mum, it's true..

Thank the Lord for café’s like Caldo. Who needs Wayne's? Not I Sir.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Punk Illegal Was A Blast!

Here's a clip of our show at Punk Illegal Fest a couple of weeks ago.  Check out Jon, he has a little bit of a belly these days!

We had a great time in Munkedal anyway.  The show was a lot of fun, we got to hang out with loads of friends, like Bloody Kev, Palm, From Ashes Rise and of course Sonic Ritual, who shared the ride with us.  Many others too.  I paid all day Sunday, for the party on Saturday night...

Highlights of the festival for me were From Ashes Rise, Doom and Herätys.  Bloody Kev and Kristoffer stage diving, my friends in Palm drinking snapps for the first time, Kenta from Palm flashing his nob and then apologising to the nation of Sweden for it's pathetic size, and last but not least, our friend Atle from Mörkt Kapitel falling on his ass with a huge smile on his face, piss drunk.  Again.  And again.

Good times.  Looking forward to playing some more shows in July!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I look back on the Speedhorn years and for the most part I'm happy they are over. Don't get me wrong, the ten years in the band were some of the happiest of my life, but throughout the whole period, there were a lot of hard times too. I wouldn't change a second of any of it, but there is a lot of shite I'm happy I no longer have to deal with.

If there is one thing that still pulls at my heart strings though, that makes me long for the road with the Speedhorn boys again, it's when I happen to see a photograph of our old van. Betty.

Betty was a van we bought with the recording budget we received from our label to record the last album, Before the Sea Was Built. Luckily for us, we had some friends and contacts which made it possible for us to make a great sounding record on limited budget. We didn't receive that much money for the album from the label as it is, but somehow we managed to save about a third of it to buy a van.

It was all par for the cause. Buying a van of our own would make it a lot cheaper for us to tour, which meant in turn that we could tour the record a lot more.  Given the shit job the label were doing on the band at the time, touring was the best chance we had of promoting the record ourselves.  So Gordon went about searching for a big van that with the help of his brother, Sandy, we could transform into a tour bus.

After some searching Gordon found an old school bus, designed for disabled kids. It was a big, heavy beast and although we knew it wouldn't move that fast, the engine looked healthy. And the van was big enough for six beds. Thanks to Sandy's handiwork, we were able to live in that van whilst we were out on the road. He built six beds, in bunks of three, built a wall in the back so that we'd have an area to store the equipment, built an extra seat for a designated map reader up front (we spoke about investing in GPS many times, but it never happened), he even built a shelf for a tv and Playstation to sit safely on. It was our home on the road. Her name was Betty and we loved her.

The three years we spent touring in Betty were the happiest of the bands career, even better than the early days. The band had peaked around the second album, had got as far as headlining the Astoria in London to three thousand people and had played all over the world playing to a lot of others. By the Betty years we were very much back to playing punk rock shows to smaller crowds, but we were still lucky enough to play all over the world to a hardcore fan base, and the feeling that we were all making it happen ourselves was very rewarding. It was very DIY and we had a great time doing it.

We toured so cheaply when we had Betty. If we toured Europe, the only costs that needed covering was petrol and the ferry to the mainland. We talked about servicing the van after every tour but that never happened either... So every gig we played, we were keeping at least 60% of the fee plus the money from selling merchandise. The promoter didn't have to pay for a hostel or find sleeping arrangements for us, so we could take that money as part of our fee too. This meant that we all made money to pay the bills when we got home.

Betty was an old girl though, and she really couldn't move that quickly. Luckily for us we had our best friend, Lee, out touring with us. Lee was the seventh member of the band. He drove through the nights, he sold merchandise, which he also designed, took countless photos and filmed countless clips all in the name of documenting the madness of touring with our band. And he loved Betty as much as the rest of us, so he was always fixing little things with her here and there whilst we were busy doing other tour stuff. It was great having him along. Amazingly, Lee is straight edge. How he put up with us, I'll never know...

We had some great, great times travelling around the continent in that van.  There were also some times that we not so great, but even those memories now bring a smile to my face.

As I have said, Betty was really, really slow. She was so heavy. A lot of that had to do with the huge steel wheelchair ramp which was underneath the back end. It must have weighed about a ton. It took us a few tours to get around to removing that thing. The upside to this was that the van was registered as a disabled school kids bus, so we didn't have to pay tax on it. It was a technicality that probably wouldn't have held water under thorough investigation but it was good enough for us. The obvious downside was the fact it took us about twice as long as the other bands we were touring with to get from venue to venue.

On a few occasions we literally pulled up outside a venue, loaded out, ran on-stage and played, all in a mad, stressed panic. This was caused as much by Betty's sloth-like speed as by our miserliness regarding the purchasing of a GPS system. In general though, Lee would drive through the night to break the back of the journey. A five hour drive for most bands would take us at least eight or nine. But since we had beds in the van we could pull over whenever it suited us and sleep for the night. Well, not Lee so much, he didn't have a bed, just the floor area between the seats, and if it rained hard enough the roof would leak a little, but generally it worked out.

It is amazing that we never got pulled over by the police on the autobahn and told to fuck off home. If we hit just the slightest of hills then Betty would literally be down to twenty miles per hour. We would have to pull into the hard shoulder and drive with the hazard lights flashing, praying for the hill to end before the cops came along. At best, at an absolute push, Betty would drive at sixty, and that would be downhill with the wind up her arse. The normal cruising speed would be between forty and fifty, so the night drives were necessary.

A lot of the time the night drives were when we had the most fun though. One of us would be up front keeping Lee company and reading a map, the rest would be in the back chirping along. On a calm night we'd be playing a football tournament on the Playstation, on a not so calm night we'd have music blasting, necking booze and dancing down the motorway, and every now and then, one of us would end up naked. Betty would literally become a mobile disco, to the annoyance and hindrance of our loyal driver Lee. Although secretly, I think he preferred those nights, since he had no trouble staying awake, even if on occasion he had to tell us to shut the fuck up.

The nudity thing became more and more of a regular thing towards the end of the band's days, to the point where we joked about saying to the press that we were are splitting up before one of us ends up fucking someone else in the band and the whole thing gets too awkward. I don't know why British guys always get naked in front of each other when they're drunk and away from home, or at least why we did, it's just one of those tour phenomena. We realised things were going to far when one night, we were all fucking steaming, sat in the van in the dark, driving through the night, naked. We were pushing the boundaries it seemed. The boundary was well and truly reached when someone's voice in the dark, asked if we dared to cup each other's balls. We eventually decided against it, but pissed ourselves laughing about it the next day. I think in reality, we were getting carried away with our aim of distancing ourselves from the typical metal head gumbo who would attend most Speedhorn shows. We were done with the whole “ macho metal” thing.

There was one occasion we were playing a show in Copenhagen. We'd had a great show supporting Carnivore and were having a whale of a time afterwards. We were all pretty pissed and we'd got friendly with a few girls we'd met at a bar after the show A couple of the single guys in the band were obviously interested, but the girls were just cool people and we were having a laugh hanging out with them. We ended up on Betty at the end of the night, sitting around chatting with these three girls. Really relaxed scenario. Until, in the space of what seemed like two seconds, completely unprovoked, our bass player Dave has stripped off and is pole dancing, rubbing his arse up and down one of the support poles that went from floor to roof inside the bus. He didn't really realise it at the time, but his arse was only about ten centimetres from the one of the girl's faces. We all piss ourselves laughing, but the girls don't see the funny side of it and they make their excuses and leave sharply. Dave has no idea why they were offended.

I think it was actually Dave's voice in the dark that time...

There were of course, as I said, some bad times too, or at least, some worrying times.

Another occasion we were playing our own show on an off during a European tour. We hooked up with a guy called Lorenzo who had booked us this show in northern Italy. When he mailed me about the show he told me the venue was on a mountain. I was a bit confused by this but shrugged it off as a translation thing. We met up with Lorenzo in this beautiful little town called Montebelluna. It was a glorious day and we were in high spirits. He told us again that the show was on a mountain and that we'd be playing outside. Intrigued, we followed him. We drove away from the town and started heading for the Alps on the horizon. After about twenty kilometres, we take a turn and start heading up a steep road. And up. And up. I call ahead to Lorenzo and tell him Betty's engine is getting pretty fucking hot. He tells me that it's only another couple of minutes. Well, five minutes later we're on the side of the narrow mountain road, the engine is on fire and Lorenzo is still telling me it's only another couple of minutes away. I'm sure we are well and truly fucked at that point! Stuck on a mountain dirt road in northern Italy with a burnt out van engine. But amazingly we get the van cooled down and the damage appears to be minimal. We decide to load the gear into cars from the venue and worry about the van later. The venue turns out to be a cottage and we're playing in the garden. They have a mobile bar, home made lasagne and beautiful scenery. We later manage to get Betty to the house, thanks to John pushing her up the hill, like a scene from Superman. About a hundred kids show up to the show and go fucking crazy. It turns out to be on the best gigs I've ever played, if not one of the most bizarre. And the party afterwards is of an epic proportion.

As much as we loved her, there was usually something going wrong with Betty. It's hardly surprising, we drove her over the Alps about ten times without ever servicing her. There would be black smoke bellowing out of the exhaust and we'd just grumble and put it down to her being an old van...

We never did the simple thing and make things easier for ourselves in Speedhorn. One winter's night, at a petrol station at the foot of the Alps, we're humming and hawing over whether to purchase some snow chains for the wheels. We're heading over the Alps from Italy to Germany, over night. After some quick discussion we decide we have better things to spend twenty Euros on. Of course, a couple of hours later we come speeding out of a tunnel at the top of the mountains into a vicious snow-storm, almost come veering off the road and get completely stuck in snow. We're there until morning, waiting for the snow plough to turn up. When we finally get going we still have a huge drive to Saarbrucken to make. We get to the venue and run on to stage with our gear to play the show, about an hour late...still, it turns out to be an awesome show.

Whenever something would go wrong with the van, in typical Speedhorn style, we'd just end up shouting and fighting with each other, before settling down and trying to get things sorted.

Another time on the Alps, during a European tour. We were two weeks into a tour and it had been raining every day. Literally. Every fucking day. We'd just played a show in Zurich and were heading to Italy through the night. It was a sober night and everyone had gone to bed. Lee was at the wheel and Kev was co-pilot. I remember nodding off once the city lights disappeared into the shadows of the mountains and we started moving in an upwards direction. It was fucking pissing down and every now and then I could hear Lee and Kev gasping and cursing at the weather and the roads. I get woken by a jerk and Lee shouting “fuck!” The van is pulled over and Lee is calling to Gordon. The van is on the side of the dark mountain road, the heavens are pissing all over us, and the windscreen wiper has flown off into the abyss somewhere. How Lee managed to pull the van over safely is a miracle. For some reason, Lee and Gordon break into a huge argument. Probably the stress of the situation. Anyway, they're soon friends again and are out in the pouring rain looking for the missing windscreen wiper and a method of putting it back in place. The thing has just snapped off. I think it was gaffa tape to the rescue as always. I stay hidden in my bunk during the ordeal, trusting the boys work it out...they do.

Another night I'm in my bunk, tucked in all cosy for the night, was during a mammoth drive between Prague and Warsaw. Again, Lee and Kev were in the cock-pit. I wake the next day and we're well on our way to Warsaw and everything is going smoothly, though Kev tells me the night journey had actually been somewhat interesting.

They were on the motorway heading towards the Czech Rep./Polish border and all was well. Traffic was non-existent, the weather was calm and Kev and Lee were awake and up for the journey at hand. After a couple of hours Kev noticed that there was something on the map didn't quite look as it should. “It's weird mate, but according to this map the motorway we're on just ends dead. It just seems to stop”, he casually mentions to Lee at the wheel.

Nah, it must be an old map. It's probably under construction or something and hasn't been updated..

They carried on in silence for a while, the unspoken and uneasy feeling in their stomachs that something was up. It was a Speedhorn tour after all.

A half hour passes or so and the uneasy feeling is starting to pass. Signs for the Polish border are starting to appear and all seems well again. The greater concern is the renowned roads on the other side of the border. BRAKE!!!!! Lee brings Betty screeching to a halt. The motorway we are on is now a farmer's field. No signs. It just ends. There is a t-junction and the choice is either right or left. Straight ahead is a fucking farmer's field. It's dark and they'd seen nothing warning them that the motorway does indeed just fucking stop. No off ramp, no signs, no lights. Stop.

They're sat there, a little in shock, staring at the field ahead and the options to either side. It's completely dark to the left.  Behind them is the three hours of motorway they just drove. There are a few faint lights off to the right. They decide that's their option. They just hope that will bring them back on course towards Warsaw at some point.

But it just gets weirder. The road they are now on, the one they turned right onto from the broken motorway, is a pot-holed dirt track. The bump along in the dark heading towards the lights in the distance.

The lights ahead belong to a small village. They approach with caution, still a little shaken up. It just gets weirder. Driving through the village in the dead of night, they notice there are small object spread out randomly on the road. Just as they're about to ask each other what they think these objects could be, Betty's headlights reveal the somewhat macabre truth. The objects all over the road are dead cats. Dozens of them. Everywhere. This is fucking weird. It's starting to feel like a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Just when it can't possibly get any weirder, it gets weirder.

They're navigating Betty through cat corpses, a bit freaked out. All of a sudden, a car's headlights blinds them from behind. It's overtakes them at high speed. As it's passing Betty, it's wheels crush the head of a dead dog that is lying in the road! Just fucking splats it! They both fucking scream at this point and Lee puts his foot down! They speed away from the village and back into the darkness on the other side of it. They drive off not quite believing what just happened.

Amazingly, a short while later they are back on the motorway and they are at the Polish border. It's the same motorway they were on before, according to the signs.

When Kev tells me about it the next day, it seems he's still shocked by it and I can tell he's not bullshitting me. We can only assume that the motorway was not completed and in true east European style, the dirt road leading through the village was the construction companies' idea of a de-tour. Quite what the village with the dad animals lying all over the roads was about, is beyond us.

I'm sure everyone in the band has their own personal memories of Betty.  For me there certainly are many, too many to recall now.  They normally re-surface when we manage to catch up with each other in the pub, on what are now rare occasions.

Yes, Betty has seen some things in her time on the road with the Speedhorn boys. I miss her and those days more than any other of the Speedhorn period. We finally did give her that service she so badly needed. Right before the final UK tour. She drove like a fucking dream! Cruising at seventy miles an hour on the motorway, not a puff of black smoke in sight.

When the band came to an end, we left her in Gordon's hands. The guy who had found her. He eventually found someone to buy her and look after her. This new age traveller guy who bought her just happened to be looking for a van like Betty.

She's now retired and living in Spain, seeing out her days in the sun.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Punk Rock Stories: Rambling Around Europe...Part Two

We'd been through Poland and Berlin on our “tour” of Europe, playing three shows in five days.

The shows in Poland had gone pretty well and we'd made some friends there.  The show in Berlin was attended by four paying people, so along with the friends we had there, that made a total capacity of ten. Even though the show was dead it was one of those that was a lot of fun to play anyway, the energy on stage was high and those who paid at least got a spectacle. We were supposed to have been supporting a bigger band but they had cancelled the day before.  Since we were already  in Berlin we thought we'd play anyway, even though not a single soul in the whole of Germany would have heard of Rowdy Ramblers.

The show in Berlin was sandwiched between two days off, which we spent in the city. We spent most of the time in the sun, drinking and watching the European Championships. Good times...

This tour was costing us a lot of personal money, since we were only playing about fifty percent of the time. The next show was in Prague in a couple of days time and we decided that as fun as Berlin was, we should probably book a hostel in Prague and head down there where the living is a little cheaper.  The show in Prague would be followed by a show in Rostock the day after and then we were taking the ferry back to Sweden.

After quite a bit of farting around on the phone in Berlin, trying to book a hostel in Prague, we got in the van and drove south. We weren't completely sure if we'd managed to reserve a room since the woman on the phone didn't speak the clearest of English, we'd just have to wait and see what was in store for us when we got there. Olle's girlfriend Gabriella had flown in to Berlin to hang out for a couple of days, but both her and Jenny had now flown back. So the first night in Prague would just be the four of us in the band. Our friend Kalle Blix was flying into Prague the day after. This has to have been the most relaxed tour I had ever been involved with...

We turn up in Prague and find the hostel with relative ease. It's in the Zizkov area of the city, somewhere I'd been before with Speedhorn on the Carnivore tour. We had gotten hopelessly lost that time with Speedhorn but that was to be to Ramblers advantage this time around, since I recognised a lot of the streets, having spent about three hours driving around them previously.

When we get to the hostel Erik's mood dips considerably. The place is swarming with American backpackers. Erik reveals he has a distinct dislike for these types. He thinks they're a shower of free-loading, rich kid poseurs who just loaf around from hostel to hostel in their flip-flops, trying to impress each other with their travel experiences and intellect. His words, not mine. But I kind of see his point. The thing I notice with these backpackers is that they do indeed seem to spend all of their time at the hostel in their fucking flip-flops. They never seem to leave for the streets or the sights, they just hang out at the hostel reading about them on the internet.

Anyway, after much muttering from Erik, we get on with getting checked in. And of course there is a fuck up with the booking...

It appears that for the three nights we'll be spending here, we'll be moving rooms three times. The second night we have a room with five beds and a private bathroom, which will be perfect since Kalle arrives on the second day. The third night we'll have a dormitory with nine beds, but it will just be the five of us in there so no problems there either. But tonight, the first night, we're sharing a dormitory with seven other people. And of course, when we dump our bags in that dormitory we find it occupied solely by American backpackers.

We leave our bags in the lockers in the room, make a few nods in the direction of our flip-flop wearing room mates who are sat around chatting to each other, a few of them holding tourist books. They seem like a bit of a stiff crowd. We head out of there as soon as we can and go in search of a bar and a big tv screen.

It's around 4pm. There is a bar straight across the road and it's showing the footy. It's also selling booze at an exceptionally cheap rate. We settle down and everything starts to feel very positive again. We discuss the room situation and realise it's not so bad. We only have the one night with these people and it's not exactly like we have to mingle with them. We plan to be out all night as it is, and by the time we get back to the hostel they'll be asleep anyway. Tomorrow we move into our own room and then all will be hunky dory again.

With this is mind, and the rum and coke that has just cost him about sixty pence, Erik is in far better spirits again. We sit there watching the footy with a couple of beers and then we're ready for the night to begin. Our connection in Prague for this show is a chap called Radek, who is a friend of an acquaintance of Erik's from back home. Even though the show is still two days away, Radek has kindly offered to show us a good night out in the city, away from the tourist traps. We'd arranged to meet him at 6pm so by the time the football is over, it's time to go.

We meet up with Radek just a short distance from where we're staying. After introductions and hand shakes, we follow behind him and talk about getting some food. We head into the nearest KFC. As much as I know that this is the food of the devil, I can't help but love it. The Colonel has had a firm grip on my taste buds for a long, long time, and being that he doesn't exist in Stockholm, I have a hard time resisting his friendly gesture, beckoning me into his fast food restaurant. We sit around munching down fried “chicken” and making small talk with Radek. His English is pretty good and he appears to be a very friendly, punk/hardcore kind of guy. He tells us he wants to take us to this great bar a bit away from the city centre where his friends are drinking and we tell him that suits us just fine.

We jump on the tram which takes us away from the tight, compact streets and up into the higher ground away from the city centre. As we're sat there talking English with Radek about music and the like, I notice that most of the people on the tram are looking at us, this one old guy in particular is holding a firm stare in our direction. He's eating what looks like a huge, greasy nan bread. Radek notices him staring at us and starts speaking to him in Czech. Radek then looks at us, smiling, and says the old guy is interested in us and where we come from and that he'd very much like us to try the food that he's eating. Uh, ok. I'm never one to say no to food, especially when it's free so I happily accept his greasy bread, as does Tompa.

We tuck into it and it's actually really fucking good. It is very, very greasy and has a quite a lot of garlic in it, but it tastes great. By now, the whole tram is waiting our verdict with baited breath. I nod to the guy and tell him I like it. A few people on the tram actually start clapping their approval. This is mad, it's like an episode of some Michael Palin travel programme! The old guy lets me have the rest of his bread, and warmed by the spirit of these people, I happily munch away at it the for rest of the tram journey.

We hop off the tram after fifteen minutes or so, cut through some bushes, across some train lines and arrive at a very cool bar.   It is actually an old train station that has been renovated into a bar. The beer garden is right next to the tracks and apart from the bar inside and the long drinking tables, the place still looks very much like an old-time train station. It's a really nice place. The have the football on the tv inside, of course, but it's not that interesting a game and the beer garden is far more inviting on this fine summer evening in Prague.

We sit at a table with Radek and his friends and start drinking big steins of beautiful Czech pilsner. As we sit there in the fading sunshine, enjoying our cold beers, Radek decides it important that he gives us an explanation on the drinking culture in the Czech Republic. He tells us that in his country, people like to enjoy drinking their beer. Therefore, they don't like their beer too strong. Apparently the beer they export is a lot stronger than the beer they have at home. They like to drink beer because they like the taste of it, not because they want to get steaming. As Radek is sipping from his huge beer, he tells me that one could easily drink ten such beers without getting drunk... We explain to him that we have a similar thing in Sweden called Mellan Öl, although most of the time we drink the stronger stuff...

The evening rolls on and the beers are flowing. Radek's friends are a rough looking bunch but they're friendly enough. We're listening to music on Erik's phone, chatting about punk rock and life in general, as you do. Someone has pulled out a joint and is passing it around, a couple of the guys happily accepting it. The night is getting hazy and the beer tastes good. We are reaping the benefits of the Czech drinking culture, although Radek actually seems to be getting pretty drunk. Despite his claims that he could drink ten beers and remain sober, he seems to be getting pretty tanked after five or so.

Radek's friends also seemed to be getting pretty fucked. They spend most of the time grinning and trying to engage Tompa in conversation. Tompa seems to be feeling the effects of the joint that was passed around earlier. Erik and I are sat across the table from each other, chatting away, when we hear something from down the table that stops us dead. We hear one of Radek's grinning friends saying to Tompa, “It's like big pig with long tail”, to which Tompa confidently, hazily replies, “Ah, you mean a Rhino.” Me and Erik just look at each other, before pissing ourselves laughing.

The beer keeps flowing and the night gets darker. We move inside the pub for some more beers. Radek goes to the bar to buy a round in. He's now had about nine beers. He comes back with four of these huge beers in each hand and bangs them onto the table we're sitting at, before falling on his ass. He is absolutely fucking boats! We cheer him on whilst he picks himself back up. So much for not getting drunk..

We eventually leave the pub and get into a taxi with Radek and head back in to the city centre. As much as he is fucked, he doesn't seem ready to stop drinking. Whilst in the cab, he tells us he's we're going to another really cool bar. When we climb out of the taxi ten minutes later, we're in what looks like a residential area. Nothing but apartments in sight, and it's very quiet. Radek leads the way and we figure he must be picking something up from his flat. We come to a small door leading into an apartment building and we follow him in. Expecting to walk into a large hall area, I'm surprised when I'm faced with a narrow staircase leading underground. I'm even more surprised when I get to the bottom and find myself in probably the cosiest bar I've ever seen. It's literally like someone's living room, carpeted floors, sofa's, wallpaper and a small bar. It's packed out with about thirty people, and the music is good. I'm extremely happy with Radek's choice of bar.

We have a great time there and meet some more friends of Radek's. The booze is absolutely flying down now and we're sat at a round table talking to loads of people. Erik has started chatting to a girl we assume is Radek's girlfriend and the rest of us are just getting on with getting fucked. By the time we leave, I'm very drunk. Radek is beyond fucked though!. It's around 3am. We're on a street corner trying to hail a cab, Radek standing in the middle of the road waving his fist threateningly at passing taxis.

We finally get into a cab. The driver starts to pull away and we're waving goodbye to Radek. He's laughing like a monkey and waving back. Before we make it out of sight, we notice Radek picking up the girl Erik was talking to, in a jovial, drunken, bear hugging motion. Before any of us can voice our concern, the two of them fall, crashing to the pavement, the girl going face first into the tarmac with Radek on top of her. We all gasp a collective “Whoa fuck!” Erik tells us that he had just made out with her whilst the rest of us were trying to flag a cab...

We finally get back to the hostel. Erik and I decide we've drunk enough and need to go to bed whilst Tompa and Olle decide on one last beer before they call it a night. We leave them and head in to the hostel.

Now, we just have to be quiet and avoid contact with the Flip-flop crowd sharing our dormitory...

We creep into the room. It's pitch black. We're drunkenly whispering to each other like mischievous teenagers. I have a bottom bunk to the left of the room, but Erik actually only has a mattress which has been laid on the floor in the middle of the room for him. There wasn't enough beds and Erik has picked the short straw. Just as I'm getting into bed I get a jolt as Erik's mobile phone starts blasting out ZZ Top. It's fucking blaring! It appears he's sat on his phone, causing not only ZZ Top to blast out of it, but also the light, which is giving off a bright, white beam. Being drunk, he can't find the button to kill the music. The two of us are by now, pissing ourselves laughing. It's only made worse when a voice in the dark, coming from the direction of the bunk above mine, calls out in a drippy American accent, “Be cool guys.”

Well of course, this just makes thing far worse. I'm in bed and I have my face in my pillow, desperately trying to suffocate my laughter. I hear Erik in the dark and it sounds like he's crying with laughter. The guy in the bunk above me is sighing loudly. I feel like a kid trying not to laugh in school assembly.

I finally drift off, my face and stomach aching with the laughter attack they have endured, my final thoughts drifting back to Olle and Tompa. They still aren't back yet....

I'm woken the next day by the thud of a large bang against the frame of my bed. I roll over and see who is presumably the guy from the bunk above.  He has just opened his locker door and slammed it into the bed frame. He grunts “Morning!” at me. I reply a simple, “Morning” right back at him, which just seems to make him angrier. I roll back over and face the wall. Bad fucking vibes. I realise that the sooner we can get out of this room and into the private one we have for tonight, the fucking better! I wait until the sounds of Angry Guy shuffling about in the room fade away, before turning back over and scanning the room.

Tompa is in a bed across from me, waering nothing but his kecks, ass facing the room, fast asleep. Olle is on a top bunk on the other side of the room, fully clothed, duffel coat fastened up to the neck, shoes still on, little brown satchel bag resting on his chest. He looks a fucking state. My immediate thought is to wake Erik. I look over at him. He's lying there on his mattress in the middle of the room. His eyes are firmly closed but he's grinning from one side of his face to the other. Thank fuck he's awake.

I whisper over to him and we decide it's time to get the fuck out of the dormitory. We consider for just a second, waking the other two before deciding we don't have time, we have to get out before Angry Guy comes back. My hangover simply can not deal with him right now.

We get up and leave there quick as fuck. We're praying the reception woman will give us the key to our freedom. She does. The relief we feel when we get into our beautiful, private room with en-suite bathroom is almost orgasmic. We jump into our new beds and breath a sigh of relief. We lie there enjoying our solitude, waiting for the phone to ring...

It takes about an hour before Olle calls. Erik answers his phone to a panicked Olle, who is on the other end of the line, whispering, “Where the fuck are you two?” When Erik tells him we're in another room he angrily reacts, “What the fuck do you men other room? Where the fuck are you? I need to get out of here!

He's knocking on the door within two minutes. We open the door to a very pale faced Olle. This is going to be good...

It turns out that Tompa and Olle had arrived back at the room about an hour after we'd woken everyone up the first time. They're both boats! Tompa strips down to his kecks and crashes into bed, not being too subtle about it. Olle carefully tip-toes over to his bunk. As he's climbing up to his bed he accidentally steps on the girl lying in the bunk below.  She shouts out at him and he hushes apologies, climbing into bed as quick as he can. No more than five minutes pass before he realises he needs to be sick. He panics and climbs back down to yet more groans and grumbles. He makes his way out of the room and goes in search of a toilet. He finds one in time to his great relief. After he's done being sick, he then spends what seems like eternity trying to find his way back to the room we're sleeping in. He seems to have lost it. After a while he actually considers sleeping in the toilet and starts to head back there, before he notices a door ajar and realises it's our room. He creeps back in and climbs back to his bunk, once again stepping all over the girls bunk below him. Yet more annoyed groans fill the room as Olle drifts off to an uncomfortable sleep.

He wakes to the sound of himself farting, followed by a shocked, female, American accent, “Oh my God!”. He hasn't quite remembered where he is, but it quickly all starts flooding back. Bad fucking vibes. He opens his eyes when he thinks it safe, scanning the room and sees that both myself and Erik have left the fucking building. He picks up his phone and dials Erik's number. He makes his way to the haven of the new room, leaving Tompa lying in his bed, who is still defiantely pointing his ass at the room.

Tompa wakes a while later, not really giving a fuck who he's disturbed in the night, packs his bags, says hello to Angry Guy and leaves.

Kalle turns up a few hours later and we recount the story of the night before to him. He loves it and thinks we should start a hostel war with the Americans.

The rest of the time in Prague is a little calmer. We have a great show the night after, which takes place in a nuclear fallout bunker, about sixty meters below the ground. The load in is a nightmare but the show is amazing. We spend a final night in the hostel, having once again moved room. We get back a bit drunk after the show and realise we're in the room next to the dormitory from the first night. Erik spends about an hour shouting out of the bedroom window to the room beside, chants such as, “Go home America!” and “No war!”. We're all loving it, of course...

The final show in Rostock is absolutely fucking rubbish. It's supposed to be a festival, but it's actually in a function room at an English pub and the rather mature crowd spends the whole time watching us, sat down, looking like they're waiting for the bingo to start. It's fucking crap to say the least, and my amp sounds like it's broken.

The one good thing about that show is we're given a comfortable bed to sleep in afterwards. We're getting the ferry at 7am the next day so we don't have much time to enjoy it. But despite the early rise, we're happy to leave Rostock and head home. The memories of the ferry we'd taken at the start of our journey nine days before, cracking a smile across my face as I drift off to sleep on the boat home.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Punk Illegal Fest 2010

Next Saturday Victims are playing the Punk Illegal Fest! Really looking forward to it. We play at 16.15 on the main stage, England play their first game of the World Cup at 20.00 and From Ashes Rise are finishing the night off on the main stage at 01.00.  It doesn't get better than that!

I'm looking forward to a few drinks and a merry old time watching From Ashes...catching up with my friends in Palm (who are coming all the way from Osaka to play) as well as hanging out with a bunch of other friends.  I am promising myself that I won't be repeating my appauling display at Hultsfred last year...the night where I drunk like a teenager, went to watch the Sounds, vomited in my fast food before they even started, got put to bed in the van and woke up the next day very, very confused...

Also worth checking out is a great show at Klubb Gås in Stockholm tomorrow.  Bombus and We Live In Trenches.  You'd be a a fool to miss it!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Punk Rock Stories: Rambling Around Europe...Part One

Before we started the band Battle of Santiago, most of us played in another band called Rowdy Ramblers.

That band had started some five years before, the core members being Erik, Tompa and Olle. There had been various people involved around the band during it's existence, in one way or another, I myself had been friends with them all a long time before I ended up joining the band. I'd been involved in recording their 10” The Maple a year before. When their guitarist Martin left the band a while after that recording, I told them that I may as well hop in and play with them. I never did like the name of the band too much but I loved the attitude they had. And they were some of my best friends here in Stockholm, so I knew it would be fun playing with them.

Later on Patrik would become involved with the band, initially as a producer on what would have been the second record. Then, one night out at our log cabin in the woods, whilst sat on the porch, drinking to the approaching dawn, listening to the latest Fall of Efrafa record as I remember, I suggested Patrik join the band as third guitarist.

He did, we wrote a bunch of new songs and became Battle of Santiago.

About a year before Patrik came along, when  we were still called Rowdy Ramblers, still playing what you could label garage rock, albeit a far messier and heavier version of the term, we headed on what would be our one and only European jaunt. The only gigs we ever seemed to play with that band were small, weird shows in Stockholm, mainly in front of friends only. I was looking forward to heading off on a DIY, internet booked tour in Europe.

Now to say “tour”, is a slight over-statement. It was five shows. Five shows in something like nine days, in June 2008. It was actually, half holiday/half tour.

We'd set up an initial couple of shows in Poland, one in Warsaw, one in Bydgoszcz. Erik had got chatting to some crazy rock guy on Myspace, called General Burner, who was nuts for Swedish garage rock n' roll and had heard the Ramblers and wanted to book some shows for us. Ok, what the hell, why not? He turned out to be this great big guy who looked like Lemmy and was a real gent to us. He set up those first two gigs and that set us up for the other shows in Europe financially. We hooked up another show in Berlin through a friend, another show in Prague and a final show in Rostock.

It really was a piss take of a tour. We lost a lot of money in the end since it was nothing more than an expensive holiday, but we ended up spending two free days in both Berlin and Prague and of course, we had a blast. The shows were all pretty cool, except Rostock, but that's another story.

There are two nights from this “tour” in particular though, that for the rest of my life, will make me smile whenever I think about them.

The first night is actually the first night. We were getting the ferry from Nynäshamn just outside Stockholm, down to Gdansk. It's a long old ferry ride, the bulk of the passengers being rough and ready looking Polish truck drivers. We board the ferry, get settled into our cabins and then rendezvous at the bar. Where else?

It's a long journey ahead and being a Polish ferry company, we're all hoping that the beer prices are going to be Polish too. We're all delighted when we find out that the price of beer on board is indeed very cheap. Chuffed we head to the bar and start purchasing beer.

It's all very relaxed at first. It's around 2pm, it's a beautiful day and there is a little bar up on deck. We're sitting in the sun drinking half decent beer from plastic mugs and eating fatty grey sausage. My wife Jenny is with us for the first few days of the tour. We all sit there in the sun enjoying ourselves thoroughly. The fact that almost every other passenger on board looks akin to a character from the movie Roadhouse, raises a small pattering of amused chuckles from us. We take in the scenery and sit there in the sun, drinking for the next couple of hours.

The sun slowly fades as night engulfs the Baltic Sea. We head down to the restaurant and eat a cheap and pretty useless dinner, before heading to our cabins for showers, preparing for a night of entertainment on board the boat to Gdansk.

We hop around the different bars on board, drinking beers and having a great time, all of us slowly getting drunk. There is a nightclub on board which is opening later on in the evening. We decide we're partying it up there later on, but until it opens we need to find another bar. We're all getting a bit full in the stomach from the beer consumption so decide to move on to drinks. As we're scouring the boat for another bar we bump into a bunch of Swedes, one of which myself and Jenny are kind of acquainted with. He's the trainer of the AIK women's handball team, the team which our close friend Annica plays for. We'd previously met this trainer guy at a couple of parties. We laugh at the fact we're bumping into each other on a Polish ferry. Apparently they're going down to Germany to watch a couple of the football games in the European Championships. I tell him what we're up to and we politely chat to each other for a while. The conversation isn't really flowing that freely but it's pleasant enough. He seems like a nice guy, although a little stiff for my taste. Anyway, after a while, we make our excuses and note that we'll more than likely bump into each other later.

We end up in a small bar which is empty except for the bartender. He seems like a friendly chap and we get talking to him. I want to order Grasshoppers for everyone but he doesn't seem to know what that is. I drunkenly...proudly, tell him the recipe and we get chatting, barman to barman. We sit there drinking all manner of cocktails for the next hour or so. The barman really wants us to try out his special own cocktail recipe that he himself has created. We tell him we'd be more than happy to, so he gladly goes about making the drinks for us. It turns out to be pretty disgusting. I don't really remember what it was, something with Jagermesiter and a couple of other spirits. We don't have the heart to tell him that the drink stinks, so we painfully gulp them down as quick as we can, nodding throughout the ordeal and doing our best to look like we're enjoying it.

After another couple of these drinks, we decide it's time to test out the night club. We're all pretty fucking pissed by this point and Jenny decides she's heading to our cabin. I am nowhere near done though. We still have another ten hours or so on this boat and the nightclub just opened! Jen heads off and we make our way to the bar, and soon afterwards, the dance floor. We're throwing back everything and anything by this point and everyone is steaming.

Memory defeats me from there. It's only Erik's later account of the story I have from here on in. As has been said before on this blog, and as most people who know me, when I'm on the dance floor at 1 am, then yes, chances are, I'm pretty fucked! So there we are, dancing away. There is literally nobody else on the dance floor, only us. There is barely anyone else in the nightclub actually. A couple of bemused looking trucker types, a bored looking female bartender and a DJ playing records. If we weren't all out of our minds, it would be a thoroughly depressing scene.

Since we're single-handedly owning the dance floor, I decide I want to make a request. For some reason I want to hear Phil Collins. Phil Fucking Collins! The DJ guy gives me a half interested smirk and then carries on about his business. I head back to dancing, but then after another few songs and Phil still hasn't been on, I head back to DJ man and inquire as to what is happening with Collins. He can't even be bothered amusing me by this point, just grunts "No" at me and tells me to piss off, or at least I guess that's what he's telling me. I can't understand Polish, but his tone says it all.

Disgruntled by the DJ's attitude I grumble back to the dance floor By this time, the rest of the band have given up and sat down to some more drinks. Not I though. No, no. I stand in the middle of the dance floor, pull my arse out and stand there mooning the DJ for the duration of the song he's just started playing. It's just me on the dance floor and I'm standing there mooning the DJ cunt. The rest of the band are sat off to the side, steam boats, loving every minute of it. The bartender still looks bored, the two trucker guys look like they want to kill me, or at best rape me, and the gang of Swedes led by the handball trainer I kind of know, who had only came in about five minutes ago, well they look a bit shocked.

Erik eventually walks me off the dance floor and tells me to pull my fucking jeans up. I think there are another couple of beers that go down, some failed conversation with handball guy and then Erik leads me back to my cabin where my wife Jenny is innocently sleeping.

On the way back I decide I'm going to bang loudly on every cabin door along the corridor. Erik has had enough by now. Can't say I blame him. We get back to my cabin and he throws me into it, calling me a tit, before wishing me goodnight.

The night still has one funny turn in store for Erik though, before his night is over...

He gets back to the cabin he is sharing with Tompa and Olle and knocks on the door, wanting to be let in. No answer. He knocks again. He hears Olle's faint voice calling from within.


-”Let me in for fuck sakes! What are you up to?

Olle then opens the cabin, his head peering around the door, the room completely dark. Tompa is passed out in his bed, Olle looks white and terrified, wearing only a t-shirt. Erik asks him where the fuck his pants and jeans are but Olle just hurriedly pulls him into the cabin, whispering to Erik, telling him to be quiet. Erik now has to know what the fuck is going on, because knowing Olle, this is going to be good!

Olle is a really mild guy. He's a great friend, the kind of person that would do anything for you and would not intentionally cause harm to another soul. But maybe once or twice a year he has some mad, wild blow-out when he's drunk where he gets himself into trouble, much to the amusement of the rest of us.

Olle, still looking terrified, tells Erik what's happened.

Apparently, when Erik was doing his best to get me back to my cabin, Olle and Tompa had wandered off to theirs, somehow getting separated on the way back. After a short while, Olle realises he has lost Tompa and that he has no idea where their room is. He continues to stumble around the cabin corridors looking in vain for their room. After what was probably five minutes, though Olle swears it was longer, he realises he is lost and what’s more, in desperate need of a piss. In blind, drunken panic, having looked for a toilet for what was probably all of thirty seconds, he decides to piss in a quiet corner of the corridor.

I'm not quite sure why but in order for him to do this, he deemed it necessary to pull his jeans down to his ankles. He's barely started taking a leak when he hears a screech from behind him. “Scheize!” Before he understands what is happening, there is some angry Polish truck driver screaming at him. Not only that, he has firmly planted his boot up Olle's arse! Olle yelps in pain and starts staggering off in blind panic, his jeans still around his ankles. The truck driver chases after him though, screaming all kinds of venom in his direction and continuously kicking Olle in his bare arse! Olle is screaming in fear by now, and his arse is starting to hurt. His only reaction is to kick off his jeans and kecks, and run the fuck away from there. The guy gives chase but Olle finally manages to get away. He has by now, of course, pissed all over himself!

When Olle recounts this story to Erik, back in the cabin, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and stinking of piss, Erik of course falls to the floor laughing hysterically!

I wake the next morning, head fucking banging! We all meet up in the ferry lobby, myself and Olle looking very pale and sheepish, wanting to get the fuck off the ferry as quick as possible. Olle is shitting it, worrying that he'll bump into the angry trucker, I'm worried I'll bump into handball trainer. We mutter to ourselves as the boat finally docks and we make our way to the car platforms. As we're hurriedly heading down the stairs we do indeed bump into the handball lot. Fuck. I feel my stomach go. That guy kinda looks at me a bit put out, and I grumble something like, “Whoo, heavy night last night!”. He doesn't look impressed. I make my excuses and hurry to the van. Oh well, I guess you can't be friends with everybody...

We head off the boat and start making our way to Warsaw from Gdansk. It's hot as hell, we're all hungover to piss and within thirty minutes on the road, we're pulled over trying to fix a puncture. Well actually, the guys are, I'm desperately walking around with a bog roll in my hand, looking for a bush to shit in.

As I'm squatted there, relieving my stomach of filth, I realise that these guys are as prone to trouble as the Speedhorn lot were. Or maybe not quite, but they sure as fuck like to drink. I wonder what the rest of this trip has in store, as we haven't even played the first fucking show yet!

It was to be an eventful little trip...