Tuesday, June 18, 2013
D?B! In The UK Part One
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.