Its a few days before Christmas and we're in Dublin Airport at 5.30 a.m. expecting it to be hectic but its not. No queues! By afternoon we've arrived in Helsinki and made it down to Molly's where we play 7 nights from Xmas Day to New Years Eve.
Henrik Mattsson, who will be our drummer for the tour arrives down and we have a few pints. End up nodding off to sleep at a table and spilling a drink all over the place....a good start to the week! Down at Henriks flat I cook a big pasta dinner for me and Paul, while Neil and Marlena head off into the sunset.
THURS 21 DEC We take the subway train to a rehearsal studio with big metal doors.... like the opening sequence from Get Smart.( Remember that? .....I used to fancy agent 99 when I was a kid ). Nobody's gonna rob this place. Play for 5 or 6 hours and Henriks a great drummer. Outside its -5 degrees Celsius.
FRI 22 Still in Helsinki...... On the way to rehearsal Paul loses his phone, but a quick call to the train company and all is well. Its safely in the hands of the train driver. Only in Finland. After rehearsal we go to see a band play in a student bar where the beer is cheap. Play pool (and lose). Paul takes control of the juke-box. Stumble back to the apartment where another band are
staying and there's some girl jerking-off a guy in the bed across from me. I pretend I'm asleep...
SAT 23 I'm reading Olaf Tyaransen's new book. It's a good read, some of it's really funny. I've known Olaf a few years now, and he even interviewed me for Hot Press magazine once (1997). Olaf is famous in Ireland not only as a writer but also as the man who stood for election as a Legalize Cannabis candidate. I drink half a bottle of wine and head back to bed. Later I rise, have a few shots of good Finlandia vodka and orange juice and head downstairs to the bar for my FREE Christmas drinks.
SUN 24 DEC Our friends Jonathan and Desi are doing a session in the bar and I join in on harmonica and end up in a Nightclub pissed . It starts to snow.
MON 25 DEC Helsinki, Finland.... Its Christmas Day, I pull myself out of bed at around 2 p.m., fry an egg, eat stale bread, a few glasses of vodka, and fall back into the bed again. Hours later I realize there's no food left and all the shops are closed. Paul informs me we cooked it all last night after getting back from the Club. (The evidence is on the camcorder, he filmed my cooking spree). So, I have to make do with a piece of micro-waved dead chicken.
Make phone-calls to New York, Ireland and Sweden to wish everybody Happy Christmas. Its -12 degrees outside. We end up having a GREAT gig. They're all dancing, singing along, going crazy......THIS is what its all about.
TUES 26 DEC Marlena has invited us up for dinner. Wine, beer and some wonderful food. I feel human again. After listening to a few bizarre old Finnish 78's on her antique gramophone, we drive down to the bar and do the gig. Its a bit more laid back than last night, but really enjoyable. Its good to have Neil playing guitar on more stuff. Afterwards somebody takes us to this tiny club but I have to leave straight away. It's full of off-duty cops!!! It gives me the creeps so I shag off to Lady Moons (another club) where I meet a few people that had been at the gig.
WED 27 Helsinki.......A civilized day. Go to the library to check my e-mails. Also check the statistics on the web site. We're up 100 hits this week on last week. Get some ginseng pills and vitamin C to keep fatigue and illness at bay. We get an advance on the money and ace accordion player Davey MacAree joins us for some of the gig. Its always great when he joins us, in fact, he'sjust got engaged to be married, so congratulations Davey! I meet a guy who's talking about a gig in Russia, and I meet Kati who we've hung out with before. She's talking about financing a porn movie if I write the script.
Later in the apartment we've an unwanted guest in the shape of a weirdo chick with nothing to say, who's following Paul around like a lost puppy since the end of the gig. We can't get rid of her, so I get the camcorder out and tell her to give Paul a blow-job while I film, or else she has to leave. She leaves.............eventually.
THURS 28 Get up early so I can make it to the market at the harbour where I buy fresh fish and veg. for dinner later. I can't face anymore micro-waved crap. Its -5 degrees today and Paul still insists in walking around without a coat. The fact that he didn't bring a coat with him might have something to do with it. Tonight both the fiddle and my Epiphone Jumbo acoustic guitar are refusing to stay in tune. The extreme cold outside and extreme heat inside doesn't help. All that aside, the gig is great, with regulars like Irish Mick and Katja saying it's the best they've seen us.
Down to Heartbreakers for late drinks. Back at base the tape recorder is eating tapes and TV closes down at around 3 a.m. The radio is a NO GO zone.
FRI 29 DEC Blizzard-like conditions outside. Snow and a wicked cold wind . Ari arrives in from a trip to Estonia and throws us a few cans. I stay in my room working on a song I've been trying to finish for ages, about the 1798 rebellion . No title yet. At the gig I meet Dublin blues bass player Phil Ryan, who was passing by, saw the poster and couldn't believe his eyes. (Phil
had gigged here himself and knows the score.) He's over visiting a girl....surprise surprise....We hang out and he takes photos. Lots of familiar faces in the place, Jarno, Terry, Malcolm.....I much prefer touring these days, no hassle with cops, no getting thrown out of Hotels, no getting banned from places, no near-death experiences.....Big party upstairs with Ari as our host.
SAT 30 DEC Sleep most of the day. Neil is sporting a cool new furry hat (not real fur) with flaps over the ears. I ramble around town...the sales are on, but I buy nothing. Back to bed. Later (6p.m.) its Party Time!!! Petri, the guy who owns the place is having his Birthday Party and we're invited, free booze, free food, what more could you want. Unfortunately most of the people who are getting up to play expect me to roadie for them, just 'cos they're using our gear, as we,of course have a gig here later. Some singer-songwriter chick, recently released from a mental asylum starts "tidying up" the stage by plugging out our cables and leads and putting them away!!!
Of course, I freak out.....Later we get a bona fide Finnish pop star. Can't remember his name, but he's using backing tapes and everybody is chuffed to be in the presence of pop royalty, when his backing tape or CD or whatever breaks down. Meanwhile the free drinks keep on coming, and speeches are made, but with everything happening in Finnish I've no idea what I'm applauding for! We toast the birthday boy. Very very rich people are all around, and some practice their english talking to "those crazzee Irish muzicianns". Then its time for Finland's answer to Cat Stevens. People are excited, I'm bored...but hey, another triple vodka and a beer and I'm having fun again. The bar-staff are wearing T-shirts with a photo of their boss (aged 5) with the caption "for fooks sake".
Bottles of champagne are everywhere. We eventually get to do the gig but I can tell its going to be one of those nights. The Cat Stevens-like folk star claims he won't get paid unless he gets to do another set, so we take a break and by the time he's finished we're really out of it, but then again so is everybody in the room. Free drinks keep arriving at the stage. We struggle through a few songs. At one point I turn around in the middle of a song and see Paul lying flat on his back on a table type thing at the back of the stage, playing bass.... note perfect. Soon the whole thing
falls into a shambles . I tell the guys, 'I don't know what this noise is that we're making, but it's not music, so we should stop,' so we call it quits and stumble off stage. All my pints are gone and I'm sipping a pint glass with 12 shots of vodka, topped up with coke. A truly bizarre night.
SUN 31 DEC Helsinki...... Sleep 'til 6p.m. We all feel fucked. It's New Years Eve and fireworks are going off all day. The gig is great and there's an air of madness and badness in the place. Yes, this is why I'm in a band.
MON 1 JAN The first day of 2001. We're running late but eventually get loaded and into the van. At the Port Henrik informs us that the ship we're about to board, bound for Sweden, is a sister ship to The Estonia which sank a few years ago killing 900 passengers. I really don't need to know this. Our ship was built in the early seventies and looks like it, and our bunk is way below the water-line. On board we get much needed food and there's a deal in one of the bars where you get a free shot of Jagemeister with your beer. Synchronistic and psychic happenings are the order of the day. (Before we boarded Neil was in at the ticket desk getting things sorted out while I sat in the van trying to remember the title of an old folk song that was ringing in my
head. Out he comes singing "The Leaving of Liverpool," the song in my head.)
As we're having our drinks somebody asks me if there's any news on the tour of Holland, when Paul's phone beeps, indicating a new text message. It's from Chris in Ireland enquiring about the tour of Holland! Down in the cabin we drink beers and wine and the conversation somehow turns to quantum physics. It gets a bit weird when Paul begins to question the Law of Gravity!! I
won't go into the details..........
TUES 2 JAN Sweden.........Arrive into Stockholm in the morning. Snow snow snow. Drive down to the place we're playing in, but its all locked up. Not a soul in sight. A few phone-calls later and we locate somebody that can give us a place to lay our weary heads for a few hours. Later its sound-check and dinner. I'm introduced to one of the girls who does the bar, and she says we've met already. I say 'when was that?' She tells me we met last week in Helsinki, and it's only then I recognize her....she's the chick who was jerking off the guy in the apartment!!!!Åsa arrives in from Gothenburg, and Mark and Tove show up. It's my birthday, and I'm getting younger by the day.
WED 3 Stockholm......With Åsa I go shopping, and have a wander around the Old Town, have drinks, dinner. I get to see parts of Stockholm I've never seen before. A few Red Bull and Tequilas keep me awake for the gig. Get the money and
the guys prefer the new line-up.
THURS 4 At the airport we have a pretty friendly girl checking us in. We are WAY over-weight, but the girl doesn't bother to weigh the offending flight-case, instead Neil says "Oh, its no more than 10 kilos."(Last September Air France wanted to charge us £400 to put this same amp on the plane, so we put it in a taxi and sent it back to the venue for safe keeping.) Åsa has a
credit card, so when we get to Copenhagen we have a few beers. There I meet a girl I used to know years ago. On the flight to Dublin we consume as much vodka and wine as possible. Meet up with Marlene in Dublin Airport, she got in earlier, so we head straight for the bar. Five days later I'll be back here again, this time on my way to New York for a few shows, but that's another story for another day......................