Sunday, November 3, 2019


And then we were four. Strange feeling having one show left but it already feels like the tour is over and your mind is set on home. I felt like I just wanted to get this festival in Eindhoven over and done with and then get home. We have a fucking monster journey home, though. We’re driving to a hotel by Bremen after the show, which will take about three and a half hours, and then leave early tomorrow for another fourteen hours or so. Hard to get your head into a gig when you’ve already clocked out. It would have felt different somehow if Svalbard were playing this show, too. Maybe.

We all slept well, at least. The room at the punk house was warm and cosy and the bed comfortable enough to make me want to stay in it all morning. I was determined to make something of today, though, since the last two days we’d basically spent in the van and we’d be doing the same tomorrow. Since the drive to Eindhoven was short we decided we’d stop off in Köln on the way and do something human again. First we took breakfast with the house crew and the local band from last night. It was of an equally high standard as the dinner the guys made last night. Nice start to the day. After thanking Timo for everything again, we loaded the van and made our way out of little Wermelskirchen. Timo said they were having a big anniversary festival here next year for the house’s 20th. anniversary or something, which sounded good, although Timo’s estimation of being able to fit two and a half thousand in the place and it’s surrounding grounds seemed a little optimistic, to say the least.

Köln is on the opposite scale to Vienna, in that, I’ve also been there loads but only ever played one show. It used to be a regular day-off-spot on the Speedhorn tours in the era of the nightliner. We always used to park up by the river and then walk around the cathedral for a bit before hitting some bar. I remember one time waking up here and finding Roddy our guitar tech sat on the bottom lounge of the bus, looking distraught. He’d hooked up with some girl but then cacked his pants when he got to her place and had to make a sharp exit. And then when he got back to the bus he was caught throwing his dirty skidders in the bushes by some old couple walking their dog by the river. I think about that every time I think of Köln.

The couple of hours we spent in the city were much needed. The cathedral is an incredible building. I’ve seen its magnificence from the outside many times, but today was the first time I’d been inside, if my memory holds. Johan abstained and waited for us outside among the masses of tourists. Something about the inside of church buildings freaks him out a bit. It was of course, mind blowingly grandiose inside. I know what Johan means, though. There is something quite fucking heavy about being inside a gigantic church. Upon leaving we checked out a photo display depicting the devastation the bombs of the Second World War had left on the city. It seems like the cathedral was the only place left standing. It’s hard to imagine living through that, seeing Europe in the throes of war, but it really wasn’t that long ago. It’s easy to live in the now when both the past and the future are terrifying.

After taking a coffee down by the river at some cafe that had roofed outdoor seating, we walked back along the river to the van and made the short drive to Eindhoven. The information said we should check in to the festival at two pm, but we weren’t playing until seven-thirty and I couldn’t imagine what we’d be needed so early for. And then when we arrived at four we were immediately relieved that we had decided to do something else during the day. There were shit loads of people mulling about the massive, three staged-venue, most of them white men with skinheads, which made Andy a little nervous. I pointed out that we were also skinheads, although not completely by choice and not with sideburns, muscles and boots to match. We did meet up with our old friend Peter, though, who we’d sorted with some guestlist spots, although unfortunately we didn’t get much of a chance to talk and he no doubt had a bunch of classic HC bands he wanted to check out. We didn’t even have a dressing room available until five, confirming the point that we’d have been well pissed off if we’d have arrived three hours ago, so Johan, Andy and I went for a walk whilst Jon volunteered to fix the merch table in the huge hall with the main stage. I was glad we were on the smallest stage, at least.

There wasn’t much happening around the area, it looked like one of those places that is halfway between industrial estate being fazed out and culture moving in. The centre was about twenty minutes walk away, although we didn’t know that at the time, we just got lucky and stumbled across the correct direction. We only made it to the outskirts of the centre, though, since the first street we walked into that had any signs of life provided me with my target. A chip shop selling chips and peanut sauce. And fuck me, they were absolutely magnificent! Well worth the walk.

After that we made our way back along the same boring road we came along. I’ve been to Eindhoven a few times this last few years, and there isn’t that much to see. All I needed was the chips, and the walk there and back. When we get back to the venue Johan and I sit in the shared dressing room and watch the end of the Liverpool game.

Even the smallest stage that we’re playing is still in a big room that would normally constitute a massive gig. It is, of course, empty bar a couple of punks, one wearing a Tragedy t-shirt, whilst we line check. I wonder how this is going to go down, but Jon tells me he met some guy at the merch that had flown in from Greece to see us. Andy says he hopes he hasn’t just come to see us here. Doubtful. That would be silly indeed.

To my surprise the show goes pretty well. I guess the thing with Victims is that we end up somewhere between the crust, punk and hardcore crowds, which means that when we play these heavily niched shows we sometimes act as a welcome break. We probably still play to one of the smallest crowds of the festival, but there must be five or six hundred in by the midway part of the set and there are some mohawks flying around the empty semi circle in front of the stage. The sound on stage is a bit chaotic which makes it a little bit hard to totally commit to, but the crowd reaction is way better than I thought it would be. Johan took the merch afterwards and he says there was a long queue waiting for him when he got there. Sometimes you never know. I head over to see how he’s doing and en up watching most of the old New York HC band, Outburst, set. It’s pretty naff if I’m honest. The guitar sound is as dull as dishwater and after every song the old boy vocals bangs on about how punk rock they are. I don’t know, seems a bit lame. Of course, there are about fifteen hundred people watching them going mental, so what the fuck do I know?

It’s now officially over. We want to get going as soon as possible and the merch seems to be done. We’re driving three and a half hours tonight and then doing the rest tomorrow. There is nothing to do but suck it up. We grab a quick bit of dinner from catering before we go, as well as packing a bin bag full of Red Bulls, water and other snacks.

I drive the first two and a half hours, leaving is nervously close to emptying the tank of diesel before finally finding a twenty four hour place. I could not imagine the horror of being stranded in the middle of nowhere at this point. I saw the tank was getting low but then all of a sudden all the petty stations just seemed to disappear. It’s a relief to get into the hotel bed around two am. I just wish I’d be able to sleep in a bit longer than five and a half hours before continuing on the long road home tomorrow...

Saturday, November 2, 2019


Last night’s gig t-shirt proved itself to be only marginally better for drying myself off after a shower than a paper hand towel. I felt pretty well rested at least. Nice to have a lie in until nine-thirty, even if we knew we were risking being late tonight. The drives have been longer towards the back end of the tour, and we have the monster journey home on the horizon so need to store energy. After a pretty shabby breakfast in a thoroughly depressing grey canteen we hailed a cab back to the venue. We ended up with some little old boy who was full of chirp. Jon did a bit of talking with him. When he heard we were from Sweden he said something about Ingemar Stenmark, who was obviously a hero of his since he drove his cab in the same manner that Ingemar threw himself down the slopes.

The drive to Wermelskirchen was fucking tedious to say the least. Jon took a ride with the Svalbard guys today, so it was just the three of us. Johan and I taking turns at the wheel over the course of the eight hours it took. It was solemnly miserable weather, pissed down the whole way with pockets of fog as we went through the hills. I’m sure it would have been some nice sightseeing if you’d been able to see further than ten feet ahead at any point. The only thing of note we saw, apart from the odd stau, was a car completely engulfed in fire on the other side of the autobahn. Thankfully it didn’t seem like anyone was hurt. It’s times like these where you wonder to yourself what you’re doing here. Jen sent me a photo of Polly curled up on the sofa with popcorn, watching a film. I would have happily teleported myself there if I had the chance. Hits like these always have a bigger impact at the end of the tour, though. It was also a bit of a bummer that this was going to be the last show with Svalbard, and that they had to leave for Calais straight after their set. It would feel empty without them tonight. Only one more show to go, though. I’m ready for home now.

A couple of things immediately cheered me up upon arrival. First off Liam told me he’d stood in dogshit at their last break and the rest of the guys were livid with him stinking out the van, meaning they had to drive the last hour with the window open. The second thing was that Timo, the young punk booking the show, was very happy to greet us to the punk house where we were playing, and assuring us there was no stress. To top things off, the dinner they made for us was absolutely superb. By far the best of the tour. This was the perfect place to come after a long, dark old day in the van.

We let the local support band soundcheck whilst we loaded in and set up and then noshed into dinner. We played here back in 2011 on the A Dissident album shows and they still had the poster up in the gig room. Can barely remember it, though. Been some time since then. After dinner we hung out in the big bar room where we had the merch. It was a pretty cool setup with a pinball machine as well as foosball table. I played a game with the Svalbard guys, Serena and I taking the game home in a next-goal-the-winner thriller. Jon was glued to the pinball machine most of the night and taking it very fucking seriously. At one point we’re stood around watching him play and Rob points at something over Jon’s shoulder, which Jon irrittadely swipes away without breaking focus on the marbles.

An old acquaintance, Rob from Plastic Bomb, was here selling records on his distro. He’s a bit of a special case, has a constant smile on his coupon, even when he’s moaning. And he’s constantly on the flog. He was trying to sell me the original copy of Virgin Killer by Scorpions, the one with the fucked up cover with the young girl on it... Even for it’s time that was a pretty naughty piece of artwork. No wonder it got banned.

I felt a little emotional watching Svalbard tonight. I stand in the middle of the room and watch the entire set. They’re absolutely on fire, and the sound is magnificent. They smash every fucking note. The crowd are well in to them as well. I can tell that they all really enjoyed their gig tonight. I’m happy to hear from Liam afterwards that they’re going to stick around until after our set to say goodbye, which is really cool of him since it’s he that is doing the night drive. It would have been completely understandable had they left straight away. We’ve been in that position a few times.

Our show is a bit of a different experience. The room hasn’t quite filled back up by the time I go to start the long guitar intro to The Horse and Sparrow Theory. I shout across to Jon, asking if we’re ready and then I literally break a string with the first fucking note. There’s nothing to do but stop and change guitar and start again, which causes a ripple of laughs among the slowly expanding crowd. I guess it’s better to break on the first note than at the end of the forty second intro. We’re a bit sloppy during the show tonight, I think it must be tiredness playing it’s hand. Jon is struggling the whole gig with annoying feedback coming out of his monitor, with the sound engineer seemingly scoobied as to what’s causing it. The gig is saved by Serena making a guest appearance on This is the End, which gives everything a lift. Even if I do break another string during the end of the song. It feels like a good ending anyway, I could have left it there. The crowd hadn’t seemed that enthusiastic for most of the gig, barring a few punks dancing down front and one pissed up old boy jumping up stage and staying there for an age, so I’m surprised by the chanting for an encore. I borrow Jon’s guitar, Judas, for the last block of songs. Before we can get back on with things the old boy is back up and seemingly refusing to leave. He puts his arm around Johan, who encourages him to sing. He shouts “Victims in Blood!!!” into the mic, much to everyone’s amusement except Jon, who seems to be fuming over something.

When we finally come off, Jon is shouting about how Serena saved the gig and otherwise it was the worst gig he’d ever played and that he’s going to punch a German if one talks to him. We all laugh at him, but he’s on the warpath. This only encourages us. Jon’s humour abates only for the short while we spend hugging the Svalbard guys goodbye, gutted to see them leave. When they leave, Jon goes immediately back into wrath mode. I piss myself laughing when I clock Rob trying to talk to him and Jon dramatically gesticulating with his arms that he does not wish to be stopped to talk. Rob just looks at me with that usual big smile on his face, which just gets me laughing all the more.

We get packed down and leave the gear on stage for the morning since we’re sleeping upstairs tonight. Johan and I grab a much needed couple of cold brews and we stand around the merch table selling bits and bobs whilst talking to some very friendly punks. When we’re done we join Jon for a game of pinball but he’s still in a stinking mood. Poison Idea is blasting out of a speaker directly above the machine and he’s not amused in the slightest by Andy and Johan’s singing along to it. They only amplify the situation by blowing in his ears as he’s banging the table around. And then some punk asks us if it’s too late to buy a shirt I ask Jon if he can help the guy out since it appears to be my turn on the flipper, to which Jon closes his eyes and lets out an exaggerated sigh.When some older guy (someone about our age) comes up and asks for a photo with us all, we all happily oblige bar Jon, who silently backs away, staring us out as he does so. We manage to encourage Jon to come take a photo and stop being an arse, and I hear Jon asking Johan if the guy wanting the photo is the bastard who was blowing in his ear. He seems disappointed to hear that it was in fact Johan.

We leave Jon to it and head upstairs to finish off our beer in peace and quiet. A couple of the punks from the house are up there and want to know if we will party with them, but we politely explain that we’re goosed after the day we’ve had, which they are completely sympathetic about. And when we mention our plans for a trip into Köln tomorrow on the way to the festival in Eindhoven they give us some tips on what to do there. Our main intention is to see the cathedral and just do something in general that doesn’t involve being in the van all day. Shortly afterwards the big singer from the local band appears in the doorway to the dining room we’re sat in wearing just his kecks and a t-shirt, “I did not see you guys play tonight. I will catch you next time,” and then stoats off back to what I assume is his bed.

Jon joins us a little while later and is finally back to his old self, thank fuck. We sit around for a little while longer and then call it a day. Nice not to have the alarm set tomorrow. We have breakfast here and then a short drive lined up. Which is most welcome since we’re driving after the gig to a hotel in Bremen to break up the journey home a bit. I lie in bed reading The Idiot by Elif Batuman for a while before turning my phone lamp off. Jon is sat on the bed opposite me in the meditation position. It takes me a little while to nod off, knowing he’s sat there in the dark like a phantom.

Friday, November 1, 2019


The first thing I had to accomplish when waking up was how to navigate my way down from the eight foot high bunk bed I was in. And I was only on the second bunk of a tower of three. The top bunk was simply fucking lethal. I sat there trying to work out how to twist my body around the thick wooden ladder without destroying my back for ages, and then I spotted Johan lying on his bottom bunk, looking up at me laughing. The thing with being last to bed is that the best beds get taken.

The big friendly promoter had left us a bunch of breakfast materials in the little kitchen outside the sleeping room, and after a quick shower in the freezing cold bathroom, I enjoyed a cup of filter coffee that Jon had made. I was relieved to find that this place provided clean towels, too. At the hostel in Budapest yesterday there were none, and disappointingly, I’d realised that I’d misplaced the towel I’d bought with me somewhere along the road. I first tried drying myself off with the pillowcase but that just pushed the water around, and ended up using paper hand towels from the dispenser on the wall. Proper fucking rubbish.

We decided that we’d spend a couple of hours looking around the shopping mall before leaving for Munich, since the end of the tour was in sight and we needed to get something for our kids before going home. Can’t go away from the kids on tour and come home empty handed, it’s just part of the deal. The shopping mall in the old gas tower was pretty spectacular from the outside, but on the inside it was dying. It’s glory days were obviously long behind it and bankruptcy was in the post. Strange place. And a little depressing. Kind of wished we’d just taken the metro back into the city centre instead. There was an outlet store opposite the venue that, although equally depressing on the interior, was a bit more of a success on the kids present front. And the middle aged woman serving at the counter was chuffed as shit for some reason. She giggled the whole time we dealt with her, which cheered me up a good deal.

The drive to Munich was, not for the first time in my life, somewhat of a disappointment. The scenery along this highway can be quite amazing, with the Alps off on the horizons along stretches of it, but today it was so foggy and grey for the most part that you couldn’t see any of it. And then Liam texted from up ahead and said there was a big accident and a long detour. We managed to pull off the autobahn just in time, it would have been a nightmare getting stuck in it, but the parallel country lane we ended up on seemed to be infinite. I was very relieved to finally get back on the main road. Johan drove the last bit of the way into Munich and I sat there in the back of the van looking at the rush hour traffic we were crawling through, about an hour late for load in, and contemplating our losses. I really like the city of Munich, I was here a lot in the early days of touring and always had a great time, but today, we would be seeing nothing of it. It was always a tradition to go to the famous beer hall with the giant pretzels and beers and the oompah band, the one that was the infamous venue of Hitler’s beer hall putsch. I was a bit gutted that the tradition would be broken today. I hope I donät have to wait another eight years for the next opportunity. It kind of felt like we could have left earlier this morning and had a couple of hours here instead since we didn’t really do any more of Vienna this morning, anyway. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Liam texts saying they’ve just arrived and apparently the promoter is panicking a bit over our lateness, but when I meet the guy as we jump out of the van he is nothing but a broad, beaming smile. We’re a bit rushed, but it’s only us and Svalbard tonight, so the guys soundcheck and we sort our merch out. The slightly depressed feeling I had upon arrival, I think we’re all suffering a bit from weariness today, you can sense it in the tone in the van, dispersed as soon as I saw the room. It was small and we were playing on the floor. All of sudden I could feel the buzz again. From the sounds the promoter was making, it was going to sell out tonight, too. The tiredness was forgotten, rubbed out, just like that.

We had dinner in the house next door, this place, Sunny Red, is part of the whole Feirewerk cultural park. There were already people queuing up to get in, which felt promising. When we were here eight years ago, we played in the larger Orange Hall with Municipal Waste, but tonight there is a brass orchestra playing there, which means they’re taking the band apartment and we’re in some hostel a few kilometers away. Shame, since the apartment here was really nice. Still, the in house catering is banging and the vegan lasagne they’d made for us was absolutely beautiful.

It was another early show tonight, Svalbard on just after nine and everything done by ten-thirty. I went back over to our venue and found the room pretty packed already. The promoter told us there was only three tickets left on the door. From tired and slightly down to happy and buzzing in the space of an hour or so. On top of that, my really old friend Micha was just turning up. I met her through touring with Speedhorn back in the very early days, and we’ve been friends ever since. She’s one of the sweetest people you could meet, and always so happy and positive. When she comes walking through the door we laugh and embrace in a big bear hug. We haven’t seen each other since I was here last time, which sucks. But we stay in touch with each other and tell all about how it’s going with our families, etc. Micha met her husband Markus at a Speedhorn show in Essen in 2007, which is quite a thing. She was there to hang out with us and he was there to see Carnivore I guess. Still, just another nice little detail to add to our story. It was so great to see her. Her friend, although looking maybe a bit unsure of the cultural experience she was about to endure, was also really friendly, and we stood around talking about our kids and life in general. I only wish I had more time to catch up properly.

The show was by far the best of the tour so far. Berlin was great since it was a big venue and pretty full, and all the shows have been good, not a stinker anywhere in sight, but you just can’t beat a floor show for atmosphere. It kind of just runs itself. And when you’re playing in the crowd it just gives you a massive buzz. Although my body is starting to scream for home and getting back into some sore of exercise routine, the thirty odd minutes we played tonight just flew by, and I spent the entire time dancing around the space I had, singing along with the crowd at all the usual parts. Jon still went ahead with the barefoot routine, credit it to him. I noticed that part of his routine is that he takes them off during my long guitar intro at the start of the set. He knows what he’s doing. Cracked up yesterday when Liam told me that Jon had said to him at one of the gigs that the sub bass vibrating through the stage had given him an outer body experience and he felt he was being abducted by aliens. He’s on another plane from the rest of us sometimes. Love him to bits.

We don’t bother doing the mandatory break between set and encore, it would be silly to wade through the crowd, just to come back, so we blast through the quartet of old bangers and then call it a day, Jon encouraging everyone to take ahold of their lovers beside them and have a dance to This is The End. I’m floating after the gig for a while, and have a great time at the merch stall, selling and socialising. Johan is buzzing, too. He’d seemed a but quiet all day, but he’s now smiling like a toddler on Christmas morning as he fetches us a couple of beers. We aren’t moving the van anywhere tonight. It’s safer here than by the hostel, anyway, according to the happy promoter, who is telling me that the night was “Absolutely, kick ass amazing!” Chuffed.

Being All Hallows Eve, it’s a national holiday tomorrow, and we’re warned that the traffic on the autobahn is going to be a bit of a mare. It’s a six hour drive if all goes smoothly, so that’s my already wafer thin plan of getting up early and heading into the city for a quick walk around firmly quashed. The venue closes as soon as we’ve loaded the van and there are no bars open around here. Some other friends of ours, Claudia and Harry, who know Jon from Sayadina days, and were also big Speedhorn fans and came to the anniversary show last year, tell us there are some Halloween parties going on in town if we want a drink, but the thought of the drive tomorrow has put a bit of a cold wet flannel on things.

We’re told there is a bar at the hostel, but that turns out to be a disco in the basement and doesn’t entice in the slightest. Otherwise we’re just on a big long, faceless avenue, and the only thing in the immediate vicinity is a garage and a McDonalds. Johan and I head to the garage to get come crisps and I pick myself up a pretzel. We’re sharing an eight bunk room with Svalbard tonight, although Serena wisely takes her own room, since she knows the snore orchestra will keep her awake all night. We all sit around for a while and munch on snacks and enjoy an accompanying beer, although, the beer isn’t as enjoyable as the beautiful Pils I had directly after the show, the first one is always the best. The pretzel is the saltiest thing I’ve ever eaten, I can almost feel my liver shrivelling as it goes down. I give half of it to Serena who somehow manages to finish it off before agreeing it was indeed bizarrely salty.

Liam literally lies down on his bunk and begins to snore. I actually wonder if he’s joking, but Alex assures me he’s not. Sounds like a horse up there. And with that we decide it’s time for bed, and one after one, the snores join the choir. Serena made the right choice, sorting out her own room.