Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Crew: Bianchi

“If you name your band Raging Speedhorn, I swear, I'll manage it!”

And history was made...

This was maybe the second or third time I'd met David Bianchi.  We were sat around a camp fire at Reading Festival, must have been ´98 I guess, and he'd just been recounting the story of an acquaintance who had had a rather rough night on speed.  The guy had taken a shit load of the stuff, come home as randy as a dog on heat, only to recoil in horror at the realisation his wife was away from home.  With no other alternative available, he climbs into bed and starts rabidly beating off.  Of course, speed may well make you horny but it can also turn you anorgasmic, the guy, whoever he was, was not to be beaten, or actually he was, and he went at it all night until he chaffed his bobby ruby red.  “He had a right raging speed horn!” laughed Bianchi at the climax of this non-climaxing story.  I knew right then what I'd be calling the band, I knew the guys back home would love it.  And so it was.

Bianchi was Roddy's best mate from back in the day when they both attended Lodge Park School together, the very same hell hole I went to.  I hear it's a lot better these days.  The first time I'd seen him he was playing bass in Roddy's band Krust, at the annual Battle of the Bands that took place at The Welfare in Corby.  I say “playing bass”, he was actually just jumping around the stage like a tit playing very little from what I could hear.  Still, you couldn't take your eyes off him.

The first time I met him officially was at a show my old band Soul Cellar were playing, at the old Mean Fiddler in London, sharing a bill with Cathedral and Acrimony.  Bianchi had come down to meet us, via Roddy, to talk about the possibility of managing us, or at least helping us out.  At the time he was working on the tv show TFI Friday, working with the music side of it I think.  This was around about the time Napalm Death had appeared on the show and it was a huge thing, given that the usual fare appearing at the time were the likes of Paul Weller and Ocean Colour Scene.

Bianchi had left Corby with Roddy and moved to the punk scene in Nottingham, where he was known as Corby Dave, and still is to most of that crowd, before moving down to London to make his way in the music business.  Roddy and Dave were always top value entertainment, always bickering about what was better, metal or goth, sometimes the bickering cranked up a notch, but they were as thick as thieves and always will be I reckon.

Bianchi always cut an impressive figure.  The man can fucking talk for England, confidence oozing from his every word, bullshit or not, it doesn't matter, the man can make you listen and what's more, he can make you believe.  When I met him the first time I was really unsure.  I mean, I liked him, you couldn't doubt he was funny and he commanded respect, but being the little hardcore kid who was shit scared of the music industry, I didn't quite trust the guy.  This was nothing personal, I just had an ingrained mistrust of anyone in the “business”.  But trust him or not, you couldn't help being drawn to him.  I didn't know if he was going to manage Soul Cellar and I really didn't know if he could do anything for us, but certain members of the band were convinced we were going to be huge with this loud talking southerner (he was originally from Kent) taking care of us.

It didn't work out.  Bianchi sorted us out with a gig at the old George Robey Club, an opening slot on the Terrorizer Magazine Christmas Bash, incidentally the night I first saw Iron Monkey and my life changed forever, but the band soon disintegrated thereafter, for one reason or another.  We were never going to cut it if the truth is told, we were ok, we could play, but we didn't have that spark.  What we were in fact, was a perfect band to be in and learn from, the band before the band that does something.  And besides, after seeing Iron Monkey my head was already turned.  I knew I no longer wanted to be in a “metal” band, I wanted to do what they were doing.

As it happens, Dave's head had also been turned that night and shortly afterwards he was indeed managing Iron Monkey.  This was the state of play when Roddy brought him over to that camp fire at Reading 98´.  Being that we were sat around a camp fire drinking beer as opposed to sat around a table in a club having a semi-formal meeting, me and Dave hit it off a lot better in this relaxed atmosphere.  Well, I liked him a lot more I guess you can say.  He still had all that big shot thing going on, and his tongue could still tie you in knots, but I realised he was also funny as fuck.  Unsure before, I was now desperate for him to manage my band.

Roddy, well aware of what was going on, kept Dave up to date on events and told him that we were calling the band Raging Speedhorn and recording a demo pronto.  Would he keep his vow I wonder?  Roddy assured me if the demo was up to scratch then he would because Corby held a huge place in his heart and he would love nothing more that to manage a gang of twats from his beloved home town, providing there was something to work with..

We recorded four songs at Premier Studios with our old friend Iain Wetherell and the rest is history.  We sent it off to Dave via Roddy and within a couple of days Bianchi was our manager.  It just happened to be that he'd started working for a Jamaican R&B guy, not actual rhythm and blues I must stress but the piss that stole it's name in the Nineties, i.e. cack like Mark Morrison, Destiny's Child et al.  Anyway, this Jamaican, a charming gangster by the name of Johnny Laws, was Bianchi's boss at this management label called Green Island.  Somehow Bianchi managed to talk Johnny into funding a subsidiary label called Black Island that he would run with the help of his mate Andrew Carter.  Black Island of course would be more geared towards rock and metal.. I have to admit, once again I was pretty fucking freaked out by meeting these other industry people and Laws scared the piss out of me when I first met him, but I now fully trusted Bianchi, and Carter, and knew they'd look after us.

The plan was simple.  Get out and play.  Here, there, every fucking where.  Don't matter who with, just get out and tour your arse off.  They'd provide a van and money for petrol out on the road and little else.  We didn't need much else, it was a dream deal for us.  All we wanted to do was escape Corby, play our ten songs every night and get pissed.  I didn't think it would last forever, I didn't care.  I didn't care that we had no money for food and that we played to around ten to twenty people a night.  It all beat the shit out of working in a warehouse in Corby and it was all part of a bigger plan hatched by Bianchi and co.

And for a few years it worked.  Brilliantly.  Like us or hate us, you couldn't go anywhere in the metal scene in the UK and not hear our name.  And we played so fucking much that we became a tight unit live.  We also began to hate each other but that's another story.

Funnily enough, during all the groundwork days of the band, when we were touring the infamous “toilet scene” in the UK, Bianchi rarely came out on the road with us.  It was mainly just the band and Roddy, and then later Big Doug.  Sometimes Carter would show up but he soon got pretty sick of us demanding his money for beer and then not allowing him to sleep in the van with us.  Bianchi would show up to the bigger stuff, which at the time usually meant support slots in London, but he kept away from the van.  And then when we hit the road in Europe, travelling on a night-liner for the first time, he decided it was appropriate for him to come out on the road with us, stating that now things were getting bigger he needed to come and help Doug out with the tour managing since he was still learning his trade.  It was a pretty see-through move to be fair, but we were all chuffed nonetheless.  Bianchi was always good for a laugh and everything always felt that little bit safer with him around, or should I say, we felt like we could get away with anything because no matter what situation we got ourselves into, he would be able to talk us out of it.

Bianchi travelled with us around Europe, Japan and the States for the next couple of years and they were some of the best years of my life, without any doubt.  Bianchi was a huge part of that.
As much as he was a business man, determinedly making his way up the industry ladder and hungry for success, he absolutely loved coming out on tour with us.  He loved a piss up as much as we did, in fact, he could drink us all under the table, which he did on many an occasion, although Roddy has always stated that he must cheat somehow, and as much as his manager head came on whenever needed, he was as usually in the middle of the nonsense right along with the rest of us.  More than anything though, you really felt he was a genuine fan of the band, it was like the songs were as much his as ours.  It's a wonderful thing to have that kind of support.

During that first European tour, supporting Biohazard, we had a bit of an icy relationship with their tour manager, Bob Bulldog.  It was the general consensus that he was Evan's man, and he treated him like a fucking God.  He treated us with an ever so subtle air of condescension and you could tell that he didn't really trust us one hundred percent.  Fair enough I suppose.  But Bianchi and Doug were determined to out tour manage him, which they did it's fair to say.  Bob was very loud and very American, Dave was very gabby and assured, but in a more charming, southern lad way.  I remember a night in particular when we played in the Bavarian town of Lindau and Bulldog had some beef with the promoter over money.  I don't know the exact crack, but I'm guessing he wasn't being paid the full amount.  The situation got heated for a while but eventually it was sorted.  The thing is, Bianchi was calm the whole time.  He spoke to the promoter with respect and at the same time authority and needless to say we were paid what we were owed.  Whilst Bulldog was stomping around shouting his mouth off but not really getting much achieved, Bianchi was getting us our money.  Not only that he was somehow charming the promoter into giving us a load more booze and by the end of the affair the promoter was telling him we'd be welcome back any time.  I remember being sat on the bus with Doug and Bianchi afterwards, Bianchi smug a fuck, explaining to Doug the cruciality of knowing when the need for talking over fighting comes into play.  An hour or so later we're having an after party in one of the backstage rooms with all the newly acquired booze and Bianchi is off his fucking nut!  He goes on the rampage with a broom, sweeping a table full of booze and glass onto the floor, laying waste to the place, and a couple of hours after that he's brought a skinhead onto the bus to ride with us after we've just had a full on riot with some Nazi's.  Weird situation.  But that's another story that will be explained later... In fact almost all of those major stories involve Bianchi, such as the jail incident in Spain and the hash cake affair in Holland, and they deserve their own dedicated time to be told in full.  They will be at some point.

The thing I loved about Bianchi though, is no matter how business like and serious he needed to be, the Corby boy in him was never far from the surface and never needed much convincing to come out and play.  I remember one time on the bus, one of those decadent nights where we'd all drank a ridiculous amount of booze, after watching Daz down a third of a bottle of Grouse, not completely willingly if I'm honest, Bianchi went one better and drank a huge gulp of aftershave.  I remember him choking on his own poisonous saliva and shouting he's gone blind.  Fucking nonsense.

As with all the guys involved with the band in those days, Bianchi didn't just work with us, he also became a good friend, and for a while we were pretty close.  His wife Alison was a huge Liverpool fan and that alone was enough for me.  And as with all good friends, they can tell you when you're being a prick.  Bianchi never had a problem telling you how it was, which is exactly what a gang of idiots like us needed a lot of the time.  Like the second time we went to the Kerrang Awards... The year before had been an absolute disgrace, the year of Eklandgate, and I was determined not to let the same thing happen again.  In fact, I was wholly against going at all.  I'd gotten it into my head that I despised such events and all the people who went to them.  I couldn't stand c-list arseholes in their shit indie bands telling me that they loved my band when clearly they didn't.  I determined that this time if I was forced to go then I would be in no way forced to drink or indeed enjoy myself.  I stood there in the lobby beside Bianchi, explaining this to him, over and over, sniggering at different cretins in amongst the crowd, “Look at that fucking wanker!  Fuck this place!” and so on, sipping at my martyrical glass of water.  Another five minutes or so of this and I was actually beginning to bore myself, and is if reading me like a book, Bianchi cut me off, “Oh for fuck sake Gaz, shut up and have a fucking drink!” as he whipped a pair of champagne flutes from a passing waiter.  Two hours later I was lying in a bush outside the venue.  Bubbly gets me every time... Thanks boss.

Another classic Bianchi tale, yet another that is actually part of a bigger story was the day after a very bad night in Vienna.  We'd met at breakfast in a café just down the road from the hotel, all of us in sombre mood.  A bad crack had gone down the night before... Bianchi was very serious.  He told us in no uncertain terms that if we didn't start reigning things in immediately then he would no longer want to manage us.  It was a bit of a bombshell at the time.  We're all hungover to fuck and one by one assure him that we'll sort things out.  With that we finish breakfast and with a whole day to kill, head to the Tivoli for a day of roller coasters and fun.  We convince a boastful Roddy to go on that daft fucking ride that shoots you up into the air at stomach emptying speed, like the Freefall, but opposite.  Roddy agrees to take the ride on for a collection of our money, which we agree to.  The thing is, the whole time we've been watching the ride, it's only been going up the once.  Whilst Roddy is awaiting his turn in the queue, just as he's about to go on, the ride suddenly goes up and down twice.  “What the fuck?!  It's only supposed to go once!” shouts Roddy, failing to hide his concern.  We all convince him to proceed, wafting what amounts to about a tenner in the air as bait.  Roddy alights the ride, by which time we're all pissing ourselves laughing at his pale face.  The ride does indeed shoot up and down twice.  When Roddy comes sinking down to the ground after the second time, looking a little sad, he catches sight of Bianchi stood at the cabin that houses the guy controlling the ride with a wod of money in his hand...”No... No Dave!  Dave!!  Daaaaavvvvvve!!!” screams a terrified Roddy as he flies back up into the air, Bianchi peeling off the notes and placing them in the Controller's hand.  I almost threw up laughing!  Poor Rods didn't find it so funny and when he was finally able to disembark, a couple of rides later, he told us he had to go off and be on his own for a while.  We later found him in a crowded area, sat eating a cheeseburger looking gutted.  Only a few hours earlier Bianchi had been threatening us with quitting.. but how could he?

Well, eventually he did.  In a way.  In fact, things just fizzled out between us, just like they did with the first era of the band really.  We actually parted ways with Johnny Laws and Black/Green Island after our relationship became unfixable and we were left in a bitter mess with our record label.  It was a horrible affair in truth, for six months I did nothing but speak to our lawyer, we didn't even set foot in our practice room, I just lay low in Sweden, constantly on the phone.  How the breaks had been stepped on.. The sad thing is, amongst all this chaos we were forced to cut ties with Bianchi and Carter, which really did hurt at the time.  They were bound to Johnny and we couldn't be any longer.    Of course a short while later Dave and Andrew were off as well as things went rapidly pear shaped for Laws, but by then we had a new manager, which turned out to be another disastrous episode.  But that's another story...

A couple of years after parting with Green Island, Dave came back.  I'd bumped into him at a record release party we were having in London and he told us he missed us.  Fuck me did we miss him!  We booted our manager, a nice enough woman called Lisa who just couldn't handle us, in spectacular fashion in Japan, again another story, and Dave was back!  Carter had left for the States by this point which was too bad.  The truth is though, things weren't the same the second time around.  They rarely are...  We'd gone missing from the touring circuit for too long and a large part of the fan base had turned their attention elsewhere.  And we were becoming increasingly hard to manage, with Frank finally quitting having threatened to do so for a long time.  The timing was shit though, right before a UK tour for our new album.  I kind of took over the manager's role in the band, with Dave there to help me when needed, but we became more and more distant.  He did manage to sort us out a full scale tour of the United States, which was amazing in many ways, not all good/amazing but something I'll never forget, or regret.  The thing is as Doug before him, Bianchi was on to bigger and better paying things and we were heading in a more DIY direction, which is all I'd ever wanted anyway.  Don't get me wrong though, I'm thankful we got to do what we did for those few years, and we're in debt to Dave and Andrew for that.  Changed my life forever.

I don't think Bianchi ever really officially stopped managing the band, just one day he didn't any more.  I was disappointed at the time but in hindsight I know it was fair enough.  We'd been a ridiculously thankless band to manage and we got far more out of it than he ever did I'm sure.  We don't see each other much any more, although there is always the odd catch up.  On the rare occasions I have hooked up with him I've ended up fucking steamboats, he still has that nack of getting you.  One time he was in Stockholm on business, it was a Tuesday night and I went out to meet him for a few drinks.  I promised Jen I'd get a cab home since she was worried I'd end up sleeping on the suburb train travelling back and forth all night, and she knew how things normally went when Bianchi is in town.  Needless to say I was awoken by Jen calling me at six am, very confused finding myself lying next to Bianchi in his hotel bed.  We were both fully clothed, I might add.  And I did  get a cab home..

The last time we actually saw each other was at a Victims show in London a year or so later but we had to leave early for a ferry back to the mainland and although he managed to get one shot of Tequila down me I resisted any more.  My lasting memory of Dave though always makes me smile, whenever I think of it.  Just a silly little memory, but I like it.  We're sat on the tour bus driving somewhere through the night across Europe, we're all in good spirits and the booze is flowing.  I remember how happy I felt at that time.  We're singing old kids tv theme tunes and at one point somebody starts up Button Moon.  We all softly sing along to that song's strangely melancholic tones, all of us together.  When we come to the end of the verse we fade out as one, all except Bianchi, who blasts into the next verse, eyes closed, with all the enthusiasm of an opera singer.

Funny how all the things you go through together and it's little memories like that you hold most dear.

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