Monday, 8 April 2002

'12 Below Zero Tour' December 2001 - April 2002

Wed Dec 26 Early morning. Rise and no shine. Out of Dublin airport and catch a flight to Zurich. I’m drinking red wine but notice that some people across from me have champagne, so I want some of that too, mixed with vodka, well it IS Christmas! I had ordered a vegetarian breakfast but it didn’t come. At Zurich we catch the train. One of those great Swiss double-decker trains, bang on time and great comfort. I’m having a beer when I get a text message from Cosmic Martin in Dublin wishing us luck on the tour.

A few hours later we arrive in Biberist. There’s no one to pick us up do we walk a couple of hundred yards in the snow to the bar. Chris is already there having flown in from London earlier. The manager of the place, a man from Cardiff, also called Chris, makes us feel welcome and we have dinner. We’re all a little bit tired, but the gig is good and the PA is fine. Afterwards we have a few drinks to wind down.

Thurs Dec 27 Manager Chris takes us in to Solothurn, and we get a beer and some spicy wedges for breakfast. Take a ramble ‘round town. Paul’s is trying to extract money from a bank machine so I amuse myself throwing snowballs at him. It’s real cold, so we find a small bar and have an other beer. Back to Biberist we have dinner and a lie down before the gig. Good sound. The monitors are spot on. We sell some cd’s and everybody seems to be in real good form.

Fri 28 There’s talks of going to Bern, or maybe up the mountains, but it’s raining all day, so we forget about it and stay indoors. The gig is great. Barman Mark, keeps us well supplied. Afterwards I fall asleep on the bar and miss Neil falling down stairs.

Sat 29 Biberist......Feel a bit rough. Spend most of the day in bed. Ramble to a local shop for fruit and get great chocolate. Drink lots of ice-tea. Listen to Nikki Sudden on my Walkman. Good gig.

Sun 30 DEC Go for a long walk to the outskirts of the town, out to see some great old farmhouses, geese, dogs, chickens. Back to bed for a while. The gig is a fairly laid-back affair. Go downstairs to the nightclub afterwards for a tequila sunrise. Get paid with a huge ruskie dog watching me as I count the cash.

Mon 31 DEC Biberist (Switzerland).......Get up after 1.5 hours sleep, and Welch Chris has slept in, and his phone is off, so we have to trudge through the snow to the train station at 5 am. Get there on time. On to Solothurn, where we change trains, and on to Zurich, which looks beautiful at that time in the morning, sunrise and snow-covered Alps.

Sleep a bit on the plane, and I’m home in Dublin by 2 pm, but can’t sleep. So I grab something to eat and head down to Whelans for sound-check. I’m playing with top rockabilly outfit, Seanie Foy and The Original Sinners, and it’s a big New Years Eve bash. Neil is here as well and he's playing fiddle with The Walls. We all party till 4 am. I need to crash out!

Tues Jan 1 Dublin.....New Years Day…go down to a local pub, Roddy Bolands, for a few pints. It’s the first day of the Euro, so there’s great confusion. Later I cook a big pasta dish for Åsa, her sister and Kevin from New Jersey. I go for a lie down around 10pm, but can’t sleep at all.

Wed 2 I’m up and out at the airport by 5 am and on a flight to London. I fucking hate Ryan Air, they try and charge us £300 for being overweight. The check-in bitch even weighs our hand luggage!!!! We complain to the main Ryan Air desk, but nobody gives a fuck. I tell the bitch I’ve decided to travel without my luggage, so get it back for me and I’ll let somebody else bring it over to Denmark on a later Aer Lingus flight. She says she can’t get it back, as it’s checked in. A row ensues, but I get my boarding pass and we don’t pay the excess.

In London the plane is frozen so we have to wait for ages to get our baggage and our gear. Eventually we get to Esberg, Denmark, and take the train to Copenhagen. Get there at 9pm. Gig at 10pm. Our friend Emma from Longford shows up. Get a text message reminding me it’s my birthday! I’d forgotten. What a way to spend you're birthday, argueing with Ryan Air staff .....14 hours travelling...After the gig we discovered the apartment we’re staying in is a complete kip. Shower doesn’t work, it’s cold… one particular member of the band (not Chris!!!) goes mental kicking shit out of the fridge and tries to smash up the washing machine. A heater gets fucked out the window.....

Thurs 3 Copenhagen.......The people who have us playing here don’t give a fuck about the accommodation situation. Spend time looking for hotels. Chris has developed big blisters on his feet. I think he's been playing drums in his stockings again. The gig is crap. Everybody in bad form.

Fri Jan 4 Taxi to Nordensten Hotel and check in. everybody is complaining about everything, so I grab a quick shower and fuck off. Visit the world famous erotic museum. Later, the gig is o.k. People are dancing!

Sat 5 Up by midday, and check out some shops. I enjoy myself rambling around Copenhagen. Last time we were here was '98. Buy a pair of boots for 1050 Dk. Makes some phone calls. See lots of ice-skaters on the frozen river. Back to the hotel to relax before the gig, which is a good one.

Sun 6 Get news tonight’s gig is cancelled.

Mon 7 Copenhagen......Check out of the hotel and go for a ramble. Later, have drinks with Chris in the Moose, a great bar-I wish I discovered it earlier. Have a drink in Copenhagen train station and then hop on the train. Change at Malmö. Take the midnight train to Stockholm (not Georgia). Beds, but no bar.

Tues 8 Arrive into Stockholm at 6.30am. Hang around till 9 waiting on info about the Hotel. Eventually we get the phone number of the place we’re staying in. It’s close by but difficult to locate. After a while trudging around in the snow we find it. Everybody crashes out, but I head off down town. At the Dubliner, where we play tonight, there’s a new PA and a bass amp that looks half decent. Find a nearby café and have lunch- a veggie pasta. They’ve got Marley on the stereo and I read Wired magazine which runs an article on T-Shirts impregnated with vitamin C! You wear the shirt and the vitamin C gets into your system.

Crash out at the Hotel and have dinner at 8. A fairly uneventful gig. Afterwards I meet up with Shane from a band called Sons of Roisin and we have a few late drinks, and there’s a bit of a session.

Wed Jan 9 We check out late, and drive on out to Västerås. When we get there the place we are to play in is closed, so theres an hour or so of hanging around. Find a payphone and use my call card to make a call. Explore the town. The gig is quiet and the PA is crap. Afterwards we drive straight to Eskilstuna.

Thurs 10 Eskilstuna.......I need something to read and the only available newspaper in English is the Daily Telegraph. A bit right wing, as I walk down to the little café for my pasta with pesto sauce lunch. I ate here last August…can’t remember the name of the place.

Look at some record shops, but it’s all chart crap. Back to bed reading Delmore Schwartz short stories and fall asleep. Then, up at 6, collect a call from the missus and have dinner. With Neil, I watch a genuinely scary Discovery Channel documentary on extraterrestrials and the whole Area 52 conspiracy. After the gig I meet up with some people who had last seen us play here in ’97 !

Fri Jan 11 Drive to Stockholm, picking up a coffee along the way. There’s snow everywhere. The dark, gray Swedish winter skyline is the perfect backdrop as I listen to Dylan’s “Love and Theft” on the Walkman. Back in Stockholm we check out some iguanas and other lizards in a pet shop.

Big dangerous chunks of ice and snow are falling off the rooftops and some of the footpaths are blocked off. (Later I learn, a girl was killed last night on the way to the cinema when melting ice fell from a rooftop and hit her on the head.) Down at the gig it takes them a while to get going. I’m drinking Red Bull, and later Guinness.

Afterwards I walk back to the Hotel with a limping Chris. Still got blisters on his feet from Copenhagen. Stop off at the 7 Eleven for noodles. Witness a loud-mouthed American making a collect call to the States. He’s shouting on about how he’s in the best University in Europe and he need funds sent over quickly. The guy is all decked out in shorts, T-Shirt and obligatory baseball cap. It’s minus 9 degrees Celsius outside. Beside him stands an Asian hippy that’s so out of it he keeps missing his mouth, so his food is falling all over the floor. Further up the road Chris spots a good photo opportunity. Through the window of a gym we can see a guy peddling away on his exercise bike, panting and sweating, giving it loads. I’m outside with my noodles. It’s 4.30am. Click!! Only in Sweden!

Sat 12 Stockholm.....Sleep all day. Get up at 7pm. We have a good gig.

Sun 13 Take the Silja Line Ferry to Finland. It’s a big posh ship, very much like what I’d imagine a space station to be like. We used to take the Viking Ferry’s before. Mad ships indeed. But this one is all very civilized. Get a bottle of red wine from the Duty Free. One nightclub pounds out techno; in the other one I see a dance troupe with big furry boots.

Mon 14 Arrive into Helsinki with a bad stomach. Down at Molly’s, June sorts me out with a vodka liqueur. When I go to send a postcard I realize we are in Euro land! Goodbye to the Finnish Mark, and welcome to the United States of Europe.

Sleep for the afternoon. The gig is very enjoyable, even dreamlike. It was over before I knew what was happening. Nice to have a listening audience as opposed to a stumbling around drunken audience. Play lots of new material and it goes down well.

Tues Jan 15 Helsinki......Up early and visit the Thai Consulates office to get our work permits sorted. Chris has problems here as he doesn’t have the required 6 months minimum left on his passport. Last night Neil was having some problems with his fiddle so I hang out with him in a music store while the fiddle visits the doctor. I spend the time playing very expensive Guild guitars. Find a really good Peavey tube amp.

Later, it’s up to Black and White Records, a GREAT (mostly vinyl) record shop. I buy LP’s by Fats Domino, John Cooper Clarke, Son Volt, Howlin’ Wolf, and Warren Smith. The gig is real good, and Miro arrives down, so it’s across to the club- On the Rocks, directly across the road for late drinks. We get the bargirl to play the Stones, The Clash and Deep Purple on the stereo.

Wed 16 Bit of a hangover. Down to the Thai Consulate AGAIN. Pick up our stamped passports. Visit the fish market. In the newsagent I flick through some top class Scandinavian porn magazines, and check my e-mails. I'm always happy hanging around in Helsinki. We've been here about eight or nine times now. Tonight’s gig is packed but it takes them a while to get into it. Chris has got vertigo and keeps thinking he’s going to fall off the drum-stool. A girl right up at the front is the spitting image of Queen Victoria, and I find this a bit unnerving.

Thurs 17 Call down to another favourite record shop of mine - Finnica, and buy a rockabilly compilation, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf (another one) and a blues compilation especially for a Leadbelly track “Notedrider”. Checking The Walls Website, I see Steve refers to me as “belligerent.” I get a name-check in his Biography. The gig is a good rocking one, with Chris wearing earplugs for some of it, which only means he hits the drums even harder.

Fri Jan 18 Get a text message to say our old friend Cosmic Martin has had a heart attack, but thankfully he’s going to be ok. I send him a ‘hang on in there/get well soon’ message. We have a really good gig. The place is packed. On “Hard Times” I change the phrasing around and after all this time the lyrics seem to make sense to me. Neil responds with an INCREDIBLE fiddle solo. We have a couple of guests. Henrik, who has played drums on a few tours’, is in the house, so he gets up to play on two songs. For the encore we do “Knocking on Heavens Door”, and Jarno gets up to play guitar. A really good night. Thank you Helsinki.

Sat 19 JAN Not as good as last night. The place is full, but everybody is fairly out of it. (That’s the audience, not us!) We have our moments.

Sun 20 JAN Drop into the bar around teatime, and Mad Madeleine gets me a Guinness. Have a few drinks with Buddy and Mick. Some things never change. Buddy STILL wants to buy my boots. The black ones with the big buckles. Not for sale. We play the gig and it’s a laid back one. We’re all tired. Get the money. Go to sleep.

Mon 21 JAN Alarm clock assault at 4am to catch the flight home via London. At Dublin airport they don’t want to let (Australian) Chris into the country as his work permit expired months ago. Eventually he appears, a bit freaked out, and understandably so.

After a few days at home we’re off again. Fly Dublin-London-Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). We have a few hours in Kuala Lumpur so I have a beer or two with Chris. Onwards to Phuket, a small island at the south of Thailand. It’s 37°C on our day of arrival. Take a taxi for the one hour drive out to Patong, a small sea-side town on the west coast of the island. The following night we play the first of 14 nights in a row. The bar is along by the sea front, right across the road is the beach. By day, populated predominantly by Australian, Swedish, German and U.K tourists. By night ladyboys ramble around offering cheap blow-jobs to naïve tourists. The food is great and the heat intense. Our hotel, The Lamai Inn is a short walk away. Our only connection with western civilisation is the BBC World News on the hotel room TV. Thai soap operas exist in a reality tunnel of their own. All day long, all you hear from the market people and the hustlers is, “Where you fom”? “…..” Where you go?”…..”Hey Elwis Pwesley”. …..We moved down to Bangla Road, a sort of Sodom and Gomorrah on acid! It’s the street where all the mad bad bars are. A few doors down is the place where all the lady-boys do their dancing and have their photo taken by tourists and pick up clients. It’s wall-to-wall hookers, lunatics and lady-boys here on Bangla Road!! Nobody needs a license to drive a motorbike, and there’s millions of them. Even 12-year-old kids drive scooters down here. One million people in Thailand were injured in road accidents last year. Everybody’s got something to sell - . sex, cigarettes, fake Rolex watches, fake Nike runners, naked lady lighters…..”How much you wanna pay mista?” “I fuck you now for free, you pay later”……"Love you LONG time”.

Neil buys a big cowboy hat and I buy a lot of mad coloured shirts, big black shades, and, eventually a tailor made suit!!!! The monotony is broken up by Chris having a seizure one evening in the hotel and we have to call a doctor. It was brought on by exhaustion and sleep deprivation and we cancel the gig. Two days later Paul is in a car crash and received 18 stitches in his head. Severed an artery too, so he’s lucky to be alive. The show must go on, so he plays the next couple of nights sitting on a stool, huge bandage on his head, knocking back painkillers by the gob full.

Web-master supreme, Åsa Kärrman came down for a visit and on days off we took a speedboat to Raya Island. Drank beers on the beach, ate great food, walked through the jungle and had a great time. An other day we went to Phi Phi Island and stayed in the poshest hotel there. Checked out some mad bars and mad restaurants with whole swordfish and sharks on ice. Bought some pirated cd’s, jewellery and presents. And on an other day off Paul checked out Bangkok. We got to meet people who had seen us play in Helsinki last year, we sold cd’s to people from all over the world. There were offers of gigs in Shanghai. On St Patrick’s Day the place was decked out in green, white and orange balloons and every head-case in Patong was in drinking green beer. Some of us were on the verge of insanity at least once. (I blame Mekong whiskey)

As the weeks went on, all manner of drinks would arrive at the stage. Beer, whiskey, tequila, vodka. I tried to keep in touch with the world by reading the Bangkok Post. But as usual, the papers carry mostly bad news, and I learned of the deaths of Spike Milligan and Waylon Jennings. We meet a lot of Canadians, Aussies, Swedes who come back night after night to see us. Our audience is 60% tourist, 40% hooker. As our nine-week stint is drawing to a close, the rains begin. It’s the start of the rainy season, and after 48 gigs in Phuket, a total of 70 since xmas, I’m on my way home. (Monday April 8 2002)