Thursday, March 31, 2016


Somewhere in the middle of the night I’m stirred by some sort of hushed commotion. I open my eyes a slither and from what I can make out Andy and Johan are guiding Jon back to bed. I hear something about the mess in the bathroom. I don’t want to know the details. When I wake next time it’s daylight and the guys are up and about, getting things ready to go. Dying for a piss I go to the toilet and find the bog blocked with a mush of toilet paper and the remnants of what I’m guessing is Jon’s handywork. There is even a sodden heap of toilet paper on the side of the bathtub. The toilet is fucked. Fuck knows what Jon was doing in here last night but the place is a mess. The lot of us have to make do with pissing in the shower. Amazingly, once Jon is up and about he doesn’t so bad. I was sure today was going to be rough as balls for the guy but he seems to be functioning. He’s pretty quiet though, hasn’t got much to say for himself.

After taking breakfast at the diner across the road and checking out the local pawn shop where they have both musical equipment and machine guns for sale, we get on the road. It’s another long journey today. We didn’t make too much progress in the dark last night so we still have about three quarters of the journey left. Like that punk kid told me last night though, “You don’t wanna make that journey in the dark, it’s some of the most beautiful scenery in the country”. He wasn’t lying.

It’s a glorious day, the sun shining proudly in the middle of a cobalt blue sky. We drive through the Jedediah Smith Redwood Park, following the Smith river all the way over to the I-5. The road through the national reserve is breathtaking. The Smith river streams forcefully alongside us, it’s crystal clear water frequently peppered with white water rapids. The road gets nervously narrow at points, crumbling rock faces on one side, sheer drops into the the river on the other. Eric can’t quite enjoy the view as much as myself for long parts of the journey. I’m sat up front with up, eyes wide and constantly gaping, “Woah shit! This is amazing!” The star of this particular show though are the magnificent redwood trees. Words can’t justify the majesty of these great beasts of the forest. We pull over at a layout at one point and get out of the van to enjoy a more intimate look at them. I could stand here all day, by the river, looking at them. We take some photos and breathe in the crisp river air. When you’re stood in the midst of nature’s finest like this you can’t help but feel that you’re place on this planet pales into insignificance. When we get back in the van and carry on with our journey towards Portland I sit there and think about how lucky to have the opportunity to travel to places such as these through simply playing punk rock.

The journey, although it’s as long as yesterday, isn’t anywhere near as draining. I guess the scenery helps, even back on the I-5 there are spectacular views of the Siskiyou Mountains. I have to say, I’m impressed with Jon, he’s been sat in the back of the bus studying all afternoon. How he survived last night unscathed I’ll never know. If I’d been in that state last night there isn’t a fucking chance I’d be studying economics today, I’d be sat here crying to myself. He’s obviously made of sterner stuff than he gets credit for. We make it to Portland in good time. We even take the time out to pop into an outlet centre, Vans shoes shopping on the agenda. I end up feeling like a right shit dad though since I realise that I don’t know what size shoes Polly has. Funny how your emotions swing when you’re on tour. Andy and I make an educated guess and I end up picking up some pretty cool shoes for her.

We arrive in Portland just before seven. The drive into the city is pretty cool. We drive over this huge double decker bridge that takes us across the Columbia RIver. There are loads of bridges crossing the river, all of different designs. The city’s surrounding horizon is decorated with monstrous white peaked mountains that stand alone. Some of them reaching as high as 14,000 feet. Absolutely incredible to look at. We pull into the low lying neighbourhood and park the bus right outside the Black Water Bar where we’re playing tonight. We’ve got a host of friends here so it should be a really fun show.

Strange thing, we were asked if we would be part of a documentary about this famous punk venue a while back and so there are two guys here who are going to film us loading the gear in and later interview some of us. Kind of strange lugging in gear and trying to pretend the cameras aren’t there. Once we’re done and set up on stage Andy asks me if I want to do the interview with him. We feel like a right pair of plums, stood outside the venue on the street, each with a mic in hand. The interview only takes about ten minutes. It’s mainly based on the Portland scene and our connection to it, which is mainly through our friends and the greater punk community in general. There are some questions about being vegetarian too, since this place is known for it’s all vegan menu. At the end of the interview they ask us if we would give a message in Swedish back to people back home. Not knowing what the fuck to say I just blurt out, “Hey Polly. Pappa misses you, home soon!” Andy does the same. When we walk back into the venue Andy says, “Fuck, we should have said fuck SD or something”.

It’s time to get try out the vegan cuisine anyway. Jamie, our good friend who plays in Black Breath with Eric is here. He actually works in the kitchen here but today he’s free. He has arrived with the legend that is Bengtsson. Really weird to be hanging out Portland with him. He’s here for Andrew Loomis’ funeral, been here for a couple of weeks. Always fun to see him. He goes back home to Stockholm a couple of days after us. He’s in his usual comical grumpy mood, it’s his thing. Totally deadpan, he plays it up big time. Always fun to hang out with him. The food is indeed superb. I go for a crispy chicken and bacon sandwich. It’s a bit tight on the hospitality tonight, we get four drink tickets each but food can be purchased for three of those tickets. One ticket is good for a PBR, two for an IPA from the tap. Johan comments with that sarcastic self amused look on his face, “So the band can either eat food or have a beer? You get one or the other?” The girl working the bar had explained the beer ticket situation, tipping me on going for the PBR since we’d get more of them. I laugh with her and say that my days of more is better have long gone. I go for an IPA.

Keith who is putting the show on is an old friend of the band but I have a bit of a hard time working him out. He’s pretty quiet. I think it sucks that he won’t give Eric any tickets, he says that he already give the band one ticket extra each. I guess this is the usual way in the US. We’re pretty spoiled in Europe as far as hospitality goes. Or are we? Maybe that’s the way it should be. Keith tells him that he’ll try and work out some more tickets later but it doesn’t sound too convincing. The beer from the bar is both good and cheap though and everyone here is really friendly, it could be worse. Could be way worse when you think about it. Fuck it.

John from From Ashes Rise is playing with his other band tonight, Pressing On, which also has people from the great band Talk is Poison. They’re first on the show tonight. Great to see him. We catch up on dad life and share pics and all the usual stuff. He looks totally chuffed with things. Pressing On are bang on it too. So fast and tight it’s unreal. I’m filled with envy as I stand there watching John play seemingly effortlessly at a hundred miles an hour, riffs all over the place, solos thrown in almost nonchalantly. Bastard. I’m ridiculously limited as a guitar player considering I’ve been doing it for twenty five years. Anyway, they blast through the set and there a good few people in. The bar is set up with a stage on one wall, a floor space in front of it and then dining tables behind that. Everyone gets up and stands to watch them though. I’m a little surprised by the dampened response between their songs but then looking at the crowd you notice that almost everyone here is over thirty and plays in bands. Derek from From Ashes is here, Billy from Tragedy, who is wearing a Bengtsson t-shirt, the Long Knife guys, a host of others.

When they’re finished Keith comes up to me at the merch table with some guy kitted out in a leather jacket, bandana around the neck and rockstar shades resting on top of his head. Looks a right fucking poseur. Keith asks tells me this is the other band, who flew in from Texas, and they have no drumkit, is it okay if they borrow ours? I check with Johan and we figure it works. Only then does Shades, who has been stood behind Keith smiling nervously, come forward and talk, just to say thanks. Seems nice enough I guess. They go off and double check with Andy who is stood outside and he comes back in and shows them the gear. When he comes back to me he says, “I hate this band!” He can’t work out why they didn’t contact anyone beforehand, since they were flying in from Texas without any gear. Fair enough point I guess. What the fuck would they do if we were assholes and just told them no. Turns out they need to borrow a whole load more too. Shades needs an amp, they need to borrow the snare and drum pedal too, bass amp needed too. Andy is well pissed off, “Seems like they didn’t forget to bring their fucking candles for the merch table but actual equipment is less of a priority”.

The best bit is that once they’re sorted with our gear on stage this Bigfoot looking fucker walks out from the side room of the stage and starts tinkling with the drums. They kept that fucker hidden well. He must be about seven foot and wide as a house, long greasy hair and a goatee beard. I say to Andy that the typical thing will be that after all this it will turn out they’re great. It doesn’t really work out that way as it turns out. The bass player, clad in low lying bandana and Totalitär t-shirt, he looks like the character Dave from Flight of the Conchords, starts playing some driving plink plonk riff. Then Shades and Bigfoot join in and the girl singing starts chirping into her mic through a reverb pedal. It’s kind of new wave punk, a bit like some of the stuff that has been coming out of places like Barcelona and London. I don’t mind that style at all but this isn’t that shit hot. The only thing that keeps me amused throughout it is watching Bigfoot play two handed on the hi-hat, he’s getting funky as shit. Then of course he puts the front skin of the bass drum through and the amusement turns to annoyance. Glad you could play tonight guys.

Andy says that he’s not feeling great at the minute, feels like he’s got some sort of fever on the go. Said he got a cold chill when Pressing On were playing and had to go sit down. He’s been coughing like a chimney at times during this tour, a bit worried about the old boy. As Texas are packing down the gear they actually brought with them I ask Johan if he fancies a shot before the gig, he said he was feeling tired as shit today again. He seems to think it’s a good idea, we decide on rum. I man the merch as Johan pops off. He asks Andy if wants a shot before the gig, Andy replies in shock, “Do I want a shot? Are you joking?” Johan looks at me and smiles and then fucks off to the bar. The shot of Captain Morgan goes down well enough but doesn’t really give me the injection of energy I was hoping for.

Just as we’re about to start setting up our old friend Dispeter arrives. He’s been living here for a while. He’s another pappa in the crew, they’ve just had their second a couple of months ago. Great to see him, he looks chuffed with his lot. We get set up pretty quick and try to get on with things. It’s an early curfew tonight of eleven pm. Suits us old fuckers just fine. Sounds pretty good on stage we get going. During the second song I’m hit by a putrid smell of electricity burning. It’s a pretty sickening smell that I can even taste in my mouth, turns my fucking stomach. The rest of the gig is for my part a fight against that. The show tonight feels a bit like Oakland the other night, pretty good crowd but not much of a response. People just stood about with their arms crossed. Kinda exactly like I was during Pressing On. I guess that’s the way it is when you play to a room of people like me, namely over thirty and in bands. There are a few people stood up front watching intently but that almost puts you more on your guard. It’s quite the comparison to last nights show. Play to young kids in a small town where not much happens, play to old fuckers like myself in Portland. It’s not rocket science really.

After the show we pack down quick and then stand around chatting for a bit whilst shifting a bit of merch. I get talking to Jonathan the bass player in Pressing On, he tells me he booked the Victims show in Portland last time they were here, ten years ago. Good guy. He says that he’d love to book a tour with us and them, the two bands sharing a van and doing the West Coast. Johan books it in for 2026.

Some young girl from Sweden comes up to me afterwards and starts chatting away. She’d caught me during the show and told me to turn up my amp since you couldn’t hear it. I don’t know how it affected things out front when I compiled, it felt overall really loud in here tonight. We stand there and chat for about ten minutes anyway, she’s really cool. Ana is her name, a real Gothenburger. I love the accent, cracks me up. Always makes me think if Nitad’s old roadie, Mats. Once sorted we take off in the bus with Jamie, Bengtsson and an old friend of the guys called Ryan, who had put them up when they played last time. We’re staying at Kelly from Problems house tonight. Jamie is living there for a couple of months whilst Kelly is on tour, and Bengtsson is staying there too whilst he’s here. THe thought of those two hanging out in the house for a couple of weeks is an amusing one. Jamie has been been to the store and bought a case of beer and some cider. When leaving the venue I’d been really in the mood for a chilled out bar, of which Jamie said there were plenty within ten minutes walk of the house, but once we get here that pepp has well and truly gone. I sink into the couch and start tucking into some nachos and salsa and get into conversation with Bengtsson and Johan. Andy has the one beer before bedding himself down at the other end of the room, Bengtsson doing his best to taunt him and get a rise out of him as he does so.

After a couple of beers I feel the need of sleep coming to me too. Jamie and Jon are sat out on the back porch talking guitars and riffs whilst the rest of us bed down for the night. I’m lying on this long, soft couch adjacent to another couch that Bengtsson is on. Bengtsson is loudly commending my choice of sleeping spot, saying I’ve got the best spot in the house. “Fucking good couch that! This one too, we’ve got it sorted! Look at these guys on the floor.” I fall asleep to the sound of Bengtsson laughing at some tv show he’s watching on his phone.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Woke up at Scotty’s and helped ourselves to bagels and coffee. Scotty was nowhere to be seen but he’d told us to help ourselves. One of his housemates appears after a while and find Andy, Johan and I stood around this drip down filter coffee device, studying how it works. How many men does it take to make a cup of coffee?

We sit around on the steps of Scotty’s house, doing breakfast in the sun. Pretty chilled out start to the day. We have a drive of about six hours today, it’s not all that far to Eureka but the roads are small and winding. We leave Scotty’s around midday and head over to Berkeley to check out Amoeba Records. We figure that we don’t really need to stress getting to Eureka, rather hang out here. They told us that we should get there for eight at latest so we’re aiming for that. The plan is to get there play, hang out for a couple of hours and then drive a little longer afterwards and get a motel. It’s an early show tonight, has to be done for ten, and we have a long assed drive to Portland tomorrow.

As we’re driving along the avenue that leads to Berkeley Eric tells me about his experiences with Oakland. He says West Oakland is about as rough as it gets, and it’s there that a lot of the punk kids live since it’s a lot cheaper on the rent. Eric says that he was driving through there one time in a car with some friends and they’d stopped at an intersection. Eric was laughing about something and then he noticed some old guy in a string vest stood on his porch looking menacingly at him. Staring him straight in the eye he points and Eric and says, “I will execute you!” Eric, a little shocked, continues to laugh and then the old guy repeats the threat again whilst running his thumb across his throat. Shitting himself he burns out of there. I asked Eric what the fuck had he done to warrant that, “I didn’t do anything apart from being a white guy in his neighborhood I guess”. Scary shit. On many levels.

Oakland merges into Berkeley without announcement, the only reason you know you’re in Berkeley is that all of a sudden it feels like you’re driving through a theme park for tourists. It’s quite the contrast from it’s neighbour. There are tourists and students roaming the streets everywhere. We do a bit of shopping at Amoeba, I pick up a Hjertestop record as well as the last Violent Reaction lp. Once done we grab some pizza slice and sit around on the curb behind the bus, enjoying the sunshine, before boarding for the ride. Berkeley is a pretty little place, kind of place you feel you should be here on holiday with the family and enjoy it a little more. For now, all we get is a view from the bus as we make our way to highway. The views of the bay and the silhouette of San Francisco on the hazy horizon are pretty cool anyway.

The drive seems to last forever. We were on our way by one pm, but it’s closing in on eight by the time we begin to near Eureka. We stopped a couple of times along the way for some scenic piss stops. The woods up here are something else. The entire journey is made along the smaller road that runs directly north of the Bay Area, there are some stunning views and every now and again you’re in the heart of the forest, the road snaking carefully through giant redwood trees. It’s beautiful but a little nerve tingling at times. We’re getting close to Eureka and the clouds are indeed rolling in, just like Andy Gibbs had said they would. I’m sat there looking at them as we’re pulling up the long, slow hills of the forest roads and thinking that maybe this Eureka place will live up to it’s reputation.

We get to town around seven forty five, fifteen minutes before the deadline they’d given us, or on time as Eric sees it, and we’re hit with the anti climax that is the strip mall. I’m a little disappointed by the fact that it looks like any other new town in the US. There are some nice little spots along the oceanfront though and the place we’re playing is further into the residential area, which itself looks like a pretty normal grid system town, if not a little run down. We pull into the VFW hall carpark where there are a few young punk kids hanging out. We pile out of the van to find out what’s happening and some kid who looks like he knows what’s going on approaches us, “Are you from Sweden?”. This amuses Andy. The kid tells us to load in around the back where they have a ramp. We do that and find what I assume is the first band loading their gear out. We load into the hall where the second band are line checking, the girl who plays bass is Maria and she’s putting the show on tonight. Could be a really fun show. There are a handful of kids hanging about the room, not one of them looks to be a day older than eighteen. Maria’s band are checking their gear, they have a high drum riser where the kit and their backline is stood aloft on, whilst the Maria and the other girl on synth stand on the floor. Can’t really see Andy wanting be sat up there looking like a plum.

There are four bands on tonight, and the word is that it would be a good idea if we played third since that’s normally how they do it, leaving one local band to close out the show. Sounds like a fair enough idea to me. It’s probably a good tactic in these smaller towns that a lot of bands never make it through, since all the kids that come these shows will probably go to any show going, it’s not necessarily that the kids here are fans of Victims, they’re just chuffed there’s something going on at all. We dump the gear in the space to the side of the stage, behind a projector screen where they have images displaying as a backdrop to the bands. Andy starts setting up his drums, Johan and I decide to check out the bar on the other side of the corridor from this function room.

Jon is already sat there on a barstool, his brightly coloured Venom patch on the back of his leather jacket shining like a beacon amongst the young punks. He’s enjoying a can of PBR and in the process of beginning a conversation with some older woman beside him. The bartender is this old brick wall of a guy, trucker cap and long grey beard just about hiding a sly smile. In notice they have Lagunitas on tap, it’s the only tap they actually have, and by the look of it it’s only two dollars fifty a pint. Nice one. We order two of them and the guy asks us if we’re sure. We assure him and so tentatively he walks off to the tap and starts pouring foam into a big jug. He tells us it will take a little while, there’s something wrong with the barrel. No stress, I tell him. Five minutes or so later he comes with two plastic mugs full of beer and when we go to pay he just waves us away and winks at us. Nice one mate.

We take a seat at table and some crust punk comes up to me and starts talking, tells me he’s really grateful to us for coming through his town. He can’t believe that we’re here from Sweden, to just play nine shows and that one of those shows is Eureka. I can’t really believe that either, if I’m being honest. He’s a really nice kid anyway, I ask him for tips and travelling to Portland from here, tell him we’re looking to do a couple of hours and then get a motel at the next town, Crescent City. After there the roads aren’t anything you want to be driving on in the dark, he warns us, and besides, it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and you want to see it in the daylight, he smiles.

It’s time for us to start setting up for the gig and we grab Jon from the bar who has just ordered another beer and a shot of Jameson. Brick Wall enthusiastically pours Jon a huge double, probably a treble, and then pours one for himself. Brick Wall downs it like it’s water and patiently waits for Jon to finish his, which takes a couple of swigs. We push the riser back and set everything up on the floor. Maria proudly loads the VIctims logo onto the screen as a backdrop for us, really cute. Some other young kid stands just beside me on his own, looking on as we set up the gear. I say hello to him and a big smile beams across his face. He says he’s looking forward to seeing us. I tell him I’m looking forward to playing. It takes us about ten minutes to set up and during that time the dark room has started to fill with kids, there must be fifty or sixty or so, it’s more than I thought it would be, I wouldn’t have imagined there with this many punk/alternative kids in Eureka.
From the very first chords of Death Do Us Part, the kids go fucking wild. I can’t really make out what’s going on since all I can see is a shadow of bodies flying around in the dark behind those who are stood in the front line. When we break for the first time we’re greeted with a screaming roar. I can’t believe this, it’s fucking amazing. I look over at Johan who has his back turned to the crowd, tuning his bass with a huge smile on his face. Back into V5/V6 and the kids continue the carnage. It sounds great as well. I’m flying about myself, feeding of the energy these kids are pouring out into the room. I feel like I could play all night. There are kids crowd surfing, piling up on top of each other, one guy is hanging off of some pipes from the ceiling, it’s totally radge. By far the most show of the tour so far. It’s funny, last night in Oakland the place was really busy but most of them were stood there with their arms folded. Tonight could not be any different. At the end of the set they start chanting for an encore but we decide to leave it, there is still another band to go and the curfew is supposed to be ten pm. Maria goes up to the mic and starts chanting us on, the kids continue baying for us to come back. Andy makes a waving gesture to signal that there won’t be any more and I hear one guy’s voice, distinct from the crowd, shout, “Why not?” And then moments later when the celing lights come on I hear him again, “Oh man…” he sounds genuinely gutted. What a fucking gig.

We dry off in the kitchen beside the gig hall and tuck into some bean tacos that they’ve sorted for us. Afterwards we watch most of the last band, Pervert, young kids playing sludgy hardcore, reminds me of the old band Molehill. Pretty good stuff. There aren’t a whole load of kids left but those who remain having a whale of a time. Towards the end I motion to Johan and we head over to the bar. Jon is there with another huge glass of whisky and a beer, chatting away to Brick Wall. I order another couple of Lagunitas but he shakes his head and tells us we should have some Downtown Brown, and hands us each a bottle of the locally brewed Brown Ale. I have a sip and find myself pleasantly surprised, it’s really light on the gut and booming in taste. I put my hand in my pocket and the big smiling Brick Wall barks in his best English accent, “Fuck off! You conts!” Fucking love this guy. We leave Jon to his mates and take seats at the other end of the bar and watch a bit of the baseball on tv. Brick Wall comes over to us after a while and makes a loud gesture, “All you travelling band motherfuckers, shots on the house!” Somehow I get the feeling he’s not going to take no for an answer. He pours three huge shots of whisky and asks where the drummer is, Johan tells him that he doesn’t think he will drink it, he’s not really in that place today. Brick Wall shrugs his shoulders and drinks Andy’s shot. We follow suit and the burn in the chest is immediate. Not really how I envisioned this going. Turns out Brick Wall is a really nice guy, he leans over the bar and starts chatting away to us, telling us about the town and how he thinks it’s great that these young kids are trying to get something going with a music scene here. I can only agree. It warms the heart. These veteran halls may have a bit of a hard exterior but in my experience they’re always really welcoming. It’s a pleasure to be here tonight.

Shortly afterwards Andy’s turns up and tells us that Eric is ready to go and it’s time to pack up. That’s the end of that then. I rush down the rest of my beer and we grab Jon on the way out, who is on whisky number I don’t know fucking what. Don’t want to know… As we make trips back and forth to the van there seems to be a small bit of drama going on. One of the young punk kids is wasted and is making a bit of a scene. Brick Wall is telling him in no uncertain terms that it’s time to go. The kid obviously feels insulted by this. It goes on for a while and I catch little snippets of it as I pass by with various bits of gear. Andy cracks up outside, telling me he heard Brick Wall finally losing his rag with the kid’s refusal to leave, “Right that’s it asshole, time to get your mom down here!” Seems like this community takes care of itself.

We’re almost done with the pack, just a couple of guitars and merch left. Me and Jon head back in. I turn into the gig hall, Jon takes a left into the bar saying something about one last for the road. When all is packed Johan and I go inside to thank Maria for everything and then pick up Jon. He’s stood there drinking another massive glass of Irish, talking to some young kid in a bandana, “Listen to this kids story!” Before we get the chance to politely decline the kid starts up with his tale of how Lemmy kidnapped him for four days, frequently peppering his story with pauses for effect. We have to stand there and listen to him for close to ten minutes whilst Jon stands beside him eagerly egging him on. Finally a friend of Bandana grabs him and says he’s needed outside to deal with his pissed up friend. Before he leaves he says, “Long story short, I spent four days on tour with Motörhead carrying Mickey D’s drums, getting 500 dollars in the process. Sex. Drugs (at this he pauses and exaggeratedly wipes his nose with his thumb). And rock n’ roll.”

Finally able to get the fuck out there, we pass Brick Wall sat under a tree with his arm around the pissed kid, “I like you”, I hear him saying. Think Brick Wall is pretty sauced up himself. We get in the van and head back to the highway, now shrouded in darkness, and set our sights on Crescent City and a motel.

I sit up front with Eric, playing music and chatting away. He’s not too psyched about this drive but we’re told that the road is pretty decent most of the way. It’s pitch black though. At one point we pull over on the side of the road and gaze up at the stars. The stars are magnificent, feels like we’re stood in a planetarium. We continue down the road, hoping that we’ll make it to Crescent City before two so we can purchase a couple of beers. I told Eric I have a vision of lying in a motel bed, watching tv and drinking a beer. Eric tells me he likes that vision. The road starts to snake the closer we get to our destination. It’s so fucking dark. To make matters worse, the fuse on the dashboard has gone so Eric can’t see how the temperature gauge is doing and every time we hit one of the many hills he has to turn the cabin lights on to check the needle. It’s a bit of a strange scene, all to the sounds of Teenage Fanclub on the stereo.

Jon comes up and plonks himself beside me. He’s fucking wankered. He keeps cuddling me really tightly and all I can make out is that he loves Ana. He’s really sweet but it’s hard to deal with and I think Eric could do without it at the present time. I tell him numerous times to go back to his seat, that it’s not safe. Eventually he listens and shuffles off into the darkness of the back of the van. A moment later I look round and in the light of Johan’s iPhone lamp I can see him and Andy picking Jon up off the floor. They finally get him sat down and I look over my shoulder and find Jon looking at me directly, his face kind of distorted by the blueish tint of the lamp, hair hanging down in front of his face. It’s a bit of a dark scene. Minutes later he’s back, grabs me again and says, “Well have you heard? I’m out of the band…” He’s put back to his seat again and thankfully he falls asleep.

We get to Crescent City, which isn’t much of a city by the looks of it, and check out a few different motels once we’ve stopped at a garage for beer and crisps. We end up at a Super 8. Two double beds. Andy and I walk over to the room first, the usual routine, since we’re doing it on the sly. From the door of the ground floor room I see Jon exit the van carrying his big sports bag. He seems to be putting one foot in front of the other but he’s somehow moving sideways. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. The weight of the bag and the booze in his legs gets the better of him and with nobody to save him he falls and hits the ground hard. Andy runs over, pulls him up and leads him by the arm to the room.

We’re all inside and Jon is sat there on the edge of one of the beds, eyes empty. He starts making a move to crawl into bed fully clothed, shoes and all. I tell Jon that he should sleep on the floor because a) I don’t want him to fall out of the bed in the night and b) it seems like it will be me that has to share a bed with him. I ask Eric if it’s okay for him to share the bed with me, I know he normally likes to sleep on the floor on his little camping mattress but he understands the deal tonight. “As long as you keep your legs to yourself!” he jokes, he’s obviously heard about me sleep spooning various members of my band.

Explaining to Jon that he’s on Eric’s mattress on the floor is a pretty taxing process since he’s completely off his tits, but eventually he grasps it, “Ah ok, ja ja”, and slumps down beside the bed. We crack open a beer each and Jon mumbles wonderingly if there is a beer for him. His question is met with group disdain. When we look over at him we see that he’s taken Eric’s pillow from the bed and has his head on that, lying on the floor in the small space between the bed and the camping mattress… We shuffle him over to the bed and leave him there to sleep. You can’t help but love the daft bastard. We’ll have to put a stop on the hard liquor though.
I take a quick shower and then lie on the bed and enjoy a bottle of beer. We share some crisps around. Eric has certainly earned a drink today. It’s been full on. Tomorrow will bring more of the same.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Woke up feeling good today, the first normal nights sleep I’ve had since we got here. Feel good to go for the day. We’ve got a five hour ride up to Oakland, we’re heading off around midday. After showering we have an hour or so to kill, so Andy and I head up to Santa Monica in search of some coffee. Johan goes out for a five kilometer run, have to say I’m impressed, it’s been a while since I went out jogging, can’t see myself picking it up again on this tour.

We get some coffee to go from a diner just a few blocks away, it’s pretty good but expensive. I can’t really justify spending what works out close to fifty kronors on a cup of black filter coffee. LA is killing my minimal student budget. I remember Linus being shocked by the price of the beer at the gig last night too, “8 dollars for a bottle of Stella? Tja!” Couldn’t live in LA, wouldn’t want to either. It’s a fun place to visit for a few days but I’m getting to my fill of it. I couldn’t live in a place that has no viable public transport system in place, having to drive the car every day just to get from A to B would do my head in. And there are other aspects of LA that get to me a little as well, the whole place seems obsessed with celebrity. I much prefer the lifestyle in New York, although I couldn’t live there either, but I could maybe stick it out a little longer.

Anyway, we get going around twelve. I try Jen a couple of times, hoping to get to see Polly for a second but we can’t seem to sync things. Leaves me feeling a little homesick again, but I shake that off. It’s a little tough being in a completely different time zone from my little girl though. The first hour or so out of LA offers some decent scenery as we crawl over the hills of the Grapevine. It must have been raining a bit since the rolling hills are a lush green, Eric says it’s normally bone dry brown around here. I mention what a nice drive it is and he tells me to make the most of it since once we get past the Grapevine it’s pretty much one long, boring, straight road. It proves to be so. The only things of any note along the way are some citrus farms and the scatterings of tire debris that the cavernous roads have blown off trucks. Every now and again that bumps in the road rattle the bus so much you could swear the thing is going to fall apart but it turns out the bus is a sturdy old thing.

As I’m sat writing, listening to the Tom Petty records Eric is playing up front I’m hit by a wave of stench. Eric shouts back to us, “Yep, that’ll be Cowschwitz.” In the fields beside the road are thousands of cows stood about in what is by the smell of it their own shit. They just stand there looking bored. I wonder if they know that they’re next destination is the slaughter house. Fucking horrible. All these cows slaughtered for food and the fact is tens of tons of beef is left to spillage every year in this country alone, just thrown away. Whilst millions around the globe starve. Fuck humanity.

It’s getting late by the time we arrive on the outskirts of Oakland. Just as we’re coming up to the exit we need from the highway we come to a stop, cars are packed to a standstill and there is a fire truck coming up from behind weaving through. I call Scotty and tell him we’re near by but might be a little while since we’re stuck in traffic. He tells me that he’s stuck in traffic too so we should be there about the same time, there’s no stress anyway. Turns out there’s actually no block on the road but everyone has slowed down to check out the crash on the side of the road. The car is totally smashed and it’s side, thankfully it seems like there no injuries though. Just as we’re complaining about the assholes creating the traffic jam out of pure morbid curiosity, upon reaching the crash site Eric says, “Woah! That’s pretty fucked, I’d slow down to look at that as well to be fair”.

We’re about five minutes from the venue when Scotty drives up beside us, big beaming smile poking out of his window. We follow his car to the venue and do a round of hugs. Great to see him. Last time we hung out was when we did the Municipal Waste tour together. I’m chuffed he’s putting the new Victims record out, he’s really supporting us a lot with it and he works his ass off. We head into the venue and I get a bit of a shock. Eric said it was a warehouse venue but I didn't think it would be this big! It’s gigantic, probably holds around fifteen hundred or something. Thankfully I soon realise that we came in the back entrance and the stage is actually the other side of the black curtain behind the huge empty stage in this room. The other side of the curtain is more like it, a cordoned off little space with a decent sized stage and a bar. Scotty says there should be a couple of hundred people here tonight and if that’s the case it should be great. The line up is certainly top notch. Korrosive, Torso and Brainoil on before us. Nice when you play a gig and you want to see every band.

Scotty has brought a couple of cases of beer, some PBR’s and a six pack of IPA that is 7% strength. I decide that PBR will be more drinkable when you’re pissing sweat after the gig so go for the IPA, but having ate nothing but a Subway sandwich and some crisps all day it fuzzes my head up pretty quick. Jon has popped one too, he told me he needed a couple of beers to land since his head isn’t feeling too good, he’s got some shit going on. We lug all the gear up on stage and then he fucks off again. Johan talks down the mic, “Jon to that stage, Jon, to the stage please”. He comes stoating around the curtain looking like he’s seen a ghost, “Don’t fuck with my head like that!” Soppy sod.

By the time we’re set up with merch doors are already open. We head off in search of a quick bit of food before it gets too late. Johan stays to man the merch whilst the rest of us head out. Coming in through the back entrance it looked like we were in the middle of some induatrial area but going out the front door brings us out into the streets of downtown Oakland. As we walk out the door some girl working security asks if we’re in the band, I say that I am and show here my wristband, she says nothing and just looks the other way, at nothing. Just turns her head and lets me know she’s not interested in any kind of conversation I guess. Downtown Oakland looks pretty nice anyway, a few cosy and restaurants about. Eric tells me that there a lot of poor areas on the flipside of this city though. In fact, the guys from the venue sorted out parking for the bus on the front side of the venue since a few weeks back some band had their van robbed out back.

Eric was stoked on this vegan place nearby but it’s closed since it’s Easter Sunday, fucking Jesus, so we end up in a diner style burger joint. They promise BIG burgers. It’s totally okay, they have a veggie burger that does the job. I take one back for Johan to munch on. When we get back Korrosive have already started but they must have just started since I catch another fifteen minutes. They’re really good, got an old school Finnish kind of thing going on, all big spiky hair and the singer has a don’t give a fuck, snotty attitude about him. Fucking love it.

I head back over to the merch and bump into Erika, an old friend of ours who hung out on tour with us on the East Coast one time. She plays in a bunch of bands. We first met her when she was with Saviours in England and we played together. Good to see her. She tells me she’s been reading my diary. “You did?” I ask. “Well yeah, you put it online”. The guitarist in Saviours, Sonny, is doing sound here tonight. He was talking telling me earlier about the night we played Nottingham together. It was at the Old Angel, which has sadly just closed. He says that they slept in the flat upstairs and he’d fallen asleep in his denim jacket and when he woke up in the morning some fucker had stolen a bunch of patches from his jacket! “Funny thing is they’d only taken the punk patches and left all the metal ones”. Fucking punks.

After Korrosive are done I have to face up to the fact that Eric’s Les Paul needs restringing. I may be a lazy bastard I don’t know, but stringing a guitar is the most boring task there is. Eric keeps me company whilst I get to work but I’m not done by the time Torso starts up on the other side of the curtain. I’ve only seen the name about before so I had no idea how they sounded but I soon learn they sound shit hot. Full on raging d-beat hardcore. I rush through the restringing bullshit and manage to catch the second half of their set. They are absolutely vicious. Two girls, two guys. The crowd are pretty psyched too, there is the horseshoe thing going on and every now and again one of the crowd members run from one side to the other doing a roly poly on the floor halfway across. No fucking idea what that’s about. The girl on vocals doesn’t give a fuck though, she paces back and forth across the empty stage blasting out the lyrics. One of the best bands I’ve seen for a while. It’s loud as shit as well, and I’ve made my way down to the front. I stand there like a dad, hands covering my ears, nodding my head up and down in appreciation.

I catch my mate Andy Gibbs during the show, I met him when his band Thou played with Victims in Leipzig. He asks me where we’re playing tomorrow and when I tell him Eureka in Northern California he laughs, saying they played there a while back. “Weird town”. Funny, seems to be a running commentary on the place this last few days. Apparently it’s this little hippie town on the coast up there that has a bit of an enclosed vibe about it, they petitioned to the government to make their town a free state so they say, they were denied though. Andy says that it’s just got this weird feel to the whole place, it’s surrounded by trees in the bay and there is a weird mist that hangs about the place. Sounds like The Goonies or something. Should make for an interesting show tomorrow.

I’m kneeled down behind the merch stall stretching in the strings on the guitar when some big guy wearing a Victims shirt comes up to Johan to buy another shirt, and starts telling how much he loves Victims, going on about how he saw them here the last time around on the West Coast. He starts going through the history of the band and then he says, “And yeah, now you’ve got the dude from Raging Speedhorn in the band too”, Johan points at me squatted by the table, “Yeah, this dude”. Oh boy.. To my amazement he says he loved that band. I tell him that he’s one of a minority in this country. “Yeah man, that band was killer. Like, Victims is fast as shit and ripping and stuff, and then you guys were more like, groooove man. Hold that riff… Fuck man, I love Victims, sick that you guys are in town tonight. I told my old lady, I ain’t staying in watching no film girl, I’m going to see Victims!” Quite a guy.

Brainoil are up next. I was talking to Greg earlier in the night, a really nice old guy with long hippie hair, a very mellow dude with a friendly voice. He said he was recording the new Lecherous Gaze album at the minute. He looks totally chuffed all the time. My kind of guy. During the set he quips, “Hey everybody, we’re Korrosive, thanks for coming”, whilst pointing to the back wall where there is a Korrosive backdrop hanging. Everyone cracks up. “Nah fuck that, we’re actually Torso. That one is bigger”, pointing at the indeed larger Torso backdrop hanging above it. Seems like a right character. Brainoil sound heavy as shit, play a lot slower than the other bands, I can’t help thinking that’s nice since Victims would have looked like a bunch of old dad’s playing mid tempo punk had we gone on straight after Torso. Maybe we did anyway.

It’s a good sound on stage tonight, and Jon seems to have sorted his amp out since last night. Andy can hear what he’s playing at least. Don’t know why but the show feels a little tougher again tonight. Maybe it’s the whole Sunday thing. There is a good crowd, the place is pretty full, but there isn’t much movement. Speedhorn is up the front shaking my hand between songs but the others kind of stand there observing. They’re up close to the stage though. One of those Sunday night gigs I suppose. I enjoy playing all the same.

The venue closes shop pretty much as soon as we’re done. The security are eager to move everyone on. We shift a bit more merch after the show and then pack our stuff down. Jon has disappeared, fuck knows where he’s gone. Greg from Brainoil grabs a shirt from us just before we leave. He asks where we’re going tomorrow, I tell him Eureka. “Woah.” I’m starting to get really fucking intrigued by this place.

We pack the van up outside and stand around talking to Mark who used to play in Black Breath who is now living here. One of the staff from the venue is hanging outside the venue and is looking for conversation. He tells us he plays in Verbal Abuse. That pricks Andy’s ears up. He’s a nice guy, telling us about how the guitarist from the band wanted to come down to the gig tonight but he’s on house arrest and can’t leave his house because of this foot bracelet thing. He’s saying about how Verbal Abuse want to get over to Europe, but they need to get a new record done, says they can’t keep touring that one album from thirty years ago. I think to myself that he looks a little on the young side to have been in the band the whole time and it turns out he joined in 2005. For a second, I have to admit, I feel a little bit, argh, like, this isn’t the real deal, he’s a new guy. And then I catch my inner self being an asshole and realise that I’m that guy in Victims.

Scotty has gone ahead to his place to walk his dog Chico. It was a while back now so we have to cut the talk and get moving. Scotty gave us his address and instructions to a garage so we can pick up some beers. We get to the garage and find that it’s one of those order through the window deals. There are a few other cars parked up and people hanging around, it’s pretty obvious to everyone here that we’re not from these parts, and judging by the looks we’re getting we should probably make this pretty snappy. The guy working in the shop is sat there fast asleep though. I apologetically wake him through the speak box thing and he stirs to life. Ordering turns out to be a bit of a struggle. Six Sierra Nevada’s doesn’t seem to cause any problems but before I can get the rest of the order out he’s off to the other side of the shop to the beer fridge. When he comes back I order a pack of the Jalapeno Jack Kettle Chips and six bottles of water. He comes back with the wrong crisps. I know I should just let it go but I really fancied those fucking Jalapeno Jack’s. Johan and I stand there doing our best to point him in the right direction but the sleepy fucker just walks around picking up random items and wafting them hopefully in our direction. We finally crack it and when he comes back I have to ask him again for the water. He comes back with one bottle. Andy is getting pretty pissy behind me, and the other people hanging about are starting to look a little bored by us. I say to Andy and Johan that we should just get the fuck out of here but Andy is adamant this guy is going to get the order right. I say that I feel sorry for the guy, “Yeah but you’ve always been weak for an idiot”, cracks Johan. It’s good having a foreign language to use as code. Whilst Sleepy is off looking for water Andy gets annoyed because he’s spotted a six pack of water lying on the floor on the other side of the shop and Sleepy is coming back with six larger individual bottles. Seriously Andy, lets fucking wrap this up now. He comes back and we pay the man and gratefully walk off from the window. I hear Jon behind me as we leave, “Hey! Can I have a bottle of red wine please?”

The fucking tool is making an order of his own.

We finally get back to Scotty is out waiting for us in the street with little Chico. Great little dog. He’s getting old and has pretty bad arthritis, Scotty tells us he’s trying some alternative medicine treatment on him. Scotty loves that dog, he’s pretty concerned about him. Scotty lives on a pretty calm street not far from where Oakland merges into Berkley. Eric tells me not to leave anything in the van all the same. Scotty has got a mattress laid out for us and there are two sofas, a long one and a short one, or should I say an Andy one and a Jon one. The Jon one is only a two seater but that fucker can sleep anywhere. We sit around and chat for a while, Scotty shows us a review of the album in Decibel magazine. Gave us 8 out of 10 which apparently is pretty generous for that mag. Not that that matters, but it’s good for Scotty who is putting the record out I guess.
Apparently Jon had disappeared after the show earlier because he was doing some video interview with someone. Scotty asks him how it went and he says it was good but that they asked him the question, “Which band did he most dislike right now”, or something stupid like that. We ask his what he said and he slowly structures the answer in his head, he’s been smoking some of Scotty’s medical weed, and then he says, “Well I really didn’t want to be that guy, or start anything. I wanted to say Takida but don’t want to start any ambivalence”. We wait for the rest… whilst Andy is laughing, asking why the fuck anyone would care if he said Takida. “So, what did you say then?” asks a genuinely curious Scotty. “I said that I was unhappy with the way the Rn'B scene was going”. We all piss ourselves laughing! Jon just sits there with a serious coupon.

Nobody seems to be claiming the last bottle of Sierra Nevada so I sip on that as a last little nightcap before bed. The Jalapeno Jack crisps were fucking beautiful too. Well worth the hassle.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Los Angeles

Felt rough as a dog’s arse when I woke up this morning. Or should I say woken.. It was just past nine, meaning that’s now three nights in a row of a little over four hours sleep. I was hoping we’d get to sleep until around midday since we have the whole day here in LA to hang out but it wasn’t to be. Painfully obvious there will be no more sleep right now I Skype home to the girls for a quick catch up. Polly is in good spirits, chatting away. The reception is pretty poor though so it’s hard to make out, and that coupled with the horrific image of myself in the little square in the corner makes me a little down. Tired, body aching everywhere and I miss my girls. I tell myself to get it together, after all I’m in California playing punk rock, it’s a very privileged position to be in. The little dip out of the way, I jump in the shower and decide to tackle the drowsiness.

Andy tells me that Jon woke up and drank a bumper can of Modelo beer for breakfast. That does not bode well for the day. It’s going to be a long day, we don’t need to be at the venue until seven, we’ll have to keep an eye on the boy. Johan, Andy, Nath and I take a walk down to Melrose Avenue a couple of blocks away for some coffee and pie at this little bakery. The cherry pie is out of this fucking world, I’ve never had anything like it. Nath had promised good things about this place and he wasn’t lying. The portions are huge though, of course, so we take some scraps back for the others. By the time we get back to Nath’s I’m really flagging again so I go lie down on his bed for a bit. There’s a nice breeze coming through the window and I contemplate just lying here all afternoon, but I get the feeling Nath really wants to take us about the place this afternoon, and plus Scott is meeting us for some lunch so it would be pretty rude just to lie here sleeping, and probably completely counter productive to my sleep pattern. We don’t have that early a start tomorrow so hopefully I’ll get some rest tonight.

We split ourselves up between Nath’s car and an Uber cab and head over to this Mexican place on Beverly Blvd. We take seats outside and wait for Scott to turn up. The sun is beating down and Jon is sat there with his leather vest on over his t-shirt, face red and puffy from last night’s excess. He’s forgotten his cigs in Nath’s car and walks off to retrieve them. Whilst he’s gone Scott turns up and says, “I’m guessing the dude in the Slayer t-shirt walking about the car park looking confused is with you guys..”

When Jon comes back he takes his seat at the other end of the table and when he notices Scott his eyes light up and he shunts over to Scott, hand held out, “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Carlson”. Cracks me up. Scott is a really sociable guy and it’s really easy conversing with him over lunch. Whilst we’re waiting for the food the waiter produces a stream of nachos and different salsas to the table, it’s almost impossible to stop eating the fuckers and by the time we get to order food I’m pretty full already. When I receive my relleno I have doubts over whether I’ll make much of a dent in it but I actually manage most of it. Jon is sat at the other end eating like a fucking horse. It’s an unusual sight, he’s normally pretty sparse with the food but he’s just put away four huge beef tacos and a pint of Pacifico.

When we’re done we’re all in need of a walk and we make plans to head back to Nath’s, drop his car off and take a walk along Melrose. Eric and I take a ride with Scotty in his car, he has this flash Dodge thing that is really tight in the back, but still, it’s a pretty shit hot car. Not that I’m really bothered about cars. We rendezvous at Nath’s and from there we go walking for a couple of hours. Jon has Scott’s ear for the most part, continuously calling him Mr. Carlson in a little high voice, sounds like he’s back in school. Cracks us all up.

At the bottom of Nath’s street is this shop that has a big pink wall on the side and every time we’ve passed it there are people getting their photographs taken. It’s infamous apparently. We decide to take a band pic there, I have this funny idea of making a Weezer style band pic and making the next Victims record the Pink Album. Nath and Scott take some pics of us and Andy remarks in my ear, “This is weird, I never thought Scott Carlson from Repulsion would be one day taking photos of us”. The funny thing with this wall is, since it became a popular tourist attraction they made up a few rules about the do’s and don’ts, like no feet on the wall and such, and they have actually employed a security guard to watch over proceedings. He just seems to stand there all day, doing fuck all but smile awkwardly. Weird place, LA.

We flit in and out of shops, there’s a pretty cool record shop selling mainly punk stuff but I’m not really in the mood and can’t really afford it. We pass a vintage t-shirt and have a look inside, really cool shop but as is the norm with these places stupidly overpriced. Most of the stuff I’m looking at is anywhere between twenty dollars eighty dollars, for stuff you’d find in Oxfam for a fiver. The guy working asks Jon if he needs help and Jon enquires about the Iron Maiden Somewhere in Time tour shirt in the window. The guy tells him it’s a hundred and twenty five dollars, I hear Jon behind me spitting out, “One hundred and twenty five dollars?!” The guy meekly attempts to justify the price, saying how it’s an original and blah blah blah but Jon is in the mood for the talk and picks his argument apart. Still, no purchase.

A little further down the road we come by The Great Frog, I think it’s called, some heavy metal jewelry shop with a load of skull rings and the such. There are a load of photos by Ross Halfin, the rock star photographer who once photographed Speedhorn in Japan, it was an abysmal experience. There are all these photos of Metallica and Maiden and stuff, going for thousands of dollars. No thanks. The girl working the shop seems really nice though, turns out she plays in some doom band that Scott seems to know about. I get the impression Scott knows most people around here.

After walking around in the heat for a couple of hours I feel myself dramatically starting to flag again and I know I need to go back to Nath’s. I really want to chill out at his place for at least an hour before we have to head to the venue. I’m happy to head back to Nath’s on my own but it seems like most people are done with the walking. Johan is really in the mood for a pint though so him and Jon hit some bar that if I’m honest, looks really appealing, but I can’t do it. The rest of us head back down the road, Andy and I grab a coffee not far from Nath’s place, I go for an espresso which hits the spot perfectly and I’m feeling better for it. When we get back to Nath’s Scott says to me that he didn’t realise I was in Raging Speedhorn, I guess maybe Nath mentioned it to him, anyway, he tells me that he remembers meeting us in a bar somewhere in Europe way back, I don’t really recall it to be honest but then there were a lot of hazy times back then. Nice that he has fond memories of us anyway, not everyone always does. It was really cool hanging out with him this last couple of hours, it’s a shame he can’t make it to the show tonight but he has prior commitments.

It’s pure heaven sitting on my arse in the shade of Nath’s living room. I sit down and begin to write, helping myself to a can of the Ballast Point that the venue in San Diego gave is for the trip last night. Fucking beautiful tasting IPA, I only notice that it’s 7% when I get to the end of the can. Jon and Johan come back not long afterwards and JOn treats himself to a couple. He’s proper on it today, he’s going to have to chill a bit when we get to the venue, although the fucker can certainly take more than I can.

We take the drive across Santa Monica over to Sunset in Silver Lake to the venue. It takes about half hour in evening traffic. Jon is wondering aloud if we’ll be getting any beers on the rider tonight and then Johan says to him that he won’t be drinking anymore anyway. Jon’s smile turns a little but he takes it well, sometimes he just needs someone else to reel him in. It doesn’t take long for the smile to reappear on his mug. Under Pressure comes on the radio and he turns to me and says, “Whenever one of us are little down at home, Wembley 86”, whilst making a gesture with his finger pressing an imaginary play button.

The venue tonight is a place called Los Globos, an old three story nightclub which traditionally is a predominantly hispanic hangout. It’s a bit of hassle with the bus since there is no parking and we’re stuck on the corner of the street that the venue stands on, full on traffic. Whilst we’re trying to work out how to go about things some young street punk comes walking up to the van, doing his best impression of a zombie, tongue hanging out to the side and presses his face up against the passenger seat window. “That’s impressive”, remarks Eric. He stands there faced pressed against the glass just long enough to get on my tits before shuffling off. What an utter tosser.

We decide to simply leave the van on the corner and load in from there, fuck the traffic. We get it all in as fast as we can. The venue is a strange old place. We’re playing in a room directly into the right after the entrance, it’s a big room with tiled floor and bar lit up in red on the other wall. The stage is in the middle of the long wall to the left. It’s big open room baring the odd pillar here and there. The room reminds me of the ballroom from the Overlook Hotel in the Shining. I can’t help feeling that the place is a little too big for a Victims gig, even if the band hasn’t been to LA for ten years.

Once loaded in a space opens up right in front of the venue and we’re able to park the bus right there. Perfect. We set up the merch, talk a bit with the guy putting the show on, this young guy called Zane. He’s a really good guy, he’s been in touch with us for a long time hoping to put a show on, really big fan of the band. He tells us that if there’s anything we need just to ask. Unfortunately that doesn’t stretch to food, but that’s not an all too common occurrence in the punk scene in this part of the world. That being said he’s paying us a good chunk of money for the show tonight, which isn’t either an all too common occurrence. We head across the road for some pizza. Cookie is here again, he’s been to every show so far. He’s based in Long Beach so all the shows have been pretty close for him. Been fun hanging out with him. This will be his last show though. He joins us for some pizza. The pizza is good, what we’d call luxury Italian pizza back home. I’m in two minds over whether to have a beer with it but decide to leave it. I make a fuss humming and hawing over the decision though, much to the amusement of Andy and Johan.

When we get back to the venue the first band of five has played and the second band, Destroyed in Seconds, are setting up. We’re already a half hour behind schedule but I guess they put the first band back at bit, waiting for a few more people to show up. There’s an okay amount in now anyway, maybe a hundred. Double that and we’ll be on for a good gig.

I have a couple of friends coming tonight, at least so they say. Two of them are Speedhorn’s old managers. Andrew, who lives here and is a true disciple of all things heavy, I’m sure will make it. Bianchi, not so much. He’d texted me earlier asking what the venue was, but since he’s literally just flown in today from Austria I’m doubtful to whether he’ll make it. Joe is working in the studio, he has a big deadline on Monday so I doubt he’ll make it.

D.I.S. play for about twenty minutes. I was wary of it being one of those gigs that runs really late and everyone plays fifteen minutes over time but D.I.S. thankfully seem to know the score. They’re pretty good too, play a brutal kind of Converge tinged punk. Heavy as shit that’s for sure. The sound is a bit overbearing though, there are speakers hanging from the ceiling all over the venue and it makes you feel like you’re stood in a whirlwind, gets a bit disorientating after a while. Just as I’m sat by our merch table on the far side of the room next to the bar thinking about taking a breather my good friend Linus turns up. His happy face is always a sight for sore eyes, he’s one of those contagiously happy people. It’s great to see him. Linus and I used to work at Snotty together, we had a lot of fun times working behind the bar. We recorded A Dissident in Linus’ studio on Södermalm so he has a connection to Victims beyond just me. He’s been here in LA working with writing pop music, seems to be going really well for him. Johan and I head to the bar by the entrance and take a beer with him, it’s a lot quieter there and we can catch up properly. This punk kid comes over and takes me to the side as I’m talking to Linus, he was at the show in Santa Ana the other day. He seems friendly enough but I wish I was asshole enough to tell him that I’m trying to catch up with my friend. The guy tells me that his friend is here and that he’s brought a few copies of their lp and that maybe we could trade some records. I tell him I’m sorry and try to explain that we can’t really afford to trade since we have to make money back to pay for our flights out here, given that we’ve only got nine shows we’re up against it a little. “Yeah I get that but I thought maybe you could support us too, we support you by coming to the show”. I don’t really know what to say to that. Well I do, get fucked would maybe be an appropriate response, but I’m too nice so I just tell him I’m sorry again. He shakes my hand and heads off again when I make it obvious that I need to get back to my friend I was talking to.
After a while Andrew turns up, I’m stood right by the bar opposite the door when he walks in. Last time we saw each other was when me and Jen were here on holiday a few years ago. We had some intense times together trying to make Speedhorn work, it’s nice to see him in a purely friendship capacity these days. It’s so good to see him. He’s also doing really well, working as a lawyer for Sony. We have a quick chat before Phobia start playing. I want to catch a bit of them so we head inside. It’s enough with fifteen minutes or so, most of their set anyway. But we’re on next and I want to catch up with Andrew properly before we have to start setting up. There’s a good crowd in now anyway, although a lot of them are pressed up together leaving the big empty horseshoe space in the middle of the floor where a few punks are knocking the shit out of anyone in their vicinity, Zombie Punk trudging about in the middle of it all. There must be two hundred here by now, should be really good. This gig was originally planned as a backyard show, I can only imagine how crazy that would have been. Apparently the cops closed the place down a few weeks ago so it got moved to here.

Phobia finish and we get loaded up on stage pretty quick, get plenty of help from Eric, Nath and Cookie. It’s before midnight by the time we get started so not too bad, I’m still on course for a decent night's sleep. The room is nicely filled out by the time we bust into Death Do Us Part and people seem to be really into it. What a difference a couple of shows can make. Santa Ana feels like a long time ago now, I have a lot of energy on stage again, although the Les Paul’s weight is restraining. Maybe just as well.

I break the first string of the tour during Errors, but Eric is straight on hand to help me out. He takes the guitar from me and sorts a new string out, in the meantime I play the SG. It’s like a new lease of life, it’s like playing air guitar compared to the slab of wood that is the Les Paul. It doesn’t sound anywhere near as good though and after next break the Les Paul goes back on. Andy laughs afterwards saying that as soon as I had the SG I started flying about the stage like a lunatic and that I when I swapped it back for the Les Paul it almost looked like I was saying, “Please, take this guitar away from me, I can’t handle it”.

We play through the rest of the set and the crowd are really going for it, circle pits flying around the room. This is the End finishes the set off as usual. When we’re done people start shouting for more, coaxed on by Zane who is up on stage chanting down the mic. Andy has scarpered quick smart though and doesn’t look interested, just keeps shaking his head. I laugh to Andrew who is stood to my side of the stage, “Miserable old bastard”, he laughs and shouts back, “Well I remember managing a band of six miserable young bastards”. Word. The crowd starts chanting all the louder and the three of us, who have stayed on stage, convince Andy to come back. We decide on Your Life is Red and My Eyes. The first of the two goes off without a hitch by when Jon starts into the intro to My Eyes Andy is looking about in confusion. To be fair, all you can hear from Jon’s guitar is a buzzsaw sound, almost impossible to pick out what he’s playing. We make him stop. I shout over to Jon, who is stood there with a scoobied look on his mug, to turn to Andy when he plays the intro, Andy is shouting at him that he can’t hear shit. Jon the daft bastard turns his head over his shoulder to Andy and starts the intro again, his guitar still facing the crowd. As if that’s going to fucking help any. Eventually Jon gets it and turns his actual self around and plays the intro facing Andy. Doesn’t help much, it’s spectacularly sloppy, all of us coming in at different times. Thankfully once the song gets going properly we reign it in.

Done for good, we start to pack up whilst various punks come up to shake hands and ask for pics and setlists. There seem to be a lot of satisfied punks in the place, I look over to the merch where Eric and Nath are turning over shirts and records at pace. Andrew tells me that it was really strange seeing me playing with someone other than Speedhorn. It’s the first time for him. Linus comes up shortly after, totally ecstatic. He says it was fucking mental being out in the crowd, watching us play and seeing everybody kick off. This isn’t really his scene but he loved every minute of it. Totally random seeing each other in LA in this scene. Once packed up I grab myself a beer with a slice of lime in it. It’s the best thing I’ve tasted all day. It’s like liquid gold. I’ve been looking forward to the aftershow buzz all day, that energy you get that only a gig can give you. Oh how I’ve needed it today. Andrew heads off since he’s got a lot on and Linus has to get going after a beer too, he’s been hungover all day and says he needs his bed. His girlfriend Jonna, who he is here working with too, had to skip the gig due to a vicious headache, he explained. I give him an almighty hug and we promise to catch up when we’re both back home. We only live a couple of stations from each other but I know fine well how life skewers the perception of time. Still, I’ll make an effort to grab a hold of him when I’m home.

They’re emptying the place to make way for a club night so once the van is loaded we’re on our way home. Eric runs over to a taco wagon on the street so I follow him to check it out but I’m not really that hungry. I get talking to some friend of Zane’s whilst Eric is waiting though, he tells me the show was great. He says it’s a shame we couldn’t have done it at the backyard gig they had planned though, apparently that was over in South Central. That would have been insane I’m sure. He tells me that whereas the East Coast does basement shows, over here they do back yards, but the punks do have a tendency to draw attention from the cops by drinking in the streets and pissing about. Next time hopefully, I tell him.

By the time we get back to Nath’s it’s about two thirty. There are two of those IPA’s left in the fridge, ice cold, as well as bit of that cherry pie. I enjoy both before heading to bed. The alarm is set for ten, hopefully I’ll still be asleep when it goes off.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

San Diego

It's probably a mix of jetlag and parent clock but I woke up at six thirty this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. I tried for a while, lay there in bed almost forcing myself to nod off again but it was futile. After a while I just gave up and started writing instead. Tapping away gently on the keys on my computer amongst a gentle choir of snores.

We took breakfast at this place called Polly’s Pies which was just next to the car park of the motel. I thought the name promised good things but the quality of the scran didn’t really live up the establishment’s fine name. It was okay though, eggs and hash browns you can’t really go wrong with. The coffee tasted like piss though.

We left around twelve, hoping to get to San Diego in time to enjoy the city a little before show time tonight. Eric was telling us about the guy in reception last night, said he was like something from the Twilight Zone. This old guy with a three strand combover and in the middle of his noggin, a big old boil that was on the point of bursting puss all over the place. He spoke really slowly and kept bending down over the desk all the time so Eric had this boil looking right at him the whole time.

The drive down the highway takes a little longer than hoped for. First we stop into a music store just a few minutes from the motel, Johan needs a new tuner. And then Andy is gone for about twenty minutes, just disappeared, leaving us waiting in the van. Think maybe he was off looking for a pharmacy or something. Probably feeling the burn from last night. It is a beautiful day and the roads are full of people heading to the beach. Wouldn’t mind a dip myself, the ocean looks mighty inviting. Despite the traffic it’s still a pretty nice drive, cruising down the freeway, viewing the green hills with eagles hovering above them on the one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other side and Wings on the stereo.

We arrive at the venue around four pm. It’s right next to the airport, which itself is right in the middle of this hip, low rise area where there are a load of nice looking restaurants and bars selling trendy beer. I’m fascinated by the planes coming in over head. Literally the cross section the venue is on is right at the end of the landing strip and every couple of minutes 737’s are flying over at just a few hundred meters. It’s fucking insane. It goes on until around midnight and it never gets boring.

The venue tonight, The Casbah, is a lot smaller. Seems like it’s a legendary place, judging by the old gig posters on the walls. It’s a sell out tonight at five hundred people. Really small stage, beer garden area out the back where the merch is set up. Perfect. I head off with Eric in search of a parking space for the bus and once sorted we meet the guys and head to the Ballast Point Brewery around the corner. The place is packed and it takes ages to get served but it’s worth it. I take a glass of Serano IPA, which has a great aftertaste of the chili. We sit outside, quaffing away and munching on crispy fries. Can’t help thinking how VIktor DB would love this place and how jealous he’d be of me right now. Life at this very moment isn’t too shabby.

We head back to the venue, pull the van around and load in the gear. Melt Banana are soundchecking when we’re sorting the merch out, it’s loud as balls in here. I get the feeling it’s going to be a sweaty old show tonight. My neck is feeling very fragile, fuck knows how I’ll do during the gig. We have a decent soundcheck ourselves tonight anyway. The SG I used last night though is causing some issues so I try out Eric’s Les Paul. It’s a beautiful black guitar, but the weight of it is the issue. But I try it out and I have to admit, it sounds so much better. Johan’s face lights up when I give it a blast and I know that I’ll be using this guitar tonight. First time ever playing a Les Paul during a gig, we’ll see how it goes. My sloppy style means that I keep hitting the pickup switch so I’ll to try and work my way around it.

The Netherlands guys arrive as we’re checking and it seems that the drummer is making a bit more of an effort to get on the right side of everyone tonight, much to Andy’s annoyance. They seem to have a weird dynamic in the band. TImo and Ava are a couple I think, and they seem to travel together, whilst the drummer is on his own. And there’s no doubt he’s a rich kid. I hear him saying to the other two how him and his dad have been out on a boat this afternoon, eating cheese and drinking wine. “Oh, great,” says Timo, not really convincing anyone that he’s that chuffed.

We head off for some food after soundcheck, Cookie has made the trip down, and he follows us. We planned to go to this Mexican around the corner, we’d passed it earlier and they had a lot of nice looking veggie options but when we arrive I hear they’ve got a thirty minute wait. We walk down the street, through Little Italy, and come up with nothing. We end up in a fast food burger place that has an okay Quinoa burger and Ballast Point on tap. Does the job. We head back down to the venue, watching the planes fly just overhead as we go. It’s Friday night and the restaurants and bars are packed and it only seems to be us that cares about the planes.
The place is busy when we get back and the Netherlands are on stage. I just don’t get it. Timo’s head mic for one thing, it just rubs me the wrong way. And then after a couple of songs he almost pleads with the people watching, “Please come closer and give us some energy if you will, we need it”. Sorry Timo, that’s pathetic. Or maybe I’m just a punk rock snob.

We have a lot better show tonight. The Les Paul takes some getting used to, but I have more energy than last night, it’s not a struggle from the get go thank fuck. The sound on stage is perfect. The crowd seems to be into as well, it’s dark in the small sweaty room but I think there’s some movement going on. We play well too, although Jon has some issues with his sound. Although he doesn’t notice this himself. I clock Andy looking at Jon, he looks like he’s just swallowed a fart and I wonder what’s up but then during the next space you can clearly hear Jon’s guitar screeching and then just cutting out. Johan tells him to check hi leads, Jon looks at him confused, “Is it me?” Thankfully it’s a small issue and we’re soon back on track. We have to cut a song though since the time gets tight, but that’s fine by me. Good gig, a relief to be personally back on track after last night’s ordeal. It’s nice to feel like you’re about to throw up.

We load out on to the street straight after. We borrow some orange cones and put them out on the road, since we’re loading in to the side of the van, directly into traffic, planes flying in just above our heads, the dark of night just adding to the surrealness of it. Once done we head back into the garden area and fix some drinks. The drink tickets are good for any one drink from the bar so I treat myself to a Lagunitas, some old bartender with a face like a slapped arse hands me the beer and leaves me wondering if I’m taking the piss with ordering the good beer on the ticket. A couple of minutes later I’m stood selling merch and Jon comes stoating back from the bar with a gin and tonic, grinning like a Cheshire cat. I drink up the beer and Johan and I send him back with an order for three more.

It doesn’t take long until I’m feeling a bit sauced up. Not pissed, but a bit giggly. Johan is the same. Jon is knocking back the GT’s though, laughing like a hyena. Enjoying the buzz I head into the venue to get a proper look at the Melt Banana show. Once again, they are truly stunning. The crowd are going mad for them. They’re simply a great live band, and the two of them are so nice, and so wonderfully Japanese. You just want to go up and give them a big hug. It’s fun hanging out with them after the show. I say to Agata that Kev says hello and I hear him saying to Yasuko about Kev. I can work it at least since I hear amongst the Japanese, “Bloody Kevin”, it takes Yasuko a second to work out who he means and the Agata says “Hard to Swallow” and then puts his hands to his eyes making a sign for glasses. “Aaaawwww, yes yes!!!” enthuses Yasuko. Brilliant.

We have another couple of drinks whilst Napalm play, I only watch a little from inside since I can see them through the door anyway, and it’s nice standing out here hanging out with Greg who is at their merch table. We meet one of the guys from Bio Crisis who is playing with us tomorrow, he’s telling me about the gig, saying it’s going to be crazy. I hope so.

Eric has had a bit of a chill out in the van and when Napalm are done we load out the merch and start rounding up the troops. We’re heading back to Nath’s tonight so we’ll have the day to chill out in LA tomorrow. We say our goodbyes and by the time we get out of there it’s almost two. I say to Eric that I can take the passenger seat and keep him company. I hope I’m up to the job, I’m feeling a little weak if I’m honest but I know fine well if Jon takes the seat he’ll be asleep in minutes.

We make a stop for chips and coffee but there’s no coffee at the first gas station so it’ll have to be chocolate. Jon is shuffling about the store with two bottles of red wine, fucking wankered. It’s after two though so the guy has to deny him. Just as well. I sit up front with Eric and we blast out some Eighties pop music and have a good chat. I then play him some Strollers records, and then we start taking turns on Spotify. I’m flagging monstrously by the end of the trip but manage to just about make it and we pull up to Nath’s around four thirty. Miraculously there are two spaces right outside Nath’s place so we put the bus right there. We grab our bags and all I can think about is making a beeline for Nath’s bed. Jon falls on his arse as I’m hopping out the van and is wedged between the seats.

We walk through the door and find Nath fast asleep on the couch, his arm hanging down. I touch his hand and scare the life out of him. Wasn’t really the intention but it gives us all a good laugh. I dump my stuff in Nath’s room and Andy pulls in a couple of mattresses from the bus. And then I get a bit of a second wind, aided by the beer Eric gives me. For a moment, sat there in sweat pants besides Nath on the couch, it all makes sense. But when the beer is gone the second wind is well and truly gone and I walk like a zombie to bed. Jon asks me to bring out one of the mattresses, saying that he’s going to sleep out here. By that he means he intends to carry on boozing. I come back with the mattress, dump it on the floor and head back down the hallway. Behind me I hear a crash and and a “Woaaah!” I turn back and find Jon sprawled out over the coffee table, he’s collapsed into and sent a load of beer flying. Nath is cleaning up and Eric is helping Jon up. Jon says sorry, totally hopeless, and then asks for another beer. I head back to bed to the sound of Nath and Eric telling Jon that the bar is closed. By the sound of it, Jon is taking some convincing.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Los Angeles/Santa Ana

Landed just before two in the afternoon, now the fight against sleep begins. It was a pretty good flight anyway. First time on the new Dreamliner plane. The marketing spiel behind it promises “more jet, less lag”, we’ll see about that over the next couple of days I guess. One thing is for sure, I don’t feel as minging as one normally does after a twelve hour flight, I actually feel pretty fresh.

Before worrying about the tiredness to come and the battle to stay awake for the next ten hours there’s immigration control to contend with. Even as a regular tourist, which as far as anyone concerned is we are, the cops at border control can make you feel uneasy. They’re not always the friendliest bunch. I’ll be forever scarred from the experience Speedhorn had coming through Chicago airport where we almost didn’t make it through, It was actually a miracle that we did considering they took Gordon in for questioning and he cracked spectacularly.

I have to laugh as Andy and I head down the escalator to the immigration hall and I look up at the huge banner of Obama welcoming us the United States of America. Welcome would be a fine thing, the cops at the line leave you under no false impression that you are anything but privileged to be entering their country. Then again, imagine in a few months time that banner is sporting a picture of Donald Trump’s coupon? I guess they might change the text in that case. The queue at customs is surprisingly short anyway. Andy and I get split up and so I’m on my own. I scan the booths and weigh up which of the cops I don’t want, to be fair most of them seem happy enough. This one guy though, hispanic looking guy with a friendly tash, seems to be really laying on the charm. I hope I get him. As I get to the front of the line I clock him chatting away with this young Danish guy but I soon realise the game he playing. This asshole is doing the whole good cop/bad cop thing on his own. The thinnest of masks trying to veil interrogation with wishy wash banter. I hear him probing the guy about his job, asking him how he can afford a holiday in California on a waiter’s wage. The poor sap says, “Well, welcome to Denmark I guess”. Good cop/Bad Cop looks at him like the he’s just tickled his mum’s arse. It’s pretty painful viewing. Thankfully I get waived to another booth. This guy doesn’t even bother making the effort, he goes with the standard stonewall approach. I’m through in a matter of minutes though. I get to the baggage claim and Andy is waiting with the gear. We head out into the arrivals hall and purchase a cheese and jalapeno bagel and a large black coffee. Now that’s what I call an American welcome.

Our friend Nath picks us up and takes us back to his place in West Hollywood where we’ll be staying tonight. It’s good to see him again. He shares a house with a couple of film industry people on this quiet street lined with palm trees just off of Santa Monica Blvd. We’re welcomed by the house dog Bowser, who is the excitable old bulldog mix with a huge protruding jaw. She’s not the prettiest girl but she’s really friendly. We dump our bags in Nath’s room and then take turns in the shower whilst Nath makes us some fruit smoothies. It’s nice to be here a day before the first show, have the chance to relax in Los Angeles before the tour starts. Nath’s sofa is dangerously inviting though so we decide to head out over to Amoeba Records just to keep ourselves busy.

We meet Nath’s friend Scott there, who sings in the legendary death metal band Repulsion. I met once briefly before when he was in Stockholm doing stuff with Death Breath, the band he has together with Nicke Andersson. He’s a really friendly guy. My head is a bit mushed walking around the mammoth record store though and I have a hard time concentrating on the vinyls. Feel a little bit spaced out. We’re there for a while and then we head to a Mexican restaurant called El Cholo down by Koreatown on Scott’s tip. It’s about seven pm so by the time dinner is done we should be nearing the safe zone. We’re meeting Eric, our old friend from Black Breath who is driving us on tour in their van. He’s here with his girlfriend and they’re on their way over. Whilst we wait we order a couple of beers, pints on Pacifico with a wedge of lime, and some nachos with guacamole. The guacamole is the reason Scott insisted we come here. We take a sofa by the bar and wait for the grub. It doesn’t disappoint. They mash avocados right in front of you, giving you the options of chilis, onions and cilantro. We go for the lot. It is without any doubt the nicest guacamole I’ve ever tasted. I’m now into a second wind.

Eric and Jude turn up shortly afterwards and we take a table and order some dinner. I order a margarita, which comes in a pint glass, and some cheese enchiladas. The cheese bomb goes right to the attack on my second wind. It’s great to see Eric and meet Jude. He’s one of the nicest, easiest going people I’ve ever met and Jude seems much the same. After dinner we head back to Nath’s area. I’m feeling pretty fucking bloated from dinner and being that it’s ten pm I’m tempted to head to bed but I know if I push on for a little while longer it will be worth it. Andy is looking fucked though so he heads to bed, the rest of us head around the corner to this gay bar which is Nath’s local. Not his local in that sense, he points out to me, but the nearest bar to his place. It’s just what is required anyway. It’s chilled out, the music is on low enough to be able to hold a conversation and there is somewhere to sit. Eric sorts me out with a bottle of Corona and a shot of tequila to help with digesting the swamp of cheese in my stomach. He seems to worry that I don’t like the shot since I sip away at it but I assure him nothing could be further from the truth. I love tequila, but shooting booze is not my bag.

The one is enough, I manage to make it until eleven thirty but now it really is time for bed. I’ve been up just over twenty five hours and back home it’s seven am. Eric and Jude hop in an Uber back to their set up in Echo Park and Nath and I head home. We sit and chat for a few minutes on his sofa, he’s telling me about his fucked up visa situation, he’s Australian and living on a working visa, but after moving with his job here from New York he got laid off and now getting someone else to employ him involves an immigration lawyer and despite Nath’s best efforts to explain to everyone that the process if relatively hassle free it proving tough. He’s a sought after IT guy in the music branch so hopefully it will work out. The clock is ticking against him though. And it’s ticking against me, I bid him goodnight, thankful to him for the lend of his bed as he takes the sofa, and head into Andy. As I attempt to plug my phone into charge, probing around in the dark, I’m startled by Andy grunting at me. I hadn’t realised but I’d turned on the lamp on my phone and it was shining right in his eyes.

I manage to sleep through until six thirty, not sure if it’s jet lag or parent clock which has awoken me but I’m happy enough with six and a half hours sleep. I lie there a while before getting up and showering. It’s a glorious day out there, beyond the blinds. We’re meeting my old friend Joe Barresi for breakfast at nine thirty and being that we’ve got an hour to kill Nath drives us up to the hills via Mulholland Drive and we get out at the Hollywood Bowl observatory point and take in the sights. It is mind boggling to see the sprawl of Los Angeles from all the way up here, the city just doesn’t end, only the ocean putting any halt to it on the one side. We take some pics and enjoy the views for a while, we’re here early enough to be the tourists so it’s just the three of us. We head down to Sunset Blvd after a while to meet Joe at the Griddle Cafe. This is Jen’s favourite place in LA and I’d be doing her a disservice if we didn’t come by. I was here once with her before and I remember the gargantuan pancakes. That’s kind of what they’re known for.

Joe is waiting outside for us. It’s great to see him as always. We go back a good few years now, Despite the fact he’s an incredibly respected guy in the industry, having worked with some huge bands like Kyuss, Weezer, Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, Raging Speedhorn, he’s a wonderfully humble person. One of my all time favourites. We bump into Troy from Queens and his lady outside on the pavement whist we’re waiting for a table. The diner is packed inside. He chat away for a bit and then we’re called in. The place is rumbling with chatter so it’s a little hard to hear the conversation but when the food comes there is no time for natter anyway, we all go for eggs apart from Joe who orders Bailey’s and espresso pancakes. They’re huge and you get a stack of three. When we’re done with our eggs covered in cheese and tequila sauce Andy and I help Joe with his food. Between the three of us we just about manage half of the beast, Joe takes the other half with him. We get talking about life and music, Joe is always inquisitive of what’s going on at home, he knows Jen and her old band Misdemeanor from way back, since before we met. There’s some gossip about Black Sabbath and the rumours of AC/DC teaming up with Axl Rose. It seems like it’s well known news to everyone but me, but the reason Ozzy always pours a bucket of water over himself during gigs is because he pissed his pants a lot. Poor old fucker, if that’s not a sign that the gig is up I don’t know what is. It’s great catching up with Joe, it’s a shame we don’t have more time, but we’ve got a gig to get to and he’s got some rough mixes to get done. Hopefully he’ll make it to the LA show on Saturday.

We go get some supplies from Guitar Centre and Radio Shack and then head back to Nath’s. I follow Andy to the bedroom to collect the bags and as we enter the room Andy shouts, “Oh no!!!” Having discovered the remnants of his medical supplies spread about the floor. It seems Bowser has found her way into his bag and consumed his Samarin, some allergy tablets and a packet of Fisherman's Friend. I guess the old girl won’t have to worry about a sore throat for a while. Nath apologises for his roommate's dog and I have a good chuckle about it.

Eric arrives around twelve thirty. I assumed we’d be driving around in a regular Transit van or something similar but then I’d forgotten that Black Breath aren’t a regular band. The van is actually an old green and white bus, this huge block of metal that has to carefully squeeze it’s way down Nath’s street. Brilliant. It’s a heavy old thing but it’s full of charm. This will do nicely. We get out to the airport just after two and Jon and Johan are already out and waiting for us. Despite the heat Jon is of course wearing a his leather vest over a hoodie and a woollen Bolt Thrower hat on his bonce. They seem to be doing okay anyway. They had an earlier flight than us, they’d been up since three am, but Jon had supplied some heavy sedatives for the trip.

We drop Jude off at another terminal on the way out, she’s flying back to Seattle and will meet up with us next weekend, and then we head down to Santa Ana. The first two shows on the tour are with Napalm Death and Melt Banana. Not a bad start. And our friend Greg who has booked the tour for us is tour managing Napalm. He’d been panicking that we’d be late in for the show, a bit worried about the fact it’s their first day of tour and all that, but turns out we’re first here. I remember this big venue from when Speedhorn played here with Nile and Hypocrisy in 2006. I’m hoping tonight’s show will be a little more successful than that one. I remember when I was here the first time going off for a walk on my own to have a look about and heading back twenty minutes later depressed. It’s nothing but strip malls around here, just huge long roads, heavily trafficked, that arrow straight to the horizon. I didn’t really know about strip malls then and just assumed Santa Ana was the most boring city on the planet.

We head inside the venue where we’re greeted by a very friendly crew. The backstage manager is this girl called Melody who runs us through the very generous hospitality we have on offer today, seems fucking ace. They have a great kitchen here and we’re free to order anything from the menu, the fridge is stocked with Lagunitas IPA and there is a very welcoming shower for after the show. I’m under zero illusion that this place will be the benchmark for the rest of the tour, after tomorrow we’re on our own and hitting the DIY side of the west coast, but this is the perfect start for our travel weary heads.

After watching the guys eat some quick slop from Del Taco across the road we inspect the gear that Eric has brought for us to hire. We set up in the sunshine of the enclosed parking lot whilst Napalm soundcheck inside. It all seems good to me, if it’s good enough for those professional Black Breath boys it’s sure as fuck good enough for me. Barney comes out after a while and once sorted I take a seat on the sofa beside him under a tent in the parking lot and catch up. We’ve known each other since he lived in Kettering and I was still in Corby. We have a bit of a moan about home, UKIP and all that cack, and he tells me he’s hoping to move to Tokyo where his girlfriend lives. Can’t say I blame him.

There is an opening band from Brooklyn on these first two shows who seem to have caused a bit of confusion. They’re lending most of our backline but this only really came to light a week or so ago. They’re called Netherlands. Eric had received a call at night from the guitar player, he’d been woken by some guy with a New York accent, “Hi this is Timo from Netherlands”. Eric was trying to work out who this New Yorker with the Finnish name saying he was from Holland wanted. They’re mulling around a bit and seem like nice people, well Timo and this girl Ava at least. Andy has reservations about the drummer. Apparently the kit is really up to his standard and he’s had a bit of a moan about it, warning Andy that he hits “really hard and will probably kill the kit”. Whatever duuuuude. He looks like a standard rich kid in a band and to cap things off he’s here with his girlfriend and his bronze dad who obviously rates himself as a bit of a character. Before long both girlfriend and Bronze Dad are wearing Netherlands t-shirts. To be fair, I chat to the girlfriend briefly later and she seems nice. Not sure about Bronze though…

With only a little time to kill I head upstairs and get stuck into the deli tray of nachos and salsa in the luxury dressing room. Nath has arrived and we sit there and have a chuckle at Netherlands as we watch their show via the huge tv on the wall. I’m trying to like Timo but he’s wearing a head mic and pulling off some pretty turd moves whilst he plays guitar. And the drums really aren’t being hit that hard.. I help myself to an IPA and get ready for the gig. Agata from Melt Banana is sat beside me and we get talking about our mutual friend Bloody Kev. When we played Tokyo with Speedhorn in 2008 the Melt Banana guys came down to the show to hang out then. It was nice to see them again.

We’re on at eight fifteen, it’s an early show tonight since there the hip hop guy Mobb Deep is playing a separate gig on the same stage right after Napalm. The large, three tiered semi circled room has probably around two hundred people in it by the time we get going and most who are in here seem to know who we are. The sound on stage seems reasonable enough, as good as can be expected with no soundcheck and it’s the first run with new gear, but Andy seems to having a little bit of a struggle hearing things. He’s sat behind the amps and hasn’t got much help in the monitors. With time pressing though we have to get on with things.

I’m completely taken off guard by a wave of jet lag during the second song. I put everything into Death Do Us Part and by the time get to Walls everything has gone, My neck feels completely fucked and my head is spinning, feels like I’m playing on a boat. It sucks when you’re only on song three and already you’re counting down the set list to the finish line. The show is okay, total first show vibe, but for me it’s a monumental struggle. Didn’t see this coming. The crowd seem like they’re having a good time at least. Jon is in good form too, having a bit of banter between songs. He introduces We’re Fucked with, “If that squirrel headed asshole becomes your next president then you’re gonna have to change your national anthem to this song”. Top notch Jonny, top notch.

Whilst packing up afterwards it really feels like I’m going to be sick. It’s a struggle just packing the leads away, not made easier by the fact the first gig has made my head feel like a bowling ball balancing on a matchstick. I head outside for some air and have to go take a seat and be on my own for five minutes. I sit there tentatively sipping water wondering if this is really what I want to do. I contemplate the fact that maybe I’m simply too old to carry on playing in the style that I do. Maybe I need to start restraining myself, start reeling it in a bit. Thankfully the wave of nausea passes after ten minutes or so and I can rejoin the gang. They’re stood out back with this guy Cookie we know from back in the UK that lives here now. He’s showing me pics of the gig and couple of video shots. Looked pretty good. As we’re talking Bronze Dad comes over and starts pissing about with Andy’s snare, big cheesy smile on the go. Fucking clueless. Just being a dad I guess.

I head back upstairs to shower off and afterwards I’m feeling well on the way to normality again. Another Lagunitas, I chill out on the sofa and watch some of the Melt Banana set. Todd from Nails is hanging out, he’s a friend of Eric and Nath. Melt Banana are fucking amazing. I have to go down to the side of the stage to watch the rest. Watching Agata play guitar is an absolute pleasure. The crowd are going crazy for them too. I own a few of their records and as much as I like them, watching them live is just a whole other thing.

When they’re done I head to the merch stall which is at the front of the building and kind of out in the beer garden area. Seems like we’re selling. I have a good time meeting people and chatting away. This one guy is wearing an Inepsy shirt that has the bottom half ripped off. He tells me that one of the security guards did it to him after him had stage dived to us. He asks if we can give him a free shirt. Well actually, he tells us we should give him a free shirt. I ask him if he thinks the flights from Sweden are cheap. End of conversation. In the end some random older guy, who Andy had been talking to and said was really cool, buys the young punk one of our shirts. Sweet old boy. I say old, he was probably ten years older than me, Like, Kev’s age or something.
Things start getting a bit weird by the time Napalm are half way through their set. The place is packed for them, then there is a ska gig going on in a smaller room between the merch area and the big room, and then they’ve started letting in the crowd for the Mobb Deep gig afterwards. There are all these hip hoppers walking into the building looking shocked by Napalm Death. Pretty funny. But I don’t understand how all these people are supposed to fit in here. I catch the end of the Napalm gig from side stage and then as soon as they’re done we have to gather our stuff from the dressing room and move out for the Mobb Deep possie. The Napalm guys are only to happy to accommodate us into their room though.

We sit and have a couple more beers and catch up with Greg and Shane. Shane has his daughter with him for the first couple of shows. She’s super cute, can’t be much younger than Polly. Makes me miss my daughter. I can tell Andy is starting get sauced up now, his eyes are starting to go and the words on slurring a little. Jon is off somewhere stoned off his tits, some fan had give him some weed after the show. This rapper guy who just played comes into our dressing room looking for some booze and a chat. Andy is happy to oblige. He’s telling him about his favourite hip hop artists and the guy, Namek his name is, is plying us with cd promos and business cards, wanting a hook up in Sweden. Andy, who is a good foot taller than him, is babbling away in his ear.

We head back to the back stage area and I’m more than ready to get out of here. Johan had said the merch was packed up and he’d meet us up at the bus. Eric is with us and he’s wondering what the plan is. Seems like he wouldn’t mind staying around for Mob Deep. Andy is telling me that we have to stay, that this is brilliant. I’m not so sure. Eric heads off to find out what’s going on with the rest of the gang and when I go to follow shortly after i walk open the exit door and hit a mob of about seventy people, cramming like sardines, waiting to get in. Some guard guy is barking orders at them, telling them to back up. There is no way I’m getting out of here at the minute. Minutes later they open the door and crowd spills in and floods the backstage area and there I am, stuck in the middle of Mobb Deep’s possie, sticking out like sore thumb. Fucking surreal scene. When Mobb Deep starts up everyone moves beyond on the big curtain and the stage is completely full. Andy in there amongst them taking photos and bobbing up and down. “This is brilliant!” He slurs at me again when he sees me and heads over. I notice there are a couple of cops that have entered through the back door that are now checking out the scene. Nobody seems to give a fuck about them though, everyone is having too good a time. Very, very weird scene.

After about fifteen minutes I tell Andy the guys are waiting for us and I manage to get him out of there. Eric has booked us a cheap room at some Red Roof Inn a fre miles away. Will be nice with a motel bed tonight, and we did enough for in merch to afford a little luxury. I take a final beer with me, thinking I’ll drink it in the bus but then remember that you don’t really want to risk that in the States. It’s dark in the back and within minutes of departing Jon has passed out in the front seat and Andy’s head is swaying back and forth, fighting sleep. When we pull up to the car park of the motel, Eric pops in to reception to sort stuff. He’s gone for a while and Andy is saying he’s desperate for a piss. We’re parked next to this electricity box or something, surrounded by a squared edge. Andy takes one look at it and says, “Look here!” and steps out of the bus. He doesn’t see the little fence guarding the flowers though and stands right on, crushing it and falling into the hedge. Me and Johan piss ourselves laughing. We take photos of the tall buggers head popping up above the hedge as he pisses, amusing ourselves thoroughly.
Eric eventually comes back and we park the bus up and head into the motel. Eric tells us to go in pairs in case the weird little guy on the reception clocks that we’re more than the two booked into the room. Andy and I go first and as we walk into the corridor to our floor, checking out the dirty stained wallpaper Andy complains, “This is terrible!” He’s soon making a beeline for one of the beds though. He’s sharing with Jon whose head is poking out above the covers, he’s sleeping with his wooly hat on. I take the other bed with Johan, Eric happily takes the floor. I can already feel the neck beginning to ache, the effects of the first show creeping in like an unwelcome guest.