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.

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