Thursday, November 22, 2012


After the long escape from the van the day before in Chicago, I was really in the mood for some more sightseeing, now that we'd had a taste.  It's not even so much the sightseeing, I can spend long periods of time looking at the most banal things, it's more the chance to take in some fresh air and stretch the legs.  What a difference a day and a couple of hundred miles make though.

When we stepped out of the van behind the club in Cincinnati it was mid afternoon, although the grey sky could have fooled you into believing it was later.  We were parked up in a small, public car park that belonged to a block building that housed the club as well as a few shops.  It looked like Canada Square up the Exeter estate in Corby, and anyone who's been there will know that that particular place is a hell hole...

Still, I was up for a walk so I asked Dutch how far we were from the city, downtown or wherever the action was.  “You're in it” he replied without a hint of sarcasm.  I told him that I was going to go for a walk, he warned me not to go on my own and not to talk to anyone who approached us in the street.  “This is not a nice place...”.  He was deadly serious.  What the fuck?

Even though it was great walking around Chicago with the boys yesterday, taking in the sights and all, sometimes it is nice to break away from the pack and just head off on your own.  It didn't seem like that would be a wise choice today though so I convinced Kev to follow along with me.  I couldn't believe that the area we were walking around was the downtown area of Cincinnati, I had the feeling Dutch just couldn't be arsed with us all fucking off before load in.  I've since learned though that not all US cities are like New York.  A lot of the time the downtown area is just where the corporate district is, the skyscrapers are just tall office buildings and at night time the place is dead.  I was learning more about this country every day.  I don't know where the nightlife or the shopping was at in Cincinnati, but these streets we were walking were truly uninviting.

One thing I've learned about the USA is that behind all the gloss there is a lot of poverty.  It was there before our eyes as we walked the blocks that lay in the venue's radius, the area seemed to be bleeding poverty from it's veins.  The streets were lined with dilapidated terraced houses, the sidewalks were cracked and defeated.  It looked more like Poland during the Nazi occupation than the streets of a city that belonged to the planet's wealthiest nation.  The “American Dream” must be the biggest fucking scam a government has ever pulled on it's people.

We walked around for a half hour or so, but every corner turned seemed to reveal the same depressed expression.  As if feeling a need to at least do something with our venture we went to a petrol station and bought a snack, and then headed back to the venue.  On our way back some young guy with his hood pulled up crossed the street towards us and mumbled something about drugs.  I don't know if he was buying or selling but we got the fuck out of there without saying a word.

We'd been getting the Eyehategod song together during soundcheck and it's starting to sound good.  I was looking forward to pulling it off at a show and getting Brian up on stage with us to play it.  It wasn't quite ready yet though.  The club tonight was a large, basic room with a floor sloping down towards the stage and a long bar along the right hand wall.  I had a hard time imagining where the people would come from to fill the place but sure enough, it was pretty packed by the time we went on.  We had a pretty good show too, we didn't take a lot of abuse and there were a few hardcore kids down the front moving about.  There was of course a contingent of death metallers stood towards the back looking bored or worse, smirking at us, but that was standard by this point.  The margins for what classes a good show had been widened somewhat...

We hung out Chris at the merch stall as Soilent Green played their set.  They truly impressed every single night.  Chris is a nice guy, we'd gotten to know him pretty well by now and it felt like he'd taken us under his wing a little.  He was telling us that he thought we were a great band and that he'd be interested in helping us out in the States.  He told us that he thought we should get Bianchi to fuck and get someone else involved.  He couldn't believe we were wasting our money coming to the States only to play on a tour that was so obviously ill fitting for us.  To be honest though, we didn't fit whatever bill we played on.  We knew what we were getting ourselves into on this tour and we couldn't blame Bianchi for that.  We all jumped at the chance to travel around the States getting pissed for free.  We knew fine well we'd be fighting the audience every night.  It wasn't the first time I'd heard people from other bands advising us on how we should steer ourselves, but in all honesty, I was starting to feel lost and disillusioned.  I was sick of the fighting.  And even though we might not have been battling with each other as regularly by this stage, now that Frank and Tony had left the band, it seemed we were still fighting everyone else.  I was growing tired of it.  I didn't mind fighting the blockhead, death metal crowds, that was fun, but there were small signs that things were once again going sour with the label and that was fucking taxing.  Some of the guys seemed to be chuffed at the thought of Chris helping us out, but I was just feeling jaded.  Maybe it was just the tour, the booze and the lack of sleep taking it's toll, I don't know...

We sold a bit of merch tonight anyway and Lasse was far happier.  It was a lot easier for him on night's like this when the merch table was in the actual room we're playing and everyone is hanging out.  We had a few beers after the show and by the time the show came to a close the heavy atmosphere we'd experienced earlier on the streets of Cincinnati had washed away.  Dutch was still on his toes though.  He'd been sat in the van all night, saying he didn't trust leaving it out back with nobody to guard it.  He sure as fuck wasn't planning on staying the night and told us in no uncertain terms that we'd be leaving as soon as we were loaded in.

We headed off with a pack of beer from Nile's van and chilled out in front of a film as Dutch drove a couple of hours down the highway.  Sean, the singer from With Passion joined us, telling us he was sick of travelling with his band.  We told him it was cool to hang out with us for the night.   Dutch pulled into a service station an hour outside of Cleveland.  We were staying here for the night since the club was in a busy area of the city and there was no parking until load in.

Of course, the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, so Dutch took us there for the afternoon.  I wonder how many times he's been there with bands?  I have to say, I didn't think I'd give that much of a shit but truthfully, it was a pretty great museum.  The first thing I saw hanging on the wall was Johnny Cash's guitar.  I guess I am a  music geek deep down because that impressed the fuck out of me!  There was a lot of other fun stuff to look at too.  What is really cool about the place is that if you have a tour pass with you, you get in for free, and free is always good.  As an added bonus, it was situated on the shore of the lake as well as right next to the Cleveland Browns stadium.  Water and sports stadiums are two things that I always love to look at, there is just something about them that brings a certain harmony to my being...  So far I was liking Cleveland a lot more than Cincinnati...

The club was in the middle of the downtown area, right in the middle of everything.  The place was buzzing.  Nice to be back in civilisation again.. The club itself was right up our alley as well, small stage in a small room that fit around four hundred people inside.  It was more a bar than a club in actual fact.  The room where the gig would take place was one of a few different rooms housed within the same complex, with an upstairs bar and a smaller games room beside.  I was looking forward to the coming evening, it had party written all over it.  I could sense that everybody in the band was on the same wavelength...

One very weird rumour doing the rounds tonight was that Will Smith and his wife would be coming to the show.  Apparently they were big fans of Soilent Green!  Fucking bizarre.  It seemed to be the subject on everyone's lips for the early part of the evening.  Of course, they didn't show... but it was funny how everyone seemed to be buzzing about it when they thought it was happening.

After load in was done and Nile were finished soundchecking, Jay had wondered into the sex shop beside the venue to check it out.  This is not something he does to gain a laugh, and it's not something he is embarrassed by.. the boy likes sex and everything to do with it, simple as that.  Hilariously whilst he was in there browsing some scud mags, he noticed Ghost Tramp from Nile shadily walking about the joint, obviously not wanting to be seen.  Jay joyfully slides up beside him as he's stood in an aisle looking at something or other and greets him, “Alright mate!  Nice place eh?”  Ghost Tramp looks mortified and for a moment Jay thinks he's actually going to pull the classic Woah, where am I?!  line, or whatever else would quickly spring to his rescue, but he doesn't.  He just puts his head down, red face burning a hole in the floor at his feet, mumbles back a hello and makes a sharp exit.  Jay is obviously delighted by this.  After picking up a couple of mags, he hurries back to the club to tell us and we all piss ourselves laughing.  Poor Ghost Tramp...

The show tonight is one of the best of the tour, definitely up there with Orangevale and San Antonio.  These smaller places normally help us out.  The room is packed when we play and the crowd kicks off.  Nothing like a small, sweaty show to rejuvenate the soul.  We've pretty much got the Eyehategod cover together by now, although it wasn't quite ready for tonight.  We're hoping it will be ready for tomorrow.  Shame, it would have went down a storm tonight.

When Soilent play I can barely get in the room to see them.  It's fucking wild in there and the wake of the mosh pit seems to be lapping all the way to the back of the room.  It really has been theirs and Hypocrisy's tour for the most part.  Ben is furious after the show since yet again Nile have commented on how many different designs of shirt they're selling.  The Nile merch guy, this big guy who looks like Sloth from The Goonies, has been pretty cool up to now, but it's obvious his employees have been on his back about keeping the other bands it tow.  You can tell as he awkwardly asks the Soilent guys to take a few shirts down.  What the fuck is this all about really?

At the end of the night we all head to the bar upstairs where there is an after show party going on.  It seems like all of the bands are in attendance and most nearly everybody is having a good time.  We're letting loose on some cocktails that we're getting at a very friendly price.  I end up pretty steaming as do the rest of the boys.  This girl called Sarah is at the party.  She used to play drums in Kelly Osborne’s band, before Osbourne was forced by her manager to fire her.  It was all filmed and shown on the Osbournes tv show.  Anyway, she's here and unbelievably Kev has hooked up with her.  It all gets a bit hazy late on in the night, but I remember Kev and this girl making out with each other in this little pink, den room off to the side of the bar.  It turns out it's some VIP booth.  We're denied access by some meathead security guys but we all stand by the entrance, pissed and pointing at Kev as he sits there with this girl on his lap, the usual stupid grin on his face.

When we get back aboard the disco bus, ready to leave for our next destination, Kev is nowhere to be found.  He finally turns up and we give it the standard “Waheey!” chant, but Kev is having none of it.  It seems he really liked her and not only that, he got her number.  He swears she's a really cool girl, despite the Osbourne connotations.  Despite his protests, we spend the rest of the night taking the piss out of him.  I can't actually recall if he ever did see her again.. I have a vague memory of their paths crossing one other time but I'm not sure..

Having had a dose of the tour blues in Cincinnati, Cleveland had provided me with the boost I'd desperately needed.  That's touring for you I suppose.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Speedhorn in the USA: Chicago

Woke up bright and early in a neon lit, underground parking garage in Chicago. We were right underneath the venue for tonight, The House of Blues club, and we had about six hours to kill before load in. And for once, we were bang in the middle of the city. We all got up and changed as fast as we could and got the fuck out of there. Except John, who decided to hang out in the van for a while...

It was a beautiful winter's day. The sky was bright blue and the sun was shining harmoniously above as the fresh, crisp air gently breezed in from the lake. We had a great day walking around downtown Chicago, checking out some record stores and coffee shops, walking by the waterside, having a lengthy discussion in the lobby of the Sears Tower building about whether to pay for the lift up to the roof and eventually deciding against. My soul felt cleansed by an entire afternoon of walking, even if after five shower-less days, my body did not.

When load in beckoned we reluctantly headed back to the van that was still parked in the dull yellow abyss underneath the club. I was both saddened and amazed to find John laid out on the sofa watching a film we'd all seen together just a few days before. We were all buzzing from our excursion into the city, our new found enthusiasm for life washing over the van like a wave. I couldn't get a grip on the fact John had just hung out in the van all day, it almost made me angry.

I could barely believe the marvel before me as we loaded the gear in. The House of Blues is apparently no ordinary venue. I had no prior knowledge of the place, I'd only heard the name. I certainly had no idea that it was a chain company. The concert hall itself is like many other theatre venues the world over, it's not all that different from the old Astoria in London, although a brand spanking new, shiny, hi-tech version of it. Like the Astoria, it's a large room that probably holds about two thousand people with a full balcony. The stage is huge, it must be three times as big as anything else we've played on this tour. It's certainly a contrast from the venues we've played the last few days previous.

If the concert hall is impressive, it's nothing compared to the rest of the building. There are separate dressing rooms for each band, all of them decked out with cable tv and a monitor showing the stage. There is a telephone that connects straight to the promoter's runner in case there is anything you need ran after. And absolutely, most fantastically of all, each dressing room had it's own shower and bathroom. After five days without, it felt like the most luxurious shower I'd ever taken. I took one both before and after the gig just because I could. The grandeur wasn't limited to the backstage area either, even the sinks in the public toilets were decked out with gold chrome taps. The place even had it's own fucking souvenir shop! It felt more like a flashy hotel in Vegas than a venue for a death metal gig.

I told Kev about the public bogs and his face lit up. He took off straight away and was gone for some time. I went to check on him a while later. As I walked in to the long, empty room I heard Kev in a cubicle at the end, willing himself to shit, “Come on you little brown buggers!”. I don't know if he'd heard me come in or not, you never know with Kev, but I pissed myself laughing all the same.

This is one show when I really did feel bad for Lasse. The merch tables were set up in a long row against a wall in a foyer as you entered the building, completely disconnected from the concert hall and about a twenty minute walk from the luxury dressing room. I feel really bad about it now, but I kind of forgot about him sat there on his own. When I eventually went to check on him later in the evening, I found him right at the end of the line, forehead flat on the merch table, arms hanging by his side, pretty sauced up. He hadn't sold a thing, of course. The other merch guys seemed to be in a crazed selling frenzy, like a scene from a squabbling Egyptian market, all of them intent on out doing each other. Lasse was beyond caring by this point though. To be fair, so were we...

This was one show that was fucking doomed to failure before it even started. There was a good size crowd in, although not big enough to justify opening the balcony section of the venue, so there we sat with our feet perched over the edge, bottle of beer in hand, checking out With Passion and Decapitated. Jay, Gords and I had the entire balcony to ourselves, it was pretty cool to be honest. To be fair, the floor below was packed with metalheads which meant that the other bands on the bill were probably in for a good show. The reason I knew our show was fucked is that although With Passion came and went with a conservative yet relatively appreciative applause, Decapitated had the show of their lives. We'd gotten to know them a little by now, and although they obviously came from a completely different planet than ours, they were nice guys and I was happy for them.

The thing is, the stage had this big fucking theatre curtain that opened from the middle to the sides and of course they had it drawn between bands. Now for a start, I fucking hate this concept, I always feel like a right cunt being made to stand on stage, guitar strapped on, waiting for the curtain to draw. It was right up Decapitated's alley though. Indeed, as the curtain parted there are the band, waiting in silent, death metal pose, ready to slay. The singer is stood with fists clenched by his side, long hair hanging from bowed head, down over his face. The crowd erupted in elation at the same sight we fell off our seats laughing at. Decapitated were made for this tour, we most certainly were not.

It was if the rumours had been spreading through the death metal community on whatever geeky message boards these idiots languish on, culminating in a ravenous lava of hate that would greet our arrival on to this stage tonight. It's not paranoia if everyone is out to get you right?... I asked the stage hands to open the fucking curtain before we took to the stage, but they refused out right. Fuck you then, we put the amps on and placed our guitars feedbacking against them and then left the stage again. One of the stage hands starts panicking after a minute or so of this, and tells us to get on with our set so they can pull the curtain. We tell him that our performance has started. He's baffled, clearly. This goes on for about five minutes and the crowd has already started booing. We finally take to the stage but let the feedback continue. The curtain draws and we're stood facing a lot of pissed off looking metalheads. There is one, who has made his way down to the very front, right up against the head high stage, who is standing with his back to us, right arm lofted high in the air, giving us the middle finger. We feedback for about another thirty seconds and then start the set as usual with The Hate Song, John's opening line, “I hate you all”, fitting like a fucking glove on this particular occasion.

We blast through what is left of the twenty minute set, all of us putting more into this show than any other so far on this tour. We go fucking nuts on stage. Between every song we simply ring out and feedback, which seems to just piss the crowd off even more because we're drowning out their booing. Some of these idiots have veins that look ready to explode from their strained necks as they scream their disdain in our direction. It's pure fucking hate. The more violently we play on stage, the more it seems to anger them. And the tit down the front holds that finger aloft for the entire twenty minutes we're on stage. As we get near the end I look at him and actually feel a certain respect, I mean, it must have taken some effort to hold his arm in the air for that long. As the last song ends, we put the guitars back up against the amps, leaving them to feedback as we exit. Kev on the other hand, walks up behind Robo Arm, who of course is still flipping us off, and boots him in the back of the head. “Good gig!” laughs Kev as he walks towards the rest of us waiting for him in the wings as the curtain draws to a close.

I check on Lasse once I've dried off, he begs me to let him pack up the merch early. John is up for manning the station though, so we leave him to it. Good times. We watch Soilent's set but spend the rest of the time taking advantage of the dressing room and it's amenities and since the promoter has no problem with re-filling the fridge with beer, we have him do just that.

The hospitality we enjoy at the House of Blues unfortunately comes to an abrupt end as soon as the stage is cleared after Nile's set. The people working at the venue make it clear that they want us packed up and out of the dressing room pronto. It comes as a bit of mood zapper but at the same time I understand them, I've been there myself many a time. Of course, when you're on tour it's easy to forget that everyone else is leading a normal life whilst you're taking a break from yours.

No matter, it's a short enough drive to Cincinnati tomorrow that we don't have to leave immediately, the night is still young and we're all half pissed. Dutch has set a bus call time for two am and right now he's happily sleeping in his bunk in the van. We head to the nearest bar, intent on sampling a bit of Chicago's night life.

We end up in some Irish bar where there a few people from the show hanging out, drinking Guinness and shooting Jameson's. The whole of our crew is there, along with Chris and Brian and a couple of the other SG guys, as well as our friend John, Nile's stage manager. To our amazement, Ghost Tramp and Fat Jeff are sat at the bar too.

Stage Manager John has a couple of friends in tow with him, guys who live in the city. He's in high spirits and insists on buying a round of something called an Irish Car Bomb, which he supervises as we individually take turns to drink. As lethal as it sounds, it's actually a pint of Guinness with a shot glass of Bailey's dropped in it. The crack is you down it, obviously, although it's not that much of a challenge. John seems chuffed enough though. Of course, we all end up pretty fucking wasted a few rounds later. It's fun to see John taking some time off to relax, since most of the time he's running around stressed out, looking after Nile. When the booze starts to hit him he opens up and tells us that he really likes us guys, loves our attitude. He admits that he doesn't understand our music, but he loves the way we don't give much of a fuck about anything. The night starts to get blurry...

It's funny, because I was happy to see Ghost Tramp and Fat Jeff sat at the bar when we'd walked in but they've sat in the same position the whole time. I thought for a moment this might be the night when we do the drunken hang out thing with them, but it doesn't really happen. Daz and I make an effort an one point and we approach them at the bar. But we're both boats and obviously have a foolishly heightened sense of our diplomacy skills. We walk up behind them and start slobbering something in their sober ears, which they return with an awkward smirk that screams PISS OFF as they attend to the plate of nachos they've ordered in. Realising we're getting nowhere with the conversation our attention soon turns to their grub and before I know it I've got my paw in Ghost Tramp's food, helping myself to a free snack. Daz is attending to Fat Jeff's on the other side. They must have thought we were a right pair of wankers.

A little later on in the night, after another round or two of Irish Car Bombs, we fall in to some chat with a young mother and daughter team who were at the gig. The pair of them are done up in standard denim, hard rock attire. It's hard to tell who has what role in the team since they both look about the same age. They're flirting with the whole gang, telling us our accents are funny and that we're cute.  They must have been the only people in attendance tonight who didn't think we sucked.  Or maybe they did... Anyway, when the time comes to leave they want to hang out on the bus and come to the next show in Cincinnati with us. We tell them that's not possible, that Dutch simply wouldn't allow it. 

I'm not sure how Kev ends up involved in the middle of it, but the mother now has her sights set firmly on him. By the time we stumble back to the van, Dutch is up and making himself a coffee before we set off. Kev is the only person who's missing. We all crack up at the thought of Kev getting it on with Hard Rock Mom. We rush up and stick our heads out of the van door to see where he is and find him running towards us with the woman chasing him across the busy street, “Start the fucking van!”, he's shouting, panic spread across his face. Even Dutch, still brushing the dust from his sleepy eyes, pisses himself laughing at that one.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Victims Tour Diary Part II

The second half of my tour diary from the Black Breath/Victims/Tormented tour will be in the December edition of Maximum Rocknroll.

Although the good ol' record store is sadly, slowly receeding into the annals of history and fond memory, the truly great ones that still exist will almost certainly be stocking your favourite punk zine.  If you're not lucky enough to have a shop in your town then you can find it online at

Again, greatly honoured to be on this fine magazine's pages!