Thursday, September 30, 2010

No. 5 - Leipzig

Something Speedhorn was always quiet inept at, was learning important lessons.

Every now and again, something major would happen that would stun us all into admitting that we have to change a certain aspect of our behaviour, but more often that not that lesson learned would soon be forgotten again. We had a hard time keeping the influence of booze at bay. Looking back at those times as a grown adult, I'm glad that, relieved that, nobody in the band suffered any lasting damage. I guess most people, upon maturing, can look back at their younger years and see the narrow escapes. I remember talking with Kev about this once. We came to the conclusion that everybody does stupid stuff when they're young. Some come through it unscathed, as a better person, some don't. I'm glad that we all did. There are kids I went to school with who didn't.

Speedhorn was never a band that was heavily into drugs. There were people who liked to smoke weed, people who liked to smoke a lot of weed, but there was never anybody who was into hard drugs. Our problem was that we drank too much. Being skint kids from Corby, the novelty of free booze never, ever got old. And almost the entire time we were presented with it, we drank it like it was the last booze we'd ever get our hands on.

Only a couple of months after our infamous show at the Hultsfred festival in Sweden, we were flying out to Germany, to Leipzig, to play the Full Force Festival, for a slot on the main stage in front of a crowd estimated to be around twenty thousand people. We flew out to the show the night before our slot, and checked into the hotel the festival had booked out for all the bands, around the time the sun was sinking into the horizon.

The hotel is in the middle of nowhere. I look out at the view from our room. It's desolate. There is a large empty field and somewhere in the distance the faint lights of factories are flickering, reminding me that there are still people out there who actually work for a living. Friday night in Leipzig looks like the hotel bar then...

We head down and find the guys from the band The Darkness sat chatting to the bartender. We join them for a few drinks. We met these guys at the Metal Hammer awards a few months ago, they were up for some “Best Newcomer Award” or something. We were there because our friend Dave was organising the event and he'd promised us free booze. We shared our bottle of Jagermeister with The Darkness guys that night and they dedicated the award they ended up winning to Speedhorn.

So it's good to see them and hang out. It's funny, but these guys go on to be huge! I'd seen them a couple of times when they were unknown and they were a lot of fun, unfortunately the joke wore thin very quick and the whole thing got really boring. I guess you know the story of the Darkness though...anyway, this was “back in the day”, before all the hype.

So we're hanging out in this hotel bar in the middle of this dark field on the outskirts of Leipzig, the night before the slot on the main stage. The drinks are flowing by the time it's eleven pm. For some reason though, I'm not really in the mood and decide to call it an early night. Frank and John seem to be having a great time as I bid them bon soir. The drinks are flying down. I don't know what it is, but I possess a slight ill-feeling towards the Darkness guys. They seem to be putting out a real rock star vibe, and Frank and John appear to be lapping it up, which for some reason irks me. I don't know why, but I don't want to be a part of it. Sometimes, I get myself in that mood. I guess it's like that when for some reason you find yourself unable to get drunk, and everyone you are with that has accomplished this feat suddenly starts getting on your nerves. Totally my own thing, and not anything anyone else is doing wrong. I just remember sitting there getting annoyed by the fact that Frank and John are sitting around with these wannabe rock star guys ordering a bottle of Jack Daniels.

It's probably more to do with the Jack Daniels than anything else. I fucking hate that drink and everything it stands for. I hate how idiots think they're “rock n' roll” if they walk around with a bottle of it in their hand.  Carrying it like around like some sort of statement.  I actually hate the idea of “rock n' roll”, Sex and drugs and rock and roll.  Motely Crue and all that pants. Fuck. Off. I was never in to songs about snorting coke and fucking women.  It's boring.


I leave the scene and head up to the room I'm sharing with Tony. I get showered before tucking into bed and turning on CNN. There is something really cosy about watching CNN in a foreign hotel room. I'm looking forward to the show tomorrow. With Full Force Festival. A classic on the festival scene. I've been wanting to play here for a long time.

We meet down in the lobby the next day for breakfast. Gordon tells me that the night before was a lot of fun. A load of other people in bands hung out and everybody went to bed really late, really drunk. I notice Frank and John haven't joined us for breaky. Gordon tells me they were pretty fucked up last night, as was Darren.

We sit down to breakfast with a good strong cup of coffee and Gordon fills me in on the night before. Although it sounded like a lot of fun and I'm kinda regretting missing out, I still feel good about the fact I'm feeling healthy this morning. Frank and John eventually come down and join us for breakfast, although they're looking pretty pale. Especially Frank. I laugh when I see his face and he just shakes his head.

A while later a festival shuttle bus comes and picks us up and we make our way to the site. It's about a twenty minute drive. I realise during the bus journey that we're actually way outside of Leipzig. It's a city I would have liked to have checked out. I had briefly entertained thoughts of making my way into the historical city last night, to check out what the place looked like, but that never came to be. Too bad. I'm really into the history of the old eastern block and World War II and it would have been fun to see the place. As is often the case though, the name of the city on the tour itinerary has little bearing on the location of the venue you're playing. You think you're playing this really cool city and then you turn up at a venue in an industrial estate somewhere..

As I'm thinking about this on the bumpy road to the festival site, I notice John is very quiet. He looks fucking ghostly. John hasn't always been the biggest drinker in the band. He usually likes a smoke, and that would be his preference if the choice has to be made. That said, when he's in the mood, he can put a shit load of booze away. He's a big boy and it takes a lot to knock him down. The flip-side to that is, if he's down, he's fucking staying down. If he's hungover then he's HUNGOVER! Big time. I once bore witness to John drinking his way through almost two bottles of Jagermeister after a show on his birthday. He crashed to the pavement outside of the hostel we were sleeping at. Obviously, we couldn't pick him up. He was sick everywhere. We had to entice him into the hostel, leading the way with a bucket as he crawled on his knees into the dormitory. It was hilarious. And the day after he was a mess. But I mean, he drank almost TWO bottles of Jagermeister. When he goes for it, he fucking goes for it.

I guess he went for it last night because he doesn't look good.

We pull into the backstage area at the festival site, but for some reason we don't get out. The driver guy is waiting for someone from the festival to come over. We're sat there in the van, it's pretty humid and John tells us he feels sick. He's got his forehead pressed up against the window, looking like he's in the void. We seem to wait in the van for ages, I don't really understand why we can't get out. John then spots some plastic festival toilets and without saying a word, opens the van doors and legs it over to them. We all laugh our tits off as John pukes his guts up in the bogs. Of course, Regan is being cocky as fuck, commenting on how people who can't handle their drink shouldn't do so.

The outlook for the show looks positive.

We go on stage and the crowd is big. It must be around fifteen thousand at least. We have a good slot on the main stage in the late afternoon. The sound on stage is good and the atmosphere from the crowd is great. I have to give credit to Frank and John..considering that they both looked like shite this morning and John was puking in the bog about an hour before the show, they're both giving it a lot of energy on stage. I look over at them and I'm quietly impressed with the pair of them. We're playing through the set, banging out the songs with maximum energy and it seems like the show is going to be a success.

To make things better, we have our new backdrop hanging proud and high behind Gordon. It looks fucking ace. It's this huge piece of material, with the artwork from the cover of the Dead Tomorrow album. We'd never really been a back drop band but our record label had decided they would shell out for one, stating that we needed one for these huge festival stages, now that we were at the level where we were performing on them. Whatever, it's their money.  Except, that it's learn things the hard way.  Anyway, our first backdrop had been a rather pathetic effort. It was the image of the Speedhorn bull horns, white on black. The image itself was pretty cool, I liked the fact that it didn't have the band name, just this strong image. The trouble was that it was really small. Sure, it looked big on Roddy's living room floor, but as Roddy himself so gleefully pointed out, up on a huge festival stage it looked like a postage stamp. Roddy loved it when things went wrong. I think today though, even he, stood side stage, now guitar teching for us, would have been begrudgingly impressed with this backdrop.

So we're pulling this show off and I'm really psyched. Gordon is smashing the shit out of his kit, the sound on stage is booming, we're all going mad, the crowd is kicking the shit out of each other and then PUKE! Fuck. Me. John has just puked off the front of the stage. I can't quite work out if what that actually just happened. John kind of staggers back for a second, looking a bit stunned, before sort of shaking his head, wiping his gob with the back side of his arm and then continuing with the song. I steal glances at the rest of the band and realise that they're all grinning like Cheshire cats. Tony and Gordon looked particularly chuffed. Tony, being John's brother, loves seeing his sibling suffer. Gordon, being John's oldest friend, is exactly the same. We get to the end of the song and we're all cracking up. John comes over to my side of the stage...”Whoopsie daisy” he offers, in his usual joke Jock accent. I pat him on the back and we get on with the show.

Besides the obvious blip, the show is a success and a great credit to our two singers, who are ridiculously hungover, for putting on a strong show in the August heat. If it hadn't been for John sick dripping off the front of the stage, the crowd would have been none the wiser. We ring out the last song with a whirlwind of noise and exit the stage, pleased with the show. I walk across to the other side, past Tony's amp, offering applause and thanks to the crowd as I leave.

I'm greeted with a wonderful sight on  my way back to the dressing room/cabin.  Blocking my way to the ramp off the back of the stage, on his hands and knees, beside Tony's amp, is Frank. And he is puking. He looks piss poor. His eyes are streaming salty tears, his face is a shade of dark purple, and he's coughing, spluttering and puking. Upon seeing him I almost scream with joy. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. You know, when you're laughing so hard that you're just kind of pointing and screaming?  It was like that. Frank continues to throw up. I don't think I have ever seen anyone produce this much vomit. It just keeps coming, flowing out of him. There is a huge yellow puddle of puke on the stage, kind of edging it's way back towards Tony's amp. We're all stood around, laughing our tits off and pointing at Frank. Nobody offers him help. What a great bunch of mates we really are. He must be there for a good five minutes. He looks like he's been hit by a bus. It must have hit him very suddenly, because he hasn't even had the sense to crawl out of view from the crowd. I notice people in the audience who have obviously spotted him and they're pissing themselves laughing too. Indeed, the only people who don't seem to find it funny are the local stage crew.

When Frank is eventually able to get back to his feet, he stumbles back to the dressing room. Not a single thought about clearing it up himself. To be fair, he's probably feeling so shit that thinking straight is completely out of the question. Doug tells me later that he had to row it out with the promoter for our money afterwards, who is claiming damages from us. Doug, thankfully for us, in his usual subtle way, persuades the guy to give us our fee.

As he's making his way back from the production office, back behind the stage area to our dressing room, he sees the local crew guys moping up Frank's puke with our backdrop and then throwing it off the ramp at the back of the stage into the mud below.  Even Doug thinks that's fair enough.

The last time I ever see that back drop is when we get back in the shuttle bus at the end of the night to head back to the hotel. It's just lying there in the mud, covered in Frank's puke. Nobody even suggests the idea of taking it with us.

I guess we're back to using the old postage stamp...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No. 6 - Gravesend

In ten years of existence, Speedhorn navigated itself through the complete spectrum of success and status.

We experienced about every aspect of touring life in a band, from living on a budget of five quid a day, sleeping in the van if there was no floor available, to travelling in a night-liner and flying all around the world with a crew of friends, to finally becoming a self-sufficient touring outfit, in our own van, where we took care everything ourselves.

We went from playing the worst venues the UK has to offer, to minuscule crowds, shows that barely paid us money for petrol, where food and drink was out of the question, to headlining shows in Japan and staying in classy hotels, to travelling and sleeping in our own made “tour bus” all over the continent, playing everything from large club venues to house shows.

We had management, major labels, even a monthly wage at the height of it all. At the twilight of our existence, when we more D.I.Y., we were still coming home from tour with money to pay the bills. In the beginning though, around about the time we played this show in Gravesend, we had such little money that we would take food from the bins at service stations when they closed. We'd figured out that the fast food joints at these places threw whatever food they had left at the end of the day. We'd simply pull up and wait out back for them to throw it.

We'd played the Red Lion in Gravesend on the previous tour to this one. That night we'd played on our own, and three people had paid to come in and watch us. I remember the guy who ran the place was a particularly dislikeable fellow. He was a typically rude cockney guy, who bragged about the fact he'd had Maiden play his place back in '79 or whatever and seemed to be still promoting his venue on the back of that. Although that was cool enough, it had absolutely no fucking bearing on our gig.

We were used to playing to nobody in those days and three people, plus our friend Waldie, was good enough for us. We didn't get food and certainly didn't get beer, but one of the guys who'd paid to come in had felt sorry for us and bought us a couple of rounds. In those days, booze was either scrounged or stolen.

So this time around, we're on tour with the bands Breakneck and Enmity It was about three months after the previous non-remarkable show at the Red Lion, in Gravesend. Fucking Gravesend? The name of the town alone should be warning enough to steer clear of the place...

The bass player from Enmity, Paul, who later went on to work for the Agency and become our booking agent, had told us at the show the night before, that he had no intention of playing the show in Gravesend, citing it as a complete waste of time. Although we knew it was most likely going to be pants, neither us or Breakneck wanted to cancel the show. We were on tour having fun together and what else were we going to do, go back to Corby for the day? Fuck that.

So we decide that we're going to Gravesend, Enmity tell us they'll meet up with us the day after at the show in Norwich or whatever...

We'd been touring the toilet scene in the UK on and off for about half a year, playing to crowds averaging ten to twenty people a night. We were doing this with the attitude that the ten people that did make the show would be blown away and then they'd spread the word, so when we come back a couple of months later, the ten people would have doubled to twenty people, and the time after that would be forty, and so on. And I was always proud of the fact that no matter how small the crowd, we played our asses off every single night. And for the most part, it worked.

I thought as we pulled up outside the Red Lion pub that our hard work at the previous show had paid off, in a huge way! We trundle out of the back of the van, the sun is shining and the bar room of the pub is packed with people. What's more, they're all donned in heavy metal clothing. I can't believe it. This is going to be the best show we've played in our so far short career. We're all chuffed and laughing at Paul and Enmity for fucking this show off.

We start loading in to the gig room, which is the room adjacent to the bar, where Maiden is waiting for us. We shake hands with him as he welcomes us once again to the venue that is his pride and joy. I remark that it looks promising for tonight, to which he replies that they're all watching the footy, but yeah, it should be good.

So we load in and get set up on stage, do a quick sound check and then go through to the bar. I'm hoping that with the already buzzing atmosphere in the place, the barman will offer us a drink. I've come to learn in the many years since, that such hospitality should never be expected in England, no matter what the size of the crowd. He tells us that he'll wait and see how many of the punters come through to the gig later on before he hands out any beer to us, although he promises me it should be good. Ok, typical. But hopefully we'll get a few beers later then...

We decide along with the Breakneck boys, to pool whatever change we have and get some booze. Between ten guys, we've got enough smash for a bottle of cheap vodka and a few cans of lager. I set off with one of the guys in search of a supermarket. The sky is turning grey by this now, and the sights of Gravesend dampen my spirits somewhat. It really is a fucking depressing place.

We get back to the venue and hang out for a while. We decide to leave the voddy for after the show since we don't want to get too fucked up. We sit in the van and drink a can of cheap pissy lager, hopeful for the night ahead. We head in to the venue when the last dregs of lager are finished off. The bar is still pretty packed with people and the landlord's wife is setting up a table by the entrance.

An hour passes and still nobody has ventured into the venue from the bar room next door. The landlord hasn't even bothered putting on any music, as way of setting a bit of atmosphere. It's soon time for Breakneck to start and still nobody has entered the building. The landlord is still in the bar next door, which is separated from the bar in the venue room by a wall with a door in it. The punters have to go out into the car park to come into the venue, but the bar staff can just drift between the rooms. The landlord's wife is sitting by the entrance, reading a book. Fuck sakes, I go in search of landlord guy and ask if Breakneck can go on a little later, when some people start coming through. He barely breaks his glance away from the footy on the tv, but assures me that once the punters hear the music they'll start coming in.

So Breakneck go on and the only spectators in attendance are the Speedhorn boys and Roddy, who is out driving us. They play through the entire set, somewhat light-heartedly. We have a good time watching them and Jacques, their singer, put on a good show as always. They play through, and we cheer them on, but still, not a soul from the bar has come through. It's fucking Saturday night for fuck sakes! What is wrong with people?

We all feel the need for a sip of the voddy now. It has dawned on us that this show is not going to be the best show we've ever played, but more likely the worst. The previous worst show had been here at the same venue, a few months ago, when those three people attended. It could be less than that tonight...

I speak to the landlord again. Of course, he hasn't offered us any beer yet, but he still remains confident people will come through. He tells me people aren't interested in the support band, they want to see us. Yeah right. What I don't get is that there is still no music of any form being played in the venue room, yet hard rock is blasting out of the juke box in the bar now that the footy is over...

We get up on stage and nobody has come in. I feel sick to the stomach. I actually feel more nervous for this show than any other, simply because I feel like a complete twat. The landlord has at least come through to the bar in here, and is stood there waiting to watch us. He's STILL saying people will come through.

The Breakneck boys are returning the favour of support and are the only people waiting for us to start playing, along with the landlord. We kick into the set, putting on the normal show. We get to the end of the first song and just let the feedback ring...still nobody in the venue. We carry on into the second song, still throwing ourselves about the stage but not masking our embarrassment quite as well. During the third song, when still not a single punter has come though, I notice the landlord, standing there with his arms folded, shaking his head at us. Before the song is over, he's walked back through to the bar room. By the forth song his wife is packing up the table and fucking off. I feel like a complete cunt. I'm sure Paul and the Enmity guys are in their local pub, pissing themselves laughing.

We get to the end of the forth song and Frank is talking to a crowd that's not there, as if this was a normal gig. I've had enough. We cut him off and ask him what he's doing. We all just look at each other and decide to pack the fucking gig up.

We get off stage and aim straight for the van and that bottle of Vodka! Frank is incensed, so are the rest of us. Nobody has the balls to go through and ask the landlord for petrol money though. We just drown our misery with the vodka. When the vodka starts taking it's effect on us, we actually start cracking up. We're by now, just hanging in the car park and listening to the new band Roddy has spontaneously started with Jamie from Breakneck.

They're on stage, Jamie on guitar, Roddy on vocals with Gordon on drums, they've called themselves Dog Meat, and are playing loud as fuck. They have one song, which I presume is titled, Frank is a Cunt, since that seems to be the only lyrics to the song.

The three of them are in there on their own, the landlord's wife is long gone, and we're out in the car park getting pissed, listening to the cacophony. It lasts a good thirty minutes and Roddy seems to be having the time of his life!

When it eventually dies down, and the voddy is gone, we pack up the gear and put it back in the van. We're in better spirits now, realising we've hit bottom and the only way is up. The landlord actually comes out and tells us that it was a shit gig. Fuck you, fuck you very much.

We never, ever go back to the Red Lion, or Gravesend again.

Friday, September 17, 2010

No. 7 - Osaka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

No. 8 - Hultsfred

It was the summer of 2003 and we were almost a year into touring our second album, We Will Be Dead Tomorrow.

A lot had changed in the couple of years since the release of the first record. I'd moved to Sweden, which had caused great concern amongst certain band members at the time. Frank and his girlfriend Claire, had conceived a son, which had also caused certain band members a great deal of concern at the time...

Above all that, a greater change, a far more pressing development, was in a very delicate process during this period in our lives. We were growing up as a band and as people and a direct result of that was a new-found curiosity about how exactly the band was being run by our management company. After growing suspicious that the guy running our management company was putting more of our money up his nose than into our bank account, we decided it was time to start taking our band more seriously.

I suspect the fact that we were somewhat forced to get our act together off the stage and start taking care of “business”, had a profound affect on our act on stage. The more serious we became off stage, the less serious we became on it. I think they call it escapism... At times our shows descended into the lowly depths of cabaret...

We were all frustrated. The second album's recording sessions took place in the epicentre of a dark, turbulent period for the band. We wanted to get rid of our manager, who we simply no longer trusted. Except it wasn't simple... The two people who had done more for our band than anyone else would ever have done, two people who were family to us, worked for that very company. It was complicated to say the least. We wanted away from the company, and we wanted to take our friends with us. But they couldn't leave, and we had to. And it broke our hearts. It actually broke the band beyond the point where it could ever be fully repaired. It took the best part of a year to piece together the recordings for the album, which took the wind out of our sails completely. The good ship Speedhorn almost sank..

So with all this going on behind the scenes, and with various members of the band spreading their wings and leaving the nest that was Corby, it maybe wasn't surprising that when we were actually gathered together again to get on with what we were supposed to be doing, namely playing our music live, we determined ourselves to enjoy it to the hilt.

And for us that meant one thing. Getting pissed.

We were playing a bunch of festivals during the summer of 2003, Hultsfred, Sweden, being the first of them. I'd officially moved to Stockholm (moved my records) the summer before, so I was travelling without the rest of the guys in the band to this festival. Since we were playing on the last day I had decided to travel down early with Jen and a gang of mates from Stockholm and hang out for the whole weekend. I'd even decided to get as far into the spirit as to camp out in the festival camp site. I hadn't been to a festival just to hang out for about five years, since Reading '98. I was sure it was going to be a great laugh. I regretted my decision as soon as I lay down in the tent to sleep that first night. The realisation hit me, like a punch in the chops, that camping in a tent at a music festival is actually fucking bollocks...

Despite the naïve choice of sleeping arrangements, we had a fun weekend hanging out with everyone, watching some bands and drinking beer in the sun. By the time the Saturday came round, the day we were playing, I was buzzing. I was really looking forward to this show. And more than that, I was really looking forward to seeing the boys. It had been a while since we'd last been together, and dare I say it, I was missing them.

The guys were flying into the show on a very early flight from London. They had to leave Corby at something like four in the morning to catch a flight at six-thirty. Then upon arrival in Sweden, they were being transported on a festival shuttle bus, which was going to take another couple of hours. I was certain that they were going to arrive in a stinking mood.

It was to my great surprise then, to see Frank jump out of the bus with a huge smile on his face upon arrival at the backstage area. He lumbered over to me and gave me a big bear hug. The rest of the guys followed behind him, all chirping like robins. Not to sound like a sceptic, but I was relieved, if not a little shocked by their cheerful disposition.

It was noon when they arrived and we were playing on the indoor stage at six in the evening. Perfect time of the day to play. The evening would just be rolling in, we'd play our set and then have the night ahead of us to party.

We hung out in the porta-cabin that was our dressing room, catching up on things. We'd seen each other as recently as a few weeks earlier, but for a group of guys used to living in each other's pockets, week in, week out, that felt like a long time. It was good to be with the boys again.

I was the first to leave Corby, though Gordon wasn't far behind me, moving to Cardiff with his girlfriend, Katy. It's only natural when you get the chance to travel the world, that your eyes get opened a little, and you realise there is so much out there, just waiting to be seen, and that you can't spend the rest of your life living in Corby. That was the conclusion that Gordon and I reached anyway. But as the cliché goes, you can take the boy out of Corby but you can't take Corby out of the boy, and when we converged, it was if nothing had really ever changed.

So we're there hanging out, looking forward to a summer of playing festivals, getting on with the real business of playing shows again, and everyone is in positive mood. So much so in fact, that we decide we'll crack open a beer. It's around twelve thirty pm.

I'm not quite sure how, but by the time the clock on the cabin wall reads three-thirty pm, we've drank the entire rider. That's two crates of beer, a bottle of red wine and a bottle of Jim Beam, between the six of us.. with a little help from my wife. Roddy (best mate/guitar tech), and Doug (best mate/tour manager) are with us and Roddy is pissed off that we've left him nothing for after the show. I still don't know how it happened, I guess we just got carried away. It's not until Roddy throws a strop and storms out of the cabin that I even realise how much we've drunk. Oops...

As fate would have it, the guy who is one of the main promoters for the festival, pops his head in through the door to shortly after, to say hello. He's a really nice guy. We'd first met him six months earlier. We played a short tour of Sweden, one of the shows being a club in Hultsfred, which the promoter guy booked. The show had gone really well and we'd hung out afterwards. He'd asked us there and then if we'd like to play the festival.

He chats for a while, then wishes us good luck for the show and leaves, looking slightly bemused by our boisterous spirit. What happens next is absolutely typical of our band, Raging Speedhorn.

One of the festival runners, a young, innocent looking chap, who's job it is to look after the after the bands whilst they are in the backstage area, pops his head into to the cabin to check we're ok. We tell him we're more than chuffed. He looks over at the table where the rider had once been and then says, “Oh shit, sorry, you guys haven't had your rider yet? I'll go get it for you guys!”

We look at each other in delirious astonishment. Either the guy is blind, incredibly kind or just plain naïve. Either way, he turns up with the rider again...

Fuck me. By the time we go on stage, two hours later, we're all fucking steam boats! I'm at least at a level where I can still fumble my way through a set, albeit unconvincingly, but Frank is off his fucking tits...

I've got my friends from Stockholm in the audience, most of whom have never seen a Speedhorn show before. I've got Jen and some of the girls from Misdemeanor hanging out side stage, as well as a bunch of people I know in the Swedish music press reviewing the gig. My friend, Jenny Walroth, who works for a record label, has told me that she's convinced a good friend of hers who works for a national newspaper, to watch the show and review it.

I remember looking over to Jen as we stumble on stage. And then at Doug and Roddy. I catch a glimpse of my friends Emil and Erik in the crowd. They all seem to be grinning. The wooden indoor stage, that looks like a giant bandstand, is packed out with a couple of thousand people, and the sun is shining brightly through the gaps above the sea of heads in front of us. When Frank walks on with a couple of bottles of red wine in his hand, and calls everyone in the crowd cunts, I know this is going to be an interesting show.

Before we even kick off, Frank notifies the crowd as to who we are and that we don't give a fuck. He tells them they can come up on stage and fight us, and if they want to, they can throw bottles of piss at us, although I'm not sure why. Before we even start, we're a shambles.

We get through the first few songs unscathed. I wouldn't exactly say we're tight, but we're doing ok. Then at some point during the fourth song I lose Frank in my monitor. He's totally disappeared. I shout over at the monitor guy telling him the score. The monitor guy doesn’t look impressed as he points a stern finger at Frank. I look over to see Frank, eyes closed, screaming as hard as he can. He's totally feeling it. It's just that he's screaming into his empty bottle of wine instead of his microphone. The daft cunt hasn't even noticed. John spots the problem, shakes his head at me and kicks Frank up the arse.

At least the crowd seem to be in to it. The atmosphere is really pretty electric, despite the nonsense being presented to them.

We plough on...

Another couple of songs go by before I notice Doug, side stage, having a bit of a row with our friend, the promoter. Unbeknownst to me, Frank has drank the remaining contents of the two bottles of wine he had on stage and dispersed of them by throwing them as hard as he can, directly into the crowd. I had wondered why random objects had started to land with venomous velocity on stage. It seems the crowd are giving as good as they're getting. Still, the mood hasn't darkened at all. The crowd, if anything, seem to be loving it. I hear Doug shouting to Tony between songs that we have to reign Frank in or get pulled off the stage, by order of the festival.

Frank doesn't seem to give the slightest piss. He hasn't got any bottles left but he's swinging his microphone around on stage like a helicopter propeller whilst John sings his parts.

We're between songs, tuning up and by now I'm desperately guzzling water. The stage is hot and it's taking it toll. If it wasn't for the fact I was sharing a stage with Regan I'd happily admit to being pretty drunk, but compared to him I'm as sober as a judge. We're getting towards the end of the set and I'm starting to think about the finish line. I'm about to start the penultimate song when Frank tells me to wait up. He's laughing his ass off as he announces to the crowd that this next song goes out to Tony's bump. Confused, I look over to see Jen and Doug, along with a few other people, pissing themselves laughing. And then I notice poor Tony...

He literally has the biggest lump I have ever seen, just off centre at the top if his forehead. It's the size of a fucking golf ball. It looks like something from a cartoon. It's bright red and I swear I can almost see it throbbing. Tony is doing his utmost best to laugh it off, but it looks like he's about to faint. At some point during the last song, Frank's mike has come down from a great height, at full speed, and smacked Tony in the head. I can't even imagine how sore that would be. To his credit he makes it through the last two songs, which is quite incredible really. It must piss him off though, to see Frank stumbling around the stage for the majority of those songs, laughing his head off whilst pointing out Tony's lump to various members of the band.

We finally stagger off stage. On the way back to the dressing room I pass the promoter having it out with Doug, screaming about how we're never playing Hultsfred again. Doug is doing his best to calm him down, the whole time trying to conceal the smirk on his face. I get back to the dressing room. Tony is bent over a sink, rabidly splashing water on his ridiculous looking bump.

My friend Jenny later tells me that her journalist friend has simply asked her after the show, just how she imagined he could write a review? He said that it was more like watching a gang of football hooligans on stage fighting, than a band playing a gig. She told him just to write that...

The performance has since gone down in history as a most infamous performance. It was voted by Close Up Magazine as one of the top three concerts of the year. Ridiculous really... My friends still bring it into conversation at parties when ever we get talking about gigs.

Although we laughed about it at the time, we soon realised that our behaviour wasn't totally acceptable that day. We apologised to the festival organisers. I never heard if they replied.

A couple of weeks later we played an amazing show at Roskilde in front of a similar sized crowd, although this time we were on at one pm. and Doug had banned us from drinking before the show. In the space of those two weeks, we played two of the best shows of our career, each for very differing reasons...