Monday, May 16, 2011


It was only six hours, but I slept like a baby. Six hours is the average amount of sleep you can expect when you're out playing shows anyway. It's the quality of the sleep and not the amount of it you get that counts.

Today is another short drive. I could get used to this. I think anything up to five hours in the van is pretty much a breeze, it's when you start getting past that that it becomes a chore. Sometimes in the States you're doing ten hour drives a day, if you have the wrong people booking your shows. I'm glad we have Stachel taking care of all our European stuff this summer. Today's drive is little more than two hours...

I wake up around ten-thirty am. and spend the first forty minutes or so sitting up in bed checking emails and Liverpool stuff. Kenny Dalglish got the manager's job on a permanent basis yesterday, news that had Johan and I in good spirits. I'm looking forward to next season already. I'm already forgetting this one since it looks like the Scum are going to take the title today and with it and our record for most wins. Only the news of King Kenny signing on permanently could lift the gloom off that fucker.

After a hot shower I head down to the venue and into the back garden to enjoy breakfast with the rest of the guys and with Daniel and Ellen, our two new friends who did a great job of running last nights show. The spread they've put on for us is great, although the coffee with soya milk doesn't quite hit the spot. They have this mushroom paste in a tin that is for spreading on your bread that although doesn't look that great, is absolute delicious. I can't get enough of it. The coffee I'll make up for at the first available stop.

After breakfast I sit chatting with Ellen about the venue and the local scene and all the usual stuff. She tells me that although there are a lot of kids in the area that are really into the music, they're not so concerned with the politics involved. I guess to be fair I'd count as one of those people. Of course I'm on the side of everything our great scene stands for, but I've never been one for workshops and all that. It's good that there are people like Ellen that are though. She's a really nice person and it's interesting chatting with her. Making new friends is a wonderful thing. She asks me to teach her some Swedish words which I find quite funny since it's not a situation I'm used to. And then my thoughts go back to the essay I have to complete for the end of next week...

Just as we're starting to think about making a move and packing the van, we're joined at the table by a few punk kids who are drinking beer and making way too much noise for my liking. They must have stayed here last night and I'm guessing they're friends of Daniel and Ellen, although it's kind of hard to make the connection. They're not quite pulling off the old beer for breakfast cliché. I've seen it a hundred times and it doesn't impress me, but I guess we've got a few years on them and they'll grow out of it at some point. One of the guys offer Johan a swig from his beer, to which Johan firmly says, “Nej tack”, although Jon happily takes a gulp. It's kind of annoying though when they abruptly put an end to the pleasant conversation we were having. We do our best to ignore them in the politest possible manner, but when one of them jumps on something Johan says about Facebook, making a big noise about it being a corporate networking community or something along those lines, I'm already beyond bored and head back into the venue to start getting the stuff packed into the van.

After saying our goodbyes and once Stachel is done with wrestling Andy, we get into the van and head towards Bremen. It's only a two hour drive but there is a lot of traffic expected on the roads around Dortmund today since it's the last game of the season and Borussia have taken home the title. It doesn't work out that way though and Micha gets us to the venue in Bremen just before five pm.

The place we are playing tonight is fucking awesome! The stage is in a small room on the first floor of an apartment building, which is home to a punk communal. The room the stage is in would feel tight with fifty people in it. Exactly my kind of show. And to top it off, Stachel is actually the promoter tonight so I know it's going to be good.

With the venue only having a vocal PA there is no need to sound-check tonight. Instead we just load in, set our gear up on the small stage which can be no more than a few inches high, and then head off in to town to chill out for a while. Johan will most likely have to play on the floor tonight since there is no room for him in front of Andy's drums. I can't even imagine it's going to be later on with a room packed full of punks. I can hardly wait.

Once loaded in and set up, we have a couple of hours to kill before the venue opens, so we take the van down to the river near Werder Bremen's football stadium. Checking out football grounds all over the world is another favourite past-times of mine. Bremen's looks like a big upside down cake tin.

After a relaxing walk around the river area we head back into town and sit down to some pizza. I opt for a topping of feta cheese, spinach and onion. It's nothing special but the restaurants home made hot sauce is awesome and makes the meal thoroughly enjoyable, as does the bottle of Moretti that washes it down.

By the time we're done it's seven pm. and we decide to head back to the venue. It's one of those lazy days today. When we get back to the venue, we head upstairs to the living room on the top floor and sit around watching episode upon episode of the American version of The Office. Jon and Andy are glued to the sofa pretty much right up to show time. When I hear the the support band, Zodiac, have started playing I rise from my slumber on the sofa and head downstairs to check them out. When I get downstairs I make my way down the hallway to the stage room. There are people milling around all over the place. Outside in the street, in the room to the side of the stage room where Micha has set up his distro and our merch. There is a nice buzz about this show tonight. After chatting quickly with Micha and buying another couple of lp's, I go to check Zodiac out. I can't even get through the door! I stand in the doorway for a while, which is to the right behind the low stage but it's no use, I can't really see anything.

I head back to Stachel who is sat at the door taking money and he tells me there are one hundred and twenty people in tonight. The room where the stage is is roughly the combined area of my living room and kitchen. This is going to be one beautiful gig.

When Zodiac are done I make my way to the stage and help the guys with their gear. The guitarist on my side of the stage looks like he's had a shower. His t-shirt is soaked through and glued to his chest. You can almost see the steam in the room...

By the time we're set up, tuned up and ready to go, we are pinned in and surrounded by the crowd. I have people in front of me, people to the side of me and behind me. It's absolutely packed. I fear that with my normal flapping guitar style, I'm going to plant my guitar in someone's coupon! I'll have to try and restrain myself.

Before we even start I almost belt Stachel's lovely flat-mate, Mica. I give her a hug and tell her I'm sorry. As she does so often though, she just laughs and then tells me she can't wait for the show.

I have a space of roughly one square foot to play in, and already the small space on the stage I have, which almost puts me on top of Andy's kit, is as slick as ice. Johan is on the floor in front of the stage, in the crowd. I'll be amazed if he doesn't get to eat his microphone at least once tonight. We blast in to the first block of V5, Rewind and Forward and then Who The Fuck Are We? By the time we're done with that block, about two and a half minutes later, I'm soaked in sweat. By the time we get through another couple of blocks I'm already nearing my limit.

At the start of the set I'd been full of energy and I noticed the people in the crowd in front me having to duck my swinging guitar a couple of times. By the time get to the start of Lies about half way through the set, I notice Stachel right in front of me and decide to take advantage of his strong little legs and use them as a seat during the brief moments of Jon's guitar intro.

I look over at Jon during the gig and his space is as limited as mine. Johan is rocking out hard on the floor in the crowd, he seems like he's having a great show. As much as the heat is punishing, I'm absolutely loving this show, as is the crowd. I'm very glad that I remembered to take a bottle of water with me to the stage tonight. As I swigging from it between songs near the end of the set, Andy warns me that I keep getting really close to stamping on my pedals when I'm playing. I hadn't noticed. I had noticed that Andy's cymbals have come pretty close to my head a couple of times.

By the time we get to the last two songs, Broken Bones and Your Life Is Red, I'm not even sure I'm going to make it through. I feel physically sick and dizzy. By the time the songs are over, I put my guitar down and almost run to the cool air of the hallway beside the stage, out to where Micha's merch is. I wonder if the guys are going to follow. I'm hoping they do. They don't. I guess if we're going to play a couple of extra songs it's hardly worth their while fighting their way over to my side of the crowd. A couple of minutes go by and I hear Johan talking to the crowd. I guess we're going back on. The couple of minutes of cooler air have helped me though and I no longer feel that dizzy. When I get back on stage I shout over to the guys, joking, “You fucking cunts!”. Andy looks at me exhausted, “I know!” I love playing in this band.

We get through Circles and then Scars with a renewed vigour and then it really is time to clear out. This time I head straight for the street outside and park my ass on the pavement up against the wall of the house. It's pretty cold outside now. Sweet relief. I sit there for a good ten minutes before heading back in.

Nobody is in a particular rush to pack down tonight. We pack up the stuff and then leave it on stage so we can drink a beer ad chill out before we load the van. I get talking to a couple of interesting people. There is one nice gentleman who tells me he really liked my blog about the songs on the album. I thank him. We chat for a while and he asks if we're going for a drink anywhere after the show. I tell him that Johan and I are most likely going back to 1st. Class Suicide since our friend Daniel is working in the bar tonight. I tell the guy we'll see him there.

We pack up the van and head back to Stachel's to sort ourselves out. Andy and Jon are opting for a night in front of Stachel's tv. Jon wants to continue watching The Office. It's around two am. when Johan, Stachel and I head back out in to town where we meet up with Stachel's friend who has done the posters for this tour and who also does a lot of the graphic stuff for Stachel's label. A really nice girl called Kurzi. We're all starving. We head back to Torno's and I once again enjoy their superb falafel. And then we head to our friend Daniel for some drinks.

When we get to 1st. Class Suicide, Daniel is looking ready to close up. We put a stop to those plans. He's such a big friendly guy though that he doesn't mind, and he truly loves making cocktails. And anyhow, he drinks as much as he serves anyway! We sit down at the bar and after an initial Whisky Sour, the theme of the night turns to gin. Daniel gives me a drop of this superb gin called Monkey 47, which he serves me straight up. It's smooth and has a slight hint of lingonberry in it's flavour. It's absolutely superb. Next up is a shot of Bombay Sapphire with a dash of sugar-water laced with dill. This blows my mind. I've never heard of anything like it, but it tasted amazing. The night goes on...and before long Stachel is pretty drunk, whilst Johan is a heady mixture of drunk and exhausted. He's struggling to keep his eyes open. I feel like I could go on all night though.

The guy I had met at the venue and mentioned this place to, is indeed here. Although he's sat on a chair with his head between his legs, his long hair hanging down to the ground, an undisturbed Bloody Mary on the table in front of him.
Johan can hardly take it any more, he has to go to the toilet just to move himself and keep himself awake. Stachel is looking pretty toasted. He cracks me up, he's got long hair these days and with his hat on looks like Brian Johnson, the AC/DC singer. He does a great impression of Johnson's stage moves, which I had him doing earlier. I look at Daniel and tell him it's time to go. The clock is nearing five am.

When we walk back to Stachel's place, the sun is beginning to rise and the birds are beginning to sing. This doesn't please the little man who is lagging behind us further down the road. He's shouting at me and Johan ahead about how much he hates it when the birds come out in the early hours and sing. “I hate the birds! They fucking suck!” We crack up and keep on walking. A little while later we hear him whining, “Gery (as he always calls me), my shoes are open...” Johan and I just laugh at him and keep walking.

By the time we get back to Stachel's pad, Andy and Jon are of course fast asleep. I don't feel so drunk although it's late and already I'm starting to feel that Andy made a wise choice in getting some sleep tonight. We have to get up around eleven. But then I think, fuck it. When I'm home I work and study and take it pretty easy, right now I'm out with the boys playing shows and having a good time. I can get a full nights sleep tomorrow night instead.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I wake up shivering. It's seven-thirty am. I look over at Micha who is fast asleep on the mattress next to mine. Where am I? Why am I so fucking cold? It takes a few seconds for the groggy haze to lift before I remember where I am. I'm at Ronald's place. I'm lying in just a t-shirt and boxer shorts and all I have for a cover is a small hand towel. No matter how I pull at it, try and arrange it in to some sort of position, I can't get it to cover my legs and bring me warmth...

I wake up shivering. It's eight-fifteen am. I look over at Micha who is fast asleep on the mattress next to mine. Where am I? Why am I so fucking cold?....

This happens at least another three times.

Eventually I awake dying for a piss and thus, after much deliberation, I slumber off in search of a toilet. My head is thumping again. I'm still fucking freezing. I make my way downstairs in search of both somewhere to piss and something to use as a cover. My decision against bringing a sleeping bag with me for this trip now something of great regret to me. With all my experience of touring I can't believe how stupid I've been. That doesn't matter right now though. I need to piss so much that my stomach hurts.

The guys are spread about Ronald's living room, fast asleep the lot of them. I step over a few bodies and reach the asylum of the toilet, making sure I avoid the mirror as I relieve my self. Christ, my mouth is as dry as a nun's fadge. Still, after pissing I feel about a stone lighter. Relief. I head back upstairs and back to the mattress and the hand towel.

I wake up shivering...

It's only when I'm awoken by Micha getting up for a shower around ten am. that the idea hits me. I see my jeans lying on the floor beside me. Ahhhh...warm legs at last. I sleep for another half an hour and then it's time to get up. I head for the shower. As the warm water hits me and my head begins to clear, the headache now subsided, I wonder if all that fighting with the hand towel had actually happened, or if it was just a drunken dream...

After some breakfast at Ronald's place and everyone is showered, except Jon who declines, we are back in the van. I'm starting to think these weekend trips are the way to go. Or more to the point, Stachel's planning is the way forward. When Stachel books a show with a promoter, he doesn't ask them what time we have to be at the venue, he asks them what the latest possible time we can arrive will be. Very smart. That way we avoid hanging around at a venue doing nothing for hours on end, and thus wasting a perfectly good day. If you ask a venue what time you need to be there, they'll inevitable tell you to be there at three pm. or something equally unnecessary. If that happens, nine times out of ten you'll be waiting outside the venue before the sound guy even turns up. Thanks to Stachel's meticulous planning, today would be no such occasion. Today would be the perfect day on tour...

The drive from Ronald's place, just outside of Amsterdam, to Wermelskirchen is somewhere between two and three hours. In tour terms, nothing at all. A breeze. We decided we would travel to Amersfoort and visit an old friend of the guys, Jos, who plays in the band Seein' Red as well as many others. I'd never met Jos before but I was looking forward to doing so.

Unfortunately, a couple of days ago we'd heard some very sad news concerning Jos. Nobody seems to be quite sure why or how, but he'd lost a large part of his hearing. Whether it was an infection or playing loud music for so many years, his ear drums had burst, leaving him with only twenty percent left in his right ear and as yet, an undetermined amount in his left, pending examination. Really tragic news.
We arrived at Jos's place around one thirty pm. The first thing that struck me was what a giant of a man he is. He's as big as a bear. The second thing that struck me was what an absolute gentleman he is. We sat around at his place drinking superb black coffee and talking with him about what had happened. Despite the circumstances, he seemed in good spirits. His ability to hear what we were talking about, even with my mumbling accent, was surprisingly good. Jos is one of those people deeply embedded in the scene. One of those people everybody knows. We talk about what's going on in the community right now, old friends, old records, what's happening in Japan and friends that are over there, everything. He tells us that he's waiting on finding out how damaged his left ear is and the possibility of performing an operation to mend his hearing. Best case scenario, he can play music again in a few months time. Worst case scenario doesn't even bear thinking about.

We spend a couple of hours at Jos's place, just catching up and shooting the breeze. He has a really nice house and an even nicer record collection. There must be at least a few thousand on the shelves. There is nothing more fun than viewing someone else's collection.

As we sit there talking, somehow the topic of Stachel's fear of sharks comes into conversation. At first I don't really catch what he's saying. I mean, isn't everyone kind of scared of sharks? Everyone should be at least. It soon becomes apparent though that Stachel's fear is on a whole other level.

He tells us that watching Jaws as a nine year old had really put the shits up him. It was so bad that after seeing the film that one time, even though he was only in the local swimming baths, when another kid had joked that there was a shark in the water, he'd swam out of the pool, fast as fuck, shitting himself. We all burst out laughing at this. He explains that in Jaws 3 the shark had gotten into the pool somehow, so in his nine year old mind, a shark being in his local swimming baths was perfectly plausible. Again, we burst out laughing. He tells us that this fear has now developed into a general fear of swimming in murky water, be it lake or ocean. At one point he actually says the following: “I don't like it when I'm swimming in water and I can't see what beneath my feet. It could be sharks or whales or submarines, I don't know. Scary shit!” Now we're really fucking pissing ourselves! The thought of Stachel paddling around in the water worried about a submarine creeping up on him is a quite brilliant image...

When we're all done laughing at our good friend, we decide to take a walk around the town of Amersfoort with Jos as our guide, a trip to the local micro-brewery being top of the agenda. Now this truly beats hanging around at a venue all day.

Amersfoort is a beautiful old city encased by ancient parameter walls. It reminds me a little of York. Jos takes us to this little brewery situated next to the river, which is a working micro-brewery and bar in one. Between the lot of us, we sample all they have to offer. The beer is superb. After a glass of Bock which is 5,9% and another beer named Triple, which weighs in at 6,8%, I'm feeling that warm, cosy afternoon hit. We all are. I buy a few bottles of the Triple to take home. I certainly won't be needing any more this afternoon.

We walk around the ancient town with Jos as our guide, all pleasantly toasted. It's a good thing we're not playing for another eight hours or so. Before we leave for Wermelskirchen, Jos introduces us to one of Amersfoort's proudest delicacies. Hand cut chips with spicy peanut butter sauce. There is a great little shop which exclusively sells these chips, with an assortment of different sauces. Although there is quite a choice, I'm totally sold on the spicy peanut butter. As strange as it sounds, it's absolutely wonderful.

After thanking Jos for a great afternoon, we drive the rest of the way to Wermelskirchen. We get there just in time to load in and sound-check. The couple of hours in the van being enough time to let the effects of Amersfoort's beer wear off. The guy who does sound at the venue tonight, Frank Bolz, is another good friend of Stachel's. He does the mastering for all of the records Stachel puts out on his label, as well as recording a lot of bands himself. He's very serious about his job and he's very fucking good at it. The sound we get on stage is one of the best I've ever played with. It's very rare that sound-checking is this enjoyable.

The venue itself is a great place, with great people running it. It reminds me a little of Truckstop Alaska. The room where the stage is at is just the right size, it can probably hold about one hundred and fifty people. The stage is about five feet high and has plenty of room on it to make a show of yourself. The room next door is where the bar is at and on the back side of that is a garden area where there are sofas and tables and a food bar where they are grilling some amazing looking vegan burgers. Above the venue is a band apartment where there are beds for everyone and a kitchen and dining room. The two people running the place are called Daniel and Ellen, two of the friendliest people you could wish to meet. As is often the case when out on tour with Victims, I find myself wondering why we couldn't have played more places like this with Speedhorn.

There are plenty of people at the show tonight and a really good band supporting us called Patsy O'Hara, who are kind of German screamo style mixed with some d-beat and instrumental parts that remind me of Fall of Efrafa in their quieter moments. They are really nice guys too and I enjoy watching their show, all the while getting pumped up to play after them.

In keeping with the smooth flowing operation that today has been, we're on stage by eleven-twenty. I'm buzzing as the room starts to fill up with people filtering in from the bar and garden area as we let the feedback ring. It sounds amazing. I'm ready.

Tonight's show falls into a category of show I've played down the years. The room is pretty full, the energy on-stage is buzzing, we play really hard and despite the heat don't ever feel like tiring. It's that magical third gig. After warming up with a couple of shows it's now back at the level where you can bounce your guitar of the wall mid riff, catch it and still land on the right note. It's a truly great feeling. I feel like we're killing this show tonight. The crowd on the other hand is another matter. It's one of those that even though they're not kicking off and going crazy, somehow you still feel a really good energy from them, which is confirmed with the generous applause and shouting between song blocks. When we leave the stage at the end of the set, the calling for an encore is in full unified voice. We go back out and play Circles and Scars, no discussion this time.

At the end of the set proper, we thank the crowd and crawl off to the corridor at the side of the stage. Frank seems to take an age putting the disco music back on, apparently wanting more from us himself. As we sit there waiting for the music to come on the crowd continues to chant for us to come back on. One voice, pleading it's way through the drone particularly cracking me up. - One more sooooong! And then a few moments later... - Pleeease! And then... - Halllo! Brilliant stuff.

Frank eventually comes into us and asks us if we're done. We are. He nods and heads back to the sound desk and puts some music on. We sit around chilling out and discussing the show. We're all really satisfied, although Jon says he had some boring looking bird stood in front of him looking like she was falling asleep during the entire show. Haha, why do some people bother? It turns out she was there with her boyfriend, who was enjoying the show somewhat more.

I'm not sure but I think Jon was playing the show in a t-shirt tonight...I know this is nothing out of the ordinary for most people but Jon has been going bare-top ever since I joined the band, in itself stemming back to when he saw High on Fire, and in particular Matt Pike, one of his idols, playing without a top on. This is the theory according to Andy and Johan at least. I ask Jon if he had indeed played in his t-shirt tonight, to which he replies shaking his head, “Yeah. I saw a picture of myself on-stage a while ago...You can't go up there with tits for fuck sakes!” I love the self-distance Jon has from himself.

When we're packed down on stage, leaving the gear there for the night, we chill out upstairs with the guys from Patsy O'Hara and a couple of bottles of local beer. It's not Amersfoort Triple, but it will do.  Jon's friend Luc is also hanging out with us.  He's got a pretty cool Victims tattoo on his leg.  We talk with him about the possibility of playing his festival, Bloodshed, later on in the year.  I hope that is something we can work out.  After a while we head downstairs to the bar area where we hang out with Stachel and Micha and Andy and I slowly go about dissecting their distros. I pick up around twelve records, as well as Yaphet Kotto lp from another distro the Patsy guys have.

We spend a couple of very enjoyable hours drinking beer, telling stories and hanging out with Daniel and Ellen, who's birthday it is today. Jon hangs out by the fuss-ball table with a big smile on his face, watching some German punk kids play a game. He's at the point where his brain is disconnected and he's barking Swedish at nobody in particular.

This has truly been the perfect day on tour. I feel a little tipsy when we head to bed, although far from steaming. Just good. Me and Jon have been laughing about this English actor named Danny Dyer, who did a documentary series about football hooliganism called The Real Football Factories a while back. He's this really over the top cockney actor, who in truth, can't act for shit. The documentary series was great though. Well, really funny anyway, full of stupid people. It was actually Viktor from Nitad who had started going on about it on the Gothenburg trip a couple of weeks ago. Jon has been obsessed ever since.

We go to bed in the dormitory we're sharing, me and Jon laughing about that. A few muffled giggles soon turn into a wave of hysteria. It's fucking weird. It's like being back in school. Andy, Johan and Stachel are lying in bed sleeping and every time I hear Jon start laughing I burst into a fit of my own. At one point I'm lying on my stomach with my face in the pillow in order to stifle the laughter. Absolutely ridiculous. This goes on for about fifteen minutes.

When I fall asleep tonight it's not with a headache, it's my stomach that hurts.

Friday, May 13, 2011


“We'll go there for one drink and then we'll head back and get some sleep.” Famous last words that have been said many a time. You think we'd learn...

I woke up in bed next to Stachel with my head pounding.

We flew in to Hamburg last night where Stachel had picked us up in the van with all of the gear we're renting for this weekend trip. We couldn't find any affordable flights into Amsterdam for the first show tomorrow, so we opted to fly into Germany the night before and hang out with our good friend Stachel for one extra night. We just can't get enough of the little man. And besides, it's nice starting with a day off.

We landed around ten pm. and by the time we got to Bremen it was just before midnight. The roadworks on the Hamburg to Bremen autobahn still no nearer completion it seems. They must have been restoring that road for the last decade. By the time we get to Stachel's place we're all starving. I've never been in Bremen before, it must be the only big town in Germany that I've not played in, although that will be accomplished on Saturday.

We take a walk into town and it's pretty quiet. It's a nice looking place though. Stachel had promised us Bremen's best falafel and I was dying to check it out. The place is a nice little no frills- hole in the wall kebab shop called Torno. The falafel hits the spot perfectly and when Jon cracks open a large bottle of Becks, the temptation for a beer is too much for both myself and Johan. It feels good to have warm food inside me after a dinner of airport and air-plane sandwiches. The beer doesn't feel too bad either...

Stachel has been telling me for a long time now about a friend of his called Daniel that is a great cocktail bartender. He's also played in a few hardcore bands, one of which was Mörser. Anyway, he works at this really nice little place called 1st. Class Suicide on Wednesday evenings, and with all we've been hearing about the place, the man and the drinks, and this being Wednesday night, we feel obliged to check it out, even if it's just for one drink before we go to sleep at Stachel's place...

I opt for a drink that is made up of gin, melon, cucumber and chilli. It might sound a bit strange but it was absolutely tremendous.  Johan goes for a Ginger Cosmopolitan.  I know as soon as the cocktail menu comes out that this won't be the last drink. And then when the Jagermeister shots arrive courtesy of Daniel I know I'm going to have a headache the next day. I really don't like doing shots anymore but you don't want to appear ungrateful. Jon starts getting stuck in to some other crazy booze that smells like cloves but I make sure I stay clear of that fucker... A few more drinks and a beer, as well as some good chat with Daniel about old shows and new bands, and we head back to Stachel's. I can feel the headache even before I go to sleep. So much for only one drink.

A couple of paracetamol and a shower later and I feel better, although my head was killing when I first woke. By the time I'm done with the breakfast Stachel has made us I'm feeling good for the day ahead. The drive to Amsterdam takes around five hours. Another friend of ours, Micha, who runs the wonderful Punk Distro label, is coming out to the shows helping with the driving. He's bringing a few boxes of records to sell at the shows too, so I guess I'll be coming home broke as per usual. The drive to Amsterdam goes by pretty fast since I spend most of it studying. The college term ends next week and I still have a bit to do, so I don't have much choice. I'm trying not to get stressed about it, but next week I have a big essay to write on Selma Lagerlöf's Kejsaren av Portugallien, which has to be handed in by Friday. So for the first time in my life, I actually sat in the band van doing school work. I'm not planning on making a habit of it...

We get to Amsterdam around seven pm. Perfect timing. The doors to the show open at nine and we're on around eleven so the night should fly by nice and smoothly. Nothing worse than hanging around at a venue doing nothing but waiting around.

We get done with soundcheck, it sounds good. The gear Stachel has gathered together for us seems to be concrete. During soundcheck tonight I can tell that we're all a lot more relaxed on stage than we were at the first show in Gothenburg, when even in soundcheck the songs were flying along at an uncontrollable pace. It feels now like that show helped shake the cobwebs off. We play through a few songs and everything feels really good. After we're done we tuck into some delicious risotto that the venue has made for us up in the room above the venue. I'm not that hungry but it's so good that I'm forced to take seconds. Can't let good food go to waste on tour.

We don't have any spare guitars with us on these shows, which for me can be a fucking problem. After dinner I put new strings on my guitar, which is without doubt, the most boring chore known to man. I hate it. I'm hoping that this new set will get me through the three shows at least, otherwise there is going to be some uncomfortable pauses onstage. When we're done with dinner and strings, Jon and I take a walk around the park opposite the venue. Good to stretch the legs for a bit. It's a beautiful night and the park provides some welcome fresh air.

It's nice to be back in Amsterdam. It would have been fun to get into town a bit earlier today and hang out with some friends, but at the same time, getting to hang out at Stachel's this morning without any stress was too good to pass up. After hanging out in the park for a while, listening to Jon tell me about some French film he's been in to recently, we head back to the venue to meet my friend Lotje. Outside the venue is one of Amsterdam's many heavily trafficked cycle lanes and as we approach the venue Jon gets belled at by some old lady on her bike, who comes cycling up behind him. Jon almost jumps out of his skin whilst grabbing on to my arm and shouting some expletives in Swedish at her. I crack up laughing as does the old lady and a few other people who witness the spectacle.

Lotje comes down and meets me at the show and we go to a bar on the corner and catch up over a beer. It's always good to see her. It seems like things are going really well for her at the moment. She and a friend of hers opened up a hostel a few months ago and it's gone amazingly well. As well as that she's doing some work tour managing for the Swedish pop singer Robyn. She's off to the States in a few weeks with that. It's really nice to catch up in this quiet bar just a few doors down from the venue, although our time is too short as always since I have to worry about getting back for the show. Lotje doesn't feel like coming in to hang out a noisy punk show so she heads off home. As I say goodbye to her another friend of mine, Igor, texts me letting me know he's at the venue. We chat for a good fifteen minutes before I head into the venue to catch the end of Hysteria's set.

I like this venue. It reminds me of a slightly larger Kafe 44, but with a bar and a bigger stage. There are by now about eighty people in and it looks pretty good. I'm looking forward to playing. Hysteria sound really good, the girl singer has some pretty brutal vocals. The bass payer is a friend of Jon's who we were talking to earlier and who I only now realise is playing in the band. I'm going to have to pick up their record.

Hysteria finish just after eleven which gives us about fifteen minutes to set up since the venue has a curfew set for midnight, which is mainly due to the fact that the last train away from this part of town departs not long after. We want to get up on stage and get on with it, since there is nothing worse than playing a show to a crowd of people that are forced to leave before the end of the set due to transport restrictions. We get set up quick though, and it still sounds good up on stage, which is credit to the in-house sound guy. Hysteria had their own sound engineer with them and I don't know who's fuck up it was, but the settings we had on the desk from soundcheck got wiped.

Since we played the show in Gothenburg a couple of weeks ago we've rearranged the set. That night at Truckstop felt like we were just playing a bunch of songs in no particular order. We've since been back in the rehearsal room and sorted it out. We've cut a couple of new songs away and everything feels a lot more structured now. We start off with Victims in Blood #5 and when we're done with the first block, three songs and two minutes later, I know it's going to be a good gig. Even if I did snap one of those new strings before we'd even started...

I didn't bother mentioning it to the guys since it's only the High E string and I don't need it. With time getting on, I decide to just play the set without it and hope that it's not a bad omen for the rest of the show. It isn't. Although it's in the back of my mind, I don't really hold back from playing since you can't really do that and enjoy the show properly, so I decide to just go for it whilst making sure that I have a spare pack of strings within reaching distance.

The crowd is really enthusiastic tonight. They tepidly creep forward from the back of the dance-floor to the front of the stage on Johan's demand, but once we start, they kick off. Amazing how one gig can make a difference. After about six songs in Gothenburg I thought I was going to pass out, but tonight the energy is flowing. I can sense that the other guys are feeling it too. Everybody seems to be enjoying the gig and in no time the set flies by. We finish up by playing Circles and Scars as a couple of extra songs and then we're done. We stand there discussing the fact that somebody had requested For We Are Dead but I want to stick with the plan.  The guys are keen to play the guys request.  I joke with them asking them if we're a cabaret act.  I get my way.

The show felt like a really good start to the weekend. I make my way through the crowd to get a gasp of fresh air and enjoy the rest of my bottle of water. It was by no means the hottest show I've ever played tonight but I'm nonetheless dripping in sweat by the time I make it out in to the cool night breeze.

I meet a couple of people out there who really seemed to enjoy the show. One is a guy from South Korea who is in Amsterdam studying for a year. He tells me his name is Moonsick. I don't know how you spell his name but he explains it to me by first pointing at the moon and then holding his stomach and making a puking action. Really nice kid. We talk for a while about South Korea and the punk scene there. He tells me it's small but there are a few bands trying to do something. He tells me he's collecting a load of new records whilst he's here to take back and introduce to people at home since there isn't a lot of access to punk rock over there.

Another kid comes out of the venue who I recognise from being at the front and dancing throughout the entire show. He's covered in sweat and gasping for air by the time he gets to the street. He tells me that he travelled two hundred kilometres to come to the show tonight, which absolutely blows my mind. He keeps thanking me over and over for the show. I tell him that is I who is thankful to him. I chat for a little while longer with my new friends before heading back into the venue to claim a well earned bottle of Budvar. It tastes superb flowing down my throat.

We hang out for a while longer, chatting to our friends in the band Vitamin X who are from Amsterdam. We talk mostly about touring in the States and our friend Scotty, who has put out our records on his label Tankcrimes. As much as playing shows is what it's all about, hanging out with friends and catching up in different cities all over the world is what holds your heart dear to touring like we do.

We load out around one am. The bike lane is still really busy and as I'm in the middle of throwing gear into the back of the van I'm almost hit by a lady on a Paralympic style wheel chair. She's moving fast as fuck and I barely see her as she whizzes past me irritably ringing her bell. When we're packed we drive out to our friend Ronald's place, who was promoting the show tonight. Even though he's straight-edge, he's filled his fridge with beer for us and bought us a load of food for breakfast. Great guy. We sit up drinking beer and listening to records by Infest, Jerry's Kids and Herätys, all on a suitable low volume. Perfect.

By the time four am. comes around, we all start flaking and making plans for how we're going to sleep. The guys spread themselves around the sofas and the floor of Ronald's living room. I make a bee-line for the back room upstairs where Micha has already crashed out.

I feel another headache coming as I crash out on one of the mattresses Ronald has laid out for us.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I always have a hard time getting to sleep the night before an early rise. It's the hours I work. I'm used to going to bed at four in the morning and getting up around ten. If my alarm clock is set at any time before nine then my head refuses to turn off. This morning the clock was set for seven and last night I lay in bed reading my book until two, and even then, when I finally turned the light out, I only lay there thinking about that fucking alarm clock.

Jon and Ana were picking me up in the van at ten past eight. I knew they'd be bang on time too, Jon is impeccably fucking punctual.

Despite only sleeping for five hours, I felt pretty good when I woke up. After a shower, a cup of tea and some marmalade on toast, I took Bonzo out for a quick piss. It was a beautiful morning. Tonight we would be playing the first Victims show in almost a year. I can't believe it's been so long. Seems crazy. This is the longest I've been without playing a show, since I started playing shows. The only gig I've played in the last nine months was when Battle of Santiago performed with Stig Larsson at an antique book store, and that was in November. I'm looking forward to getting things going again with Victims, now that we have a new record out.

I'm not sure how the gig is going to be tonight, though we're sure to be a bit rusty. The venue we're playing, Truckstop Alaska, is absolutely great. Last time we played there it was with Regimes, AC4 and We Live in Trenches. It was a fun night. This time around though, the show has been arranged at short notice. Martin At The Gates only asked us a few weeks ago, so that coupled with the fact that it's Valborg tonight (which seems to be a big deal here in Sweden), makes tonight's turn out hard to predict.

Jon calls me at ten to eight. I'm still out with Bonzo. He tells me he's on his way. We have to be at the venue for three pm and besides the other guys in the band, we're picking up Viktor Nitad and Stachel who runs our European label, La Familia. They're two great friends and it's really fun to have them along. I'm always happy to have extra faces in the van, and with Jon's girlfriend Ana driving, we have a good little crew today.

The van journey down to Gothenburg takes around six hours including the compulsory stop for a veggie burger at Max in Jönköping. We'd picked up Stachel from Björn Disfear's place, just outside of Nyköping. Stachel had flown in from Bremen last night to hang out and drink beer with Björn and Markus, who are really into brewing their own beer. It was good to see them and chat for a short while. Things have been pretty fucked up the last few weeks, since Henrik, the Disfear bass player, passed away. I'm sure the three of them had a toast or two in his name last night.

We arrive at the wonderful Truckstop Alaska on Hisingen Island, which Jon informs me is Sweden's third largest, just after three pm. This is one of the few times I've been to Gothenburg and seen the sun shining in the sky. Even though we're in the middle of an industrial estate, baked in the sun, the place right now looks beautiful. I'm looking forward to tonight.

We load in and then hang out for a while in the beer and grill garden they have out back. The guys who run this place should be really proud of what they have created here. They have put a lot of hard work into it. The venue itself is awesome. Really good stage, loads of sofas and lamps spread around the venue, a great selection of beer by the bottle that they keep at very cheap prices and some great food. They have a band apartment in the back with around seven beds, a kitchen and a shower, even a tv and a bunch of DVDs. As soon as you turn up here, you feel welcome. I wish we'd played more places like this with Speedhorn.

Whilst waiting to soundcheck, we hang out in the back garden, sitting on a sofa in the sun, drinking a cold bottle of Oppigård's wonderful Golden Ale. I have barely drunk a drop during the last two months. I took what we call a “white month” in Sweden, but when I got to four weeks, just carried on. No special reason, I just haven't felt like drinking for a while. It does me good to take these periods at least once a year. It's always healthy to have a little inner certification that you can go a month without drinking, not that I drink that much any more anyway... I'm happy to leave the partying for touring. There is nothing worse than being really hungover at home, and these days I get hungover after four beers. I don't even have to be drunk to get hungover any more! I must be getting old...

The beer in my hand, whilst sat on the sofa in the sun, chatting away to Viktor, tasted fucking brilliant though. I'll have to limit myself to just a couple before we play. The problem is, we're not playing until midnight. The one draw back about playing Truckstop is that you play late. Well, it's not that late, but we're here from three pm. since they open at six. I'm not sure why really. They set the stage times late since they say that “everybody comes late”. Well then, why open at six? Or why not put the bands on from ten pm. and tell everybody to get their fucking arses down in time. As much as I like Truckstop, hanging around at a venue for nine hours, waiting to play, is going to kill your energy for a show. Either that, or you're going to end up steaming before you go on.

Whilst waiting around for soundcheck, Johan and I witness something that dampens the mood of this most glorious afternoon. We're sat on the steps that lead from the club down to the grill garden at the back, drinking black coffee. There are a couple of denim vest-wearing hard rocker guys (everybody in Gothenburg looks like they're in Graveyard right now) hanging around in the yard messing around with an air rifle. At first, we just chuckle to ourselves, since it's the perfect picture of the classic hard rock stereotype... dudes with beers, firing guns at shit. We soon notice though, to our horror, that they're firing at a wounded seagull that is flapping around on the ground over by the fence. We wonder what the fuck is going on! We sit there, getting wound up, when one of the guys from the club tells us they'd found the bird with a broken wing, and they were performing the humane necessity. I feel bad for even doubting the guys, I had thought that it seemed weird for people at this place to be acting like cunts. The image of that poor bird makes me pretty sad. Eventually they have to break its neck, since they can't get a shot on it. I hear the bird screaming in panic as they grab it and I have to take a deep breath. What a fucking downer. The guy who had explained to us what was going on, manages to lighten the mood ever so slightly with the comment, “Could this scene look more white trash!?”, and even though we snigger, the mood is a little sombre for a while.

We soundcheck. It sounds good on stage, although we're playing the songs a little too fast. Viktor tells us that it sounds good out front, which is the most important thing. Satisfied, the whole gang heads of for a walk around the area. It's either a bus or a boat journey into the city, which feels like too much of an effort, given the time of day, so we head down to the waterside and sit there in the sun, whilst Jon points out the different landmarks of Gothenburg situated across the water. He lived here as a kid and still feels a big connection with the place. We sit there in the sun for a good hour. It's nice just to change the scene for a little while. It would have been kinda fun to head over on the short ferry to the city centre for a while, but nobody bothers even suggesting it. We're happy just sat there chatting away.

I limit myself to just two more beers before we go on stage at midnight. The coffee continues to flow though. The guys make a really great veggie lasagne that we gratefully tuck in to as well. We sit around at the venue on one of the sofas for the next three hours or so. Viktor is happily letting the beers fly, Andy is sticking to his hard disciplined ways of not touching a drop before we play, although he admits around ten pm. that he's “fucking thirsty!”. Stachel has had a few and in his usual mischievous manner, has decided a sofa wrestle with Viktor is in order. Samsa and Ulf from We Live in Trenches are here hanging out, it's good to see those guys. Jon has gone off exploring his old neighbourhood with his good friend, Robban, who was the guy who did all the poetry stuff on the second Acursed record. Jon had actually brought his bowling ball bag (he's fucking obsessed right now), but a game hadn't panned out. The night is casually flowing along and by about ten pm. people slowly start steadily trickling through the doors.

Miasmal are playing before us tonight, which is Pontus from Martyrdöd's other band. They're pretty good, kind of trashy death metal with elements of crust. The bass player looks like Cliff Burton and plays fast as fuck with his fingers. I spend most of their set watching him, very impressed with his style. The drummer plays the first few songs wearing sunglasses, which looks a bit silly. I'm glad when he takes them off. I enjoy watching Miasmal although I'm starting to feel like my energy is seeping away. More coffee. There are quite a lot of people here now. I head over to Andy who's stood on the other side of the room, and from there I notice for the first time, that the drums don't sound too good. I don't know who's kit it is, and I don't know if it's the kit or the PA, but the drums sound like cardboard boxes. As I'm thinking about this, Andy leans in to my ear and shares the very same concern. We can only hope for better when we play...

With all the coffee that's being flying down my throat, I constantly have to piss. Just as Miasmal finish, I decide that I should go one last time before it's time to play. Nothing worse than being on stage dying for a slash. When I get to the Gents, there is a space between the two guys stood at the urinal. One is a Graveyard type, the other is some drunk idiot I noticed walking around the dance floor doing silly moves whilst Miasmal were playing. He's now stood there pissing, singing full blast with his eyes closed. He has this really weird, squeaky voice. I sigh, unzip and try and squeeze out a piss. I takes a while. In fact, it doesn't seem to be happening. Graveyard is looking at me. The idiot is still singing. Graveyard looks down at my knob and then asks me, “Are you just standing here holding your balls for no reason?”

“Why yes, it appears I am,” I say, “I must have some sort of stage fright.” The idiot is still singing and Graveyard is now grinning at me. Well this is fucking awkward. I wonder why the fuck I didn't go to the toilet in the band apartment. I joke with Graveyard, “I normally hang out in the bogs actually, it's a good way to meet people, since I don't smoke”. This raises a laugh. The piss finally starts coming, although it's nothing more than a dribble. Graveyard walks off laughing, I zip up and wash my hands, leaving the idiot to his merry tune.

We're finally ready to play the show. Our first show since July 2010. All of sudden, I feel a little nervous. There are at least a hundred people in tonight. It's not as many as last time, but under the circumstances, I feel the turn out is pretty good.

Andy starts the drum fill into Death Do Us Part from the new album, and we're on our way. We're actually on our way pretty fucking fast! I'd almost forgotten that there are three tempos to every Victims song. Album tempo. Practice room tempo. Stage tempo. Stage tempo tonight feels very fucking fast! We go straight into Lifetaker and I'm already feeling the burn. I don't know if it's lack of actual gig practice, nerves or what, but it doesn't feel very tight. I guess that was to be expected though, it has been a while. The first gig of any tour is always the same. It takes a few gigs to find your stride, for the tempo of the set to find itself, until everything magically goes on to auto-pilot. That's what makes these one-off shows all the more difficult.

I get the feeling that the sound out front is not the best. I can here it from the stage even. The crowd are enthusiastic enough between songs, but there isn't much movement during them. The set feels long tonight too, and I feel that maybe we're playing too many songs from the new album. This is all stuff that comes to you during the set though. There are certain things you can only measure from gig experience.

The show is by no means shit, but it's not one that will go down in history either. It has more the feeling of a pre-season football match. A couple of things go down with Jon's gear, which takes time to get going again. Simple stuff like a lead cutting out. It all conspires to kill any momentum we're building up though. It's not until we get to about the halfway point of the set, when we play Nowhere In Time, another new one, that things start to feel like they're settling down, at least musically. But it's not long after that song that my body lets me know it's starting to tire. It needs more training, simple as that.

We get to the end of the set, not even entertaining the crowds calls for an encore. I'd snapped a string at the start of the final block, Circles/Scars, which although easily manageable, serves as a good enough excuse for everyone to call it a night. Besides, I don't think encores should be an automatic part of the set. You should go back up and play a couple more if the mood fits, and tonight it didn't.

I'd almost forgotten how fucked up I can feel after a show. I'd followed through with my new rule of not having beer on stage tonight. It's a complete waste of time in every aspect. The trouble is, I'd forgotten to take any water on stage. I'm sitting backstage, flaked out on the sofa, with Samsa and Ulf hanging out, telling me that they thought the show was really good. I can hardly focus on what they're saying for the first few minutes, and my neck feels like jelly, making it difficult for me to hold my head upright. My head eventually comes back to me though, and when it does it's nice to sit there and talk with our friends. As is often the case, people standing in the crowd have a different perspective of the show than the people standing on stage. I'm glad they enjoyed the gig. For me, it felt like hard work.

We chat some more, cool off, and then pack up. Samsa and Ulf have to leave for the night, so we say goodbye to them and then chat amongst ourselves about the gig. We decide we have to cut the set down and most likely a couple of the new songs. It's healthy to sit and dissect the gig afterwards. I'm already looking forward to getting back into the practice room, tweaking a few things, and then getting back on stage in Amsterdam in a couple of weeks time.

When I've finally cooled off and my head feels stable again, I head out to the bar with Johan. Andy is already there with Viktor and Jon, Stachel is floating about somewhere. Andy is now happily getting stuck into a few beers. I exchange one of the tickets I have for a beer of Oppigård's but it doesn't taste as good now as it did this afternoon. I think I'm too fucked to appreciate it. I end up leaving half of it. Stachel decides to start wrestling with Andy, usual Stachel behaviour when he's bored. It's funny watching the little bugger trying to pick Andy up off the floor.

We're getting up at nine in the morning, with the aim of leaving for ten. I'm working tomorrow night. The gear is packed down, but still on stage. I look at the clock and it reads three am. Johan and I decide to head back to the apartment and get some sleep. Today has been a long day. We leave Andy, Viktor and Jon at the bar who are happily getting stuck into their beer. They look chuffed.

The camping bed in the apartment doesn't look like much cop, but at that moment it feels like the most comfortable bed I've ever lay in. My body aches. The gig took a lot out of me. I give a lot to each show and my body certainly pays more for it now than it used to. I think after a few shows I'll start building up a resistance again.

When I wake the next day to the sound of my alarm, my neck is fucking killing. We all eventually stir, one by one. I ask Viktor what time they went to bed, he mumbles something about six am. Andy rolls over, looking pretty fucking tired. He asks me the time. When I tell him it's nine thirty, he moans that he thought we were leaving at nine. Brilliant. The ambitious bastard only went to bed three hours ago. He lies in bed grumbling about that whilst I sit there wondering why he didn't set his alarm.

After a quick shower we load the van, down some strong, black coffee and then we're actually on our way by ten. Ana at the wheel again. She's driven this whole trip and sold merch for us. She's a really great girl, always willing to help out. The journey home is considerably quieter than the journey here. I sleep long sections of the six hour journey home. Every time I wake I tell myself that I really should be getting on with school work. I've only got three weeks left and with a trip to Barcelona next weekend with my family, followed by a weekend of gigs with Victims the week after, I don't have much time left to get my assignments completed. I just can't keep my eyes open though. I'll have to crack down during the week and get some work done.

We get back to the Bunker at around four pm. Johan drops me off at home when we're done loading out.. Before I go to work, I'm going to need a bath and a cup of tea or two...