Sunday, October 10, 2021

Stockholm, Practice Space Show

It’s a couple of weeks shy of two years ago. We could never have imagined then what the future held in store. That it would be two years until we’d be together playing music to an audience again. Eighteen months ago we sat in this very practice room, an impromptu band meeting with Victims before we practiced the set, to decide on whether we should cancel the festival in Belgium we were booked on two weeks later. Things were beginning to get a little scary by that point. Up until that point we’d tried our best to ignore it, but then our booker Zoli mailed us with a simple question, “Guys, it’s time we confronted the elephant in the room. Covid.” It was an elephant in a room then. Even though it was by then absolutely rife in the north of Italy and a lot of people were beginning to die. We cancelled the Belgian festival out of fear of getting stranded in a foreign country. It still only felt like a slight risk, but it was enough of a risk for us to decide to call it off. The next day we announced publicly that we were cancelling the festival. There were a few groans written in reply, along the lines of “Oh not another cancelled band”. I remember Wattie from Exploited going out with a statement along the lines of how there were lots of “so called punk bands” cancelling gigs and tours for the sake of a cold and that he, as a true punk, would never cancel a gig. About two days later the festival was cancelled completely and the entire country of Belgium was in total lockdown. Country after country followed suit, except Sweden famously, and it would be another eighteen months until we’d play a gig. The year 2020 would be the first since 1994 in which I would not play a single show.

I remember the sadness I felt on the day of what would have been that festival, thinking about what an absolute feeling of elation it would be when we’d finally take to that stage and play to people again. It wasn’t quite elation tonight, it wasn’t quite a festival stage abroad, but it still felt pretty fucking magic. Our practice room turned out to make for a pretty fucking great gig space. It’s been our sanctuary since everything turned upside down. If we hadn’t had this place to hide away and play music I don’t know how I would have coped. Society didn’t lock down here in the same way it did in many other places, but everyday life still changed dramatically. Being able to get together and play in the practice space was by no means a given. Victims couldn’t practice since Johan was working from home in Nyköping, and we couldn’t really claim to have a Victims bubble. Instead we created a bubble with A\\VOID. And being that there were seven of us, it wasn’t always a given that we could rehearse as a complete entity very often. In fact, before this show tonight, we’d only ever played together as a whole band three times. Three times in the space of eighteen months. In this practice space. Even the recording of the album was done in staggered phases. Still, it was A\\VOID that kept us going. As Andy said, “If we hadn’t started this band when we did I would have gone insane by now.” Family is the most important thing in my life, of course, but creating and playing music isn’t far behind. I knew exactly what Andy meant. I’m happy we started this band together. We certainly talked about it long enough.

Being that Covid restrictions hadn't been lifted entirely yet, this gig would prove to be a couple of weeks too early for that, we were limited to the amount of people we could invite. So it was more like a private party with around forty people plus bands. And being that it was both ours and our practice room buddies Neutra’s first show, it felt kinda like a celebration. A celebration of releasing our new bands into something concrete, a celebration of life slowly getting back to normal again.

Funny how some things feel normal straight away. Andy had already shifted most of the extra gear and equipment that we weren’t using tonight towards the back or out of the room, whilst Erik, Bea, Vik and Patrik buy beer and booze from Systemet. Of course, leaving Erik in charge of the booze situation you know he’s not just gonna stick to the decided amount of crates of beer. I’m not surprised in the slightest to see a few boxes of wine, bottles of bubbly and a couple of bottles of Jagermeister in the back of Patrik’s car. “Its supposed to be a party for fuck sakes!” he remonstrates as I stand there smirking at him.

We soundcheck each other’s bands, everyone helping out to get levels sorted. We have the set up now in gig mode as opposed to the practice circle set up and I had no idea how it was going to sound this way, but with all the other stuff removed from the room there’s not as much ricochet in the room, so it sounds nowhere near as chaotic as I’d feared it might. In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that it sounds great! After Neutra soundcheck Bea tells me that she’s literally shaking with nerves, just playing in front of us. This will be her first ever gig. I’m so happy for her, almost jealous of that buzz I know she’s going to be on after they’ve played later. I remember my first time when I was sixteen years old like it was yesterday. I was nervous for about a month before my first gig, could barely sleep the few nights leading up to it, and then have never felt so high as I did after it. Adrenaline is an amazing rush. Music is an amazing rush. I’m so glad I found it when I was a kid in Corby. How the fuck would my life had turned out if I hadn’t?

After soundcheck we head over to our regular bar in Midsommarkransen, Tre Vänner. Well,Tre Vänner is normally where we have a drink before practice. And if we have one after we head to the Swan. Erik is no stranger to both, and he’s already buzzing about the after party later. We all sit down to dinner at Tre Vänner, everyone except Martin who is working until around five. It’s the first time I’ve actually ever eaten there. I’d stayed behind to finish stringing my guitar, and when I arrive at the pub I’m greeted by a table full of pints. Proper pint pots with the handle and all. I could devour one in seconds, but have to contain myself since I really can’t drink before shows anymore. I have a sip of Patrik’s, just to experience the taste of the golden elixir, and then order a perfectly good non alcoholic Pale Ale. The food is pretty decent too. The usual barmaid is there and she always enjoys the crack with us but she’s not used to us all dining in the place. She treats us all to free coffee afterwards.

It’s only around two by the time we’re done with the grub and we’re now left in the familiar scenario of having a few hours to kill before “doors”. I remember this now, it’s all coming back, it’s just like being on tour again. Except we’re in our home town and going for a walk around would just feel daft, just plodding about Midsommarkransen. We joke about wishing we had a van with us that we could sit outside the venue in, and then someone makes a crack that we could sit in Pigge’s car and drive it over to the garage to buy shitty snacks. We end up just heading back to the room and laze around for a couple of hours. Vik watching Djurgården on his phone, me watching Liverpool on mine with Gill kind of hovering around over my shoulder, both me and Viks making grunts and groans at the game whilst Erik lays on his back on the floor in the corner having a power nap. All the while a playlist from Andy’s old iPod he’d just dug up the other day rolls along in the background.

When the footy is over and it’s almost time to get things going I decide to put my amp on, some obscure old ritual about warming the amp up before the gig. I don’t really know if this is an actual thing but it’s something I’ve always done. I decide I’ll let it warm up during the Neutra set. NOTHING. What the fuck? Now it really does feel like we’re on tour again. The proper fucking genuine experience: Amp sounds great during soundcheck. Amp no longer turns on right before gig. Now this is something I haven’t missed. That 0 to 100 on the old stress scale because all of a sudden your amp is fucking dead. Unbelievably it turns out the actual power switch has broken, hence the no power. Unreal. What are the odds? Thankfully Bea is on hand to save the day and lends me her amp, which is another Fender, similar to mine. As happy as I am for that, it still bugs the shit out of me that my amp broke.

Before long people are streaming in through the door and Erik, with help of our friend's kid Rufus, are pouring complimentary glasses of bubbly as they arrive. Nice touch, Erik. The smiles on every one of the faces that enter the room are a joy to behold. I was at my friend’s Ragnar and Danne’s book release party a couple of weeks ago and it was the same then. It’s as if we’ve all been let out of some invisible prison and we’re all taking tentative steps out into freedom again. If this is what it’s like here, I can only imagine what it must have been like in places like Italy and the UK where there were full-on lockdowns. Actually, I imagine the steps there were not so much tentative as a thundering stampede.

As Neutra starts their set and I look around our completely transformed practice space I can’t help wondering why we never did this before. It’s not just that we’ve been starved of live music and culture this last eighteen months, we’ve been starved of music spaces like this in Stockholm for a long time. Our friend Henke is in my ear saying how much we should make this a regular thing, that it’s so fucking nice not to have to stand at a bar for twenty minutes making puppy dog eyes at the bartender, desperate to be noticed, desperate to be served. Lucas is moaning that we should have done this ages ago, and that he said this very same thing many times during the time his band Vidro shared the space with us. Maybe it takes a pandemic for us to get our shit together, I don’t know, Neutra have their shit together anyway. They play a great set and the sound is spot on. It’s so fun watching Bea play, I don’t know if it’s the case or not, but she doesn’t look nervous in the slightest, she’s just there looking cool as shit. It’s great seeing Viktor play drums again, too. After spending six or so years playing with him in DB, where he just played stupidly fast all the time, it’s incredible to see what a brilliant, unique drummer he is. You can certainly hear his jazz heritage coming through more in Neutra’s stuff, than it did with DB. I’m psyched to play by the time they’re done. It should be fun to see how people like it since what we do is completely different.

Whilst Erik and Patrik take five before getting into gear for their second set of the night, I try and get a sound that works for me out of Bea’s amp. Patrik soon comes to my aid anyway. Once I’ve got it as close as possible to my Twin Reverb sound, we level check Martin’s sax through the PA and then get going. We start with a new song, which amuses me just thinking about it, since we haven’t released the first record properly yet, and this our first gig. Thing is though, we already have the second album written and ready to record in January, and if this last eighteen months had been anywhere near normal we would have played our first show about twelve months ago. The two songs we’ve released in public so far have been heavier, so I like that we open with a “new one”, Autonomia, which is a lot mellower. It’s not until about four minutes into the second song, A Black and White Sky, that things get heavier. By that point any sort of nerves have dispersed, not that I had many, but it’s always a little bit special playing a first show with a brand new band that nobody has heard yet. Our friend Ika grabs my leg at some point during the second song as she’s crouched down taking photos and shouts, “This is so fucking good!”

The rest of the set floats by in a happy cloud. I can see most people are really enjoying it and it really feels like after eighteen months of regular practice, we deliver exactly as I hoped we would, which given that we’ve only ever practiced with the full constellation three times, comes with a bit of relief. It could easily have fallen flat on its arse. The set ends on an apocalyptic high with Erik on the floor, fiddling with his pedals, as the rest of us blast away at the end of When the Wind Blows, until Erik joins back in with his guitar for the last two bars. Totally thought out by Erik, even if he makes it look spontaneous. He’s always been the showman. Although to be fair, he’s exactly the same even when it’s just us in the practice space. He’s always been the same. He genuinely loves playing music and his energy never wanes.

After the gig our friend Hjalmar, who is a bear of a man, grabs me and licks my face. I guess the pandemic really is over… Judging by the blue tone of his lips he’s been on the red wine, but he’s ecstatic about the gig. He just keeps repeating “Roadburn” over and over, saying we have to play there. I tell them that if he can fix that for us then I’d be delighted. I love the big guy, he’s the same as Erik, fanatical about music. In Hjalmar’s case, slow, heavy music especially. Henke liked it too, although he admits he’d been skeptical beforehand, “I was thinking with three guitars and blah blah, it was going to be some boring Mogwai shit. But I really liked it. You guys should play more of the fast stuff like that one you have with the Stooges piano bit on it, though!” That made me think of two things. First, I love Mogwai, although this didn’t feel like the right time to tell Henke this. And second, I was pretty proud of Pigge being able to hammer that chord on the synth for around the four minutes the song lasts, considering he just had half a fucking rib removed a couple of months beforehand. Fucking legend.

I head over to where Jen is standing with Alma and Mattsson, and they’re all smiles. Alma said she had no idea we were doing this film music stuff, and that she absolutely loved it. Mattsson, obviously a little bit sauced as well, tells me his review of the band is “Hawkwind on heroin.” I tell him I’ll gladly take that, whilst wondering to myself if Hawkwind actually did take heroin? Or was it LSD? Or meth?... Anyway, glad they all liked it.

We hang around and chit chat, mingle for a while, before we decide to call it time. We’d put on the flyer that proceedings were to be between 5pm and 8pm. Again, something that can happily stay permanently as a new normal as far as I’m concerned. Erik is itching to get the after party going at the Swan pub around the corner, and with the lights on, and is walking around the room shouting the news, but it’s to little effect. “It feels like nobody is listening to me Gaz.” A few minutes later, he starts shouting again, “After party at the Swan! Please, fuck off!” He happens to be right in the ear of Big Matte, one of Vik’s old football firm mates, which makes me laugh. Matte laughs at him and carries on. We do eventually clear the room, and after a quick clear up, we get going ourselves.

Andy, Vik and I lag behind and by the time we get to the pub, the place is heaving. It’s karaoke night. Gill and Pigge have taken a seat outside underneath the heater, it looks absolutely perfect, and I’m making eyes at Gill’s pint of stout. I’m a little surprised when the bouncer engages us and asks us how we’re feeling. For one, I’ve never seen bouncers here before, and for two, by the look of things through the window, it’s absolutely raging inside, and for three, I’ve only drunk two people’s beers. He tells us it’s full inside, but we reason with him that we’re in the same company as Gill and Pigge and we only want to sit outside. Reluctantly the sour-faced bouncer lets us in. A couple of minutes later a sweaty, goggle-eyed Erik practically falls out of the door to greet us, telling us he’s up on the karaoke soon. He’s obviously hit the sauce full on since he got here thirty minutes ago. It appears also that Sour Face is only concerned with what’s going on out here, and that once you’re inside the pub it’s no holds barred.

After the first pint we head inside, Sour Face seemingly no longer arsed with us. There are about twenty or so of us from the gig inside, and the atmosphere is pretty wet. Henke is at the bar asking Andy how things in Nyköping are, Andy tells him he hasn’t lived there for seventeen years. Erik is steamboats and hopping about with anticipation at his slot on the karaoke. He tells me about five or six times he’s gonna be doing Whole Lotta Rosie. Right then Bea and Erik’s girlfriend are up, doing Whitney Houston. After that some trainspotter looking guy does a very serious China Girl by Bowie, which sets me and Gill on what a great fucking album Let’s Dance is. Then it’s Erik. And exactly as expected, he’s up on the chairs and tables, screaming along to the words, only catching about every third or fourth line. It’s all about the show. “Total poseur” comments Patrik. We all agree. We all agree we love him to bits though. He certainly gets the place rocking. The bartender looked horrified at first but when the entire pub, even all the old farts in the corner, are up on their feet clapping, he’s soon smiling. Shortly after he’s finished the tune he’s talking to the bartender about us playing a gig there.

Erik is soon on the shots and insisting on buying us a round. I tell him I’m good, as he well knows it, I don’t do shots any more, haven’t done for years, although Erik will always try me, so he takes mine himself. He’d bought four of them, and Gill and Andy were with him when he made the order, so I assumed he was buying with them in mind, but the shots seem to go elsewhere. Gill decides to buy himself one, and then immediately afterwards declares it as a complete waste of money. He was about to head home anyway, and just sort of shakes his head and makes to leave. I’m close to joining him since we live in the same part of town, but decide to stay for one more pint.

Our friend Kalle Blix, the doctor, is pretty blasted. Haven’t seen him for a while. He tells me how much he loved the gig. He also tells me how boats he is. He will end the night checking into a hotel in the center of town at four am. since he will realise that he’s forgotten the keys to his parents house, and his wife and kids are on Åland, where he now lives. This will be after first being taken care of by some guards at the station who tell him he’s too drunk and should accompany him in their car. “I’m an adult man, and a doctor!” he will decry. Fucking nightmare.

It is just the one more and then it’s time to head home. It’s only eleven and I’ve only had three pints plus the two peoples beers. I can still tell that I’m going to be feeling it tomorrow though. Not drunk in the slightest, but can almost feel the hangover already kicking in as I put myself to bed around half past one. Still, it was nice to finally play a gig again. I can’t wait for more. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021


We began writing new material for Victims at the start of 2020. We were planning to record four songs and maybe release a split 7” with our friends Svalbard, who we'd just toured Europe with a few months earlier. When everything got cancelled Victims also came to a halt. With Johan now furlonged and no longer commuting to Stockholm from Nyköping we stopped rehearsing, stopped writing, stopped everything.

Things felt pretty fucking dire for a while. They still do now and again. But those first few weeks felt pretty apocalyptic. I had planned three weeks off whilst in between jobs and had dreamed of taking time for myself, pottering about in the city in the daytime, visiting museums, doing some toursting in my own town. Instead I pretty much lay on my bed for three weeks reading since it was the only place in our flat I could block out the sound of Jen’s endless Zoom meetings as she herself adapted to the new reality of home working. If I wasn’t laid up in bed reading about the Russian Revolution, which was strangely comforting in the sense that reading about crises from times past made me realise that we humans have gone through tough and tragic events many times over, that this situation we’re in now isn’t unique and frankly as bad as the poor sods in 1917 had it, then I was watching the news for the latest updates on the spread of the virus. When I went to the local shop and saw the empty shelves it really did feel like we were heading into a war.

A few weeks later Andy and I spoke about starting that “slow band.” We’d spoken about it many times before. We’d even gotten as far as practicing with a couple of different constellations. We practiced as a three piece with Luc from DB/Vidro a couple of times before it fizzled out. Jen played with us a couple of times too, but nothing really came of it. But with the onset of a pandemic and Victims being temporarily on hiatus, it felt like if ever it was to be then now was the time.

I don’t know if it was all the spare time, or if it was the impending doom all around, but I started writing pieces of music immediately. Every time I picked up a guitar at home something new came out. It felt easy and natural. And since we’d decided that we wanted to make some kind of instrumental, cinematic music, it felt liberating not being constrained by standard song structures with verse/chorus and where are the vocals gonna go? I had just re-entered a phase of listening to Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor again, as well as the Swedish jazz band Tonbruket, and all this was swirling around my head as I sat and plonked on Jen’s beautiful ‘75 sunburst Les Paul at home.

With ideas flowing I found myself getting pretty excited about things. Now Andy and I had to find some people to play with us. I knew I wanted it to be a large constellation, make it a kind of collective, with lots of different instruments. Having played previously in Battle of Santiago, a band with three guitarists, I fancied trying that setup out again. I’d loved the idea of three guitars ever since seeing Sonic Youth perform that way when Kim Gordon went over to guitar on the Washing Machine album. And with that idea firmly in mind we decided Erik from Battle of Santiago/Mary’s Kids would be a natural choice. He’s a great guitarist, very unique, and one of my oldest friends. We had a great time playing together in BOS and Rowdy Ramblers before that, and it always felt like we would play together again sometime. He said yes without a moment’s hesitation.

I asked Gill to join as third guitarist as we were squatting in the swimming pool at Sandsborgs Simhall, keeping an eye on our daughters as they played about in the shallow end. Gill had moved here from Edinburgh with his family three years earlier, having gotten a job with Spotify and fancying a move abroad. Data analyst or something. His daughter was in the same class as Polly and Jen had got speaking to him one day at pick up. A few months later we’d begun hanging out a bit after discovering we had a mutual love for a lot of the same music. Gill had played bass in a band called Broken Records who had released a couple of albums on 4AD, he said they sounded a bit like Arcade Fire, as well as guitar in a folk band called The Douglas Firs. It had been seven years since he’d last played with anyone and he had mentioned before how he missed it. He was also in without having to think too long about it.

For the first couple of months it was just the four of us. No bass. It began as naturally as it would continue. We set up the amps, tuned in, and Erik started playing some riff. It was a simple, driving sort of thing. We didn’t discuss it, we just played along, jamming it. It didn’t sound anything like the stuff I’d been writing at home, it sounded more like Neu! I really liked it, though. And what was most pleasing was how easily the other three of us fell into it. The three of us on guitar noticeably had different styles of playing but we seemed to be complimenting each other as opposed to fighting each other. I was playing the backbone of the thing, mechanical and structured, Gill is full of melody and intricate picking, whilst Erik is just out there doing his own chaotic thing. From the very first moment Andy and I could tell it was working. It was a nice feeling. Something to feel positive about amidst all the negativity outside the practice space.

I began introducing my material and that in turn began setting the broader tone and theme of the band. Dark, apocalyptic sounding music, each christened with a pretentious title based on sociology and politics. I liked the idea of having a political band with no lyrics, just song titles that reference something I find interesting. Often something I’ve read about in a book somewhere. Although I was writing most of the stuff, I was only providing the basic ideas, the other three would come up with parts to put on top that I could never have begun to conceive of. It became clear from the beginning that we would not restrain this band with rules, that we would be open to everything. By the time we had three of four pieces of music in the making we began looking for more members.

For a long time we had the idea of having Erik’s friend Aurelie playing synthesizer and piano. I knew Aurelie from when she played records at the bar I used to run. I hadn’t met her in years, though. I liked the idea of the band having several nationalities. For a long time it seemed Aurelie would join us, but unfortunately for us she was constantly busy. For a while she was performing some sort of art installation in Lithuania, which was telling of how her schedule looked. She seemed to be into the idea of playing with us but simply never had the time. And then we heard she was stuck in Lithuania due to restrictions being what they were. In the meantime we’d asked Patrik to play bass with us. He played third guitar in Santiago and is an all round superb musician. He’s played in loads of bands, varying instruments between bass, guitar and drums. He’s one of those that only needs to hear a song once and then he’s on it. He knows music. He knows where all the notes go without having to be told, or look at what he’s doing. Unlike myself.

After nine months or so, with the odd pause for a few weeks here and there when the virus caused the government to take tougher restrictions, we were nearing a complete album’s worth of material. Aurelie told us that she wasn’t going to be able to be part of things, she simply didn’t have the time. We turned to Pigge, another synth wizard, who was delighted to hop onboard. He’d played Fender Rhodes and sang in The Worthy, in which Patrik played drums, which was a kind of soulful 60’s sounding pop-rock band. Pigge and Patrik later played together in a jazz prog band called Sly. We had two or three practices with Pigge before he recorded his parts on the record. He's another one of those who understands the theory of music and what key shit is in etc. Stuff that is totally lost on me. Patrik and Pigge would laugh about how everything I wrote was in E or A. I still don't get it. There is simply a certain section of the guitar neck I like the sound of.

Martin Savage had already joined on saxophone, and likewise he’d only practiced two or three times with us before recording. His approach to things was simply, “I’ll just toot over everything and you can cut out/keep whatever you want”. We kept about 95% of it.

During the course of the year or so we’ve been playing, all but Gill have had a dose of Covid-19, which is quite strange considering his wife works in a school and the schools have stayed open here. Our first attempt at the studio was cancelled due to Stefan Löfven calling a press conference a couple of days before, announcing that Sweden was enforcing its toughest restrictions yet. It didn’t really feel like the time to be going into the studio. The government said we should limit our gatherings to four people. There were seven in the band. A week later I got infected with Covid at work.

It was gut wrenching then, postponing the studio. It was the only thing we’d had to look forward to all winter. And now the darkness was coming and the second wave was hitting. It was a miserable period. The music we’d been making certainly felt fitting for the times we were living in. The situation gave time for reflection, nonetheless. I realised, as disappointed as I was about not recording then, starting the band and having such a creative streak this last nine months had kept my spirits up considerably. It made me realise how important music still is to me. As well as A\\VOID, as Andy had now christened us, I was also playing guitar on some recordings a hardcore band my friend in Barcelona had started up. Completely remote. Very Covid. But that’s another story. Anyway, what this time has taught me, is that all I need in life is my family and music. And football. Even if it is crap without fans. And books. And I’m good. A job I enjoy helps, too. I don’t need much, is what I’m saying. Although I can’t survive without music in my life.

It was a lot of fun, recording the first album/record/twelve inch/whatever it will be. We already have a second one of those written, which felt kind of strange, going into the studio to record a first album with a whole other bunch of material waiting in the wings. And we haven’t even played a show yet. Don’t even really know when we’ll be able to. Linus, who recorded and mixed the songs, thought it was hilarious that we played this dark apocalyptic music whilst being the biggest bunch of goofs he’d ever met. Every second that wasn’t filled with music was filled with arseing around and laughter. It feels like we have a good thing going.

What happens next I don’t know. Hopefully some shows. Hopefully a physical release of our songs. It’s a bit trickier when the music we’re playing is outside of our normal hardcore/punk bubble. But if we don’t find anyone to release it then we'll do it the hardcore/punk way and release it ourselves.

Here’s the first song on the album, with images borrowed from Jan Svankmejer's film The Fall of the House of Usher.

The title is taken from Raymond Briggs' animated book of the same name. It depicts, in haunting fashion, the fate of an old aged English couple, living ignorantly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear bomb. I had the images of their innocent faces, slowly greying as they sat around drinking tea, whilst I played around with the main riff of the song. It’s quite reflective of a lot of the thoughts that have been floating around in my head this last year or so.

When the Wind Blows:

Saturday, May 15, 2021

I Just Can't Turn It Off

Next week I turn 43 years old. I started my first band when I was 13. 30 fucking years ago. I haven’t not been in a band during that time. There have been times when I’ve felt like stopping, but that has never gone beyond the stage of muttering to myself that maybe it’s time to give it in. The fact is, being in a band is a huge part of my identity. For a long time, it was my only identity. Now there are other aspects of my life that are vying for the position of “Who am I?”. Parent. Social worker. Book nerd… But when I was sat eating dinner with my friend Gill and his family, Gill plays guitar in our new band A\\VOID, and Jen, discussing the bands we’ve played in, it hit me just how fucking long I’ve been doing this, and for how long music has been the dominating element in my life. My life has almost entirely revolved around music. Quite a thing.

Things have evolved and adapted over the years, of course they have. That’s only natural. I don’t spend five or six hours of a day listening to music anymore. I don’t have the time. I’m maybe down to one or two hours a day, when out walking the dog or biking to work. Although podcasts have taken over a lot of that time, too. I still get a buzz when I begin on a project, though, normally in the guise of taking on a band’s entire discography and listening through in chronological order. Sonic Youth, Jesus Lizard, Tonbruket, Black Flag, Fugazi, Mogwai, David Bowie, Brainbombs, Shellac and Iron Maiden (up to Fear of the Dark), have been some of the latest projects. But listening to music doesn’t take anywhere near as large a chunk of my waking hours as it used to, as it did up until about seven years ago. Incidentally about the time we had Polly and I began studying again.

But one thing has not changed since I was 13. And I realised as I was talking about it at dinner this weekend that this thing is the reason that I’m still playing music after all these years. Playing live has always been a big part of the rush, as has touring and journeying all over the world, playing to new people, making new friends, absorbing new sights and cultures. Touring, though, especially the way we do, has become more a physical and mental strain with age. I still absolutely love it, don’t get me wrong, I love the adventure of it, but the length of time on the road I can handle in one stretch has reduced dramatically these last ten years or so. It’s not just that it’s physically tiring, it’s also hard being away from my daughter for more than ten days or so, especially at the age she is right now. When she’s older things might change again, who knows.

All this being said, something else quite staggering hit me as we were on this subject. 2020, the Vile year of our Lord, was the first year since 1994 where I didn’t play a single live show. That made me think about a lot of things, and I’ll probably write another post about that.

The thing is, whilst the attraction of touring for months on end no longer exists, I’m still, after all these years, playing in bands. Three right now as a matter of fact. Four, if you count D?B!, which you probably shouldn’t. But there is Victims, A\\VOID and Nubenegra. So, if not touring, what is there? Well, I assumed a few years back that what kept me playing in bands was the issue of Identity. Since I was 13 it’s been “who I am”. If I didn’t play in bands there would be a huge hole in my life, a massive part of me would be lost. And holding on to that for that reason is purely based on fear of changing. But that’s not why I’m still playing in bands. I have other aspects to my identity now, aspects mentioned above, that I’ve fully embraced. The reason I’m still playing in bands is because the need to create music, to make things out of thin air, to produce things and put them out into the world, no matter the scale of it, is something I can’t simply turn off.

Maybe one day it will no longer be there. But until then, I will continue to play and write music with other people. That could be next year, it could be when I’m 70, who knows?

But as it is, right now, it’s still an obsession that has a hold over me.

When one of my bands has a new record on the go, whether it’s Victims where Johan has been writing most of the music recently, or A\\VOID where I’ve been the main writer, the new songs we’re playing around with orbit around my head for months on end. I play them over in my head from start to finish. I do it when out and about in town, out with the dog, lying in bed at night in the short space of time between putting my book down and falling asleep.

As in the case with A\\VOID right now, I’ve been in a long period of inspiration, thinking about new songs, writing something every time I pick up a guitar at home, it just seems to be flowing out of me. It’s truly like a spring that’s been tapped and I can’t help but drink from it. And at almost 43 years old, 30 years after being given my first guitar as a Christmas present, this still has me as excited now as it did then. Without wanting to sound cheesy as shit, it makes me feel alive, creating music. As long as making music makes me feel this way, I’ll most likely keep on keeping on with it.

In the midst of everything that has been completely and utterly shit during this pandemic, starting up A\\VOID and being asked to play guitar in Nubenegra has kept me sane during what otherwise has been a down period for Victims. Of course, my family, my job and all that, they give me meaning in my life, but making music, I realised maybe more than ever during this last year, is simply something I can’t live without. It’s not even a question of will, it’s simply something I can’t turn off.

As I write this, I dare to hope that the light at the end of this tunnel we’ve all been in, truly is the end of the tunnel, and not an oncoming train. I hope that in a few months time we might just be able to start opening up society again, as it should be, and start playing shows again. And then maybe I’ll have something to start writing about on here again.