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.

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