Saturday, November 29, 2008

If It's Leeds, We Can Kill It

There was nothing to indicate that tonight's show was going to be anything other than a nightmare. It was mean cold from the time of our arrival and the club management at Rio's were real scumbags and basically attempted to extort money from the tour package for standard amenities. They didn't have anyone present to help cart all the gear up the stairs and they jerked us around about just about everything. Combined with another night of low presales, we weren't looking forward to the show in any respect. Gorgoroth had a lot of problems with sound check so the whole show started almost an hour late and we all had to cut our sets shorter. Rio's is one of those clubs that turns into a disco room the minute the live show is over, so we had a tight cut off time. We were feeling hurried and reticent to face what we expected would be a thin audience. Imagine my surprise when we marched out on stage to a full house. We ended up bashing out a superb set and the crowd carried our energy with no reservations. It was brilliant, plain and simple. Gaahl said that he enjoyed the particularly angry sound we had tonight. I cannot count the times we came into a situation like this where we were expecting nothing but letdowns and it turned into an excellent evening. All the same, it's not a lot of fun getting to that point. Gorgoroth went over huge but due to the time constraints of the club they had to play a truncated set. This went over badly with some punters in attendance and they gathered outside in an angry cluster demanding answers. They finally realized Gorgoroth wasn't about to answer for it and took off.Take it up with Rio's, kiddos. We're in the center of a large club district so I wandered up the street and ended up being stopped here and there by random folks who wanted to quiz me about where I was from and the like. I'm always wary in places like this; it's hard to tell if it is a ruse for a mugging or some other hooliganism. I ended up getting some of the most disgusting kebab ever and then hung out on the icy bus with various band personnel. It was not an easy night, but it was a good one in the end.

PS We ended up trapped in front of the venue by a car parked to close to the bus' front end. Iain of Artisian and The Carcass went out and tried to wrench it out of the way. The fact that they even managed to hoist it on their own was impressive. It still didn't grant us passage but finally the bemused owner showed up to move it. Not a moment too soon. This bus is getting pretty zoological with drunks now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Alive With Utter Contempt

Newport was a more of what I was expecting from Nottingham in terms of grime and drabness. The swampy rain didn't help things much, and I broke my promise to myself regarding going to sleep earlier as it was King's birthday and we ended staying up and listening to the brand new unfinished Gorgoroth album. So after a night of uneven sleep and anxious tour-related nightmares I woke up feeling pretty rotten. Fortunately there was a very good cafe next to the venue with a wide array of food. The Carcass, King, and I all had chocolate shakes. The backstage was truly weird- it was up two flights of stairs that looked like a set up for a Chevy Chase pratfall; the staircase was utterly dark until the second landing was reached at which time a motion sensitive light came on. I was expecting someone to fall in the course of the night but it didn't happen. The stairs led to a rooftop patio that was covered in a mess of tarps that recalled “28 Days Later” (much like the town itself), and then led into a second floor kitchen and sitting room. the whole place struck me like a squat. It was musty and cold. There was also an unattended dark bedroom on the third floor that had no working light and seemed to resonate with some sort of unnameable menace. I stepped into the center of the room, closed my eyes, and was overtaken by a dark vibration that made the floor seem to shift and gave me vertigo. I stumbled out with a terrible nausea that did not abate until I made it back down to the kitchen. No vacancy.

The turnout was actually just fine despite the low presales. I wish I could say the same about our set. I don't like to be one of those musicians who forever bemoans performances but in this case we had a hard time in large part due to the overloud drum monitor. The Carcass couldn't hear anything because his ear was being blasted apart by the volume so we had a few moments where we felt completely lost in the weeds. The audience wasn't bothered by it so in the end it mattered little. We signed a few posters and met even more adherents of “Homecoming's March”. It seems we need to think about reincorporating some of those songs back into our set. Gorgoroth was good tonight, but they remain pretty consistent from one night to the next. Back on the bus now. Everyone has their laptops out because we're still getting a signal from the club. Sleeping soon- the jet lag doesn't want to let go.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Knotted Ham

Despite the descriptions of Nottingham being a post-nuclear version of Sao Paulo populated exclusively by chuds, I found the city center to be vibrant and well-appointed. I wish more American cities had town squares flanked with venerable buildings; it is a great way to get an impression of a place. The Rock Bar was actually a huge and good-looking establishment with I think 3 venues of various sizes inside. There were service tunnels and hallways that connected everything so it was easy to move around from room to room. The attendance for the show was actually just fine- over 100 people. However, they were one of those odd crowds that mostly stand there and stare and then give a cheer at the end of each song as if there was a lit “applause” sign on the wall. No matter- they were all up front and watched us play a good set so it is not as if our time was wasted. I am not staying up until morning again tonight. It's hard not to want to stay up in the front of the bus and talk to Gaahl. His life has been interesting to say the least. The Carcass seems to be completely healthy again, which gives us all the idea that something in his house is the cause of his illness. He'll have a lot of investigating to do when he gets home. We have our London transportation secured so finally I can stop making frantic phone calls and emails. We did not want to have to spend the night in a train station with a pile of gear. My lower back is on fire. My bunk and I cannot reach accord for whatever reason and I awaken with knots in my spine that show me no quarter come show time or load out.


Glasgow turned out to be a great show. We ended up doing “Vomitorium Angelis” with no vocals due to a technical issue with the microphone but then went on to play an otherwise vicious set to a very good crowd. This was a well-needed win on our part. The first three shows are usually somewhat hectic for us because we are still warming to our set and there are so many new variables to absorb. This club should have been called Sweaty's Room of Sticky and Wet Surfaces; loading out was gross. In any case, I was glad for tonight. We enjoyed having the people of Glasgow yelling at us instead of nearby us. It seems like the 3-day doldrums are just a fact of life at the start of any tour, but I'm glad they are behind us.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Scottish Hell (?)

We got across on the ferry to Scotland with no trouble. Leading up to that Sanguine, Paul of Zeb Crowe and I stayed up until 6am talking with Gaahl again. He has a sage and almost shamanic countenance that make time slip by in the course of the conversation. I am starting to realize why bands on tour tend to drink so much- there are intervals where everyone is packed on the bus for hours at a time with nowhere to go and the imperative to keep one's wits drops to nothing. I'm fine with good conversation and sleep myself. The brakes on the bus weren't working right so we ended up in a garage to have them adjusted. We grabbed a dubious burger at a neighboring stand served by a friendly Scotsman and now we are headed in to Glasgow to park at the club. The sun went down at 3:45pm so I guess I have a lot more of that to anticipate in Scandinavia. I think I'm still on a US sleeping schedule so I'll have to break it once I hit Oslo. Now in Glasgow - Merel, Garguf, Sanguine, and I decided to check out the city and have some dinner. It was a good time out and nice to have a chance to walk around. This seems like a nice city, though I'm told Edinburgh is even better. It definitely has more of a pulse compared to the post-combat austerity of Belfast. This tour is a sacrifice for us in some ways in that there is very little money in it. We are glad for the opportunity and experience of it all but this type of outing is not without its challenges and the price of even simple sundries is really expensive at the moment.

Now- stayed near the bus all night. People in Glasgow tend to yell a lot. Gaahl drank four bottles of champagne and six tall cans of beer and was still standing. We're in the club in Glasgow now, no idea how it will go. I had to rearrange our passage to London and it is kind of a mess at the moment. The uncertainty is unwelcome.

Protest and Survive

Belfast turned out to be a good show despite the disgusting wet weather. I came into the venue desperate for food and Jennifer the promoter was kind enough to drive me into town to McDonald's (this is desperation in a nutshell). On the way in she pointed out many sites of “the troubles” in Belfast and as we arrive in the city center I learned that the main open air market used to have armed guards and security checkpoints just to go shopping. The tension of those years was not evident as I went in to order food, but it is hard to imagine living like that for any reason, much less because of internecine Christian fanaticism. Speaking of which, we did indeed see the promised protesters with their signs and bullhorns across the street from the venue. I went out to take a photo but the promoters asked me not to engage them in any fashion. I was disappointed, but I supposed it did seem ill-advised to stir up that kind of craziness. Luckily Teloch was sneakier than I and got a shot of them. They sang, they chanted, they prayed, and then they vanished in the painfully cold rain. It seemed that God had better things to do tonight. This was underlined by the fact that as one of the congregation attempted to leave on his bike he completely wiped out on the wet pavement.

The show itself was well-attended, we were well received, and our sound and performance was easily the best so far. Gorgoroth had a good night too, but we were all surprised at the lack of sales despite all the positive response. The rest of the evening went smoothly and we're once again ensconced on the bus and hanging out. We have a day off tomorrow in order to ferry the bus to Scotland. It is just as well, as a Monday night show in Glasgow sounds like an abysmal proposition. Truth be told, our tour manager Jay advised that while the Ireland shows had strong presales the UK dates are pretty soft thus far. I hope that doesn't remain the case as the only thing worse than playing total shitholes (as I have been warned is the case) is playing empty total shitholes.

Later - a friend of the opening band Zebadiah Crowe helped us load out and for his trouble managed to slash his thumb wide open. He was taken onto the bus and Gaahl ended up attending to him with bandages and black pepper. I think it made the kid's night to have the front man of Gorgoroth serving as the attending physician. On to Scotland tomorrow. Posting is hard to do at the moment so it looks like I will be a day behind going forward.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wine and Death

Cork was more locked in than Dublin. We were playing a much smaller venue with a smaller stage, but this inevitably suits us much better. I don't know why this is the case, but so be it. I slept pretty terribly. The bus bunks are actually something to get used to (they are much like coffins), and a water bottle in mine ended up leaking on my bed in the night and I woke to a cold dampness that left me uncomfortable. Before the show started we endeavored to put up our banner, which ended up meaning we had to get Gorgoroth's banner first. The stage was small and the only ladder was like something out of the Flintstones. It was a struggle but finally they went up. We dragged our banner across the ocean so we might as well use it. We sold a fair amount of merchandise and this time we started later and had more time to properly prepare so the stress levels were far less. The set was good I suppose; about halfway through The Carcass had no monitors and we ended up getting severely lost in the middle of 'Serpent Recoil' and mangling it beyond recognition. The crowd was forgiving, however, and we ended up finishing well despite flying without radar. One guy came over and said he found out about us because Ross of Immolation wore our shirt on the new Cannibal Corpse DVD. That's another one we owe him. Gorgoroth was of course well-liked and I had to laugh when the audience chanted “GAR-GER-OTH! GAR-GER-OTH!” in true Irish glory.

Afterwards, it got claustrophobic and hectic as the backstage room got jammed up with fans and promoter friends. Ultimately I went ahead and took a shower in the adjoining bathroom and for a moment I was away in the temple of my head again. This district is full of chavs and we were accosted by a couple who blathered to us about copping drugs. We remained aloof and they moved on. Horrid people. Not much else of interest happened as of this writing. We're on the bus and will remain so until morning. There's a lot of intermittent shouting along this street, and I want no part of it. It seems knifey and stabby around here and the only people I want to talk to are in here anyway. The lack of wireless access is irritating though.

Sanguine and I stayed up late talking with Gaahl. He is a wine connoisseur and discussed the fine points of wine making and matching wine to meals. We also got into talking about how paganism and Satanism reconcile and the traditions of death in Viking culture. Morning now (or 1pm actually), and we are in Belfast. Apparently the concert was mentioned on the local news and much was made about the tour package's lack of Christian convictions. Belfast is the home of religious violence for Europe, and while their rage between each other seems to have quieted as of late we could easily serve as a common enemy. We'll find out soon enough.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Into the Black Pool

The stakes of this tour are already higher than usual. The Carcass has been fighting a persistent and grievous intestinal infection that has plagued him since before we performed in Los Angeles (which, if you refer back, was not all that recently). We weren't even sure if he was going to be able to board the plane, as a visit to the emergency room seemed possible. This problem seems to hit him in waves; he will feel fine then awful, then fine again. The vector is still unknown but it does not seem to be contagious as no one around him is sick. Suffice it to say this is of great concern to us. I think he will be able to perform with no problem as our sets are short, but it is not a good tiding for the start of a tour.
We stayed with Darragh Invictus and Alan of Primordial's house. They set us up well in the den and we ended up sleeping the better part of yesterday away. Darragh took us into town for a drink and then I tried to eat a Shepherd's pie in a hurry and scorched the inside of my mouth. We got back and stayed up late with Alan and talked about the fading health of metal and its implications. The exchange rate for us is already proving to be murderous, Effectively we have to operate on a standard where everything costs double and just in cab transport from the airport and to the venue we have been all but skinned alive. Tonight we will be on the bus and the plan is to avoid any extra expenditures until tour's end. I will still have two weeks vacation in Scandinavia post tour and I must conserve funds as much as possible. Still, it was frustrating to go to two record stores here in Dublin and not really even be able to look at anything due to the cost. A Brazilian friend Tiago is currently living in Dublin and he took us around a bit.. It is great to see him and as of tonight he will be the first person to see us perform on three continents. Right now we're at the venue. The Carcass is sleeping and Sanguine and I are getting ready for a sound check. The Gorgoroth crew seems accommodating and I expect we'll all get along well. My right knee has been inflamed and all the stairs here at the Button Factory are not offering any help. Am I the only one who feels anxious the first night of a tour? We've done this enough times now but it never changes. I tend to overthink the details and get caught up in minutia. I supposed it is better than being caught unprepared, but still I'd like to be able to breathe easier. I'm sure that will come about two days from the end.
Later- the show went well overall. The whole thing started ridiculously early so we felt a bit hurried putting on our gear. We got the usual reaction from the crowd where they were attentive but mostly new to us so they mostly stood up front and stared. Still, it was not a bad show by any means. The Carcass did fine and the set itself was solid. We thankfully sold a respectable amount of merchandise which will help us keep moving in the days ahead. After our set we were met by a guy who had been a fan of ours since our proper inception. He pulled up his shirt to display his dedication:
It is very difficult to explain what it means to know that your work reached someone so completely that he wants to carry it around for the rest of his life. The photo speaks for itself but it goes without saying we were honored. Homecoming's March has left its stain. 
Edit: 4/2/10 - I usually never do this, but I don't want to forget it one day: The back stage at the Button Factory was underneath the main room and it had a bathroom that was directly one floor below the stage. It was a unique experience to shower while Gorgoroth performed a song from Pentagram right over my head. This is the kind of experience only a tour can offer.
Now- in a truck stop outside of Dublin with Gaahl and the Gorgoroth guitarists. The bus is very nice and a novel experience for us as until now we have always used vans (or planes) to get around. We're already enjoying the band's company; it's a good sign when you're having a laugh with people you met only hours before.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Carnage in the Temple of the Damned

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball." - Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I am pleased to be unfettered once more. No obligations except the days ahead, which even at their most trying moments will outshine any day of prosaic "real life" that remains difficult to escape altogether.

The Jonestown mass suicide happened 30 years ago today. Pity that such events are so infrequent. Reverend Jones had it all figured out - make yourself God and then slay the faithful. It is straight out of the Septuagint. Soon we will bring the same threats of fire and damnation to many new congregations, but there will be no salvation.