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.   

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sleeping - Part Two

We’d spend a lot of nights in the van during the first few years touring with Speedhorn.  Or the tent… The thing is, we were pretty new to the game then and didn’t know a lot of people, we were just at the beginning of a long process of making friends, contacts, enemies… I’ve always made a big effort to keep the enemies to a minimum, friends are way more fun after all, but not all of the guys in the band were always so arsed about that.  “Fuck ‘em!” was Frank’s usual answer to any sort of conflict.  Back then he didn’t really give a shit who liked him or not, he was always that way.  It was a characteristic I admired on occasion, and at other times it drove me mad.

Anyway, since we were playing all these cities around the UK for the first time and therefore missing a network of friends and associates to rely on for places to sleep we’d end up either in the tent or the van the majority of the time.  I’ve made a lot of friends through touring since I began back in 1998, and these days when we go out on the road we have friends all over the place that can put us up for the night.  Of course, most of the places Victims and DB frequent are squatted venues that have band rooms as part of their set up, in Europe at least.  In the States it’s different, there we normally rely on friends or friends of friends to put us up, and the hospitality is always humbling.   Of course, sometimes you take a stranger up on an offer of a floor to crash on and live to regret it… As I’m sure sometimes the stranger in question ends up regretting their offer.  Especially when the band they were offering a floor to was Raging Speedhorn.

Of course, if you invited a band like Speedhorn back to your house to crash then you might expect that it might get a bit rowdy.  Even when we made an effort to show a bit of respect for the housemates or neighbours it would prove pretty difficult to keep eight or nine drunken idiots silent.  But then on those occasions when we’d stay at some punters place it was usually on the promise of a party.  I remember one time we played Bournemouth and this kid was really excited to have us stay at his place.  He was living in student digs and obviously shared his place with a few others.  It was the middle of the week and we’d got back in the middle of the night, all of us pretty steaming.  I don’t remember the party being particularly rowdy but we’d obviously put someone’s nose out of joint because I was awoken by some snotty little student at eight am.  We were all crashed out on the living room floor and this little fucker had come in, opened the curtains,  being summer the sun was now blasting into the room, and was sat there on an armchair, his feet right behind my head, eating corn flakes and watching breakfast tv with the volume on high.  He just sat there eating, not saying a word.  Fucking bad vibes obviously.  

Another time we’d played Wrexham and it was the same deal.  The young kid who had put the gig on invited us to stay at his place, although I think he mentioned that we’d have to be quiet.  The first thing Frank spots upon arrival is an acoustic guitar which he immediately sets upon his lap and begins playing.  We’re all sat around singing along when one of the guys housemates appears in the doorway looking totally fucked off.  He confiscates the guitar and tells us to shut the fuck up before going back to bed.  Of course, that raises a snigger or two.  Frank though, decides that these people are obviously cunts and for that they shall be robbed blind.  The next day, we’re up early and packing our gear into the van when I see Frank appear at the door, arms loaded with food from the guys freezer.  As he’s stepping out of the house he pauses having clocked something else that he obviously feels he should take with him.  He puts the various food packets down, bends over, picks up a ready rolled, unlit cigarette, puts it behind his ear, gathers up the food again and heads out to the van.  I’ll admit, when we were young, broke and stupid, we all got into stealing for a while, although I never took anyone’s personal shit, just the odd bit of shoplifting from a service station now and again when desperation demanded it, but Frank took it to the next level, sometimes to comic effect.

It wasn’t that often we stayed at people’s places though.  My main memories of that time are of sleeping in the van or the tent.  I remember this old blue tour van we had, that Iron Monkey used to travel in before us, that was the hottest vehicle I’ve ever been in.  The windows were sealed shut and the floor and and the walls were carpeted.  It was a fucking nightmare in the summer.  To make things worse the seats were leather.  We’d arrive at gigs wearing nothing but our bockies.  At night time we’d be spread around various parts of the floor, under bench seats or the table, or across the seats themselves although the floor was better because at least you wouldn’t wake up glued to that.  One night we played Bradford Rio’s, a right shit gig in the huge club, nobody there.  One half of our management duo, Carter, had come along and said he was crashing with us in the van.  He had a bit of money so he got a crate of beer in.  We gladly accepted the beer but we then explained to him that any extra body heat in the van was not an option so we made him kip outside in the car park.  I woke up in the morning to find him actually sleeping under the van.  He probably slept better than we did to be fair, even if it had obviously pissed down during the night.

We used to spend a lot of time down in London in the early days when we were managed by Green Island Records.  Carter and Bianchi, the dream team of band management looking after us.  It’s funny, as much as I love hanging out in London these days, for a limited period of time at least, back then I disliked it immensely.  It probably had more to do with the fact that London then was associated with business, the music business, it was always meetings and press and other such bollocks and I hated all that stuff.  Anyway, a lot of the time when visiting London we’d stay at Carter’s studio apartment on Great Portland Street.  Poor Carter used to put up with a lot of shit from us guys.  This one night we were sleeping there, spread about the living room floor whilst Carter slept on a low bed at the end of the room.  I’m having trouble sleeping.  Carter is snoring and Gordon is nearest him, huffing and puffing in annoyance at the rattling.  To be honest, if anything was keeping me awake it was Gordon.  People snoring used to really wind him up, but him getting wound up used to keep every other fucker awake.  Anyway, Gords decides he’s had enough and jabs Carter in the foot with a corkscrew that happened to be lying around.  In the blink of an eye Carter reaches to the floor, picks up his heavy prosthetic arm which had been lying idly beside him and smacks Gords over the head with it.  It lands with a proper fucking thud.  We all piss ourselves laughing at the shock on Gordon’s face.  

For all the sleeping on floors, in tents, on the cold corrugated metal of a van’s deck, on top of amps or whatever else, there was one score we had set up in the early days that always proved a treat.  A friend of Green Island’s head honcho Johnny Laws, actually I believe he was the company’s accountant, was a guy called Rupert.  Considering Rupert was a posh fucker from an insanely rich family it was maybe a strange match that we all hit it off so well with him.  I guess it was the fact that Rupert had a rebellious streak in him and liked to get fucked up, and seemed totally taken in with Speedhorn’s charm.  He was this really easygoing, quiet kind of guy who for a while turned up to most of the gigs we played down in the capital, just for the party.  His family owned this huge property in the countryside, Kent or Sussex or somewhere, it was like an estate in fact, with these sprawling grounds surrounding it.  On a few occasions we deemed it worthwhile making the trip there after a London show simply because being there was surreal.  We’d all get a bed each, most of us actually got a bedroom each.  We’re talking the kind of place that had staff working for it.  I remember one tour of the south during the summer when we headed there a few times after shows, arriving just before dawn and pissing about in the outdoor pool that looked down over a sloping green hill that wandered off into the countryside, drinking booze straight from the bottle, watching the sun come up.  Sometimes there would be a girl or two that joined us for the trip.  I’d never come so close to feeling like we were in Motley Crue or something equally disgusting.  Amidst the variation of floors we frequented, staying at Rupert’s parents house was totally fucking mental.  We really had no business being there.  But it was fun.

For a period of maybe four years or so, after the first record came out and up to the release of the third album, we entered an era of touring on the next level.  Tour busses, big shows, mainly support slots, catering, big riders, decadence… Kind of.. If I knew then what I know now then maybe I wouldn’t take that route again, maybe I’d be smarter, but it’s still a time of my life I’ll never forget.  When we were “stars”, or at least, allowed ourselves to believe that.  When you’re young it’s easy to get sucked in.  

By the time the era of the tour bus was over and we were back to touring in vans I was living in Sweden.  And it was back to earth with a bang.  Whenever a tour was over the guys would be all heading back to Corby and they’d drop me off at Luton Airport on the way home, homesick and desperate to get the first flight back.  I don’t know how many times I arrived at the check in hall about two am for the eight am flight.  Those days the only option was Ryanair since that’s all I could afford being that I flew so often, and then you had to be at check in two hours before the flight departed.  I’d arrive hours before check in opened and park myself on the floor with a few other stragglers and try to get some kip.  It never really happened though.  It’s hard to sleep when you’re holding on tight to your bag, worried someone might nick it, and then there’s that horrible yellowish lighting of the check-in hall, and on top of that there’s the worry that if you do nod off you won’t hear the alarm on your phone and end up missing the flight.  One time I was so desperately tired that I decided to try the floor of the disabled toilet.  I figured that it’s one room with a lock on it.  I lay there next to the fucking bog, wondering to myself just what the fuck I was doing.  I often think of that occasion when non punk/band friends of mine moan about an unsatisfactory hotel or bed they had the misfortune to cross paths with.  I only managed to sleep for about twenty minutes in the toilet as it turns out, some cleaner guy came and knocked the door and chased me out of there.  Didn’t exactly feel too fucking proud of myself at that moment in time.

Back touring in vans, after the period of rock stardom had passed, we now knew people that could put us up in most places, having been around the circuit a few times.  In the UK at least.  Not that that guaranteed any standards.  We had friends like Wee Lee and Jamie Maggot up in Scotland who had great places and staying there was always ace, but then we’d stay somewhere like my mate Beany’s gaff, now living in Manchester having moved from Corby.  Of course, you’re always grateful of a roof to sleep under, but by now Gordon had grown wise enough to always claim the front seats of the van to kip on, unless we were staying somewhere that he was absolutely sure of.  At Beany’s place, Gords opted for the van.  I wish I had.  

He was living with a few student mates in Rusholme and had offered us his place to crash/party.  He’s one of my oldest mates, of course I wanted to hang out.  I shouldn’t have been too shocked by the state of the place though, he was always a messy bastard.  I remember his room at his parent’s house, you could barely see the carpet for all the junk.  This place was no different.  We hung out in the living room, a thick cloud of joint smoke hanging in the air.  I was knackered and as much as I wanted to hang with Bean, I was too tired for the hazy atmosphere and the constant flow of stoner rock and stoner talk.  I was therefore delighted when Beany offered me his bed, he said he was staying up for the long haul anyway.  A few of our guys and his housemates looked more than happy and I suspected I’d find them all in the exact same position when I woke in the morning.  Relieved, I made my way upstairs to his room.  The relief dispersed as soon as I opened the door though.  The poxy little room had his drum kit set up in the middle of it, his bike was stood against the one wall, there were records, clothes, empty pizza boxes and fuck knows what else spread about the floor.  I made my way through the obstacle course that was this room and managed to get to the bed on the other side.  I pull the quilt back and recoil in shock as a puff of old ash plumes into the air.  A fucking ashtray had been lying in the bed, full of old roach.  I removed it, brushed the grey stains as best I could from the yellow quilt cover and crawled gingerly into bed.  In the morning I found them all snoring in the living room in various positions.  I went for a shower which was in the bathroom beyond the kitchen on the other side of the living room and found a dead mouse lying underneath the bathtub, their cat had obviously left it there.  Unfortunate timing probably, but it just put the icing on the cake.  We stayed at my other old mate, the third member of mine and Beany’s circle, Snitch, the next night.  He was living in York and the cleanliness of his flat upon arrival almost brought me to my knees in gratification.

The worst place I ever slept though, made Beany’s place look like a fucking palace.  We were playing a gig in Yeovil at a place called the Ski Lodge, which was a dry ski slope clubhouse that hosted shows now and again.  The gig was pretty good, lot of people there, I guess the kids in Yeovil were chuffed with whatever bands came to town.  After the gig this big friendly bouncer who seems to be a bit of a fan of the band offers us a place to stay.  We happily take him up on his offer.  The night then takes a very weird turn.  

After the gig we hang out on the ski slope, drinking plastic containers of scrumpy cider that we’d bought from one of the Somerset farms en route earlier in the day.  When the bouncer guy knocks off work we jump in the van and prepare to follow him.  Now, we were going through a period of watching UK Most Haunted on tv and were checking out creepy places in our spare time on tour.  Bouncer tells us there is these old ruins on the outskirts of town that were pretty chilly, the fact that the building used to be a mental hospital adding to the aura of the place.  Perfect, we say, let’s check that out.  We follow Bouncer to the site and sure enough, the ruins are pretty John Carpenter.  We sneak over a spiked iron fence and into the grounds, Kev with Gordon’s video camera at the ready.  

There are two buildings, the first one we enter is a couple of stories high although there are no floors left, leaving a dark vacuum filling the space between the moss on the ground and the shards of stone roof left up top. It’s a dark night and when we enter only our voices and shadows remain.  We all start pissing about immediately, trying to shit each other up.  After a while Gordon shouts from the back somewhere, “Get the fuck off me you twat!”, pretty pissed off since he’s a bit sensitive with the old ghost stories.  A little while later Gords shouts out the same thing again, really annoyed now with the fact that one of us is grabbing him around the wrist trying to scare him.  He storms off back out to the open grounds and eventually the rest follow him.  He’s stood there with a right gob on and the look on his face makes me feel pretty sorry for him. 

Before leaving we decide to check out the building adjacent, which looks to be in slightly better shape although the windows have long since gone, leaving only black holes behind them.  There is a stone staircase attached to the side of the building leading that has a door at the top of it.  Me and Daz decide to go up and check out the second floor.  The door opens with ease but we’re a little anxious to walk through it being that it’s so dark you can’t see a thing.  Daz creeps forward to the door and pokes his head through.  He’s about to step over the threshold when he realises there is no floor to step on to.  We decide that this place is now giving us all the creeps and it’s to head back to Bouncer’s.  

We park up outside the semi-detached house, suspecting nothing of what is to come.  Gords, still pissed off, says he’s sleeping in the van.  Jay and John stay with him leaving me, Kev and Daz to Bouncer’s place.  We follow the big guy up the garden path to the door.  He opens up and walks in.  I’ll never forget the look on Kev’s face as he turned to me.  The smell.  It was like walking into a thick wall of stench.  What the fuck could smell that bad?  We tentatively walk into the house and follow Bouncer into the living room.  It literally looks like they have taken an industrial sized bin and emptied it over the wooden floor.  There is trash everywhere.  Fuck this.  There are a couple of sofas, also covered in various items of garbage that me and Kev clean off and claim as beds, leaving Daz to the floor.  Daz, using his arm in  a sweeping motion, clears debris and makes a space for him to lie in.  The stink never really quite settles…

It feels far too awkward to tell Bouncer that we’re staying in the van instead so I decide that we’re just going to have to lump it, try and get to sleep as quickly as possible and make a sharp exit in the morning.  Then Bouncer appears back in the living room with some tins and asks us if we’ve heard the new Rob Zombie album and if not do we want to hear it.  I say, sheepishly, that we’re all pretty tired and wouldn’t mind just getting our heads down, what I’m actually thinking is that I’d rather listen to the sound of my own leg being sawn off than hear the new Rob Zombie album.  Doesn’t make the slightest bit of fucking difference anyway since Bouncer totally ignores us and puts the twat on full blast.  Full, fucking, blast.  I can almost see the tears welling up in Kev’s eyes.  Daz is pissed and enjoying one of Bouncer’s tins, so he’s not too concerned.

I wake up after a pretty sleepless night and find Bouncer’s wife and toddler in the room.  She asks if we want any breakfast, I politely decline.  There is the cutest labrador puppy hoping about the place too and for a second my heart lightens, until I see the smear of dogshit on the floor, right next to the toddler who is eating a sandwich off the floor, right beside the turd stain.

Unbelievably I decide to take a shower.  I head upstairs and see Bouncer passed out on a dank double mattress on the floor in one of the bedrooms, still fully clothed, boots on, the lot.  The mattress is also littered with trash, empty Coke cans, crisp packets and the like.  I shake my head and continue to the bathroom and then to the sink to brush my teeth where I find a fag butt floating in shallow water.  I feel dirtier after the shower than before I got in.  I can not understand how anyone could live like this.  The weird thing is, Bouncer and his family are really nice people and seem completely oblivious to the conditions they’re living in.  We fuck off out of there before Bouncer wakes, thanking his wife for the hospitality, Kev having also showered and been equally appalled.

We’re met by a trio of grins in the van.  Gobsmacked we tear out of there.  After the chatter dies down about the state of the place we slept in we get to talking about the mental hospital and what happened with Gordon.  He’s still not amused by it and says his wrist where he was grabbed actually hurts quite a bit.  We study Kev’s film work and to our confusion find that the film from inside the mental hospital is blank.  The sound is still there but the the picture is completely black.  Not like, it’s really dark and hard to make anything out, but black as in not there.  It was dark inside the ruins but given that large parts of the roofing were missing there was still enough moonlight to guide us through the shadows.  Seems a bit weird.  The film literally goes blank from the moment Kev steps inside the building…And continues normally once we come back out.  Kev swears he wasn’t pissing about with the lense cap.  I believe him.

We laugh it off and continue on to our next destination.  When we make a first piss stop me and Gords get talking about the night before again, he says his wrist is really aching.  We take a look at it and no fucking kidding, there are two bruise marks around his wrist, they’re kind of faded, but it’s still two, quite apparent, straight lines.  We look at each other a bit baffled.  And then a thought occurs to me.  They look like strap marks.

We never went ghost hunting again.  And I always slept in the van, unless we were staying somewhere I was absolutely sure of.