Sunday, December 23, 2012

New York City

I heart New York City. It hasn't always been that way though. NYC and I had a bit of a rough start.

The first time I was here I had a bit of a nightmare. We were recording the We Will Be Dead Tomorrow album with Speedhorn. Twelve days in Billy and Danny Biohazard's studio just over the river underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We were staying at the Gershwin Hotel on West 34th. St. which was a pretty cool place, inhabited by poseurs and artsy fartsy types. We didn't really fit in there but then we didn't fit in anywhere. As cool as this all sounds though, and it was a fucking privilege to be in New York recording a record, we were all low on money. I think I had something like one hundred and fifty dollars to last me the almost two weeks we were there, which was supposed to be my food fund. Of course, we got steamboats the first night and by the morning of Day Two I had about twenty dollars left. New York is a hard place to be if you're broke. I spent most of my time in the studio anyway, but at that time I was young and didn't think the studio was as fun as I do now, in fact, it bored the tits off me, so I spent most of my two weeks in New York skint and fucking miserable. It wasn't the experience I'd hoped for.

I was convinced after that first visit that New York wasn't the place for me. The next time I was there I fell in love with the place..

I've never tried living there and I think maybe that if I did then I wouldn't handle it too well, much the same as London living would ill suit me I guess, but I love visiting the place and nowadays if I don't get to see the Big Apple at least every couple of years then I get withdrawals. Luckily, thanks in large part to playing in hardcore bands, I've had the chance to go there regularly since that first visit.

When we woke up in the van which was parked near the East River somewhere in Alphabet City, I had that familiar buzz that being in NYC gives me. As an added bonus, we had a day off. Kev and I were first up and the two of us got the fuck out of there as soon as we could. One thing neither of us could be arsed with today was trudging around Manhattan in part of a large group with everyone arguing.

It had been a pretty full on tour, the last time we'd had an actual day off that wasn't spent in the van was way back in El Paso, four days in. And that wasn't exactly a bag of laughs. We were now nearing the end of the tour though, and amazingly we were to spend three days in New York. We had one show which was sandwiched between two free days. Dutch had the van parked up, and apart from moving it back and forth to the venue tomorrow, he wasn't going anywhere until the early hours of the morning in three days time. After the hard slog this tour had been, these three days felt like a holiday.

Kev and I spent the day wondering around the southern part of Manhattan, checking out the usual stops like Generation Records and Bleeker Bob's. We got some great sushi by St. Marks that cost seven dollars, proving you can find cheap grub in New York if you look hard enough. For a while it was almost as if we forgot we were on tour, but then we bumped into Gordon and Jay, with John dragging behind. They seemed to be having a hard time deciding on where they were going or what they were doing. Kev and I fucked off quick smart, giving Gords a wry smile as we did so. I had the feeling he'd rather be walking about on his own. Fuck knows where Daz and Lasse were, they were still asleep in the van when the others had left. We decided we'd meet up later and go for dinner and some beers together anyway. Bianchi was flying in today for some other business, the flash fucker has always got business over here it seems, and was going to catch up with us later. It was always great to see Bianchi, especially out at a bar when he had his company credit card with him. It usually always ended in chaos. Bianchi may be a high flying business man these days, but like the rest of us, he's from Corby, and when Corby collides with Corby, the worst in you normally comes to the surface.

By the time we headed back to the van, sometime around six pm, we were fucking beat. We'd been walking around all day. The rest of the guys were already back. Daz had been in a bar for the best part of the afternoon and the others had joined him there for a couple later on. Lasse had been walking around the city on his own, putting the camera he'd finally gotten around to buying into use. Dutch was nowhere to be seen. After putting our feet up for a half hour we decided we'd head out for a drink and some grub.

After some dinner I took the metro up to mid-town and met up with Bianchi at his hotel for a “meeting”. It was basically an excuse to have a drink and talk shit. He was staying at some fancy gaff overlooking the park, of course. We drank a round of ridiculously expensive Manhattans, what else? and then headed up to his room and had a couple from the mini bar, whilst Bianchi played us some songs from his latest find, some pop band I can't remember the name of that were going to be the next big thing. Before long the old white powder came out, but not being into that shite, in fact it fucking winds me up, I was soon up for heading back out and meeting up with the rest of the boys. I didn't like it that all of a sudden I find myself in some bullshit, seedy little scene and it makes me uncomfortable. Just the cliché of it all is enough to make me puke.

We're soon out of there though and heading in a cab to meet up with the rest of the boys who have found themselves in an Irish bar somewhere around 20th. This scene is just what I was hoping for. A quiet, easy going little place, in fact the only customers were our lot, a friendly bartender and a good pint. We sat at the bar chatting away to the Irish guy who was tending it whilst the drinks slowly slipped down. Bianchi is getting pretty drunk and telling me about some crisis he's going through, whilst Lasse has that cheeky look on his coupon and lobbying for a round of shots. I hadn't really noticed since I'd been sat at the other end of the bar from him, but Daz has slowly and silently gotten himself wankered, although now he wasn't being so silent about it. I don't know what he's said, but the bartender, who we've been getting on royally with all night, is now really pissed off with him. Knowing Daz he's probably called him a cunt and offered him outside, all in the name of humour of course. The bartender is well and truly fucked off with him though and tells him he has to leave. We all sit there in awkward silence as Daz and the bartender have a bit of a stand-off. Daz is refusing to leave. The bartender then comes around the bar, takes a hold of him and starts marching him out of there. Daz looks at us, smarmy grin on his face and calls for us to follow him. The bartender looks at us and says, “No no lads, you are all alright, it's just this prick that has to go.” Chuffed, we all stay where we're sat as Daz is unceremoniously thrown out. The bartender calmly walks back behind the bar and then lines up a row of complimentary shots for us. This is too fucking good to be true! I'm thinking. The bartender now has a broad smile across his face, as do we. We take the shots in hand, look down the length of the bar to the large window that looks out on the busy street, which Daz has his face pressed up against, looking like a sad puppy. We toast him and knock the shots back, the bartender joining us. We then all burst out laughing as Daz slunks off into the night. Fuck knows what Daz had done to offend him but we were chuffed enough. We really were a bunch of cunts when I think about it.

It's pretty late by the time we leave the bar, by which time we're all a bit sauced up. Gords, John and I go by a late night deli on the way back to the van and grab some sandwiches to munch on, the others head to another bar for “one last pint”. When we get back to the van Daz is sat there waiting for us. He looks pretty pissed off. I guess he's been sat here drinking on his own because he hasn't sobered up any. “Alright Daz?” Gords inquires, barely containing the smirk it's shot from. We sit down at the table and tuck into the sarnies. Before long Daz pipes up and let's us know we're a bunch of cunts for deserting him. John reasons that he was being a twat and that he felt it would have been an injustice if we'd all been made to suffer. The two of them start to bicker until eventually Daz mutters those famous last words, “Me and you outside.” He gets up and heads for the door, exuding an unshakable air of confidence. John barely stirs before he's finished off his food. When he's done he wipes the corners of his mouth for crumbs and then calmly stands up and walks out.

Gords and I barely think anything of it until about five minutes later when Dutch appears sleepily from his bunk, wearing nothing but his boxer shorts and looks out of the still open door out on to the street. “What the fuck is wrong with you guys!?!? Your singer is beating your bass player to death!” Me and Gords look at each other, look at the remaining mouthfuls of our food and then continue to eat. “Argh they'll work it out” Gords assures Dutch.

“Seriously guys, for fuck sake!” Dutch implores. Only when our grub is polished off do we get up to inspect the cause of Dutch's worry. We find John sat on top of Daz, who is sprawled out looking fucked, punching Daz repeatedly in the face. “John, leave it now mate, he's done.” John stops, looks up at us, and begrudgingly gets to his feet, leaving Daz lying there in the street. “Fucking prick!” snorts John as he climbs back into the van. Gords and I help Daz to his feet, checking he's not too bad. He's got a bloody scalp and a few scrapes and bruises but otherwise he's ok. The amazing thing about Daz is that he doesn't hold a grudge very long. “I guess I deserved that...” We crack up. It seems John has literally knocked some sense into him.

This is a scene we'd all witnessed many a time, although it was pretty rare during this period of the band. Dutch seemed disgusted with us though. John is still pretty fuming and when we sit Daz down on the sofa in the van, John tells us to keep him the fuck away from him. We check out the top of Daz's head, which is bleeding quite a bit. Gords has a bit a go at John then, “Fuck sake mate, was that really necessary?”

“I barely fucking touched the cunt! He swung at me as soon as I stepped off the van but the daft cunt missed, fell to the ground and hit his head. That's what that cut is! And after that I was pretty much tickling him. Believe me, if I'd gone at him for real the cunt would be on his way to hospital by now!” I throw a glance at Dutch who is stood there looking at us all like we're filth. I try to assure him it's ok, that these things happen now and again. He's just shakes his head and goes back to his bunk.

The rest of the night is pretty much spent in silence, John only muttering now and again the grievances he has with Daz. “A few nights ago I risked getting stabbed for the wanker and now he's offering me out for a fight! Fuck him...” I get the idea though that by now he's starting to feel just a slight pang of guilt..

We play the next night at a big venue right off of Times Square called B.B.King's something or other. The rumours of the fight have spread around the touring party and the Soilent guys are enthusiastically checking out Daz's scalp, which Daz seems to be showing off as some sort of trophy. All is apparently forgotten. Even John is laughing about it now. The SG guys are loving it. A representative from our label comes down to the show, full of the usual fucking hot air about how good things are going with the new album. I don't care. I simply don't care to hear it. He seems worried about the fight we'd had last night, but Bianchi assures him it won't be the last time something like that will happen and that it's nothing to worry about. “These things happen now and again me old mucker!” laughs Bianchi in his usual Del Boy tone.

Being that this is a large club in a major city, and given the experience we've had on similar occasions up to now on this tour, we're all expecting a less than approving response from the crowd. For once though, we're pleasantly surprised. The New York crowd kick off big time. We have a great show and by the time we come off we're all buzzing. We're buzzing after every show, although most of time it's because we're pumped up on the disdain that's been thrown our way from the crowd. Every now and again though, it is nice to get a positive buzz from a show.

We have a drink or two afterwards and talk some mundane shit with the label guy, “We're really going to get behind this album, bring you guys back over on a better bill and blah, blah fucking blah.” I've heard it all so many times that it doesn't even piss me off any more, it simply bores me.

After that we head off to a bar with a couple of friends for a couple of drinks, although the mood is a lot more relaxed tonight. The pair we're out with are a married couple called Sally and Adrian. Sally is from Nottingham, she used to work for Earache and moved out here when Digby set up the doomed-to-fail New York office. She's good friends with Bianchi and she's Kev's ex. To put it mildly she's a bit eccentric, and she gets fucking mental when she's had a few to drink, but I like her all the same. Her and Kev have a sensitive relationship though. Her husband Adrian is a big, quiet guy and no harm to anyone, and since he's always buying the round in we lap the fucker up. After a couple of pints and an oral bombardment from Sally and Bianchi chatter we head back to the van, having made plans to meet up with the three of them the next night.

We spend the next day buying records, Converse shoes and whatever else Manhattan has to offer, you have to take advantage when the dollar is on it's arse... and then we meet up with Bianchi at a bar near his hotel. Before we've even sat down Gords is instructing Bianchi to get his credit card behind the bar. Bianchi just shakes his head, calls Gords a cunt and then gets a round in. Sally and Adrian show up a while later and then Gords goes to work on Adrian's wallet, to the benefit to us all, of course. We're discussing what we should do with our night off in New York City when Sally announces she has got us on the guest list of some low key fashion show over in the Meatpacking District. We all scoff at first and tell her to get to fuck. “Argh! You're such a bunch of twats! Listen, there's a free bar at the do...” Say no more Sally, we're there!

We split up into a couple of taxis and head over. We pull up outside some shady looking warehouse with a line of pretentious looking wankers queuing up outside and immediately I feel a sense of regret at coming here. I'd much rather just be in a pub with a bunch of old boys having a natter. Sally senses my trepidation and gently nudges me towards the cliché knucklehead bouncer stood proudly at the door. We're in without any bother though, Sally's guest list coming good. I can almost feel the people in line horrified by the state of us, looking on in disbelief as we waltz right past them. They must be fucking gutted.

I've barely gotten through the door and located the direction of the bar when some ponce in sunglasses and a scarf approaches me and wraps his arms around me in a loving embrace. “Hey man! Great to see you! I just loved your last film!” For a second I think he's taking the piss out of me but he quickly recoils in embarrassment when he sees the scobbied look on my coupon and I understand he's just made a right knob of himself. We both kind of stand there nervously laughing for a couple of seconds and then go our separate ways. John asks me the fuck that was about. I have no answer.

The place we're in is a dim, narrow room with a bar at the end of it. Off to the side of the bar is another room about the same size, although this room is empty. This is where the fashion show will be held apparently. There are a lot of good looking people in the place. We must stand out like a sore thumb. We converge a few feet away from the bar where we bicker over who is going to find out the crack with the free drinks situation. After a few minutes I'm elected...against my will. I approach the bar and the rest of them shuffle in behind me. The bar staff all look like they're in the modelling industry. I nervously ask this film star looking bartender if it's true that the bar is free, to which she tells me that it's only Jack and Coke and Voddy and Coke that are gratis. Chuffed, I order in a round of Voddy and Cokes.

Now that we've been given the green light, we happily spend the next couple of hours necking free drinks. I completely miss the fashion show. I remember there being a lot of people crowded around in the adjacent room and the modelling taking place on the floor instead of a catwalk. I guess it's kind of like a DIY/punk style fashion show. We spend the next couple of hours getting pissed up on the free bar, the event simply passing us by. The only thing I remember about the whole thing is a slight buzz of excitement in the camp when the rumour goes around that Chloe Sevigny is at the club. Jay goes on about finding her and chatting her up for a while but nothing comes of it. We're locked like flies on shit to the free bar and it's handsome staff.

By the time the fashion show is over and everyone begins to pile back into the bar room where we're still stood, we're all pretty sauced up. I head to the bar for another round of Voddy Cokes. Before the barmaid sets about pouring the drinks she says to me with a condescending look, “You know the bar is no longer free?”. I tell her to hold up with the drinks, that I'll be back in a minute. I can tell she's not holding her breath.
I head back to the guys and deliver the bad news. I get the exact response I'm expecting. The same response I've heard a thousand times from the cunts, “Fuck that then!”. Sally is pretty drunk by now and she's doing her best to convince us to stay. But with the drinks now costing ten dollars a pop we tell her there's no chance. She moans at us for a while, calls us a bunch of cliché small town aresholes, but to no avail. Adrian then pipes up and informs us there's a bar down the road where you get a free hot dog with every drink you order. “Fucking sound!” laughs Gords and in a flash the lot if us are heading to the exit. Sally gives her husband a look that tells him he's in for it later but he's soon washed along in the tide that is the six of us enthusiastically heading towards this new bar.

This next place is far more suited to my tastes. Small place, small crowd, friendly bartender, decent enough jukebox and free grub with every beer purchased. We spend the next hour or so here, devouring hot dogs and beer as if we'd just come from a month in the desert. AC/DC on the jukebox, we're all chuffed.

Sally is a rake thin woman and it doesn't take much for her to get pissed. And when she's pissed she gets wild. Bang on form she starts arguing first with Adrian and then Kev. Before long she's punching Kev, calling him a bastard whilst at the same time telling him she still loves him and that he broke her heart. Kev is having a hard time of it. Adrian just stands there with a weird smirk on his face that's doing a bad job of deflecting the expression of defeat in his eyes. I'm sure he's seen it all before. Bianchi is now in the middle of it, trying to settle things down but being pissed up himself can't really handle the job. Before long it's pretty obvious from the look on the friendly bartender's face that we should get to fuck. Sally continues to fight with Kev out on the street, Kev still looks completely baffled by it all. We grab the first cab that comes our way and pull Kev inside. “Every fucking time...” he mutters as we pull away from a tearful Sally as she now turns her attention to Adrian's poor mug. Whilst this is going on Bianchi is waving us off with a broad smile, seemingly oblivious to the scene behind him.

It's late and it's probably just as well we head back to the van. Our little holiday in New York City coming to an abrupt, if not entertaining end. There is only a few shows left of the tour now. We're heading south again, down through Virginia, Georgia and then back to Texas. New York was the last highlight of the tour for me, and now it's over I'm ready to go home...  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New York/New England

Rochester, New York... One of those places I'd never heard of before coming here, and if it wasn't for this tour then I'd probably have spent the rest of my days ignorant of it's presence on this planet of ours.

Americans often get the piss taken out of them for their geographical ineptitude, for that they don't know things like Sweden and Switzerland aren't the same place, or what the name of the capital city of Belarus is, as an example... But in truth, such piss taking is a little unfair. A little.. Obviously not all Americans are this inept, at the same time it's not like all Europeans know what the state capital of Kentucky is, or where Rochester, New York is on the map, as an example.. One thing I've learnt to appreciate more and more each day on this tour is that the USA is a big fucking country! Indeed, it is almost the same size as the entire continent of Europe so maybe it's not so weird that a lot of it's inhabitants horizons don't expand past their own borders. To be fair, a lot of people I went to school with probably couldn't tell you what the capital of Belarus is either...

Anyway, I'd never fucking of heard of Rochester, New York before. And that's shameful in itself since apparently after New York City and Buffalo, it's the third largest city in the state...

Of course, when we pulled up to the venue in the van, we could have been anywhere. It was mid afternoon, it was grey and it was cold. We were on the shore of the lake, it's water so still and dark it looked like it was in the throes of depression. The city must have been far from wherever we were right now. All there was here was the lake and a few lonely streets lined with houses in varying degrees of regress.

We were a little early so we decided to go down to the lake and check out the views from a closer vantage point. We didn't last much longer than five minutes though, such was the cold. We headed back inside the venue and “hung out”, by which I mean we sat around and did the sum of nothing for about an hour. All this free time on tour and all you do is sit around and wait for the fun of loading in the gear. The venue was basically a large bar with a high stage up against the back wall. It was a good size place. If experience was anything to go by then it should make for a good show tonight.

Nile and the other bands turned up in dribs and drabs over the course of the late afternoon and by the time we were loaded in and set up there was still another couple of hours to kill before doors. There was no food on offer at the venue so we decided to go to a local bar for some grub, check in with the locals. There happened to be a place only a couple of hundred meters down the road, so most of us headed there.

It was an old wooden building and the door creaked as we walked in. It was like a scene from many a film, where the out-of-towner's walk into the room and meet the glaring eyes of the three locals sat at the bar as the music abruptly grinds to a halt. Well, it was almost like that. At least, that's how it felt under the weight of the hangover we were all carrying on our backs. We shuffled to the bar and were taken a little by surprise at the friendly tone of the old guy I assume was the landlord. We ordered some beer and some food, all of us taking burger and chips. To the delight of Lasse and Kev, they actually had a veggie burger on the menu. As we paid the man and took our beer to a table against the opposing wall, the gaze of a haggard, middle aged looking woman who was sat at the bar, followed us all the way to our destination, and stayed with us for quite some time afterwards. The two bikers playing pool couldn't give much of a shit about us, thankfully...

We sat there drinking the standard American lager and chatted over the hushed tones of the standard hard rock on the jukebox, the lady at the bar looking over and smiling every once in a while. When the friendly old landlord came with the grub, the woman followed him and sat down at our table, cosying up to Kev. She was fucking boats. We all grinned as Kev got a chatter-full of bad teeth in his ear. She was cackling whilst babbling something barely comprehensible, the whole while her hand flirting with Kev's thigh. Kev's laughter barely disguised how nervous he was, ours barely disguised how chuffed we were. Eventually the landlord came to Kev's rescue and ushered the old drunk back to the bar, where he duly poured her another drink. Weird scene.

The food was good anyway, just what the hangover needed. Everyone seemed to be in better spirits by the time the plates were taken from the table, except Lasse, who's hangover seemed to have a tighter grip on him than the rest of us. He was complaining of having a pain in his guts, that he was desperate for a turd but dared not go to the toilet in this place. By the time the second and third beer had been drunk he could no longer hold out and so he slurked off to the bog. He was gone a while, maybe ten minutes or so. I imagined how he must be suffering in there and needing a piss myself, I decided to go see how he was getting on.

I walked past the bikers at the pool table to the door with “Gents” scribbled on it. I almost pissed my jeans with laughter when I walked in to find Lasse sat on the toilet in the middle of the room, kecks around his ankles, a woefully sad expression on his coupon. After a quick glance, I realised that it was one of those classic American set ups. The toilet was in the middle of the room, completely in the open, no door or even cubicle around it. On the wall beside it was a single urinal and there was of course no lock on the one and only door, the door I was presently holding open as I pissed myself laughing at his sad, little face. I scurried back to the lads and assured them they had to go check Lasse out.

By the time Lasse was back with us, the lady had rejoined the group, and she was now working her way on to Daz. It soon came to the fore that we were a band, playing down the road. She obviously wanted to come along. Daz told her he'd put her on the list as we were fucking off out of there. She never turned up. Well, maybe she did but she didn't make it past the beef head security guards on the door at any rate.

The place was pretty packed by the time we played, maybe three hundred people in the place. It was certainly more people than I ever imagined I'd be playing to in Rochester, New York. It's amazing really, because I never thought we'd end up here with this band. We never thought this far ahead in the beginning. I certainly never thought we'd ever play outside of the UK. So to be stood there on stage to three hundred people in a city in the States I'd never heard of before was really quite mind blowing. Shame that almost everyone in there hated us.

It was a bastard as well because it was one of those high stages which made the crowd feel all the more comfortable in giving us shit. We played as hard as we could, which with our short hair and non-death metal clothing really seemed to piss the crowd off all the more. One great thing happened on stage tonight though. Actually two great things happened, although they spawned from the same incident. Brian from Soilent Green/Eyehategod got up on stage and played EHG's 30$ Bag with us. The same song we would later do a cover of on the tribute record Chris was releasing. I've rarely been so buzzed. I felt like a fucking kid up on that stage, a kid getting to play with one of his heroes.

The other great thing that happened is that what I was thinking John said aloud as he introduced Brian on stage, namely that we'd stick it to the crowd, who obviously were into Soilent Green but hated us. With great pride John announced that we had a “very good friend” coming up on stage with us and then he grandly gestures the arrival of Brian from Soilent Green. If we were expecting this to win us over a few punters, we were sadly mistaken. “Yeah, you're still shit though!” comes an immediate reply from some wise ass. Most of the band cracked up laughing, partly due to the cheek of the bastard in the crowd and the genuine appreciation of the quick wit with which he delivered his response and partly because we usually found it funny when one of us was made to look a cunt.

Still, it was amazing playing 30$ Bag with Brian... After the show we actually found one guy who was a massive fan of the band and he insisted on buying us all a drink. We happily accepted his offer, of course. He went on to apologise for the gig and explained that it's the wrong scene for us tonight. We explained that we'd gotten used to it by now and that it was usually a good crack anyway. The funny thing was, this guy was really into the latest record, which at the time was How The Great Have Fallen, a record that we weren't that pleased with. By the time we released the following album we were no longer playing any songs from HTGHF, such was our disdain for it. Still, it was nice to meet a genuine fan for a change. “Man, the song Slay The Coward, it's a fucking masterpiece!” Ok buddy, I don't know if I'd go that far but mine's a IPA if you're buying...

The next day we were in Poughkeepsie, which is a place I'd heard of, although all I knew of the place is that it had a funny sounding name. I'd always had the impression that upstate New York was a rich area, I don't know why exactly, I guess I'd assumed it was like the “countryside” in England, where the “elite” had their summer homes. I was in for somewhat of a surprise when we jumped out of the van in Poughkeepsie. We literally fell right into a scene from that horrible tv show, Cops. A young, “African American” in ludicrously baggy tracksuit pants and a basketball top as long as a frock was bent over a cop car with his hands cuffed, shouting at some mean looking “European American” cop who was roughing him up across the car's bonnet. Everyone stood around staring at the scene in shock for a minute or so before Dutch ushered us inside the venue. “Yeah, upstate New York isn't a great place to hang out...”

I don't remember much of the show, it was probably shit. The only thing I remember is the lot of us going for a walk after soundcheck, before the sun went down, and only getting as far as the back of the block that the club belonged to. We got to a big roundabout, which was a peculiar site in the USA, looked at that for a minute and then walked back. I also remember watching Nile from the closed off balcony in the venue, the lot of us taking the piss out of Ghost Tramp's hair... And that's about it.

The next day we were in Worcester, Massachusetts. We were there early and the venue was huge, probably the biggest of the entire tour. Aside from the venue, the part of town we were in seemed to offer nothing but a typically long, faceless street that's main point of interest seemed to be a kebab shop. Fuck that! With the whole day to kill, Lasse, Kev and I decided we'd take the train into Boston, which was about a half hour ride away. I was literally stunned when everyone else decided they couldn't be arsed...

So the three of us took off for the day. The journey was actually closer to an hour than the thirty minutes advertised but it was pretty cool riding the train all the same. It really was just like you see on tv, with the old guy in the hat and the ticket machine hung over his shoulder, shouting the stations out as we approached them. It was a gorgeously sunny day when we arrived in Boston. One day you're walking around in a thick jacket, shoulders hunched over in an attempt to keep out the cold air of Lake Ontario, a couple of days later you're walking beside the Charles River in a t-shirt...

We had a great day walking around the beautiful city of Boston, the three of us doing our best impression of the European tourist. We checked out the harbour and then went to the Cheers bar, both a tourist theme version of it and the original façade they used for the show's title credits. We had some amazing vegetarian food in China town and we took a coffee at some cosy place by City Square Park. The only thing I didn't get to check off the list was a visit to Newbury Comics, the famous record shop, but there's a limit to what you can fit into four hours. All the same, it turned out to be a relief just to break away from the rest of the pack.

We returned to Worcester around five pm, it was already getting dark by the time we made it back to the huge venue we were playing. There was a large communal dressing room where we found our boys sitting about looking bored. I asked Gords what they'd done with the day, not wanting to go full on about our pleasant excursion to Boston. “We went to that kebab shop,” was Gords' sullen reply. I left the conversation there...

The venue was a weird one. It was this gigantic town hall looking building, all tired white concrete on the outside. Inside it was basically just a large, brightly lit, elongated room that must have held about three thousand people. There was a massive stage at the far end and a bar area at the back and that was about the only features I remember.

The venue was no more than half full all night though, and even then it was another one of those occasions where the punters left in droves after Hypocrisy finished. Our show was just another nothing affair, neither good nor particularly bad, it just seemed to melt in with the rest of them. There were probably a good six hundred people watching as we played as hard as we could up on that big, high stage, but there was plenty of space for each one of those six hundred to swing the proverbial cat. Playing big, half empty venues is always a weird experience. I'd rather play a basement show to sixty people any day of the week. It doesn't help things when the huge venue you're playing seemingly refuses to turn the fucking house lights off. What can I say? We got up on stage, got the odd head nodding, the odd face sneering, kicked the fuck out of the set list for twenty minutes and fucked off again.

I remember later on in the night, being stuck in a stairwell side stage with Ghost Tramp and one of Nile's techs before they went on to play. Ghost Tramp was sucking on a cig and looked at me and grinned, “Fucking Worcester, tough crowd!” I just nodded in agreement. You don't know the half of it mate, I thought to myself. He went on stage shortly afterwards, I went over to that kebab shop to see if they had any falafel...

Thursday, November 22, 2012


After the long escape from the van the day before in Chicago, I was really in the mood for some more sightseeing, now that we'd had a taste.  It's not even so much the sightseeing, I can spend long periods of time looking at the most banal things, it's more the chance to take in some fresh air and stretch the legs.  What a difference a day and a couple of hundred miles make though.

When we stepped out of the van behind the club in Cincinnati it was mid afternoon, although the grey sky could have fooled you into believing it was later.  We were parked up in a small, public car park that belonged to a block building that housed the club as well as a few shops.  It looked like Canada Square up the Exeter estate in Corby, and anyone who's been there will know that that particular place is a hell hole...

Still, I was up for a walk so I asked Dutch how far we were from the city, downtown or wherever the action was.  “You're in it” he replied without a hint of sarcasm.  I told him that I was going to go for a walk, he warned me not to go on my own and not to talk to anyone who approached us in the street.  “This is not a nice place...”.  He was deadly serious.  What the fuck?

Even though it was great walking around Chicago with the boys yesterday, taking in the sights and all, sometimes it is nice to break away from the pack and just head off on your own.  It didn't seem like that would be a wise choice today though so I convinced Kev to follow along with me.  I couldn't believe that the area we were walking around was the downtown area of Cincinnati, I had the feeling Dutch just couldn't be arsed with us all fucking off before load in.  I've since learned though that not all US cities are like New York.  A lot of the time the downtown area is just where the corporate district is, the skyscrapers are just tall office buildings and at night time the place is dead.  I was learning more about this country every day.  I don't know where the nightlife or the shopping was at in Cincinnati, but these streets we were walking were truly uninviting.

One thing I've learned about the USA is that behind all the gloss there is a lot of poverty.  It was there before our eyes as we walked the blocks that lay in the venue's radius, the area seemed to be bleeding poverty from it's veins.  The streets were lined with dilapidated terraced houses, the sidewalks were cracked and defeated.  It looked more like Poland during the Nazi occupation than the streets of a city that belonged to the planet's wealthiest nation.  The “American Dream” must be the biggest fucking scam a government has ever pulled on it's people.

We walked around for a half hour or so, but every corner turned seemed to reveal the same depressed expression.  As if feeling a need to at least do something with our venture we went to a petrol station and bought a snack, and then headed back to the venue.  On our way back some young guy with his hood pulled up crossed the street towards us and mumbled something about drugs.  I don't know if he was buying or selling but we got the fuck out of there without saying a word.

We'd been getting the Eyehategod song together during soundcheck and it's starting to sound good.  I was looking forward to pulling it off at a show and getting Brian up on stage with us to play it.  It wasn't quite ready yet though.  The club tonight was a large, basic room with a floor sloping down towards the stage and a long bar along the right hand wall.  I had a hard time imagining where the people would come from to fill the place but sure enough, it was pretty packed by the time we went on.  We had a pretty good show too, we didn't take a lot of abuse and there were a few hardcore kids down the front moving about.  There was of course a contingent of death metallers stood towards the back looking bored or worse, smirking at us, but that was standard by this point.  The margins for what classes a good show had been widened somewhat...

We hung out Chris at the merch stall as Soilent Green played their set.  They truly impressed every single night.  Chris is a nice guy, we'd gotten to know him pretty well by now and it felt like he'd taken us under his wing a little.  He was telling us that he thought we were a great band and that he'd be interested in helping us out in the States.  He told us that he thought we should get Bianchi to fuck and get someone else involved.  He couldn't believe we were wasting our money coming to the States only to play on a tour that was so obviously ill fitting for us.  To be honest though, we didn't fit whatever bill we played on.  We knew what we were getting ourselves into on this tour and we couldn't blame Bianchi for that.  We all jumped at the chance to travel around the States getting pissed for free.  We knew fine well we'd be fighting the audience every night.  It wasn't the first time I'd heard people from other bands advising us on how we should steer ourselves, but in all honesty, I was starting to feel lost and disillusioned.  I was sick of the fighting.  And even though we might not have been battling with each other as regularly by this stage, now that Frank and Tony had left the band, it seemed we were still fighting everyone else.  I was growing tired of it.  I didn't mind fighting the blockhead, death metal crowds, that was fun, but there were small signs that things were once again going sour with the label and that was fucking taxing.  Some of the guys seemed to be chuffed at the thought of Chris helping us out, but I was just feeling jaded.  Maybe it was just the tour, the booze and the lack of sleep taking it's toll, I don't know...

We sold a bit of merch tonight anyway and Lasse was far happier.  It was a lot easier for him on night's like this when the merch table was in the actual room we're playing and everyone is hanging out.  We had a few beers after the show and by the time the show came to a close the heavy atmosphere we'd experienced earlier on the streets of Cincinnati had washed away.  Dutch was still on his toes though.  He'd been sat in the van all night, saying he didn't trust leaving it out back with nobody to guard it.  He sure as fuck wasn't planning on staying the night and told us in no uncertain terms that we'd be leaving as soon as we were loaded in.

We headed off with a pack of beer from Nile's van and chilled out in front of a film as Dutch drove a couple of hours down the highway.  Sean, the singer from With Passion joined us, telling us he was sick of travelling with his band.  We told him it was cool to hang out with us for the night.   Dutch pulled into a service station an hour outside of Cleveland.  We were staying here for the night since the club was in a busy area of the city and there was no parking until load in.

Of course, the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, so Dutch took us there for the afternoon.  I wonder how many times he's been there with bands?  I have to say, I didn't think I'd give that much of a shit but truthfully, it was a pretty great museum.  The first thing I saw hanging on the wall was Johnny Cash's guitar.  I guess I am a  music geek deep down because that impressed the fuck out of me!  There was a lot of other fun stuff to look at too.  What is really cool about the place is that if you have a tour pass with you, you get in for free, and free is always good.  As an added bonus, it was situated on the shore of the lake as well as right next to the Cleveland Browns stadium.  Water and sports stadiums are two things that I always love to look at, there is just something about them that brings a certain harmony to my being...  So far I was liking Cleveland a lot more than Cincinnati...

The club was in the middle of the downtown area, right in the middle of everything.  The place was buzzing.  Nice to be back in civilisation again.. The club itself was right up our alley as well, small stage in a small room that fit around four hundred people inside.  It was more a bar than a club in actual fact.  The room where the gig would take place was one of a few different rooms housed within the same complex, with an upstairs bar and a smaller games room beside.  I was looking forward to the coming evening, it had party written all over it.  I could sense that everybody in the band was on the same wavelength...

One very weird rumour doing the rounds tonight was that Will Smith and his wife would be coming to the show.  Apparently they were big fans of Soilent Green!  Fucking bizarre.  It seemed to be the subject on everyone's lips for the early part of the evening.  Of course, they didn't show... but it was funny how everyone seemed to be buzzing about it when they thought it was happening.

After load in was done and Nile were finished soundchecking, Jay had wondered into the sex shop beside the venue to check it out.  This is not something he does to gain a laugh, and it's not something he is embarrassed by.. the boy likes sex and everything to do with it, simple as that.  Hilariously whilst he was in there browsing some scud mags, he noticed Ghost Tramp from Nile shadily walking about the joint, obviously not wanting to be seen.  Jay joyfully slides up beside him as he's stood in an aisle looking at something or other and greets him, “Alright mate!  Nice place eh?”  Ghost Tramp looks mortified and for a moment Jay thinks he's actually going to pull the classic Woah, where am I?!  line, or whatever else would quickly spring to his rescue, but he doesn't.  He just puts his head down, red face burning a hole in the floor at his feet, mumbles back a hello and makes a sharp exit.  Jay is obviously delighted by this.  After picking up a couple of mags, he hurries back to the club to tell us and we all piss ourselves laughing.  Poor Ghost Tramp...

The show tonight is one of the best of the tour, definitely up there with Orangevale and San Antonio.  These smaller places normally help us out.  The room is packed when we play and the crowd kicks off.  Nothing like a small, sweaty show to rejuvenate the soul.  We've pretty much got the Eyehategod cover together by now, although it wasn't quite ready for tonight.  We're hoping it will be ready for tomorrow.  Shame, it would have went down a storm tonight.

When Soilent play I can barely get in the room to see them.  It's fucking wild in there and the wake of the mosh pit seems to be lapping all the way to the back of the room.  It really has been theirs and Hypocrisy's tour for the most part.  Ben is furious after the show since yet again Nile have commented on how many different designs of shirt they're selling.  The Nile merch guy, this big guy who looks like Sloth from The Goonies, has been pretty cool up to now, but it's obvious his employees have been on his back about keeping the other bands it tow.  You can tell as he awkwardly asks the Soilent guys to take a few shirts down.  What the fuck is this all about really?

At the end of the night we all head to the bar upstairs where there is an after show party going on.  It seems like all of the bands are in attendance and most nearly everybody is having a good time.  We're letting loose on some cocktails that we're getting at a very friendly price.  I end up pretty steaming as do the rest of the boys.  This girl called Sarah is at the party.  She used to play drums in Kelly Osborne’s band, before Osbourne was forced by her manager to fire her.  It was all filmed and shown on the Osbournes tv show.  Anyway, she's here and unbelievably Kev has hooked up with her.  It all gets a bit hazy late on in the night, but I remember Kev and this girl making out with each other in this little pink, den room off to the side of the bar.  It turns out it's some VIP booth.  We're denied access by some meathead security guys but we all stand by the entrance, pissed and pointing at Kev as he sits there with this girl on his lap, the usual stupid grin on his face.

When we get back aboard the disco bus, ready to leave for our next destination, Kev is nowhere to be found.  He finally turns up and we give it the standard “Waheey!” chant, but Kev is having none of it.  It seems he really liked her and not only that, he got her number.  He swears she's a really cool girl, despite the Osbourne connotations.  Despite his protests, we spend the rest of the night taking the piss out of him.  I can't actually recall if he ever did see her again.. I have a vague memory of their paths crossing one other time but I'm not sure..

Having had a dose of the tour blues in Cincinnati, Cleveland had provided me with the boost I'd desperately needed.  That's touring for you I suppose.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Speedhorn in the USA: Chicago

Woke up bright and early in a neon lit, underground parking garage in Chicago. We were right underneath the venue for tonight, The House of Blues club, and we had about six hours to kill before load in. And for once, we were bang in the middle of the city. We all got up and changed as fast as we could and got the fuck out of there. Except John, who decided to hang out in the van for a while...

It was a beautiful winter's day. The sky was bright blue and the sun was shining harmoniously above as the fresh, crisp air gently breezed in from the lake. We had a great day walking around downtown Chicago, checking out some record stores and coffee shops, walking by the waterside, having a lengthy discussion in the lobby of the Sears Tower building about whether to pay for the lift up to the roof and eventually deciding against. My soul felt cleansed by an entire afternoon of walking, even if after five shower-less days, my body did not.

When load in beckoned we reluctantly headed back to the van that was still parked in the dull yellow abyss underneath the club. I was both saddened and amazed to find John laid out on the sofa watching a film we'd all seen together just a few days before. We were all buzzing from our excursion into the city, our new found enthusiasm for life washing over the van like a wave. I couldn't get a grip on the fact John had just hung out in the van all day, it almost made me angry.

I could barely believe the marvel before me as we loaded the gear in. The House of Blues is apparently no ordinary venue. I had no prior knowledge of the place, I'd only heard the name. I certainly had no idea that it was a chain company. The concert hall itself is like many other theatre venues the world over, it's not all that different from the old Astoria in London, although a brand spanking new, shiny, hi-tech version of it. Like the Astoria, it's a large room that probably holds about two thousand people with a full balcony. The stage is huge, it must be three times as big as anything else we've played on this tour. It's certainly a contrast from the venues we've played the last few days previous.

If the concert hall is impressive, it's nothing compared to the rest of the building. There are separate dressing rooms for each band, all of them decked out with cable tv and a monitor showing the stage. There is a telephone that connects straight to the promoter's runner in case there is anything you need ran after. And absolutely, most fantastically of all, each dressing room had it's own shower and bathroom. After five days without, it felt like the most luxurious shower I'd ever taken. I took one both before and after the gig just because I could. The grandeur wasn't limited to the backstage area either, even the sinks in the public toilets were decked out with gold chrome taps. The place even had it's own fucking souvenir shop! It felt more like a flashy hotel in Vegas than a venue for a death metal gig.

I told Kev about the public bogs and his face lit up. He took off straight away and was gone for some time. I went to check on him a while later. As I walked in to the long, empty room I heard Kev in a cubicle at the end, willing himself to shit, “Come on you little brown buggers!”. I don't know if he'd heard me come in or not, you never know with Kev, but I pissed myself laughing all the same.

This is one show when I really did feel bad for Lasse. The merch tables were set up in a long row against a wall in a foyer as you entered the building, completely disconnected from the concert hall and about a twenty minute walk from the luxury dressing room. I feel really bad about it now, but I kind of forgot about him sat there on his own. When I eventually went to check on him later in the evening, I found him right at the end of the line, forehead flat on the merch table, arms hanging by his side, pretty sauced up. He hadn't sold a thing, of course. The other merch guys seemed to be in a crazed selling frenzy, like a scene from a squabbling Egyptian market, all of them intent on out doing each other. Lasse was beyond caring by this point though. To be fair, so were we...

This was one show that was fucking doomed to failure before it even started. There was a good size crowd in, although not big enough to justify opening the balcony section of the venue, so there we sat with our feet perched over the edge, bottle of beer in hand, checking out With Passion and Decapitated. Jay, Gords and I had the entire balcony to ourselves, it was pretty cool to be honest. To be fair, the floor below was packed with metalheads which meant that the other bands on the bill were probably in for a good show. The reason I knew our show was fucked is that although With Passion came and went with a conservative yet relatively appreciative applause, Decapitated had the show of their lives. We'd gotten to know them a little by now, and although they obviously came from a completely different planet than ours, they were nice guys and I was happy for them.

The thing is, the stage had this big fucking theatre curtain that opened from the middle to the sides and of course they had it drawn between bands. Now for a start, I fucking hate this concept, I always feel like a right cunt being made to stand on stage, guitar strapped on, waiting for the curtain to draw. It was right up Decapitated's alley though. Indeed, as the curtain parted there are the band, waiting in silent, death metal pose, ready to slay. The singer is stood with fists clenched by his side, long hair hanging from bowed head, down over his face. The crowd erupted in elation at the same sight we fell off our seats laughing at. Decapitated were made for this tour, we most certainly were not.

It was if the rumours had been spreading through the death metal community on whatever geeky message boards these idiots languish on, culminating in a ravenous lava of hate that would greet our arrival on to this stage tonight. It's not paranoia if everyone is out to get you right?... I asked the stage hands to open the fucking curtain before we took to the stage, but they refused out right. Fuck you then, we put the amps on and placed our guitars feedbacking against them and then left the stage again. One of the stage hands starts panicking after a minute or so of this, and tells us to get on with our set so they can pull the curtain. We tell him that our performance has started. He's baffled, clearly. This goes on for about five minutes and the crowd has already started booing. We finally take to the stage but let the feedback continue. The curtain draws and we're stood facing a lot of pissed off looking metalheads. There is one, who has made his way down to the very front, right up against the head high stage, who is standing with his back to us, right arm lofted high in the air, giving us the middle finger. We feedback for about another thirty seconds and then start the set as usual with The Hate Song, John's opening line, “I hate you all”, fitting like a fucking glove on this particular occasion.

We blast through what is left of the twenty minute set, all of us putting more into this show than any other so far on this tour. We go fucking nuts on stage. Between every song we simply ring out and feedback, which seems to just piss the crowd off even more because we're drowning out their booing. Some of these idiots have veins that look ready to explode from their strained necks as they scream their disdain in our direction. It's pure fucking hate. The more violently we play on stage, the more it seems to anger them. And the tit down the front holds that finger aloft for the entire twenty minutes we're on stage. As we get near the end I look at him and actually feel a certain respect, I mean, it must have taken some effort to hold his arm in the air for that long. As the last song ends, we put the guitars back up against the amps, leaving them to feedback as we exit. Kev on the other hand, walks up behind Robo Arm, who of course is still flipping us off, and boots him in the back of the head. “Good gig!” laughs Kev as he walks towards the rest of us waiting for him in the wings as the curtain draws to a close.

I check on Lasse once I've dried off, he begs me to let him pack up the merch early. John is up for manning the station though, so we leave him to it. Good times. We watch Soilent's set but spend the rest of the time taking advantage of the dressing room and it's amenities and since the promoter has no problem with re-filling the fridge with beer, we have him do just that.

The hospitality we enjoy at the House of Blues unfortunately comes to an abrupt end as soon as the stage is cleared after Nile's set. The people working at the venue make it clear that they want us packed up and out of the dressing room pronto. It comes as a bit of mood zapper but at the same time I understand them, I've been there myself many a time. Of course, when you're on tour it's easy to forget that everyone else is leading a normal life whilst you're taking a break from yours.

No matter, it's a short enough drive to Cincinnati tomorrow that we don't have to leave immediately, the night is still young and we're all half pissed. Dutch has set a bus call time for two am and right now he's happily sleeping in his bunk in the van. We head to the nearest bar, intent on sampling a bit of Chicago's night life.

We end up in some Irish bar where there a few people from the show hanging out, drinking Guinness and shooting Jameson's. The whole of our crew is there, along with Chris and Brian and a couple of the other SG guys, as well as our friend John, Nile's stage manager. To our amazement, Ghost Tramp and Fat Jeff are sat at the bar too.

Stage Manager John has a couple of friends in tow with him, guys who live in the city. He's in high spirits and insists on buying a round of something called an Irish Car Bomb, which he supervises as we individually take turns to drink. As lethal as it sounds, it's actually a pint of Guinness with a shot glass of Bailey's dropped in it. The crack is you down it, obviously, although it's not that much of a challenge. John seems chuffed enough though. Of course, we all end up pretty fucking wasted a few rounds later. It's fun to see John taking some time off to relax, since most of the time he's running around stressed out, looking after Nile. When the booze starts to hit him he opens up and tells us that he really likes us guys, loves our attitude. He admits that he doesn't understand our music, but he loves the way we don't give much of a fuck about anything. The night starts to get blurry...

It's funny, because I was happy to see Ghost Tramp and Fat Jeff sat at the bar when we'd walked in but they've sat in the same position the whole time. I thought for a moment this might be the night when we do the drunken hang out thing with them, but it doesn't really happen. Daz and I make an effort an one point and we approach them at the bar. But we're both boats and obviously have a foolishly heightened sense of our diplomacy skills. We walk up behind them and start slobbering something in their sober ears, which they return with an awkward smirk that screams PISS OFF as they attend to the plate of nachos they've ordered in. Realising we're getting nowhere with the conversation our attention soon turns to their grub and before I know it I've got my paw in Ghost Tramp's food, helping myself to a free snack. Daz is attending to Fat Jeff's on the other side. They must have thought we were a right pair of wankers.

A little later on in the night, after another round or two of Irish Car Bombs, we fall in to some chat with a young mother and daughter team who were at the gig. The pair of them are done up in standard denim, hard rock attire. It's hard to tell who has what role in the team since they both look about the same age. They're flirting with the whole gang, telling us our accents are funny and that we're cute.  They must have been the only people in attendance tonight who didn't think we sucked.  Or maybe they did... Anyway, when the time comes to leave they want to hang out on the bus and come to the next show in Cincinnati with us. We tell them that's not possible, that Dutch simply wouldn't allow it. 

I'm not sure how Kev ends up involved in the middle of it, but the mother now has her sights set firmly on him. By the time we stumble back to the van, Dutch is up and making himself a coffee before we set off. Kev is the only person who's missing. We all crack up at the thought of Kev getting it on with Hard Rock Mom. We rush up and stick our heads out of the van door to see where he is and find him running towards us with the woman chasing him across the busy street, “Start the fucking van!”, he's shouting, panic spread across his face. Even Dutch, still brushing the dust from his sleepy eyes, pisses himself laughing at that one.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Victims Tour Diary Part II

The second half of my tour diary from the Black Breath/Victims/Tormented tour will be in the December edition of Maximum Rocknroll.

Although the good ol' record store is sadly, slowly receeding into the annals of history and fond memory, the truly great ones that still exist will almost certainly be stocking your favourite punk zine.  If you're not lucky enough to have a shop in your town then you can find it online at

Again, greatly honoured to be on this fine magazine's pages!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Mid West

I don't remember much about the city of Omaha because we didn't get to see anything of it. I remember the club being a small, square room and the stage being low. It looked like a school assembly hall. We were in a suburb somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Outside there was nothing but a small parking lot and streets lined with houses. It was dark by the time we'd finished load in. For the most part we hung out by the merch tables that were lined up down one side of the hall. After another wild night we were once again feeling a little subdued. It was by now a familiar pattern. Hangover. Play show. Drink. Hangover. Play show. Drink. Hangover...

Chris, Soilent Green's road manager, asked us if we would like to contribute a song to an Eyehategod tribute album he was putting together. We told him we'd be honoured and after some discussion we decided we'd do 30$ Bag. There were going to be a lot of decent bands on the album and I have to admit, being asked to be involved gave me a buzz. Not only because I'm really into Eyehategod, but because it would piss off a lot of the snobs in the UK underground scene who we'd taken shit from over the years. People who'd given us shit for apparently being nothing but an Iron Monkey/Eyehategod rip off band. It's a long, silly story to be honest. Of course these bands influenced us in the beginning but then who has ever started a band that hasn't been influenced by someone else? That's the whole fucking reason you start a band, because someone or something else inspires you! Funny thing is, Brian from SG/EHG told me that when Eyehategod started out they got a lot of shit for being a Melvins rip-off. Anyway, to say I was chuffed that we were asked by Chris and Brian to record a song on the album would be an understatement. To top things off, we decided that we'd actually get the cover together whilst on this tour and Brian would play it with us. All of a sudden, the sombre mood that had been hanging over the van like a bad fart all day had dispersed.

We had a good show in Omaha too, at least by this tour's standards. Nobody booed us off the stage or spat at us, which made it a fuck sight better than the show in Denver the night before. Actually, the small crowd that was in the building when we played was receptive, even getting into a mosh now and again. We all had a good time blasting through the by now trimmed down twenty minute set.

It's amazing how a gig can eradicate all signs of a hangover, leaving you instead with a sense of revived vitality and a thirst for beer. Just a half hour before, I'd been tuning my guitar feeling pretty ropey, just concentrating on getting through the set and getting the fuck out of there. Now, gear packed down and van loaded, I felt great again. We all did. We were more than in the mood to drink a few brews and watch the rest of the bands. We hung out with Chris and watched Soilent slay the place as per usual, sharing a bottle of whiskey with him that had arrived from Christ knows where. By the time Hypocrisy came on stage we were all pretty boats again, in true keeping with the pattern.

I wasn't a big fan of Hypocrisy before this tour, but playing every night with a band for a few weeks can change that. Indeed, they'd been nothing more than a source of amusement to us at the start of this run. They had this huge hairy bloke on guitar who looked like a lion and then the singer Pete would do this cheesy move where he'd simulate blowing his brains out with his hand in the shape of a gun during a certain song. Me and Jay thought it was funny as fuck when we first watched them but by now we'd been genuinely converted. They turned out to be really good guys as well, and that always helps. So me, Jay and Gords were in the crowd, pissed as farts singing along to Hypocrisy when Tommy from Soilent Green comes up to us, “Some dude just pulled a knife on your bass player!”

We follow Tommy out to the car park into the midst of a full on commotion, with Daz right in the middle of it, looking pissed and sheepish. Chris, Brian and John have this longed haired guy circled. Apparently he'd found his girlfriend messing around on our RV with Daz. To be fair, Daz had no idea that this girl was with somebody else, he'd just been approached by her and went along with it. The boyfriend then shows up and Daz being drunk, tells him to get to fuck. Obviously the boyfriend takes offence to this and a scuffle ensues. It spills out into the car park and quickly gets broken up by John and Chris who just happened to be around. They're trying to settle the guy down when he sneakily pulls a knife from his jacket, although a split second later, before he can do any real danger with it, John has spotted it and disarmed him. Of course, then Daz starts mouthing off over the protective barrier that is John and Chris and things flare up again...

Shortly after we arrive it's all settled down. John orders Daz to piss off from the scene and then takes the upset boyfriend and sits him down on some steps off to the side of the car park. The thing is, Gords and I are both a bit pissed and I take it upon myself to give the guy a lecture on how bullshit pulling a knife on someone is. He looks genuinely remorseful and I then start to feel a bit bad for him. He must have been fucking gutted to find his girlfriend snogging Daz. The poor bastard then starts telling us that we're actually one of his favourite bands! Jesus fucking Christ, we've done nothing but fight with the crowds on this tour, taken bucket loads of abuse from thick as shit metal heads the whole time and then one of the rare people we come across that is into the band ends up pulling a knife on us. You couldn't fucking make it up..

The irony of that really puts water on the previously heated situation, and we just kind of stand there nodding at each other. Of course, it's now that Gords thinks it would be hilarious to bend over and fart in the guys face... I do my best not to piss myself laughing but fail quite miserably. Even John is smirking. The Boyfriend isn't though. What a bunch of cunts we really are sometimes.

The guy is furious and we all end up shouting at each other again. Fuck sakes Gords.. There is no backing him down now though and John is left with no option that to make it clear to him that he has to leave, that he's got no chance in his present situation. He fucks off to his car and we all head back towards the club. Before I know what's going on though I feel the glare of headlights from behind and Brian pulls me to out of the way of the guys car. He'd driven straight at me and Brian, full fucking pelt! Having missed us he speeds off into the night and we never see him again. It was too fucking close though.

Once again the night has taken an unexpected turn.

By the time Dutch wants to leave we're all pretty fucked. All except John, who's pretty wound up over the night's events. He thinks Daz is out of order for hooking up with that guys girlfriend but I don't really see it that way. Daz had no idea, and even if he did it's not his responsibility, it's the girl's. Although I guess Daz didn't help things in the aftermath of it all. Anyway, fuck it, another weird night. Dutch has no idea what's happened as we leave the dark suburb of Omaha and head further east. We're all tucked up in bed snoring like a drunken orchestra of hogs by the time we hit the highway.

I'm woken by John a little while later, who is nudging me telling me we have to get out of the van. I realise after a while that we're pulled over at the side of the road. The Boyfriend had left a little parting gift for us. He'd knifed one of the tires on the RV and that tire has now blown out. Dutch is not happy...

We all stumble off the van in a drunken haze, some of us wearing only t-shirts, kecks and shoes. It's fucking freezing and all. John and Dutch are livid with the situation, and it doesn't help that the rest of us are fawning around the slashed tire offering pissed up advice on how to proceed. Eventually the two of them tell us to fuck off and wait by the side of the road. Hilariously, in our drunken state, we just waddle off like kids scorned by an angry parent and stand in a deep ditch by the edge of the dark highway, something we'll later refer to as “The Trench”, although in reality it's only about a foot deep. We stand there, shivering and giggling in our kecks whilst Dutch and John go about fixing the van. They are both really fucked off by this point. They want us off of the van so as not to weigh it down when they put it up on the jack, but after a while Gords decides he's had enough and climbs back aboard and into bed. Typical Gords! It was that fucker that stoked the fire that got us into this mess. The rest of us stay in the trench, not daring to move.

Eventually the tire is changed and Dutch continues the journey east, silently, lividly gripping the steering wheel. I realise it's no idea to try and talk to him and so I head back to bed. John is more than vocal about the events though and by now he's lambasting Daz on his exploits. It's all I can hear as I drift off into sleep.

The next day we're in Lawrence, Kansas. I don't really remember a great deal about it except that it was a quaint, little university city. The sun was shining and the girls all seemed to be really good looking. I spent the best part of the afternoon walking around with Kev and Dutch, looking for a Western Union to transfer some tour funds into a bank account. Dutch was using the time we had together to appeal to my leadership status in the band, hoping I would be able to reign in the boys and their behaviour. Not likely big guy.

The show was ok. Nothing spectacular, but considering the venue was pretty big and there were a lot of people in attendance, we went down pretty well. I do remember looking at a High on Fire tour poster that was on the wall of the venue. They were playing here too. I remember thinking that I wished we were on that tour instead of this one..

After Lawrence we headed to Sauget, Illinois, which I think was just outside of St. Louis. We'd travelled through the day since Dutch had made a stop at a highway services so we could do some laundry. It was a beautiful day and the sky was clear blue. We hung out by the van for a while, eating crap food and taking in the sun, waiting for our laundry to be done. There hadn't been any showers at the last few shows so we were taking advantage of the fact that the service station had them, although we were all using the same key and taking turns. Obviously you're supposed to return the key to the lady behind the counter when you're done with the shower and then the next person pays to take it out again. We decided not to do that and just pass the key about between us. There were only two showers at the station though, so it was pretty obvious what we were up to, but the old lady either couldn't be bothered with the hassle or just plain didn't give a piss. I know I wouldn't.

When Dutch called time for us to leave, we returned to pick up our laundry. Amazingly, John had a go at Gords for his laundry still being wet. Gords had actually taken John's laundry for him, although John was last in line so his clothes weren't completely dry. Gords just barked at him, “Take care of your own fucking laundry in the future!”. Cabin fever...

John, as much as I love him, was always the guy in the van that waited to see how everybody else went about their business before acting. He was a complex character, as were we all in fairness to him. But I mean, you need John in a fight and he's right there, he'll put his fucking life on the line for you. And then he's really handy when it comes to fixing stuff, and he's always willing to help. At the same time, he couldn't take care of his own laundry.

There was one really funny episode when John had confronted us about the mystery of this big bag of crisps he'd bought that had disappeared. We were back in the van, heading towards Sauget, watching the box or something and John appears pinching the skin between his eyes and sighing in genuine frustration, “Ok, who the fuck has eaten my crisps?”. Silence ensues, of course. Everyone pleads innocence, and even when a very pissed off John has gone back to his bunk we're all looking at each other for answers, although we're all grinning like naughty school kids. But nobody knows what's happened to his crisps.

A few days later we'd been looking over some of the footage we'd been filming and lo and behold we stumble across a scene where the lot of us, all of us, are crowded around the bunk area, secretly, furiously eating John's crisps. We're all fucking steamboats of course. You can hear on the footage someone say in a panic, “Fuck, John's coming!” as Gordon is literally punching crisps into his mouth! We all piss ourselves laughing and it seems that we're all genuine in claiming that we don't remember the scene. I know I don't. Poor John. We've all been on the end of shit like that though. That little bastard Gordon once fried my phone in a microwave, thinking it would be a right rib tickler. Needless to say, my ribs weren't fucking tickled... Come to think of it, Gords always seemed to be involved in any mischief that happens on tour...

By the time we get to Sauget, it's grey and raining and the temperature has dropped considerably. We drive through St. Louis on the way in and get to see that steel arch thing, “the Gateway to the West” or whatever it's called. When we arrive at the club it's a fucking grim scene. The club is in some desolate industrial estate next to the highway. All there is to see is a large, soggy gravel car park, the warehouse like club and a sordid strip joint opposite it. It looks rough as fucking sin. Of course, Jay and a couple of the other lads are more than up for checking out some tits and happily head over as soon as we've loaded in. I give it a miss. It's really not my scene. I think John keeps me company as I man the merch table.

We have another ok show, but nothing to really write home about. There were a few people who seemed to be in to us whilst the vast majority seemed disinterested at best. Fuck it, it was the norm by this point. We gave it our all, and anyone in the front of the crowd giving dirty looks got a guitar swung at their near vicinity. Standard.

For some reason Lasse had been to the van to borrow a drum stand that hadn't been used from the kit we were renting and made a t-shirt stand out of it. He'd promised Gords and Dutch that he wouldn't forget it after the show, but of course he did. Gords isn't too fussed at first, but Dutch will use any excuse to wage war on Lasse. Of course, the tune changes in the camp when we think about the fact we'll have to pay for the missing stand. Luckily though, one of the other bands pick it up and bring it to the next show.

As instant karma, we pick up Nile's sound guy at a service station in the middle of the night, en route to the next show in Columbia Heights. He'd been forgotten by the Egypto Yanks as they'd gotten out for some nosh. Just drove off without him. He's pretty chilled about it though and spends the night with us on the RV. We make him up a bed for the night and share some beer with him. For once it's an easy night, we just sit around and watch a couple of horror films that John has bought.

A couple of days earlier I'd been walking around Lawrence, Kansas in my t-shirt, enjoying the sun. It came as somewhat of a shock when I stepped out of the van in Columbia Heights to a blast of Arctic wind. It was fucking raw here, the snow slicing through the air like shards of glass. I remember going to look for a phone box to call Jen back home, and when I found one could only bare to stand and talk for a couple of minutes such was the cold. I wasn't really dressed for the occasion to be fair, donning only a thin, spring jacket. I hadn't really been prepared for the wildly differing temperatures on this tour.

I don't really remember much about the show, I think it was another standard affair. The venue for the night was a big pool hall, or what looked like one, but the tables must have been removed. It had that feel about it anyway. It kind of reminded me of the place we used to play in Corby, which was called The Venue, they used to hold annual Battle of the Bands competitions there. Like this place, it was a long, dark, carpeted room with white foam tiles in the ceiling and a low stage at the end with a small wooden dance floor in front of it. There were a fair few people in and I don't remember anyone particularly hating us.

We'd been making an effort to hang out with Lasse at the merch stall a lot more these last few days. Which really, shouldn't have been such a big fucking deal for us when I think about it. I get where he was coming from when I look back upon it. The thing is, we'd paid his flight for him and some of the guys in the band were of the opinion he was here to work. Which of course, he was, but Lasse sometimes seemed to be of the impression that he was here to merely sell shirts for us whilst we were on stage, and then we'd all share the duty for the rest of the night. I guess we should have got that all cleared up before we came out on tour. The main problem is, nobody wanted to hang out in the venue all night listening to death metal...least of all Lasse. Things seemed to be smoothed out on that front now though and we'd all been hanging out a lot more with him these last few days.

After we'd played our set, some of us were hanging out in what was a foyer room in the front of the building. Jay, John and Gords were playing pool when some old black guy with grey hair, right cheeky looking sod, approaches the table and puts his money down to play the winner, which turns out to be Jay. As they break off the old guy suggests they play for a round of drinks, which Jay agrees to, and then proceeds to throw the game in what is the most blatant hustle I've ever witnessed. Of course, he wants a re-match for “double or quits”. Jay has of course clocked on, but to my amazement agrees to play the guy again. I'm a bit shocked because Jay isn't normally too chuffed to buy a round of drinks. By the second frame the old guy has now obviously transformed into Ronnie O Sullivan and is wiping the table clean. Just as Jay is starting to look a bit pasty, unbelievably the old guy, in a horrid stroke of misfortune, knocks down the black ball early, therefore conceding the game to Jay. We all piss ourselves laughing and the old boy is fucking livid. He's demanding another match but by now Jay is having none of it. Hustler eventually grumbles his way to the bar and buys Jay a couple of Jack and Cokes. The look on both their faces is priceless.

Another thing that highly amused me tonight involved Zanussi, the young star-struck bass player in Nile. His girlfriend had turned up to the show to hang out with her guy and his new band. Somewhat fucking incredibly, the other guys in Nile had told Zanussi that the “no non-Nile Triple A Pass holders on the bus” rule even applied to his girlfriend. I have to say, I felt really sorry for him when I saw the two of them sitting out the back of the club in the freezing cold, perched on the curb behind the bus. They looked fucking gutted. I told them they could hang out in our van if they wanted but Zanussi assured me they were fine. Poor bastard. Living the dream eh?

The next show was in Chicago and it was a relatively short drive. Dutch was driving through the night meaning we should have the day in the city. I was really looking forward to it. Lasse and I had been to the booze store and bought some beer for the journey, although we were planning an easy night with a film or two. We'd bought a couple of twenty four packs of some rancid “Lite” beer, purely because it was insanely cheap. I think I got through about two cans before I was forced to give in. It was absolutely foul and after half a twenty four pack had been consumed, the entire gang was complaining of headaches and a weird, acidic burning in the stomach. You get what you pay for I guess...

We settled down in front of a film with a cup of tea instead, although Lasse was offering a bottle of Captain Morgan around. On this occasion he had no takers though...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cabin Fever

The USA is a fucking big country. We'd been travelling through the night from Seattle, slowly snaking our way across Washington state and then Idaho, Dutch must have been driving for twelve hours, and still we were nowhere near our end destination. Dutch had rightly laughed at me when I'd asked him where we were having our day off between Seattle and Denver...

I'm not sure how many breaks Dutch was giving himself, but they were few and far between. I went to bed, half drunk, with Dutch at the wheel, plodding through the night, I woke up about eight hours later and it was if Dutch hadn't moved. He just seemed to keep driving as if in some sort of a trance. Scary to think about it in hindsight..

We spent the entire day flaked out in the RV, watching wrestling films, watching the barren landscape drift along, eating junk food and drinking coke in the morning, the odd beer in the evening. Daylight became dusk and the journey rolled on. We finally stopped for dinner in some small town called Twin Falls, somewhere in Idaho. It was like walking out of prison when we climbed out of the RV. Oh for some fresh air.. We were also in desperate need of hot food, anything would have done. The fact that Twin Falls had an outstanding Mexican restaurant was just a wonderful bonus.

It must have been around six pm by the time we'd stopped. I asked Dutch when he was going to sleep, “Can't sleep for long, we'll never make it to Denver for the show” came the simple answer. I just pretended I hadn't heard that and headed inside the restaurant. I hoped the Denver show was going to be worth this fucking journey.

We were about two weeks in to the tour and as usual some people in the band had been a little more flagrant with their budget than others. Daz had managed to piss away most of the money he'd brought with him and with there still being a week to go until payday back home, he was now forced into being somewhat thriftier with his bunce. We all sat down and ordered food, except Daz, who just sat there quietly and drank the free tap water on offer. As is the norm in the States, each plate of food ordered was enough to fill a bear's stomach for a winter of hibernation and so Daz ended up feeding on the sizeable scraps left by the rest of us. The thing is, the daft cunt boasted upon leaving the restaurant that his plan had worked magnificently. That fucked the rest of us off big time and the fucker didn't get a crumb out of us for the rest of the tour. I remember at one point later on Jay delightedly handing over a half eaten plate of food to a waiter, waxing lyrical about how good it was but that he couldn't possibly manage another morsel, all before a drooling, famished Daz. Nothing like team spirit to get you through the rigours of touring.

Considerably stuffed, we took a quick walk in the cool evening air to help the food go down. Twin Falls was exactly as it sounds, a little settlement next to a large ravine with two waterfalls, although the river was dry and the falls were little more than a trickle. It was a stunning sight all the same. We stood there admiring it for twenty minutes or so before reluctantly climbing back aboard the RV. There would be no partying tonight, everyone was exhausted. And so Dutch rolled on through the night.

By the time we arrived in Denver it was already dark. Thirty six hours we'd travelled to get here and we had to load in as soon as we arrived since we were a little late. Denver was another of those places I'd been looking forward to seeing since it's not the kind of place I'm likely to end up on holiday. When I come here as a tourist it's always New York or California, but places like Denver still interest me and it was one of the destinations I'd earmarked when we first got the tour dates through. Of course, as is the fucking norm, the club we were playing was nowhere near the inner city. It was just on some faceless long stretch of heavily trafficked road that could have been anywhere. There was the odd bar here and there but nothing of sightseeing interest.

The atmosphere within the entire touring camp seemed a little subdued, which is hardly surprising after the epic journey we'd made. Even Chris, Soilent Green's tour manager, was quiet, and he's normally someone you can't beg to shut up, constantly cracking jokes and taking the piss out of people, normally us Limey's and specifically Gords. We loaded in and afterwards slumped into the backstage room. The compulsory bottle of beer was opened but drank with lacklustre.

The venue was quite a big place, with a balcony looking down over the stage, and it was full of long haired death metallers. Not a fucking chance tonight! I went to check on Lasse who was sat reading a book by the merch table. He looked pissed off. I guess this wasn't what he'd signed up for. I could feel the strain between us. It's fucking hard when you're tour managing your own band, trying to take care of everything, feeling responsible for everyone and still trying to enjoy the tour yourself, never mind put everything into the shows. I was starting to get pissed off with the sour look on Lasse's face. I felt responsible for him because he's my friend and I'd brought him along, and I could feel it starting to cause tension within the ranks. This is what you call cabin fever..

Of course to make things better, the show fucking sucked. I could sense that the normal level of energy and animosity we have was sagging significantly. We played to a near full room but it was a room full of people standing there looking like they hated us. In fact, some brave cunts on the balcony above were spitting at us and throwing beer cans as we played. John offered each and every one of them on stage but received no takers. I would've loved to have seen that go down. I could tell by the look in John's eyes that he was ready to kill someone. He has that look every now and then..

Nile had a great show by the look of it. I watched them for a while whilst drinking a beer I wasn't in the mood for. They sounded half decent again and the crowd were going wild. As privileged as I knew I was to be travelling around this country, playing shows and getting paid and fed, I was starting to wonder what we were doing with this band. I mean, we just seemed to take any tour offer there was going, and maybe that was something we'd have to think about in the future. As much fun as it could be battling idiots in the crowd night in, night out, it could get to you now and again, especially after and energy sapping journey like the one we'd just made.

All the same, the drive to Omaha, Nebraska was a breeze compared to that we'd just taken, and we'd filled the bus with booze. Me and Lasse had gone to a nearby liquor store and bought a case of beer and a bottle of Captain Morgan. On top of that someone in the band had stumbled across a bottle of rank tasting Slo Gin. I felt like getting fucking shit faced tonight. The trouble is, I wasn't in the best of moods and that isn't a good place to start when you're drinking copious amounts of booze...

We were travelling through the night again, and we were all drinking like there was no tomorrow. The music was blasting, Dutch constantly shouting at us to turn it down, us ignoring him as we passed the bottles around. The beer was warm and tasted like piss but nobody cared. And then a simple discussion suddenly flares up into something way beyond reason.

Gords is one of my best friends and sometimes it felt like it was the two of us taking most of the strain for the band. Unfortunately this lead to the two of us bickering every now and again. The trouble with this occasion is that we were both pissed as farts. Gords starts on about the record label, moaning and complaining about something or other. Standard stuff really. But then I start to feel like he's turning it on me, having a go for not being on top of things and fighting the label enough on the band's behalf. This completely fries my piss since it seems I spend my entire life trying to make this fucking band work. A light bickering soon flares up in to a full blown argument and the two of us are getting very emotional. And then a red mist comes over me and I lose my mind for a brief moment. I'm sat at the lounge table, penned in by Kev who is trying to hold me down, punching the fuck out of a twenty four can box of beer, smashing my fist into it with all I've got, screaming at Gords, “Why is it always fucking me? Why is it always me that has to do everything for this fucking band?!” I feel myself completely lose touch with sanity for a few seconds, as I continue to pummel my fist into the cans of beer. Kev is trying to calm me down as everyone else stands back looking on. Gords is by now close to tears, Dutch is shouting at us, asking what the fuck is going on. It all calms down as abruptly as it started and before long we're all hugs and sorrys. I feel like a bit of a twat, but at the same time justified in my outburst, although quite why I feel the need to damage my own hand is beyond me.

After that the party is pretty fucking dead and we all stumble to bed in sombre mood. Lasse, completely not reading the situation, then thinks it funny to pull me out of my upper bunk by my hair as he's on his way to bed. I go fucking mad, telling him in no uncertain terms that if he does that again I'll plant my boot firmly in his fucking coupon. The knob just lies in his bunk, sounding upset, asking me if I'm serious, like he's really hurt. Jesus Christ, I feel bad again now. Fuck this shitty night, I need to sleep.

I wake up in the morning to find the van is parked up by some roadside service station. I know things are going to get weird between me and Lasse if we don't address last night so I crawl into his bunk and give him a hug. And then I go to Gords' bunk and we do the same. It feels better this morning, as if the air has cleared somewhat. Maybe last night is exactly what was required. Does good to blow the cobwebs off now and again. Dutch is worried though. As we sit and share a coffee on a bench in the parking lot he tells me he thinks we should stop drinking. He's serious and all. I tell him we'll be ok, it's just the way we are sometimes. He clearly has no understanding of where I'm coming from though, he just shakes his head, “I thought you were the sensible one!” “I am” I tell him, although I hear how half-assed it sounds..

We enjoy the rest of our black coffee in silence...