Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuska Fest, Helsinki

I haven't been to Finland for a long time. Actually that's not true, I passed through Helsinki airport on the way to Thailand a couple of years ago. We spent four hours here on our way out and about twenty minutes on the way back. Neither of those occasions were particularly fun. Hanging out at an airport is quite a boring way to spend four hours. On the way back, we'd been forced to run from one plane to the other and is if that wasn't stressful enough, I'd ran in to a bald giant of a border cop, he looked like Zangief the Street Fighter character, and he seemed to be angry at the world and wanted to take it out on me. As he held me up at the passport queue he made it abundantly clear he didn't give a fuck if I made my flight or not.

The last time I was on Finnish soil proper though was actually the first time too. The first show we'd ever played outside of the UK with Speedhorn was in Helsinki, in 2000. We'd driven all the way from the UK, a journey which took two days. By the time we got to the venue we were all a little dazed since the last leg of that journey was spent on the overnight ferry crossing from Stockholm. It had been quite a night. Within an hour of being on the boat we clocked on to the fact that the place was actually a giant, floating nightclub, full of pissed up Scandinavians. We of course, duly joined them. We were on tour with Biohazard and this being the first show of the tour, we'd never met them, but just as we did, they stuck out like a sore thumb on the boat and we soon found each other. A few beers at the bar around five pm quickly escalated into drunken karaoke, in-band fighting, sleeping in corridors unable to find allocated cabins, a puking incident involving our merch guy and a bottle of Jack Daniels and our tour manager being locked up in boat jail having gotten into a fight with the Norwegian rally team. I didn't even know that such a thing as boat jail existed.
On that occasion all I'd managed was a quick stroll around the harbour in Helsinki, since the venue was right next to it. Today should provide ample opportunity to make up for that. I usually hate getting up early, hate it. But even though I'd risen with the cockerel's crow this morning, well I would have if there were any cockerels in Sumpan, I was in good spirits. Getting out of bed at five am is certainly made easier by the sun shining brightly through the bedroom window...

I'd sat on the sofa watching the early CNN bulletin on tv, debating with myself whether I had time to put the kettle on and make a cuppa, when my phone beeped at the incoming of a text message from Andy. “Oi Brit, put down your cup of tea and make your way outside, we'll be there in two minutes”. It's almost as if the big bastard had read my mind.

The flight from Arlanda to Helsinki only takes forty-five minutes. You literally take off, get up to cruising height and then come back down again. One big arch over the water. Despite only having slept for five hours, I felt pretty good. Well, awake anyway. My back felt far from good. The night before, as in any other night that precedes and early rise, I had a hard time getting to sleep. I'd lay on the sofa until half past midnight, nursing a glass of single malt and watching the film on tv, the Forty Year Old Virgin with Steve Carrell. I lay they wondering if Johan was doing the same thing, since he's the same as me when it comes to both rising early and stupid films. I asked him this morning what time he went to bed last night, he smirked and told me he'd been watching the film.

Whether it's a lack of sleep, a hangover or any other shit circumstance, I always feel better knowing there's someone in my company that's feeling worse. Today, as is often the case, that someone is Jon. When I'd awoken this morning at five am, Jon was already in the middle of an epic night. In fact, it's been a bit of an epic week for the poor bastard. After playing with Victims at Strand on Wednesday, he then travelled up to play the Peace and Love Festival with Nasum on the Thursday before flying down to Leipzig on the Friday to play the Full Force Festival. Nasum were on stage at the un-Godly time of two-thirty am, as in this morning. They'd played the show and then Jon and Keijo, along with Hannes and Antti, their two Finish sound crew, had taken a festival shuttle to Berlin for an eight am flight to Helsinki to meet up with us again and play tonight's show at the Tuska Festival. Just thinking about that lot makes me fucking snoozy. I have no idea how he's coping. I remember going through a couple of festival seasons in Europe with Speedhorn, and as much as the shows were often big and a lot of fun, everything else around it was a fucking drag. It didn't take me long to become disillusioned with festival touring.

It's just past nine am by the time we touch down. Jon is still in the air and won't land for another hour. An old friend of the band, Petri, is working for the festival this weekend and he's here to pick us up and take us to the hotel. Petri managed a tour that had a line up of Victims, Rotten Sound, Trap Them and The Ocean a few years back, shortly before I joined the band. He's going to be out with Nasum on their European club tour at the end of the summer, which will be the very final leg of their mammoth round the world trek, ending sometime in early October. After greeting Petri he asks us if we want to stick around and grab a coffee at the airport whilst waiting for Jon, of if we'd rather he took us to the hotel directly. Apparently most of the bands are staying at a hotel near the airport but for some reason we've been moved to one right in the middle of the city. We unanimously decide that we'll meet Jonny boy later. With that we head off.

Petri swings by the festival site before dropping us off at the hotel. There we leave our merch with the festival sellers and obtain a brief look around the place. Unlike Hellfest, Tuska is bang in the middle of town, set up on large asphalted parking lot. It reminds me a little of Maryland Death Fest in Baltimore, only on a larger scale. Two main, outdoor stages stand side by side at the far end of the compound. Flanking them to the left is the merchandise area, to the right, a little further back, the bar area. The bar area, which is fenced off, creating a barrier between those old enough to drink and those who are not, is almost as large as the crowd standing space in front of the two stages. Andy laughs at the thought of bands playing on the main stage, across a barren no-mans-land to the bar area on the other side.

There is a smaller tented stage which lies opposite the bar area and then further back still, to the immediate left of the entrance is the building that houses the stage where we're playing tonight. The warehouse like building has a large stage and it's own little, cordoned off bar area in the far left hand corner. I wonder if this building is a venue in itself during non-festival times...

I have no idea how the show will be tonight, if it rains I guess we'll be in luck. The line up is a veritable hotch-potch of Finnish goth and war metal, along with some international acts like Megadeth and Ministry as well as the odd hardcore band like ourselves and Napalm Death. We'll see. I'm glad for the asphalt though, much more civilised than the muddy bog of Hellfest.

Petri drops us off at the hotel a little after ten am.

My back has now become completely rigid, so that I'm walking around as if I have a broomstick stuffed down the back of my shirt and jeans. I can't even be bothered thinking about how I'm going to manage the show later. I console myself with the fact that it's the last show for a while, after which I'll be able to get it sorted. We dump our bags in the rooms, nice hotel by the look of it, and walk about the city centre looking for some coffee and a spot of lunch. I need a pharmacy, but I need coffee and food first.

We end up walking about a large shopping centre in vain search of something decent to eat. The options are looking slim. We spot an Irish pub and decide that some pub grub could probably do the trick. We walk in and pick up a menu that is stood on the bar. The menu only has beer in it though. We laugh, making stereotypical jokes about Finish people and alcohol. I wonder aloud if they have the same laws concerning alcohol here as they do in Sweden, as in, you can't sell booze without serving grub. I doubt it somehow. Johan assures me that they must have food in this pub though, picking up a different menu a little further down the bar. This menu only has cider on it. Four pages with nothing but cider. “Fucking Finns!”, Johan chortles as we exit, continuing on with our search.

Our ambitions for lunch slowly quashed, we settle for one of the shopping center cafés. Although the queuing system seems a bit fucked, with disgruntled locals pushing in from all angles, the menu offers a few decent looking veggie options. I order a brie and mango bagel with a cappuccino to accompany it. Unfortunately the picture on the menu in no way represents the food on my plate. The chunks of mango in the picture are in reality a sugary mango flavoured jam. As my dad would say, “It's probably never seen a mango!” The cappuccino is all fluffy milk and no coffee.

Not entirely satisfied, we eat up and leave in search of a pharmacy. The pharmacy has far more to offer than the café and I come away with an assorted bag full of salvas and pain killers for my back. I imagine this is how it feels to be Jon.

It's around noon by the time we arrive back at the hotel. With nothing to do between now and four pm, when Petri will come back and transport us to the festival site, we decide to retire to our rooms and relax. I would like to explore Helsinki a little more, maybe check out Janne's Combat Rock record store, but I'm tired and the store moved to the other side of the city a couple of years ago and the hotel bed is calling me to it. I leave Andy and Johan and head to the room I'm sharing with Jon. I find him fast asleep on his bed, that awful Nicolas Cage film National Treasure playing at low volume on the tv set. I crawl into the twin bed beside his and watch the rest of the film, my eyes fading into shallow sleep every now and then. Has Cage done a decent film since Wild At Heart?

Petri arrives at four pm as planned and we head off to the festival. Hannes, one of Nasum's crew is in the van with us along with Petri's girlfriend and another friend of hers. Hannes is going to do monitors for us tonight. Antti, Nasum's sound man, will be doing our front of house. We'll meet him there later. We chat away amongst ourselves as we tour the streets of Helsinki. We're planning to come back here in January and play some shows with Rotten Sound. I really do hope to get a better look around the place then.

We arrive at the festival a few hours before our stage time. We load out the gear into the back stage area of the warehouse building. It's a simple set up. Behind the stage is a large black curtain, behind that a couple of sofas, a table with a few bags of crisps spread about it and a couple of fridge's with beer for the various bands playing. We'd loaded in through an adjacent room where five or six people were sat washing used plastic beer glasses from the festival bars with water hoses. It's a pretty depressing scene. By their expression on their faces I'd guess they've already been here a while. The room is decked out in beige tiles, there is a drain in the floor, although it doesn't seem to be doing much of a job given the pool of water we have to walk through whilst loading in the gear, and there is a large, stainless steel table where plastic bins full of dirty plastic glasses are awaiting a hosing. The whole scene reminds me from Solway Foods back in the day. I hope these guys are being well paid.

We drop of the gear beside the stage, meet the stage manager, who immediately asks us if we want a bottle of booze, I don't remember it's name but Jon excitedly gives me the lo-down on it. A genuine Finnish treat apparently. Johan politely declines his offer and tells him we'll take it later. Along with Avgrund, who play before us on the same stage, Napalm Death are the only other band I'm interested in watching today, and they're about to start. Some of us are hungry though so we decide to cash in our meal tickets and grab some scran and then catch the second half of the Napalm set.

I myself am not that hungry in truth and I'm only eating now for the sake of time. It's no idea playing a show on a full stomach... When I view the food on offer my appetite recoils further, like a scared dog backing into it's kennel. The vegetarian option is a lasagne based on pickled beetroot. I kid you not! I'm far from being a picky eater, in fact I'll eat almost anything that didn't once have a conscience, but pickled beetroot is where I draw the line. I've had a phobia of it since my days at infant school, where on one nightmare inducing occasion we were forced to eat a dinner consisting of: one hard boiled egg, one mound of grated, tasteless white cheese accompanied by a side ration of pickled beetroot. Everything on the plate stained like a disease by the beetroot's purple juice. I've never been able to eat it since. In fact, for a while there I refused to go to school, for fear of that disgusting so called meal. My parents were even brought in for a talk with the teachers who were concerned that I was being bullied, such was my depressed disposition. Up until about a year ago, I couldn't even eat fresh beetroot, but Jenny taught me, or actually, went on a mission to convince me, that fresh beetroot was a whole other thing. She was right about that, and for her efforts I'm grateful. There is, however, no fucking way I'm touching this pickled beetroot lasagne. What the fuck is that all about?

Johan has a theory that the Finns take the same approach to food as they do to music, in that they throw any old combination into the pot. Like techno and death metal, or symphonic synth and math metal, lasagne and pickled beetroot. He also asserts that they never put salt on anything.

Anyway, I end up with a plate of sauce-less white rice, a few leaves of lettuce and a few fallafels. No sauce on them either. Hardly the finest meal I've ever eaten. We're soon done with it and we head off to watch Napalm. The sun is shining on the boys as they power through their set, playing the same mix of old and new they had a couple of months ago when we played with them in Antwerp. I always enjoy watching Barney perform. I have to laugh though, as Andy had indeed predicted, there are just as many people stood way back in the beer area watching them as there are down in front of the stage. All the same, there are still a lot of people watching and despite the sound being the typical crap outdoor festival fare, it's still a good show.

We don't have much to do but wait around for another few hours until it's time for us to play. I string my guitar again. Getting to be a regular occurrence these days. An hour or so before show time I douse my lower back in Tiger Balm and crack open a can of Kharu beer. It tastes better than I remember it tasting at Carmen, where it's still the beer of the week, same as it has been since I moved to Stockholm. I have another as I watch the Avgrund set right before ours.

From what I can hear from the side of the stage, the monitors are more than up to the job. It sounds great from where I'm standing. There doesn't seem to be a lot of people watching them although to be fair to the guys, they put on a really energetic show. I'm not the biggest grindcore fan but if it's done well, like it is here, it's a lot of fun to watch. It all stems from punk at the end of the day anyway. I can't help thinking as I watch the Avgrund set that it's too bad the Hellfest show wasn't our farewell show for the year. I soon put the thought out of mind though. As long as my back holds up, I'm going to enjoy this show as much as any other.

It started well enough. For a kick off, the room was almost full. There must be about eight hundred people in here. I figure it must be raining outside. The sound on stage is perfect and for the first few songs the energy alone carries me along like a surfer on the crest of a wave. The crowd are going for it and we're playing full throttle. And then about five songs in, it starts to really fucking pound in my back. At the Strand show the other day I hadn't thought about the pain until after we'd come off stage, when the adrenalin had died down. As great as this show was turning out to be though, adrenalin wasn't enough. This has happened to me once before, years ago on tour with Speedhorn. On that occasion we were on a twenty date tour of the UK and I'd pulled my back somewhere in the middle of it. It all came to a head at a show in Brighton and I was forced to play most of the gig sat on a monitor, almost paralysed from the pain. Tonight wasn't as bad as that, but I could barely do more than stand still in one position and nod my head to the beat from Andy's snare.

Even so, the gig was still a lot of fun. There was a full on pit for This is the End and I hadn't even noticed that we were running short on time. The stage manager appeared by Jon's side and was telling him we only had three minutes left. I was actually disappointed because we'd been planning to play For We Are Dead, a song we don't often play these days. But in the end we had to cut that and abruptly finish with Circles/Scars. I almost didn't want the gig to end because I knew the pain in my back was only going to get worse once we came off stage.

Pissing with sweat under the heavy stage lights, packing my gear up as rapidly as I could manage, I heard someone shouting my name. I look into the crowd and see a face I haven't seen in a long time. It's a girl called Chrissy who toured with us in the States back in 2005, when Speedhorn played a doomed tour with Nile and a bunch of other metal bands. Chrissy sold merch for Decapitated and Hypocrisy for those seven weeks and we'd all became good friends. I'd forgotten that she'd left the States and moved to Finland. I jump down from the stage to give her a sweat-drenched hug and chat for a few seconds. I have to get sorted but we agree to meet up at the VIP bar later. Before I can jump back on stage some crazy old punk, who looks like one of the alkies that hang out by S-Grillen in Sumpan, starts shouting at me in some weird mix of Finnish/Swedish/English. He's waving a cd of our Killer album, and I realise he wants the band to sign it. I try to explain to him that I have to pack up first and then I'll get it sorted, the rest of the guys by now have long since packed up and left the stage, but he doesn't seem to understand. He just keeps waving the cd in the air and shouting “Please! Please!” This goes on for the next five minutes whilst I pack down my gear, and after offering the odd apologetic shrug of the shoulders his way, begin to find the whole thing funny and it ends up with me and the festival stage hands all laughing. Crazy Punk doesn't give a piss though, he just keeps on waving the cd. I finally get packed down, take his cd, go back stage and get it signed and then take it back to him. “Thank you please!” he rejoices whilst kissing my hand. Chuffed, he stoats off.

My back is really fucking killing me now and the Tiger Balm and pain killers I bought earlier aren't up to the job any more. I take another beer and a few swigs of that booze we'd been offered earlier, Jon had now been given the green light to go and retrieve it, and Johan asks me if I want some of his special shit, being a fellow sufferer he has such things. I rub in a load of this special balsam and within five minutes I'm pissing sweat like I've just gnashed down a Bradford vindaloo. It does the job though, even if it is a little uncomfortable.

There isn't a whole load more to see at the festival. Sabaton are amusing for about two minutes but that's about it. The joke soon wears thin. I catch up with Chrissy and her Finnish husband Ossie over a beer at the VIP bar, it's good to see her and Ossie seems like a really nice guy. We say something about meeting up again in January, if we come over and play those Rotten Sound shows, and then I catch up with the rest of the guys. We're all in the mood for a beer to celebrate the last show of the year. Weird being that it's only June. After a beer in the wooden shed that is the VIP bar we contact Petri and ask him to come get us.

After settling with the merch people we head back to the hotel and drop our gear off before heading down to Tavasti, a great music venue that has a decent restaurant beside it. We sit down to a meal of veggie burgers and fries, the burger is awesome by the way, made of chickpea and mint with a tzatziki sauce, before settling into a few pints of beer, the odd Jack and Coke and even a Balvenie 12 year old single malt. We pay for the night with the merch money. There is a festival-after-party going on at a bar near the hotel but this is far better, just sitting down with the boys at a restaurant, chilling out over a few drinks and shooting the breeze.

It's must be one am by the time we leave and we're all getting a little sauced up, although in a very low-key manner. We decide to pop into that bar with the after party on the way back anyway, since it is literally only a block down from the hotel. It's a small bar with a dance floor in the cellar and it's absolutely packed. We get a round of beers in. They have Brooklyn Summer Ale by the bottle which turns out to be the only good thing the place has going for it. Compared to the chilled out atmosphere of the restaurant this feels like Bips Nightclub in Corby. We drink a couple anyway, the four of us stood tight up against the back wall. At some point, it's getting a bit hazy by now, some young girl who has been sat next to us, chatting with a friend, looks at me and says hello. In English of course. I say hello back and she asks how long we're in Helsinki for. She then asks me if I want to go and dance downstairs. I barely manage a reply, just kind of carry on talking to the boys, a little embarrassed. The girl is obviously hitting on me and I'm absolutely useless in such situations. I'd never make it in the singles world. Or, more like, if I was ever plunged back into the singles world I'd probably stay there for the rest of my days.

We call it a night shortly afterwards. Well, all except Jon, who decides to stay on and hang out with Hannes. I barely remember crawling into bed and I'm not woken by Jon whenever he returns. I hadn't felt that drunk until we'd left the place, but then instead of going straight to my room I'd tagged along with Johan and Andy to there's, devouring the peanuts from their mini bar and opening a bottle of Lapin Kulta, although I barely drank a drop. Goodnight boys, their mini bar ravaged I fuck off to bed.

I wake up around seven am, dying for a cack and with an agonising pain in my back. I make it to the toilet and carefully lower myself on to the seat. When I'm done the realisation hits me that my back is so fucked I can barely reach around to wipe my arse. In a brief moment of panic I think about calling through to Jon to help me, but quickly reconsider it. I get the job done eventually but it's fucking excruciating and I have to hold on to the sink for support. I finally drag myself up and crawl back into bed, the only consolation to this horrid state of affairs being that check-out is not until noon...

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I left work at four pm. and for a split second or two I was thinking about heading home. Thinking about what to have for dinner tonight, what was on the box, just the usual stuff. I was also thinking that I should really book an appointment with the chiropractor again. I'd woken this morning with my back feeling as stiff as an oak door and then, during a particularly heavy beer delivery at work this afternoon something had gone “ping” in the lower part of my spine. I've just been through a load of sessions for a twinge in my neck which has been causing me pain in my left arm, fucking typical that as soon as that starts clearing up my lower back hops on the bandwagon. I guess I've been taking these deliveries for the past three years now...but in all likelihood it's got more to do with all the touring over the past fifteen..well, not so much the touring as the years of neglect. I've never been one for doing stretch routines before a show. Stupid really. I guess the reality is that my body is getting older and if I don't start to look after it then I'm soon going to regret it. I'll book an appointment for next week. And with that thought I came back to the present. We're playing tonight...

We're in a strange period with Victims right now. Strange in that we seem to be playing Stockholm a lot. We rarely play Sweden never mind Stockholm, but tonight's show will be the third in six months. Must be some sort of record. I guess the first of the three was our own release party and so therefore not really a “real” show. But then we'd been offered this gig tonight playing with Poison Idea and Bombus, something which at the time, felt like too much fun to turn down, and with it being six months after the release party it wasn't much of an issue. Of course then the Black Breath tour came along and we didn't feel like we could say no to playing for three weeks with our good friends either, but of course, the last show of that tour was in Stockholm. I don't have anything against playing our home town but it's starting to feel like we're in danger of getting on people's tits if we keep appearing at this rate. I'm pretty sure tonight will be the last Stockholm show for quite some time though.

It's weird being sat at work all day and then instead of going home you're going to play a gig. Fuck knows if anyone can be bothered watching us tonight. I'm personally just looking forward to watching Bombus. The last time I saw Poison Idea was about ten years ago, when we played Full Force Fest in Germany with Speedhorn. I went to watch them playing really late in one of the tents. I was hungover to piss but even then, in truth, they were pretty cack. Maybe it was just an off night though, it was about two in the morning after all. Still, I wish I'd got to see them when Pig was still in the band.

I turn up at Strand around four-thirty. First time I've played this venue. Last time I was here was the Sleep show, which, in my case at least, was a complete fucking waste of time. I got stranded at the back of the crowd behind one of the huge concrete pillars that hold the roof up and the sound was shite.

I'm surprised by the size of the stage. From only ever having a spectators viewpoint I'd always thought the stage to be pretty big but in actual fact it's quite intimate. Always prefer it that way. I'm the first of us to arrive, but old Bengtsson is stood outside hanging around, waiting for the PI guys. He's known them since way back. Actually, he's known everyone since way back. Andy soon turns up and three of us hang out in the sunshine, chatting with Greken who is organising the show tonight. My back is really fucking hurting but I'm doing my best to get on with things. The trouble is that I can't really bend over, so lifting gear is going to be interesting. Fuck, I really do need to get this checked out. We've only got tonight and then a festival in Finland at the weekend, after that we've got nothing booked so hopefully I can get it sorted then.

Johan and Jon turn up in Johan's work van soon after. Jon is pretty fucked off since on his flight back from Germany with Nasum he'd managed to lose his Iphone and crash his computer in one foul swoop. His mood is not helped by Bengtsson, who is straight on his case, leaning through the van window taking the utter piss out of him. Jon refuses to even lift his head, he just sits there muttering to himself as Bengtsson continues his tirade of abuse. Bengtsson is of course pissing himself laughing, fully amused with himself.

On a less amusing note, Johan has with him some bad news. When they'd turned up at the rehearsal space to pick up some gear for tonight they'd found the place a few inches deep in water, with a couple of boxes merch upside down, floating about the place like rafts without paddles. There'd been a lot of rain over the weekend and our room, which has an escape shaft in the corner with a ladder leading up to street level, had flooded. All the other rooms were fine but ours had taken a hit. Luckily the only damage seems to be a couple of lp's that we're lying on the floor in a cardboard box, but we'll have to wait until further inspection until we know the full scale of it. Whatever the case the rehearsal space is out of use for a few weeks.

In the throes of panic the guys had forgotten my lead and pedal case, but luckily the guys from Bombus were cool with lending me their stuff. Once packed in we set up and sound checked since the Poison Idea guys hadn't arrived yet. They'd been delayed flying into Prague yesterday, meaning they missed their connecting flight to Sweden and their first show, which should have been Linköping. Shit start to the tour for them.

Sound check goes well enough, apart from my back throbbing every time I moved. How the fuck I'm going to get through the show tonight I don't know. I'm hoping adrenalin will kick in and carry me through. By the time we’re done checking the PI guys arrive. Their manager Jay, introduces himself to us. Seems like a really nice guy. Andy knows him of course and they're soon chatting away. Apparently Jay had put out a compilation of Swedish punk stuff a while back and V5 had featured on it.

We grab some food and hang out for a while, chatting with Jay and the Bombus guys. Johan goes home for a while after dinner, but Andy and I head for the terrace outside the bar and take a deck chair each, cold beer in hand. I'll have to be careful with the beer though since it's Kronenbourg 1664, which just happens to be my loopy juice. I don't particularly like it that much, it's a little sweet for my taste, but since it's what's in the fridge in the dressing room it will have to do. I've had a cautious respect for the old 1664 since I'd got pissed out my box on it at an Iron Monkey show in 98'. I'd only drank four pints of the stuff but that was enough to send me over the edge. I guess there had to be some other evil at play, it can't just have been the beer. Either way, I'd made a complete tit out of myself in front of the Monkey guys and then spent the entire journey home from Milton Keynes, puking out the window of Tony Speedhorn's mum's car, leaving a trail of vomit all over the car's exterior... Bad times.

I hold myself to just a couple of bottles before the show.

Andy and I sit there in the sun talking about the next Victims record. Fuck knows when that will be. There's no rush I suppose. In all likelihood we won't really get around to it until Jon is finished up with the Nasum touring later this autumn. Good to hear Andy is thinking that far ahead though. It's always a good sign when Andy starts to get enthused about writing again. He's got another baby coming in August though so we'll just have to see what spare time we can allocate. After this weekend I'll be concentrating on the new bang I've got going with Viktor, Lucas and Kev for a while. Good to have something on whilst Victims takes a break.

It's a few hours until the doors open but time flies by soon enough. I put a new set of strings on my Tele, vainly hoping that that will mean I'll get through the show without having to change guitar. One by one, friends of ours start to arrive at the venue. The doors are at eight, and we're on at half past so I haven't really been expecting much of a crowd for our set. It's pretty empty at quarter past. .. I really don't mind tonight though. I'm just hoping to get through the set without my back completely giving up. Christoffer, who is playing records tonight, has just put a Citizen's Arrest song on. Nice one buddy.

We were planning on on putting on the intro track from A Dissident tonight, before we go out on stage. But I convince Johan that with most of what crowd there is hanging out in the back bar, we'd be better off just going up and making a load of feedback, just to let anybody who cares know that we're starting. He agrees with me and we scrap the intro idea. Those things only really work when you're playing a big festival stage or a packed out club that you're headlining. We tried a few different intros with Speedhorn back in the day but it never really worked out, mainly because we always used to balls it up, we could never get ourselves together enough to all come in on time and we'd stand around looking like a bunch of cunts more often than not. What finally worked for us was turning the amps on with the guitars leaning up against them, about five minutes before we'd go on, leaving the venue soaked in a wall of feedback before finally taking the stage. It worked a treat.

I'm genuinely surprised that when we take to the stage tonight the place is looking pretty busy. Way more people than I'd counted on. We blast in to Theft and things are up and running. I have a bit of trouble hearing the drums at first but Martin, our friend doing the sound, soon gets it sorted and then things are feeling pretty good. As I'd hoped adrenalin has indeed kicked in and I'm not really feeling my back any more. It occurs to me that I'll probably pay for it threefold in the morning but I'll just have to take that then.

The set seems to fly by. Even though the show at Debaser with Black Breath a couple of months ago had been fun, there had been a lot of pressure at the show. I don't know why really, probably had to do with the fact that we were playing at the venue Johan and I worked at for so long. Tonight was just a lot of fun, pure and simple. I didn't notice it at the time but according to some friends of mine, Jon had at some point, puked up on stage in the middle of a song, without even missing a chord. He just leant his head to the side and let it out. I can't say I smelt anything on the way off stage. Jon tells us all the time that he pukes on stage but nobody ever really believes him. I guess maybe it's true after all. He wasn't even drunk tonight and for that matter didn't seem particularly hungover. I don't know what that says for the state of his health..

The show is a success anyway, and I even get through it without breaking a string. After cooling off backstage I head out to meet up with Jen and some other friends before grabbing a beer and taking a place in the crowd to watch Bombus. At first I'm stood a few meters back and the sound is fucking terrible. It's just so quiet. Unfortunately this venue just doesn’t have a good sound. What sound there is from stage just goes straight up into the roof and disappears. Only a few meters back you can talk to the person stood beside you without having to shout. It shouldn't be like that. I move a bit closer, to listen to what is basically the sound on stage and it's way better. After that I enjoy, along with everybody else, thirty minutes of Bombus. Without a doubt one of Sweden's best live bands. Fucking magic. Jon is side stage singing his heart out!

The sound is so cack for Poison Idea that I can't even be bothered. Stood at the merch stall with Jon's girlfriend Ana, what must be six or seven meters back from the stage, we can talk like we're sat on the bud or something. The music from the stage is barely background at best. To be fair, the sight of the Jerry stood on stage, mic in his hand, looking more like he's calling out the bingo at the Silver Band Club than singing a punk set, hardly inspires me to go up front and watch them. Nice guys, great band back in the day, but they just don't do it for me any more

Instead I retreat to the back room bar, along with a lot of other people, and watch what's left of the semi-final between Spain and Portugal. My back is feeling pretty fucking bad again. The game is shite too, eventually being decided on penalties in favour of the Spanish.

Jen and I decide to call in the night early. I'm working in the bar tomorrow and then the office on Friday before heading off to Finland on Saturday for what will be Victims last show for the year. Andy and Jon have had a few and they're more than happy to stick around and take care of the merch. So that's the last Stockholm gig for a while, over and done with. Weird. Instead of hanging out at the venue, drinking beer and hanging out, most likely sleeping in some back room a la tour, I'm off home for a cup of tea and an episode of the Wire before bed.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Last weekend I was sat at Helsinki Airport, nursing an arse of a hangover, waiting to board a flight home to Stockholm. We'd played the Tuska Festival the night before and it being the last Victims show for a while, the night had been a wet one.

To compound the cack feeling ravaging my body, but also to put it into perspective, I received a text message from Gordon Speedhorn that brought with it some tragic news. Our old touring buddy Jamie “Jammer” Airns had passed away.

Now anyone who knew Jammer would attest to the fact that he was a BIG man. My immediate, natural reaction,apart from one of shock, was to ask if it was a heart attack. It wasn't. He'd died due to injuries sustained from a car wreck. The rumours are that a lorry had jack-knifed into his car. For some reason, that just seemed to make things even worse. That life canend so fucking suddenly, so violently. But then again, maybe it was better to go that way, if it spared him any suffering. Jammer never came to after the wreck so I guess we'll never know. One can only hope that it was so.

I first met Jammer when Speedhorn toured with his band, Medulla Nocte. It was one of Speedhorn's first nationwide tours. The shows weren't always greatly attended but fuck did we have a blast! I'd first seen Jammer in action when the Nocte played Channel 2 in Corby, and like I say, he was a big man and it was hard not to notice him. The stage in Channel 2 was pretty small and that night they just built the drum kit around him as he sat on his stool, and there he sat until the show was over. The amazing thing about Jammer is that despite his size, he could trash the fuck out of his kit for hours on end. He was a hell of a hitter.

During the Speedhorn/Nocte tour we became good friends, all of us did. Our paths crossed countless times since then, notably when the guys started Murder One and John Speedhorn took over from the late, great Johnny Morrow on vocals. Just writing that makes me realise how fucked up it is that two of the original five from Murder One have now left us... It's hard to believe that Johnny has already been gone so long.

I have some great memories of that tour we went out on back in 2000 or whenever it was, and a couple of them make me smile to this day. I remember the show in Chelmsford when, after a string of poorly attended gigs, we finally thought we were onto a good night when an hour before doors, the car park outside the pub was already full of metallers, seemingly waiting to come into our show. “More fucking like it boys, should be a tidy show tonight!” Jammer and the Nocte guys always said “tidy”, it used to crack us up. Low and fucking behold though, by the time we'd finished sound checking, a big coach turns up and whisks the crowd away. It turns out they were all off to a gig in London to watch a big local band who had a gig there. Gutted for a moment, my gaze immediately caught Jammer, who was sat there with a big smile across his face. He could see the humour in it. That taught me a lot right there and then. We ended up salvaging that night by giving John Speedhorn a Mr. T hair cut, using gaffer tape to make a template to shave around.. John thought it was funny until the hair clippers ran out of battery and he had to walk around for a few hours looking like a right knob whilst the battery charged. I think that's how it happened anyway.. He had the do for a few hours in any case..

Another night we were in Yeovil, and being the young tearaway's that we were, someone had invited some girls backstage. Everyone was pretty drunk and sure enough before long the letches were out in full force. We were stood hanging out with this one girl when for some unknown reason, she suddenly flashes us her left tit. We all stand there shocked for a split second, but like a fucking flash out of the blue, Jammer has appeared beside her and has his lips around her nipple! She of course screams, “Ergh get off me ya dirty bastard!”. Jammer just stood there smiling, looking like a cheeky puppy, totally chuffed with himself. We all pissed ourselves laughing, as did the girl in fairness to her.

My favourite memory of Jammer though has to be at a show in Brighton, at the infamous Free Butt pub. We had so many good shows at that tiny venue down the years and the show with Nocte was one of the best. It only took about seventy people to pack it out and this night there must have been one hundred in there. Anyway, there was this sofa that was parked up against the back wall of the venue and on this particular occasion, Frank Speedhorn was sat there drinking a beer and doing his best, as usual, to take the piss out of everyone around him. Jammer walked by him and said something to him, taking the piss back no doubt, Frank then retorts with something along the lines of, “Shut it ya big bastit!”, all in good spirits of course. Jammer stops in his tracks, turns around and then parks his arse on him. You could barely see Frank, you could only hear him wheezing for air as Jammer sat on him, laughing his tits off.

I'm gutted to hear that he's gone. I'm gutted for his best mate, Cat, who played with him for so many years in both Nocte and Murder One. They really were like brothers, and they fought as much as they laughed with each other, but like brothers, they were always there for each other. When I think of Jammer, I will always think of him sat on top of Regan with that cheeky schoolboy grin spread widely across his face.

Rest in Peace Big Man.    

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hellfest - Part Two

I met the guys for breakfast down in the lobby of the hotel. It was the usual fare of bitter, black coffee, white bread rolls and tasteless cheese. Today was going to be a long one. We were to be at the festival grounds for ten thirty am for an appointed stage slot at five past three. All very specific, all very professionally ran. With Tragedy playing last at around one in the morning, and with us all wanting to see their set, we were due to catch a shuttle back to the hotel at two am.

Johan had arrived with Stachel and the Swarm/Doomriders guys around one am. They'd got lost looking for the hotel in this industrial estate due to a poorly updated GPS system they had with them. Fucking last thing they needed after a non-stop thirty hour drive.. Mackan and Uffe from Swarm had went ahead with the Doomriders guys to another hotel nearer the festival site since they had load in this morning at nine. Doomriders are on stage at eleven thirty am... I'm guessing they're all feeling pretty fucked right now. I tuck in to my tasteless cheese and bitter, black coffee and feel a sense of gratuity for the eight hours of sound sleep last night, the only slight disturbance being Andy singing in his sleep this morning...

Johan looked surprisingly fit at breakfast, considering the journey they'd made. Apparently Mackan had driven twenty one of the thirty hours. One band, three guys, two band papa’s. Uffe must be chuffed. Anyway, less healthy looking this morning was Jon. Stachel had shared a room with him and had mentioned that he'd been woken up by a bang in the middle of the night, a bang he assumed was Jon stumbling around the room in a state of inebriation. All becomes clear when Jon, supping on a cup of the black stuff, proudly announces he'd spent a few hours at the bar with Corpse Grinder from Cannibal Corpse. He shows us the photos as way of proof, totally chuffed.

We're picked up by the shuttle at nine forty five and briskly whisked off to the festival. I say briskly, I mean in actual fact, driven at breakneck speed by a kid that seemingly had a death wish for he and all around him, including us. It was the same guy who'd driven me and the From Ashes boys yesterday. You know when everyone in the back of the van is a little nervous when the conversation peters out into silence and all eyes turn to the road ahead as the driver darts between lanes, cutting fellow motorists up with brazen abandon, playing chicken with the roundabouts, seemingly refusing to break for them until the very last second, as if he actually expects the roundabout to jump out of the way for him. Thankfully we make it in one piece to the festival site around twenty minutes later.

It hits me as I gratefully jump out the back of the van that this festival is a big fucking deal, the likes of which I haven't played since the Speedhorn hey day. It's a rumbling hive of production. We're dropped off at the “artist reception area”. A young girl shows us to our dressing room before giving us a tour of the backstage area. It's pretty insane. There is a full on canteen, artist bar, massage area, a hair dresser, even a backstage tattooist. Fucking nuts. Victims have played festivals like Fluff Fest and Obscene Extreme, even Hultsfred, but this really was a whole other league. It felt like we didn't belong here.

Despite the huge production staff, or maybe more like due to it, they'd managed to make a fuck up with the passes. Arvid, who is doing the sound for us today, had picked up a pass yesterday since he'd been here hanging out. Now we arrive and there isn't a pass left for Jen, who is arriving in a few hours time. Luckily Stachel, being a man with many fingers in many pies, has passes available to him in both the Victims and From Ashes camps, so he's able to sort the situation out and I leave him to keep a hold of Jen's pass since ironically she's arriving roundabout the time we finish our set. I was sweating for a minute there though, would have been a bit shit to have to tell the wife that she'll have to spend the night on her own at the hotel in Nantes.

So, stress over, we head over to the stage where Doomriders are playing. Mackan and Uffe look pretty fucked it has to be said. The Doomriders guys don't look much better themselves having made an epic journey to get here. Despite this, they put on a great show and even though it's only eleven thirty in the morning, the tent they're playing in is packed out. They blast through the first couple of songs before Nate addresses the crowd, “Hello Fest!” It's a simple joke. I have to giggle. The simple ones are always the best. Standing side stage watching the Doomriders set really gets me in the mood to play. Is it too early for a drink? Actually fuck that, it is too early.

After their set there isn't really much to do except hang out by the van. There aren't a whole lot of bands I want to see at the festival and we still have a few hours until we play. It's been raining for a few days and the ground is pretty soggy but thankfully the sun is shining at the moment. I hope it stays that way. Festivals really haven't been my bag since I was a teenager and standing in the mud at them even less so. I used to love them when I was a kid, my whole summer was based around saving money to go to the Reading Festival. I went to that festival every year between 94' and 98' and I had some of the best times of my teenage years there. But it's like Jon said as we stood by that van waiting, “Festival's are so 90's!”. He's so right.

After a while we decide to take a walk back to the artist area. As we do so I notice that the festival site is surrounded by vineyards Stachel tells me that the festival actually harvests and bottles wine from these very grapes and then sells it to the hard rocking public here. I have to laugh as shortly after telling me this we pass some pissed up metal-head taking a leak on a grapevine, right behind one of the tents where they're selling the stuff. I make a metal note to myself to stick to the beer..

The situation back at the artist area is pretty much the same as everywhere else. We hang out for while, but we have nothing to do. Stachel has booked himself a massage. Apparently a couple of years ago when Disfear had played here Tompa had got himself a haircut. I feel neither in need of a trim or a massage, having only been to the chiropractor last week. As it is, I remember that my guitar needs re-stringing. It's normally a tedious job, but with nothing to do between now and Vitamin X's set, who play on the same stage right before us, for once it doesn't seem like such a task.

Just as it had been for Doomriders over on their stage, this place is packed out for our Dutch friends. I'm now starting to appreciate exactly what Hellfest are doing here. Even though there are twenty thousand people here, the majority of which belonging to the hard rock crowd, the smaller stages that are a bit away from the two main ones are almost set up like their own little mini festivals. I say mini, but there must be fifteen hundred people watching Vitamin X. They put on a great show as always, treating the crowd as if it were any other small, sweaty punk show. It's great fun standing to the side of the stage, watching them blast through their set of old school hardcore. With the crowd going wild and the atmosphere absolutely buzzing in this big dome of a tent, it seemingly all bodes well for our set to follow.

The last show we played was the final date of the Black Breath tour in Stockholm. That night there had been around three hundred at Debaser and mainly due to Johan and his tense vibe, I'd been pretty nervous. It's not something I'm used to. Of the eight hundred odd shows I've played since I was sixteen years old, I think I've been nervous maybe two or three times. Walking out on to the stage at Hellfest, welcomed by the friendly roar of fifteen hundred punks I felt nothing but an excited buzz. Not the slightest trace of nerves. It felt good to be back to normal. Although the tent was pretty huge, the stage was surprisingly compact, which allowed a feeling of comfort. I was ready for this. Theft starts the set as has been the case since we released the last record...

Although the stage is a good size, the sound isn't quite right. The guitars are blasting in the monitors, especially Jon's, and they're just swallowing up the drums. I have a hard time without the snare and bass drum. I get through the first three songs on instinct alone, but the atmosphere is so good that it doesn't really matter.

The communication with the guy doing monitors is not all that great and although I keep motioning to him for more snare, it's slow coming my way. Broken Bones completely loses me and I play most of the song clueless as to where I am. I position myself in front of Andy's kit in the faint hope of trying to synch myself back in with the rest of the guys but before I know it the song has reached it's one minute-twenty second conclusion, with me still chasing it like a dog does it's tail. I glance over at the rest of the guys and try to gage whether they've noticed..

The rest of the set goes pretty well, although instead of being able to fully enjoy it I have to keep my ears sharp and really concentrate on the songs, which always takes a little away from the fun of playing. I like to play without thinking about what I'm doing, just really letting go. The crowd seem to be enjoying things though, and by that I mean they're happily kicking the fuck out of each other. I spot a couple of familiar faces in amongst the melee, faces from the last tour. There is the bartender from the Heretic Club in Bordeaux, who had kept us waiting all morning the day after since he was home sleeping off a hangover. He's right in the middle of the pit with the same His Hero Is Gone t-shirt that he had last time our paths crossed. There is the singer in the first band from that played the squat with us in Groningen, the little guy with the blond mullet who can't be older than seventeen. I even spot Boulty, who had done us the service of sorting us out with a great show at his rehearsal space in Nottingham, in fairness he's not that hard to spot since he's about seven foot tall with a smile almost as wide. “Alright Boulty?” I shout to him between a block of songs. As he gives me a wave I can't help thinking what a weird contrast it is between this and the floor show he'd arranged for us a couple of months ago. I honestly don't know which of the two I think is more fun. It's a close call.

We conclude the set with Circles and Scars, though not before Nate from Doomriders gets up and sings along to We're Fucked. I always get a buzz out of friends getting up and singing with us. We even throw in For We Are Dead, which is a bit of a rarity these days, mainly because Andy doesn't like it. Fuck knows why, I think it's a great song, but then when it comes to the early Victims albums, I'm still viewing them from the fan's perspective. I've been trying to get the boys to play Moments from the From Ashes split for fuck knows how long but it's not happening.. They just laugh at me when I suggest we play something new/old. I guess they've played those songs a few times down the years though... I can imagine if when Kev joined Speedhorn he'd wanted to play Necrophiliac Gluesniffer we would have pissed ourselves laughing. Funnily enough, he didn't...

I get a text from Jen shortly after we're finished packing down, telling me she's here. Talk about bad timing, although I think she's actually more concerned with seeing Big Business tomorrow than seeing us for the twentieth time. Since we're travelling up to Paris for a few days the day after tomorrow, she's got a large suitcase with her, so I don't want to leave her stranded for too long. Stachel and I go off in search of her, doing our best to work out where she is from what she's telling us she can see around her. This festival is fucking huge and it isn't the easiest job getting to her. The fact that there is barely any phone reception does not make things any easier. We mistakenly think at first that she's by the artist entrance but it turns out she right over the other side f the festival. After about twenty minutes of fucking about I'm starting to get stressed out, but luckily I've got Stachel with me, and he's far better than I at keeping a level head. We finally track Jen down to where the festival shuttle has dropped her off, funnily enough by the main entrance. I spot her on the other side of the turnstiles with the big case. I wave to her and start to make my way through, only to be stopped by some kid with a badge on telling me I can't go out that way. I try to explain to him that I just want to give my wife, who is standing no more than ten meters away, her pass so she can come in. No can do apparently. I ask the guy if he's fucking joking. He's not. I could understand if the area was packed but it's deserted, there is barely a trickle of people coming through the turnstiles by this point, everybody is already inside. I continue trying to explain the situation to him but the prick keeps cutting me off. He tells me he doesn't care if my wife is just there, we can't go out this way, we have to go back and walk around. I'm getting close to chinning the twat by this point. I know he's only doing his job but this fucking ridiculous. I call to Jen sarcastically, telling her to wait whilst we walk around to the “exit” over on the other side and come back to get her. Jobsworth sheepishly says “Thanks” as I walk off in a huff, to which I reply “Thanks for fuck all!” Temper disperses immediately and I feel guilty for arguing with him when he's only doing his job..

After a lot of fucking about, we finally make it to Jen and give her her pass. Now to enjoy the rest of the day...

There are a few bands to watch at this shin-dig... Discharge are awful it has to be said. It's not even a nostalgia trip, it's just cack. I wish it wasn't but it is. GBH on the other hand put on a great show. There is just something a bit more genuine about them and their set. It's really weird seeing my old mate Tony Sylvester from Dukes of Nothing, now up on the main stage as singer of Turbonegro. Fucking trip seeing him up there in make-up. I'm really happy for him though, getting to play in front of thousands of people with one of his favourite bands. He does a great job too. Any nerves he must have had for his first show with them in Hamburg seem to have disappeared by now.

If it's weird seeing Sylvester singing with Turbonegro then it's positively mind blowing watching Jon perform with Nasum. Last time I saw Nasum was at Kafe 44 with about a hundred other people, today they're playing in a tent that holds around six thousand people and it's fucking packed! Adding to the weirdness is obviously the gaping hole where Mieszko once stood, I can tell it must be pretty fucked up for Johan and Andy watching, being that they were close with him. But the guys put on an awesome show, Keijo doing a great job on vocals. It's great to see Jeppe back up on stage going mental too, I'd almost forgotten what a great stage presence he has. I have to say I'm surprised by Jon though. I love him dearly, even though he's off his tits a lot of the time, but as nuts as he can sometimes be, up on stage he's an absolute star! It's been a long time since I've watched him from this viewpoint. I stand in the middle of the crowd watching him up there on that big stage, giving it everything he's got, knowing that he's wondering if we're out there watching, and I feel huge love for the guy. It really is pretty touching. We leave right before the end of their set to avoid the crush getting out of the tent. As we're leaving, our backs to the stage, I hear Jon speaking into the mic for what is the first time of their whole set, weird since he's pretty much the voice of Victims during our shows. “Ingen krångel!”. I crack up as I squeeze my way through the crowd.

I catch up with Jon back at the artist area a while later and tell him that I loved the show. He looks like he's ready to cry as he gives me a huge hug. Johan admits to the guys that it was pretty weird seeing Nasum up on stage without Mieszko, Ubbe nods his head in sombre agreement, and says it feels weird for them too. With that we make our way to the bar.

Stachel is looking chuffed after his massage, although now he's back in tour manager mode, it comes automatically to him, and he's busy trying to help the From Ashes guys find equipment they can play on. Their gear is still missing. John lends my guitar since it's really not looking likely that his will show up before they go on stage tonight.

It's still only eight pm, yet it feels like we've already been here a whole weekend. From Ashes are playing in a few hours time, so there's really nothing to do but grab a beer and head over to the VIP bar where they're showing the England-Sweden game in the European Championships. We say goodbye to Jon and the Nasum guys who are travelling up to Paris tonight to catch an early flight for a festival in Gothenburg tomorrow.

Johan, Jen and I manage to get seats right in front of the big screen tv that is showing the game. To be honest, I haven't give a fuck about international football, or at least the England team, for a long time. As the game kicks off I'm inundated with text messages from friends back home, most of them saying something along the lines of, “Woah, split allegiances tonight eh?”, or “Who are you supporting?”. The truth is, I'd be happier if Sweden won. Even if Stevie G is the captain, the team is still littered with scum like Terry, Cole and Rooney. How the fuck can I possibly get behind that lot? As if to confound the matter, we're surrounded by drunken English football slobs, the type that make you cringe when you're unlucky enough to come across them abroad, don't get me wrong, Swedes abroad are every bit as bad, screaming at the tv in that pathetically overdone cockney accent, the one that literally has me struggling to keep my dinner in my stomach, “Inger-lund, Inger-lund, Inger-lund...” Fuck off. One young skinhead in particular is getting right on my tits, as he slurs out this chant for the best part of the next ninety minutes, occasionally mixing it up with God Save The Queen. I sit there, hoping for someone in a yellow shirt to bang in a goal, privately thinking fuck the Queen, and fuck you.

At half time I go to the porta cabin toilets in need of a piss. There is of course a huge cue which I'm hoping suggests that the quality of these backstage toilets are better than those out on the festival grounds. It turns out that they are, although as I'm standing there taking a piss in one of the cubicles I notice some cunt has taken a shit on the fucking floor. I had thought it a little odd that the relatively clean toilet had such a rank smell, but then I noticed a fat, brown log, lying on the floor behind the porcelain throne, proud as you fucking like. I stand there pissing, eyes transfixed on it, wondering who had made the effort to place it there..

Back to the second half and for a while it's looking good, as Sweden score two quick goals to turn around a one-nil deficit. It doesn't last though and England finally win three-two. That being that we shuffle off out the VIP bar, Jen and Johan gutted. I'm glad I don't really care about international football, supporting Liverpool gives me all the heartache I can handle..

When we get back to the backstage bar, Andy is showing the tell tale signs of having drank a few. It's the eyes with him, you can always see it in his eyes. The night is now getting on and this has really been a mammoth day. We walk back to the stage we played earlier to watch the From Ashes set, stopping briefly on the way to watch a bit of King Diamond on the main stage. Andy loves it, although if I'm honest I find the whole thing a bit silly. To be fair, the stage set is pretty fucking cool, but Diamond's vocals are a bit nonsense aren't they? Andy stays behind for a while to watch them as the rest of us head off to see one of the best punk bands of the last ten years. As we walk down the by now dirt track behind the stages, trying our best to stay out of the worst of the gloopy, muddy pools that have built up due to the constant drizzle, Johan and I look back and notice Andy way behind us, taking a piss in the bushes, swaying back and forth. He stands there for over a minute, pissing like a fucking horse. “Piss Andy,” Johan laughs to himself. This will become our name for his drunk alter-ego from here on in..

Of course, the tent is packed for From Ashes, just as it has been the whole day. As usual, they play a blinding set, and I must admit, in a teenage kind of way, it's pretty cool having John play my guitar. It looks good on him. There is a gang of us watching from the side of the stage, drinking beer and sharing a bottle of the Hellfest wine, I try to block out the image of the metaller pissing on the grapes, generally having a great time.

Jenny reminds me of the last time I drank wine from a bottle at a festival, namely when Victims played Hultsfred and I got so drunk that I puked all over my Langos and then had to be helped back to the van to sleep it off, but I assure her that won't be happening tonight. In fact, I haven't had the slightest buzz all day and I'm not getting one now. Andy on the other hand is buzzed off his tits. I notice him sort of bouncing around between the From Ashes and Tragedy sets, talking at people instead of too them. Right before Tragedy go on I see him stood behind Billy, looking like he's thinking of something to say. He ends up grabbing him from behind and when Billy turns around to face him, Andy just kind of belches a few syllables at him. “Whoa dude!” Billy says before heading off to play the show. I'm now starting to worry about getting Andy from here to our two am. shuttle since I know I'm going to have to get him to leave a little before the Tragedy set is done..

Tragedy as always, are fucking solid. I really like the new album, I think it's cool that they've done something new, slowed it all down a bit, I mean Tragedy putting out a record with hardly any d-beat whatsoever on it is pretty gutsy. It's fun seeing them play a few songs from that record live. They of course still play a load of songs from Vengeance, which keeps everyone happy. Starting to panic about this two am. shuttle, the time now being one-fifty, I start to tug at Andy's arm in an attempt to get him to come along with us. For a minute it looks like it's going to be a futile effort as all I get from him is a confused mumble, but eventually he follows. Johan and the rest of the guys are leaving at eight am. for what will be a long drive to Bruges, so they're staying together at another hotel. We wish them a good tour and head off back to the artist area.

Finding the person who is driving our shuttle back to the hotel is surprisingly hassle free. But then as I'm throwing our bags in the boot, some drunken idiot, turns out to be Swedish, starts putting his bags in the back too. “Who are you?” he grunts at me. “Hello, I'm Gareth, and who sir, are you?” I reply. He just sort of stands there, swaying a bit. I inform the girl who is driving the van that there are some confused people out back who are under the impression that this is a public taxi. Thankfully it gets sorted quickly and at long last we're on our way. It has been a hell of a long day!

Unfortunately things don't go as smoothly as I'd hoped for on the way back to the hotel. Due to the festival, a lot of the country roads surrounding the site have been blocked and for the next half hour the girl drives around lost, hopelessly following her phone's GPS system. It takes us the best part of an hour to get back, with her turning back on herself three of four times. I'm sat up front trying not to lose my rag as Jen (sober) and Andy (boats) are in the back chirping like robins, completely oblivious to what is going on. It's not the young girls fault though, and by the time we finally arrive back at the hotel I'm just grateful to her for bringing us back.

Andy is off home in the morning. We bid him goodnight and I go to bed looking forward to seeing his hangover in a few hours. Jen and I are going to hang out with Stachel and the From Ashes guys for the day tomorrow, looking forward to seeing Big Business. After that we're off to Paris for a few days holiday. What the hell, if the festival is paying for the flights then I may as well make the most of it. Besides, I really need a holiday.