Monday, October 29, 2012

The Mid West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again the night has taken an unexpected turn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cabin Fever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The North West

Woke up feeling like absolute dog cack. Three hours sleep, still pissed probably. If my conscience would've allowed, I would have crawled down the aisle of the RV to Dutch in his bunk and told him to forget the sight-seeing trip into Frisco. But my conscience won me over.

It's always the way on tour. You have an early rise booked in, with plans to actually do something other than just travel in the van all day, something that is all to rare an occurrence, and you piss all over those plans by drinking until the sun comes up. I don't regret it on this particular day though. It's not every night you get to see your drummer mistakenly suck your merch guy's bobby. Everybody, except Gordon, was in a good mood today, sleep deprived or not.

Once we got out of the van and inhaled some Pacific air into our lungs, everything started to feel better. We only had an hour or so to look around the city, and so we had to choose what we wanted to see. I would have liked to have gone to Haight/Ashbury as well as check Amoeba Records out, but was content enough with the majority vote that decided we go down to the bay, look at the seals and have a glance at Alcatraz out on that island. We stopped for coffee first though, as functioning on any sort of level without a caffeine fix would have been impossible.

The seals were cute and it was fun watching them paddle about in the harbour waters, and Alcatraz was cool enough, although from our standpoint a little imagination was needed. By the time Dutch called time to leave, I was not for the first time on tour, left feeling that I wished I was here on holiday.

We made the short drive over to Sacramento, or actually Orangevale, which although Dutch said was Sacramento, was actually Orangevale. When we pulled up outside the venue, which was as usual in the middle of a nondescript nowhere, I asked Dutch how long it would take to journey into Sacramento. “Oh, well it's about twenty miles away.” Fuck sakes, sometimes this country gets on my tits. Twenty miles away in USA terms apparently equates to being in the same place. That's like me saying Corby is actually in Leicester. Although why I'd want to say that I don't know. So, that was that. We're stuck here in Orangevale, which isn't Sacramento, with nothing to do but wait for Nile to get soundcheck over and done with.

Today is the actually the first day we have any contact with the Nile guys. Fat Jeff actually came out to greet us on our bus. He seemed like a decent enough guy to be honest. He asked it was ok to come aboard the disco bus and then hung out for about ten minutes making half awkward small talk, referring now and again to his band's poor effort in the mingling stakes so far. He said something about them having a new bass player and some in-band issues that had been niggling away at them and that from here on in they'd be making a bit more of an effort to hang out with everyone. He then made a few comments about our band, saying he “digged it”, although it was painfully obvious that he didn't have a fucking clue about us. I doubt very much he'd even seen us in action yet. Still, nice enough of him to come over to us and make the effort. Funny thing is, this would turn out to be the one and only time any of us would have a conversation with Fat Jeff on the tour.

A little while after Jeff has left, and we're again going over the events of the night before, Chrissy walks on to the bus. Or, actually, I should say, she shuffles onto the bus, big duffel-coat wrapped around her but doing nothing to stop the apparent chill raging through her being, eyes sadly dipped towards the floor, looking like she's just been told she has a terminal disease. We laugh at first, assuming she's insanely hungover, which of course she is, but it turns out it's way worse than that. She asks us if we've seen her rucksack. “No..... why? What's happened?”

It turns out that she has lost/had her rucksack stolen somewhere between San Francisco and here. In that rucksack was her laptop and even worse, all of the takings from Decapitated and Hypocrisy's merch from the first week of the tour. About ten thousand dollars apparently. My first reaction is TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! Fucking hell, we must have sold about two hundred, tops. But that quickly subsides into a feeling of desperate sympathy for Chrissy, sickly almost. We tell her that we're sorry but we haven't seen it. She hangs out for a while, doing her best to hold back the tears. The worst thing is, she hasn't told the bands yet.. Dear Lord...

As soon as she's shuffled off again, Kev and Lasse agree that they recall a very drunken Chrissy the night before, opening her rucksack and showing them the bundles of cash inside, as they were sat partying at the merch stall. It's all to obvious that someone at the gig has been witness to this and taken the opportunity. Some fucker is considerably better off this morning, that's for sure!

I don't know how it plays out with Chrissy and the guys, but they obviously come to some understanding since Chrissy avoids getting the sack at least. Although the fact that she's seeing the Decapitated guitarist probably helps. That is, if she ever does indeed tell them. Whatever the case, we never hear word of it again.

The club in Orangevale is much more to our liking. It's a small club, the likes of which we played in San Antonio. I think it's sold out at about two hundred and fifty. The place looks more like a punk dive than most of the crap venues we've been playing so far, which suits us down to the ground. Thankfully for us, that actually translated to there being a healthy punk/hardcore contingent in the crowd and it ended up being one of the best, if not the best show of the tour. The place was packed, the stage was small, and the crowd went mental when we played. There was even stage diving and mosh pits at points and we sold a bit of merch afterwards. What a fucking contrast to last night, and the night before, and the night before that..

Apart from the gig, something else great happened on this night.

I've never known a bigger toilet enthusiast than Bloody Kev. I mean, I've never known anyone who takes as much pleasure in the act of taking a shit as Kev. He fucking loves it. He claims that when he worked at Virgin Records, he could entice as many as seven a day out. He hated his job so lucky for him he could break the day up with constant, and productive, shit breaks. As well as he can seemingly produce a turd at will, he can also hold on to one for a great length of time, in anticipation of finding a worthy toilet to release it.

The problem/quite frankly absurd phenomenon with rest-rooms (as they call them) in that States is that a lot of the time the stalls don't have doors on, and if they do then they most likely don't have a lock to keep the door closed with. This is at least how I've experienced this matter on the touring circuit. Just another quirky detail in the make up of this generally insane country. Anyway, the toilet at the club in Orangevale, although by no means anything you'd describe as luxurious, did at least have a door with a lock. In fact, the toilet itself was one big room with a door and a lock. Which is a little weird in that the shitter and the urinal don't come as exclusive items.. you get one, you get the other. Strange design fault but there you go. Anyway, Kev, as is his routine, had checked out the bog on arrival and had been looking forward to his toilet visit since we'd got here, leaving it for a while to build up the anticipation. You can imagine his fury then when as soon as he finally calls time on it and sits down on the pan, some obnoxious metaller bangs on the door, telling him to hurry up.

“Alright yeah,” an annoyed Kev responds, “I've just sat down, gimme a minute.” Within twenty seconds the guy is banging on the door again, shouting at Kev to hurry up. Big mistake. You don't not fuck with Kev and his turd time. Kev responds in a way only he could. He decided to wipe his arse and save the first piece of paper. With this he plans to open the door and shove it into the annoying cunt at the door's face. The thing is, when he opens the door he's faced with some big heavy metal bastard who looks like he could eat Kev for breakfast. Luckily Kev has the piece of shit paper hidden behind his back. With what can only be described as an ingenious bit of quick thinking, he stands aside and and welcomes the big metaller in, “It's all yours mate”. As he does this he pats the guy on the back and sticks the piece of shit paper to the guys leather jacket. And with that he makes a sharp exit out of there.

Only Kev could possibly think of such an action, and justify it. The thing that gets me is that this is before the show and the guy being at the gig, he's bound to run into Kev again during the evening. And unless he's really is as thick as he no doubt looked, he's bound to realise that it was Kev who stuck the shit rag on his leather jacket. Amazingly, Kev receives absolutely no back lash on the matter.

Although there were a few drinks drunk after the show, the night was considerably calmer than that which preceded it. How could it not be? Dutch was leaving early in the morning for the trip to Portland. I had set my alarm to six am so I could get up and listen to the Liverpool – Man Utd game on Dutch's internet radio. We got beat by a late goal, robbed as usual. It was the game when that bastard Gary Neville ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the Liverpool fans at the end of the game, almost causing a riot in the process. Normally I'd complain that I wished I hadn't bothered getting up at such a ludicrous hour to listen to the game, but not this time. The scenery up in Northern Californian/Oregon was beautiful, really beautiful, like Twin Peaks landscape. It was soul soothing sitting up front with Dutch, having a deep conversation as the sun came up and we drove through the forest firs that the highway snaked through. I didn't even go back to bed after the game.

It was the first time I'd really sat down with Dutch and talked to him, and although I have to say he
definitely had his quirks (he probably still hates Lasse over Coffeegate), I got an insightful look into his life as we sat there and drank coffee together. It's a weird fucking life being a tour driver, or any kind of long distance driver for that matter. He told me about his wife and how much he was away from home, how he missed her. I could understand how it must have been for him... I enjoyed our long chat as everyone else slept. I still don't get the wresting thing though...

We arrived in Portland a few hours before doors and hung out with the Soilent guys for a while, again going through the events of the night in San Francisco. After hearing of Gordon's unfortunate act he had unanimously been elected their favourite person on tour. They were having problems with the Nile guys though, as were Hypocrisy. It seemed that Nile were kicking up a fuss about the amount of merch Soilent had with them on the road. They had told them that they weren't allowed to sell more than three different design of t-shirt, which is absolutely fucking ludicrous! It's bad enough that we all had to match their ridiculous t-shirt prices as it is, but this was just purely taking the piss! The Soilent guys were threatening to quit the tour. The Hypocrisy guys were fucked off too because Nile were clamping down on their set time, wanting them to cut ten minutes from it. This all seemed to be strangely coincidental with the fact Soilent were most likely selling more merch than Nile and a lot of people were leaving the venue's after Hypocrisy were done..

I spent a couple of hours walking about the nearby Portland streets. It seemed like a really cool place, very laid back. Portland is of course drenched in punk and hardcore history, with so many great bands coming from here. I'd found a pretty cool record shop on my travels that sold mostly indie stuff. I picked up a Trans Am record as well as the first Set Fire To Flames lp. Ben from Soilent found this to be funny. I was pleased with my purchases though. To be honest, it was just as well I hadn't found a punk store since I would've most likely pissed away all my money in it.

The show tonight was a rather chilled affair. The club was on the smaller side, the crowd of three hundred or so not quite filling it out. We'd been taking the piss out of the young guys in With Passion since they'd been having a laugh at Gords' AC/DC t-shirt. Both our crew and the Soilent crew had slaughtered them for that. It was all good fun, the little bastards. There was quite an obvious clique appearing within the touring ranks. Compared to the show the night before in Orangevale you'd have to say this gig was a tame affair. We had a few people down the front that were into it and there were no signs of aggravation from anyone. But considering the crowd had a greater contingent of punk and hardcore kids than most nights, it didn't kick off like I maybe hoped it would. I guess it was an early night and most likely somewhere in the beginning of the week. Who knows?

The funny thing is, Nile's stage manager, who was this rowdy little guy who reminded me of Gords' dad Moggy, had approached us before our set, a little sheepishly, and asked if we'd mind cutting our thirty minute set to twenty five. You could tell he felt bad and he was obviously getting shit from his employers about stage schedules. We laughed when he asked, telling him we'd be more than happy to oblige. Fuck, we'd cut it to twenty, fifteen if he wanted! “Really? Are you sure?” he asked, taken a back. “No fucking problems! The shorter the better mate, as long as we're still getting paid the same!” we happily confirmed. “You guys are fucking great! I love you!” And he did and all. From there on in we became his favourite band on the tour, he just loved the attitude. He shared with us his sacred nightly bottle of whisky later on that evening, which was happily accepted. We'd just made a new friend. And a pretty handy one at that. Not only that, their tour manager, this quiet guy with a pony tail who seemed to lurk in the shadows for the most part, offered us a crate of beer after the show, straight from the belly of the Nile tour bus. “They get loads and they never drink it anyway”.. Fuck me, what a winner! Somehow we'd managed to swindle ten minutes off our set, and at the same time set ourselves up with a steady supply of free booze and beer from the Nile guys. Win-fucking-win!

We arrived early the next day in Seattle, in the usual hungover state. We'd gone from the glaring dessert sun of Arizona to the grey, chilled sky of the north west in the space of a week. We must have experienced a drop of about fifteen degrees in that time. The chilly Seattle air was exactly what the doctor ordered though and Kev, John and I took a walk down town to check out the Space Needle and some other sights. Again it seemed like a nice place, kind of European somehow. We spent a couple of hours walking around. I was impressed with John since he isn't usually the type for long strolls. We had a good time walking about though, just the three of us. It's nice to break away from the bigger pack sometimes.

The venue tonight was another small place, which always suited us down to the ground. It had a low stage too, so there'd be a good chance of some crowd “interaction” if anyone gave us shit. The in-house cuisine at this place was fucking superb, as far as fat American junk-food goes. I ate the largest, and tastiest jalapeño poppers I've ever had in my life at this place. I swear I could fly back to Seattle just to taste them again!

It turns out it was a fun show anyway. Jeff from Zeke had come down to hang out with us, I'd met him a few years ago in Sweden and we'd been friends since. It was good to see him, down the front, drunk and going for it with the rest of the mosh pit. Good times. It was definitely one of the better shows on the tour. Again, the smaller the crowd the better the show seemed to be for us. There were probably no more than two hundred in tonight. It's strange, for Nile the headlining band, that must have seemed like a disaster but we were in our element. In all honesty though, I even watched a bit of Nile later on, the first time for a while, and they had a good show themselves. I even might say I enjoyed their set, although that probably had a lot to do with the fact Lasse was sharing a bottle of Captain Morgan with me and Jeff.

We ended the night back on the disco bus with Jeff, passing around a bottle of Jager he'd bought for us. It was one of those nights that we could have easily sat up until the sun rose, getting pissed on anything we could find but we had to call it curtains at around two am, unfortunately. Dutch was eager to leave since we had a long journey ahead. I'd asked Dutch a few days ago where we'd be spending our “day off” between the Seattle and Denver shows. “In the van dude, it's like a thirty hour journey!” came his exasperated response...

We said farewell to Jeff and the Soilent Green guys, and headed east, into the early hours of the morning. We'd be spending the next two days in the van...Luckily, we had enough booze to see us through...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Maximum RocknRoll!

I interupt the Speedhorn in the USA series to bring you some breaking news.

Excerpts of my tour diary from the Black Breath/Victims/Tormented jaunt will be in November's edition of Maximum Rock n Roll.  MRR is one of my favourite magazine's so it is a great honour for me to be included in it's pages.

Check it out!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

San Francisco

San Francisco is one of those places I always dreamed of seeing one day. The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Haight Street, the original Amoeba Records etc.. I couldn't wait to arrive in the city and see some of those famous sights. I was chuffed that Dutch was driving through the night from Los Angeles so that we'd have some time to check the city out.

My dad was an adolescent of the sixties when San Fran had been the centre of the Flower Power movement and the shining beacon of the Swinging Sixties. When Flower Power was happening, my dad was working in the Steel Works in Corby, dreaming of what life must be like on the other side of the world, over there in California. Now I felt like I was living his dreams for him, although the culture I was now involved in was pretty different to his back then. I knew my dad would want a postcard from Frisco, so besides the sights, that was top of my to-do-list when I arrived.

Of course, I've long since learned that if you want guaranteed sight seeing then book a fucking holiday, because most of the time when you go to these fantastic places all over the world with a band, you end up seeing fuck all. As would be the case on this occasion...

We stumbled out of the bus sometime in the early afternoon, the lot of us hungover to piss. The first thing I noticed is that it was a lot colder here than in LA. I guess it was January and we'd travelled eight hours north, so it wasn't so strange really. The bus was parked outside of the club which was a nondescript building with a large parking lot out back, which was actually were the show was going to be. On a stage, in the car park. The show tonight was a coalescence of two tours. There would be the six bands on our package plus Anthrax, God Forbid and Sworn Enemy. We were all pretty chuffed to be playing with Anthrax, who were back as the original line up with Belladonna on vocals. Kev, in particular, was really buzzing. He loves early Anthrax. It had all the tell tale signs of a big party night. Except for Jay, who had come down with some illness. We'd originally assumed it was either a hangover or jet lag, or both, but he really wasn't looking too good and he spent the entire afternoon in bed in the van. It was touch and go whether he was going to be able to make the show..

The point I was getting to though, is that Jay didn't miss much. The venue we were playing could just as well have been on the Earlstree's industrial estate in Corby. There was nothing but warehouses and units to see around there. We were actually on the other side of the bay from where the real San Francisco was. I took a walk with a couple of the guys down to the outskirts of the industrial estate we were on, which eventually led us down to the water. From there we could just about see the silhouette of the Golden Gate bridge, although it was so grey and foggy a good deal of imagination was needed to confirm what we were looking at. So this is Frisco eh? Great!

We trudged back to the venue a little dejected and loaded the gear into the venue's compound. We soon cheered up though when Dutch told assured me that he'd take us into the city in the morning, since the next drive was only a couple of hours. Nice one Dutchy! Considerably happier, we started on the beer. Although the stage was out back in the large car park, the bar and the merch area was inside the club house, or whatever it was. Jay was still looking really pale and I was starting to worry about him. I told him that he should just stay in bed and forget the gig tonight, we'd be ok with just me on guitar, but he told me he wanted to play. I was proud of him. With the way the shows had been going on this tour I wouldn't have blamed him for taking the easy option and fucking the gig off, but he wouldn't have it.

It must have been around six pm when we took to the stage. It was still fairly light out and there was a good size crowd already in through the gates. It seemed like word had been spreading around the internet about us though, I can only imagine the hordes of death metal nerds on message boards slagging us off, as before we even started the set, in fact, before we even strapped on our guitars, some young guy who looked like he was straight out of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, shouted, “Fuck off back to England you wankers!” H.M.P.L. looked chuffed as punch with his witty remark. I looked over at a very pale Jay, hoodie tightly wrapped around his face. The two of us just smirked at each other. “Fuck me, we haven't even started yet!” laughed John as he got in to anger mode.

We kicked the living shit out of that stage. Tore the fucker apart. And apart from a couple of hardcore kids down the front, no one gave a cack. This was the first show on the tour where the boos started to come between songs, so to combat the cunts we just left the amps to feedback loudly when we weren't playing, Kev and John looking for a fight with anyone who wanted to come near us. Good show...

The night did get considerably better from there on in though. Kev was on top form. He was really chuffed about seeing Anthrax with Belladonna and to enhance his mood further he was throwing beer down his throat like it was going out fashion. Apart from Jay, who went straight back to bed after the show, the rest of us got on board with Kev. We hung out by the merch area for most of the night, with Chrissy who was selling Decapitated and Hypocrisy's merch, as well as the Soilent guys. It was just one of those spontaneous nights that ended up being a lot of fun. It was the first night that we'd properly hung out with a lot of the other guys on tour. You could feel the ice melting, aided by the flowing stream of beer and we were all in very high spirits, despite yet another shit gig.

By the time Anthrax came on, we were all pretty pissed up. Kev in particular. We were stood on this porch at the back of the club house that overlooked the by now packed parking lot, watching the first few songs of the Anthrax set. They played a few classics and they were sounding good. As they went into Keep it in the Family, a large mosh pit erupted in front of the stage. I turned towards Kev to comment on it, but before I knew it he was off. He'd hopped of the porch and was now running full pelt into the mosh pit. I watched him all the way in. He ran straight up to this big metaller and clocked him right in the fucking chops! The metaller barely had time to gather himself before Kev disappeared into the sea of mosh. Fuck me you old bastard! I could barely believe what I'd just seen. I stood there, watching the next couple of songs, wondering when Kev would return and in what shape. He eventually arrived back at the porch, with this really sad look on his face. “Some cunt stole my cap...” he muttered to me. “Ha ha, serves you right you wanker!” I laughed. Kev looked truly gutted...

The partying continued after the show, long into the night. We all ended up back at the merch stalls, Lasse and Chrissy having now become friends. It seemed like everyone except for the Nile guys were on the piss. Before long we were all chatting merrily to each other, drinking shots and dancing.. At one point we were sat by Chrissy's table, looking at some photos on her laptop. The Decapitated singer thought it would be funny to draw a Hitler tash on a face on one of the images. We all laughed our tits off when Chrissy went to wipe it off only to find that he'd drawn it on with permanent marker. I don't think he'd really meant it since he looked pretty guilty as Chrissy went berserk at him.

The night rolled on and on. By about three am Kev was absolutely steam boats. You can always tell when he's fucked because he gets this stupid grin on his face and his eyes are half closed, like he could fall asleep at any moment. He wasn't falling asleep right now though. He had his sights set on these two young, good looking girls. We watched him hobble over to them and attempt to strike up a conversation. They looked less than impressed. Kev was not to be discouraged though and persisted with his line of approach. It turned out that the two girls were actually a couple. We heard them tell Kev that they weren't interested, that they were in fact lesbians. “That's alright, I don't mind”, he reasoned. “Well we do!” they replied sharply. As this truly classic conversation was in motion, Gords had gone behind Kev and pulled his jeans down, leaving Kev stood there in his boxer shorts with his jeans around his ankles, stupid grin in tact. The girls just walked away shaking their heads.

It must have been four am by the time we rolled back into the bus, and we were all pretty fucked. There was beer in the fridge though, so we carried on drinking. Once again we had the old disco bus theme going. Fuck knows how Dutch managed to sleep at all, if he in fact did..

And then, the funniest thing I have EVER seen happened...

Gordon was by now off his tits and had the crazy look in his eye, the one he gets when he's gone over the border. He got in to a daft argument with an equally drunk Darren over something trivial and before long the two of them were wrestling. Nothing serious. It went on for a while and eventually Gords had Daz cornered in the bunk area. Daz was recoiling into his bed, trying to escape the depraved clutches of Gords, but to no avail. We were filming the whole thing as we crowded round to see what was happening.

Daz had crawled head first into his bunk, but Gords had pulled him back by the belt and then ripped his jeans down. He then pulled Daz's boxer shorts down and started slapping his bare arse, the whole while shouting in mock American wrestling commentary, “Oh yeah! Here comes the big slap down! Now he's gonna get it!” and the like. And the like. This went on for a while, the lot of us pissing ourselves. And then Lasse turned to me with an evil grin on his face, “Watch this.” I filmed Lasse as he approached an oblivious Gordon from behind.

None of expected what happened next, least of all Gordon, the poor bastard. Lasse pulls his cock out and starts slapping Gordon on his left shoulder with it. Gordon is still bent over Daz, slapping his arse when he feels something from behind. In a blurry instant, Gords turns around, mouth wide open as he continues with his American commentary. Lasse's cock goes straight in to Gordon's gaping pie hole! All the fucking way in! And it's all caught perfectly on film.

Gordon's face turns white as a ghost and his eyes roll in horror. Lasse, who can't believe what just happened, falls back pissing himself laughing. And then the laughter erupts in the bus like a volcano. We're all laughing so hard that a few of us are crawling around on all fours, crying and choking. Gordon is fucking horrified! Lasse comes trundling back to me, crying with laughter, “Fuck me, I wasn't expecting that!”

My first thought is to show Jay the film. The poor bastard is lying in his bed, trying to sleep off the illness, unaware of what's happened. I wake him and tell him he has to see this film. He begs me to leave him alone, that he'll see it in the morning. I promise him it will be worth his effort though, “Mate, if I only ever beg of you one thing, then it's this, you must see this film right now!” He reluctantly crawls out of his hard bed and wipes the dust from his eyes. Within seconds Jay is rolling around on the floor with the rest of us, sick with laughter. I've never seen him so happy.

Gordon, absolutely gutted, decides he has to call his girlfriend Katy and confess what he's done. Fuck knows why but we don't hinder him. I guess Katy is at work or something since it's the middle of the day back home and is not expecting to hear from her lad. “Katy, I think I'm a gay!”. Holy shit, we all puke up laughing again.

Unfortunately the film has now been erased. In it's place is just a blacked out bit of film, where you can hear Gordon in the background exasperatedly asking us, “Why is it always me?”. We begged him to let us keep the film but it was not to be. Although the image is branded into my memory anyway.

Gordon was able to see the funny side of it shortly afterwards. We have him on film a little while later, singing Phil Collins, his head rolling insanely about his shoulders. Every now and again he looks in to the camera and says, “I'm sorry dad. I'm sorry big man!”

My stomach was in agony when I finally went to bed, sometime around six am. Dutch was going to drive us into the city around nine so we'd have a couple of hours to do some sightseeing. Have to get that postcard...