Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Even after unnecessarily watching about an hour of Sleeping With the Enemy until about four am, a film I’ve seen loads of times when I was younger, and didn’t even watch it until the end, just lay in bed pointlessly watching a portion of it, knowing I was wasting valuable Z’s, I still woke about just before ten. I felt surprisingly alert anyway. The worst thing is, I knew we’d be up all night tonight, since we had to drive through the night after the show in Jyväsylä to make it to the morning boat in Åbo. The drives have been easy on this little jaunt, but as usual it’s the last one that’s the worst. So more than likely I’d come home a worn out old wreck. Completely my own fault. I may have toned down the booze completely, but I still have a problem battling sleep it seems.

There was no breakfast on offer at the robot hotel so after showering we made our way out to the streets of Tampere in search of some breakfast. Since we had a couple of hours to kill before picking the gear up from the venue I had earmarked a visit to a Lenin museum they had here, apparently the largest one in Europe. I wasn’t expecting it to be much more than the size of a living room, but I thought it could be cool to see. We walked about not really being able to concur on what anyone wanted. I had a vision of a cosy cafe and a strong cup of coffee but after becoming frustrated with the lack of veggie options we ended up eating at some indoor food market that had a Mexican style grill in it. I was pretty chuffed with my tofu quesadilla but Andy seemed a bit down on his vegan burger. Cracks me up sometimes though. When he orders food he’s normally quite abrupt. “I’ll have the vegan burger” was all he could muster. And then when it came solo on a plate, he looked at the woman and said, “Fries?” There were no fries, which I guess bugged him. Johan and I cracked up at his style. “He doesn’t waste energy on unnecessary words with people he doesn’t know,” joked Johan.

It wasn’t really the breakfast I’d envisioned but I was still satisfied, certainly more than Andy was at least. We moved along the main street to the end of the road and then took a left over to where the Lenin museum was housed. It was on it’s own floor in a large building, but it cost 8 euros to get in, and given we didn’t have that much time it didn’t really feel worth it. We ended up back at a cafe next to where we’d eaten, and which had us all straight away lamenting the fact we hadn’t taken breakfast here. It was a lot cosier. Andy and Jon tucked into some buns to compensate, whilst I enjoyed the simplicity of a superbly made espresso. Andy went off for a wander before we’d have to meet up with the Massgrav guys, the other three of us stayed on for a game of Yahtzee. Jon really cracks me up. He carries dice and his writing pad around with him wherever he goes in case the occasion for a round pops up. Before we started he laid down the law, “You roll the dice off the table, the dice gets scratched.” My snigger was met with a stare to let me know he was serious. Jesus Christ. Fucking typically enough, in his second throw, one of his dice started bouncing towards the table edge but I didn’t move my arm in time and stopped it in it’s tracks. “Thank you,” sighed Jon, relieved.

Just as we were about to leave the cafe it started pissing down, properly hammering down from the heavens. It’s been a bit of a feature of this weekend, the rain. I’m glad I lent Jen’s rain jacket, even if it is bright yellow. Fuck punk points, I’m all about sensible atire these days. I texted the rest of the gang to let them know we’d be late and got various replies from different groupings reporting where they were taking shelter. The rain passed after a short while anyway and we met up with the guys outside the hotel. We headed over to the central station and found some cabs, but were looking for a bigger bus to take us all together. Jon approached an old boy in the cab at the front of the queue and asked him if he could message through to his company and send a big cab our way. He looked at him and told him to call one himself. Miserable old sod.

By the time we got back to the club the rain was just starting to drizzle down again, so a quick pack was in order and then we were on our way. The drive to Jyväskylä didn’t take long. Just long enough for Johan and I to watch the Liverpool game and then to discuss an alternative, ironic analysis of Sleeping With the Enemy. Andy joked saying he assumed that Julia Roberts was the enemy, being that she was clumsy and always leaving stuff in a mess and all that. Then Johan added that it couldn’t have been easy for the husband, how he was always falling ill to the pig sty he was living in, like that time he cut his foot on the beach when she left broken glass on the sand and didn't bother cleaning it up,  and that he ends up dying and shit, to which I concluded that he was indeed actually killed by mess. We all piss ourselves, thoroughly amused.

Norse has another good band tip for us today, Charles Wood and Shitgubbs. This pops up in conversation about bands with great names, to which Norse happily adds this to the canon. Apparently they came from Karlskoga and were awesome. Fuck knows. I love listening to the Massgrav guys gabbing though, they are a great crack.

The venue tonight is way bigger than the other two places we’ve played on this little run. It’s the kind of venue that when you walk in, the first thing you think is, Uh oh… this is gonna be a rotter. The set up is really professional and everything, huge PA, huge lighting system. It’s just, there is no way we’re going to even half fill the place, so sounding great and looking cool in the shit hot lighting system ain’t really gonna help. Of course, you have to shake that feeling off and just get on with it. We get talking to the sound guy and he seems like a nice bloke, not really much of a punk, but seems to have a clue. He tells us that there is another punk show on in town tonight, at a really small place, with local bands playing, but it’s on earlier in the evening and that everyone should come here afterwards since our show is on later. I can’t help thinking, yeah, or maybe they’ll all just get steamboats and stay right where they are. This place we’re in is part of the university and they have everything from lectures to theatre to punk gigs on here. I kinda wished we were playing the smaller place…

After soundcheck I drove the van over to another venue, a well known old place, where they were making us dinner. Apparently there was some other non punk gig on here tonight. I can’t imagine there is a big enough scene in Jyväskylä to accommodate three gigs. The food is decent anyway, another version of punk stew. There has been a lot of talk from Jon and Jeppe this weekend about how the Finns never put salt in their food. Jeppe reckons there was actually a movement against salt use in the 70’s, similar to the movement against alcohol in Sweden in the early part of last century. I guess the Finns REALLY used to love salt. Jon has complained about the lack of it every time he’s eaten this weekend, though. Had to crack up last night, though. The curried punk stew in Tampere was indeed missing a bit of flavour to it, and I asked Jon if he happened to have any salt in his bag, since there wasn’t any backstage. I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised when he pulled out a little sealable plastic bag containing McDonald’s salt sachets.

After eating we drove back to the venue and found the local support band in the backstage. They were a bunch of very friendly young guys, and we had a really nice chat with them about playing in bands and the scene here. They were convinced there was gonna be a good crowd tonight. Jeppe and I got talking about touring, about back in the day when we toured full time. It hit me that the one and only time before this I was in Jyväskyla was nineteen years ago. At the place we ate dinner. I could see the look on the young guys faces being blown away by that fact and it hit me that we must seem pretty old to them. Jeppe asked who we were playing with back then and when I told him we were supporting Biohazard he laughed. Which, prompted by Andy started the ball rolling on all the bands, mostly rubbish, that we supported back in the day, and some of the catastrophic fallout that came with some of them. From kicking Rammstein’s pyrotechnics over and then later crashing their aftershow party we weren’t invited to, to being left stranded by Mudvayne in Europe, who cancelled the tour halfway through and didn’t bother to tell us since we’d been a bunch of assholes in their eyes I’m sure. Gordon had called the guitarist a fat strawberry. We really did play with some shockingly lame bands back in the day, and never really made an effort to get along with them. Biohazard were great though. Can’t say anything but good things about those guys, had the time of my life on that tour, many, many moons ago.

Johan turned up in the dressing room a while later, joking about the fact he needed to Victims purse, since the punks were swarming the merch table. I went out a while later to find about eight people in the room and Jon and Johan at the merch table playing Yahtzee. It did get better, though. Somewhat. The young guys in Warfare State played for about half an hour and by about halfway through their set I’d say around seventy or eighty people were in the place. I mean, the room could probably take five hundred, but with the lights down it didn’t look too bad. Done far worse in far bigger rooms with Speedhorn, that’s for sure. Whenever we play gigs to small crowds, or indeed okay crowds as in tonight, but in large rooms, I always think of the Get in the Van book and Rollins recalling how Dukowski balled him out for being down on a show with a low attendance, telling him that it doesn’t matter if there are only four people in the place, they’ve still paid to come see them and deserve a show, it ain’t their fault. I always try to remember that. Tonight was going to be fine. I think the main thing that’s playing on my mind, as well as everyone else’s, is the drive through the night to the ferry. There will be no party tonight. Ola is still tanning away a few tins, all the same.

Massgrav were superb again. They weren’t quite as jokey tonight, but every bit as brutal musically. I think it really works well with Jeppe on second guitar. I enjoy our gig too. The stage is nice and spacious so there’s plenty of space to move around. During My Eyes I kind of overestimate this, though, and swing my arm in the air before the fast bit comes in after the intro and end up punching one of the lights. Hurt like a bastard for a while, but I haven’t cut it thankfully. In other news Jon now seems to have adapted the style of playing barefoot on stage. I can only imagine what Jen will say next time she sees us play, she’s allergic to this look. There is always something with Jon, though. Always. All in all, I enjoy the gig and by the halfway point of the set there are some people dancing up front. It sounds good to me and I feel it was pretty tight, except for Andy missing the odd thing, but nothing major. He says afterwards it felt rubbish, though. Says he had a really bad sound on stage and couldn’t get into it. Funny how two people in the same band can have totally different gigs.

After the show they turn on the lights pretty much straight away, and after selling a bit of merch, Andy and Johan shower off and then we start packing the van. There is no rush, since we’re gonna end up being at the harbour at least a couple of hours before check in, but I still want to get going whilst I’m wired after the gig, since I’m taking the first shift. I crack up as we pack the van since Fenok seems to have gotten himself a bit tipsy, and is walking back and forth with a pint in his hand, taking one case at a time, making small quips to everyone he passes on route. I haven’t really seen him drunk so far this weekend, but he seems to have decided now was the time. Some of the young guys are sat on some concrete steps outside the venue, listening to music and partying, but it’s fucking cold out and doesn’t look the slightest bit fun to me. I guess we are old.

The drive to Åbo isn’t as bad as I thought it might be. It takes a long time, about four hours, of which I drive three of them before Norse takes the last stretch. Ola sits up front with me DJing and chatting away, keeping me alert. He does a great job of it, I’m really impressed by the fact he stays awake all the way to the boat at five am. The only fucker is that I get flashed by a speed camera whilst looking for the heater to get rid of the foggy window. I wasn’t going that fast, but hadn’t noticed the limit had gone down to eighty, Fucking bastard. Tonight was the first time I’ve drank Red Bull in about fifteen years I think..It did the job, I’ll give it that. That and Ola anyway. By the time Norse drives the van to a stop at the harbour I have a hard time sleeping. There are six of us in the back, all trying to sleep sat upright, rain hammering the roof of the van. Only Fenok seems to be in the land of nod. By the time we get out of the van and on to the boat, three hours later, my knees and back are in fucking agony. Getting into bed in our cabin in the bottom of the boat and turning the lights out feels almost orgasmic. I don’t even care if I sleep, I‘m just overjoyed at stripping down and stretching out under a quilt. Unfortunately, as much as I could happily sleep for the entire eleven hour voyage, I have to keep the day turned in the right direction, so begrudgingly set the alarm for twelve-thirty. I intend to enjoy every second of the next four hours in bed. I fall asleep almost immediately.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


After more than twenty years of touring, there aren’t many “firsts” left in the bag, but this morning saw one. I went for a jog. I’ve been running a lot recently, I’m trying to get fitter and get my back in shape, and I’ve really been enjoying going out every day, listening to a podcast whilst skipping along through the woods. I’d brought my running shoes in my bag, but I wasn’t really all that sure I was actually going to put them to use. But after coming up back to the room after breakfast, and still having a couple of hourse before checkout, I thought, fuck it. Let’s go. So, for half an hour I ran around the botanical gardens and the bay next to the hotel, listening to an interview with Margaret Atwood. Times certainly have changed.

We met up in the lobby of the hotel at twelve, but as we were about to head out it started pissing down. So we sat about for a bit, shooting the breeze. Norse parped up when he recieved a link with a band called Puppy and the Handjobs and their song I Eat Abortions. “Was it Ken, who sent you that?” asked Ola. Norse laughed in confirmation. Ola chuckled, not in the slightest surprised.

When the rain let up we made our way out. We had a couple of hours to kill before we could get in to the club and pick up the gear to load the van. Both Johan and Ola had asked the sound guy last night if they could have the number to the person opening the club up today, “Yes, but do not ring him before two. Text me instead.” Norse was itching to give the guy a call, just to fuck with him. We stopped at a cafe on the way to the venue, enjoyed some nice cappuccino and the warmth. For a nation of coffee drinkers, the java isn’t always the best in this country. But today’s hit the spot. Satisfied from the caffeine most of us headed back out to have a look at a record shop, whilst Johan, Jeppe and Jon stayed for a game of Yahtzee. Jon has brought a kit with him. He takes it very seriously.

The record shop was pretty cool, a lot of old jazz records, but I wasn’t really in the mood for spending the time to cipher through everything, just looked for the usual two or three I’m always after and never find, and then left it. Ola was chuffed at having spotted a Spider lp, merrily telling me how great they were, “Poor man’s Status Quo,” he said, “Awesome.” Aside from that I spotted an old vinyl which was a collection of old Nazi propaganda speeches, “A terrifying documentary of hate,” it said on the sleeve. I was a little tempted, but backed off. Twenty euros was a bit steep for something that made you feel a bit queasy. Another highlight of the record store was the little section of rap records they had, with the sign “Hippiti Hoppiti”. We’ve been taking the piss out of the Finnish language since got here, just adding an “i” on the end of every word as you do. This was great, though. It’s like they are good humoured enough to take the piss out of themselves. Good people, the Finns.

By the time we got to the venue it was raining pretty heavily. Fucking cold too, the summer rains have long gone by now. We stood under a tin roof to keep out of the miserable weather, waiting for someone to open up the place. It’s a pleasure having eight people in the van, though. By the time we did load out through the pissy rain, it was done quick as a flash. Two days done and we have the van load down. Still, nothing like loading backline into the van in the rain to make you wonder how many other ways you could spending a Friday afternoon. After the van was loaded we drove back to the hotel and decided on some lunch after picking up the luggage, before making the drive to Tampere. It was only a two hour drive and load-in wasn’t until seven pm, so we had loads of time. We parked the van up in the grove by the hotel, right in front of a gang of old alkies who were making a right racket. I was sure they would start up some blabber with us but they were too fucked to even notice the huge van that had just blocked out the sun stood in front of them.

We popped into a falafel place with some nice vegan and veggie options, just next to the hotel. I sat with Jeppe and Norse, talking about Jeppe’s time in Napalm Death. We’ve known those guys for years, and Jeppe toured with them when he played in Nasum, and then has jumped in for Embury on occasion, like four shows or so. He told me that the first time he was asked, Embury called him like, two weeks before the gig and asked if he could jump in, since his wife was heavily pregnant at the time. Jeppe asked him how many songs were in the set. Twenty five, Embury said. This obviously had Jeppe concerned since he wasn’t even going to get the chance to rehearse with them, he’d be practicing the songs on his own at home. He expressed this concern to Embury, but he reassured him, “Ah man, youäll be alright. Just thrash the strings. That’s all I do.”

Ola drove to Tampere, which was pain free. Luxury touring Finland, it’s only two hour drives between the shows. Although, saying that, the worst drive we have is the last one. We play Jyväskyla tomorrow and then take the boat home from Åbo, three and a half hours away, at eight-forty five. So we’ll have to drive through the night and then sit around in the van for a few hours waiting to board ko doubt. Should be a great crack.

We made our way to the hotel in town before going to the venue. It was in the middle of town, one of those self check-in with a code deals. Andy was navigating up front, but his phone seemed to be getting a bit confused, and then adding a bit of snickering in the back as the directions changed at short notice, plus Ola now playing some sort of Benny Hill music through the stereo, was adding a bit of confusion to the scene. Jeppe seemed to be stressed by the Benny Hill music, which in turn seemed to amuse Ola.

The hotel was in the middle of the city, but there were roadworks everywhere, so getting to the parking space was a bit of a squeeze. And then when we did eventually depart the van you had to press in a code for the room at four different doors before we made it into the room. We were on the sixth floor so we took the lift. Andy, Fenok and I piled in with our bags, but the thing was pretty tight. Ola spotted a little bit of space, though, “Room for one more in here,” he said and squeezed in. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. We stood there wondering what was going on with the lift. I assumed that we were overweight, but nobody was buying it at first. Then Ola moved out, and the beeping stopped as the door closed on his coupon, the three of us laughing our heads off as we moved off, leaving him behind.

The room was decent enough, Johan and I taking the double bed, Andy and Jon taking camping beds. We pretty much just dumped the bags and then left. On the way out, I was holding the door for the others, but it was taking a while. Then the door started beeping, obviously the code system here is pretty tight. Just as I was about to close it, Fenok came walking along the corridor. “Is Ola in the room?” This tickled me no end.

Jeppe took the drivers wheel to the venue, Jon sat up front with him. Jon spent a lot of time in Finland when he was together with a girl here years ago. And he seems to know, or seems to think he knows, his way around every city in the country. It all started getting a bit cabin fevery though when Jon started dithering with his phone. Ola was sat behind, looking at his GPS, saying one way, and Jon was saying another, whilst Jeppe was just getting confused as the rest of us sat in the back giggling. “I’m waiting for my phone to update, but it’s up there to the left.” Ola wasn’t sure, though, his phone was saying right. We went with Jon. The second we made the turn Jon declared, “Fuck, this was totally the wrong way.” Confusion reigned for the next few minutes, with Jon not saying much at all, waiting for his phone to update. Johan asked him if was looking at the map or the GPS directions. Jon answered that he as just looking at the map. Johan suggested he turned the directions device on. Jon just got more flustered. And then punched the sun visor in frustration. “My phone is updating!” We ended up going with Ola’s GPS.

The venue tonight is a real classic in the Finnish scene. And full of the old punk charm. It’s a nice location just outside of the city, by the water side, opposite this big iron tower. Ola explained what the tower was for but I don’t remember what it was. Something about steel balls, or something. There was nobody at the venue yet, so I gave the promoter a call. I told him we were outside the venue waiting to get in and he replied, “When you arrive?” in a typically concrete Finnish accent. He said something about food and a sound guy and as he was talking, some punk guy came and let us in. It was the last time I’d hear from the promoter for the rest of the night. The food was waiting for us in the backstage at least, a pretty decent rendition of punk stew, but more of a curry flavour to it. It did the job just fine. Just nice with something warm.

We set up and soundchecked and then having three hours to kill before we played, grabbed a beer from the bar and then hung out at the merch table, next to a room with a flipper machine and foosball table. When we played here last time with DB we spent all night playing the Kylmä Sota guys but I couldn’t be arsed tonight. Fenok and Jon hung out at the flipper machine for a while. I get the feeling Fenok is one of those quiet flipper geniuses. He seemed to be tonking the arse of the machine anyway.

The place steadily filled up over the next hour or so, and you could tell early on that it was going to be more lively than yesterday. It is Friday, I guess, so not that strange. But the rumour going, from friends in Helsinki last night was that the Tampere punks were a lot more lively than those in the capital. The local support, Reign of Terror, got up on stage to do a quick soundcheck. We’d obviously missed the mail, but they just plugged straight into our amps without asking. We looked at each other and then I went up and asked them what was going on. The bass player was stood there with his lead, not knowing which amp to plug into, since both Johan and I play through Ampeg bass amps. I told him that nobody had told us they needed to use our gear, and to be fair to him, he looked a little embarrassed, saying he thought we’d been told they didn’t have any gear and they were supposed to use the house gear that we’d already stripped away from the stage on arrival. I told him it was okay, but just to remember the settings so he could reset them when they were done. I think he misheard me though, since he didn’t seem to dare fiddle with the amp after that.

They were pretty good, though. Young punk kids playing old school thrash/death metal with a bit of a stomp. The bass player had a pretty nice Jeff Walker scream going on, too. The best thing about them was the drummer though. Jon was taken immediately. “Finnish Nigel” he said with a look of delight on his face. He did indeed remind me of our old mate from the UK, had the same military style going on. He played hard as fuck, too. There was a pretty good crowd in for their set, and Jon stood watching them with a big smile on his cheeks. Loving it.

Massgrav were fucking banging tonight. And Norse and Ola were on fire, as usual. They sounded great and totally slayed the crowd. I had a great time taking care of their merch off to the side of the stage as they played. I love touring with friends, getting to see them play and them giving you that buzz. It makes up for all the standing around in the rain. After the first block Ola said, “Thank you. Thank you for clapping. Apparently because of some technicality this is no longer part of Sweden, but I guess you all still know the language? Or should we take it in English?” And then a little later on after another block, “Hey Tampere, or as we say, Tammerfors.” Norse then chimed in, “I think we should stick with the official name, Tammerfors, so everybody gets it right.” I stood at the merch table pissing myself laughing at the cheeky bastards. There was some huge Antifa skinhead stood in front giving them the finger, though. But he seemed to be smiling along with everyone else. By the time the guys were done I was buzzing to get on stage.

Last night was fun, but it couldn’t compare with tonight. I had a great time on stage, loved every second of it. It seems like we all had a better show tonight. It sounded tight, too, and onstage it was banging. When it sounds and feels that good on stage then it feels secondary to me what the crowd is doing. But the fact they seemed to be having a really good time was a bonus.

As we were sat sweating our asses off in the little side room afterwards, the singer from Reign of Terror was on full volume. Obviously pissed off his tits. I kinda liked him though, we’ve all been there. He was only a kid and meant no harm. He told me that it was an honour to play with us “old guys”, which made me smile. It was getting a bit much after a while, though, I was trying me best to humour him but you couldn’t get a word in edgeways. Army Drummer was sat looking embarrassed and kept apologising for him to which I told him there was no need. Then he told Johan and Norse that he wanted to sign up with Doomstar, said it’s a pain in the ass booking their own gigs and would be better if somebody else did it for them. Norse asked them if they have played many shows. “We’ve done two in five years” he said. Norse commented that wasn’t a whole lot of shows for the amount of time they’ve been a band. He said, “No, but we want it to be really special when we play.” Norse then asked him if they had a record out or anything. “Kind of. We recorded one ourselves”: I had to get out of there by that point, I had by now stopped sweating and really wanted a beer from the bar, and some other company. The singer guy left a while later wearing his bass without a case, and a bike helmet.

After chatting with some friends and other people we know like the guys from Rotten Sound, we settled down to a beer in the bar. Last time I was we ended up partying all night in this cosy bar upstairs, all decked out with sofas and stuff. Think we left about four am, and Ola seemed to be up for that. He and I went outside to check out what was going on but the bouncer told us that it was closing soon, so we had to do with the bar at the venue. It was nice, though. I had a really good chat with Jeppe over a pint or two. Talking about university and coming from a small town and being working class etc. Feels like we have really similar backgrounds.

There was a big clock on the wall and I was surprised to see that it was only one thirty, since we’d played at midnight. Until we realised the clock was stood still and it was actually closer to three. With that we decided to get the fuck back to the hotel and asked the place to call us a cab. There was more farting around in the lift on the way up to the rooms at the hotel again, this time Ola refusing to get out, claiming the beeping sound would stop if Jon got out. Jon left, and four or five us lifted off. But then when we got to the sixth floor the fucking thing started beeping again and the door wouldn’t open. A quick laugh was soon replaced by just the slightest bit of panic and then Ola said, “I’m dying for a piss.” I really could not be arsed been stuck in a lift at this time of night with Ola, Jeppe and Andy, in a robot hotel with no staff working at it. Thankfully the door opened and we found Johan and Jon laughing.

It was a relief to get in to bed. Johan and I lay there for a while watching Sleeping With the Enemy for a while, completely unnecessary at this hour, but it’s hard winding down after playing a gig if you’re not drunk.

Friday, September 13, 2019


There was a fair bit of to-and fro over how we were going to do the trip to Finland. Three shows, Thursday to Saturday, two bands travelling together. The obvious problem for everyone is adding two travel days to a trip with only three shows. But the arguments for taking the boat were that we could skip flying amd the flight shame that come with it, as well as being able to take a van and with that our own backline. It was a long time ago we played shows with our own backline. We went with the boat.

We picked up the Massgrav guys over by the TV4 offices next to the harbour. The check-in closes an hour before departure so there was a bit of trepidation over being late, but as it turns out we were an hour and a half early. So I walked off in search of a kiosk and some snacks, whilst Jon walked off into some park to smoke a spliff whilst we waited for Massgrav to arrive. It was Jeppe who suggested the pick up spot, and despite the fact that he works in the area, he was last to turn up. Ola assured us this would be a pattern we’d soon come to recognise. Of course, we turned up at the boat and parked at the front of the line we were guided to, but ended up sitting there until every last lorry had rolled on board. We must have sat there longingly looking at the parking attendants, hoping to be given the sign, for about an hour and a half. The chimney on the boat was spewing out thick black smoke, proper minging. Nice to skip the “flight shame”...

Still, it was fun to be sharing the van with the Massgrav guys. First time we’ve shared a van with another band in ages, but there was no ice breaking required with these guys since they’re old friends. We amused ourselves with old stories whilst we waited. Johan got talking about a trip to Finland years before when they travelled on the boat back right through the middle of Storm Gudrun. Apparently Andy had a right bad time of it, white as fuck as the ferry crashed over the waves. With the conversation moving on the sea sickness, I told the guys about my pathetic efforts at sea. I’m renowned for the old sea sickness, especially on smaller boats, big ferries not as much. But once I got sick on a fucking kayak that Jen and I had rented out, thinking it would be a pleasant way to spend an evening, paddling around Karlbergs Slott in Stockholm. I only lasted twenty minutes before having to turn back, pale as a ghost. Fuck, once I got sea sick snorkeling in Thailand. Jen looked up and spotted me rabidly swimming toward the rocks on the coast, the bobbing in the life vest having got the better of me. Pretty fucking weak.

It seemed like the only vehicles boarding the boat were trucks and horse trailers. Norse pondered aloud as to where the horses slept during the eleven hour night crossing, Ola cracked, “Djurhytt.” Jon made a remark about me not having to worry about it, I wouldn’t have to share with the horse, referring to another one of my ailments, horse allergies. Jeppe parped up, “What, do you get sea sick on horses too?” We all burst out laughing at that. We were finally given the go ahead to board, only to be stopped on the way and told to turn back, change of plans. Apparently the boat was fully booked and they were having some logistical problems. I had a sinking feeling that we’d be told there was no room for us, but finally they let us on, the very last vehicle on the boat, almost a half hour after the planned departure time.

Ola had good news though, he’d heard that the boat was going to arrive an hour and a half late tomorrow morning. Being that we were due to arrive in Åbo at seven am, and didn’t need to be at the venue in Helsinki a couple of hours away until four pm, the extra time in bed in the morning would be most welcome. I guess that the fleet of lorry drivers went directly to their cabins since there was barely anyone on the boat. Just us guys and a few asian tourists. It was like a ghost ship. I’d been imagining a wild disco and the Massgrav on the karaoke celebrating Fredrik, their drummer’s birthday which was today. But it was completely dead. There was some guy singing Elvis in the piano bar to pretty much no one, and a depressing band on the big stage in the main disco playing shit Eighties pop to a crowd of olds about twenty strong, all of them sat at the back of the room looking on as the band played, fake smiles plastered across their coupons. What a fucking gig. Whatever happens tomorrow, the show can’t be worse than this, anyway.

We sat down to dinner at an Italian restaurant. All very civilized as we sipped on red wine, Ola and Jeppe on the old stor starks, and enjoyed stone oven baked pizza, which was surprisingly good. We ate ourselves full and then wandered off in search of some action in the boat. The first time I took the boat to Finland was almost twenty years before and it was absolutely wild. Our tour manager Doug ended up in boat jail after getting into a fight with the Norwegian car rally team. But that boat was packed and everyone on it was wankered. This was a different vibe. Guess it is a Wednesday night… After a short sit down in the “Sea Pub” we ended up back in the piano bar, listening to the light tinkling of the ivories and enjoying a pint. It suited me down to the ground, listening to a bit of Simon and Garfunkel, but the guy soon packed up and fucked off, obviously glad to get to the end of his shift. We sat around for another couple of hours anyway, enjoying each others stories and having the crack. We were trying to work out what we’d do in the daytime tomorrow in Helsinki since we’d have all day to entertain ourselves, and Jeppe was promoting the idea of going to the cinema. Which got Norse on to the subject of film, and his favourite franchise, Rambo. We got into it. I told him I loved the first film, back before it was Rambo and simply just First Blood. But Norse was adamant. He reckon the only below par film was Rambo 3, when he’s in Afghanistan. He rated the four films as follows: 5 out of 5 for the first, second and fourth films, Rambo 3 only receiving a 3 out of 5. I haven’t seen it but I couldn’t imagine the recently released Rambo 4 was any good. Norse said the only negative he could give it was that it was too short. I burst out laughing and asked what 4 was about, he said that it starts of with Rambo working as some guide in Thailand. I was sold.

As is always the case, gain a bit of extra time in the morning, take liberties with the other end. As the clock struck midnight I was telling myself now would be a great time to go to bed. Extra lie in would give me eight hours sleep. Fuck, even if I went bed in an hour I’d get seven hours of Z’s. So we went to bed at quarter past one after having another beer. I could barely keep my eyes open by then. I checked my clock just before I turned out the light. 1.20. Set the alarm for 7.30, still ok. Before I killed the light the clock jumped an hour ahead to Finnish time. Fuck. Forgot Finland was an hour ahead. Balls. At just past 6 some light orchestral music began playing through the speakers, accompanied by a female voice announcing the boat would be arriving in one hour. So much for the lie in. So much for Z’s. Wonder where the fuck Ola got his info from.

Even after a quick shower in the cabin bathroom/toilet, I still felt like hell. Clean. But hellishly tired. We pulled off the boat into the rain of Helsinki. We stopped at the first service station on the way and poured some coffee into ourselves. Breakfast was pretty slim pickings though, there was barely anything vegetarian to choose from. They had a Subway, but it wasn’t opening for another two hours. Things took a considerable turn for the better when we arrived in Helsinki two hours later though. It was only eleven so we still didn’t need to be at the venue for another five hours at least, although we hadn’t been given an exact time by the promoter. But doors were at seven pm, so we made a logistical estimation of four being plenty of time. We decided to take a chance on the hotel the promoter had booked, hoping we’d be able to check in a little earlier. So to arrive and find that not only is the Scandic we’re booked in at some fancy four star joint, they had the rooms ready for us! Me and the other Victims guys decided to rest up in bed for a while, the Massgrav guys were going to explore Helsinki. Stripping off down to my kecks and climbing in under the cool bed sheets was like rolling into heaven. Absolutely fucking wonderful. My night had just been saved.

Andy, Johan and I got back up around one pm and went off in search of lunch. Jon was staying firmly in bed. Last time we were here we found this great Mexican canteen type joint, fast food but properly done. I got it up on the map and even though it was a half hour walk it felt worth it. Of course, when we got there it was closed. Fuck. It turns out it was a chain, though, Johan searched on his phone and we ended up a while later at the actual place we’d eaten last time around. Still a bit tired and unfocused I chose a burrito with salsa verde and chipotle sauce, which was by far the hottest option on the menu. Burnt my fucking mouth off. Woke me up, at least.

We got back to the hotel for rendezvous just past four. Jeppe and Norse had been to the cinema to see the new Tarantino film. Ola and Fred had gone and checked out this underground church that I’d wanted to see, and then gone for beer. I wanted to see that church. Would earmark it for tomorrow. The venue was only five minutes away with the van, and just as we were pulling in the sound guy called Jon, asking where were. Turns out he’d been waiting for us since two. Seems like someone had made a balls up with the communication. He seemed a little bit pissed off, although not with us. We hadn’t been given a time for load in. Amazing, you get to the city five hours early and still manage to be two hours late.

The venue seemed pretty cool, anyway. Kind of artsy, culture space with loads of different bars and a terrace area overlooking the inner courtyard where we had the van parked up. Seemed to be an art gallery on the other side of the yard, and some restaurants around. Must be the hip part of town. The sound guy hurriedly went about his business but I assured him we’re normally quick soundchecking, and we still had an hour and a half until doors. We got set up fast enough, but then things started to slightly tits up. First off, the sampler wasn’t working. Andy and Johan messed around with it for a bit, trying different cables and other bits and bobs, but no signal was coming out of it. Eventually we gave up and decided to move on with soundcheck. But we had another problem. Jon’s amp had died. It had been working seconds before, but now his time had arrived there was fuck all coming out of it. So much for the joys of bringing your gear on tour. The sound guy was now beginning to get really stressed, running back and forth like a dog with a stick up it’s arse. Jon wasn’t doing to well either. Fuciing sucks when your shit breaks down. He loaned Norse’s amp for the time being. But then his lead was buzzing like hell, so he had to change that too. Sound guy, as stressed as he obviously was, made a professional job of it, he could certainly do his job.

By the time we were done, Massgrav had about twenty minutes to check their stuff before it was time for doors. And the local band, Diskelmä, had just arrived. Somehow Sound Guy got it all wrapped up in time. Ola turned, to me chuffed at the sight of the Diskelmä bass players axe shaped bass. “It’s an actual axe bass”, a look of delight on his face. Proper ridiculous. An old friend of ours, Janne, who used to have the label Combat Rock that put out Victims records in the past, turned up to see us. Was really nice to see him. Really friendly guy. He’s pretty big in production now, doing really big gigs. He’d been touring with Jon and Jeppe on their Nasum world tour a few years ago, but that was the last time we’d seen him. As we were stood catching up, the promoter turned up looking all flustered, exclaiming that we’d had a table booked at the restaurant over an hour ago. The planning around this day hadn’t quite gone that smoothly. He was darting about a bit, but he managed to chaperone us to the joint next door. He told us we could order whatever food we liked from the menu. We took a long table and sat down to what was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten whilst out with the band. Proper amazing vegan cuisine. Jeppe and I were almost drooling in it. Charcoal grilled seitan with sweet potato puree, grilled asparagus and a lime and mint mayo. It was simply outstanding. I felt bad for the Massgrav guys, though, they were playing in forty minutes and couldn’t enjoy it as they should have.

When we got back to the venue Diskelmä were just at the end of their set and it seemed like the room was fairly well attended. Although they weren’t moving all that much. I saw my old friend Niklas from Harhat, who was stood with Janne. I was still raving about the food, and told him how amazing it was. He looked at me and said, “Yeah, they’re pretty good.” I told him that I loved it and was chuffed. “Yeah, cool, they’ve been around a long time, everyone kind of knows them.” Nice, I said. It has to be one of the best I’ve ever had on tour. Now he was looking at me a little bit surprised, “Really?” Turns out he thought I was talking about Diskelmä… I laughed and told him I was talking about the food. The penny then dropped and he cracked up. Being diplomatic I said that what I saw of the band sounded pretty good, too. “Yeah,” he said, “The singer just puked on stage, though.” Now I was a bit confused. But upon inspection it was as I’d heard it, the singer had indeed left a pile of puke on stage, and then the band had left it there as they exited the stage. It was right by where Ola would be standing. Niklas told me he’d puked up whilst singing into the mic, so we might not want to use the same one. Fucking punx.. I had to go and break the news to Ola. Who had to go break the news to Sound Guy. Ola sure as fuck wasn’t going to clean it up.

The Massgrav guys were great as always. The crowd, not as much. It was very Big Town Syndrome, everyone stood with arms folded, nodding along, nobody daring to be the first person to take the first step forward, leaving the large empty oval in front of the stage. After the first block, Ola said, “We need some more some more space, could everybody please take a step back, we’d really appreciate it.” After that they just spoke Swedish between the songs. Norse taking the lead most of the time. “Den här låten handlar om tunnelbanan, din suger också va?” It was only before the last song that Ola inquired, “You all speak Swedish right? If not, we have a crash course in Swedish for sale over at the merch table. You’re welcome. Congratulations Finland.” I’m not normally one for fun lyrics in punk songs, but the Massgrav guys do it so well. “DIY, DIY, blah blah blah!” Love it.

The crowd moved a little further forward for us, but for the most part they were statuesque. It is Thursday I guess. Not like I’d be jumping around like a tit at a show on a Thursday night back home. I really enjoyed playing, though. It sounded really good on stage. For some reason Jon had brought his wah wah pedal with him, though. He never uses it a practice, but decided he’d bring it with him and try it out during the gig. Typical him. He had a bit more hassle towards the end of the gig too, his tuning pedal seemed to have given up on him. Seems like it wasn’t his night. He looked over at us and shook his head, and then pointed at his broken pedal, slight look of despair on his face, and then started up the into next song. It sounded off though. When we got to the end of the next block Johan turned to Jon, “Tune your guitar Jon.” Jon came belting over the stage to us and with everything he had, arms by his side as he took full stomp with his feet into the stage, “I said my tuner pedal was DEAD!” his voice pinching at the end as it rose a few tones higher. Fucking cracked me up. He gathered himself once the outburst had passed, and introduced This is the End. It was the first time the crowd had moved all night. It felt too bad to not do a couple of encores now that they’d finally got going, even there was only a couple of voices in the crowd demanding one. I had a great time blasting through a couple of old bangers all the same.

Feeling older than my forty one years, I very much appreciated the early show tonight. To be done and wrapped up by ten fifteen was a dream. Plus we didn’t have to check out of the nice hotel until midday tomorrow. Let’s see if we could take advantage of it… Both Niklas and Sami from Harhat had left by the time we were sorted in the changing room, and our friend Satu, who I didn’t even know was there, came up to me to say hello. Another friend of ours, Otto, who booked us last time we were here, caught up with me for a while too. But as he explained, they’d soon be clearing everyone out since they normally did in these type venues. A lot of the time they’d have a hip hop club on, something to make the money back on what they’d lose on the punk shows, I guess. There was no after party tonight, although they were clearing out all the same. It would have been nice to see the guys for a little longer. But of course, everyone was up for work in the morning anyway. I enjoyed one of the IPA’s from the rider that the Massgrav guys had been kind enough to leave for us, and then we made plans. There was word of a cosy bar around the corner, but being pretty tired and wanting to catch up on sleep, we decided to head back to the hotel bar for a beer and some chill. It’s a nice feeling sitting in a hotel bar with a brew, knowing you can head up to bed whenever you like.

I still managed to sit up a little longer than necessary, though. It was very enticing sitting there with the Massgrav guys, listening to their stories. They’re one of those gangs that make you laugh, just listening to them gabble. Although there were a group of beefy Finnish middle aged businessmen sat at the table next to us, who’d been panning vodka grogs which they were mixing themselves the entire time we’d been sat there, and I noticed one of them wasn’t as charmed by Massgrav as I was. He was making faces at us, and then mock laughing. I thought he was going to parp up at one point, but then he seemed to get over it when two of group reappeared with a round of shots. Fuck knows what had got his goat. I had the impression he was annoyed with us talking Swedish. Although, he the bastard looked like he probably hated everything. Johan and Andy went up to bed, and I was on the brink of following them, but then Norse asked if we wanted another. Just the slightest bit of hesitation on my behalf was enough and he shot off to the bar. I’d insisted on just a small one but he came back with a pint of Lapin Kulta. I could only manage a couple of sips. It just wasn’t going down. Ten minutes later and we were all off to bed. Jon following behind us in the complimentary slippers the hotel provided.

Andy was just turning the TV off when I got back to the room. I read about a paragraph of my book before putting it down and turning the light off.