Monday, October 16, 2017


I’ve been in the States for just over a week, starting this whole Victims trip off with a holiday with the family. I’ve had a great week with girls hanging around LA and SoCal, it was a bit hard to readjust my head into band mode this morning, saying bye to Polly and Jen. We’ve been staying in some really nice hotels. hanging with friends in the desert and taking Polly to Disneyland. I can feel the times a changing, maybe I’m getting to the point in my life where I’d rather concentrate my travels solely on holidays. After twenty years of touring maybe roughing it is starting to take it’s toll. Or maybe this feeling is just being over inflated by the feelings of saying bye to my little girl this morning on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Orange, so far away from home and not travelling back together. Things certainly have changed though, there’s no denying that. When we were kids the actual show was almost an afterthought of touring, the least fun part of the whole package, coming in long behind the partying and the travelling, the socialising. Nowadays that has pretty much turned on it’s head. I know I sound like an asshole, but leaving the family by the pool of our swanky hotel in Hollywood for someone’s floor, right at this minute, didn’t feel great. And that sucks, because it’s a fucking privilege to play so far away from home, to get the chance to do this shit. I anger myself feeling this way. As I sat in the cab, watching Polly ran off back into the hotel, I told myself to get a grip and get my head into gear.

The flight from LA up to Oakland was pain free. Nice flying domestic in this country, and not having to deal with customs and passport control. It was pretty much straight through on both sides. I sat on the plane, trying to use most of the short journey to get some studying done but ended up speaking to this middle aged couple sat beside me for most of the way. The lady was telling me about her job as a teacher and her kids who have all grown up now. She said that her eldest daughter was around my age, twenty six apparently. Well chuffed with that. Don’t know if she was being kind or just blind, I’ll take it anyway. We’ve all flown in separately to the States. Jon came in a few days after me and has been hanging out with Anton in San Francisco for three of four days, he’d been saying they were going to write a new Accursed record whilst they were here together but I can’t see that happening. Andy and Johan came in the day before yesterday. It makes us a lot more inconspicuous flying into the country doing it this way since we’re here as tourists. Trying to explain to the customs police at the airport that we’re a punk band and not really getting paid that much for the shows would be a far too risky truth to explain. The stories of bands being turned away and sent home always puts the shits up you.

When I get to Oakland airport I head outside and look around for some metaller holding a piece of paper with “Victims” on it but I don’t find anyone. There are a few darkly clad long hairs hanging around who are obviously going to the festival we’re playing tonight, California Deathfest, and I toy with approaching them asking if any of them are in a band and expecting a shuttle when I notice on the email Andy sent that I actually have a receipt for a pre paid cab of my own and head over to the pick up point stated on the bottom of the mail. I find some African guy lying back in the seat of a minibus that is sat where I’m supposed to be getting picked up, he’s talking loudly into his phone in a language I can’t begin to pinpoint, and waves me into the bus. Not totally sure I’m in the right van when he speeds off, continuing to shout his conversation whilst gesticulating wildly at the wheel. I’d figured I’d be getting dropped off at the venue since we’re playing in three hours time but instead he drops me off at a Motel 6 next to the highway. I ask him if this is the right place and he just says, “Yes, yes”, and ushers me out of the van. There are a few obvious band types mulling around in the reception so I figure this is where we’re staying and go to see about our room.

As is so often the case with festivals and hotels, there is a problem with the booking. The girl behind the desk can’t find my name, all she has is a room booked for two people with Andy and Jon’s name on it. I have no number for production, and the girl won’t let me into the room. I have no choice but to head to the venue in a cab and try and sort it there. I have a bad feeling about this. We’re leaving early tomorrow to go back to LA and I can envision us stood around without a room in the middle of the night with nobody to call, Andy and Johan still fighting jetlag. Wouldn’t be the first time.

I get to the venue and there is no sign of the other guys yet. I ask the guy at the door sorting passes and bands out if he knows anything about our hotel situation and our missing room, he tells me that the promoter is in charge of all that but he hasn’t seen him for a while and there’s nothing he can do, although he tells me he’ll send him my way when he sees him. The promoter, Ryan, is friendly with Jon since Jon has played his various Deathfest festivals a bunch, so we’ll have to get him on the case as soon as possible. With nothing really happening I head out for a walk and look for some food, the best I manage to find is a shitty grilled cheese sandwich and fries. I can’t really work this part of Oakland out, it seems to be a pretty rough area down by the water that the city is doing it’s best to invigorate with restaurants and bistros, but most of the places seem to be closed, there are pockets of gangs hanging around and the air stinks of weed. Add to that the lingering scent of the forest fires breezing in on the wind from the north and it’s a pretty strange vibe. Another strange thing is that the huge Amtrak trains come through here, right down the middle of the street, hollering their sirens, noisy as fuck. I decide to head back to the venue, not entirely satisfied and hoping to find the guys there when I get there.

I walk in and hear, “Garrrretttt”, in a voice that can only be Jon’s. I turn around to find him stood at the bar with Anton. The pair of them smiling, both with drinks in their hands. I walk up and give them a hug and a picture starts to reveal itself. Anton is drinking soda water and up close his smile is genuine and happy, Jon is drinking a beer and I realise that his smile isn’t actually a smile at all, but rather a look of despair. “I feel physically awful!” is the first thing that comes out of his mouth. He goes on into a ramble about how he’s suffering terribly from the jetlag, which is a little surprising since he’s been here for four days. I ask Anton how things have been and ask if Jon has been waking him up early all week but he tells me, “No, Jon’s been sleeping like a log”. Jon is just staring blankly with a glowing red face, telling me how much anxiety the lag is giving him and that I couldn’t possibly understand it. It’s painfully obvious that he’s both drunk and stoned. I’m battling to tell him about the hotel situation and that we need to sort it but it just turns into two separate conversations butting heads with each other so I head off to catch up with the other two.

Johan and Andy seem in good spirits, Andy is sat chatting with our friend Zane who is booking the show in LA tomorrow and is travelling with the DIS guys who are playing with us tonight and the next two shows. We’ll be travelling with them. I met up with Kyle the bass player last week in LA and left my guitar with them since they were driving up in the van which we’ll be riding in with them. They had offered to give me a ride up to Oakland but they said they were driving up through the night and sleeping in the van since they were on early today. As kind an offer as that was I’m glad I took a flight today. Andy and Johan grab a beer and we go to watch a bit of DIS. They’re playing first up on the big stage and there are a few people in but it’s pretty sparse. The guys expected as much though, fucking tough going on first at these kind of gigs. It sounds really good through the PA though, which is surprising for such a big room. We played this place a couple of years ago, the Metro Operahouse, but then we played in a smaller room and a lot smaller stage. It will be a different vibe tonight.

The three of us head out for a walk for a while whilst Jon takes the merch. When we come back the place is getting busier. I get stopped by some woman on security on the way in, I don’t catch it at first, Andy and Johan just walk in but I get a big arsey, “Step back”. I don’t really hear her or understand she’s talking to me and then again, “Step back now. Sir.” Fuck this country. I hate the way authority figures talk to you like shit whilst still calling you Sir. I’m looking forward to playing a proper punk show in LA tomorrow. No security assholes on the doors. This is the show that’s paying for the bulk of the flights though, best just get through it. The place is pretty packed now, full of metal. The front room where the bar is is decked ceiling to floor in bootleg metal shirts, all over. I’ve never seen such a gathering of ugliness. There is some silly gore death metal band playing, although the extent of the gore is the singer’s apron with a bit of fake blood on it. The rest of them all just look like miserable bald men. After them it’s Diocletian from Canada. They’re pretty good actually, although have a silly image where they’re trying to look all tough by wearing hoods and staring menacingly at the crowd. Silly look, pretty good band though.

We’re up next and I’m trying to get my head into playing a gig, I think I’m still stuck on holiday mode. It sounds good up on the big stage when we soundcheck though and before we start I see our old friend Jeff Matz from Zeke/High on Fire stood at the front of the stage waving at me. I’d put him on the list and glad to see he made it in time. I have a quick chat with him and arrange to meet up afterwards at the bar. The room is pretty full when we play, although with a big open circular space near the front making way for people doing karate in the pit. Jeff is stood right in front of Johan in his Victims shirt, smiling and nodding his head gleefully. Johan jokes to me afterwards that it was really off-putting, that he didn’t want to Jeff to see his bass playing up close. The gig is okay throughout, the crowd response is pretty good considering the clientele, it’s a pretty standard big stage gig. The biggest problem is that I can’t really get much energy up, can’t find a flow in the music, and when you don’t have much energy yourself you miss that natural buzz that comes from playing a tiny room. Still, it’s ok. Apart from the monitors blowing out about half way through for three songs..

As I’m packing up my leads on stage this big friendly Peruvian guy from the metal band on next starts talking to me, telling me how it was really fun to see a hardcore band and that we should come down to South America and play. Funny how in the punk scene Victims is considered a crust band and in the death metal scene we’re a hardcore band. I’m trying to get my stuff packed up to let him get set up but the big smiling guy just seems to want to chat. When I finally get away I head back to the room behind the stage and find Jon staring into space, “I’m never crossing a time zone again! You don’t understand how bad I feel. Next time you wanna book the US you’ll have to practice in someone else on guitar”. Johan walks past us, looks at Jon and says, “Shit you’re drunk”, and carries on, Jon plants his arms down by his sides and takes it all the way from his stomach, “I’m not drunk!!” Ten minutes later he’s sat sleeping.

We’re told our friends in Merciless are having a bit of a nightmare journey from Stockholm. They were supposed to play next from last tonight but they missed their connecting flight in Salt Lake City and all their gear has ended up on route somewhere else. So now they’ll be swapping with S.O.B. from Japan and playing last, on our gear. Shitty situation for them, reminds me of our show at Hellfest last year. The poor bastards have flown via Paris first as well so they’ve been on the go for about twenty four hours for this show, and now they’ll be pretty much going straight onto the stage. Feel sorry for them but I have to say, I’m kinda bummed that we can’t head off to the hotel a bit earlier. Getting tired myself and a bit of bed and tv would be nice before our early journey to LA tomorrow. How fucking old am I really? Thinking of the hotel reminds me of our problem with the room so I head back into Jon and ask him if he’s spoken to Ryan yet. He mumbles that Ryan is aware of the situation. I ask him if he can talk to him and make sure he phones the motel ahead so we’re not stuck without a room when we arrive. “He’s got long hair and a cap”. That’s his fucking answer. He’s starting to fry my piss now.

It’s really nice catching up with Jeff though. Always is. I can’t really remember how we first met now, I think it was at a Zeke gig in Örebro, it’s been years anyway. He’s one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. Johan and I take a drink at the bar with him and he’s telling us that he’s started his own speaker cab buisness and should be getting some stuff out in the next year. Johan’s ears pricked up immediately at that. Jeff is taking it easy tonight and wanting to say bye to Jon we head through to the gig room where our merch is set up. Jon has now roused himself out of his slump and is laughing his tits off with some crust punker.

The Norwegian black metal band Tsjuder play to a big crowd, minus their drummer. They play to a pre recorded backing drum track, the whole thing looks bizarre. Andy says it’s like back metal Milli Vanilli. Looks fucking daft with the drum kit set up on stage and no one playing it as the drums thunder out of the PA. Somehow the whole evil look they’re trying to pull off doesn’t really make it. Still, parts of their set are pretty good, I liked their first record, a lot of good fiffs on it. S.O.B. is a lot more fun though. The crowd go fucking crazy for them, they’re obviously the biggest hype of the day. It’s always fun watching Japanese bands go mental on stage, they have a certain charm about them. It’s really fun watching them. The Merciless guys turn up about half way through the S.O.B. set, looking a little shell shocked. We help them out with gear, I was hoping to fob them off with Jon’s guitar but Erik has eyes on my SG. The guys recount their journey to us, smiling at the agony of it all. Joseph the bass player, a real good looking hard rocker asks us what the crack is with playing times and we tell him they’re on next. “Ok, is that band Sob now then? We’re on after that?” “S.O.B.? Yeah after them” Johan answers. We smile to each other afterwards, “Haha Sob, noll koll alltså” I say to Johan. “Så jävla härligt!” he laughs back. With the Merciless guys all set, we head up to the side of the stage to watch them. Jon is sat back on the same seat in the back room, once again asleep.

The crowd for Merciless has somewhat thinned out after S.O.B., it’s painfully clear that it would have been a better show for the boys to go on before them. Still, they play a fucking blinder. Stipen, the drummer, is absolutely immense. For the first time in hours I feel energised again, and even though it’s almost one am and we’re supposed to be leaving at seven, and we don’t know if we have a room yet, it’s the happiest I’ve felt all day. Just watching the guys play really solid, grooving death metal in the way only classic Swedish bands can, and making it look so effortless, gives you a real buzz. After the show, I talk for a while with a couple of the DIS guys who have stuck around, two or three of them have gone back to their motel. Henry, Kyle and Bruce are still around though and they’re all fucking wasted. I take a shine to Henry straight away, he’s this young faced Latin American who is constantly smiling, and drinking by the seems of it. Bruce starts telling me about how they’re looking forward to going down to Tijuana and bigging up some of the things we’re going to see there, drugs, hookers, donkey bestiality… It doesn’t take him long to figure out that that scene really isn’t our bag. He’s drunk as hell though and I have a feeling he won’t remember this conversation tomorrow.

Eveything packed up, and desperate once again for bed, we attempt to find the promoter and work out the hotel situation. Of course, he’s fucked off already. Jay, the stage manager who has been really friendly all night with us, tries to get in touch with him but there’s no answer. He calls the motel and surprise sur-fucking-prise there are no rooms available. Jay feels pretty bad about it, looks kind of embarrased. It’s not his fault obviously, but it sucks that during the whole time we’ve been here we haven’t met the promoter once, not even just to check in on us and see how we’re doing. And now we can’t get in touch with him by phone. Pretty shit style if you ask me. There’s a lot of nonsense with all of us trying to talk at the same time, Jon walking around trying his best to find someone to ask for help and me being really pissy. Andy and Johan must feel fucked with the jetlag.

We have no choice but to get in the shuttle and head to the motel and see what we can do. Andy and Jon go inside and sort their room out and when they get their key we help them up with all the gear, with the plan of just staying in the room and sleeping. Lo and fucking behold the room has two double beds. I feel both huge relief since the floor was really not appealing to me, and annoyance that the right room was obviously booked all along, they’d just missed to put all of our names on the list.

We crawl into bed, check the time. Two am. Leaving at seven my fucking balls. What time shall we set the alarm, I ask Andy. We decide on eight and turn the phones off. The DIS guys will have to find us. I’m pretty confident though that they won’t be knocking on the door at seven, not by the look of them an hour ago. Of course, lights go off and we can’t get off to sleep. In the dark, I hear Andy and Jon talking in the other bed, for some reason they’re talking about Metallica. “Anyone else could have died on that fucking bass, why him?” That’s the last thing I remember before drifting off.

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