Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hellfest - Part One

Checking in for my flight at Arlanda, final destination Nantes, I'd almost forgotten that I was on route to a show. I was travelling alone and I was travelling light. I didn't even have a guitar with me. If only it was always this easy...

The four of us were making our way there separately. I was taking an earlier flight than Andy and Jon, who were each travelling in the evening, arriving at Nantes airport within a half hour of each other. Andy had opted to work a half day whilst Jon had a different arrangement due him to him being in the middle of a world tour with Nasum.. Johan, the poor bastard, was driving down via Paris, with his other band Swarm. They were picking up Doomriders at Charles De Gaulle, who themselves were playing Hellfest as we were, before heading off on tour together for about ten days. They had left yesterday afternoon.. fuck knows when they'd arrive.

Andy and I had originally agreed to take the same flight to Nantes, but in my typical rash fashion, I'd opted at the last minute for an earlier flight. This seemed to amuse and annoy Andy in equal measure. I'd made up some bullshit about wanting to take in the sights of Nantes before heading to Hellfest the day after, but in truth, when booking my flight I just bought the first one available, all previous correspondence with Andy going straight out the window. As it turns out though, Andy and Jon won't get to the hotel in Nantes tonight until eleven thirty pm, so I'd say with me arriving at six thirty it worked out pretty well.

I was flying via Amsterdam Schipol airport. The flight to Amsterdam took around an hour and a half and was as uneventful as I could wish it to be. I'm not a nervous flyer as long the conditions are smooth, although a bit of turbulence tends to get my popper flapping, even if I do tend to mask it well. No such problems on this flight though. The only incident that aroused my attention was during the safety instructions routine whilst taxiing. One of the flight stewardesses' approached the passengers sat at the emergency exit aisles, the ones with all that nice leg space, situated over the wings. She addressed them personally, informing them of their obligation to help with any eventual evacuation, should the plane have to make an emergency landing in the fucking ocean... She went through the routine with them, knowing fine well that in the case of such an emergency none of it would fucking matter a piss. As is routine though, when finished explaining how these passengers would have to help others out of the plane before themselves, she asked them if they were ok with the arrangement. One young guy, some turd sat wearing a trucker cap and a Pantera t-shirt, said no. My ears pricked up and my eyes took leave of my book, The Real Football Factories with Danny Dyer, quite a read, as the stewardess told the idiot that he would have to move seat. He quickly changed his mind and said he was in fact happy to help people out of the airplane in case of emergency. Something told me not to trust the cunt. It was more than sufficient for the stewardess though and with that she moved along the cabin, attending to the rest of her pre-flight routine. I frown/smirked and got back to Dyer.

I had a couple of hours to kill at Schipol Airport before my connecting flight to Nantes. It's quite an airport. I'd go as far to say it's the nicest airport I've been to, and I've been to a few. Schipol looks more like a city centre than an airport, with shops and restaurants a plenty, terraces, spas and bars, it even has a park with a tree in the middle of it! There are worse places to kill a couple of hours.

I was in one of the shops looking for a toothbrush and some shampoo for the weekend ahead when my eyes met with those of a bearded, long haired man with a guitar strapped to his back. My attention had been caught by the sudden thump of him stopping dead in his tracks. He was stood there glaring at me with a look of sheer amazement on his puffy, red face. “Fucking hell man!” He beat me to the exact same phrase by a fraction of a second. It was my mate Joe from Glasgow! What a fucking small world we live in.

I haven't seen him for a couple of years and if he hadn't seen me I may well have walked straight past him. Last time I saw him he had considerably shorter hair and the ZZ Top style beard he was now sporting was merely in its primary stage back then. Joe used to sing in the band Take A Worm For A Walk Week, who we were lucky enough to have as support on the UK leg of Speedhorn's farewell tour. They are one of the best live bands I've ever seen. Certainly the most entertaining. What could be better than watching four radge Jocks in in full spandex suits playing the most spazzed out hardcore you've ever heard whilst doing their damnedest to wind up testosterone fuelled metal heads to the threshold of rage?

It was good to see Joe again.. Randomly enough he was playing some art performance show at a church in Riga with this girlfriend of his. Since Take A Worm he's been doing a drone solo project called Loss Leader as well as playing in a band called Remember, Remember. We caught about all of that over a cup of tea at one of Schipol's many bars. He seemed to be doing well, he's even been off the booze for a while. Last time I saw him he was working in a bar in Glasgow and drinking as much as he served. He's since quit the bar and has been studying for a while, taking a course in building guitars. I was glad to hear he's doing so well. Completely chuffed with my chance encounter with an old friend, giving the usual promises of staying in touch and offering a sofa for a bed should he ever be in Stockholm, I headed off to board the next flight.

I'd never been on such a small airplane as the one as I was now boarding to Nantes. I sat in a seat by the window in a row of just one. Quite nice really. Across the aisle from me there were only two other seats. In fact, there was only one stewardess on board. I sat there waiting to take off on this mini bus with wings praying that we wouldn't hit turbulence on route. Thankfully we didn't and the flight was surprisingly enjoyable. Funny thing is, this tiny plane was boarded almost entirely of hard rockers that I assume were going to Hellfest. I must have looked like the odd one out..

I wondered if Andy was taking this same flight later on and laughed at the thought of the tall bastard squeezed into this sardine can of an airplane.

I was taking an shuttle arranged by the festival at five pm, catching a ride with our friends From Ashes Rise. Nantes airport was tiny and an hour here felt like five at Schipol. I had nothing to do except chain drink coffee and read my book. At five I went to the meet point at the decided time to find the From Ashes guys looking pretty fucked off. They'd flown from Portland to Amsterdam, then on to Paris before taking a final flight to Nantes. They'd been awake for the best part of thirty hours and they'd just been told that half of their gear has been lost on route. They were missing a guitar, a cymbal case and a pedal board. Bizarrely enough, the airline had given them each a plastic bag with a white t-shirt and a few other assorted treats as way of compensation! Unfortunately they didn't have an answer as to where in the world their gear was and when they could expect its return. With so many connections the gear could literally be anywhere... The journey in the van was a sombre one. Except for Dave, the From Ashes drummer, who was excitedly babbling on about a certain tomato paste that they put on the sandwiches here that he hopes he can find to take home..

I got dropped off at the hotel and said to the From Ashes guys that I would catch up with them tomorrow, assuring them that they could lend Victims gear if it come to it. They were staying at some fancy hotel in Clisson, the small town where the festival is held, I was staying at a roadside effort, seemingly situated on the outskirts of an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere. Shite, I may have miscalculated things here.. I checked in and went upstairs to the room, frantically searching through the tv channels in search of the football. It's European Championships time and there are games on every night for the next three weeks. Nothing. There were about forty channels on the box but not one of them were showing the footy. Eurosport was showing tennis.. Fucking Eurosport, what a dogshit channel! I could almost feel Andy laughing at me.. What the fuck was I going to do for the next five hours?

Luckily the hotel had a bar downstairs and although they weren't showing the Italy game that was on now, they assured me they'd be showing the Spain game later that evening. It looked like a pretty decent bar too. Relieved, I decided to take a walk and see what was around the industrial estate.

As it turns out the small town of Reze, which is actually a suburb of Nantes, was within walking distance of the hotel. It was a warm, grey summer evening and I fancied a beer. I thought I might try and catch the second half of the Italy match and have a drink with some locals. It wasn't to be though. There was nowhere showing the game. I walked about the town for an hour though, gladly stretching my legs and breathing in the night air, enjoying the quaint little French town.

Apart from the odd pilot staying over for the night, my hotel seemed to be occupied purely by band members and crews who were playing the festival. I sat with a pair of pilots and watched the Spain game, enjoying a couple of pints of beer. The game was crap but the beer was good enough.

Andy and Jon turned up shortly after eleven thirty. Jon looked like he'd already had a few beers, Andy just looked tired. It was good to see them. As much as I love the chance to spend some time on my own, it was good to be back with the boys. We got a round in and sat down together, wondering how it was going for the Johan and the Swarm guys as we supped on our beers. Andy and I were sharing a room and around midnight we decided we'd hit the hay. Johan had texted and said he was only an hour away so Jon decided he'd get another beer in and wait up for them.

I went to bed, looking forward to the following day. The stage we were playing had a great line up, with us, Vitamin X, Discharge, GBH, From Ashes and Tragedy. Jen was coming tomorrow too although she'd miss Victims set, not that that mattered, she's seen us quite a few times before.. We were going to hang out at the festival tomorrow and Saturday and then head to Paris for a few days holiday. Why not? May as well take advantage since my flight is paid for.. With all that to look forward to I fell asleep sometime around one thirty, the BBC World News channel saying something about children being used as human shields by the army in Syria...  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kicking Again

I'm in the lucky position where I have a job that gives me a relative amount of freedom to fuck off on tour whenever I want. I don't get paid when I'm away, but at least I'm not restrained, as most people are, to just five weeks of holiday a year. I guess I'm also lucky that Victims usually make enough money on tour to at least cover the bills whilst I'm away. Of course, to make sure of this luxuries on tour are few and far between, but it's all worth it.

The last tour was an absolute blast. What could be better than going out for three weeks around Europe with two other bands in tow that happen to be old friends? The shows were great for the most part, as was the hospitality given to us by the people sorting the shows. By the end of the three weeks I was feeling the strain though.. Three weeks weighs a lot heavier than it used to, especially when restricted to an average of five hours sleep a night, partly through my own faults, partly due to circumstances and the schedule we were on. Writing every day helps the long hours in the van whither away, as did the constant patter of the Tormented boys we were sharing it with, but after three weeks of driving, writing constantly, not sleeping properly, drinking too much and eating way to much shite from the endless service stations, I was knackered!

Hence, I haven't written for a while...

As blessed as I am to have a job that allows me the freedom to go away on tour, I know that as much as I've tried to see that things are covered in my absence, I've got a lot of catching up to do when I get home. This time around it was particularly bad since beside the usual stack of paperwork to be attended to, I came to home to find myself critically short staffed in both the bar and the kitchen. After a couple of days back at work I found myself longing once again for the road. Or the lack of responsibility that comes with being out on it...

As it is, Victims only have a handful of shows left this year. A couple of festivals, Hellfest in France and Tuska in Finland respectively, with a gig supporting Poison Idea and Bombus sandwiched in between. There was a stint on the west coast of the States planned for October but that has been put on hold for a while since our boy Andy is going to be a fathering a new child in August. The States can wait.

As well as Andy expanding the Victims family, Jon is also busy touring with his old band Nasum. They're out touring for most of the year, wrapping up some time in October. He's just come home from a three week leg in the States and it seems like it went great. Obviously Nasum's founding member Meizko was torn away from the earth far too early, as hundred of thousands of others were in the tsunami disaster of 2006, and due to those tragic circumstances Nasum never got to tour what was to be their final album, Helvete. They're doing that now.

I think when Jon comes home we'll start actively writing a new Victims record, and there is talk of some shows with Rotten Sound in Finland. I'm sure there will be other shows to follow as we near 2012, if indeed we all make it past December 21st... Jon is convinced we won't.. I'm a tad more optimistic.

Obviously with no Victims stuff planned for ages, I've got some free time on my hands. Well fuck that! I've finally started a new band with my old mate, Bloody Kev, something we've spoken about doing since we finished Raging Speedhorn. The new band is called Diagnosis? Bastard!, and as well as me on guitar and Kev screaming, my good friends Viktor who plays drums in a shit load of great bands like Nitad and Pig Eyes, is playing drums and Lucas Lima, a fellow immigrant, although his emigration from Brazil is a little more ballsy than my pond hop, is playing bass. We're booked in to the studio to record a bunch of songs and there are plenty of plans for gigs and the like. Much more to come on that soon.

I'm also starting something up with another old friend, Lasse, and Turbo, the old Breach drummer. Whereas I'm writing most of the DB stuff, Lasse is taking care of writing with this project, which is always a work out and an interesting challenge. Most of the time before I can even learn how to play the stuff he comes up with, I have to first learn how to listen to the shit. Just figuring out the beat he has in his head is a head fuck! It's certainly good practice though. We've attempted a couple of things in the past but it hasn't worked out for one reason or another. The last time we were playing was around the period we were writing the last Speedhorn record. After playing with Lasse for a couple of months and learning this whole new way of playing guitar, the few usual shit Sabbath rip off songs we'd written for Speedhorn went out of the window and newly inspired, we wrote Before The Sea Was Built. So the huge majority of old school Speedhorn fans who hate that record can blame Mr. Holmberg...

As if two new bands weren't enough, there's even talk of one of my old bands, Battle of Santiago, getting back on with things and playing some shows. Our friends The Great Waste of Time are having a release show for their new record and have asked us to play. There is even talk of the ridiculously pretentious record we did with Stig Larsson, (not the dead guy who wrote those books, but the cantankerous old poet/play-write who hangs out at Erik's local pub, finally being released, with a show being planned for that too... You never know, we might even play some other shows..

So that's that for now. There will be a report from Hellfest and the other two Victims shows, as well as some photos and other bits and bobs from the last tour we played. There is a wonderful collection of photographs taken by Drette of Andy and Robban doing the whole giant/dwarf thing. I have to gather them together and put them up. Maybe you had to be there, I don't know, but at the time it was a great source of amusement for us during the long hours on the road...