Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Professional Punks

I read an interview with the band Frau recently, in it they were asked about the punk scene in the UK.  One of the responses offered was that the UK punk scene is full of professional punks.  That a lot of the people involved, whether in bands or running labels, booking shows or writing zines, whatever, a lot of them have professional jobs.  This got me thinking, being that I’m now back in school and aspiring to something along those very lines.

Reading the interview reminded me of a conversation I had with Mark from Black Breath/Go It Alone about the differences between the scenes in North America and Europe.  He told me that he thought it was amazing that so many of us “older guys” were still playing in bands, that it seems like it’s a much more accepted thing to do in Europe than on the other side of the pond.  That is, being old and playing in a band is not frowned upon over here like it is for those guys back home.  He was curious as to why this was.  One reason may be that culture and subculture is supported a lot more by the government in Europe, even though there are plenty of complaints to the contrary from people here I think this holds water somewhat.  I remember when we were kids in the band Sect, applying for a Prince’s Trust grant from the government to fund the recording of a demo tape.  Some woman came down to our practice space at the local community centre and interviewed us, it took about twenty minutes and then they posted us some money to put towards the studio.  Free fucking money, couldn’t believe it.  In Sweden today you can apply for money to support your art from an organisation called Studiefrämjandet which gives support to bands in all sorts of ways, donating money for equipment and so on, all you have to do is, once signed up, send a report off stating when and how often you’ve been practicing, and you can claim money back.

I’m not saying that "the system" over here doesn’t have huge flaws, it does, and it’s getting worse for sure, but I’ve always been amazed by how much harder things seem to be with everything in North America, especially in the good ol' US of A, land of the free.  At least that’s the impression I always get from friends who are from there.  Mark told us that if you’re still playing in a band after the age of twenty five you get looked at like you’re a bum whereas over here there seem to be people still doing the band thing well beyond that.  Indeed it isn’t that uncommon for punks in their forties and fifties to still be at it.  I always remember how Mark put it: You can play in bands when you’re young, up until about twenty five it’s deemed okay, but then if you haven’t “made it” by that point it’s time to scrap it and get educated and get a proper job.

“Made it” has always been a fucked up concept to me.  What the fuck does “making it” mean really?  The thing is, slowly but surely getting back to the point, job/band thing, the one doesn’t necessarily have to be sacrificed for the other in Europe.  You can have an education; you can have a professional job and you can play in a punk band simultaneously.  That conversation with Mark, sparked into the conscious again by the interview with Frau, brought me to think about the fact that I know quite a few punks or people in and around the scene that have some mental jobs that they leave behind on a Friday night to go do this punk thing at the weekend, or even every now and again for a lengthier period of time.  Of course, I now belong to the older generation where this phenomenon is more prominent.  Amongst the younger, of which I once was, it’s a lot easier to do punk full time, before kids come into the equation, before “digs” becomes rent and when your body can still physically function after endless months of touring, function at a bare minimum at least.

But yeah, the older you get the larger part normal life plays for most of us.  For most of us punk becomes an impassioned hobby, but a hobby none the less.  It’s not something you’re forced to give up at twenty five or face being labeled a bum.  And as much as I know some charming bums within the scene, I know a fair few others who have professional jobs, as Frau would put it.  My mates Karl and Jamie who play in Disculpe and a bucket load of other bands from around the Deptford scene are both professors, or something along those lines, they both work at universities and they’re both clever as fuck at least, one an expert in sociology, the other in music theory.  Alec and Mucky Marcus run a successful tattoo studio and coffee shop business which Kev helps run.  Nige who played drums in their old band Regimes is now some mega rich real estate entrepreneur or something.  We know a guy called Sean from Canada who made millions through the internet boom and can now be seen at practically every London gig going.  Wayne is a vegetarian chef who works at some fancy restaurant in Primrose Hill on and off.  I once knew a guy who worked for the McLaren Formula One team, some physics expert or something, who played in bands back in the day.  I even knew a guy called Willis from Swansea who sang in Black Eye Riot, absolutely mental in the nicest sense of the word, who was rumoured to work for Jackie Chan as his PA in Europe!  I’m not sure that was ever confirmed though.. Still, the thought of Jackie Chan’s PA drinking poppers and almost blinding himself in the backroom at a Speedhorn gig in Swansea is an image I’ll hold dear for the rest of my days.

One of my dear friends mentioned above, Karl Ghostface Kidneybean Broome, is as I said a lecturer in sociology and since I started studying we’ve had a few interesting conversations on the matter.  I’ve decided I’m taking him on as my mentor since he’s soon out of contract with the University of Sussex, although I can’t afford to pay him. Student and all that.  Anyway, Karl, like me is from a working class background and has a long history in the punk scene, and that coupled with a passion for sociology has led him to where he is today, and he’s started to write about these matters on his new blog, What Is Not To Be Done.  Check it out, it’s a very interesting read.

The scene is full of professional punks?   Maybe.  I know a few at least.  A few others beside the lot mentioned above.  Like I said, my aspirations now lie somewhere with that lot too.  I’m at the start of a longish road towards obtaining a degree in sociology which I hope will take me to a job that is a far sight more rewarding that some of the shite I’ve dealt with in the past to make the rent.  Something in the school environment appeals to me at this moment in time.  I figure that with the long summer breaks I’ll be able to both spend time with the family and still go on tour.  Be a professional punk.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

London (Peckham)

It took a while to get going this morning.  Woke up first around ten thirty, closed my eyes for a second and then it was eleven thirty and Andy was all showered and ready to go.  It left me confused for a couple of seconds.  We had big plans today since we had the afternoon to do what we pleased with.  We’d spoken about walking over to Greenwich for a look about, maybe go to the Maritime Museum, or maybe head over to London Bridge and walk along the South Bank, take in the Tate Modern, fuck knows why but I’ve never been.  Of course, we’d neglected one major issue.  It’s January.

Once showered we head down to the High Street with Kev and make our way to Café Bianca for a sitting of English Breakfast.  There’s a big gang of us, all of Victims and Disculpe, tucking into to various fried breakfasts.  Jon is in his element here, mad for the fry up, “The tea actually is greasy too, I love it”

I go for the veggie breakfast of course and for once I don’t feel sick afterwards.  You always get a ton of food and I usually spend the latter half of the meal bloated and nauseous but continuing onwards like wounded soldier marching stubbornly into no-man’s-land.  Not today though.  I actually leave half an egg and a hash brown.  It’s tough though.  It’s like the fuckers are staring at me, mocking my stomach.  One moment of madness that catches my eye during breakfast is Niki, sat across from me pouring vinegar on his poached eggs.  It’s as if he hasn’t a care in the world.  Fully satisfied we head back outside, the icy rain dampening our commitment to our afternoon of sightseeing.  We trudge back along the road to the Waiting Room and as soon as I take a seat and sup on a cup of London’s finest coffee I realize I’m going nowhere for the next little while.  Andy and Jon head off for a wander but they’re back soon enough and we hang out in the warmth of the café with the gang.

We’re supposed to be at the venue for three and so with an hour to kill, we head back to Kev’s to chill out for a while.  Cue everyone sitting around on their phones.  Karl has headed off to practice with his other band Bad Meat, who he has together with Mad John, who are playing at the after party tonight.  Yes, not only are there ten bands playing the gig in honour of Karl’s fortieth, there’s an after party at the Birds Nest starting around midnight with another four bands on the bill.  The thing is, Karl gets in touch after a while and says to Kev he’s not going to make it for Disculpe’s set time of five thirty and wants to push it back a bit.  Kev is flummoxed.  He says they can’t put it back, it’s all organised.  As soon as they decide the Disculpe gig is cancelled, Niki fucks off to catch the first train back to Southend, delighted.  So that’s that, no Disculpe tonight.

We meet back down at Marv’s practice studio just after three to load the gear for tonight into the van.  We need to bring drums and a few extras for tonight.  Kev and Karl have warned about the potentially poor sound at the venue tonight, The Montague Arms in Peckham, having experienced some pissy sounding shows there previously, the problem being there’s nowhere else in south London that’s the right size for the show according to Kev, so they’re doing all they can to take precautions, one of which is bringing a decent drum kit.

It’s pretty fucking cold in the venue, although with doors opening shortly and the expected onslaught of punters through the door, that should change soon.  The venue itself is a big old pub with an oblong room with the bar lining the back wall.  The interior is very Maritime with wooden steering wheels here and antique globes there, as well as an array of dead animals about the walls, it’s quite a place.  The high stage is in a separate room at the bottom end of the pub and although you can see through to the stage if you’re in the bar area the sound doesn’t make it through.  Quite nice really, means you can stand and have a nice undisturbed chat with a beer if any of the ten bands on the bill don’t tickle your fancy.

We’re here early so we can soundcheck since Kev has concerns with the PA.  It’s just as well we do and all since it turns out Kev’s bass head is fucked.  Don’t know what’s up with it but it sounds like it’s under water.  Johan plonks away on it for a bit, looking around for eye contact with somebody.  The sound guy, some young Scottish bloke who looks a bit lost, asks when we’re ready to go... Jamie comes to the rescue with another head.  Soundcheck goes smoothly otherwise and despite the concrete interior of the room it sounds pretty good up on stage.

Jay and Dave Speedhorn turn up during soundcheck, their usual mischievous grins firmly in place.  It’s good to see them as always.  I have to admit it’s been strange at times watching Speedhorn from afar, my band, the band I started and wrote a great deal of songs for, now out playing again.  Of course, I declined the offer to reform many times over the six years since we called it a day in 2008, and I felt that I could no longer keep the other guys from doing it again if that’s what they really wanted.  For me the band finished at the right time though.  But who’s to say what’s the right time or wrong time?  I’ve always been against this huge wave of reunions we’ve been witnessing this last decade, it’s almost like the new thing is the old thing.  For me it really took the fucking biscuit when Refused reformed.  But then, who am I to say?  And isn’t it just entertainment, after all?  If people are enjoying themselves then what’s the harm? Anyway, as much as I’ve supported the guys in their choice I’ve kept myself away from a lot of the press surrounding it, which hasn’t been so hard to do living in Sweden.  It’s been a little strange...  I’m therefore very happy about the fact that there’s no strained feelings with Jay and Dave, I don’t know if it’s because they come to the band a lot later and have a bit more distance to it or whether it’s just because they’ve always been easy to hang out with. Whatever.  It’s good to see their smiling faces again.  These guys were with the band when we toured with Victims and now here we all stand, chit chatting.  Funny how things go.

Soundcheck is done just after four and we’re on at eleven, nine bands between now and then.  Thing is we’re kind of stuck in the middle of nowhere and when I asked Alec earlier about going for a walk around Peckham he just laughed.  Kev is manning the door for the night, he’s got a lot of work on.  He tells me that he’s got around twenty tickets left to play with and within the first ten minutes most of them have gone.  He tells me it’s looking like being about thirty of forty over the two hundred capacity for tonight.  I’m tempted by one of the fine ales they’ve got on sale here but I don’t have much money left and have to spread it out over the night, plus I can’t really get started on the piss now when we’re not on for another seven hours or so. And Kev, bless him, has bought a hundred beer tickets for the bands, even if it’s Carlsberg, it’s at least free Carlsberg.  Free for us anyway, not for Kev so much.  Before any drinking takes place I need some food anyway, so we decide to take a walk down the road on the back of some tips from the pub manager and pick up some dinner.

It’s dark out and the rain is drizzling down miserably.  There really isn’t much around and we take a kebab shop over a rather looking dodgy noodle place, that doesn’t have much in the way of vegetarian cuisine anyway.  Falafel it is.  And it’s fucking good.  Really clean and fresh, the hummus is to die for.  So glad we went for this.  The place has a coal fire on the go where some guy is sat roasting meat on a stick, it looks pretty disgusting but there’s no denying it smells pretty good.  We take a seat by the door and watch the take away clientele pass through the place as we tuck into our grub.  Most of them are wearing jogging bottoms, real give up on life garb.

We head back to the venue, stomachs filled and satisfied.  When we get back I’ve got two shocks in store. One is that the place is fucking rammed, the bottle neck that runs along the bar is jammed and I can see it’s going to take a long time to get served.  The second shock is that our good friend Jos from Holland is here. I look across the mass of heads in confusion, he looks back with a wry smile.  There are a whole load of other mates here too, the Deptford Crew of course and then there are some old mates from home who have travelled down with Jay and Dave, people like Dix from Scurge and Scott from Defenestration, people we’ve grown up with in the music scene in Corby and Kettering.  It’s great to see everyone, this feels like it’s going to be a hell of a party.  I slowly make my way through the crowd to Jos, “Well hello, what the hell are you doing here?”

I fight through the crowd back to the bar to get myself a beer and then check in on the band currently playing, Organised Death Machine, which has our mate Pablo and Kiwi Chris amongst its ranks.  From where I’m stood, just near the door, the sound doesn’t travel to all that well and most of the bottom end on Pablo’s bass has drifted off somewhere into the ceiling.  Seems like they’ve had a pretty good gig though, there’s plenty watching them.  They’re the only band I even catch a glimpse of until Regimes play a couple of hours later.  There are simply too many people in here, I can’t be arsed battling my way back and forth about the place so opt to station myself in the vicinity of Kev and catch people there for a chat.  I hang out with Viv and Wayne for a while, and Misa is flying about the place like an atom, laughing her ass of as always.  She comes powering through the crowd towards me with her compulsory two pints aloft, resting on her head.  She gives me a big hug, “Gaaaaaaaaaaaz!!!” we spend about a minute just laughing without actually conveying anything to each other.  After a while Misa laughs, “Gaz you are so…how do you say?  Is cuddleable a word?”  Cue more hysterical laughing.  Misa is fucking crackers and I love her.

A while later Vik arrives with Bea.  Funny being with Vik and Kev in London and not doing a DB show. Vik turns to me, “There are far too many people here, it’s ridiculous!”  It is actually starting to feel a bit crushed in here at times, if a fire kicked off right now we’d all be fucked.  Kev has at least put a SOLD OUT sign on the window now, but with extra admission and band members its way too much in here.  Kev looks chuffed.

Another friend that’s made the trip from Holland is Ester from Flees and Lice, she’s another real character and an old friend of Misa’s.  Together they make quite the team.  Ester doesn’t recognize me from being in Victims at first, I guess that’s the cross to bear as the “new guy”, I empathise with Ronnie Wood.  Once me and Ester remake our acquaintances, the last time we met was when we played her place the Crowbar in Groningen, she’s into full flow.  She tells me I look tired and says she has some stuff for that, if I’d like some. It’s a nice gesture but I’m good.

I make my way back through the bottleneck and up to the raised area where Johan and Andy are sitting with our merch.  I catch Karl and his wife Jules sat beside them and take a seat myself.  I get talking to Jules about kids TV shows and she gives me some good tips. We talk about Backyardigans, the Canadian TV show that Polly is insane about right now.  Jules is Canadian and she smiles when I tell her how much Polly loves it.  It’s funny when you’re a parent and you realise that the battle for the TV with your kid is a battle you have absolutely no chance of winning, and then before long you start to get into the shows yourself.  All I can say is, Backyardigans has some brilliant tunes on the show.  To be honest, Polly only really discovered the television a few months back and it’s easy enough to draw her attention away from it, all I have to do is put on a record, any record, and start dancing and she’s right there with me.  Still, when you’re making dinner or the doing the laundry or whatever other chore there is constantly to attend to, the TV is a handy distraction.

Regimes are on and then there are two more before Victims are up.  Regimes haven’t played for a long time, except the warm up show for this a few days back, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them.  This will be their last show, I think.  It’s fun seeing Mucky Marcus play guitar again, my SG come to that.  I didn’t really know what to expect from their gig but as much as I always liked the band, I’m not sure I remember them ever being this good!  It’s tight as shit, works great with Jamie on bass too, and the crowd are packed in and going mad.  Kev is in great form too, I’m buzzed to shit watching them.  When they play Chemical Cosh the mosh pit are all singing along to the chorus and a few stragglers make it up on to the high stage to launch themselves immediately off it.  What a fucking bonus.

I catch up with the Victims guys and Vik afterwards and everyone is smiling, surprised by how good the set was.  As soon as Kev is done he’s back to the door.  The squeeze in here just seems to be getting tighter.  I exchange glances with a few familiar faces around the crowd, all of them deflecting back the same sigh I send them.  Kev tells me that the bouncers, who have been a bit freaked out and are acting like cunts, patting everyone down all the time, have said that’s it’s one in/one out, irrespective of whether you have a wristband.  I look through the doorway to the smoking allotment and there is even a crush of people there, waiting to get back in.  I happen to catch little Jay’s face in the mass, shaking his head and smiling.  I hope he manages to get back in before Victims play.  That would be ridiculous.  One person who won’t be getting back in is Kyle, the old bass player from Scurge, who has been caught with a bag of the naughty stuff.  As he’s being led out I ask his mate who is following him out what happened, “Only got himself to blame, fucking blatant!”

I get talking to Kelly Apple for a while, I don’t know if she’s boats or what but she’s going on about Jon, “your guitar player”, she says she’s thinks he’s really hot.  She recalls the last time she saw Victims play, must have been the Grosvenor a few years back, my first tour with Victims, she says that she approached Jon, really nervous and really drunk, and told him that she thought he was really attractive and then threw up on her shoes.  When she repeats the story a few times I begin to understand that she is pretty steaming.  She keeps saying to me that I can’t let her go near him tonight.  I look over at Jon, flummoxed by the whole affair.  I catch up with the guys later and tell them what Kelly said, Jon eyes light up, it’s actually really sweet, I’ve never seen Jon flattered in this way before.  “What can I say?  The ladies love Jonny” he says.  He just about pulled it off.

The set times are running late, how could they fucking not be with all these bands?  I was thinking that it was covered, that the music curfew was midnight and with Kev setting the Victims set time at a very ambitious ten fifteen we were ok.  It turns out in fact that the curfew is eleven, and there are still two bands to go before we play.  I can tell Kev is for the first time, starting to get a little nervous.  He says we’ll get things moving along and he’s cursing one of the earlier bands who took ages at change over.  Well go figure.. Paco Mus’s band, The Lowest Form is up next.  I’ve been looking for him since he has some records for me that I ordered a while back.  The first time I clock him is when he’s up on stage setting up.  I don’t see much of their set, I simply can’t be arsed fighting my way through.  The sound is pretty bad from where I’m standing though, the bass amp sounds like a wet fart.  Shame.

I catch Paco afterwards anyway and he tells me he’s given the package of records to Andy.  It’s nice to finally meet him, to put a face to someone you’ve been corresponding with.  Kluster Fuck are now on stage, and we’re after them.  These are good friends of Kev, good people, we’ve met them before at Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen where they’re involved.  Kluster Fuck are the first band that have played today that you can trust when they say they’ve got a fifteen minute set.  Most of their songs average out at thirty seconds.  It’s not totally my thing but what they do, they do really well.  Anos, who’ve I’ve only ever seen sing, blasts the fuck out of the kit and Kristine has an insane set of lungs and is absolutely manic on stage.  She sounds like a pit-bull being tortured.  Fifteen minutes and it is indeed done.

We get up on stage as quick as we can, knowing time is against us.  The room is packed, the anticipation almost boiling over, I am fucking ready for this.  And then I hear this little Scottish voice, almost apologetic, as if excusing itself for existing, it’s coming out of the monitors somewhere.  “There’s nothing from the bass drum.”  Johan and I look at each other and then together in the direction of the sound guy in his little hut at the back of the room.  Johan asks if we should change the mic but gets nothing in response bar a shrug of the shoulders, the guy looks completely fucking scoobied.  He mumbles something about us just starting and he’ll sort it but somehow I don’t trust that.  When we start looking to address the problem ourselves, amidst shouts from the crowd of  “Just get on with it”, we‘ve been stood here a while now and it’s getting uncomfortable, the sound guy appears on stage.  Johan suggests he swaps the mic with the hang tom, he does as told.  He tries the broken mic lead, blows in it a little, Andy shakes his head but Johan confirms that’s actually a valid course of action since moisture can cause glitches and blowing it away can work. Eventually he gets things sorted and with bass drum now sounding we launch into Death Do Us Part.  The wait was worth it.  The crowd kick off from the very start.

It’s one of those gigs where you feel like a fucking King up on stage.  The place is packed, the crowd is swathing about the dance floor, I clock Jay and Dave in the middle of it all, getting tossed about and loving every second of it, people are stage diving, Kev amongst them, kicking the mic into Johan’s mouth, he doesn’t care.  The gig flies by, it’s one of the most fun shows I’ve played in ages, and last night was no cack affair either.  We drop one of the more mid tempo songs, weighing the feeling in the crowd, we just keep it going.  We’ve got four songs left and I hear that little voice again, coming out of the monitors.  “Last song.”  I can’t work out if it’s a question or a demand although I couldn’t give a fuck either way.  I know the other guys haven’t heard him, even when he repeats himself, so I just carry on.  We finish with This is the End again and it feels like I spend more time pumping my fist in the air than playing guitar, I look over to the right hand side of the room and see Kev and Misa, raised above the crowd with one arm around each other, the other lofted in the air, singing along to the chorus.  Feel like fucking AC/DC up here.  Magic, pure fucking magic.          

How do you top that?  The crowd moves out quickly after the show, everybody I’m sure desperate for a bit of legroom.  I’m fucking desperate for a good pint now but Jamie are Kev and wanting to get moving since they have to take the gear and the van back to the practice room where it will be safe for the night.  We contemplate walking, I could certainly do with the brisk air, but it seems stupid to blow off a lift, and plus, there’s an after party to get to.  Everyone seems to be heading there and up early or not, I need a couple of pints.  I just hope the Birds Nest isn’t as stupidly packed as this place was.  We all squeeze into the van, making space for Vik and Bea as well as Goy, who spends the entire trip laid up behind the back seats on the luggage shelf, pissed up and moaning about the state of music, saying he missed UFO.  Love him.
If it’s even possible, to my horror, The Nest is more crammed than the earlier show.  Fuck.  I’d envisioned sitting down for one thing, with a pint and a nice easy catch up with some mates.  It’s not happening.  It takes about half hour to get served and you can forget sitting, there’s barely room to stand.  Wayne’s band Nembutal are playing, as is Karl, Mad John and Nige’s hard rock band Bad Meat, and Kluster Fuck are on again and our travelling partners Link.  I barely see anything of any of them, you can’t see fuck all in here.  I’m on the other end of the bar with Jos and his mate, Andy and Johan, Vik, Bea and Viv.  The others fleet about but we station ourselves here.  Alec is with us for a while but leaves early, stating he can’t be fucked with the crush in here.  Can’t say I blame him.  Jon is over by the left hand side of the bar, he’s made a connection with Misa.  When I was on my way to the bogs I catch Misa trying to pronounce Jon’s name, it goes on for ages, “Jo? Joe? Joon?”  ad infinitum.  The two make a great match.

We hang out for a couple of hours, I’m surprised we make it that long.  Jos is taking the piss out me and my beanie hat.  I have to admit, I’m going for the Ian MacKaye look, I figure you gotta go with the flow, roll with the punches a thinning hairline throws you.  Karl, suffering with the same problem, age and thin hair, tells me I look prime, bless him.  Jos calls me on it though, takes my hat off me, starts pissing around with his own flat cap, turning it backwards and making faces at me.  Piss taking fucker.  Point taken big guy.  We cuddle up for a photo together.

Another piss taker arrives, Kiwi Chris, although is piss taking is a little more venomous.  He says he saw the gig and thought we were shit.  This is his usual approach.  Don’t know if he has a really small penis or what but there is definitely some insecurity issues there.  Funny, I clocked him down the front when we were on, huge smile on his face.  Viv lambasts him but I can take it, I know where it’s coming from and I know he doesn’t mean any harm, although his tongue constantly purchases him black eyes.  He asks me if I saw his band.  I could easily say that I did and that I thought they were shit but that’s just not me.  He doesn’t believe me at first when I say what I saw I thought was good but when I repeat myself a little smile appears on his coupon.  Kiwi Chris…

We leave around two, we’ve managed to say hello and hang out with most people, although I wish I could have made more of it.  One of those occasions where you’ve talked to loads of people and really haven’t spoken to anyone.  I meet Jay before he leaves, he’s heading off to the Amersham Arms for some drunken debauchery, the rest of that crew are there.  He cracks up, tells me Dave is wearing a boot print on his cheek that he received during our set.  The only person I haven’t really managed to hang out with tonight is Wayne, but we catch each other on the way out.  I’m sure we’ll be back with DB at some point, otherwise I’ll have to make a private trip over with the family.

We get back to Kev’s just after two.  The alarm is set for eight, six hours of sleep on the floor.  I like a hard bed though, good for this shit old back of mine. I hear Kev coming back sometime around three with what sounds like Kiwi Chris’s voice behind him. It sounds like Kiwi is boats.  I get up for a piss once they’ve gone to bed and find the bathroom mirror has been taken down from the wall and laid on the floor and various plastic bottles have fallen into the tub.  I wonder if Kev will need waking in the morning…probably not.  He always seems to make it through somehow.

I retake my position on the floor between Andy and Jon, glad we’re on the afternoon flight.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Wake up and reach straight for the headache pills.  It’s nothing major, just a little tingling behind the eyes, enough to warrant a pill though.  Those of us with kids were talking yesterday about how no matter what time you hit the lights you still wake up early, the old body clock set to dad.  I check on Andy, his eyes are closed but I can tell he’s awake.

I give sleeping another go but it’s no good.  I give up and jump in the shower before heading downstairs to see if there’s anyone up for taking some air.  The sun is shining and I could do with a brisk walk to brush off those remaining cobwebs that the shower missed.  Karl and Alec are alive and up for it so we head down the road to see what’s about and end up in a café.  There’s a rumour that Flash is cooking up some breakfast later but there’s no telling how long that will be, judging by the chorus of snores in the house it’s going to be a while.  The café looks pretty decent and I order some poached eggs on toast.  It’s pretty disappointing though.  The toast is dry as sand and the eggs are petite, to say the least.  Still, nice to get away for a bit.

We head back to Flash’s where people are beginning to stir.  Kev looks fresh enough despite last night’s over indulgence.  I head into the dining room where Flash has put a veggie buffet on, looks fucking amazing. Those who are awake are mulling around the table, picking it to pieces.  Under the table lies Jon, fast asleep in his sleeping bag, completely oblivious.  Even when he stirs a short while later he just lies there rubbing his beetroot red face for the best part of five minutes.  Jamie catches me looking at him and smiles.  He tells me that Jon was stoating about the house last night confused and he stood right on him before falling flat on his ass.  He says he heard him later on in the kitchen taking what he imagines to be a slash into a can or a bottle; the sound of running liquid was interrupted by the sound of pouring every ten seconds or so explains Jamie. Jon eventually pulls himself to his feet and starts telling Jamie how he’d been sleep walking last night, says he always sleep walks when he’s had a drink and that if he doesn’t then he wakes up with an anxiety attack instead.  Fuck knows.  Jamie then points at his trainers and tells Jon how he’d also lent them in the middle of the night and fucked off into the back garden in them.  Jon just looks at me with the usual look of confused amazement.

Out of politeness I help myself to a plate of food from Flash’s buffet but I can’t manage much.  It’s far, far better than the eggs I’d eaten earlier.  Wish I’d waited.  Bad tour economics right there.  We hang out for a while in the front room waiting for everyone to ready themselves, me, Karl and Kev talking about the great emo bands of the Nineties like Moss Icon and the scene in the UK at the time with brilliant bands like Bob Tilton, Baby Harp Seal and Karl’s old band Tribute.  It’s soon time to get moving and we line up outside the van with the Link guys, Flash’s girlfriend and Skit, who Flash keeps shouting at in what sounds like Czech, but I’m not sure, and take a couple of pics.  A permanent reminder of a very nice evening.

The drive up to Sheffield takes around four hours with a couple of stops.  The weather is pretty schizophrenic, one second it’s sunny, the next the sky goes all fucking Mordor and the van is being pelted with hail and snow.  It goes back and forth like this pretty much the whole journey.  The van the guys have hired is a real top-end Sprinter, complete with TV and DVD player.  Kev has brought some discs with him and I think mainly to shock the Swedes, Karl puts on a couple of episodes from the second season of the British cult classic Love Thy Neighbour.  The racial humour in that show would simply not be tolerated today, even though the joke is of course on the racist character played by Jack Smethurst.  It pretty much goes right over the heads of the Swedes.  After a couple of episodes we switch to a documentary about the early years of Iron Maiden, something we can all fully appreciate.  Someone mentions that Steve Harris is supposedly a right homophobic twat though.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he is a bit of a cock since he’s openly admitted his hate for punk rock.

We pull up outside the venue around three pm, about three hours to spare until we load in.  It’s as cold as a witch’s tit up North, the kind of chill that forces your shoulders to hunch up in knots.  We sort the parking ticket out and head in to town in search of food.  It’s a shame it’s so fucking freezing because it would have been nice with a walk otherwise.  Jamie lived here for a couple of years so we follow his guide to a vegetarian café called the Blue Moon.  It takes a bit of a while for him to pin the place down but it’s worth it when he eventually does.  I opt for a mushroom and leak cheese bake which shows itself to be a superb choice.  We’re sat around various tables in the café enjoying the warmth as much as the food.  Jon takes a beer of course, as soon as I saw that they had Samuel Smiths Pale Ale on sale I knew Jon would be taking one, I was tempted myself in truth but decided that I needed some food in me before embarking on booze. Niki Nailbomb is sat at a table on his own when Jon approaches him and asks if he’s like some company. Before long they’re in to full flown conversation.  Niki comes up to me afterwards, “Ee’s alright that boy, we ave a common love of Yoof ov Today!”  Seems like the two of them have hot if off.

When we’re done at the café we walk over to the Crucible Theatre so Jon can have his picture taken in front of it, being a big snooker fan.  He stands there in his big sheepskin coat and Bolt Thrower beanie hat with a glowing smile as Kev snaps away.  As we’re waiting around Niki is talking with the other guys about his plans for getting home tomorrow after the gig, figuring out the earliest possible train he can take after Disculpe have played and when that will get him back to his beloved Southend.  Karl, shaking his head, “It’s amazing that you actually like playing in bands!”

“I dan’t really!  I just like the moosic.”  We all crack up laughing.  Kev points out that the main thing Niki is interested in is being on records and getting his hands on a copy.  We head back to the venue; Bryan and Avi are there setting things up.  It’s great to see them as always.  Tonight’s lineup is really strong and it should be a great night.  Link are playing again and then there is War All The Time and Bryan’s own band Skiplickers, both of which are really great.  I tell Bryan that we had some food at the Blue Moon Café and he laughs, telling me that the food they’ve got for tonight is coming from the very same place.  I think I’ve got room for more anyway.  The space the guys have got here is really cool.  It’s a unit on a little industrial backstreet just off the city center.  There is a small narrow room with some sofas in it as you enter and then a larger, square room off to that with a low stage along the far wall and a bar off to the side.  I think the guys have a studio upstairs since there is a white board in the first room with a recording schedule on it with all the guys bands booked in; Dry Heaves, Skiplickers, Detergents.  What a great little scene they have here.   We load in pretty quick anyway and then with not much more to do we decide to head for a beer.  There is a pub, The Lord Nelson, right next door.

Bryan assured us the place was alright but I’m a little tentative after peaking in through the door.  It’s a pretty small place and there’s a right rowdy crowd of middle aged chavs in there.  I open the front door and, “Come on you fucking twat!” pours out.  I hope they’re shouting at the horses on the box.  We think about heading somewhere else because the last thing I can be arsed with is hassle, I just want to sit down with a pint, but on reflection we didn’t pass that many decent looking places on our excursion earlier so we decide to take the chance.  Jamie leads the way without the slightest suggestion of hesitation.  “I lived in Bermondsey for long enough,” he chirps.

The pissed up crowd at the one end of the bar don’t even register us as we walk in.  There is a large, deserted alcove off to the side with a bunch of free tables so we head for there.  The landlord is a friendly enough looking guy who seems to be doing a gallant job of humouring the rabble he’s been left with.  There is plenty of good beer on tap and I go for a pint of Old Speckled Hen.  Two quid seventy.  Fucking dancer. It tastes like pure heaven too.  We’re sat there for about half hour when Bryan comes in and tells us the food is ready.  I’m just about to purchase another brew though, I really fucking fancy it, although I feel bad about not going to show my appreciation for the hot food.  I decide to make the second pint a quick one.  It’s really relaxed sitting there having a drink with everyone though, it’s warm in here, a lot warmer than the venue, and there is good cheap beer on tap.  Johan seems to be pretty relaxed today, he’s on to his third and is wearing a sly smile.  Jon and Niki are in full conversation about hardcore, new best mates, much to everyone else’s amusement.  The jukebox is playing crappy songs from the Eighties, really loudly and the shower are singing along.  And then a Bob Marley song comes on and they all start shouting along in diabolical Jamaican accents.  And lo and behold a black guy comes in and they all start cheering, pure delight at the sight of him.  “Jamaica!!!” one of them guffaws, holding his arms out to the guy for a hug.  The guy just smiles uncomfortably.  With that I decide it’s time to go see to that food.

Even though it’s lukewarm the veggie lasagna hits the spot, even if the spot is pretty small.  Karl has come with since he was also feeling guilty about not eating the grub.  Besides the food Bryan has got a couple of crates of beer in for the bands.  I’m sure it’s getting better in the country, free beer and food on the DIY scene wasn’t always a given, at least not beer.  It’s still pretty cold in the venue though since it’s not open yet so the cold beer takes a while to go down.  I think about heading back to the pub but decide against because it’s going to be another three or four hours until we play and I’m already on three beers, which is closing in on my limit.  I decide I’ll have another when Disculpe play.

The venue fills up pretty quick.  There must be a good two hundred people.  The first band is some doom/post metal/punk three piece whatever from Holland.  They’re not bad in all fairness but they don’t really hold my attention.  The main thing I notice is that the sound from the PA is pretty strong.  My friend Jeremié who sings in the band Beast as God has made the trip up from Nottingham and I spend most of the Dutch band’s set talking to him.  I’m shocked when I notice he attaches a couple of hearing aids to his ears, before I can form the question he nods his head in resignation.  Fuck.  He tells me all about it, how he’s been through the emotional ringer with it.  I can’t fucking believe it.  It’s a bit of a wake-up call to be honest, is this what lies in store for me too?  First Jos, now Jeremié, our friends in the scene are succumbing to it.  My tinnitus is constant these days but it’s still at a level I can zone out.  After speaking to Jeremié it makes me wonder how much longer that will be.  I don’t have ear plugs with me on this trip either.. I thought I’d made an adult step a few years ago by making sure I always have them in at the practice space since that is the most punishing environment we work in.  Still, Jeremié seems to be dealing with it pretty well now and we’re soon on to discussing happier topics, like our kids.

Disculpe are up next, and there I am, stood right in front of the PA stack on the left, no ear plugs.  It’s great watching them play, this is one of the best bands Kev has done in a while.  Funny watching Karl prowl around the floor in front of the stage, he looks like an enraged bin man on steroids.  Fucking awesome. There is great energy on the stage from Alec and Jamie too which looks ace with Kev stood there concentrating on the numbers on the back of his bass neck, he’s getting better all the time though, he actually looks the part now.  Some of Niki’s mates are in the crowd, shouting at him between songs, they look like a right crowd of piss takers.

Skiplickers are up next and being the home town kings the place is packed for them.  But fuck me, they fucking destroy.  Bryan is a great front man, full of energy.  The band are tight as a duck’s arse and they simply tear the place up.  I met Weird Chris right before he went on stage, he showed me his chest and the one straggly little hair sticking out the middle of it, placed right in the centre of a tattoo of stars and clouds, “I’ve been growing this out for tonight” he says.  Weird Chris…The crowd really kick off for Skiplickers, who are one of the best bands doing this style I've see for a while.  Boulty, our mate from Stuck on a Name in Nottingham, is here, towering above the crowd, fucking streamboats chugging on a bottle of Buckfast or something.  At one point he sprays the fucker all over the place and soaks every fucker around him.  I see that white foam spray heading right at me but it lands in Russ Stalingrad's eye which is blocking it's path towards me.  Boulty carries on, oblivious.

I have to say I’m a little disappointed by War All the Time.  I mean, I really like the LP they put out a few years ago, real nice Totalitär vibe on it, but live it’s a bit still.  Rob, the singer who used to be in the legendary band Kito, looks like a fucking monster with a wide eyed stare partnered with a menacing smile, daring anyone to take him on, but he doesn’t do much else.  To be fair, the sound isn’t the best, very muddy, which doesn’t help.  I laugh to Johan just before they start, you’d be hard pushed to find a more British looking band.  Don’t get me wrong, their set is fine, I was just expecting something else I guess.  Bryan Skiplickers is right down front dancing away the whole set, encouraging others to join him.  That warms my heart somewhat.

I don’t catch much of the Link set again, I’m out in the van for a chunk of it, talking with Karl who is wrapped up in his sleeping bag, lying there in the dark.  It is fucking freezing here in Sheffield.  Living in Sweden you’d think we’d be used to this but the cold on this island is a different beast.  Even if it’s technically warmer here than it is back home, the rawness of the moist island air tears you to fucking shreds. I head back into the venue and catch up with Gords from EGS/Geriatric Unit, he’d managed to find a lift up here.  He’s telling me it was touch and go whether he’d make it because his neck is fucked and he can’t drive.  I have to crack up, we’re all falling apart at the seams, us old punks.  I catch the end of the Link set, sounds pretty good, plenty loud enough anyway.  Niki is hanging out with his mates, cider can in hand, looking chuffed.  “Ad a bit more to drink tonight, getting’ pissed!” he laughs.

So it’s time for us to play.  The place is full, it sounds good up on stage, I’ve had a few beers but, not too many, just enough to loosen me up, and I feel ready for this.  Once we’re set we give Andy the nod and he counts us into the AC/DC style rumble we begin the set with.  It’s met with a big cheer and a feeling of impending crowd participation.  We blast into Death Do Us Part and about ten seconds in I notice, just out of the corner of my eye, a wave of punks flooding towards the stage, I can see they’re going to land on Johan but it happens so fast I don’t have time to react.  Johan goes down under a pile of bodies and with them the drum kit.  Me and Jon are left feedbacking and looking on in amazement as Bryan and Jeremié rush to Johan’s aid and Andy pieces his kit back together.  So this is how it’s going to be?  Fuck me!  Johan pulls himself and the mic stand upright again, he’s got a slight cut above the eye but he’s wearing a smile, and we let the feedback ring until Andy starts the song again.  For the rest of the gig Bryan and Jeremié are right in front of the stage, dancing and fist pumping whilst simultaneously acting as a barrier to block inrushing punks from hitting the stage.  They succeed for the most part but a few get through now and again.  Fuck knows how many times during the thirty minutes Johan gets the mic fucked off his mouth.  Quite simply, it’s a great fucking gig.

As soon as Avi realizes we’re not playing any extra songs he puts the disco into action, now playing cheesy pop/dance songs which suit the situation perfectly.  Everyone immediately starts to dance.  We chill out with a couple of beers after the gig but the whole time we have in mind the fact that we’re driving back to London tonight.  Bryan had asked me a couple of weeks ago if we wanted to stay at his and party, something I would have happily agreed to, but Kev is insistent that we have to head back to London tonight.  It is he who is putting the show on tomorrow and being that he’s booked about a hundred bands to play with us he has to be there relatively early to arrange everything.  Except now Kev is pissed up and mingling away. Jamie comes over around one am and tells me it’s time to move.  Jamie’s the poor bastard who has to drive tonight.  As it is, Avi brings the disco to an end anyway, “That was the last song for tonight folks, thanks for coming down now fuck off!”  Brilliant.

Of course, the last in the van is Kev.  I was leaving with him and he got stuck talking to some old bird on the way out.  When he finally arrives he’s met with a piss taking jeer from the rest of us.  “Well fucking excuse me for trying to have some fun!” he moans, and then continues to mumble under his breath about how he thought playing in a band was supposed to be fun, until we reach the city limits.

We hit the motorway and the van turns quiet, except for Alec’s hard rock classics mix on his phone, which he has playing up front beside Jamie.  A couple of hours in I can tell Niki, who is sat behind Alec, is getting twitchy,  “Are you gonna be playing that fucking music all night?”  Alec just looks at him, totally baffled by the question.

We stop a couple of times on the way back, each time the door opens the cold sends the body into shock.  I waste some money on a putrid portion of French Fries from McDonalds on one occasion but for the most part I just sit in the back, not sure whether I’m sleeping or not, somewhere in the haze I hear Jon's voice beside me going on about how's he's starting an Oi band with Niki.  I start to life around five am when we get back into London. Jamie must be fucking knackered, you can tell by the way he’s throwing the van around the deserted streets of London like a rally car.  It’s five fifteen when we get to Kev’s, my knees are aching from the strained position I’ve been sat semi-sleeping in for the last four hours.  Kev’s hard living room floor has rarely been so inviting.