Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Bar

Sunday is always the slowest day of the week. It used to be that Monday was the quiet night in the bar, but since Pet Sounds, the bar down the road, started putting live bands on, Sunday has become the lazy shift. I like it.

I have a two week schedule at work. Sunday and Monday nights alternate with each other. The only thing that really bothers me about working Sunday is that I miss the football on tv, but otherwise it's ok. It's usually just some of the regulars combined with the odd dinner guest now and then, although some nights there are no dinner guests at all, and when the regulars leave around eleven pm, I'm completely alone in the bar. I quite like that too, even though it can be a strange feeling, sitting there on your own, money in the till, nobody around to help out if some psycho with a baseball bat comes walking through the door. Thankfully, that never happens.

When it's quiet like that, I just make myself a cup of coffee and pull out a magazine to read. We have loads of records and music magazines in the bar, so it can be pretty cosy, sitting there on your own, having a cup of coffee in peace. Most of the records on the shelves in the bar aren't records that I have on my own shelves at home, but again, I don't mind that either. I'd rather not listen to my own records all day at work. It's nice to have a break from them. It's the same when I go on tour, I don't take any records to listen to in the van. I take my Ipod, but I barely listen to it. I like to miss my collection, so by the time I get home, I'm happy to see it again.

Besides, it's fun to listen through other people's record collections. The owners of the bar are huge on new wave punk and latter-day indie. Through working at Snotty I've learned to appreciate some of that music, since I didn't have much of a check on it previously. I've especially gotten into stuff like Television and Gang of Four, and have since bought records by those bands. Don't get me wrong though, sometimes I ache just to put on a Black Flag record, or Jerry's Kids, or Eyehategod, but it isn't that kind of place.

So tonight was a typical Sunday night at work. A couple of the regulars were in, sat at the bar, and there were a few other guests sat over by the tables, the odd familiar face dotted amongst them. Eleven hours can seem like a long time when there isn't much to do. I usually do the week's inventory and ordering on these slow days, as well as a general clean of the bar, but that doesn't exactly keep me busy for the whole eleven hours of the shift. So it helps that there are some regulars in, and some kind of a conversation can be struck up. Even though some people just talk about the same thing, every single day, constantly repeating themselves whilst I reciprocate in kind, acting as if each time is actually the first time, the regulars help nights like tonight pass by that little bit quicker.

The main trouble with not having anything to do at work, is that if out of the blue, a large crowd of people turn up, it can fuck you up completely. You have no tempo at all. Through hours of standing around chatting idly, the body sets in to that mode for the night and it's hard to break out of it if, all of a sudden you're faced with a group of people, all ordering at once. Sometimes there will be a crowd of six or seven people that turn up outside the door and peer through the window, inspecting the bar and apparently debating whether to come inside, and I'll stand there staring at them, willing them to just continue on down the road. Often when a group of that size turn up on a quiet night, they walk in like they own the place, and that really gets on my fucking tits.

Tonight there been no such large groups. Things were rolling along smoothly and I was in a pretty good mood. But then, the other kind of trouble walks in through the door. Not the large group of assholes thinking they own the place, but the lone drunk who is in dire need of contact with somebody. Anybody...

He walks in with a ruck-sack slung across his back. As soon as I see him I know this is going to be a nightmare. He looks haggard, dirty and troubled. He looks about mid sixties, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's actually a lot younger than that. It's obvious that life has certainly had a good pop at this poor bastard.

People like these are the most difficult to deal with. If you don't handle the situation correctly it can get very awkward. If he's drunk already then it's easy, but if not, then it's way harder to deal with. He certainly looks like an alcoholic, and I can smell him well before he gets to the bar. But, I can't not serve him because he's homeless and we don't want their kind in the bar. Of course not. I'd happily give him some food and a cup of coffee on the house, if that is what he's after. But it's not food and coffee he's looking for. It never is. He wants booze. And what makes it a shitty situation, is if you have the luck of being their first port of call... I don't want to be a part of somebody's drinking problem, but how do you tell a sober person you're not serving them because you believe they look like an alcoholic. Maybe they're not, maybe the guy is just a manky looking cunt and I've just insulted him. Although, it's not exactly any easier telling somebody they're not welcome because they stink.

The guy plonks his bag on the floor and his arse on a bar-stool, and then quite steadily, orders a beer. In English. I ask him how he is tonight and he tells me he's fine, thanks. He looks a state but he seems sober enough. I do the cowardly thing and pour him a glass of lesser strength beer, hoping he'll be satisfied with that and leave afterwards. As soon as I put the glass in his hand and take his money though, I regret it.

Almost immediately the fucker starts mumbling to himself and picking his nose. There are a couple of young girls sat adjacent to him, who obviously feel uncomfortable. I go over to him again, giving him a concerned look whilst placing my hand on his forearm, and again ask him if he's ok. He looks confused now, like why am I asking him again? Well, because you're sat at the bar talking to yourself and eating your own bogies, fucko! Shit, I've fucked up here and I need to start working on getting him out.

I engage him in quiet, friendly conversation, in an attempt to keep him calm and keep the other guests from being disturbed. He asks me if it's ok to speak English, to which I reply that it's fine. I tell him I'm an Englishman and that I'd welcome the chance to converse in the Queen's with a fellow speaker. I'm hoping this is going to work in my favour. It does, but only for the briefest of time.

He tells me that he's Finish and has been living in Thailand for thirty years, although recently he's been staying in Copenhagen. I feign interest and ask him about what he did when he lived in Thailand. He tells me he was living there for a while, just bumming around, and then he was in prison. I don't ask him why, I just reply that that must have sucked ass. He says it was ok. He tells me he likes Denmark but he doesn't like Sweden. It is of his opinion that Swedish society is far too busy involving themselves in every individuals lives, that the laws on the serving of alcohol here are nothing but shit. I kind of agree with him as it happens, but I refrain from telling him that.

The conversation is now taking a turn for the worse. He seems to be working himself up, all on his own, angry that the Swedish government tell him he can't drink exactly as he wants to. He sees it that if he wants to drink and get fucked up, then that's nobody business but his own. By this point I have to ask him how much he's had to drink tonight, since it's by now become obvious that he isn't sober. Wrong question... He just gets angrier. What the fuck is happening to my lazy Sunday night?

“What the fuck business is it of yours how much I've had to drink?” he hisses at me. I tell him that it is my business if he's in my bar. I quietly tell him to calm down. He does. I tell him that it's probably not a good idea for him to drink anything else tonight, to which he just waves me off, irritatedly grunting a simple “Yeah, yeah”...

I keep an eye on him as he sits there and grumbles. I'm urging him to empty that fucking glass. The trouble is the cunt seems to be taking his time. Is he fucking with me?

For a minute I turn my attention to some of the other customers in the bar, but he's soon calling me back over. “You're not fucking English! If you were English then you would serve me as much beer as I fucking wanted, as long as I was paying!” I tell him that's bollocks. He's right of course.. In my dad's local pub, The Rock, I've literally seen some of the old boys passed out asleep on the carpeted floor, the landlord not even giving them a second glance. In fact, I've seen on more than one occasion, the landlord, completely off his tits, stood behind the bar serving people. I love that place. But this is Sweden and this isn't my bar. I just manage the place.

Not having time to reminisce about the Rock, my thoughts come back to this idiot in front of me. I tell him that I'm going to take his beer away and give him his money back. I take it, but by this point he doesn't even seem to care about that. “If you're English then tell me what the film I and Withnail is about! If you're English then you would know that.” I almost break into laughter at this point, but the irony is lost on the cunt.

I can't believe it but I fucking bite. “The film, “Withnail and I...”...

What the fuck am I doing? I'm stood in a bar with this radge, alcoholic tramp, who I want the fuck out of the bar, and I'm telling him what the film Withnail and I is about! I hear myself and I feel like a right turd! I cut myself off when I realise what I'm doing and I take his beer away, whilst taking his money out of the till and returning it to him. This doesn't appease him though. Now he wants to make a scene.

He angrily grapples first with his jacket and then with his bag, the whole while informing me that I wouldn't last ten minutes in a Thai jail, that I think I'm the big man stood behind the bar and that I wouldn't dare come out and face him. Now I'm not a fighter but I'm pretty sure I could wipe the floor with this drip of piss, but not being a fighter, I stand there and just offer him hushed, patronising tones. It's taking everything I have not to retaliate. “Ok now, thanks for tonight. Take care of yourself..”

He's now stood there, amongst the tables, miming the act of sucking cock and he's letting me know, just to confirm it, that I'm a cock sucking poofter. I tell him I understand what he's getting at. And then comes the classic...”One phone call and I'll have the Hell's Angels down here, and they'll burn the place down!” I can't help it by now, I shout back at him, “Fuck off, you stupid old cunt!”. Just as I'm opening my mouth the music dies down into some gentle part of whatever song is on and now the whole place is looking at me. Fucking typical! Again I feel like a right turd...

At least now, he's finally leaving. The atmosphere has turned somewhat icy though. I stand there, making sure he leaves, my heart thumping in the cage of my chest. So much for handling the situation correctly... I'm stood there staring at him leave, everyone else in the bar staring at me, staring at him. As he walks out the door he makes a feeble attempt at slamming it behind him, only for his ruck-sack to get caught on the handle. He stands there struggling with his bag and the door for a good ten seconds, threatening the door with his fist like Basil Fawlty in a scene from Fawlty Towers. This lightens the tone somewhat and a few people start to chuckle at his expense. And then I just feel sorry for him. What happened to my lazy Sunday night?

The rest of the night goes by without incident, but I have him in the back of my mind, wondering if he's going to turn up with a knife when I'm on my own, closing at the end of the night, or if indeed the Hell's Angels are going to show up with some Molotov Cocktails and torch the place... Thankfully, they don't.

I get the feeling I'll never see that poor sod ever again...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Walking The Dog

I love walking my dog. I love walking, full-stop. So having a dog that needs walking every day works out pretty well for me.

Today was the perfect dog walk. It's Tuesday, which is always my day off during the week, since Tuesday is Victims practice night. A lot of the time during the week I have to squeeze in an hour's walk with Bonzo before I hurry off to work. It's boring having to walk to a time-schedule, mainly since I have to stick to a planned route that I know will take around an hour to complete. This isn't much fun, either for me or for Bonzo I imagine. My favourite kind of walking is when you can just aimlessly walk in no particular direction, just taking each turn as it comes, with no worry about when you have to start turning back towards home.

Today was one of those days. It's not that cold out at the moment, around three degrees. In fact, compared to how it's been recently, that feels pretty warm. It's grey out though, and the streets are covered with slush, which makes the going hard at times. But with a whole afternoon without any plans ahead of me, that was no hindrance.

With my Ipod set to shuffle, the two of us set off, side by side, and returned over two hours later. When I say this walk was the perfect dog walk, I mean that in that it involved three of my favourite things. Walking. Music. Coffee.

The walk took us past Bromma airport and around the Solvalla horse-racing track, through the area of Rissne and across the fields towards Sundbybergs cemetery, around the lake Lötsjon, through Sundbyberg centrum and then back home. I picked up a pretty great cup of coffee along the way from Gröna Stugan, and enjoyed it whilst me and Bonzo stood and watched the Canadian Geese flapping around in the lake.

You might conclude that I'm easily amused. I am. I don't think I'll have any problem with being a pensioner later on in life. In fact, I look forward to it.

What made this walk today particularly great, was the soundtrack to it that my Ipod randomly picked out. It was the perfect soundtrack to the perfect walk.  I thought I'd share it with you.

Fortyonesixtyonefortythree – Canvas

His n' Hers – Some Girls

The Noise – From Ashes Rise

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space – Spiritualized

Here For You – Neil Young

Uneventful Days – Slight Slappers

Come Inside – The Horror The Horror

Vampire – Sebadoh

Coffee Jingle – Garrison Keller & Jearlyn Steele

Sewn Mouth Secrets – Soilent Green

I Can't Stop - Victims

Flat Velocity Curve – Prolapse

Highly Enlightened – Yaphet Kotto

Regenerate – Eyelid

Dagar Utan Ljus – Victims

Raiford (The Felon Wind) – Earth

Justified And Ancient Seems A Long Time Ago – The KLF

We All, Us Three, Will Ride – Palace Music

Fourth Song – Crude

Suffering The Tyrants – Satyricon

Eclipse – Pink Floyd

Pigs (Three Different Ones) – Pink Floyd

Karpis – The Jesus Lizard

Delete The Elite – Meanwhile

Elephant Man – Mastodon

Nothing To Anything – Reality Crisis

Oh Bury Me Not – Johnny Cash

Army Of God – Behind Enemy Lines

People Get Ready – Little Jimmy Scott

Line 1 – Swing Kids

Bolden Boke Boy – Will Oldham

Facistionesta – Shut The Fuck Up

Wild Dogs Of The Thunderbolt – Set Fire To Flames

Today has been a really pleasant day off from work.  Last night, some girl who I refused service to at the bar, on the grounds of her being a drunken twat, shouted at me upon leaving in a huff that I was the worst bartender ever, and that I suck camel's cock!  I guess you can't be on-side with everyone haha. The nice thing about having a dog is that no matter what shite you have to deal with at work, or wherever else, your dog is always there, happy to be by your side.  Who ever said that dog is man's best friend, was spot on! 

I'm really looking forward to practising with Victims tonight....

Monday, January 17, 2011

Observations of an Innocent By-Stander

I had the pleasure of walking in on a cracking conversation between a real pair of idiots tonight. I love it when I'm in the right place, at the right time.

Jen and I went to the cinema to watch the film about the life of the famous Swedish/Dutch troubador, Cornelis Vreeswijk, made by Amir Chamdin. It's a bit of a big deal here in Sweden and we've been meaning to get around to watching it for a while.  Hank, the singer from Turbonegro, plays the part of Cornelis, so I thought it would be interesting to see how that worked out, if nothing else.

As usual, before going into the screen room, I went to the toilet to avoid any later discomfort during the film. I walk in to find a rather simple looking chap stood by the wash basins, having a conversation with his mate, who is in the cubicle, apparently having a shit. As I stood there taking a piss, they ramble on, completely oblivious to my presence. I was entertained by the following:

Retard Guy – Are you telling me that Texas Longhorn is going to cause us to miss the film?

Cubicle Guy – Nah, it's ok, I'm nearly there. My guts are fucking killing me though.

RG – Haha. You're lucky you didn't have the bean chilli! What did you have anyway?

CG – Er, I had a steak. Ronny had the lamb, I had the beef.

RG – Ah. What size did you have?

CG – 200 gram I think.

RG – That's a pretty poncey steak. The “Ladies” I think they call it.

CG – (plop). Yeah, yeah.

RG – I ate the “Sitting Bull” once.

CG – No way! Fuck off! Did you manage it all?

RG – Yeah, fucking almost killed me though. But I can eat like a bastard though, so I was ok after a while.

CG – Fuck that!

RG – Woah, that fucking stinks! Are you done yet?

I finish up, wash my hands and walk out chuffed, as their conversation continues...

I enjoyed the film for what it was.  Good music.  I thought old Hank did ok too.  Jen had her doubts though...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A New Year...

I haven't written in a while since it's been Christmas and I've been too fat and lazy to write anything. Besides, I'm not writing on any sort of schedule.

I've had a cold since the start of December, about the time we went into the studio with Victims, that refuses to go away. I guess neither the bitterly cold winter we're having, or the fact that I work eleven hour nights in the bar, are hardly helping matters. Having a head that constantly feels like it's on the verge of imploding hardly puts me in the mood to write. Now, some six weeks later, it finally feels like the cold bug is starting to disperse, and I find myself back at the kitchen table with my laptop in front of me.

I was back in England over the Christmas period, where I spent a few days with my family and friends in Corby. I was working full on in the bar right up until I left, so it was nice getting away. Over New Year's, Jen and I spent a couple of days in the woods with the rest of the “Dog Mafia”, as Erik from Battle of Santiago calls us. Namely, Olle and Patrik from the band, their girlfriends Gabriella and Hanna, and their dogs Betsy and Bobby. A very cosy gang. We'd hired a house out in the countryside, where we spent the days doing very little except walking the dogs, taking saunas and eating the unbelievably good food that Olle cooked up for us. And of course, we had some drinks. I also passed the final initiation test in becoming a Swede, which entails leaving the sauna naked and rolling around in the snow. Quite and experience I can promise you...

So, it's the year 2011 all of a sudden. If my good friend Jon is right in his belief that the Mayan Doomsday Prophecy is right, then the planets downfall is little less than a couple of years away. So I guess this particular New Year's resolutions should be worthwhile.

Well things this year have started pretty well anyway. Kenny Dalglish is back as the manager of Liverpool Football Club. I was honestly close to tears this Sunday, whilst watching his first pre-game interview. The last couple of years as a fanatical Liverpool supporter have not been easy, as anyone interested in football will tell you. Now that King Kenny is back, there is a feeling of hope again. When he left his job the last time, I was thirteen years old, and my heart was broken. So seeing him back where he belongs fills me with overwhelming joy. It's too bad then that his first match as manager this time around was against the Scum in their own back yard, with a bent referee determined to see them through to the next round of the F.A. Cup. But that's life. I was in a stinking mood all evening at work on Sunday though.

The Scum, by the way, are Manchester United. As anyone interested in football will tell you...

Other than King Kenny's return, another thing I've been extremely happy about, is the Christmas present my sister bought me. It's literally one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It's called a Wake Cup. It's an alarm clock that makes you a cup of tea, or coffee, in the morning. My wife is loving the fact, that at least for now, I'm almost dancing up out of bed in the morning to the sound of my alarm clock. I'm not usually a “morning person”. I don't normally rejoice in getting out of bed, but this little thing of beauty has changed that for the time being. If things carry on in this form, 2011 is going to be a good year.

So, what are my resolutions this year?

I'm not normally one for “resolutions”, or at least, not normally one for seeing them through anyway. But this year, I feel determined to put my goals into action. For a start, I really want to go back to studying this year. Apart from the period when I learnt Swedish, I haven't studied since I left school in Corby at eighteen years old. Since we came back from holiday in California in September, around the time darkness started descending over Sweden, my brain has felt like it's smothered in cotton wool. “Seg” the Swedes call it. My friend Johan Risberg assures me that this is a quite normal state of mind during the winter-time in Sweden. Nonetheless, it's not a state of mind I enjoy. It has inspired me into getting my brain back in to gear though. So a major thing for me this year is to get back into the classroom and start using my brain again. It's never too late to study, and I'm grateful to live in a country where education is still free. Thank fuck I don't live in the UK any more!

Another resolution this year, which is something that simply must happen, is that I have to pass my driving test. Me learning to drive has by now, become an absolute joke! I took my first driving lesson at the age of nineteen, in Corby, with a very nice man called Jim Scales. My sister was taking lessons with him at the same time, and she has been driving now for almost eleven years. Due to a string of reasons, I never got around to taking my test. Touring constantly seemed to get in the way. The problem is now though, that whereas educating yourself in maths, or history or whatever other academic subject, is still free in this land, educating yourself to drive most certainly is not. In fact, it must be, I imagine, the most expensive country in the world to learn to drive in. An hour driving lesson here costs around £80. That's a monolithic amount of money! It's not easy, but somehow, this year, I'm going to pass my fucking driving test! Me and the wife are planning a road trip to England this summer, and Jen isn't planning to do all the driving herself, so I'm going to have to get my shit together. I had a driving lesson this morning, and although the price of it pained me to the point of feeling nauseous, I still felt positive afterwards. A couple more this week and next, a then a little bit of driving Jenny's car with Olle, and I'm applying for my test.

Apart from education in one form or another, this year is also going to be musically productive. This isn't a resolution, this is just what's happening this year.

The new Victims album, which is titled, “A Dissident” will finally be mixed by the end of this week. This has been a long process, interrupted by the holiday period and the fact that everyone works full time jobs, but this week it will be completed and hopefully by the end of next week it will be mastered. I'm going to Johan's tonight to meet up with the guys and listen through what should be the final mix. We have to have everything completed by the end of January since we've set a release date with the various labels involved, at April 12th. My friend Richey should be sending me a mock up of the cover artwork tonight. Exciting to see how that is coming along too.

Speaking of Richey, Battle of Santiago will be releasing a split 7” with his band, A Thousand Arrows, through the label Seven Inch Records. I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on this. We should be flying over to the UK to play some shows with them at some point in March, around the time the record comes out. One of my best friends ever, Gordon, who played drums in Raging Speedhorn, also plays in ATA, so those shows are going to be a blast.

Battle of Santiago will also be releasing an EP with the poet and dramatist, Stig Larsson. That record is done and ready to go, and should be coming out as a collaboration with our friends label Svedjebruk and the wonderful antique book publishers, Rönells. We played a show with Stig at Rönells book store in Stockholm in November, which was an amazing night, and Rönells were so happy with it, they want to release the EP on vinyl. We're talking with Stig about playing some more shows together as we release this record.

I'm also in the long, slow process of recording an album with my friend Stuart Ness. We have a project together called Justadels, which is primarily studio based. And when I say studio, I mean Stuart's bedroom... We're very pleased with how it is coming along though and we're hoping to release it at some point this year. It's a million miles away from anything I've ever recorded before and I'm very excited about it.

Other than all of that, I'll be keeping on, keeping on with the blog. I'm thinking about starting a series called The Bar, which will be based on the long nights at work and some of the, quite frankly, mental people I have to put up with from time to time. I'm also going to be doing some more Archive stuff as well as the tour diaries when I'm out on the road of course, which was really the main idea behind the blog in the first place. At some point in time I intend to start interviewing friends and associates that are involved in the hardcore and D.I.Y. music scene and share some of their stories from the road and beyond. The amount of tales I've heard from other musicians over the years are vast, and a lot of them need to be shared.

So, as January rolls on, and the earth nears it's final judgement day, I humbly bid you a Happy New Year!

Gareth x