Tuesday, November 10, 2015


The first thing I thought about this morning was the fact that my mouth didn’t taste too bad, considering I’d forgone the option of brushing my teeth last night. Still, a good brushing was first on the list of things to do this morning. And after that would be the search for a headache pill. I wasn’t that drunk last night but my body is still feeling the effects of two days of slow, steady drinking. I look up from my low lying bed and see Vik making his way to the can. He’s quite a sight. Eyes puffy and barely open, hair a little ruffled. Are those silk bockies he’s wearing, they’ve certainly got a sheen to them. I look at the state of him and think what a lucky girl Bea is. He disappears into the bog with a groan.

The shower is lukewarm and of little immediate comfort but I do feel a little better once washed and dried. And the teeth are clean again, the day starts to take shape. I lie back down on the bed for a while and wait for the rest to stir into life. I hear Vik from the double bed he’s shared with Luc say, “It feels like we’re living in a Coke refrigerator”, and I’m struck by the accuracy of this observation. One could rightly assume that the hotel is indeed sponsored by that all encompassing conglomerate considering the interior design in the room. Whilst Vik is in the shower I get up and lie beside Luc on the bed, deciding to check out a bit of Finnish tv. Kev picks up the hotel room bible, hard to believe this practice still exists. Kev prepares to read us a passage, opens up the book and then slams it shut with a look of great sadness upon his face. “You won’t believe what I’ve just found in there..” I really have no idea. Kev opens it up again to confirm what he’d found and when he sees that his eyes weren’t deceiving him gives out a disgusted sigh. Some dirty bastard has left a soggy johnny in the Good Book. Kev admits that he can appreciate the action from a sacrilegious point of view but it’s not really what his hangover needed and has left him feeling sick. He’s worried too that if we leave it we’re going to get the blame for it. He puts it back where he found it, after much debating.

We decide to meet the Famine Year guys outside the hotel at noon. Niklas sent me a pic a while ago of Tumppi and Marko drinking beer for breakfast. Fuck that. It’s another grey day in the north. We wait a while for the guys to show up having left the room a little early. They tell us about this great pizza place, really well known in these parts, and we decide to head there. I haven’t eaten anything yet and maybe pizza is not really what I would have gone for for breakfast but I tell myself that it’s bread and cheese and in that respect breakfast like. The place is just down the street from the hotel and we get there just in time. The place is already busy but there is the one table that has enough seats for the eight of us. Not long after we’ve sat down a queue has formed that goes out of the door and onto the street. The pizza doesn’t lie though, it’s fucking bang on. Hence the queue. Tumppi and Marko take a beer to accompany the food, of course, but the rest of us abstain. I can’t even entertain the idea. Even Vik opts for Coke. There is free coffee and salad from a buffet bar and that acts as a quick breakfast before immediately diving into lunch. The pizza is great, but huge and I can only manage about two thirds of it. Here they have finely chopped garlic as a side topping, kind of like the Italians do with parmesan, comes in little bowls on the table. The Finns pile into it, not shy. Tumppi jokes that he’s married so he’s free to eat garlic. Petri absolutely hammers the stuff onto his pizza. I take a little and have to admit, it’s an ingenious idea. Not very sociable maybe but none of us have to care about that, it’s only Kev who is single, the rest of us are out of the game. I wrap up the remaining portion of pizza in tin foil and take it with me, determined that I’ll eat the rest later but knowing deep down it will most likely be left in the car.

We decide to split the group in two, with half going in one car to the venue to pack up and the other to stay in town and do what they will. Pub is my bet. Vik and I head off with Petri and Niklas back to the venue, having won a game of rock, scissors, stone that we’d never actually decided the consequences of victory on, but I’d kind of decided I wanted to go to the venue anyway, didn’t feel like going to the pub which I was pretty sure is where they were heading. If it was sunnier then maybe I’d have fancied a walk but the sky was as grey as concrete so fuck it.

It maybe wasn’t the best idea that me and Vik were responsible for picking up gear though, Luc told the pair of us to remember his gig bag and there are the two of us, back at the venue trying to work out what it was Luc had told us to remember. Then we almost forget his bass, and then we’re unsure if we’ve packed the merch. Pair of useless wankers. We get back to town and right enough, the other four have been to a karaoke bar, not that they’ve been participating, it just happened to be the nearest place selling beer. Yesterday we travelled keeping the bands together, none of the DB boys wanting to separate. Today I feel that it doesn’t matter so much, I feel that we’ve gotten to know the Famine Year guys a little better. Doesn’t really matter anyway, Petri comes to the passenger window of his car, where I’m sat, and says that today we have to mix it up. He’s not taking both Tumppi and Marko in his car, and either is Niklas. I can appreciate where he’s coming from.

We leave Tampere just after three pm, another two hour drive to the next show. Pretty easy on the gas, touring Finland. I wish we could have seen a little more of this city since the downtown area looked pretty pleasant. Playing punk gigs and sightseeing aren’t exactly mutually exclusive though. We stop halfway for some much needed coffee and a snack and then carry on to Turku. I’m sat with Petri up front, listening to Pink Floyd and talking about his work and the state of politics in Finland. Marko has fallen asleep in the back of the car, Kev is sat pretty quiet for the most part. We’d asked Marko about his old band Unkind, approached the subject of the old singer Janne, who sang in the great band Herätys later on, but there wasn’t much to get out of Marko on the matter. When we pulled up at a service station for petrol we spot a coffee advert with a slogan, the word Herätys catching mine and Kev’s attention, being the geeks that we are. Apparently Herätys means “wake up” in Finnish. Learn something new every day. Good name for a band.

The venue in Turku is just outside of town, as is so often the case. It’s in amongst some industry units, the place is called TVO and is another well known place in the Finnish punk scene. We load in the gear and have a gander, looks pretty nice. Clean and tidy, nice little bar, nice little room. Stage is in the corner of the room opposite the entrance, it has a pillar right in the middle of it. Kev is wondering where he is going to stand later. We head upstairs to the band area where they have a kitchen and hang out area, a bedroom and of course a sauna. Brilliant country. The smell of frying soya meat is filling the room and confirms my hunger. We’ve timed it just right though, the guy cooking, who is the guy booking the gig, starts serving up not long after we slump down on the sofas around the low table. It’s good too, although as always I’m the world’s worst food critic since I think everything is good. The food hits the spot anyway, aided by the Sriracha sauce admittedly.

The Kylmä Sota guys turn up shortly after us, smiles still firmly set in place. Helena tells us that it was just as well we didn’t follow them to Klubi yesterday since first off they got kicked out the cab for being too pissed and then the bouncers wouldn’t let them in the club either. Proper fucking steaming. Bullet dodged there. Helena is back on the sauce now anyway, as is Marko. Hesu isn’t around yet, he lives in this city I think so I guess he’s at home. Janne and Irene are playing foosball on a table I hadn’t even noticed until now, despite the fact I’ve been sat next to it for half hour. It’s the third day of three today, but it feels like I’ve been on tour for three weeks. Fucking knackered. We’re all the same too, the DB guys that is. The Finns are hacking the pace, indeed they’re setting it. The Hurriganes are back on again, their rock n’ roll sounds playing out of Helena’s phone, her and Marko chuffed. The same song keeps repeating, albeit in different versions, and Marko and Helena are equally as chuffed every time each version starts. Janne takes to the sofa after the game is finished and starts telling us about when he toured Japan with Selfish. The drummer from Forward was talking to him about music but Janne couldn’t understand what he was banging on about. “Remu. Remu biking.” Lemmy is a viking it turns out was the jist of it.

Helena says that when they got to Japan the punks there taking care of the tour had said to them that they would buy all of the drinks on tour, that they would be sorted. Helena laughs and says to them, “I don’t think you understand how much we’re going to drink”. By day two the kindly Japs had agreed, “Ok, yes, you buy your own drinks”. The Finns are pretty hardcore it has to be said. I thought the Swedes were mad for it but compared to the Finns and the Danes they’re tame. Janne tells us that when they were in Japan they mixed pure ethanol they’d bought from the chemist with Coke, just for the crack I guess. Their Japanese friend timidly tries it, puts the glass firmly back on the table, “No. Does not taste good”.

Whilst all this laughter and storytelling is going on Marko is playing air guitar to the Hurriganes song, asking us if we like it. Chuffed as fuck. As tired as I am I force back a couple of beers, more in the hope that it will wake me up than that I’m in the mood. Helena has a bottle of Salmiakki with her though and that gets a bit more oil on the chain. We have a couple of games of fussball with Ronnie and the exercise gets me properly going again, but a half hour or so later I start sagging again. I try the Salmiakki again.

We head downstairs to check out what’s going on and find Marko sat talking with some old crust punk. There is another band headlining tonight, something we’re glad for since we don’t want to play last, it’s our turn tonight. This band are supposed to be some old half known band from Turku that have a bit of a following from their heyday back in the Eighties/Nineties or whenever. They don’t play very often and it seems to me like a good way to pull the crowd in a bit. Marko introduces me to the guy, but he barely even looks at me, just sits there staring into space doing his best to look broken and apathetic. Fries my piss straight away. You should see him, total profile of what he thinks he should look like, it feels to me. Little dirty headband around a greasy pan, undercut hair, leather jacket and jeans falling apart. Seems to be sponsored by Volvo too, has a Volvo patch on his jacket and what I’m guessing is his amp is decked out in Volvo signs. He looks like the kind of guy that gives Victims shit for looking the way we do. Showered that is. Except for Jon. Jon doesn’t really shower. I’ve got nothing against crust punks of course, far from it. Just his face annoys me, and his attitude. What makes things worse is that he’s asked Marko to ask us if we mind playing last, after them. It feels very much as though the situation is already decided though. We really don’t want to play last, it feels like for starters the crowd might piss off after these local heroes and then there’s the fact that it’s always a pain in the ass to divide up the touring package when everyone is using the same gear. It’s a bit awkward whilst I say I don’t really want to play last and Volvo just stares off into space. Feels like he’s already told the promoter anyway though so last it is. My gut instinct tells me that if we play last then we’re going to play to an empty room. Marko says that the reason Volvo doesn’t want to play last is that he’s already on the sauce and won’t make it until the end of the night. How very fucking rock n’ roll. Give me a break. Funny that he very specifically wants to play third on the bill of four though, not first or second. Whatever. At first I assume that Marko has some sort of connection with this guy but I don’t think he actually does, think he just latched onto him since he was pissed.

Famine Year are first up tonight and at first I think it’s going to be a disaster gig. The sound is pretty good, not as good as last night but still pretty good. But there are around fifty people in the place, again, pretty good since it’s a small enough room, but quite a few of the people are sat at tables, and stay sat there when Famine Year start to play, and stay sat there for the duration, like they’re watching a fucking documentary. Hesu is sat a table next to the stage, hair all showered, looking fresh as a daisy. I will him to stand. This other naughty looking old boy, shaved head and tattooed bonce grabs my attention too, just sits there looking unimpressed. Makes me a little uneasy. The other guys in the touring party stand up close to the stage to give support and within time others in the place follow suite.

The guys impress me, they really put it all into their gig every night. I get a buzz during their set, a mixture watching them play, being annoyed with Volvo’s antics and the Salmiakki. Somewhere near the end of the show Petri’s vocals disappear from the PA. He hasn’t noticed since he’s hearing himself in the monitor but for a whole song he’s gone for the rest of us. Helena starts motioning annoyed to the sound guy who eventually turns up and gives him another mic. This works somewhat sporadically too, cutting in and out. After testing both and asking us in the audience which is the best of the two broken mics he decides to fuck it off and screams the end of the set with neither, just screaming as loud as he can above the music, first on stage and then into the crowd, grabbing people and screaming in their faces. You can hear him pretty good aswell. This impresses the shit out of me and the rest of our crew and buzzed by it we’re all shouting along and pumping fists. A great end to the set. What a fucking star.

And then it’s time for Kylmä Sota, one last time. Brown is in a great mood, buzzing off of Hurriganes and booze. With the help of Stix he gets the sound guy to play I Wanna Be Adored by the Stone Roses as an intro. The punks don’t really seem to get it but we love it. He walks up from the crowd, shuffling onto the stage with the Manc walk. Absolutely brilliant. Before the show starts we move aside for this man and woman in wheelchairs, who sit in front of us, right up next to the stage, each with a beer in hand. They look to be suffering from some harrowing degenerative disease of some sort. Marko hasn’t noticed them yet, too busy with his dance, but Janne spots them and explodes with joy at the sight of the two guys. He barges past Marko and starts waving at them, really happy to see them. I figure they’re old friends. Marko looks a bit confused at first, and I must admit, I fearing the worst, but then he bends over and shakes the man’s hand. And then they start their set and the band explode into life, Helena laughing from the very first second. She’s always happy but I think right now she’s mainly laughing at the crap and very clean bass sound she’s got coming out of the combo amp the venue owns that we’re all having to use tonight.
After the first song is done, Janne signals over and tells Helena to sort the sound out. It seems she’s having problems with her lead so she’d disconnected her distortion pedal. Luc goes to help and fetches a lead, which causes a bit of delay, a delay which Marko fills be singing the opening lines to I Wanna Be Adored, over and over, always looking at us for laughs. He does this at every opportunity during tonight’s set. They finally get things going again and before you know it Helena’s strap has come off the bottom of her bass, so she’s crouched down playing whilst Luc helps put it back on. She gets sorted and stands up, manages one shout into the backing vocals mic, timing it just right, before the strap comes off the top end of the bass. After that she stays crouched for the rest of the song, laughing her ass and still playing like a demon. What a girl.

The Kylmä Sota set is spot on though, they’re a great d-beat band, and of course Marko is very entertaining. If he’s not singing Stone Roses songs between their own, then he’s playing air tambourine Ian Brown style, or doing Elvis style karate shunts, at one point he does a really quick drop to the knee and then up again, “Oh, that’s a new one”, notes Kev. It nearly all goes very wrong at one point though. He does a kick out into the crowd, timing it with a stop/start in one of their songs and comes really close to booting the woman in the wheelchair in the mug. She doesn’t seem to be that bothered but both me and Kev are reeling in anguish. I don’t even think Marko noticed. When they’re done I’m totally buzzing and really wishing that we were up next.

And then everything comes to a temporary halt.
Volvo and his lot are up next. To be fair the drummer is up on stage relatively quickly, although changing his cymbals is done with extreme care. The young girl on bass seems nice enough, a lot younger than the other guys and happy looking. She’s sorted within minutes. But Volvo hasn’t even looked at the stage a good ten minutes after Kylmä Sota have played. I get the sinking feeling they’re going to play for an hour once they finally get going. Annoyed I head upstairs and find Stix looking very relaxed with the Finns, drinking beer and having a chat. Ronnie’s girlfriend has a bottle of some bizarre booze, this creamy pink stuff. The label describes its contents as premium white wine with cream and flavour of peach. It’s not totally disgusting despite that. I have a swig, and then another. Feeling a little better I go back down to find Luc pretty stressed out. Volvo still hasn’t even been on stage to sort his guitar yet, and it’s been twenty minutes. The cunt is just stood there chatting to some young girl in the corner of the room. Doesn’t look that pissed either. Both Luc and I are pretty pissed off now. And then would you believe it, the fucker leaves his conversation and heads outside for a fag! With that I go up to the sound guy, promoter, and tell him that he needs to get things moving. We could have played our fucking set by now! To be fair sound guy goes out to fetch Volvo straight away and he’s up on stage within a minute unpacking his guitar and huge pedalboard. I walk up onstage to put my lead bag behind the amp and tell him he’s taking the piss. He looks at me with that same, trained vacant look, and I say to him, “We could have played our set by now, what’s the problem?” He just mumbles some sort of apology and I walk off. I head back upstairs to the sound of their set finally starting, I stay up there as a sort of private protest, refusing to watch them, fearing I’ll be stuck up there for the next hour.

To be totally honest, they sound pretty good. Kind of early Nineties UK crust, reminds me of Disaster a little bit. And they only play for twenty minutes or so. None of our crew have watched them but it sounds like they have an okay gig, not loads of people, there is a death metal fest happening just across the courtyard in another venue which has taken a bit of a hit on this gig, but it seems alright. As soon as they’re done we’re on stage and ready to go in under ten minutes, straight on with it tonight, no fucking around. All fired up, we blast into Good Strong Hand and immediately into Am I Stupid? Or Idiot! and when the first block comes to a dead end I slam my guitar into Kev’s shoulder, totally aiming for him. A bit out of order. When I do this I hear some voice in the crowd, “Hey, be careful with the amp”. I assume it’s Volvo. I just laugh to myself. I’m not even playing his amp but I guess he’s worried about me slamming into it behind me. Later on during the gig Luc bangs heads with Kev too, poor old bugger, not that he seems to care.

We have a really good show anyway. It doesn’t seem like anyone has left the building and our friends are down the front having a dance, Helena, her friend and Irene all enjoying themselves in particular. We play really tight and by the end of the set the annoyance I took into the gig has faded into happiness. Before the end of the gig Stix asks for the mic to thank the other bands for sorting us out this weekend, proclaiming we’ve had three really great shows in Sweden. I assume he’s taking the piss at first but he’s simply made a tit of it. Must be the peach cream wine. He corrects himself, to our amusement and then we finish the set. There’s a good cheer at the end and for the first time ever we decide to play a couple of extra songs., a new one from the upcoming lp called Black Christmas and Hypnotic Eye. It’s a fun way to end a very fun show.

Afterwards we chill out by the bar, enjoying a couple of cold pints of Finnish lager. It’s the best thing I’ve tasted all day. Vik tells me the drummer from the old band came up to him afterwards and said he really loved our gig. It seems to be going well at the merch too, we’ve sold all the copies of the first seven inch that we had with us, meaning there are none left for the Combat Rock shop. Oh well. It’s pretty nice just hanging out by the bar enjoying a couple of beers and chatting to our new Finnish friends. Marko grabs me when I’m on my way upstairs, looking kind of serious. “The people in the roller coasters, you know?” I don’t really catch it at first but then I figure out he means the guys in the wheelchairs. For a second I think he’s taking the piss, in a way only he dares, but he’s not. He’s been really sweet. “The guy used to play in a band with us, way back, he got sick though”. Fuck, that sucks.
Marko leaves not long after that, gives me a big hug and says he has to leave now, he can’t drink anymore beer, he needs other things, he says this whilst licking his hand. I figure what he’s talking about. He’s staying with some other friend tonight anyway, so that’s it for this time. It’s been great hanging out with him. We talk now and again online, and then we have normal, personal conversations. He’s this whole other profile when he’s out with the band though. An entertainer for sure, but you can tell he laps it up. Kind of like Brit Gaz, the guy Luc hates, who appears now and again when I’m on the island. I give Marko a hug and we say we joke again about getting the screamo band together when he moves to Stockholm.

We were originally supposed to be staying here at the venue tonight but the sound guy couldn’t stick around and we can’t stay here alone, so we’re staying somewhere else. The problem is that the somewhere else is with this punk guy called Sammy, who’d arrived earlier and introduced himself, seemed like a nice bloke, but is now sat upstairs in some sort of booze coma. I go up to him, put my arm around his shoulder and ask if we’re still staying with him, but he just sits there starting blankly at the wall. Absolutely gone. Guess we’re looking for somewhere else.

The Famine Year guys worry that we’re left high and dry, and when it’s starting to looked fucked they say we can come with them. Thing is the friend’s place they’re staying at is supposed to be really small. But they start to play it down, saying it will work. They obviously have no intention of leaving us without a roof. But then Helena approaches and tells us we’re staying with them tonight. The place they’re staying is this punk house with plenty of room. Niklas looks at me and says it’s okay for us to follow them, if we don’t feel like partying with the Kylmä Sota guys. Tonight though we decide to risk and and go with the party. We tell the Famine Year guys that we’ll see them back here at noon tomorrow. Kev’s flight is at five pm so that should be plenty.

Of course, there’s a bit of fucking around before we leave. A cab has been called, it takes it time arriving and when it does there are too many of us to all get in. Beside the DB guys, Helena, Janne and Irene, Ronnie and his girlfriend, there are another four or five friends, one punk who is completely boats, can hardly stand, and some other violent looking fucker who seems a bit aggro. The cab is a big people carrier as well, really big, tour bus cab we call it. Helena says to everyone that she’ll take this cab with the DB guys but everyone piles in anyway. I’m the last in of our lot and have nowhere to put myself except for the floor at the back. It’s all very confusing, amongst everyone saying to me to lie down and others fucking around at the door. I’m far too sober for this. I lie there waiting for the cab to go until I realise that the reason it isn’t is because the drive has spotted me lying there. Before I understand what’s going on Stix says it looks like I’ll have to get up and Aggro is telling me to fuck off. I’m tired and I don’t need this shit. Really pisses me off. I don't need this guy talking to me like that and I kind of wish one of our other guys would stay with me when I’m kicked out of the cab. Helena get’s out with me though, and together with Ronnie, his girlfriend, Insanely Drunk Guy and another friend, we wait for another cab.

I’m feeling a little pissed off as we wait there but I shake it off soon enough, I don’t really blame the other DB guys it’s not like they’re thinking they’re leaving me to sleep somewhere else. And plus, Helena has some chocolate milk she’s spiked with booze and that starts getting passed around. We actually have a nice chat whilst waiting for the next cab. Although Drunk Guy can barely stand and keeps falling into Helena. We get to the place a half hour later and I can tell the guys are feeling a bit bad, they all come up to me straight away and ask if I’m okay. Yeah, it’s all good again.
Luc says he got into an argument with Aggro after I’d been kicked out the cab, saying it should have been he that fucked off. Apparently when they arrived and were being shown to the room we would be sleeping someone dropped a bottle of beer on the floor, smashing glass everywhere, and that caused a bit of a scene. And then this little dog that lives in the house attacked Stix, going for his balls. Seems like I missed a bit. The actually place is great anyway. It’s in this little industrial area, right next to some posher looking houses on the outskirts of town. It’s actually two old brick buildings, adjacent to each other, in the one building a big house with loads of rooms, one of which we’re staying in, and in the other a little venue with a stage and a bar area. Helena says the place is getting demolished and the land developed soon, which is a great shame since they’ve had some brilliant nights and gigs here. I can well imagine.

There is a fussball game going on, Aggro is playing on the one team and apparently he’s lost his rag, disputing a goal. Really making a bit of a scene. Seems like a bit of a tit. Kev and Helena are up on the raised DJ booth, taking turns at spinning old hard rocks vinyls. Both of them in their element. Luc has fallen asleep on a couch at the other end of the room. Vik and I have a beer, and then one more after that, which feels unnecessary, it was time to go to bed after the first one, we spend the second beer yawning for the most part. We wake Luc and leave Kev and Helena to it.

We head over to the house, wary of the little dog. The coast is clear. Helena’s friend who lives here, this friendly long haired guy, shows me the kitchen and the bathroom and then escorts us to the large living room where we’ll stay. I grab a mattress on the floor and I’m gone almost immediately. I wake up in the morning with Kev lying next to me, bare chested and without any pillow or mattress. He must be freezing. It’s not that warm in here. He wakes later and I ask him how late he was up last night. “Until about five. I looked up at one point and there was no one left, it was just me and Helena playing records”.

Friday, November 6, 2015


Woke up unnecessarily early this morning. It was around seven. Polly time. Classic parent syndrome, no matter where you are and how late you went to bed you’re set to wake up at breakfast. I lay there for a while, needing a piss, thinking that I wouldn’t get back to sleep again. It was light in the room and Kev was sleeping beside me, I think. I was hungry too. Fuck this, I have to sleep a little longer. After an hour or so I drifted back off again, slight pain in the stomach from the need to piss. I wake up again around ten, feeling much better. The slightest hint of a headache somewhere in there but nothing that needs medicating. Kev has some pink pills though so I take a couple. If there’s an easy way out of a hangover I’ll take it.

Niklas is working from home today, taking care of bookings for the Tuska Fest. He laughs, saying that some management type is on their case about a wrong logo being used somewhere. First world problems. We sit down for some breakfast together, strong black coffee and this superb dark, rye bread for sandwiches. Feels healthy. We get to talking about what we do in our “normal lives”, work and stuff. Niklas tells us that his family moved to Moscow when he was a kid, between eleven and fourteen. This spikes my interest immediately. He lived there in the late Eighties, before the fall of the Iron Curtain, tells us that life there then was pretty fucked up, corrupt as shit. Still is he says, at least it was when he returned there a few years back. For the most part he spent his time skateboarding the streets of the Soviet capital, not bothering to fit in or learn the language, says he wish he had of now. We get to talking about the punk scene in Russia, about the problems they have with Nazi skinheads there. I’m planning to write about the history of racism within the punk scene for my end of term paper next spring, looking at places like Russia and East Europe, but even South America. The fuckers are everywhere it seems. Niklas recalls the story of the punk gig in Russia a few years back where out of nowhere a plastic bag appears on stage whilst the band are playing. Someone from the band picks the bag up to look inside and in a moment of shitpanting shock discovers a nailbomb inside. Luckily it had malfunctioned and didn’t go off. Some Nazi bastard had infiltrated the gig though. What the fuck is that all about?

After an hour or so of breakfast and chat we start to make a beeline for the sauna upstairs. Lucas is amazed by it, actually I am too. A full on professional sauna in the bathroom. Not too unusual for this country. Kev is in first and then Luc and I sit together in the little steam room. It’s absolute heaven. The perfect way to start the day. Feel so clean when you’re done showering afterwards. Imagine beginning every day on tour in this manner.

We get ready and head into town, Niklas dropping us off before heading back home to work some more. The plan is to meet at Lepakkomies at three. We head off to Combat Rock record shop where we’re supposed to meet Brown. I could spend a small fortune in the record shop if I wasn’t a student. There are a lot of great pieces in there. The guy behind the counter keeps an curios eye on the four of us as we flick through the stalls. Luc and Kev get a couple of things each. Whilst paying up the guy says something about the band, he must have seen us last night. We talk about dropping some seven inches off to him later, says he’ll take five. Nice one. Brown has texted and says he’s sat in a bar called B-12, just a little down the road. Of course he is.

We walk in and find Brown, Hesu and some other friend of theirs, chuffed the lot of them, supping on pints of Koff for breakfast For a second I think to myself that there’s no way I’m ordering a beer at this time of day, but to be fair, the Koff’s look fucking tempting. Vik is right on it obviously, that fucker is never shy of an early beer when out and about. The rest of us follow his lead and sit down with the guys. Brown is looking exactly the same as when we left him. I wonder how long he’s been here drinking, how long he was up last night. Despite the fact you never see him without a drink in his hand, he always looks totally fresh. These Finns have a different makeup than the rest of us, they must have. We’re all squeezed into this booth and we’re talking about different things, Brown is chuffed with the blue Some Girls t-shirt I’m wearing, much to my joy and Vik and Luc’s disgust. They were offering to buy me a new t-shirt today if I’d wear it for the gig tonight. What can I say, the system is not to be fucked with. Brown starts talking about Some Girls being his favorite band, saying he wants to move to Stockholm and start a screamo band with me. Says he has two hands too, so we’ll be even better than Some Girls, taking the piss out of the one handed singer who sang with Some Girls. Hesu is saying something to Kev about how he has one hundred girls on his case, from an array of different places they’ve been on tour, and that the problem is there are so many of them he can’t be bothered, and so he’s single. The friend of theirs, this guy who looks like he could be British, sits there smiling.

Brown heads off to the bar and comes back with a tray of Salmiakki shots, one for each of the four DB guys. Fuck… I can see this getting out of hand today. Again I hesitate, but the booze is really fucking good and I get the feeling Brown won’t be taking no for an answer. It goes down far too smoothly. Brown squeezes back into his position in the booth and the next thing I know some woman has appeared, positioned herself very close to Luc on the end, almost sat on his knee. She looks pretty wasted. At first she’s ignored but then she starts getting a little too pushy with Luc, places her hand on his thigh. Brown decides to address the situation, in the only way he knows how, by brazenly taking the piss out of her. “Are you Whitney Houston ?”. She doesn’t really look like Whitney Houston, only her skin tone and slightly voluminous hair of any likeness. She ignores Brown for a second but he continues. Things go from light hearted, to a little aggressive as the woman asks him what his problem is, Brown tells her to go back to her table. It’s getting uncomfortable now. And then she reaches to flop on of her tits out, we all hinder her. This is pretty tragic and I feel really sorry for her. To be fair to Brown, he sees the situation is getting a little out of control and goes into charm mode, bringing the whole thing away from boiling point. Hesu just sits there shaking his head at his band mate and gives off a resigned grin. He’s seen this all before I guess.

The woman briefly turns her attention back to Luc’s thigh before we decide it’s time to leave. Brown says he’s has a little bit of food left for us from last night’s dinner they’d had, all we have to do is pick up some bread from the store. I think he really wants us to come check his place out. We follow him down the street and into a supermarket. He and Vik grab a loaf of bread and then some cans of beer, the rest of us picking up some crisps. We follow Marko along the street and through the middle of a skate park, he’s completely oblivious to the guys skating around him, couldn’t give a toss. They have to move out of his way, not vice versa. Marko’s flat is up on the sixth floor of an apartment building overlooking a lower division football ground, a one stand kind of job, just down the road from the venue. The lift up to his place is this little boneshaker of a contraption that stops with a jolt when it reaches it’s destination. Frightens the fuck out of me and Luc. Brown tells us that a while back they’d squeezed six in, it’s only supposed to take three, and that’s pushing it. The lift had stopped halfway up and the six of them, pissed up, were stuck there for half hour. Sod that.

His flat is pretty cool, loads of records, books and artifacts everywhere. It has a really big balcony that stretches the length of the flat. Hesu lies down on the mattresses on the living room floor, I guess this is where he slept last night. Janne and his girfriend, our mate Irene from Leeds, are in the other room, not fully awake yet. They must be knackered, they’d had an all night journey from Leeds to Helsinki via a bus trip to the airport in London. The leftover food Marko serves up is fucking great. These veggie bangers that are out of this world and some soy stew, awesome stuff. He plays through a selection of Hurriganes records, some Finnish rock n’ roll band from way back that were huge apparently, even in Sweden. Pretty good to be fair. Then he puts on Duran Duran, the song about Rio, and he’s off. Just stands there dancing in the middle of the living room between swigs of beer. We get back on to talking amongst ourselves after laughing at him for a bit but he carries on for a good while, in his own world. Giving it the old saucy dance moves. Says it’s his favourite song of all time. What a guy. Vik is drinking this good Pale Ale which I have a sip of but I feel like I need to leave it now until we get to the next destination. It’s time for us to get a move on down to the venue to meet Niklas, don’t want to keep him waiting. We say bye to the guys and say we’ll see them at the venue in Tampere.
It’s cold out now. I’m glad I brought my big blue puffy down jacket with me, even if it’s a pain in the ass since as soon as you walk inside you start sweating your asss off. It’s filthy as well, totally black around all the edges. Luc laughs at me ands says I look like a bum. I guess I do. Thing is, I felt myself entering a new era of my life as I pondered over what jacket to bring with me on tour. I knew the blue jacket was dirty as fuck and probably didn’t look so cool, but it would keep me warm. Opting for practicality over estetic, I must be getting old, entering the period of life where you don’t give a piss. Soon I’ll be wearing stretchy waist jeans…
Niklas arrives back at the venue shortly after us and we pack the gear into the boot of his car. I’m glad Luc got to lend that soft case for his bass. The other Famine Year guys turn up in Petri’s car and Vik heads off with a couple of them to pick up a couple of cans for the short journey. Luc get’s in front beside Niklas whilst the three of us squeeze in the back. Petri appears and says they have spare seat in the back of his car, that we don’t need to squeeze. I feel a bit bad but we decide to stick together. That typical early tour segregation. Petri looks a little confused by it but let’s it go.

The trip to Tampere is only two hours, as are the other legs of this little tour. We stop halfway at a service station and pick up some snacks. Petri tucks into this garlic loaf thing, that looks great but maybe a little overpowering. We buy a crate of beer for later, since you don’t know how much we’ll get for free. Kev buys one of those plastic eggs that have a toy inside, hoping for something pleasing on the eye, he receives a gold AK47 key ring. Not all the pleased he chances again and gets a little diamond like skull ring. Much happier.
We arrive in Tampere around five and it’s already been dark for a couple of hours. The sky has been heavy all day though to be fair. Niklas has sorted us out with a cheap hotel for tonight, in the middle of the city. We drive around looking for it for a bit, getting a bit of free sightseeing whilst we’re at it. Looks like a really pretty place. The venue is a little outside the city so I’m happy that we’re staying more central. We get to the hotel, one of those receptionless jobs that you find quite often in Europe, and dump our bags, sorting out the beds before we leave. This is obviously a solid idea. Making beds at three in the morning wouldn’t be practical. The hotel room is pretty nice though, the interior is red and white, kind of plastic, but nice and fresh. Nice to have a hotel room. The other guys are staying with friends, so it’s only us staying here. Niklas doesn’t seem to think it will affect the tour budget much. He’s already said that the first priority from the tour money is covering our flights, even before the gas. What a great bunch of blokes they are. Such solidarity within the scene makes me really proud to be involved.

The venue is this punk bar on one of the main roads out of town, overlooking this big lake. I imagine it would be great sitting here drinking beer in the little garden outside during the summer time. The walls inside the venue are covered in old gig posters, Victims and Nitad amongst them. The Victims gig was before my time though. The room is long and at one end there is a high stage and at the other a slightly raised area with tables where we can set our merch up. Whilst setting up we realise that we forgot to leave the records with Combat Rock. We’ll have to leave them with the other guys. It’s fairly big in here but the set up is such that it wouldn’t crave too many people to make it look okay. Seems that this place is a bit of a classic on the circuit.
Just as we’re wondering where the Kylmä Sota guys are and concurring that they’ll most likely be fucking soundcheck off, they turn up. Helena has the same huge smile on her face that she left with yesterday. We greet them and ask how the journey was. “It was chaos! I’m very happy”, laughs Helena. Marko comes in after her doing the Manchester swagger. Ronnie is in after them, smirking and shaking his head at the four pissed up compatriots he’s driven here. We hang out for a while in the backstage room, drinking cans of Karhu and the odd shot of Salmiakki, watching the Finns reach ever so steadily a higher level of pissed.

Tumppi comes up to us after we’ve eaten a very reasonable lentil stew provided by the venue with a troubled look on his normally cheerful face. “I have some very bad news guys. There is apparently no deal with the place about beer. All we get is a discount”. He looks truly gutted, embarrassed even. We chuckle and tell him it’s ok. The crack is we can buy a beer for two and half Euros which is pretty cheap anyway, especially compared to home. With that we head to the bar and each order a pint of Sandalls. Never heard of it before, some mainstream Norwegian pilsner. Hits the spot perfectly.
The place is pretty dead and it’s getting closer to gig time. We’re first on tonight. We’re doing a rotating bill for these three shows so that each band takes a different position every night. Feels like a good way to do things. I guess tonight might be our turn to play to no one, but Vik says that he remembers that the punks turned up right before the first band last time he was here. Guess that’s why the Famine Year guys published the stage times a while in advance. We have a little time left and we decide to kill it by playing foosball in the little room to the side of the stage. The game seems to get the blood flowing, even get a sweat on, which says a lot about the state of my condition. Me and Stix play Tumppi and Marko Beard, the two of them pretty sauced up and making a lot of noise during the game. It’s pretty tight. It comes down to the last goal and Marko is lining his keeper up for a big hoof up field, got the ball trapped under him. Swing and it’s in the back of his own net. We all piss ourselves laughing.

With that I’m ready to get up on stage and do this thing. Vik was right too, there are a few punks coming in through the door. The PA speakers are hanging dangerously low from the ceiling at either side of the stage. I make a mental note to myself not butt the fucker. I got a bit of a nick from my guitar last night, just a little scratch though, no glory blood. I look over to the other side of the stage just in time to see Luc crack the top of his nugget off the bottom of the speaker. Looked well fucking sore.
The punks that are here take to the dance floor and make us feel welcome. It’s a really good sound on stage tonight. The sound guy has a bit of reputation for being a knob, he had indeed flat out blanked me when I introduced myself earlier, but he can certainly do his job. The full bodied stage sound gives me a lot of energy and I spend the entirety of the set flailing around the stage. Brown and Helena are in front of the stage. The gig feels a lot better tonight than yesterday, both crowd wise and playing wise. Feels really tight tonight. Afterwards some big guy, a little older, comes up to me as I’m packing down and says he thought it was great. He asks me about my stance whilst playing guitar, wonders how much lower I can go. Says something about looking like the Ramones. Can’t totally work it out.

I watch the start of Famine Year’s set from the front but I’m still sweating from our gig so I head back to the merch tables, take a cold pint of Sandals and listen to them from there. It’s a really good sound in here tonight. Niklas had said to me that he’d gotten goosebumps when we blasted into the first sound, so good was the sound. Seems like they’re having a good show too. Helena is having a good night, she’s got a distro on the go and she’s shifting gear at a good rate. She has these unisex football socks with different words on them, like Beer, Bimbo and other such slogans. Luc buys a pair for PB. Helena stands there flicking a modest wad of Euros, chuffed. Before Kylmä Sota start their set Vik and I decide we need a shot of something, lighten the load a little, guts feeling heavy from the pilsner. We order a shot of the house’s homemade liquorice booze, goes down a treat.

Kylmä take to the stage, the last band of the night, and you can tell Brown is in the mood to fuck with people. This one kid, stood dancing on his own in the middle takes his eye immediately. Second song in and Brown has pulled his t-shirt off over his head and is now shuffling about the stage bare chested, his chest tattoo that simply says “BROWN”, done in the style of the Venom logo, on full show. The punk kid nears the stage and Brown grabs him, forcing the mic into his mouth and holding the kids head into his crotch, looking away to the side of the stage for laughs. This ends up with him being pulled off stage and then being feebly carried around by the kid and a few others, first crashing to the ground and then up again and then landing pretty roughly on the stage. His shirt has made the journey with him and the kid throws it back at him. Brown takes exception to this and kicks a beer glass full pelt off the stage in his direction, “Watch it boy, watch it!” he warns him, speaking English. I get the feeling this could get nasty. There’s an ongoing interaction between the two for the rest of the set. It takes Marko three songs to manage to get his shirt back on fully, much to our amusement. No sooner has he got his shirt on that he’s got his arse out and mooning the kid. At one point he holds the mic out for the kid to sing into, without grabbing him, and the kid obliges by singing along. And then it’s “donk”, Marko has bopped him on the top of the head. Just about the right side of piss taking. Funny thing is the kid doesn’t seem bothered, in fact he seems chuffed. Marko looks like he wants a fight though, the kid is oblivious. After the gig I get talking to the kid who has made it into the backstage room, tells me he loved the gig. Marko seems to have chilled out a bit with it and soon enough they’re friends. Marko’s smile is back.

We’re wondering what to do after the show. There is talk of a party at some club in town, there is also some confusion as to whether there is a bar upstairs, and if there is it seems the consensus is that everyone is there. Niklas comes up to me with money from the gig and says he was about to give it to Luc but Luc is standing there with a small plastic carrier bag containing DB badges hanging from his ears and under his chin, Niklas says he’ll give him the money tomorrow. Some woman, a friend of Helena’s is talking to Kev, seems really friendly. She says upstairs is the place to be. Myself, I kind of feel like heading back into town and sitting in a bar, chilling out. There seemed to be plenty of places around the hotel and I wouldn’t mind having a deek. After tidying the gear up in the backstage room, making sure everything is in order, and Luc standing on a chair and giving a speech to everyone about how happy he is to be here, first in Swedish and then in Portuguese, we follow him to the exit. Luc has commanded us to party. We head upstairs to have a peek and it becomes immediately obvious that this is where we’ll be staying. The place is great. Looks like a big living room and it’s packed with people from the gig and a few others, really buzzing atmosphere, really friendly.
We hang out for a few beers, chatting away with everyone. Brown is pretty boats, as are Marko and Tumppi from Famine Year. Luc and Vik are in good spirits too. I stand chatting to Petri and Niklas for a good while. There was a workshop on here earlier this evening about mental health issues. I thought it was actually taking place downstairs before the gig but turns out it was up here. Petri and I agree that was probably a good thing. This place is really buzzing now and by the time the last orders bell goes I feel like I’m starting to get a really buzz on, I could easily stay here another couple of hours. I look over at Luc, who is sat talking to some kind looking old lady, she looks like an old lefty, Brown sat dazed beside them. Kev is over at the bar with Helena and four of her friends, all girls, Kev in the there getting pics taken with them all, loving it. Old charmer, they seem to be lapping the fucker up.

Unfortunately I seem to have missed the first bell because the bar closes right after and the chance for further drinks has passed. Maybe just as well. Now I really am in the mood for heading back to the hotel and maybe grabbing a beer in a bar in the vicinity before heading to bed. Helena is talking about going to some club, “Klubi” she keeps saying, pissed as a fart, with all her friends. Kev is up for following but I’m subtly suggesting my plan. Turns out there’s a bit of a balls up with cabs anyway and the club thing gets canned. Well, Helena is still going but the four of us decide against it. The Famine Year guys head off to a friends place to sleep and we decide we’ll do breakfast in the morning. Fuck knows where Brown and the others are.

We get out of the cab by the hotel and the four of us head into the bar next door. Looks like a bit of a posh place, very quiet by this time of night, only a few left in. We take four beers out of the band money. The beers at the punk bar cost us two and half Euros, these four cost twenty six in total. Probably just as well we hung out at the venue until two am. Still, it’s nice being sat here on a big antique style sofa, just the four of us to end the night, having a little drink. Vik and Luc are both pretty boats, me and Kev more monged than anything. Vik is in lively mood though. The bouncer comes up to us and in Finnish politely tells us that it’s soon time to drink up. Vik starts babbling back to him in Finnish, totally flowing. The three of us are sat there talking to amongst ourselves and don’t notice it at first, but then Luc asks what’s happened to Vik and we’re all amazed to hear him having a full on conversation with the bouncer in Finnish. This is something we did not previously know about Vik. Apparently it’s some sort of skill he picks up when pissed. Vik then asks the barman who comes to clear up our empty glasses if he can take a few picks. There’s no stopping Finnish Vik now, Luc just keeps shaking his head confused, “What’s going on with Stix?”. After the pics it’s time to leave and we plod out, had more than enough now. Vik is last in line, banging on some more with the bouncer on the way out, clearly loving it now.
From the bar it’s straight to bed. It’s late, closer to four than three. I lie there thinking that I really should get up and brush my teeth, that I’ll be glad for it in the morning. I hardly ever go to bed without brushing the gads but once laid down on the sofa bed I simply can’t be arsed getting back up. I’ll deal with the morning when it arrives.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


The Famine Year guys asked us back in March about playing some shows in Finland. We had the Pyramido tour in the works then and with the planning required due to school, family and other bands we decided on October for the shows. Still, we were fucking chuffed. It was the first time someone random had contacted the band and asked us if we wanted to travel somewhere and play some shows. What’s more, all travel expenses would be covered. This opposed to us mailing around and hustling contacts through different acquaintances to book shows. Of course, that works too, although it requires a lot of energy. Having someone contact us felt like a big step. It turns out that the guys in the band weren’t complete strangers however, there rarely are any complete strangers within this scene, Niklas the bass player books for the Tuska Fest in Helsinki and had booked Victims last time around, and Petri the singer had toured with Nasum and driven Victims from the airport to Tuska Fest last time. I remember when he picked us up he told me that he felt like he already knew me, despite having never met, due to the fact he’d read my blog a lot.

When the idea for Finland was approached our first thought was to ask the Kylmä Sota guys if they’d be interested in playing too. Famine Year thought it would be a good idea, and make for a nice bill, so I mailed Marko the singer and within a day they’d confirmed. We were all really chuffed they were up for it. They’re a great band and great people. Absolute pissheads, very entertaining. The first time I saw Kylmä Sota was at Kafe 44 when they played with the Japanese noise punk band, D-Clone. The Finns had taken the overnight ferry from Finland and arrived early, absolutely wankered. Old Bengtsson from 44 had found them hanging outside the venue drinking miniature bottles of Jägermeister whilst he was on his way to work in the morning. They wondered if they could get into the venue, Bengtsson laughed and told them they were about eight hours early. Apparently they went to a park and had a sleep. I’ve never seen a band so pissed up on stage. Helena, the bass player, laughing her ass off the whole set, had to get Janne the guitarist to show her the riffs to each song before playing them. Thing is, when they got it going they were amazing. Quite some band. I was looking forward to hanging out with them and playing a few shows together.

We arrived at Helsinki airport just after four thirty. Kev had been in Stockholm for a couple of nights to practice the set. We almost got off to a pretty shit start in Finland since we deboarded the plane and walked straight out the exit without picking our guitars up. To be fair, the signs were pretty confusing. Niklas was stood waiting for us on the other side of the exit door and looked pretty surprised as we walked out carrying fuck all barr the stupid grins on our mugs. Total Spinal Tap start to the tour. Luckily for us, some woman at the help desk let us back inside to the luggage belts, which were right next to the exit door. She looked at us like we were a bunch of twats.

We head over to Niklas place first and swap Lucas’ surfboard sized hard case for a soft bag. We’re travelling in two cars, us and Famine Year, and wearing Lucas bass case as a table across our legs would have been cack. Niklas has a really nice house in the eastern suburbs, complete with garden and inside sauna. We’re staying here tonight. I’m thinking about that sauna and how nice it’s going to be steaming my hangover off in it tomorrow morning. Once sorted at Niklas’ place we head over to the venue, Leppakomies, the Bat Cave, which is this punk bar in the bohemian end of the city with a venue in the basement. Vik has played here with Nitad before and said it was really good. The place looks pretty cool, longish room downstairs with a small stage at the end of it, the other end of the room housing a bar and some tables. After loading in the gear, we turn around to find Marko and Hesu both smiling their asses off, we head upstairs and order some beer.

We hang out for a while in the bar, enjoying a couple of fairly priced pints of Karhu. Marko’s smile barely ever leaves his mug. His eyes are constantly squinted behind his glasses, mischief written all over him. He’s one of the biggest piss takers around. It’s good to see him again. I get talking to Niklas about some other stuff in the meantime, life and shit. He’s got a daughter who is a couple of months younger than Polly. Whilst the rest of the guys sit and talk punk, we’re discussing kid routines and sleeping patterns.

We head downstairs for soundcheck, Famine Year go first and then us. We’re using their entire backline, we’ve only brought guitars, so it may seem a little pointless but it’s nice to get a feel for the stage and the place. The Kylmä guys couldn’t give a fuck though and decline. The other guys in Famine Year have arrived, one with a cheeky grin across a red face and the other guys with the beard of a lion, he seems particularly friendly, when he laughs his whole face opens as he spreads his mouth to jaw cracking distance. I don’t catch their names properly or what they do in the band but I do get the impression that they are very nice chaps. A lot more humble than our piss taking friend in Kylmä Sota. As we’re sorting out merch, at least, whilst Kev and Luc are sorting out merch and I’m stood there trying to look busy, I notice Petri sorting out Famine Year’s gear. “Hey Gareth”. It’s good to see him again. I might not have remembered quite as quick had it not been for Andy tipping me off last week. I’m good with faces, terrible with names. We get right into it though. Petri leads us off to get some veggie food from a place around the back of the venue.

You go out the venue, take a left and then left again, past a pretty dank looking plaza they call Speed Square, named so for obvious reasons, and then onto the parallel street behind the venue. There is this veggie burger joint called Soi Soi which is next door to the Combat Rock record store. We don’t have to leave until late tomorrow so we’ll be back here for some shopping. Tonight is all about Soi Soi though. We order in some veggie burgers which hit the bull square in the fucking eye. Magic. They’re pretty heavy though, I have a feeling that they might come back to haunt us during the gig, being that it’s not that long until we play. Made that mistake a few times before. The worst being this one occasion in Bristol when Speedhorn were supporting Napalm Death, we went for an Indian and had a right slap up meal, thinking we had a few hours until gig time. When we got back to the venue we were horrified to find that we were supposed to be on stage half hour later. Most painful fucking gig I’ve ever played. Could hardly move, just stood there sweating curry. Stage stank and all.

Once the grub is done we head back to Lepakkomies for a couple of beers before the show. When we arrive this drunk punk is sat at the door to the basement taking money for the gig. Hadn’t seen him before and I hadn’t got stamped before I left. The others go in and I tell him I’m in one of the bands, he doesn’t say fuck all, so I carry on past when he grabs me. “Hey! You pay!” Fucker is steamboats. Petri just laughs and explains the situation to him, I can’t make it out but I hear Petri say “Diagnosis Bastard” in Finnish. Drunk Punk stamps my wrist and that’s that sorted. Until he grabs me again and repeats the process ten minutes later.

We hang out for a while at the bar. Marko’s wife is here and he’s eager to introduce us. Really nice girl. Marko’s chuffed eyes grin through his glasses. A friend of Vik’s, a guy called Ronnie, and his girlfriend are here too. Also really good people. Ronnie plays in a great band called Armless Children and he and Vik first met a few years back in the States. Ronnie is driving Kylmä about for these few shows. They brought a couple of Armless Children seven inches for us, great start to the weekend.

Kylmä Sota are up first tonight. There are about fifty people in the place and most of them are stood up front to watch this great raw d-beat band. Kylmä are the most known of the three bands playing these three shows. I’m glad they’re with us since it’s always fun to watch them. And they don’t disappoint tonight. Helena has a huge grin on her face, she always does, it stays with her the whole show. She’s drunk I guess, but fuck me can she play bass. Marko is his usual self, pissed and doing the Madchester strut between screaming sections, always grinning, always looking for who’s grinning back. They’re a fucking brutal band though, even if it looks like they’re pissing about, the music says different. The ceiling above the stage is pretty low and in the middle there is this little hole where parts of the ceiling are flaking away. At one point Marko picks bits of it off and starts eating it, this whilst he’s doing the Ian Brown dance. Fucking piss myself at that. What a tit. I love him.

When they’re done I’m more than ready to follow. We’re set up pretty quick since all the bands are sharing Famine Year’s gear. There aren’t as many people as close to the stage when we play, I guess they don’t know us and they’re a bit wary. We’re probably a bit of a hard band to work out too. And then Kev takes the floor instead of the stage which only seems to result in the crowd backing away tentatively. They seem to be liking it anyway, they just don’t want to get too close. At one point Luc lets out this sneaky burp, stinks of the garlic sauce from the Soi Soi burger, it hits me in the face like a slap from Grandma. Fucking rancid. I’m soon down on the floor with Kev, deciding to take the gig to the punks and get the fuck out of the way of Luc. My guitar comes close to hitting some smiling guy in the face and over the noise of the gig I hear him shouting, “Woah woah, take it easy!” Might have got a bit carried away there… Overall, for a first show, I’m happy anyway. The small crowd watching seemed to enjoy it. Apparently we’re competing with a Misfits cover band as well as another punk gig tonight, plus it’s Thursday, so I’m more than happy with the turnout. Not that the amount of people at a gig affects me much, unless it’s nobody. Still, we played to more people in Helsinki than we had before tonight. And I’m chuffed with how we played, good gig for a first show, plenty of energy. At least I felt it, Kev and Luc are complaining about the burgers.

As I’m packing up some guy approaches me and asks if I used to play in Dead Inside. I point him in Kev’s direction. Apparently his old band played with Kev at the Club in Bradford years back. Kev doesn’t remember the guy but he’s chuffed all the same. The guy was a big fan, even of Hard to Swallow it turns out, although he didn’t know that Kev was in them too. We sit there hanging with Ronnie and his girlfriend for a while, talking about common mates from the scene, until Famine Year start.

The fifty or so people in the room stand a little back, just like they had with us. Two things to consider here. One, Kylmä Sota had the best crowd and most people into them. Two, maybe band members playing on the floor instead of the stage when the crowd is small makes people back up even further. The second point is one Kev made to be fair. Whatever, as Luc said the fact we’re a little band from Stockholm playing in Helsinki is success in itself. He’s referring to this great interview with Ian MacKaye that we’ve both been enthusing about recently. Anyway, Famine Year seem to enjoy themselves, and they play tight as fuck. Real ferocious hardcore stuff. Talented as shit. The sound is a little low, which I guess it was for us too since it certainly was for Kylmä Sota, but you can still hear everything well, even if it’s not ripping your head off. They blast through their set, occasionally slowing it down a little and pounding out a riff, Marko, the fabulously bearded guitar player shaking his head enthusiastically. He’s playing a really nice black Fender Jaguar too. Beautiful thing. I’d asked him earlier if it would be possible to lend it as a backup in case of me snapping a string and he’d been very kind to oblige. Gladly there was no need, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I had a mishap on stage tomorrow. Not sure how Marko now feels about it though having seen me flailing my cheap old SG around tonight.

Drunk Punk arrives halfway through the Famine Year set and starts dancing around a bit. He doesn’t last long. He bangs into Petri and ends up getting fucked into the PA speaker. After the gig Kev spots him sitting disheveled, holding an ice pack to his elbow. A while later he’s passed out asleep on the floor in the little corridor behind the stage where we’re keeping our gear. We pack up the gear and leave it ready to pick up tomorrow. Niklas seems happy enough with the turnout tonight. Totally okay for a Thursday. We hang out a little more by the bar, enjoy another couple of pints of Koff lager. Marko Brown is hoping we’ll join him to check out the Misfits cover band at some other venue but I’m knackered, been up since half seven this morning with Polly, and plus I think Niklas is hoping we’ll join him back at his place. He hasn’t been able to drink all night since he’s driving us, and I think Brown is hoping we’ll stay at his place too. We don’t really know Niklas that well and it’s a little tempting to head back to our mates place but we feel it would be rude to leave Niklas hanging. And I suspect that things will be a lot calmer at Niklas place.

My suspicions are confirmed. Absolutely perfect. His place is really beautiful, and he’s arranged with his wife and daughter to stay at the in-laws tonight so they won’t be disturbed by us. Really nice of him and his family. I’m very glad we chose this option tonight. I have a feeling the next two nights won’t be as calm. We sit around on the wooden living room floor, talking over some beers that Niklas brought with him, and then open a bottle of red wine. All very civilized. It’s not even too late, only around midnight when we got back here. Luc falls asleep sitting upright on the couch after a while, snoring gently as the rest of us talk. Me and Kev eventually call it a night and head up to the spare room where a couple of clean mattresses await us. Vik takes some pillows on the living room floor. Turned out to be a very night end to a perfectly decent first show in Finland. I’m looking forward to getting in the sauna in the morning.

Friday, October 23, 2015


I don’t know how many miles I’ve travelled in a van during almost twenty years of touring. It’s up there in the tens of thousands though. There have been some gargantuan stretches on the asphalt during that time, drives that have taken me to the edge of sanity, at least that’s how it felt at the time. The longest journey between two gigs I ever did was with Victims when we drove from Oslo to Birmingham. That was pretty brutal. We had Martin from At the Gates with us for the first stretch, he drove from Oslo to his place in Gothenburg. I remember feeling totally fucked, having had a hard time sleeping in a moving van, that was usually the case if I was sober, when we pulled up to Martin’s at six am. We drove until around ten pm later the same night, stopping for a few hours at a roadside hotel somewhere in Holland, before leaving at four am the next day to catch the ferry from Calais to England. By the time we got to Birmingham we were pretty pulverised.

I learned first hand just how overwhelmingly large the USA is via the virtues of touring in a van. Speedhorn were on tour for around five weeks. We’d began in Houston, Texas, the opening show was supposed to be New Orleans but Katrina had put an end to that. We had one day off in El Paso near the start of the tour but from there we played every night right the way through Arizona and up the west coast to Seattle before we had another free day, a couple of weeks later. I asked the guy who was driving us, Dutch, where we would be spending the day after Seattle, hoping for some sightseeing, or maybe a day somewhere sat in a bar. Dutch just laughed at the naivety of my question. “Where will be be spending the day? In the fucking van! After Seattle the next show is Denver and that’s a twenty four hour drive”.

There have also been plenty of occasions where we’ve had huge drives between shows without a day in between to accomplish the journey. Driving from Syracuse to Chicago with Victims to make a show the next night was a particularly challenging journey, where we packed up and left right after the show to make it. It was knackering but worthwhile since the Chicago gig was an opening slot with Amebix. If that wasn’t worth it alone then the old screamo band Nema were also on the bill, although it was only me who gave a fuck about that particular detail.

Through all the years of travelling we’ve owned or rented an assortment of vans or busses. When I think back I remember them all with varying degrees of fondness. The vans themselves almost became like a member of the band, they all had a character of their own and they were all witness to a multitude of incidents and dramas. I own a memory for almost all of the vans or buses we ever travelled in.

When Speedhorn started playing shows up and down the UK we were playing a lot of one off shows, or at most a cluster of two or three. Here, there and everywhere. For these shows we used to hire vans from a rental place in Corby called Longmarsh Motors. We used to hire these long wheel based Transits and for the most part it was Roddy who took care of the driving. We’d be sat in the back, using speaker cabs and drum cases as makeshift seating. Sometimes there would be a divider between the back of the van and the cabin. Sometimes there would be a light in the back, sometimes not. I remember once driving all the way up to Scotland in the dark barr for one slither of light that shone through the smallest of holes in the wooden divider. Every now and again one of us would peer through the hole to try and get a gauge on where we were and relay the information to the rest of us in the back. These kind of journeys were made bearable by two things; copious amounts of hash being one, John and Tony wrestling being the other. Even if you didn’t actually suck on the joints yourself you’d be high purely off the exhaled smoke trapped within the back of the van. Hotboxing, they used to call it. When the van would pull over at a service station the smoke would literally billow out of the van when the driver slid the door open. The other time killer was the wrestling. John and Tony, the Loughlin brothers, used to go at it pretty hard. What started out as fun could turn a tad serious on occasion. Of course, being stoned off their tits most likely dampened the sensation of having their head banged off the walls. We were all in a pretty unhealthy state in those days.

Obviously there was a shit load of booze about too. Being on a tight budget we’d kitty the money and buy the cheapest wine or cider we could find. Most of the drinking was done after the gigs but there were times when we’d fuck up and arrive at a venue worse for wear. We were living in an age of innocence. We had minimal responsibility. Most of us didn’t have jobs to worry about, or if we did they were of no priority whatsoever, except for Frank who worked for his dad. But in general we were going through a fairly narcissistic period. Fuck whatever the future holds, we know this shit isn’t going to last forever. All that matters is the next gig, the next bottle of vino and who’s rolling. We were young and didn’t give a fuck about what went on outside the van. It was wonderful. For a time…

One dark journey home I was lying on the cold van floor listening to the radio up front, which was muffled by the dividing wall. There was a bottle going around and we were all pretty hazy. Roddy brakes suddenly, I don’t know what happened, chances were he was pissing around. He did that a lot. Whatever the reason, the sudden breaking resulted in a Jenny can full of diesel falling over and emptying its contents on John. We couldn’t see fuck all, we just knew what had happened since the glugg, glugg, glugging sound was followed by the suffocating smell of diesel and then John moaning, “Ahhh for fuck sake!”

Amidst the ensuing chaos a spark of light appears in the corner. The spark it turns out, is coming from Daz’s lighter. The fucker decides now is a good time to spark up a fag. We all bellow in unison, utter disbelief. John tells Daz in no uncertain terms to put his lighter away. Daz being drunk and cocky, as he was prone to be, assures John there is no danger. A tense argument ensues between them and then we all join in, telling Daz to shut the fuck up and put his lighter away. “Soz guys, forgot that I’m an engineer and know more about this than you..” Don’t know what the fuck he meant by that. Sarcastic cunt never knew when to shut the fuck up. Needless to say the van opened up and we all piled out on to the side of the dark road. John soaked in fuel and severely pissed off, threatening Daz with his life. This would not be the last time John issued such threats to Daz.

Another time we were spread about the back of a rental van. It’s so dark in there you can’t even see your hand in front of your face and it’s cold. We’re all pissed up and in pretty good spirits, listening to the muffled sounds of one of Frank’s mixed tapes up front. There is a bottle of luke warm cider, flat as piss, being passed around in the void. Out of nowhere we hear Daz gagging. Woaaaah! Stop the van Roddy, stop the fucking van! We’ve got a vommer! Roddy pulls into the next service station and we all rush out, inspecting ourselves to make sure Daz’s puke hasn’t got us. To our amazement there isn’t any sign of puke in the back of the van, or on Daz for that matter, although the poor sod is looking fucked, pure white and eyes rolling. Turns out the vom is in the inner pocket of his bomber jacket. Hats off. Don’t know how the fuck he pulled that off in the pitch black of the van but I’d be lying if I said I was unimpressed. As we’re stood there commending him on the save, he wanders off to the back of the van and continues to throw up, lurched over, legs bent out of shape. Frank goes up behind him and shunts him up the ass with his foot, just because. Daz falls over into his newly formed puddle of sick. Best of mates.

The first van I remember us owning was an old British Telecom van. It was a yellow mini bus that was previously used as a transporter for the engineers. It had a few rows of bench seats and a table up front, with and an empty space at the back where we could store equipment. We boarded up the windows at the back so you couldn’t see into the back compartment. The great thing about this van though was that it was equipped for camping. It had a mini kitchen area between the back row of seats and the equipment compartment. This kitchen area had a worktop, some shelves attached to the wall, a kettle and an electric stove. It was fucking magic since it saved a lot of money on food. We rarely got fed by the venues in those days. No more expensive fast food, now we could scrimp by on the cheapest stuff the supermarket had to offer. Food was by no way any kind of priority in those days, the cheapest way to fill the hole was all that counted.

We bought the yellow van from a gypsy who went by the name of Bimbo. He was this big fucker you wouldn’t want to mess with, a rather infamous character around certain circles in Corby. He was an acquaintance of Gordon’s dad, Moggy. I don’t remember how much we bought the van for, it couldn’t have been much, the twat was always breaking down. It looked good, granted, but it was about as trustworthy as a fart after a vindaloo. Not that we’d taken out any sort of insurance policy with Bimbo.

The first ever real tour we played we were in the Yellow Van. We were doing a tour of the UK with Ninth Circle from Scotland, a lovely bunch of metalheads that we’ve remained friends with until this day. We were fucking chuffed. Our first ever “tour” and we have this ace looking van to travel about in. On the way down to the first show, on the motorway just outside of Hastings we caught sight of what we knew must be the Ninth Circle van, a white Tranny that had a few tell tale signs of being a band van. Namely a few gaffa taped skulls on the sides and a mane of black hair flailing out the passenger window. We’d soon learn that the hair belonged to their bass player Curly. Anyway, we spot them and instruct American George to put his foot down and overtake them. Much obliged he does so and when we pass them their devil horns and gurning are met by our bare arses mooning them. We tear away laughing our heads off and leave them behind. Of course, ten minutes later the van has broken down and then we’re mocked by the tooting of the Ninth Circle van as they pass us pushing our piece of shit up a hill on the side of the road. I’ll never forget Tony pushing beside me and moaning, “I fucking hate our van.” Credit to the Jocks though, they came back and assisted us. A friendship was born.

That van broke down all the fucking time. I think it broke down again upon leaving Hastings the very next night. Or at least on another occasion after Hastings. The thing is we had Frank in the band, our own mechanic, plus Gordon came from a family of car people, so the situation was rarely completely beyond fucked. The blame wasn’t always entirely on the van though…

We’d argue a lot about who was driving, especially if we didn’t have Roddy or American George with us, and even then there was still plenty of arguing. Smartly I fucked off learning to drive until Speedhorn called it a day so I was never much involved in the conversation, but the others, barr John, all had licenses. One time we played Southampton and driver’s duty had fallen upon Gordon. We were heading back to Corby the next day since we didn’t have a gig but Gordon got the hump, and told everyone that if he was driving back to Corby then he was doing it after the show. Just to piss on the party. He pulled the van out of the carpark behind the Joiners with a total gob on. It was already late and the drive back to Corby was a good four hours. As we left someone mentioned that we’d need to fill up on petty at some point. “No, not stopping, Want to get home. We’ll make it on that,” says Gords. Not totally convinced but too tired to be arsed arguing with him. We all fall asleep in the back of the van. An undetermined amount of time later I’m woken by a sheepish looking Gordon, whispering to me. The fucking van has ran out of petrol and we’re on the hard shoulder of the M1, about an hour from home. He’d come to me, not daring to wake Frank and hit him with the news, knowing too well what the consequences would be. I could not fucking believe it. It was three am and I longed for my bed. Telling Frank was unavoidable though, he had to be told, he’d know what to do in the situation. Well Gordon knew what had to be done too to be fair, but the sense was we couldn’t keep it from Engine Man, as Roddy called him. Funnily enough, when Gordon roused Frank and told him the news in the most innocent voice he could muster, Frank wouldn’t even credit him with eye contact. He just rolled over in his seat, refusing to address the situation, “Don’t give a fuck. You sort it”. That kind of tickled Gordon I think, I guess he realised it was fair enough. Gordon trudged off, with an empty Jenny can, taking poor George with him, back to the last service station we’d passed. It seemed like a fucking age waiting for their return, sat there in the back of the van, no engine. Freezing.

The Yellow Van broke down many times over the course of the first year or so of touring, most of my memories of that van seem to be of pushing the twat. The pushing was always preceded by an annoyed sigh from Frank, “Right, get out...” It finally died somewhere up in the North. We’d broken down in the dark somewhere and had no option but to ring roadside service. On occasion when the van was playing up Gordon would call Moggy for advice, if Frank and Gordon couldn’t figure it out for themselves, a couple of times I remember Gordon waking up his dad in the middle of the night, and on those occasions we managed to sort it. But it was never going to last forever. The pick up truck came, towed the van on to the back and we hitched a ride in the cabin. Tony and I were sat in the back, contemplating our finances. We’d paid Bimbo from some advance money we’d received from the label and now we were fucked. “We got that fucking advance and what do we have to show for it? That!” he says, thumbing back to the Yellow Van, now lying dead on the back of the pick up truck, refusing to even look at it. “The rest of it we’ve pissed away”.

Yep. I thought then that the band was fucked. Not only were we without a van, we had no money whatsoever to buy a new one. How could we continue to tour full time without a van? And more to the point, how the fuck were we going to get home tonight? We were miles away.

Needless to say, things worked out. Somehow. We ended up lending Iron Monkey’s old van, the Big Blue. I don’t ever remember paying for it. We just seemed to be using it all of a sudden. Maybe the label had forked out? I guess if they did then it was all coming out of our pocket at some point in the future. I paid it no thought. I didn’t really give a fuck about what money was going where and who owed who what. That was all just boring details.

Big Blue was the hottest van I have ever travelled in. It kind of reminded me of those old vans that they used to use as mobile grocery stores, although fitted out for bands with bench seats and a table. The nice thing was that was no dividing wall between the back and the cabin, just a curtain. It was carpeted all over, walls, floor, ceiling. It was like riding in an oven. We used to travel about in it, the lot of us stripped down to the kecks. It was a heavy old fucker as well. The first time we went out in it was down to a show in Margate. Upon approach to the venue we had to climb a hill and when we looked out the window we noticed that people were walking faster than we were travelling. Fucking embarrassing. Even so, I still thought it was a really big deal, it was Iron Monkey’s old van! It felt like the first step on the way to being a serious band.

We travelled around for a while in Big Blue. We slept in it too. It was pretty torturous since you’d wake up and have to peel your face off the carpet in the morning. It was suffocatingly hot in there, even during the winter. During the summer we’d open the back doors to the storage compartment and grill cheap bangers on disposable barbeques. We thought it was a really nice idea, until we realised that the smoke had permeated the cardboard boxes we had our merch in and we spent the next six months trying to flog t-shirts that stank of smoke. I remember one time we had a grill going on, parked up somewhere by the seaside and someone, could have been Daz, vigorously shook the ketchup bottle without realising the top was off. A huge squirt of the stuff hit Roddy right in the eyeball and we all pissed ourselves laughing. Roddy was fucking furious though, said we could have blinded him.

Roddy never had it easy with us lot. Big Blue had a few problems, it seemed to struggle to pull around it’s own weight a lot of the time and the engine was always running dry radiator fluid. The tank for the fluid was actually inside the van, between the driver and passenger seats up front. One hot day we were trudging down the M11 at a snail’s pace, traffic packed. The engine starts overheating and Roddy starts panicking. We start pouring water into the tank, hoping to keep it cool enough. Not optimal but better than nothing. There are only a few half bottles lying around though and it’s not enough. Roddy, now in full panic, commands us all to piss in the tank. Without questioning we line up and one by one, aim our cocks into the hole. A couple of miles down the line the plastic cap on the tank blows off due to a buildup of pressure from within and a cocktail of steaming hot piss sprays out all over Roddy. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to puke. Big Blue didn’t last much longer than that.

We had a few other vans that flitted in and out of the band’s history. Usually old boats that Frank dug up from somewhere. I have a vague memory of a white Tranny that lost a wheel in Kettering. Just rolled off at a roundabout. Otherwise we had rentals. Until we entered the era of the tour bus.

For a few years it felt like we were fucking Metallica. Not that we were playing to extravagantly big crowds, although we were doing okay. It’s just the high you get when you’re travelling on a tour bus can be intoxicating. It was absolute luxury to wake up in the morning parked outside the next venue, having the whole day to go sightseeing, if you hadn’t spent the whole of the previous night up getting fucked. Which was often the case. We could never travel in a tour bus today on the money we were making then, our tour costs were most likely very unrealistic and swallowed up a lot, if not all of any tour support we got, which of course would all be debt in the future anyway. But we didn’t think about that crap for a few years. And the memories of travelling like royalty for a few years will stay with me forever. Even if I probably wouldn’t do it that way today.

The first bus we ever stepped on board was this old clapped out thing that suited us down to the ground. It had a couple of lounges and beds for all. It looked like it hadn’t had a touch up since 1970 but that just meant we could wreck it. Well, that’s how we interpreted it anyway. Not that we intentionally ever wrecked anything, it’s just the booze normally blurred the edges of right and wrong. Bob, the old boy who drove the bus, loved us all the same. Treated us like we were his own mischievous kids. Our first trip in Bob’s bus was a two day journey from Corby to Helsinki, we were all steamboats before we got to the ferry at Dover and remained in that state until we got to the first gig. The boat trip from Stockholm to Helsinki hardly helping matters, the ferry was like a floating nightclub.

There were some bad things that happened during our time on Bob’s bus, some have been written about on here earlier, some have still to be recounted. My finest memory of Bob’s bus though was being sat there with Frank, Daz and Bianchi, driving in the hills up above Lake Como at four am, listening to Led Zepplin. I was high as a kite and at that moment felt an unwavering love for the guys and life itself. I’d never felt such harmony within the band. Bianchi then asked Bob to pull over so we could look down at the lake, telling us that this was the area his ancestors came from. He was pretty emotional about it. High, obviously. We stood there, breathing in the fresh, early morning air, looking at the astonishing view. It was a beautiful moment. One I’ll never forget.

We had Bob for a couple of tours and then we moved on to Chop, the crazy Welshman with the pierced knob. Everyone in the business seems to have seen that knob. If Bob’s bus was like an old hippie’s caravan, then Chop’s resembled a hotel. And he was extremely proud of it. If you fucked with it, you’d be in the shit. Chop might have looked daft with his Chuckle Brothers style mullet, but he wasn’t to be messed with. We did two European tours and a few festivals, as well as a UK jaunt with Chop. It’s weird how quickly you take things for granted. After only half a year of touring on nightliners it felt like we’d been doing it forever. Things change, quickly. The band was entering a darker period. The fighting began to take on a more sinister edge. Up until then knocking lumps out of each other seemed to work the steam off the tension in the band but now everything was becoming a little underhanded and certain people in the band couldn’t seem to stand being together anymore.

Still, the happy memories are the ones that stick the firmest. Jen and I became official whilst we were touring with Chop. We’d stayed in touch since the first time we’d been in Stockholm and when we were back with Chop, a few months later, supporting Mudvayne of all garbage, and she came down to hangout. She ended up travelling with us to Copenhagen the next day since we had a free day between Stockholm and Hamburg. That night we shared an uncomfortably tight bunk, nothing happened, we just lay there talking all night. It was amazing. It was the night. I knew then that I was in love with her. The next tour we did in Chop’s bus was in the UK with Jen’s band Misdemeanor and Jen travelled with us. She ended up puking in the bunk one night, steamboats. I knew then, as I was doing my best to clean the mess up that we’d probably end up getting married. It was very unlike Jen, she’s had to clean my mess up far more often than vice versa in the years since then. We had two puke incidents in the bus that tour, some girl John had hooked up with puked all over his bunk, he hadn’t even managed to get into bed himself, she just crawled in first and threw her insides up. John looked fucking gutted.
My lasting memory of Chop’s bus though is from that Misdemeanor tour, being sat on it in silence in Oxford, wondering if the world was coming to an end. Two planes had just flown into the World Trade Center in New York and armageddon was being reported on the news. 

I think the Misdemeanor tour was the last we did with Chop. We did a European jaunt with Bacardi Barry, a total sleazebag of a driver who was a raging alcoholic to boot. Bad mix. I’ve written about Barry on these pages before, as have I Bob and Chop, the stories don’t need to be duplicated. Other than Barry I only really remember one Scouse guy, might have been called Craig. He was driving us in Europe on a bus owned by the same company that employed Chop and Bacardi Barry. He backed into a post somewhere in Belgium and the pole ended up piercing the back window. Turns out he was hungover to fuck. He got sent home. Barry turned up as his replacement…

Things were coming to an end as far as the tour buses went. We started hearing rumours that the accounts weren’t adding up, that we owed the bus company money. We had no fucking clue. We left it to others to sort. But that was the first telltale sign that things weren’t exactly as they should be. It was the first thread in the seem that started unravelling and before I knew what was going on the band was falling apart. Burnt out, disillusioned, and broke. We were on the verge of imploding. Something had to give. Tony went first, then Frank. Daz was the last of the originals to go.

We managed one tour of the States, in an RV van driven by a pretty special guy called Dutch. They’re all special. A whole account of that tour and that van lies within these pages. As does the story of the last van we ever bought. Betty. Our love. Betty was unreliable and caused no end of grievance but we loved her dearly. We spent the bulk of our recording budget for the final album on her. Never was money so well spent. The band was happy again. And then we broke up.

Happy or not, ten years was enough. And very few people even give a fuck anymore.

Since Betty I’ve been back travelling in rentals. The quality of rental vans in Sweden is generally pretty good, although there’s always the odd incident here and there. Like heading off from Stockholm to Oslo in the snow and realising half way that the rental company had forgotten to change to winter tires. But otherwise vans have come and gone with little incident. We just hire them, get on them and drive. We usually sleep at the venues or at someone’s house. When we’ve toured the States with Victims we’ve travelled with our great friend Matt Sachs in his green A Team van. Pure luxury. Again, tour diaries exist for those trips. Matt has become a pappa since the last time we toured the States and his long life on the road has come to an end, the green van has gone. I was shocked to hear he’d sold it, that van was a part of Matt it felt like. It was time though, understandably he didn’t want to leave Jasper for weeks and months on end. Matt had put a lot into the scene, more than most. It was time to hand over the keys. It will be strange to be without the green van next time we’re in the States. But that’s life. Every van has it’s day.

I guess it’s something I think more about now than I did before I was a parent, but through all the years of driving we’ve never had an accident. I have friends who have been in some bad smashes, I’ve toured with bands who have later had tragedies befall them. We’ve had some near scrapes though, some too close for comfort. Gordon once drove off the motorway in the wrong direction in Italy. American George nearly drove us head on into an oncoming vehicle at full pelt in The Yellow Van. We’ve had a couple of tires blow out on the way. We’ve had windscreen wipers blow of the side of the Alps in a storm in the middle of the night. We’ve had the engine go up in flames half way up a mountain in Italy and the brakes give up halfway back down it. There have been many a late night sat fighting desperately to keep my eyes open and being struck by rigid panic every time the van swayed. I’ll never forget leaving Gords and Daz on duty up front as Frank drove home after a gig one night. The two of them gabbing like old fogies at the social club, completely oblivious as Frank slept beside them at the wheel, all cozied up against the frame of the door, his thighs blindly steering the van.

I guess after all the years of touring, more than anything, I should be happy to still be around.  

Friday, August 14, 2015


Awoke long before dawn yesterday.  How quickly the darkness descends upon our northern land.  Only a couple of weeks ago we were up at four am to go on holiday to Italy and the sun was already shining happily above the horizon, yesterday I crawled out of bed a half hour earlier and it was still pitch black.  At least I seem to be better at sleeping before a journey these days, I’ve always struggled when I know I’m up early to catch a flight.  I must have had four hours on this occasion though, not a lot, but enough.  Johan picked me up around quarter to four, Jon already sat in the passenger seat beside him.  Johan tells me he’s slept an hour, if that.  

We pick up Andy in town and are out at Arlanda by four thirty.  Even being that we’re still in holiday season and the summer in Sweden has been pretty shit, I thought that we would be early enough to beat the mania.  But I was wrong.  The queues for the charter flights were throbbing.  Just looking at them filled me with anxiety.  Airport anxiety is something that has grown in me this last few years, like a steadily rising river.  I wish I could shake it.  We’re stood in line for the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt anyway, where understandably there are nowhere near as many holiday makers, and everything seems fine.  But then the baggage belt breaks down and all of a sudden we’re checking in with only ten minutes to go before boarding is due to begin.  We joke about the irony of missing this flight since we cancelled this very same festival last year, which cost the guys at Brutal Assault a few quid since the flights were already booked.  Of which they’ve reminded Andy during correspondence a few times already.  Andy laughs, saying that if we don’t make this flight they’ll probably sue us.  We’re finally sorted anyway, we drop the gear off at oversized baggage and head to the short line at security check.  Except Jon, who instead walks off towards the exit for a quick cig.  Unbelievable.  I do a quick run through in my head of our set list as a trio and decide that I could probably pull it off.

The journey down to Prague via Frankfurt goes smoothly enough, I think I sleep a little but not sure, it’s hard to know sometimes.  We have a quick coffee at Frankfurt airport and then I have another on the short flight to Prague.  That was the plan, sleep first flight, coffee second.  There will be no more sleeping now though until we get back to our hotel after the gig, so from here on in it’s coffee, or beer.  We arrive into a wall of heat at Prague airport.  Thirty eight degrees.  The bridge from the plane to the terminal is like a fucking greenhouse.  We’re met by a guy from the festival in a shuttle van that we share with some other band, grindcore or death by the look of it.  Nice guys though, from all over the place, Portugal, Ukraine, somewhere else.  

The journey to the festival site takes around two and a half hours.  It’s pretty good motorway for the best part but the last forty minutes or so are more like the roads you’d expect from the old East, winding and terrifying.  We stop at a garage along the way and we hang about in the heat eating crisps whilst the other band sit down to a meal at Burger King.  The heat is too much for Jon’s heavy metal pride and he quickly whips off his leather jacket, vest, hoodie and t-shirt and replaces it with a sleeveless Mercyful Fate t-shirt/vest effort that has seen better days.  He’s chuffed though.

We drop the other band off at their hotel before we get to the festival site.  They’re staying at some golf resort about thirty minutes away in some village.  Johan’s eyes light up, I can tell he wouldn’t mind staying here.  Thing is we’re actually staying in a hotel at Prague airport and we’re driving all the way back tonight.  We figured that since we’re not flying home until late the next day we may as well have the whole day in Prague and do some sightseeing.  As we whiz through a few more villages I say to Andy that if we were staying around here and driving back tomorrow then there is not a fucking chance I’d be getting pissed tonight since these roads, in the baking sun, on a hangover, would be about as much fun as a kick in the penis.  As it happens, I’m quite looking forward to a drink tonight…

We arrive and sort stuff out with the production people and the first things you notice are that a) there are a lot people working behind the scenes here and they all seem really nice and helpful and b) the venue for this festival is amazing!  It’s a 19th. century army fortress, Josefov, built to defend the citizens against attacks from Prussia.  There are large stone walls all around with tunnels piercing through them, leading to all sorts of cavernous rooms which the festival uses to house different things.  There are two main stages in the middle of the complex which stand side by side and alternate quickly between bands and then a third stage in a tent at the other end of the fortress where we’ll play.  It’s a really beautiful set up, if not a little arid and dusty.  It has the looks of a pretty unique festival.  

The first person we bump into is Tompa Lindberg from At the Gates, who are headlining tonight.  Tompa is an old friend of the guys and a really nice bloke.  I met him once a long time ago when he played with Disfear at Kafe 44 with Nasum, in which Jon played.  We hung out afterwards and had a good chat but haven’t really met since then.  It’s good to meet him again anyway, we spend a good half hour hanging out and chatting, hiding in the shadow of one of the tunnels, resisting the urge to grab a beer.  If I start now I’ll be fucked by the time we go on at eight pm.  It’s only three…  

We get stuff sorted and then go to check out one of the only bands playing today that I’m interested in, Ratos De Porao from Brazil. the legendary hardcore band that started back in the Eighties.  We actually met twice randomly in New York last year when we were both there for Maryland Deathfest.  From where we’re stood side stage it looks like they’re having a great show, and the sound is really good.  Chuffed to see them since we missed them last year.  It makes me think of Lucas, who knows the bass player.  He’d love to be here I’m sure.  

When Ratos are done we head back to the artist area to get some grub.  This turns into a bit of a fail.  They have a sign above one archway saying Vegan Food/Bands, so we head there.  They have a sauerkraut tempeh soup which is all broth and tepid and a bean chili which tastes okay, although it’s not a touch on my speciality dish.  Still, free food, always appreciated.  And the Band Chill Out room where we sit down to eat has fans cooling the air.  When I take the second course back to the kitchen they tell me that cake is in the other room.  Other room?  I go back in search of cake but find nothing.  I sit back down with Johan and Andy and tell them there is cake somewhere.  I really want cake.  A glance about the room reveals nothing.  There is an open packet of McVitie's Ginger Nuts on our table, so I help myself to a couple of them.  The first one is soggy, the second more acceptable.  This won’t do though.  I go back to the kitchen and enquire again, Johan and Andy laughing at me, calling me by one of my many nicknames, Snacks.  I’m told then that there is another room in the building where they have the cake.  I go back again and fuck me, not only do they have cake, they have a whole vegetarian/vegan buffet!  And there is Jon, sat gabbing away with Tompa, stuffing his face!  Nice one, mate.

We have our gear taken over to the tent stage we’re playing by a quad bike pulling a trailer, or rather, a square piece of wood on wheels.  The guys taking the gear motion for us to hop on board but we fancy the walk after the three course meal we’ve just consumed.  It’s a bit of a walk and the sun is raging up there and you know this is going to be one hot fucking gig.  When we get to the tent there is some rubbish black metal band on stage.  I’m not anti-black metal, far from it, I own most of the classic records, but there isn’t much new stuff from today that stands out in my ears.  These guys crack me up though.  All dressed in black PVC pants and silly shirts/fish net tops, the corpse paint melting off their faces in the sauna that is the tent they’re playing in.  It doesn’t really look that “evil” in the light of the afternoon.  As I stand there watching them, looking at the packed crowd inside the tent, I’m so hot it’s stressing me a little.  I’m stood completely still and even so the sweat is pissing out of me.  Pissing.  The black metal band don’t seem to mind though, and the stage crew have to gesture to them a couple of times that their slot is over.  I crack up when they walk off, right past me.  The last off stage is this bulky guitarist guy, he stares at the crowd with a menacing expression, evil to the very last, despite looking like a melted clown, and then at the very last second before exiting to the back stage he passes me stood by the ramp and looks up, “Hej!” friendly smile on his face.  They’re soon kitted off into their civvies and drinking beer with their mates behind the tent.

I’m surprised to find a bottle of Jack Daniels in the fridge of our porta cabin dressing room, which we’re allotted between five and nine pm.  It’s not my drink at all but Johan and I look at each other like we’re thinking the same thing, that it will be perfect for that two hour journey back to the hotel tonight.  We leave the gear in the room and the other guys head back to the main stage to watch a bit of The Haunted, I stay in the room and restring my guitar, supping on an ice cold can of Budvar from the fridge with the rotating fan set to still, right in front of my mug.  Never has changing guitar strings been so relaxing.

When I’m done I head back over to the main stage, grab a cold draught beer from the backstage bar and watch the rest of The Haunted’s set.  Tompa and Jon are stood side stage so I join them there.  The beer tastes fucking wonderful, even if it is in a plastic glass.  I’ve never been a fan of The Haunted really, I’ve always thought of it as a downgrade on At The Gates with really boring vocals.  They don’t seem to be having a great gig either, at least from what I can tell from Adrian the drummer’s constant head shaking and grimacing.  Seems like he’s struggling a bit.  The singer Marco is a bit of a strange one too.  Looks like a Djurgården fan, says Johan.  I don’t know, he’s this big guy with a shaved head who just looks aggro.  Before one song he announces, “This song goes out to all the ladies here.  It’s called, My Enemy!!!!”  Wow...

Our stage slot is just before eight pm.  I head back a little while before and find Andy setting up the drums side stage whilst some bizarre band called Rome are playing.  Jon hates them because the singer introduced a song by saying, “This is a deep song”.  They play this kind of melodramatic slow rock and the singer quivers out the lyrics.  Andy says he was pretty glad to have them playing whilst he set up as opposed to thirty minutes of screaming.  Thankfully the sun has dropped a little in the sky and the tent doesn’t quite feel as hot as it did whilst the black metal band were on a couple of hours ago.  The stage hands are really nice people and this one guy is telling me how he’s really looking forward to seeing us play, that he thinks it’s great that he finally gets to listen to a bit of hardcore this weekend.  

It’s always a bit daunting setting up and line checking in a big empty tent, you never know at these festivals if people keep a check on who’s playing where.  Thankfully the place fills up a little by the time we start and by the end of the set the tent is pretty full.  Indeed it isn’t as hot on stage as I’d previously feared it would be but it’s still a bit of a struggle.  I’m going for it as much as I can but by the time we get to Who The Fuck Are We? I find myself looking at the remaining six songs and wishing it was over already.  Lots of water between each block of songs required.  It’s fun to see Tompa stood side stage enjoying himself the whole set, even more fun to see the big singer from Ratos actually down front in the crowd, big smile on his face, banging his fist into the air.  And then there’s our old mate Boulty who puts shows on at the studio in Nottingham, stood by himself in the middle shaking his dreadlocks.  I wouldn’t say it’s one of those magical festival gigs, the likes of which we’ve had at Fluff Fest or Hell Fest, but it’s still pretty decent.  There is the obligatory circle pit when we end with This Is The End.  I think in general though people are just too fucking exhausted from the heat to give much more.  There is a big cheer as we leave the stage and I’m happy enough with how things have gone.  Now I need to sit down, relax and open another one of those cold cans of Budvar.

We hang out for a while by the porta cabin, tops off, cooling in the evening sun which is now accompanied by the slightest of breezes.  It’s rewarding just sitting there.  There isn’t really much more we want to see today except At the Gates so we’re in no rush.  Oddly enough we have a meet and greet session booked in for ten pm. which seems a little ludicrous, but all the bands on the bill are obliged to attend.  I have no wish whatsoever to participate, I used to hate doing this kind of thing with Speedhorn.  The others don’t seem to mind though.  Jon is banging on about how he went to check out Dödheimsgård when they were signing, hoping he could meet them, but there was a queue of about a hundred people there.  “They aren’t known by anybody so I think it’s gonna be a lot of people there when it’s our turn!”

By the time it comes around me and Andy have gotten stuck talking to the Ratos guys backstage and have absolutely no lust to leave to go do this thing, but we feel bad that Johan and Jon are there on their own and we’re already five minutes into the twenty minute slot so we decide we better go and give them some backup.  We make our way into one of this vault where the signing sessions are taking place.  To our amazement there is indeed a long queue of people and there at the top, stood in front of a big table and getting their photo taken with a couple of people is Johan and Jon.  Smiles on their faces look a little awkward.  We head on over and it turns out these four people are from Bulgaria and really like Victims.  We hop in for a couple of photos and sign some stuff.  They’re very grateful and stoat off chuffed afterwards.  I look at the rest of the queue with the bouncer at the head of it and wait for the next people to come forward.  Nobody moves.  Johan starts to laugh.  He tells me that those four were the only ones here to see Victims, that the bouncer was ushering others in the queue forward but they all just stood still, shaking their heads.  When Johan and Jon first arrived and walked past the queue they received a big cheer, to which they waved to acknowledge the appreciative crowd.  It soon becomes apparent that the punters had seen Jon’s long hair and thought the guys were in Vader, the band booked in after us who everyone here is waiting to meet.  Not us.  Just those four Bulgarians.  That’s it.  Fucking humiliating!  The bouncer gives us an apologetic glance and then turns away.  We stand there like a right bunch of fucking muppets.  There is a fridge behind the table with a note on the glass door that reads, FOR THIRSTY BAND MEMBERS.  I suggest to the guys that we fuck off to which Jon answers, “Come on boys, we’ve got another fifteen minutes to get through those beers, we’re not leaving!”  As if we don’t have plenty of other free beers available to us.  I piss myself laughing at Jon’s sincerity though.  We do indeed stand there for the rest of our time, grinning to ourselves as we get through as many cold cans as we can manage whilst the line of people patiently wait for Vader.  Eventually the bouncer issues for us to fuck off and we do so, gladly.

By the time At The Gates start we’ve all had a few more beers and I’m in jovial mood as we stand side stage watching them play to the big crowd in the moonlit fortress.  Me and Jon spend the majority of the set laughing at fuck knows what.  ATG are good, they deliver what is expected, it’s always fun to see Tompa singing live, but in all honesty I don’t remember a great deal.  We’re all too involved in our own little party off to the side. 

We have the shuttle booked for eleven pm which is just about right, as soon as ATG are done we’re due to head back to the hotel.  Of course, it doesn’t quite go so smoothly and it’s closer to midnight by the time we eventually leave.  Some other band who are sharing the ride are missing two members.  We’re right outside the backstage beer tent so we just carry on drinking until they’re found.  When we eventually hop in the van that bottle of Jack Daniels rears it’s head.  When it comes to me I have the tiniest of sips, fucking disgusting and warm, and then fall asleep.  I awake once during the journey back, when we stop at a garage and rat crisps, but otherwise I’m out.  Before I know it we’re at the hotel.  Magic.  The bottle of Jack has barely been touched.

Of course, things don’t go smoothly at the hotel either.  There is this tall, skinny blonde sap of a man on night duty, having to deal with all these bands checking in at all hours, and he looks totally pissed off by the time we approach the desk.  He asks me who we are to which I reply, “Victims.”  

“Of who?” he asks.

“Of a bomb raid…” I say, almost laughing before I get it out.  Me, Johan and Andy all stand there sniggering, chuffed.  Not so Night Shift.  He tells us that he can’t find our name on the list.  We look for ourselves and sure enough, we’re not on it.  Night Shift tells us the hotel is full and all. Fuck this.  Now I really just want to go to bed.  It takes a phone call back to the production manager and a bit of fucking around to get things sorted but thankfully it turns out that we can stay.  Johan and I take the room with the double bed leaving Andy and Jon to the twin room.  I shower and then crawl into bed and I’m gone.

We meet Andy for breakfast at ten thirty, Jon nowhere to be seen.  To be honest, we hadn’t expected him.  Andy says he was really surprised when he woke up at ten this morning though.  He opened his eyes to find Jon walking about newly showered.  This is surprising in itself.  Andy then observes Jon as he goes about the business of packing his bag, folding up his clothes neatly and making sure everything is sorted.  Andy then gets up himself and hops into the shower and when he comes back out he finds Jon passed out in bed, snoring.  Turns out the fucker is only just going to bed!  He’s been up all night partying with Dödheimsgård in their room.  The bottle of Jack is now done.

We’re checking out at eleven thirty and heading into the city.  Johan and I wait down in the lobby and are shortly joined by the other two.  Jon walks out of the lift first, Andy behind him grinning like a Cheshire cat.  Andy says it took him a while to stir Jon, he actually had to shake his bed with force, and when he eventually did manage to knock him up the first thing he does is open a beer.  Jon looks a fucking wreck.  We head to the bus stop across the road and wait.  It’s hot, must be around thirty degrees, we’re all dressed in t-shirt and shorts except Jon who has about three or four layers on.  He can barely keep his puffy, red eyes open.  The four of us sat on the bus, I look at my buddy rocking back and forth to the sway of the road, his eyelids as heavy as concrete, and I feel a rush of gratuity that it’s him and not me.

By the time we’re on the tube into the city center Jon is showing the first signs of life again.  Fuck knows how after only an hour’s sleep.  If he was I then I’d be heading to the nearest park for a kip.  An empty advertising placard on the train that someone has drawn a stick man version of Obama hanging on a rope has sparked Jon’s interest though.  We get off at Staromestska station by the old town and make our way up the incredibly steep escalator to the sunshine.  The first thing we see upon exiting is some girl in a loose fitting dress posing hideously for pictures in front of the Rudolfinum auditorium.  Next thing you know she whaps out these big plastic tits and the outcoming crowd stops still in shock.  I look immediately to my right to find Johan smiling, slightly confused and Andy with his camera at the ready, “Documenting the idiocy” he says.  We’ve obviously walked into the middle of a public photo shoot for some scud mag or something.

We walk along towards the famous Charles Bridge and cross the Vltava to the other side of the city.  It’s quite an astonishing bridge with it’s portals at each end and gothic statues flanking either side, but the sheer number of tourists meandering across it, in the heat of the sun, makes it a little unbearable.  Johan is annoyed by it, whilst Jon is stoating behind counting the selfie sticks, loudly cursing humanity every time he spots one.  When we get off on the other side we come into a small bottleneck of a street filled with small touristy shops and cafés.  Jon almost jumps out of his skin when he spots some guy with a huge snake draped around his shoulders, accepting money from saps willing to pay to touch it.  We pass this shop selling rubber masks and Andy looks at me and says discretely, “Don’t let Jon see that..” Hanging there amongst the latex faces is a mask of Adolf Hitler.  Fucking weird.  They seem to draw a fine line between irony and political correctness in this country,  Or else they just don’t give a fuck.  Andy’s right though, if Jon spots this he’ll be wearing it.

We walk into a quieter area looking at the architecture and the surrounding sights whilst all the time keeping an eye out for a bar.  The idea today was sightseeing but in this heat the craving for a cold pilsner is too much.  We find a cool place just sat above the river, it’s basically a shack bar in a parking lot that has been cozied up with tables, deck chairs and parasols.  There’s a table tennis table in the corner and a view of the water from certain parts.  The place seems to have just opened, the bartender looks like he had a few after work last night as he stands there making himself an espresso.  I can imagine this place is packed at night.  We take a table and pilsner each, except Andy who sticks to the Club Mate.  Sitting there I kick my shoes off and enjoy the cold brew.  It tastes like fucking heaven.  I could easily have a few more but feel a bit bad for Johan who is obviously thirsty too but has to drive back from the airport tonight, so I refrain from another beer and make the most of the one I have.  Next time I’ll have to do the driving.

I made plans to meet up with Symes today, since he lives here and it would be stupid not to hook up with friends when you’re in their city.  In all honesty having to make plans and meeting points feels like a bit of a hassle I can’t be doing with but I know I’ll feel bad if we don’t make the effort.  I get a text saying to meet up by the square at the National Museum in town at three, which should work well since we need to be back at the hotel for around four thirty.  The guys are up for meeting him too, so we drink up and decide to grab some lunch and then head over.  Before we leave we spot a photo booth and take some band pics, and then we watch Johan and Jon play table tennis whilst we wait for the development.  Jon is still in three layers.  He’s pretty nifty on the old ping pong though, fucker is full of surprises.

We grab some fried cheese at a restaurant beside the bar, which looked cosy with it’s shaded courtyard but is in actual fact uncomfortably humid, and a big plate of fried cheese, as good as it is, feels like the wrong choice.  Jon is on another beer now and fully back into the flow of life.  We walk back across the Vltava, via a different, less crowded bridge and make our way to the rendezvous point with Symsey.  It takes us longer than expected, the streets around Franz Kafka Square are swarming with tourists.  This coupled with the fact it feels like I’m wearing the sun as a fucking hat starts to stress me out a little.  I feel bad for dragging the guys on a trek in this heat but I’d feel really bad if I didn’t catch up with Symes.  On the positive side of things we get to see a bit more of Prague.

It’s almost four by the time we get to where we’re supposed to be and I’m wondering if Symes is even going to have bothered sticking around.  I haven’t heard back from him since he texted the first time.  If after all this he’s pissed off I can’t imagine the guys being too amused.  And then all of a sudden he appears, wearing shades and a large white Envy t-shirts that drapes on his skinny frame.  He almost walks right past me until I grab him and give him a hug.  “Eehhh!  How are you guys?  It’s so fucking hot!  This is insane.  How do you guys find it?  Was it like this yesterday?  Was it a good gig?  Was it killer?  Was it worth the trip?”... You have to make an effort to stop the fucker.  We walk in the direction of a café he has in mind and I hear Jon saying to Johan behind me in Swedish, “I love him already”.

We take a couple of high tables at this cool little café in a gallery just off the main square and Symes orders the drinks in, the only words he seems to have mastered in eighteen months of living in the Czech Republic are those for beer and thank you.  Two pretty important words, granted.  We get chatting away and the guys all take to him, he’s in good form today.  Jon spots that Symes has a Dag Nasty tattoo, just like his own, and from then on it’s best buds.  Jon and Symes are on the beer, the rest of us take ice coffee.  The coffee comes as a large glass of milk with an aluminium can of espresso coffee beside it that you tip in yourself.  Pretty interesting.  We talk for a good half hour or so, Jon tells Symes about three times that it’s a pleasure to meet him.  Symes’ girlfriend turns up a little while later, turns out the phone I was replying to earlier was hers, not his.  Explains things.  She’s really nice anyway and I really enjoy being sat there, chatting away with them.  Symes tells me that  the big Irish singer left their band and he’s hoping this girl is going to replace him.  We talk about getting them on at the show we’re playing in Prague in January.  He knows the venue and says it’s the perfect place for a Victims gig.  Hopefully we can work that out, will be fun.  

Time defeats us and all too soon it’s time for us to head back to the hotel at the airport and pick up our bags.  We say goodbye and make our way for the tube, this time not bothering to buy a ticket.  Symes told us that the inspectors on the trains are all civil clothed but they only ever appear on the trains during the days leading up to payday, which was two days ago, so we’re safe.  Good system.  We get to the airport with a couple of hours to go before flight time and are greeted by a really friendly woman at the check in desk.  She asks for the name of the band and says she’ll check us out.  Then she looks at Andy and says she’ll put us by emergency exit seats so we’ll have more leg room.  Chuffed.  Even if it is only for the first short flight to Frankfurt.  She then tells us to just leave our gear in front of the desk and someone will come along and take it to oversized baggage.  Johan and Andy joke that she’s probably only being that friendly because she’s going to steal our gear.  They sound like they’re from Corby.  We head through security whilst Jon goes outside for a fag.  He’s spotted the Dödheimsgård guys, his party bros from yesterday. We tell him we’ll meet him at the gate.  Andy jokes, “At least we’re on the way home now.  It’s the same with Jon as it is with the gear, you hope they’ll turn up on the other side but the main thing is they arrive when you’re on your way to the gig, on the way home it’s not as big a deal, they’ll get delivered home at some point”.

Jon and Johan head into some cheap looking Mexican fast food place whilst I decide to spend the last of my Czech cash on a beer at the pub beside.  Even in the Czech Republic airports are fucking expensive.  I head over to the guys when the beer is polished off, they’re just finishing up.  Tasteless apparently.  Glad I went with the beer, I’m still full from the fried cheese anyway.  It’s been about an hour since we left Jon and we haven’t seen hide nor hare of him.  Just as we’re discussing this he rings.  “Heeey.  Sorry for calling your phone. What gate are we flying from?”

I tell him that it’s gate C9, “Yes but on the boards it just says Gate C”.  

“Ok, but on the ticket it says C9 so I would just head there.”

“Yes I know it says C9 on the ticket but on the boards it just says C”.

“Ok, where are you?”...

“I’m by the gate”.

“Does it say Frankfurt on the monitor by the gate?”

“Yes”.  I’m completely baffled by this conversation.  I guess he’s been sat drinking since he left us.  

We walk over to the wing of the huge airport where our gate is situated and true enough we find him sat in an Irish pub.  The flight leaves on time and Jon and Johan are amongst the last onboard.  Johan said he daren’t leave him and he wasn’t in any rush to finish his brew.  Jon sits next to me for both the flights.  I have a glass of piss flat Coke and set it beside my book on the little table.  Jon orders a beer and spends the short flight chatting in my ear.  By the time we’re on the second, longer flight between Frankfurt and home I decide that if I can’t beat him I’ll join him, so I order a beer too.  Jon, not to be outdone, orders a beer and a red wine.  The red wine is practically downed.  We are engaged in a conversation about his current boss and my old one, who seem to be very alike in many disgusting ways, and from there we get into loads of other stuff.  I enjoy the trip.  As mental as he is I love the fucker to bits and I’m glad he’s in my life.  The world would certainly be a duller place without him.  We get talking about old age for some reason and he turns to me and says that he has no intention of ever being a pensioner.  This saddens me a little, mainly due to the fact that I know what he’s saying is true.

Beside us in the aisle seat is some young guy with his head rested on the table, doing his best to sleep through Jon’s infrequent howling laughter.  The guy has this perfectly combed hair, tan, neat clothes, and even in his tired state looks like he’s got his image together.  Jon has a theory that he’s one of these young kids that fly down to hip European cities for weekend trips to hang out at mad clubs and take loads of drugs.  He reckons he’s obviously on a come down and from there on in refers to him as C.D.  When the bar service comes back round Jon wonders if we should wake him and then jokes that he might have died.  

“We’ve lost one” I quip, which spurns Jon into a fit of laughter.  He starts imitating the pilot’s voice, “Do we have a priest on board?” and “Ladies and gents, a minute’s silence for 28 D.”  Jon is almost crying with laughter by this point.  As we come into land C.D. stirs to life and Jon embarks on a conversation with him.

It’s late by the time we land and after dropping Andy and Jon off, Johan and I sit for a little while in his care outside my flat before I head in.  It’s been a good weekend.  When I get through the door I find Bonz lying on the sofa, the sound of his tail wagging against it.  Polly is fast asleep in her room.  I check on her and change her nappy before heading to bed.  There I find Jen lying with a bucket.  Seems like she’s got a bad case of food poisoning.  She looks like death warmed up,  poor girl.  I take her some water and some pills and give her a kiss on the forehead before heading to Polly’s room to lie beside her for the night.  I lie there thinking about how much I love my family and how lucky I am.  

Polly starts back at nursery in the morning which means summer is almost over.   It will soon be time to return back to the reality of everyday life.