Tuesday, September 25, 2012
I awoke to the sound of Dutch turning the engine off, sometime around seven am. I felt wide awake despite the fact I'd only drifted off a few hours earlier. I hissed over to Kev to check if he was awake too. He was.
We'd pulled over at a service station in the middle of the desert to fill up on gas. The rest of the guys sound asleep, we decided not to disturb them and left them to their dreams. It was an incredible feeling, sitting with Kev on a bench outside the roadside café, supping on black coffee and staring off at the dusty, silhouetted mountains on the horizon, the sleepy sun hovering just above them. We were miles from nowhere in the middle of Arizona. The Unites States of America truly is a strange and wondrous land. No doubt it has a dark side to it but it's hard not to be blown away by scenery such as this, scenery that carries such weight you can almost feel it pressing upon you. I've drank coffee all over the world, but nowhere quite as beautiful as this.
We played one show in Arizona, stopping off in a strange little town called Tempe, on our way to the west coast and California. Tempe was strange in that it looked like a full scale model village, or small grid system city, brand spanking new and shiny, in the middle of the arid Arizona desert. It reminds you of the computer game Sims. It was boiling hot when we arrived at the venue. We had plenty of time to kill since Nile were sound-checking pretty much up until doors and we were simply line checking before playing. With better things to do than watch them wank their guitars off for a few hours, we took a look around Tempe.
Right next to the venue and looking down on the small city from a northern vantage point was this big dusty hill. I wouldn't call it a mountain but from the top of it you could see the entire city as well as the silhouette of Phoenix off on the horizon. Nervously ignoring the “BEWARE COUGARS!” sign, we climbed to the top for a peek. On the other side of the hill was a gigantic college football stadium that from our viewpoint we could look right into. It says everything you need to know about the USA that their school football teams have stadiums that hold forty thousand spectators! It wasn't like that at Lodge Park I can tell you... After spending an hour pissing about at the top of the hill we headed back down into the little Sims city of Tempe and found a coffee shop. The town was almost unnerving in it's quiet normality.
The Tempe show gave an insight to how the tour was starting to unfold and what signs we could look for in the crowd to gage how our set was going to go down. The easiest marker to study was how well Decapitated's set went. Or more to the point, how well their guitar and drum solo sections of their songs went over. A common theme during the tour would become the six of us stood backstage waiting to go on after Decapitated, all of us suffering some level of hangover, Kev peeking through the stage door to check out the crowd's reaction to a guitar solo and then ultimately announcing we're doomed. The show tonight was one such occasion.
The venue was big enough to hold around eight hundred people but it looked they'd only sold around three hundred tickets. However thin the crowd, they were lapping up the Decapitated set and cheering every time one of them broke into a solo. Not a fucking chance tonight boys! And so it was. The crowd looked irritated at best, amused at worst by the six of us going mental during our set. The stage was huge as well, must have been at least six foot high, so we couldn't even get in their faces and kick off with the cunts.
Funny thing is, the show wasn't much better for Nile. The night belonged to Hypocrisy and Soilent Green and to a lesser extent, Decapitated, with us and With Passion being treated merely as a joke. This was the first night of many though, when by the time Hypocrisy were done, the crowd thinned out dramatically before Nile hit the stage. Something that would start to cause problems further down the line.. I guess it could have a lot to do with the fact Nile seem to tour constantly whilst this was the first time Hyporcisy had played the States in over ten years..
Next stop was Santa Ana, California. Never been here before, probably never need to go back. The venue was on this soulless strip mall that disappeared proudly into the horizon. I felt like taking a walk around when I got to the venue but gave up after twenty minutes when I started to feel suffocated by the endless traffic. It was like taking a stroll down the fucking M1.
Typically enough, my friend Mark was coming to the show this night. He's an English guy living in Sweden who used to work with my wife. Insanely enough he is now the chairman of Sony Records in Sweden. Anyway, of all the places to hook up with a mate on tour, Santa Ana was a shite choice. He was on holiday in Los Angeles but couldn't make our show there the day after. He had a couple of straight looking friends with him who looked scoobied by the whole evening. To be fair, I can see why. The venue was this brightly lit theatre with a low stage at the one end and had all the atmosphere of a bus station. And of course, we went down like a fart at a funeral.
At least tonight the crowd were in striking range. As we rattled through the set you could almost breathe in the animosity we were creating. There were people at the front of the crowd who looked physically insulted by us. At one point, there were a couple of metallers who were stood there flipping me off and I got pissed off and swung my guitar at the cunts, all part of the show of course. They fucked off after that. If there are people in the crowd who want to confront us then we're more than happy to take them on, which makes things a lot more fun when the stage is low and close up to them like it is here.
Mark caught up with me at the bar after another stinker of a show and bought me a drink. “The people here tonight really didn't seem to like you” he innocently notes. “No shit!” I laugh. Mark seems completely confused as we get stuck into the beer. Funny really, this is the first Speedhorn show he's ever seen and it's in Santa Ana, California to a crowd that hated us..
There isn't much to stick around for in Santa Ana, and funnily enough Mark and his friends aren't too bothered about sticking around for the rest of the bands, it not really being their cup of tea, so as soon as we're packed down we fuck off in the direction of Los Angeles.
It's only a short drive and we awake outside the venue in Hollywood. We've played the Key Club before with some awful nu-metal band which turned out to be a good show simply because the band we were playing with was so bad we couldn't help but look good. The show tonight would be different though. It was obvious by now that these big city shows, where there is so much happening every night that people are spoilt for choice, were going to be tough for us. Even if there were kids in LA that were in to Speedhorn, they were not going to be that into us that they'd spend thirty dollars on a ticket just to see us..
I spent the morning waking around Hollywood with Lasse looking for his camera. He found it in a shopping mall on Melrose but then decided to haggle with the woman over the price and got nowhere. It's weird how they advertise items for sale in this country minus the tax. I mean, does anyone ever fall for that? It was a beautiful day in LA, hardly a smog cloud in the sky. Even though we were on a tour playing to some really tough crowds, I couldn't help but feel like a lucky bastard as I sat with Lasse outside a bar in Hollywood, drinking a cold Corona. There are worse ways to spend your days.
Our good friend Joe Barresi came down to the show this night. He's an absolute legend in the business who we've been lucky enough to have mix a couple of our albums. Despite his high status in the industry, he's one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. The dressing room for the show was an old hollowed out bus beside the venue, and we hung out there with Joe for the best part of the night. The thing with Lasse is starting to get a bit of a pain since he's grumbling more and more about having to sell shirts all the time. Most nights he's just got tanked up on Captain Morgan to kill the boredom. I feel bad about it since I'm starting to feel like I falsely advertised the job to him. Still, as soon as he pops the Captain open the rest of the guys usually swarm around him like flies around a turd, so he's rarely short of company for too long.
The show tonight is exactly as expected. Actually, it's beyond. The club is pretty packed and we're up on this high stage giving it our all as usual. The majority of the crowd looks either bemused or disinterested. There is one guy though, stood right at the front that seems to be having a whale of a time. He's laughing his fucking tits off whilst pointing at us, as if he can't believe what he's witnessing. After a while he starts scribbling notes on a piece of paper that he's found somewhere and gives it to Kev, who's screaming songs in his face. Kev looks at it and starts pissing himself laughing. The note says, “Your guitarist has a very tight t-shirt” with an arrow pointing at Jay. Kev loves this. I'm on the other side of the stage wondering what's going on as this guy continues to scribble notes throughout the rest of the set and give them to an appreciative Kev. “Your band is gay” and “Are you guys for real?” being a couple of examples of the guys quips. The guy doesn't even look like your typical death metaller, the likes of which have been giving us shit since Day One on this tour. I don't know what that says really. Seems like every fucker is against us.
Kev happily passes on the notes to Jay and John as the set progresses and ends up dedicating the last song to his new friend. As we finish the set and pack down, the guy grabs Kev, “You guys are fucking awful but I genuinely appreciate your attitude and sense of humour!”. Kev gives him a big hug and we leave the stage. Kev thinks this is by far the best show of the tour so far, despite the boos hounding us off stage as we exit.
We have a couple of drinks with Joe after the gig and watch Soilent Green play their set. They truly kill it every night. Ben is a great front figure. Whilst having a drink with Brian later, he tells us he loves the band, that we remind him of his other band Eyehategod. Apparently they'd once done a tour with Pantera where they were really thrown to the lions every night. He said at certain shows they'd literally be playing to a packed arena with everyone in it giving them the finger. It's comforting knowing that we have allies on tour at least.
We had an eight hour drive to San Francisco after the show in LA. Dutch drove through the night to get us there, leaving sometime around two am. We spent the night getting pissed on Captain Morgan and cheap beer, turning the RV into a mobile disco. Gordon and Lasse seem to be bonding. We're all pissed up and dancing to AC/DC and the likes as Dutch plods north up the highway. At one point, out of the blue, Lasse grabs Gords around the neck and starts to strangle him, all in good fun of course. The two of them fly forward and fall through the dividing curtain to where Dutch is sat at the wheel listening to his Ipod. The two of them fall through the curtain, almost ripping it down in the process and Gordon's head ends up in Dutch's crotch with Lasse on top of him. Dutch starts going crazy as he swerves about the road, that pair of idiots pissing themselves laughing. “What the fuck is wrong with you guys?”
Dutch looks back at the rest of us, as if in hope of explanation, but we're all pissing ourselves laughing too. “God damn it guys!”... Gordon is actually a little bit pissed off by the time the two of them are on their feet, claiming Lasse actually hurt him. They're soon friends again though. The two of them seem to be made for each other. I think Gords sees a lot of himself in Lasse. It must be five am by the time we all collapse into our hard beds, fucking steam boats, the lot of us. Next stop Frisco.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
We'd made it into the States and now we could relax. At Houston we didn't even have to show our passports on the way out, we just picked up our luggage and walked right out the door. It did strike me as a little strange that the conveyor belts delivering the arriving passengers luggage was situated in the public hall next to the street exit. There seemed to be no security whatsoever. If you were so inclined you could literally walk in to the airport, pick up someone else's suitcase and fuck off with it. Weird. Especially when you consider how tight the security is surrounding the rest of the air travel industry in this country. I guess things are a little slacker in Texas...
Dutch was waiting for us right outside the airport. I spotted the RV straight away. You couldn't really miss it. Just four hours earlier I was sure we were being sent home and the whole tour was fucked, now we were heading off on a big American adventure in a camper van. Chicago already felt like a million miles away.
Dutch seemed like a friendly enough guy, pretty normal. We told him all about Chicago, all of us still buzzing from the experience. Dutch assured us he'd heard it all before though. Stepping into the RV felt like stepping into one of those great 80's films like National Lampoon's Vacation or The Great Outdoors. It had that vibe about it somehow, I felt like a kid going off on road trip with my buddies.
As normal as Dutch first appeared, the tell tale signs of tour driver weirdness soon started to appear. I'd been mailing back and forth with him before the tour about all the usual logistical stuff, and during that time I'd asked him if there was a dvd player on the bus. He'd told me that yes there was and that not only that, he had hundreds of dvd's, so there was “absolutely no need” for us to bring any with us. Cool, I thought. Bonus. And it's true, there was a dvd player and there were indeed hundreds of dvd's to go with it. The problem was that ALL of them were wrestling DVD's. All of them. Wrestlemania this, Royal Rumble that, “Jake the Snake, the True Story”, “Mick Foley, the Man Behind the Mask”... John was chuffed enough, but the rest of us were a little inquisitive. I asked Dutch if he really only had wrestling dvd's to which he happily replied, “Yeah dude!” Ok, a little weird that our forty five year old driver is fanatical about wrestling but what the fuck do I know? Horses for courses and all that..
There were a few other things about the bus that weren't quite as described by Dutch, like the bunks at the back of the van were actually thin strips of plywood, attached very loosely to the walls, holding an oblong piece of wood with a slither of yellow foam acting as a mattress. It was like sleeping on a table and literally every time Dutch took a sharp curve the bunks on the left side of the van would sway away from the wall. But all in all we were chuffed. There was a lounge area at the front with a table, bench seats and a sofa facing a tv. There was a small kitchen area with a stove and microwave. Between the lounge and bunk area there was even a toilet and a shower, although you had to stop the van and wait an hour for the water to heat up, and then you'd only get five minutes of warm water. Even so, to us it was absolute luxury.
We drove into Houston and parked the van in the large car park outside the venue where the tour would be starting the next day. Even though it was the middle of January it was still twenty five degrees and the sun was shining brightly in the early evening sky. It was fucking miserable at home so being able to walk the streets of downtown Houston in t-shirts was sheer joy.
We walked around for a while, in and out of shops and shopping malls, just killing time really. I remember there was this one crazy looking black guy in a shabby suit, who had a handmade billboard hanging around his neck, preaching something about Jesus and the end of the world. He was literally following people along the side walks and screaming that the end of the world is nigh in their ears. The people just carried on walking though, as if he wasn't even there.
We ended up spending the evening in a sports bar, drinking pints of weak American lager. All in all, it was an easy going first night though, I think we were all emotionally worn out from the journey and the drama that went with it. We retired early, going by Domino's to pick up some pizza to take back to the van. I'd heard about Houston being the fattest city in the USA but still couldn't quite believe my eyes when, as we were sat waiting for our “small” pizza's to bake, what has to be the largest human being I've ever seen walks in and orders two XL Meat Feast pizzas, along with an XL diet coke.
The next day Nile's tour bus turns up in the early afternoon, followed shortly after by another tour bus that houses Hypocrisy and Decapitated. Soilent Green and With Passion's splitter vans arrive a little while later. Nile soundcheck for about four hours, something I put down to at the time as first night niggle and jitters, but annoyingly it becomes the norm over the course of the tour. It's immediately obvious to everyone that amongst all these super technical bands, musically, we're outsiders here. Our closest allies in both sound and attitude are Soilent Green, who we'd previously met in Japan and had a great time with. The other people we quickly align ourselves with are the boys in With Passion, who are a bunch of young guys from California with short hair like us, and seem intent on taking the piss out of everyone they meet, like us..
It's safe to say we're about a million miles away from Nile in every aspect of life and music. I'd always quite liked their records to be honest, I still think Black Seeds of Vengeance is a great record when it comes to that style of music, but I was disappointed as soon as I saw them soundchecking since the entire drum kit is triggered and even worse, the vocals are really weak. I mean, on record it sounds brutal, that deep guttural growl done so well, but in reality they're just putting the microphone as close to their mouths as is possible without actually eating the fucking thing and growling with absolutely no effort whatsoever. There is no strain in their throats at all. It all feels a bit like cheating when you consider that John and Bloody Kev literally tear their throats to pieces every night.
We soon have new names for the Nile guys. One of the singer/guitarist guys is re-christened Ghost Tramp, since he looks like the tramp from that scene in the film Ghost, the one Swayze meets on the subway. The other guitarist is given the moniker Fat Jeff, since he looks like a fat Jeff Hanneman and the bassist is called Zanussi due to the fact he is doing the Jason Newstead swirling headbang thing, even during soundcheck, and looks like a fucking washing machine on spin. I can't remember what we call the drummer but then I can't really remember the drummer full stop, since you never see him. It turns out Zanussi is only nineteen years old and this is his first tour with Nile. I can't help feeling sorry for him although he seems to be living the dream.
The first show is not so bad, for a first show. We're not all that tight and we're still figuring out Soilent's backline that we're hiring, but as far as the crowd goes, we'll face much worse on this tour. There are about five hundred in the venue. Some of them are down the front and seem to be in to it and then there are a bunch of people behind that are either disinterested or totally confused. I mean, right before us you've got Decapitated who play solid death metal, very technical, very fast, very long hair, very static on stage. And then we come on. Short hair, regular clothes, not technical in the slightest and performing what looks more akin to a scrap on stage than a gig. Even most of the other bands look confused. I guess I can see why.
Afterwards I hang out with Lasse who is sat at our merch table looking bored, something that will become a regular feature, and we share a bottle of Captain Morgan that Lasse has snuck off and bought from a liquor store, another thing that will become a regular feature, and watch Nile on stage whilst listening to The Bear Quartet on Lasse's Iphone. He has these shit hot earphones that block out all other sound and it's quite a trip watching Nile and the crowd bang their heads to a soundtrack of northern Swedish folk/pop. It's like being in a David Lynch film.
The next night is in Fort Worth, about an eight hour drive from Dallas. The venue is this large, brightly lit hall, that is carpeted all over. It's kind of reminds me of the lounge at the Silver Band club in Corby, only way bigger. The gig is a bit of a non event, we play, get little to no reaction and fuck off again.
I meet a guy here who used to live in Corby and was friends with my good mate Kimmins. I think they worked together or something. Anyway, he's moved back to the States and is here on Kimmins' instruction. He's a really nice guy and he was one of the few people who really liked the gig. He insists on buying us drinks and paying for a t-shirt. We'd all been pretty hungover during the day, something else that will become a regular feature, but the adrenalin from the gig has us all restored and we're ready to go again. We hang out at the merch table with Lasse, who is already starting to make the odd comment or two about not wanting to sit at the merch the whole time. I get the feeling this is going to be a problem but try to ignore it for now. I tell everyone that they have to take turns hanging out with Lasse at the merch and help relieve the boredom of not selling anything.
The night rolls along and we all get pissed up. Kev meets two big, shady looking guys at the bar who he befriends and they buy him some shots. When I meet up with Kev he's pretty pissed and introduces me to his two new friends, Uni Bomber and Tit Cutter. They've just got out of prison apparently. So the story goes, Tit Cutter got into a fight with his girlfriend and then got sent to prison for cutting her tit off. I don't know what the fuck that's all about but they seem to be lapping Kev up, who is happily drinking anything they buy him, the whole while that big stupid grin spread across his face.
The next day we're in San Antonio at a really small club. It's another eight hour drive and we haven't even left Texas yet! It's a luxury having Dutch drive the van though since he likes to drive through the nights and sleep during the days, so we wake up at the venue. We're in San Antonio so obviously we have to take a look at the Alamo. There are hundreds of people swarming around but it's very little to see. Just a brick wall basically. Obviously it has huge historical importance but if you didn't know it you'd walk straight past the thing.
The venue had a record shop right beside it, which I spent a few hours in whilst Nile were soundchecking. The fun thing about tonight is that there is this young kid here with big hair that is really into Speedhorn. The venue is packed out with about two hundred people, our kind of gig, and this kid is down the front singing along to all the songs. The crowd in general is much better for us this night, which becomes a general rule on the tour, that being that the smaller cities are way better for us, since it's not just purely death metal kids in attendance, but punk and hardcore kids too, which gives us more of a chance.
We're only three days in but we notice Dutch is starting to get a little weird. He starts a hate campaign against Lasse, who up until now had been the person making the most effort with him, because Lasse had stupidly put a plastic cup of coffee in the microwave to warm it up. Whilst Lasse is in the toilet the coffee explodes and Dutch goes fucking crazy. Alright, it wasn't Lasse's finest hour but it's not the end of the fucking world, nothing is broken, and Lasse cleans up the mess. But Dutch has decided that's him and Lasse done with and from this point until the end of the tour addresses him with utter disdain. I can't help finding the whole incident hilarious, as does the rest of the band. Although, we don't let Dutch know that.
Tonight is Daz's birthday and we all get pissed with him. The Speedhorn fan joins us as well. It's a good night. Daz ends up steaming, stood at the bar with a grin on his face and his balls hanging out of his flies, Lasse ends up hitting it off with this cute emo girl and suddenly seems chuffed to be hanging out at the merch stall, Kev is drunk and furious since he seemed to like the girl Lasse has pulled and is a little jealous, “I don't get it Gaz! How the fuck did he manage to pull her? He's got weird eyes!”
This turns out to be the first big party where we really hang out with the Soilent guys. Their tour manager Chris, this big loud guy with a great sense of humour, has decided he loves our attitude. Ben, the Soilent singer, has decided he loves Gordon, “that weird kid on drums”. The night turns into a blur as the shots fly down the hatch. At one point Gords heads back to the van in search of something he's lost, and finds one of our guys (not saying who) who had been preaching about how they're in a solid relationship and who's days of fucking around are behind him, tied up to the ceiling of the lounge in the bus with his top off, with some girl whipping him with her belt. Gords stands there shocked at the scene as our boy casually greets him, “Alright mate, what's up?” Gords just pisses himself and comes running back to tell us all. The thing that makes me laugh is that Dutch is trying to sleep in his bunk above the driver's seat whilst this is going on!
The next day is a day off in El Paso and we're all understandably hungover. The Mexican border city is an ominous place at night, our fears no doubt aided by Dutch warning us not to go near the border bridge, which is apparently a simple wooden bridge that people go back and forth over to pick up drugs. We spend the day flaked out in the van but by night time we've picked ourselves up and decide to go bowling. Unfortunately I get talked into going with Lasse in search of some electronic super store that has a camera he wants to buy.
I kind of want to go with the guys but feel bad for Lasse and tag along with him. I find myself regretting it shortly afterwards as we end up completely lost, walking around dark, unlit streets on the outskirts of the city. We're walking about for an hour and after a while the side-walk diminishes and it's pitch fucking black. Lasse has a map on his phone and insists we're on course, but I feel like shit and want desperately to get back to the boys and go bowling, where there is light and it's safe.
As we're searching for this store, we see what we think is a UFO in the sky. It's really weird. We figure it's something from the military base nearby, but this being UFO territory our minds can't help but wonder. It's a really bright light over in the distant dark sky, that seems to be moving in a very strange manner. It goes from seemingly hovering in one place to suddenly shooting off at high speed in all kinds of directions. The two of us stand there mesmerised by it for what must be twenty minutes before it finally shoots off and disappears into the night. I don't know what it was but it was fucking weird and we decide to get the fuck out of there. As it happens we soon come across the store Lasse is looking for but they don't have his camera in stock. Great.
We end up waking all the way back, which must take an hour, and head to a Mexican restaurant. Lasse offers to buy me dinner, which I happily accept. The food is very welcome and the beer tastes like heaven. Satisfied, we head over to the bowling alley and meet up with the rest of the guys, excitedly telling them about our UFO experience. We end up having a relaxed night and hitting if off with the bartender there, who happily pours us pints of Amber Bock. I think we end the night watching a wrestling film with Dutch. We decide John should buy some dvd's when he gets the chance. Not really because he has great taste in film or anything, more that he loves spunking his money on dvd's.
Dutch pulls the van out about two am and we head to Arizona. Most of us are soon fast asleep but Kev ande I lie awake, chatting through the night whilst laid up in our bunks. Despite the bed being as hard a table and the bunk frame tilting with every bump in the road of which there are many, it's still pretty cosy somehow. As we're chatting away, Gordon shouts out in his sleep, “If you fuck my mum in the arse then I'll fuck you in the arse!”. We stare at each other for a brief second and then burst into laughter! I hear Lasse giggling from his bunk too.
A little while later we drift off to sleep as Dutch shunts through the night, across New Mexico and on towards Arizona.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Getting through Heathrow wasn't so much of a problem. Daz's bass amp cost about sixty quid in excess weight charges, but he was willing to pay for that himself. He'd really wanted his own amp with him on tour so fair enough.
It's seems crazy to me now that we'd take so much obvious touring equipment on the flight with us and expect to breeze through customs. These days we don't take so much as a guitar pick with us, let alone a fucking bass amp. To be safe we rent gear in the States or ship ours over in advance and have a friend pick it up. Some of us won't even travel wearing a t-shirt with a band's logo on it, but that is maybe a little excessive. I mean, punks are surely allowed to go on holiday like anyone else, right?
Daz was a notoriously nervous flyer, and I remember sitting in the airport bar with a view over the runway with him, me drinking coffee, him nursing a pint. He said that watching all the airplanes take off and land made him feel a bit better about the journey ahead, but his pale expression betrayed him. I felt bad for him, it must be horrible to fear something like that. He wasn't the only one who was nervous though. My thoughts were churning over the journey ahead. There were always stories doing the rounds about band's being turned away at the border. And we were flying in to Chicago, one of the major ports. It was not going to be a stroll in the park.
We lift off and settle in to a nine hour flight. Even though the booze on board is complimentary I abstain. I want my clearest head on until we're sat in Dutch's van that is due to meet us at Houston airport in about fourteen hours time. I try to settle in to sleep but it's not happening. I have a hard time sleeping on flights at the best of times. It's not really a fear thing, more a comfort thing. I'm a light sleeper as it is and trying to drift off whilst sat in a tight, airplane chair is quite a challenge. That together with the customs control at Chicago O' Hare airport haunting my thoughts making it nigh on impossible to nod off.
We land nine hours later, some time around noon, Chicago time. We've got two hours until our connecting flight to Houston and not only do we have to make it through border control, we also have to pick up our luggage and check it in again. I'd been so busy worrying about the cops sending us home that I hadn't even thought about the fact that we're on a fucking tight schedule just to make it on to the next flight. At least we're not playing tonight. The first show was due to be in New Orleans, but the horror that was hurricane Katrina had put an end to that. The first show was now going to be in Houston, which as much as I was disappointed about New Orleans, made things a lot easier. We would've had to have driven from Houston airport, all the way to New Orleans, play a show and then head all the way back to Houston the next day. We're not talking any three hour drives here either.. So, all being well, we'd spend the first night in Houston recuperating from our travels, resting up in wait for the first show the night after. We just had to get past the “first port of call” and after that it would be plain sailing, of course..
Sometimes you get a friendly cop, one with an amiable demeanour that genuinely welcomes you into the country. Sometimes you get a grim looking bastard with a face like a slapped arse. The seven of us had separated after disembarking the plane, I had no idea how it was going for the other guys but as I shuffled closer and closer to the end of my line I could see that the cop I was going to be dealing with today belonged firmly with the latter category of cop that I have just described. I put on my friendliest face and approach him. I say hello, he looks at me like he despises my very existence. I go through the usual eye and fingerprint scan and then he grunts a few questions at me. Stuff like how long I'm in the country for, what's the meaning of my visit. He doesn't seem to like the fact that I'm going to be in his country for a little over four weeks. He gives one last disgusted look at my passport, as if telling me he knows something doesn't add up, and then shunts it back in my direction and turns his stare at the next poor bastard in line behind me. With a considerable sigh of relief, I continue my shuffle towards the luggage belt on the other side of the room, where a few of the other guys are already standing with our gear.
Soon, we're all gathered and ready to continue, all except for Gordon. “Where was he in the queue?” we enquire amongst ourselves.. It seems like some of us had it easier than others on the way through but nothing to suggest that we were in real danger of being turned away. We're stood there with the gear, waiting on Gordon with one eye on the clock and our connecting flight.. And then we see him.
Wearing a t-shirt and long skate style shorts, he's walking behind a pair of cops along an aisle towards an interrogation room looking as pale as a ghost. When I first spot him my heart sinks. To make matters worse, and in true Gords style, he starts making the slicing action with his hand across his throat, the kind directors use on set when saying “cut”. As if that's not bad enough, he then starts shouting across the hall to us, “We're fucked!” and “We're going home!” and even “They know!”. Poor Gords, I really feel for him, I know how stressed he can get. But fuck me buddy, try and keep a lid on it. The six of us are stood there with a shit load of band gear, shocked by what's unfolding in front of us. I remember Kev being stood beside me, saying through gritted teeth, “I'm gonna kill the cunt! What the fuck is he doing?” I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. And then Gords disappears into the room with the cops.
For a moment, it's sheer panic. What the fuck are we going to do? I soon get myself together and I know I can't leave my best mate in there. Lasse approaches me and suggests we go over to the room and try and talk them around. After all, I have everybody's travel details, I can present myself as the leader of the party. I realise that if Gordon is getting sent back then so are the rest of us and I don't want to leave Gords to face the music on his own.
Lasse and I sheepishly approach the room where Gordon is sitting inside, no doubt shitting himself, the poor bastard. There is a female cop stood guarding the doorway. I tell her that one of my party has been taken by them and I ask her if there is anything I can help with, trying to explain to her that I have everybody's travel details and all, being the self selected leader for the merry band of men. I'm doing my best to put on the most charming Englishman persona I can muster. I'm therefore surprised and to be honest a little insulted that she merely barks at me, telling me to step away from her. This seems ridiculously over the top to me. I stupidly attempt to continue with my line of approach, Lasse stood behind me backing me up, She simply cuts me off, “Sir, do you want to join your friend inside?” Fucking bitch! I can't believe this. Before I can say another word she comes back at me, “Actually sir, the two of you, come with me!”. For fuck sake. What is wrong with these people? Can't they just be fucking normal?
By now it's fairly obvious that the proverbial faeces has hit a very big fucking fan.
We're lead into the small room where we meet Gordon who is sat by a table that his suitcase is resting on. When he clocks the two of us a smirk spreads across his face that sends a glimmer of relief through me. At least he's ok. We're faced with the classic good cop/bad cop routine. Whilst we're awaiting the arrival of mine and Lasse's suitcases, the woman (bad cop) and the man (good cop) start firing questions at us. The usual stuff.. what are we doing here, how long are we here, how much money are we carrying.
“Are you guys a band or something?” I'm considering what line of bullshit to take when my suitcase turns up, and then I realise there is no point lying because when they open up my case they're going to find about one hundred cd's of our Live and Demo's album. I shoot a glance at Lasse who knows exactly what's in there and the two of us utter something to each other in Swedish, along the lines of “Bollocks!”
I tell them that we're a band and that we're recording for a while in Austin, and that the cd's are for promotional purposes. I have Dutch's name and contact details and hand them over. I know we're fucked by this point. Upon admittance that we're a band they immediately start with the drugs questions. Something about Cot? I genuinely have no fucking clue what they're talking about. And I think it shows. Good Cop starts asking what kind of music we play, feigning interest. I'm a little surprised that they don't go into the making money/visas question. Maybe there is hope here. They continue firing the drugs theme at us but I guess our genuine perplexion convinces them. They give the bags a search and then see the name of the band is Raging Speedhorn. They want to know what that means. I can't even fucking remember what pathetic lie I come up with for that one, but I remember thinking that they must be thinking what a shit band name we have.
Just as there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, and hope arises that they might just let us through, Lasse starts pushing them about our connecting flight..This really pisses Bad Cop off! She starts shouting at Lasse that she doesn't give a Good God Damn about our connecting flight. For a second Lasse continues to plead but I kick him in the leg, and shoot him a glance that tells him to shut the fuck up.
I don't know why, but somehow we're allowed to pack up our bags and continue on our journey. Good Cop throws one last enquiry, smile spread across his face, “Sure you guys don't have any cot?” Bad Cop looks at us as we shuffle past her at the door, as if she's about to spit in our faces. As soon as we're out of there we leg it across the arrival's hall, dragging our cases behind us to where the rest of the guys are all waiting with a huge display of relief and bewilderment on their faces.
No time to even explain to everyone what happened, we have another plane to catch and we still have to check all our gear through security. Of course, there is a huge line ahead of us and our flight is taking off in a half hour.
Somehow we make it. A feeling of total elation washes over me as I sit in my seat and the half empty plane lifts off into a clear blue sky. The relief on everyone's faces is plain to see. Me and Lasse look at each other, “How the fuck did we make it through that?” he asks me. I had been planning to wait until I got to Houston tonight before treating myself to a drink but as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off and the air steward comes along with the trolley I order myself a gin and tonic. No drink has ever tasted to good!
In three hours time we'll land in Houston and meet the final member of what will be our touring party, and he'll be driving what will be our home for the next month. I order another gin and tonic and stare out at the United States of America below me.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
It didn't start too well. We'd applied and paid for work visas that would keep us on the sweet side of the authorities whilst we were in the old US of A. Not something we'd usually do, but since it was a big tour that travelled right around the land and there'd been a fair amount of national advertising for it, we thought it might be a bit risky to chance it. We shouldn't have bothered!
The visas cost a small fucking fortune for the six of us, as well as a lot of energy obtaining them. They don't just let anyone into their precious country. After a month or so of pissing around with the authorities we finally received conformation that our applications were approved. This was sometime in November. The tour was to start on January 12th in New Orleans.
With the green light finally given, we set about putting the tour into action. We got flights booked from Heathrow to Houston, via Chicago. There was the six of us in the band as well as my mate Lasse, who was coming along for the trip. He'd broken his leg whilst waiting for a blind date just a few weeks before, and feeling sorry for him I asked him to come along and sell shirts for us. I told him we couldn't afford to pay him for the actual work but that we'd cover his flight, giving him a working holiday in effect. We didn't have a visa for him but he could just enter the country as a tourist.
Bianchi had sorted us a van for the tour. He found some guy online by the name of Dutch, actually his name was Job but he was Dutch. Dutch had an RV camper van that he'd kitted out into a tour bus and he had a decent price on a deal that included him as driver. Bianchi had also been in touch with the Soilent Green guys and fixed us a pretty cheap deal to hire their backline. It seemed like we were all set.
Then in December we got a call telling us our visa applications had been pulled from the system on a routine check. Ok, we thought, typical, but hopefully it will only mean a week or two delay, tops. Two weeks came and went and still there was no fucking sign of the visas in the post. Bianchi tried calling the American Embassy, stressing that we needed them for the start of January. That of course, did not impress the cunts. They simply refused to give us a time-scale or guarantee that we'd have the visas in time. I could barely fucking believe it. They cost around seven hundred quid each and it looked like that money was about to get shat down the drain. The embassy took great pleasure in telling us that there would be no refund in any case.
They simply never came. We never had sight nor sound of them ever again, or the four grand we'd paid for them. I wonder how much money the wankers make that way each year. Completely gutted but none the less determined that the tour would go ahead as planned, we decided we'd simply travel in to the country as Lasse intended to, as tourists. Hell, we were going on tour after all. Of course, this made things pretty nervy for us. The US customs authorities were bad enough before 9/11, they were fascistic now.
To add to the drama, the night before we head off to the UK, where we'd be playing a couple of shows before leaving for the States, Lasse rings me and tells me he'd totally missed that his passport has gone past it's validity date. Unfuckingbelievable! He has to take the train out to Arlanda airport and fix a last minute temporary passport. I go to bed that night wondering if we've just blown another four hundred quid on that gammy-legged twat. In true Lasse style though, he managed to sort it out, although it was tense there for a while. I wake up the next morning to his text message telling me that he's sorted and he's coming along.
So it's off to the UK we go.
We had a couple of small, local shows, local to Corby that is, booked to warm up for the tour. One at the Attic in Rushden and one at Sawyer's in Kettering. The Rushden gig was great. It was in a carpeted function room above a pub and it was packed. We played on the floor and the crowd was wild. The thing I remember the most is this one huge skinhead guy in the middle of the crowd. He seemed a little out of place at the show, since most of the people there were young metal kids and then there's this guy, who must have been a foot taller than everyone else in the crowd and at least fifteen years older. I don't know if he was pissed or drugged up or what, but he definitely had a huge excess of misplaced energy. The kids moshed around him as he stood there staring at the band, kids simply bouncing off of his considerable bulk. After a while he starts throwing random kids about the place like rag dolls, at one point almost toppling the PA speakers with one poor kid. No one dared utter a fucking word of complaint to this bear of a man though, including us, and everyone just got on with it. Didn't stop the kids from moshing though. Weird show.
The second show in Kettering was a tamer affair, as far as crowd violence goes anyway. There were still a lot of people in the small venue and it was a good gig. It was the first show Frank had been to since he'd quit the band six months earlier. It was a bit strange at first but the night ended with him getting up and singing the lyrics to Knives and Faces with Bloody Kev. It was a nice touch. It still felt awkward afterwards though because we were going to the States for a full on tour, something we'd never got around to doing with Frank in the band, and I could sense that he regretted his decision to leave. At least at that moment in time anyway.
We'd arrived in the UK a couple of days before the Rushden show to practice. The first night, after practice, we'd gone over to the Sawyer's for a drink. Rich, the landlord was a big Speedhorn fan and by now a friend of ours. We were gagging for a pint after practice and Gords had rung him telling him we were coming over, in typical Gords style, having the cheek to tell him instead of ask him if it was ok. Rich had just closed up for the night and was on his way to bed but Gords was having none of it and Rich eventually agreed to let us in for a sneaky pint. We'd turned up around half eleven, a tired looking Rich cursing us for being cheeky cunts as we traipsed in to the pub. One sneaky pint became a few, and then a few more and eventually turned into shots and then five am. We all left there feeling pretty fucked. When we'd arrived I'd introduced a quiet, shy Lasse to Rich, his wife Leanne and the other bartender who had also been unlucky enough to have been trapped at work by us. Well they weren't really working any more I guess since the three of them were drinking as much as we were. Lasse was a little quiet then, before you got to know him, or before he had a drink in him at least. It didn't take long for the fucker to loosen up though. Within a couple of hours he had his balls out at the bar, zapping them with an electric buzzer that belonged to a quiz board-game, much to the amusement of everyone else.
The other funny thing with Lasse, something I'd never really experienced before, was hearing him speak English. We'd always conversed in Swedish until this point. He seemed to have no concept of the gravity of swearing in the Queen's, or at least when it was and was not appropriate to do so. We'd sat at dinner with my parent's the first night, my mum having made a slap up meal for us all. Lasse was overjoyed with the food and the hospitality that my parents are infamous for, and he also seemed to be embracing the opportunity to practice his English. He kept saying stuff to my parent's like “Oh, this food is so fucking good” and “this is fucking great”. He literally said fuck in every sentence. My parents thought it was hilarious though and they took a real shine to him. He helped my dad tune in his new tv too, and then bought him a pint at the Rock afterwards, after which my dad was totally sold on the buffoon.
So after one practice and a couple of shows, we were off to the States. Considering that the situation had been made a little nervous thanks to the whole work visa débâcle, you'd think we would have thought about being extra pre cautious with customs. You'd think we'd have put some effort into maybe not so obviously looking like a band going on tour without work visas. You'd think. Unbelievably, not only did we take all our guitars as luggage, as well as a suit case full of albums, we even had Daz's Ampeg bass amp with us which was packed in a cardboard box. What the fuck were we thinking really? We had printed the merch in the States, but only because it was cheaper to do so, so the only precaution we'd taken in going through the notoriously paranoid US border customs was to make sure we split up in the queue. Our lackadaisical approach to the matter almost fucked the whole tour up before it even started..
Monday, September 3, 2012
Raging Speedhorn toured a lot. If you look down at the list of previous shows on this blog, everything you see from 2008 back to 1998 is Speedhorn. I experienced a wild contrast of highs and lows during that period, and unlike the cheesy cliché, I would change a fair few fucking things if I had to do it all over again, but you live and you learn don't you? Either way, I'm grateful for those ten years.
One thing I do regret is not writing about it at the time, like I do now when we're on tour with Victims or whoever else. So much nonsense took place back then that it's hard to remember the fine details a lot of the time. I did write a tour diary for a short while that we used to put up on our website, but it only lasted one tour. I guess the reality of the matter is that I was probably often too hungover to have the energy to write every day back then. I'll try and dig that tour diary up at some point though.
I often think back to the Speedhorn period with the false impression that all the crazy shit happened exclusively during the first era of the band, when Frank, Tony and Darren were with us. Although a lot of the nonsense stems from this period, it wasn't all tea and biscuits after Jay and Kev, and later Dave joined. Far from it in fact.
One jaunt I have a lot of memories of was the nationwide tour of the States we played in early 2006, the band then consisting of myself, Gordon, John, Bloody Kev, Darren and Jay. The tour, which lasted a little over a month, was a six band package bill, a package that we stood out like a sore fucking thumb on. Didn't we always? When we were offered the tour I didn't really think about the other bands on the bill, my ears pricked up only at the list of cities that the tour took in. In retrospect, touring with Nile, Hypocrisy, Soilent Green, Decapitated and With Passion wasn't the best choice of bands for us to hit the road with. I mean, Soilent Green are great, both as a band and as people, and most of the other guys on the tour were decent enough people, but the crowd attending the shows hated us for the most part. I learned on this tour that the scene divide in the States stretches over a far wider ravine than it does here in Europe... Still, we didn't give a fuck. In fact, playing in Speedhorn was always most fun when we were up against the odds. We excelled in pissing people off.
So, since there won't be any new tour diaries on the blog for a while, I thought I'd dig up the highlights of the Nile Annihilation of the Wicked Tour. I know...just the name of the tour has me wondering what the fuck our name was doing on the poster.