Tuesday, December 20, 2016


I’ve never been a morning person. Even the transgression from spotty teenager with greasy long hair to enforced skinhead, thirty eight year old parent has done little to change my sleeping habits. I get up a lot earlier these days than used to be the rule, but I sleep far too little, and I’m still fucking useless in the morning. Arousing myself from bed when it’s still pitch black outside is in particular strict opposition to reason as far as I’m concerned.

It’s five am as I pull the car out of the garage and pull it around to the front of the house. In the two or three minutes it takes for me to run back upstairs to the flat and gather various instruments I have stored at the house the windscreen has frosted over. I sit and drink my coffee and listen to Vinyl FM whilst I wait for the window to once again become transparent. It’s just after six when we get to Arlanda, we’re in plenty of time for our seven fifty flight to Helsinki. Just as well, I hate being stressed for a flight, nothing worse.

This show was booked a long time ago, back at the start of the year. It’s one of those that has kind of just sat there, booked in the calendar and been forgotten about a little bit. We’ve had more booked this year than we have for a long time. It’s been a strange old summer. Played a few shows around Europe, and the bookings have all been pretty solid, at least on paper, but it’s played out as a bit of a bumpy ride. Cancelled festivals, lost money for flight tickets, lost baggage… The shows themselves have all been really good though, a lot of fun. And despite losing all of our gear on route to France, we now have it all back. Except the merchandise bag. For this trip to Helsinki, we’ve finally bitten the bullet and bought more merch, a morale sapping, final adieu to the best part of a grand. It’s been almost four months now. The merch ain’t coming back.

Still, it’s nice to at least have the new album to sell at shows in Europe. First time since it came out in April. And we’ve got some Finnish style white and blue shirts for sale. I have no idea how this show is going to turn out tonight though. The guy we’ve had contact with has been extremely correspondent and helpful. He seems very concerned with everything running smoothly for us. I knew we were on to something a bit special when he mailed and asked if there was any particular beer we wanted on the rider. Not often you hear that. He also asked if we wanted wine. I told him a bottle of red would be pleasant. He said he’d sort two. Thinking of Jon, I told him to make it one.

It turned out the flight here was a bit early but from a purely selfish point of view, it will be nice to get in Helsinki early and relax for a bit. On the flight over we bump into Gustav and Per from Kriget, two people Johan and I are well acquainted with from our days working at Debaser. We chatted with them for a while before boarding and as we’re sat on our row waiting for everyone else to get on board they shuffle past us down the aisle. I don’t know if Jon had been completely oblivious to us chatting with them before but when he spots Per he excitedly shouts out, “It’s the fucking Breach drummer!” Per hurries past, looking a tad embarrassed. Surely Jon can’t be on the pop already…

The quick hop over the water lands us in Helsinki just after ten am. We’ve got all day to do not much. Perfect. A couple of young lads, one of which being Otto the promoter, that works for the club we’re playing at picks us up and drives us the short distance into town. We share a little chat on the way in, they do indeed seem very friendly. It’s quickly apparent that this is really luxury stuff today. The kind of set up that leads to Vik calling us the “Foos”. We load the guitars and stuff into the back stage of the venue, before being driven over to the Radisson Blu, a couple of hundred yards back down the waterfront, where we’re staying tonight. We’re all pretty chuffed with this crack. As we were stood around outside the venue, the Nosturi, I had a quick reflection over days gone by. That venue was the first place I ever played outside of the UK, all the way back in 2000. Sixteen fucking years ago, almost to the day. How life has changed since then.

We check into to the hotel, me and Andy sharing a room, and sprawl out on to the beds for a little while. There is something quite heavenly about lazing on a hotel bed in the middle of the day with a few hours to kill. I’ve always loved hotels. After a quick shower and a cup of coffee Johan, Andy and I decide to make the most of some free time in Helsinki and go for a walk around town. Jon said he was going to stay at the hotel and study, he has his final exam next week, and he’s insanely nervous about it. Johan jokes that he’d hidden the complementary red wine that had greeted them in the room.

It’s one of those brisk winter days. The sun warms a little but it’s nuggets in the shadow. We walk around, half heartedly looking for somewhere to eat some lunch, passing a market and some record stores on the way. With no money to spare the record store is of little interest to me. I’ve almost deprogrammed myself from record purchasing this last couple of years, the combination of being a parent and a student at the same time simply not allowing for such luxuries as buying records. I try not to think about it too much. You tell yourself that the shelves of records you have at home contain more than enough to last you well into old age as it is. The fact is, I dream about the day I finish my degree and get a job and throw myself head first back into record collecting. Until then though…

We walk around for an hour or so before heading to some Mexican taco joint with decent veggie options that Andy had found on his phone. This is touring in 2016. We laugh about how back in the day you’d walk around in pure hope of finding somewhere decent to eat, and more often than not just end up somewhere random and shit. The age of direct information has a few upsides I guess. The taco place is a cool, little rustic joint, no frills, just decent food. We get stuck in and enjoy the warmth of both the food and the locale. It’s getting colder by the minute out there. After eating we cruise around a little more in search of some coffee before heading back. We end up in some sort of coffee show room place, which has a coffee counter but seems more focused on selling coffee making products, so we end up paying for a pretty fucking expensive, pretty fucking middle of the road coffee, before heading back. Johan cursing Finnish coffee as we do so.

We pick up Jon from the hotel and head walk over to the venue. It’s going to be a while before soundcheck so after fixing merch we hang around in the bar area and drink more coffee. Except Jon who is on the beer. I get talking to Otto for a while who explains that his nervousness is due to the fact that this is the first show he’s booked here. He runs the bar and they’ve given him the chance to book his own gigs here. He’s certainly nailed the whole “looking after the band” part anyway. He bashfully adds that he had to put his own band on the bill tonight since he’s a massive fan of Victims. He admits it’s a bit geeky and that he probably won’t do it again. I don’t know though, I don’t really have a problem with booking gigs and then putting your own band on. Happens all the time as far as I can see. And what the fuck, if nobody else can be bothered to get off their arse and book bands to come and play then why shouldn’t you put your own band on the bill? I had asked him way back about getting some other friends bands on the bill tonight though, since I have a bunch of friends here playing in great bands, but it seems like the bill was already sorted. My friend Niklas from Famine Year did manage to get his new band Harhat on the bill anyway.

Another band playing tonight, Bob Maelström, are here and hanging out. I have a vague connection to them through Kev, who has booked them at the Nest a couple of times and gets on well with them. Says they’re a bit strange but good lads. They are certainly a strange band, but what I had no idea about is that they have a whole “act” thing going on, where they portray themselves as suited up, toffee nosed, Swedish speaking aristocrats. They kind of remind me of the WWF wrestler The Million Dollar Man, but in grindcore band form. Out of act though they are the sweetest guys, as I soon find out upon meeting them. We get speaking about Kev and then quickly onto Speedhorn. One of the guys in the band reveals himself to be both a big Speedhorn and Victims fan. Can’t be too many of those around. He tells me that he saw us play here in 2000. He starts to probe me on the early Speedhorn records, seeming well impressed. Cracks me up. The conversation moves on to politics and the desperate state of the world after a while. He’d noticed the book I’m reading by Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler, which had nudged the conversation in that direction. All in all, we enjoy a pleasant half hour or so, chatting away. Of course, stories from touring Poland also come in to the arena after a while. I mean, you’re always going to end up on that subject at some point…

Soundcheck is taken care of with relative ease, the professional in house crew here making it very smooth. Afterwards we tuck in to some grub and enjoy the first beer of the night, a lovely little amber ale from a local brewery. I could easily devour another five or six but keep myself in line. To pass a bit of time we play a couple of games of table footy which stands in a darkened corner of the bar, requiring us to make our own floodlight system from the lamps on our phones, which are precariously balanced on various high tables and shelves around the pitch. It’s pretty hard going though, can barely see the ball, so give up after a couple of tense games.

I head to the merch table and sit there for a while. I really enjoy selling merch, it’s always a good place to meet new people. Which is pretty much the most fun part of travelling and playing in a punk band as far as I’m concerned. We seem to be shifting a good amount too. Pretty much all the bar staff have been up to buy various items. Otto wants to buy a couple of shirts and albums. We nod unanimously to each other that Otto will not be required to pay for these items, being that he’s taken such good care of us. He refuses to accept this fact though. After a round of quite frankly surreal bartering I get him down to only paying for the two albums and accepting the shirts for free. He sighs and gives in and accepts only paying 20 euros. I hand over the gear and before I can react he throws 40 euros into our case, laughs and runs away.

After a while I head upstairs to the top floor of this large building where our dressing room is located. It’s right up next to the big stage in the large room of the venue. We’re playing the smaller, bar stage tonight. Much better. The memories come flooding back when I get up to the dressing room above the stage though. I take a walk on to the large, high, empty stage, covered in darkness and stand there in silence looking out at the shadows of the empty room. Totally alone. It’s quite spooky in a way. I stand there, reflecting on the loss of youth, a little sad that a life once had has now left. And then I give myself a shake and head up to the dressing room and tuck into one of the IPA’s Otto has placed in the fridge and concur with my inner self that you just have to roll with life.

Jon is sat there with an old friend of his, some girl he knows from way back. She’s a good friend of Helena and Marko from Kylmä Sota and we get talking about them for a while. There are common friends wherever you go in this scene. She says that she was at The Cure concert last night and that Marko was there, steamboats. Explains his absence tonight. I literally spoke to Marko a couple of days ago and reminded him I was coming over. This was like Tuesday or something. He wrote, “What day you come again?”

“Saturday” I replied.

“OK, I write it down”. No sign of the fucker…

We sit around chatting for a while over beer and peanuts and then I head back downstairs. Another friend Petri, who sings in Famine Year, is now here, along with Niklas and the Harhat guys. It’s a bit of a shock to see Petri. He looks really down in the dumps and isn’t doing much to put a front on it. It’s almost a little comical because he’s normally so bubbly and jovial. It’s like that scene in Friends when the character Fun Bobby gets all depressed. Only a Friends geek like myself would understand. We chat away for a while, but can’t really get to the bottom of what’s going on. He sticks around to watch the Harhat set but then he has to leave. The more we drink through the night, the more the phrase, “Poor Petri” will appear in conversation, with the faintest of smirks. I hope he’s okay.

I really enjoy the Harhat set anyway. Pretty brutal sounding punk, with elements of crust, hardcore and noisepunk all thrown in. Niklas is a solid bass player! And the singer has a desperateness to his voice as he throws himself around the stage, that always agrees with me. It’s one of those rooms that has a vacuum sort of quality to it. It seems to suck all the noise into the space and compress the air out of it. I watch parts of the other three bands but spend most of my time by the merch table in the bar area on the other side of the wall, listening a little as I chat to various people.

We play around midnight and I’m starting to feel the tiredness of having only slept a few hours and being up all day. I’ve only had a couple of beers and Johan and I decide we need a little nip of something stronger before we hit the stage. I’m not one for shots any more but the Finnish do have this deliciously sweet liquorice booze that is very easy to drink. It hits the spot perfectly. The gig goes pretty well. Sounds solid on stage and we play well without maybe ever really hitting the absolute heights. If this were a football game it would be a solid two-nil win with a goal in each half. It’s professional without being wild. The crowd, although hard to see in the blue and black lit room, seem chuffed enough to keep shouting for more as we come to the end of the gig. I don’t see us going back on but to my surprise, we eventually do and play two more songs. Job well done. Simple as that.

There is a good crowd of people wanting merch afterwards and as Johan stands there selling, I head off and pick up a couple of beers with little chasers to keep them company. We have a good time standing there mingling and drinking, the pre-gig tiredness now just a distant memory. I have to laugh when one crust punk girl comes up to me to enquire about prices, “How much are the shirts?” she asks in very Finnish English. I tell her the price and then about twenty seconds of awkward silence follows. I break the silence and ask if she wants to buy one.

“I have no money”, she says. More awkward silence, followed by her walking away.

After an hour or so a very apologetic Otto tells us that they have to close the bar. It’s closing in on two am and I tell him that it’s more than fine. Tiredness has come back with avengence anyway. We see to that the stuff is all gathered neatly on stage and then start to leave. Niklas is pretty drunk and I can’t make out much of what he’s saying, but there is talk of an after party at some rock bar, or something. As it turns out I end up losing Niklas somewhere between getting our gear sorted and leaving the venue and we end up simply plodding back to the hotel. None of us were truly in the mood for an after party anyway. Now if only the bar at the hotel was still open…

The hotel bar and lobby is very brightly lit, which suggests that they’re closing up for the night. Therefore all the suited business types sat around drinking leads to some confusion. We ask the girl at the reception what the crack with the bar is and she tells us her name and to relay it to the bar in the restaurant and they’ll sort us out. We’re really not that bothered, could just as happily go to bed, but we don’t want to seem ungrateful so we pop our heads into the other room but find no staff willing to serve us. The reception lady clocks us coming back in the lobby empty handed and heading for the lift and comes running over to us to sort us with drinks, insisting we sit down and have a beer. Love Finland.

The beer is good but it’s a little wasted on us to be fair. I’m so tired by the point that it’s not as enjoyable as it should be. After struggling through the beer and some very weary conversation we all head upstairs to our rooms. I shower before bed knowing I’ll be grateful for the extra minutes in bed in the morning.

I sleep pretty well through the night, only waking up for a piss the once. It’s pitch black in the room and I haven’t the faintest idea of what the time is. On my way back to bed I bump into Andy coming the other way and we scare the shit out of each other. Hazily I slump back into bed and fall straight back asleep.

We enjoy the hotel breakfast in the morning whilst discussing plans for the next year. Johan and Pia are having another baby in February so things will be quiet for a while again. Johan and Andy seem to be very keen on using the time to write a new record of some kind. I can’t say I’m all that in the zone for writing just now, I’ve done two albums this last year and feel kind of worn out on it. But to be fair, the last Victims album was written over the space of five years and I like the rest of the guys, am in truth, a little bored of it already, despite the fact it’s only been out half a year. Guess we’ll see what the future brings. One new song that inspires is usually enough to get me back on track though.

Otto can’t make it to take us back to the airport but his companion from yesterday is here to drive us. Alex I think his name is. It’s almost a silent agreement that I take the front seat and take care of social duties. I do that with pleasure. I really love the opportunity to talk to new people and make new acquaintances. We get talking about subjects like the education and social security systems in our respective countries. It’s a very inciteful talk and treat for me to talk to him. The other guys all sit in the back quietly, listening to us babble on. Maybe sometimes I talk too much… Maybe sometimes I write too much...

We split up at the airport in different directions. Johan and Andy hitting the duty free stores, Jon hitting the bar and me plonking myself at the boarding gate with my book. I have a quick chat with Per and Gustav who are also returning from their gig and then settle down with the book. I have an exam on Tuesday, tomorrow I’ll dedicate to re-reading my final notes on Marx and Weber et al, but for now I tuck into to a bit of German social history. Sociology is the new punk rock.

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