Sunday, March 3, 2013
First show with Diagnosis? Bastard! It had hit me a few days earlier that this would be the first time I've played a “first show” with a brand new band since 1998. My first show with Victims a few years ago didn't really count because although it was a first for me, Victims had been around since 1997. I was a little nervous that night because it felt like I was on trial in front of the Stockholm punk rock elite, but today was a whole other kettle of fish. I was fucking shitting myself! Although I did my best to hide it from the rest of the guys.. I rarely get nervous before shows and it was pissing me off that I was nervous now.
Hometown shows are always a little special, but add to that playing with a brand new band, playing songs most people have never heard before, with the crowd containing a fair contingent of friends and band mates and you've got a recipe that will make your ring-piece quiver. By the time the night came around I was just looking forward to having it over and done with. I tried to shake the nerves from my system, telling myself to get a grip, that this isn't like me, but it was no good. The butterflies continued to flutter...
I started this band with Viktor the day after Andy told me that he and Kristin were having another baby and Victims would have to scratch plans for a west coast States tour we had in the pipeline. As happy as I was for Andy and Kristin, I had an overwhelming feeling of panic, a panic that was screaming my touring days were numbered. Of course, sense would soon prevail and I'd realise I was being stupid, that Andy would still want to tour when things had settled down, albeit with a smidge more planning, but at that time I knew I had to get in touch with Viktor and ask him to play in a band with me. Besides, playing in bands with good friends is far too much fun to restrict yourself to just the one.
I'd been thinking about asking Viktor to start a band with me for a while anyway, since he'd become a good friend and is a great drummer. Of course he was still playing in Nitad as well as Pig Eyes, but I had a feeling he might be up for starting a straight up hardcore band with me anyway. When Viktor told me he was in, I then thought of Bloody Kev, since we'd promised ourselves upon leaving Raging Speedhorn that we'd get another band together one day. Although he still lived in London and practising would take some organising, I knew he was just looking for an excuse to visit Stockholm on a more regular basis. So a simple text message back and forth and Kev was in too. With the three of us sorted, all we needed was a bassist. I had a couple of ideas but Viktor had already made his mind up. Our Brazilian friend Lucas was living here and hadn't been in a band since Avalanche back home had split up. He'd always been a guitarist but Viktor knew he'd jump at the chance to play, bass or whatever it was, it wouldn't matter. Weirdly enough, Lucas told us later on that he'd actually been thinking of asking me and Viktor about a band but we'd beaten him to it. So Lucas was in too..
When I started writing songs I was just wanting to come up with some simple, straight up hardcore somewhere along the lines of Totalitär mixed with a bit of old UKHC stuff, thinking that when Lucas began to write we'd get a good mix of things. So I wrote a couple of songs along that line but Viktor had other ideas. From the start he began playing the songs about three times as fast as I'd planned and it kind of stuck. When Kev turned up and started screaming on them we'd become something completely different to what I'd first thought we'd be.. but I was chuffed all the same.
From that first practice things moved along pretty quickly and within four months we'd recorded our first seven inch with a couple of labels in place to release it and we'd booked our first show, with P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. and Kvoteringen. Ironically, Jen was now expecting our baby and all of a sudden my life was going at two hundred miles an hour... Still, Jen plays in Black Whitesnake and although we're both delighted about having a kid, neither of us intend to stop playing music. So now, I'm in three bands with a baby on the way. Funny the left turns life continues to take.
So before we head to the gig, we squeeze in a quick run through of the set at the practice room. The set is only twelve minutes so it's not a problem. We turn up at Kafe 44 and hang out with Bengtsson who is at his usual piss taking best. He puts me at immediate ease with his gibing. Sikas is with us, who's decided he's selling our merch at every single show we play. He's up for selling some “blouses” as he puts it and partying with us. He's travelled up from Göteborg just for tonight, the crazy bastard. Another friend, Grind Ove who works at Trash Palace record shop, is also hanging out. Sikas and Ove are discussing the haul of records Sikas purchased at Trash Palace earlier, a usual occurrence when Sikas is in town. It's said that Sikas owns something like sixteen different versions of Scum by Napalm Death...And that he owns nothing by them after From Enslavement...
We sit down at one of the tables in the café and ease ourselves into the night with a couple of medium strength beers, mellanöl as it's called in Sweden. I don't dare get too drunk before the show... Another friend hanging out is Christoffer, who used to play in Sonic Ritual with Viktor and now plays in AC4. Of course, the punk scene being the incestuous merry-go-round it is, Christoffer also played in a band with Kelly from P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. and Andy from Victims, but those guys haven't seen Kelly for a long time since he moved back to Portland from Germany. Unfortunately, Christoffer's in a bit of a sorry state since he's broken his toe, or foot or something and won't be able to hang around for the show tonight. Good to see him all the same. It's funny, I remember the first time that Kev set eyes on Christoffer was at Punk Illegal a few years ago. He was wearing this black pin striped suit and some ridiculous Kim Jong Il/Paris Hilton sunglasses. I have to say, I've always admired the cut of Christoffer's jib, he's not afraid to “go there” if you know what I mean... I could see the look on Kev's face though and I knew he was thinking, “Who's this posing cunt?”. But before he could express his thoughts Christoffer had turned around and there, sitting proudly, covering the entire back of his suit jacket was a Gauze patch. Gauze being Kev's all time favourite band, the look on his face was priceless. They seem to have gotten on well ever since.
It's only an hour until doors and there is no sign of either Kvoteringen or P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. so it's up to us to sound check. I was only too happy for the chance since I was hoping it would settle my stomach. It didn't start well though. At Kafé 44 you never know who you're going to have doing the in-house sound for you since it's a DIY schooling ground for young people finding their way around a sound board. I know a few people who worked here early on in their sound-engineer careers, Johan Victims being a prime example. It really is a great thing that the institution that is the Kafé exists and young punks get the chance at a self supervised apprenticeship, doing sound for all types of DIY bands that come through. That said, I don't know if it was this particular guy's first punk gig or what, but when Viktor started checking his snare drum and the guy asked, “Are you really going to hit it that hard during the gig?” I had a sinking feeling we were in for a rough time...
Not like I'm a fucking expert or anything... The Kafé's guitar cab I was using had no ohm indicator by the speaker input. Now I couldn't even tell to you what a fucking ohm is, it doesn't matter how many times Johan has tried to explain it to me..so I asked the sound guy if he knew how many ohms the cab was at, but he told me he had no clue about such things. Well that makes two of us.. I actually had to call Johan whilst bent over the fucking thing, contorting my torso into the slither of space between the back of the amp and the wall, hoping he could help me out. He told me that if the cab doesn't have a marker on it then sixteen ohms from the amp is always safe. He went through the whole explanation of how ohms work, again, but he may as well have been talking Chinese to me. I thought to myself that the next time I get a tattoo done I'll get a 16 written on my arm somewhere...
We eventually went through a couple of songs. Sikas, and another friend; Jamie, who plays in I LIKE BUGS with Kev and had flown in from London to hang out for the show, listened in while we played. The sound guy had been having a bit of a struggle with the P.A. but things seemed to be progressing ... I guess it didn't really help that the speakers in the P.A. were pretty shagged.. He asked us to play through a song once we'd eventually got the different sounds up. He was pretty thrown though when the song was done after thirty seconds.. After pissing about with another couple of songs we finally arrived at what Sikas and Jamie though was a decent enough sound. We packed down the gear and went off to meet Jen and grab some food at La Neta.
It was Saturday night and it was one of Kafé 44's party nights, meaning they had beer for sale. It's usually an all-ages place where they sell coffee, soda and vegan food. There are both positives and negatives to them selling booze on these occasions. Obviously, they're selling beer and the atmosphere is in that case a lot looser and people tend to hang out at the venue and party a lot more, but of course they can only do this by making it over eighteens, which is a shame. The problem being when they don't sell booze all the older punks fuck off to the pubs around the block between bands, leaving the place desolate for long periods of time which kills the atmosphere completely. And it usually means that you start playing to nobody and hope that the room slowly filters in people as you play through the set. Still, without doubt, Kafé 44 is still my favourite place to play in Stockholm. When you play a packed show here there is no beating it.
Anyway, when we get back, having filled ourselves on great Mexican food, the Kafé is indeed starting to fill out. Sikas is sat at the merch table where we're selling all of one t-shirt design and a badge, with a huge grin on his face. He's surrounded by a gang on young, blonde girls and he's lapping it up, sat there looking like a right slick bastard! “What the fuck is going on ére!?” exasperates Kev, “Fuck bringing Sikas along to every show if this is the crack!” Me and Viktor piss ourselves laughing.
There are a large amount of friends here tonight and I'm beginning to feel more settled, the nerves finally starting to subside. There are some work mates that have come along to the show too, which is always fun because they come from a completely different scene and it's always interesting to see their reaction to this music we play. There are even a couple of old boys who regularly hang out at Snotty who no doubt tagged along when they heard that the beer was only twenty kronors here...
Before I know it the clock says eight-fifteen and the time for the first DB set has arrived. On in fifteen minutes. It's time to play the first “first show” in a long time. I'm now back to shitting myself! So nervous my legs are like fucking jelly. I fucking hate this. I haven't felt like this since I was a kid treading the stage for the first time at Channel 2 in Corby with Sect. I forgot.. It is so much worse when you're playing to a room full or friends. As soon as I'm on stage and plugged in the feeling subsides again though. Well almost. I can tell Lucas is nervous as well since he's pacing back and forth across the stage checking that everything is in place. The room slowly begins to fill. Here they come.. Ok, let's get this thing going. Just twelve minutes and then we're out of here.
We're all set, ready to go. But... No sound from Lucas' amp. My amp actually, my Marshall JMP . Got Lucas going Lemmy style. I see him on the other side of Kev, banging away at his strings, confused as to the lack of sound coming from the amp, a look of mild panic on his coupon. I have a feeling I know what's up though. I walk over to him and my suspicions are confirmed. I turn the standby switch to “on” and voilà. We give each other a nervous laugh. Ok, let's fucking do this!
Fuck me, the songs feel fast. The first block of three are all connected so that there is no pause in between them and by the time we get to the end of it my forearms are cramping with tension. There was one little sloppy exchange between the first and second song, something we all notice but hopefully nobody watching could tell. How could they? They've never heard any of this shit before. I look down at Jen, who is stood at the front, protecting her pregnant belly by hiding away in the doorway to the corridor that runs along the other side of the wall from the gig room, smiling away as we play, but I can tell she can't really make out much of what is going on. She's heard me jangling about with some of these riffs at home but now everything is all going so fast that it's a bit of a blurrrrrrr. It hits me then that, to the rest of the crowd this must sound like utter chaos. Of course, that's kind of what it's supposed to sound like, but maybe the choice we made of linking the songs together when no one has ever heard them before wasn't the best idea.. The idea was that since most of the songs are less than fifty seconds it would be better to do it that way, so the set wouldn't just be a load of gaps filled out with some noisy music, but now I just see a look of total confusion on most people's faces.. Thankfully there are some smiles around too.. Thankfully they're not of the piss taking kind either..
Fuck it. By about half way through, around about six minutes later, I feel myself truly beginning to loosen up and I'm even starting to enjoy it. The couple of breaks there are in the set are met with generous applause and cheering and the songs are tight enough, despite the nervous strain on my muscles. Everything is still way fast, but it always is live. I learnt that pretty quick when I joined Victims. Record speed. Practice room speed. Live speed. Three completely different things..
On the other side of things there is a guy who is talking to Kev out in the café, somewhat in awe of the fact that Kev was the Hard To Swallow vocalist. He actually can't believe it for a while and stands there looking at Kev, jaw dropped in amazement. Sikas joins in, being that he's also a fan of HTS. It's all going well until the guy makes the mistake of labelling Hard To Swallow as an Iron Monkey side project.. Kev hastily puts him straight.
I see Viktor hanging out with our buddy Modde, the Nitad singer and Jenny's girlfriend, who's steamboats and telling Vic that he loved the show, slurring into his ear a couple of bands who he thought we sounded like a mixture of. Vic is chuffed with the assessment what ever it is. It's always like that when you start a new band, people try and work out who you are a mixture of, which of course is there to be worked out because every new band is a mixture of some older stuff. There is nothing new under the sun, as they say. Someone else tells me that they thought we sounded like D-Clone covering Totalitär songs, and that was just fine by me.
A little while later one of the old boys that usually hangs out at the bar I manage approaches me. Jorma, a chuffed, Finnish pisshead. I can't quite believe he's tagged along tonight. He grabs a hold of me with a huge smile on his face and gives me a bottle of beer. I thank him gratefully. “I used to work at a steel plant back in the day, I recognised that melody from that place on stage!” He then pisses himself laughing and then gives me another hug. Good old boy.
It's a relief to finally be able to relax and enjoy the night. I watch parts of the Kvoteringen and P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. sets but spend most of the night chatting to different friends and acquaintances, as you always do on these occasions. The beer soon runs dry in the bar though, which of course coincides with a large chunk of the public disappearing. No beer, no punks. By the time P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. are done the place has emptied considerably and Bengtsson wants to close the place as quick as he can. I get chatting to the guitarist from P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. for a while who seems to be a really nice guy. He tells me about how their tour has been going and how their show in Oslo the night before had been a bust since there had been a big ruckus between some punks and Nazi skinheads in town and when the punks at their show got word of what was going on they'd all fled to aid their comrades. What are you supposed to do? The punks had to go and stand up to those assholes but the band went from playing a packed little show to playing to pretty much no one. Tough break. Fucking Nazi's...
Bengtsson eventually clears the last stragglers out and it's time to head off. Andy Victims, Kev and I end up taking the train over to Brooklyn Bar and meeting the rest crew there who had taken a cab. The place is packed when we arrive but Sikas has procured a table so we park ourselves. There is beer a plenty and no one goes parched for the rest of the night. My old work mate Frasse is stood behind the bar taking care of us. Lucas is buzzing from playing his first show in a long time and seems to be well on the road to inebriation. Viktor is sat beside him with a broad smile on his face, looking like he's on the same journey. Andy's got that look I know that tells me he's half pissed as well and Kev is cosying down into one of the big armchairs, gently nodding off into the land of sleep, something that happens all the time with that fucker. The first time I saw Kev in this state was at an impromptu party that Speedhorn played in the basement of the King George by the Astoria in London, long before he joined the band. I clocked him from the stage, stood propped up against the bar, full pint in hand, stupid grin on his face, fast asleep. I've witnessed it many times since, tonight being just another such occasion.
There are a shit load of friends hanging out and the atmosphere is buzzing. Now that the first show is done and we survived it, I find myself wishing we were on tour and that we were heading off to another show somewhere else tomorrow... It seems that everyone sat around our table is pretty pissed up, everyone except myself and Jamie, but that's fine with me. I'm having a great time anyway. I had a pretty rough ride a few weeks ago, and I have no need to experience that again any time soon.. It was the previous time Kev was over and D-Clone were playing 44. The day after I suffered the worst hangover I'd experienced since I was a teenager. Total sprawled out on the bog floor, cuddling the pan and praying to God for mercy stuff. Fuck that crack! I don't do hangovers very well.. Thankfully I don't do them very often nowadays..
Andy heads off after the one beer, he's got a new baby at home and I guess it's not really the time to be getting fucked up. The rest of us shuffle out when the lights in the bar come on a little after three. Lucas is shouting “After party”, and doing some sort of tropical dance. He only lives around the corner so we head there. Fuck it, it's not often I'm out this late and I'm sober. The band and Jamie end up sat around at Lucas' place passing a bottle of cachaca around whilst Lucas runs around his flat hysterically, playing air guitar to the Crazy Spirit album spinning on the turntable. Like a kid, I put the bottle to my mouth but don't take in any of the spirit, fooling the others in to thinking I'm drinking. Ridiculous really, don't know why I don't just tell them I don't want any. Jamie has a few drops as does Kev, who is now falling asleep on Lucas' couch.
Lucas is in great form though. Between running around and drinking cachaca, he makes us some grub. I get him to put the kettle on. So at the “after party” I'm sat drinking tea and eating cheese on toast like an old man. All I'm missing is the tartan slippers and the cardigan. Jamie is vegan, so Lucas makes him a bit of toast with a carrot on it. I find this hilarious but Jamie seems chuffed enough. We end up staying an hour or so until I feel the sudden urge to go home. Kev, Jamie and I depart leaving Lucas dancing about the place and Viktor taking good care of the cachaca. We jump in a cab back to my place, getting home sometime around four thirty.
Funny thing is, now I'm actually in the mood for a night cap and offer the boys a drop of whiskey. I make the sofa bed up and then the three of us sit there watching some inane late night tv, nursing a glass of eighteen year old Talisker. Me and Jamie are chatting away, enjoying the peppery taste of one of my favourite Scotch whiskeys whilst Kev is slumped with his glass resting on his chest. When he eventually takes a sip he shunts the glass in my direction, “Fucking minging!”. Cheeky bastard. Me and Jamie share the rest of Kev's and leave him to sleep, before eventually calling it a night ourselves.
When I climb into bed beside Jen, I'm now glad that we're not on tour, because if I was then I'd most likely be getting up again in a few hours to drive all day and right now I couldn't be fucked with that. Right now, crawling into bed with my pregnant wife will do just fine. And besides, there will be plenty of tours in the future...