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.