Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Our first “tour”. With everything that's happened in my personal life over the last year or so, namely becoming a father, there hasn't been much in the way of touring. I was so looking forward to travelling to the UK and playing our first set of shows with DB, and even if it was only three shows, it would do just fine for now, in fact with Polly being so young it would probably be just about perfect. I don't think I could handle a three week tour at the moment, that can wait a while.
This was a weekend for firsts. First time in the UK with Diagnosis? Bastard!, with us we had our first seven inch record to sell and it would also be the first time I'd done a tour travelling by public transport, in this case National Express bus and Midland Mainline train. Leave it to Kev.. The thing is, with the stricter emission laws now in place in London, owning a van has become a very expensive business. Gone are the days of buying a cheap, old van and driving about the country in it. These days you have to have a van up to environmental standard, which is of course a good thing, but at the same time very expensive. If you have an old van it costs you a hundred quid per calender day to drive about in London, something which has effected the DIY gig scene a great deal. Kev's old band Regimes had a newer van that was up to standard but since they broke up they had no use for it and sold it, something which no doubt upset Kev since he used to treat the thing like an old man treats his shed. These days Kev's other band I Like BUGS get about the country in their guitarist Jamie's car. DB would be taking the train.. and the bus...
What I love about Kev though is that even at age forty five, exactly ten years to the day older than yours truly, his enthusiasm hasn't waned in the slightest. If anything, it's as strong now as it's ever been. He still tours in DIY bands by any means necessary, he still puts on shows at the Bird's Nest in Deptford and at other spots around London and he still works in London's best vegetarian and vegan coffee shop. He's a huge part of the scene, a scene that wouldn't be the same without him. He'd sorted these shows out for us, along with our friend Wayne, who also sings in BUGS as well as plays drums in Slow Plague, the band that would join us on this jaunt, and had been struggling to find a van for the weekend. No problem, he worked out that the cheapest way for us to get about would be by bus and train, coming in at just under a hundred and fifty quid for the six of us, the other being Pablo from the two piece that is Slow Plague. That's quite a bargain I have to say. Of course it meant we'd be lending all our gear, but that was sorted too, which says a lot about the UK scene right now. There maybe isn't much money involved in shows, but there are a lot of people who are willing to put you up and lend you all their gear just so you can play, which is really quite humbling. And the fact that Kev, the old man of the band is the one who is suggesting we travel by public transport and lug gear around tells you all you need to know about his character.
I was very much looking forward to this, our first trip to England..
Lucas had flown in the day before us to hang out with a friend in Camden and go to some hipster electro nonsense at the Coco. Viktor and I flew in early on the Wednesday. We'd be practising at night at the place where BUGS usually rehearse before the first show in Sheffield the day after. We got the seven am flight which was a bit of a fucker since it meant getting up at four thirty, although three month old Polly has had me in training with early mornings. It was around ten by the time we got to Deptford, where Kev helps run the wonderful Waiting Room Café with our friend Alec, and our other friend Mucky Marcus has the Kids Love Ink tattoo shop right beside. Mucky and Alec own both the shop and the café. The two of them played in Kev's old band Regimes, as well as a bunch of other old bands like Shackle Me Not and Wives of Seth. You see how it works..
Anyway, I had business both at the café and the shop, namely a wholesome Ploughman's sarnie and a peanut butter shake and a couple of tattoos. When we arrived the sun was blazing above Deptford High Street and the place was packed. It's always heart-warming to see Kev stood there in his apron with his hands on his hips, little belly sticking out, looking chuffed. Despite the crowd in front of me Kev shouts over the queue asking what I want, when I tell him I want the peanut butter shake, something I first fell in love with in the States, he retorts, “What? That's fucking minging!” not a hint of a smile on his coupon. It's not though, far from it. Whilst we're waiting for Luk to turn up I pop in to see Marcus and get a couple of bits done. Luk arrives just as I'm finished and Mucky parps straight up, “Oooh allo! You didn't tell me you had a young stud in the band Gaz!”
The deal today is that we have to pick up shirts from a place Kev uses in Camden, as well as drop off some copies of the new seven inch at All Ages. We also have to meet up with a friend of the guys, Viv, who is showing us great kindness in letting us stay at her flat over in Brockley, which is about a twenty minute walk from Deptford. Kev tells us that Viv will come over and drop off the keys at the café. Really kind of her to go out of her way but she soon lets us know that it's no problem, in fact she was more than looking forward to meeting the “sexy Swedish punk band” that would be staying at her place. I get the feeling Viv is gonna eat Luk for dinner..
Before heading to Camden we decide we'll drop the bags off at Viv's place in Brockley. It's fucking roasting and it would be nice to freshen up. Viv has a work meeting booked so she kindly writes a full page of very specific directions to her house and then walks us to the end of the High Street. As soon as she leaves Vik and Luk turn to me and suggest we get a taxi. Lazy bastards. I insist we walk, what with it being a beautiful day and the fact that Viv had gone to the trouble of writing the directions in fine detail. Vik agrees on the strict condition that we hit a pub on the way. We head over to the trendy Royal Albert but can't work out if it's open or not. It's only mid day so it should be..but it looks doubtful somehow. I suggest that we drop the bags off first and then go to a pub, trying to convince them that a pint will taste so much better after a good walk dragging bags. They reluctantly agree and we head off. We get about five minutes up Tanner's Hill and come across another pub, this one a Samuel Smith's brewery, just like the Rock in Corby. Vik insists we stop and by this point I can't disagree. The cold pint of Old Brewery is about the most delicious beverage I've ever tasted.
We get showered and changed at Viv's and hang out there for a while afterwards, just lazing around surfing the internet, talking about what new records we have to buy. The new Framtid album is out soon.. Before we leave, Viv comes home and we decide to take a walk around to Mucky's place around the corner and say hello to his dog, Mucky Pup. Mucky Pup looks just like Marcus... Same cheeky look on it's face. Mucky shares a really nice house with his girlfriend, and Wayne and his girlfriend as well as Jamie all live there too. It's what you have to do in London with the prices being so staggeringly high.
We walk down to Brockley station with Viv, Mucky and Mucky Pup. Somehow time is already getting a bit short and I'm starting to wonder if we'll make it by All Ages. It might not be such a bad thing really since I don't have much space in my bag for records and I'm sure I'll pick a couple up from distros at the shows along the way. As it happens, the train is delayed by about thirty minutes and the plans go out the window anyway. We make it to Camden, pick the shirts up and then grab some food at a Brazilian restaurant, a former favourite of Luk's from the time he lived here. He insists we have to eat these cheese ball things that he's been raving about all day. They are indeed good. Little bread balls filled with a cheesy dough. What's not to like? It's still incredibly hot and a couple of cold beers along with the food hit the spot perfectly. Luk, being “home”, goes for a Caiprinha, discussing at length the cachaca assortment on offer with the rather attractive waitress. I know his game..
By the time we're done I know there is no way we're making All Ages if we're going to get to practice on time. There is also no way we're going to make it to a music store to buy some drum sticks and other small bits. I feel bad about ringing Kev but as usual it's no problem, he says he can shoot off from the café and pick up some stuff from a shop in Deptford. We head back on the tube to London Bridge to make the connection to Deptford. On the train there is a good looking young lady sat across from us talking to a guy I assume is her boyfriend. I take one look at her and know instantly that Luk will have clocked her. I turn my head and of course there he is, almost drooling whilst gazing at her. I crack up, “For fuck sakes Luk, gimme a break!”. He snaps out of it, almost laughing to himself as he hadn't realised he was staring so intently. “It's the Caiprinha. I got a bit of a hit off that”.
We get back to Deptford just in time for a quick coffee and then head around the corner to the rehearsal space that is owned by Marv and John, a couple of older punks that have been around for a long time in bands like Varukers and Conflict. I've met Marv a few times down the years and was hoping to see him tonight but he's not around. John I think I met a long time ago when Speedhorn played with Conflict at the old Goldsmith's Tavern, just down the road in New Cross. I recognise him anyway. He's a really nice guy in any case. The place they have is really great too. It feels nice to be back in the practice room with the full contingent again. Most of the time it's just the three of us back in Stockholm without Kev, just rehearing instrumentally. I'm really in the mood to bang through the twelve minute set list.
It sounds really good in the room and I'm surprised by how tight we are. We haven't practised in a while since we're currently having a row with our rehearsal space's landlord and are in the phase of once again looking for a new place. We blast through Diagnosis? Bastard!, the first song in the set and just as we're about to transgress into the second song, Nausea, Kev holds his hand in the air, “Wait up, wait up! Fucking nose is bleeding!”. It turns out that Kev has bashed himself in the face with the mic whilst singing the first song. He has to shoot off to the bog and get some paper to halt the flow of blood. Somehow it feels like a good omen.
I'm amazed how our twelve minute set can leave me feeling so fucked. We go through it once and then head to the local shop to pick up some cans of beer. On the way back Kev points over to a burned out café on the other side of Deptford High Street, just down the road from their place, where there are a few bouquets of flowers laid outside. Apparently there has been some turf war thing going on between different gangs here and last week someone fire-bombed the café where the old lady proprietor was sleeping and she was killed, ran out into the street on fire and died there in a heap. Fucking horrible. Rumours are somebody had been trying to buy her out but when she refused to move they took an alternative measure..
When we get back to the rehearsal room we find John Conflict and another old punk called Rutty and his two whippet dogs, hanging outside sat at a makeshift table, drinking a couple beers. It's certainly a nice night for it. “Alright Rutty?” says Kev. “I'm alright.. it's all the other cants!” Rutty replies in typical Cockney droll. I have to laugh. Kev tells me he says the same thing every time.. We sit there putting the world to rights over a can and then go back in and go through the set another couple of times. I'm happy with how everything sounds and I'm feeling confident about the shows. Jamie BUGS, who is kind enough to be lending me his guitar, comes down afterwards to hang out, gutted he's missing the gig on Saturday, although I'd say his three week trip to Sydney probably compensates... But still, a little gutted...
We dump some of the gear at the café for the night and then head down to the Royal Albert. It's a trendy, student pub, but I like it. Kev heads home and tells us not to be late in the morning. Pablo is coming in a six seater cab at quarter to eleven. We promise him it won't be a problem and head off to the pub with Jamie. Some of the girls who work at the café are there and we hang out and chat over a couple of beers, but it's a really relaxed night and we head home when the pub closes, maybe just a little bit tipsy, but then it doesn't take much to get me tipsy these days..
When I wake up on the mattress on Viv's living room floor, next to Vik, my head is thumping a little all the same. It's sorted after a shower and a tablet that Luk has in his bag though and by the time we meet Kev and Wayne at Café Bianca on Depftord High Street I'm feeling good. The veggie breakfast there hits the spot magnificently, their veggie sausages tasting particularly good this morning. Washed down with a minging slash glorious cup of tea, I'm ready for the day. We head back to The Waiting Room and pick up the gear and throw a cup of coffee down the hatch before Pablo arrives in the cab. Alec is working at the café today and I can see by the look on his face that he's sad not to be coming with us. He's not in a band at the minute but he should be.
Getting all the gear into the cab turns out to be a bit of a task and we're packed in like fucking sardines by the time we get going to Victoria. We're early when we arrive, by almost an hour, so we decide to check out the pub across the road for an afternoon pint. Kev is moaning about the prices in this posh part of town but to us it's still cheap, what with the strong kronor/weak pound situation. A pint here costs four and a half quid, which right now is about forty five kronors. A pint of English ale back home would be hitting closer to the eighty kronor mark. Me, Vik and Luk are chuffed, of course. Kev sits there calling us a bunch of Scando toffs and moaning. This is something we're going to have some fun with over the next few days..
The bus to Sheffield takes about four hours, making a couple of stops along the way. There's barely anyone on it when we board at Victoria and we head straight to the back where they have a couple of tables. It's as comfortable as any tour van I've sat on. Good work Kev! The only thing we haven't taken into account with our choice of seating is the fact that the bog is situated right next to us.. About an hour later the bus stops at Milton Keynes and there an old lady alights and makes her way straight to the toilet, determined as you fucking like. Something about it cracks us up, especially Wayne, who is close to tears. The lady is in there for a good while and the bus is moving by the time she comes back out. When she opens the door she stands there staring at us with a pale coupon for a moment and then says, “I don't know how to flush that.” I try to answer her but can't hold the laughter in. She just fucks off back down the bus leaving the bog as it is. Kev renames the toilet the Chod Box, something we laugh about for almost the rest of the way to Sheffield.
We arrive in Sheffield, split up into a couple of cabs and make our way to Chris' house. Chris plays in the band Skiplickers and is putting the show on tonight. It's a shame that Skiplickers aren't playing.. Apparently Chris had asked their drummer about a month ago if he could play the show, knowing there was a chance he was double booked with one of his other bands. He never got back to him, until this morning that is when he rang Chris and asked him if they were playing tonight. Chris was less than amused...I was hoping they'd make the show since I really like the band and being their home town crowd would have pulled a few people too. These being our first shows, almost ever, we really can't expect to pull that many people.
Anyway, Chris and his girlfriend have made a really wholesome bean chilli which we gratefully scoop up with tortilla bread. Avi, another member of Skiplickers, who also plays in Dry Heaves and Cry Havoc, lives with Chris, and the two of them have really sorted us out for tonight with gear and a lift in their van. We barely have to do anything, so the least we can do is pop down to Tesco's and buy a load of beer in. Unfortunately I have to bow down to democracy and pitch in for a couple of twenty four packs of Carlsberg, instead of some far nicer ale they have on offer. “Fucking Scando toffs..” mutters Kev as I ponder the higher echelons of the booze aisle.
I remember meeting Avi in Manchester last year when we played there with Victims. Tormented were on tour with us and they had played some UK dates with Cry Havoc previously and had gotten on like a house on fire. We hang out in the back garden catching up on things and drinking a can or two of lukewarm Carlsberg.
The venue tonight is in the cellar of some “rock bar” called Nelson's in the city centre. The room we're playing in is really small with no stage. First scan of the place tells me that twenty or thirty people in here would create a good atmosphere, something of a relief. There are three bands playing so we're half way there anyway. Chris has warned us about the landlady tonight. Apparently she's this old “rock chick” who is really sweet and kind, if not a bit flirty. We meet her as we load in and she is indeed exactly as described. She goes out of her way to make us all a cup of coffee whilst subtly stroking arms and patting backs. As she scoots off Kev turns to me and says, “Whatever happens, don't let me get that drunk tonight!” looking worriedly in her direction.
I'd checked out the other band on the bill, Carer, from Leeds, only briefly but had liked what I'd heard. The song they had online sounded kind of Jesus Lizard/Pissed Jeans in style and I thought it could be promising. I was left a little disappointed in them though. The music was right up my alley, all drone, one riff, driving from start to finish, but the vocals let it down a bit for me. The guy was doing the whole fucked up/talk/sing/rant thing, which is ok in itself, especially if you are David Yow, but the problem was this guy, dressed in a kitsch Bermuda shirt and looking a little akin to Sloth from The Goonies, was doing his best to seem out there, staggering about the floor, eyes closed, mic hanging around his neck by the cable, arms in the air as if reaching for another plane. The problem was, I just didn't buy it. It didn't seem genuine to me. Something that was immediately confirmed to me after they'd played when I found Sloth sat upstairs in the rock bar, drinking a pint, straight as you like. I don't know, maybe someone could think the same of me when they see me throwing my guitar about and spazzing out, but I genuinely just get washed up in the music we're playing.. I'm exactly the same in the practice room. I don't know, maybe it was the same for this guy.. Anyway, the music was enough to keep me watching.
I was only one of a handful though... I thought that Carer had started exaggeratedly early, considering Chris had said the curfew for noise was two am, but as it turns out it didn't make much of a difference. There were a few metalheads upstairs listening to horrible music and nodding their heads, obviously none of them even considering coming down to check out the bands, and there were maybe seven or eight others beside band members in the little room we were playing. I didn't really care though since I hadn't expected much else. Slow Plague played and I was entranced by their bowel crushingly loud set. How Pablo could get so much volume out of a little Ampeg amp small enough to carry around in his rucksack was beyond me. They were fucking great though. Pablo on bass, Wayne on drums and the two of them screaming torture into their mics over the black metalesque doom. By the time they were half way through their set I was on my third pint of John Smith's (utter piss) and feeling tipsy. I kept laughing at seemingly nothing all the time. That was cut short though when the rock chick landlady walked past me and randomly rubbed my belly, “Alright babe..”
We played to about fifteen people including bands. I loved every second of the twelve minutes our set lasted. We played tight and it felt pretty brutal, all of us putting in a lot of energy. Wayne and Pablo were stood in front of me looking like they were enjoying themselves too. This is what it's about. Fuck it if there isn't many people, it doesn't matter. What matters is playing. Afterwards Chris came up to us and said he couldn't believe that a greater number of people hadn't seen us. He told us he thought it was awesome. I couldn't help feeling what a different show it would have been had Skiplickers played but it didn't matter, I was chuffed all the same. And we sold a t-shirt and a seven inch. The guy who bought the seven was the bass player from Carer and the guy who bought the shirt said he was going to come to the show in Nottingham the day after. The wheels of progress in motion right there...
We ended up grabbing a couple of drinks upstairs in the bar. It was truly horrid. There was this circle of young metalheads, both guys and girls, stood nodding their heads and giving the odd air cymbal smash in the appropriate place to the annoyingly loud Pantera/Korn crap coming out of the DJ booth. They didn't say a word to each other, they just stood there, nervously looking at each other, hoping to impress their opposite sex no doubt. Oh how I remember those days. And oh how I'm glad they are long gone. When Avi came upstairs and said it was time to go we were more than happy to oblige. I felt bad though since he and Chris had packed the van with little or no help from us, this after lending us practically everything. They assured us it was no problem.
We end up back at Chris' place and tuck into the remaining cans of Carlsberg. There seems to be a never ending supply of them.. And before long there is a strew of half empty cans about the place. We sit up until around four am, recanting tour tales and other stories from the scene. Luk passes out on the floor beside me first, and then everyone starts to drop one by one. Chris pulls the sofa out into it's double bed form and fixes another larger mattress for the floor space behind it. Me and Luk take the sofa bed, Pablo, Wayne and Viktor take the mattress. Kev has passed out on the other sofa and I have placed the sofa cushions on top of him like a jig-sawed quilt. He seems chuffed enough.
Viktor, being the liberal Swede he is, gets down to his kecks and jumps into bed beside Pablo, who is laying there in his crust punk t-shirt and jeans uniform. “Pablo, you still have your pants on” notes a genuinely befuddled Viktor, not able to grasp how Pablo can be comfortable sleeping in this manner. “Yes, I know” replies a steadfast Pablo. Me and Luk think this is hilarious, and Luk repeats the scene out loud a few times, laughing equally each time, until we all fall asleep.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Roddy did one of the coolest things I ever witnessed as a kid watching a band...
When we were teenagers we'd drink cider in the woods and listen to Metallica on a boombox, stomping about “the tree” and mosh like we were down front in the pit itself. Since we weren't eighteen yet we had nothing else to do... Until Franny Lagan started putting shows on at Channel 2 and Andy Warzone at the Willow Room. Still too young to attend, these places usually let us in on the strict condition we didn't attempt to buy drinks from the bar. And it worked for the most part, at least for a while.. The main thing for us was getting in to see “the band”. We were heavy metal nuts and seeing live bands playing our kind of music in our home town was a fucking dream. Roddy was a few years older than us and played in a great band called Krust. For a while he was the coolest guy in town and we all looked up to him a great deal. A few years later he'd be Speedhorn's stage manager and guitar tech.. but it was a long and rocky road that got us to that point.
Anyway, this one night Krust were playing the Willow Room and me and the gang turned up looking forward to seeing the show. It was to our absolute horror then that on arrival we were told by a very regretful looking Andy Warzone that we would not be allowed entrance due to us being under-age. He'd been getting a lot of hassle from the authorities about letting kids in and his hands were tied. We were truly fucking gutted! I didn't care about drinking the shit lager on offer at the bar, although given the chance I'd gladly have a pint, I just wanted to see Krust play their set. After hopelessly arguing our case for a while, we finally turned away. I felt bad for Andy, I could tell he really wanted to let us in, he, like us, really wanted to help the music scene in the town and he knew we, the kids, were a vital part of it.
Not to be deterred we decided we'd head around the back of the venue and at least listen to the band from there. Directly behind the stage in the venue was a wall of large windows that they would draw curtains across during gigs. This was a floor above ground level, which is where we were stood looking up at the back side of the curtains, listening to Krust start their show. It was loud as fuck out the back and we could hear every note they played. This just seemed to put us further down in the dumps though because as good as Krust were, a big part of the band was the visual live show, which included their friend Nogs dressed in a Frankenstein's Monster suit and Roddy in a doctor's blood covered smock and balaclava, waving various weapons about his head. As we were stood loitering about the back door of the venue listening to them play, a couple of cops turned up and asked us what we were doing. We explained and they were actually pretty cool with us. At first they were of course suspicious but they soon realised we were just a bunch of kids genuinely mad about music and they conveyed a great deal of sympathy with our plight. They left us alone to enjoy the gig as best we could.
Word must have got about inside the venue, no doubt aided by the fact that there was a large contingent of the usual audience missing, because after a few songs we heard Roddy complaining down the mic about the fact we were not allowed in to the show. We got a buzz when we heard him fighting our cause but it was nothing compared to the buzz we got when the band opened up the big curtains behind the stage, turned their back on the audience inside and played to us instead! We went fucking mental and started moshing right there in the car park! You could see Roddy was loving every minute of it and before long he had the crowd inside join him in a chant of “Let them in! Let them in!” This was the coolest thing I had ever witnessed. And fuck me, after a few minutes there was Andy at the back door hastily waving us in to the venue. When we walked in the audience inside gave us a big round of applause and Krust started their set over and we got to watch the whole thing for real.
A lot of dirty water passed under the bridge between that night and the night Roddy quit working for Speedhorn, there were a lot of arguments along the way, most of the time probably our fault, but Roddy went from being our local hero to one of my best friends for a while. And as much as we argued during our time on the road together, we learnt a lot from him, even if most the of the time it was begrudgingly... Roddy had toured all over with various bands and tried his utmost to pass on his experience to us and keep us on track...the problem is, we argued with just about everyone all of the time, none more than amongst ourselves.. And Roddy was always right there in the middle of it. That said, there are some great memories from the five or so years he worked with us...
When we started out, playing hundreds of shows all over the country, travelling about in the dark in the back of a hired Transit van, it was Roddy who was often at the wheel, taking us from town to town. Those who had driving licenses in the band helped out too but Roddy took the wheel for the most part. He also took care of what tour managing there was to do, as well as helping out with merch, fixing gear, you name it. Roddy was our main man, he did everything for us. And being best friends with our manager, Dave, he was also the link between the band and the management/label. Note: having the management and the label under the same roof is not always a good idea...
Now if there is one thing we moaned and fought about more than anything else in the early days, it was the fact that we were always broke. Sure we never had to worry about sorting out payment for the van or Roddy, that was taken care of by the label, but at the same time we didn't have any money in our pockets back then. We used to live on the bare minimum which sometimes amounted to the seven of us, Roddy included, sharing a couple of packets of instant mash and a tin or two of stewed steak. At the time we just got on with it but I couldn't imagine eating that shite now, vegetarian or not..
Anyway, Roddy had to put up with hearing us constantly moan about having no money, and he did a pretty good job of not blowing his lid at us, for the most part... This one day though, we're playing in Wolverhampton I think, and Roddy is driving the van around the block where the venue is, looking for somewhere to park and load in the gear. The thing is it's parking meters all over the place and there doesn't seem to be anyway of avoiding paying for a ticket. We're spread out across the cold Transit floor in the back, getting more and more restless with each lap of the block, some of us dying for a piss, others dying to get into the venue and see if there is any free grub or booze knocking about, Roddy sighing deeper and deeper with each circumnavigation of the venue. Eventually he leans into the back of the van and asks if anyone has any change for a parking meter. He's met instantly with a wave of disdain and moaning, some of us are actually shocked that he's had the gall to ask us if we have money, the odd sarcastic laugh somewhere in the cacophony...”You fucking joking mate? I haven't got a fucking pot to piss in!” Etc, etc.. Roddy huffs and puffs and continues his search of a free space. Of course, as irony would have it, the first corner he takes after being balled out by the lot of us is met by the sound of coins flying out of someone's pockets and rolling across the steel floor of the transit! Typical. We all used to wear these ridiculously baggy jeans with big silly pockets in them and as if style had it's own sense of karma, those pockets gave one of us away. Actually, I don't think it was just one of us, since there were two or three of us scrambling around to pick up the guilty coins. We all thought it was hilarious but Rods was far from amused. As usual, he screamed at us, letting us know that we're a bunch of cunts and refused to talk to us for a while...
He always came around though, although not before getting his own back. I remember later on that day we were sat around waiting with nothing to do. It was some all-dayer and we were playing later on, the load in times for these things always being stupidly early. We had no food and no, or little money, and were bored off our tits. We were all starving and moaning again.. Roddy decided he'd exact some sort of revenge on us by sneaking off to Burger King and treat himself to a meal. He came back with the empty paper bag looking completely chuffed with himself. Of course we all went mad, “Where the fuck did you get the money for that?” grilling him suspiciously. Roddy just had that chuffed little smirk on his face and said nothing.. Later on in the day I went out to the van for something or other and when I opened up the back doors I found Roddy squatted over taking a turd in the empty Burger King paper bag. He just commented matter of factly that the toilets in the venue were “fucking disgusting”...
Roddy used to piss about a lot when driving up and down the country, just to kill the boredom during the seldom periods we weren't partying or fighting with each other. One of his favourites was to slam the brakes on when nobody was expecting it, just to hear us all fly about in the back of the van, these were the days long before we had seats in the back..Of course, he wouldn't do this on the motorway but when we were trawling about the inner cities looking for the venue. This one time in Manchester he did his usual trick and I happened to be lying on the floor at the back of the van, up against a guitar cab. It just so happens my guitar amp was lying up there and when Rods slammed on the breaks the fucking amp fell down and landed on my head. Fuck knows how I came away unscathed! I didn't even really hurt, just shocked me if anything. The guys went fucking mad at him, claiming that he could have killed me. I think he actually felt a bit bad about that one.
But there was plenty we gave him back in return that we had to feel guilty about. Like I say, we were always fighting! And even though we were all at it at one point or another, ninety percent of the time the two that were knocking lumps out of each other were the two singers, Frank and John. Among the worst of times was this occasion we were driving down the M1 in a Transit and trouble erupted in the back between those two. A catty argument soon boiled over in to fists being thrown and Roddy screeching the van to a stop on the hard shoulder. As he did this someone opened up the side sliding door and Roddy's uncased JCM 800 amp, the one he'd been good enough to lend us, fell out on to the tarmac. The van hadn't even come to a complete stop yet. As John and Frank are going at at and we're all piling on top trying to break it up, Rod's is just sat there with a look of horror on his coupon, staring at his amp lying beside the van. As far as the fight goes, it was John as usual coming out on top, and most of us were on him holding him down. Just as we thought it had settled, and unmanned Frank takes a pop at John's jaw, the cheeky cunt. At that we all let go of John and let Frank know he'd be on his own. The two of them end up twenty yards down the motorway in a ditch beside the hard shoulder, Frank losing a shoe along the way somewhere. Amazingly Roddy's 800 suffered no damage and whilst all the mayhem is going on I see Roddy standing proudly over his amp, “Can't beat old school Marshalls. Tough as nails!”..
It went on in this fashion for a couple of years, how Roddy put up with us for that long I'll never know. He finally did end up quitting and moving down to his cousin Kitt's in Exeter, who was one of the former bass players in Krust. We lost contact with him for a few months but then he ended up coming to a gig we had at the Cavern and got pissed up with us. He told us that only the week before he'd been thrown out of the very same club for getting up on stage smashed out his mind whilst a band was on stage, picking up one of the front stage monitors and putting it to his ear and telling the band to give him some vibes. The bouncer's had used his head to open the doors with apparently. I could tell, just by hanging out with him that night that he was missing the life with us. He looked a bit lost down there in Exeter. There was some grudge between him and someone or other in the band though and despite the fact that a few of us were grumbling about bringing him back out on the road, the band answer was no. But then a couple of months later we were heading out on our first European tour, our first on a night liner, and Roddy was back. I've never seen him so happy as he was on that tour. And by then he'd been promoted to stage manager/guitar tech, and he was fucking great at his job. Oh how times had changed...
It was a different, far less stressed Roddy who was out on tour with us now. In fact, we were all a lot less stressed, at least for a while, because things were starting to happen for the band and for a while there we felt like this could go really big. And for a while it did, but we didn't sustain it to long, we just weren't the right people to make something like that last. But that European tour, that first one when we were out supporting Biohazard and playing to an average crowd of about eight hundred a night, was one of the happiest times of my life, of all our lives I guess. Not that we didn't continue to wind each other up...And Rod's still got his share of that.
This one night we're in Copenhagen and we all take a trip to Christiania to check out what it's all about. Eskimos and drugs I'd soon find out. Anyway, Roddy had ended up eating some hash chocolate or something and quite a dose of it it seemed, since a couple of hours later he was totally freaking out. It got to the point where Dave was actually a bit concerned about him and told him to go and chill out on the bus and watch a film. A short while later Dave comes on the bus to find the lot of us slumbering about the back lounge of the bus, lazily watching the film Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, a secret agent movie where all the characters are played by chimpanzees, just like the old PG Tips adverts. Dave takes one look at the tv and then another look at Roddy, who is sat there in pale, terrified, silence and asks us what the fuck we think we're doing. “What? Fucking great film..” replies Frank, completely oblivious to poor Roddy. Dave just pisses himself laughing and calls us a bunch of twats whilst helping Roddy out of there. We hadn't even soundchecked by this point.. meaning Roddy hadn't even started work, the poor bastard. When we did go inside the venue to set things up, it was really dark in there for some reason and Gords thought it would be funny to freak Roddy out by sparking his lighter randomly in his face. Great fucking mates...
As much as we all took the piss out of each other though there was a certain bond between us for those first few years, although sadly it did eventually dissolve. But, as much as we argued with Roddy, we learnt a hell of a lot from him and we knew deep down that he just wanted the best for us. Roddy taught me more about touring than anyone else has since, he taught me all the tricks of making money stretch and how to scam free food, like going in turns into to Pizza Hut when they had an “Eat all you can for a fiver” campaign and sharing the same plate, or turning up at the back of McDonald’s at the end of the night and waiting for them to throw the unused food in the bins. He also drilled it into us that we should always treat people with respect, that great line about meeting the same people on the way up as you do on the way back down, has always stuck with me.
Roddy quit touring with Speedhorn a few times and came back, but it was over for good once he started Viking Skull. To be fair, we were touring less by that point as in-fighting and record label problems finally took their toll. But in Viking Skull Roddy finally got to be in the band he'd always wanted. I remember those first shows when they'd play before us if there was no opening support band as some of the most fun gigs I've seen. It was a great set up since our merch guy and close friend Waldie was also in Skull. I remember thinking of them as our Nig Heist and for a while it was great. But in the end they got more serious and it eventually led to a bit of a conflict between the bands, although I feel that I always supported them. By the time Viking Skull were heading to the next level Speedhorn were already starting to reconnect with some of those friends we'd met on the way up.. The tide was changing.
I haven't seen Roddy for a long, long time now. Not so strange since I live in Sweden and Rod's is still in Corby, and Skull and Speedhorn are now gone. I miss him sometimes. I'm happy to hear that he's still involved in music though, having started a new venue in Corby at the Rugby Club where my uncles sit on the committee. Roddy was always a really great at promoting shows and things seem to be going well with The Zombie Hut. I cracked up when I heard the name, he was always into gore and heavy metal splatter. As soon as I heard what the club was called it made me think of the old days when “The Doctor” would come out on stage waving an axe around, covered in fake blood, possessed eyes staring through the holes in the balaclava. Good times indeed.