Wed. Jan 26 Switzerland...........After a midday flight I'm sitting on a train whizzing through the snow-covered Swiss countryside, leaving Zurich behind. The onetime hotbed of Dadaist activity must surely have some great Art Museums. Hopefully someday I'll have a chance to spend enough time there to look into it. Its minus 8 degrees, with a nasty wind blowing in from the farmlands when we reach Biberist, me, Brian O'Toole and Al Cowan. Al is an old friend of mine from the eighties and he's filling in for Teusner on drums. Chris wants to cool his heels after 6 or 7 weeks in Australia. We've a few rehearsals with Al under our belts, he knew most of the stuff anyway as he recorded most of the first album at his Sonic Studios back in '97.
After getting set-up and checking out the rented backline, there's time for a drink and dinner before the gig. Somehow or other I manage to fall out of bed, whacking my mouth on a bedside glass of water, luckily not breaking the glass, but still managing to give myself a cut lip. Could have been worse. A close call.Thurs.
Jan 27 Biberist.............The guys want coffee in the new upstairs Cafe at the Co-op store. I have a beer. Back at the bar, eat and take the train into Solothurn, leaving village life behind for a slightly more urban vibe. It's cold so we go to Solheur for a few drinks and a really interesting chat about all sorts of things. Later, the Bistro over near the train station.
Later we check out two of the subterranean bars in the actual station. Keep missing the train, but eventually do catch one back to Biberist in time for dinner.. I'm reading Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralick's tale of the rise of Elvis. A present from the wife. I've brought a walkman with me too, but haven't got around to listening to it yet. Not enough time. The gig is another gig.
Fri. Jan 28 Mathias, our old friend, drives in and after hanging out in the next door music store, we drive out to his place. Can't remember the name of the town, but it was a hour well spent. See a bit of the countryside, dwarfed by the mountains towering over us, a different type of civilization. Kris DJ's before we go on, playing all his fave English bands, and a lot of Welch one's. He's from Cardiff and a patriot.
The gig is enjoyable, with several songs dedicated to Anita Blond, Lea Martini and Brian's fan, Michelle Wild !The drinks keep on arriving afterwards, as does very hot pizza (too much chili) and this plays havoc with my stomach. We all stay up late, Al telling how we first met up at Clonegal Castle, where the Fellowship of Isis were having their Spring Equinox celebrations. I think it was 1986 or '87. The wonderful Honourable Olivia Robertson presided, as did her brother Baron Strathlock. He's no longer with us, but Olivia is still alive and well and is now a Lady. A few years later I did some recording at his Studio, as did our old buddy from HyperBorea, David Bickley. It all seems like a previous lifetime, and I suppose it was.
Folks drift off and crash out, but me and Kris drink until around 7.30am.
Sat. Jan 29 Biberist......Don't get out of bed until 7pm, and feel terrible. Can't face food. Seems I've caught a terrible bug. Just about manage to get through the gig and feel so fucked up I can't join in and of the late night shenanigans. Get the money, sign the relevant paper-work and instead of partying, I lie in bed tossing and turning with a real bad throat a headache and sweating profusely.
Sun. Jan 30 Zurich......At the airport I manage to eat a chocolate bun, washed down with a cup of tea, the only thing I've eaten since a banana yesterday. After paying our excess baggage bill, Brian and I are approached by some autograph hunters, who want us to sign their notebooks, have their photos taken with us etc. I'm not sure if they're mixing us up with somebody else, or if they know who we are or what's really going on, but we sign everything, do the photo routine, act polite.
In a newsagents I manage to loose our boarding passes. Later, I find them, and due to lack of sleep everything seems complicated. Loose a bag with about 800Euros worth of gear, but luckily I find that again. Change the money from Swiss Franks into Euro, stash the bookers 15%, and do the split, a fat roll of notes in my pocket. Back in Dublin, I manage to get to sleep at around 1am....after 30 hours without shut eye.
Tues. Feb 1 Dublin.....Yesterday I did absolutely nothing, apart from go to the doc, get antibiotics for my throat infection and an anesthetic spray. Been taking lots of hot lemon drinks, trying to eat some decent food into me and get some rest.
A compilation CD from Paddy Lynch in NYC arrives in the post. It's got a great version of The Lowlands of Holland by Susan McKeown with some great eastern sounding violins, either Japananese or Chinese, can't tell. First time I heard this song, it was sung by Dolores Keane, a magical version with John Faulkner on guitar. The CD also contains the spooky Incantation by John Zorn and a track by the Carmelite Nun of Lucon. Nothing to do with the 70's movie I presume.
Later in the evening I'm beginning to feel the drugs kick in so I manage to get some of the recording machinery turned on and lash out rough mixes of 13 songs. Bang 'em onto a cassette for Chris who is curious to hear the new material I've been working on while he was down under (in Oz). Then off to bed.
Wed. Feb 2 Galway..............An email informs me we made it into some local papers, photo as well. Its a long day in the van. There's a serious crash, a truck and a few cars all in a pile up on the motorway, so we loose a good hour in the tailback. Realize I haven't approached Galway from the Dublin side of things for many years. Although The Galway Advertiser claims it's two years since we last played this western city, it's actually almost 4, and how things have changed.
The last time we drove into Galway we were coming from Sligo, up north, so it's an eye opener to see all the new buildings, even villages that didn't exist before. After soundcheck I meet up with Killian and Thor who have organized the gig, as well as brothers Noel and Aidan Furey who I haven't seen in years. Also Olly Longhair, the Saw Doctors live sound engineer. We do the gig, and although it's a small crowd, they're really into what we do and after we sell a few CD's and have a quick drink before hitting the road again.
Fri. Feb 4 Dublin.....A trip to the bank and the Post Office. Also, I collect my ticket for Gothenburg. Pick up a Northern Soul CD with Frank Wilson, Terry Callier, Jerry Butler, Edwin Starr and a bunch of other great floor fillers. Also got a thing called 'Texas Troubadours' which includes a few great tracks from the likes of Rosie Flores and Slaid Cleaves. T Rex's 'Electric Warrior' arrives in the post and I get a letter from the Customs and Excise people to say they've got another package and they want my permission to x-ray it, which I give, and apparently it's also a CD and not a home bomb making kit !!
Word comes through from the US from a label who are looking for a track for a future release on that side of the Atlantic. Which reminds me, I have a trip to the States planned for March so I'd better get a ticket organized.
Sat. Feb 6 Dublin...........A good lie in...recharge the batteries, fighting fit for the gig in The Mezz in the middle of Dublin's tourist hang-out area. Not a bad gig at all. Jimmy is there, shouting up "Midsummers Eve".....a track off Long Time Gone, and if memory serves me correctly, only ever played live twice. Once, in The Pine Lodge, Myrtleville, County Cork (before it was recorded) and once in Helsinki, where I think we made a balls of it. It's time for a resurrection. If we can get a few rehearsals in to try out some of these new songs I've written maybe we can do a re-arrangement on Midsummers Eve too. Million Miles Away could do with a dusting off as well. That was only played live a handful of times back in '99.
Sold some CD's, collected a few email addresses from people who had never heard of us before, and it's always good to see people turned on by what we do. What do we do ??? Americana ? Rock 'n' Roll ? Alt. Country ? Outsider Rock 'n' Roll ??? I like the phrase outsider.....
Sun. Feb 6 Arvid, my reggae loving friend in Gothenburg is going to be the recipient of a couple of cassettes of the hardest hitting stuff to have come out of Jamaica during that golden period from the late 60's to the end of the '70's. I'll throw on a few rock steady classics too. Arvid, unlike most of the Sweden is not appalled by tapes, vinyl or other such analogue formats. Most of my best reggae , Bluebeat, Ska and Rocksteady stuff is on vinyl, and even if the computer/burner was working, its too time consuming to get the songs onto the hard drive then burn them. Straight to tape is quickest.
Write a bunch of emails, phone calls, no time for the Sunday papers. Off to Bray to do a gig, after that I reckon I'll catch about 4 hours in the land of nod, and then off to Sweden, where I'm gonna be for three weeks. See you later Alligator...............
Thurs. Feb 10 Gothenburg, Sweden........Picked up a few records...Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, the soundtrack to that great movie, 'Round Midnight ' starring Dextor Gordon and a Russian pressing of a Stones compilation called 'All Together Volume 12 !! It's got a whole bunch of early obscure early tracks, plus a few I know like 'Yesterdays Papers'. These I bought at Mynt and Musik down on Friggagatan. Over at another shop I got Elvis Costeeoe's 'My Aim Is True' (never owned that before) a couple of early rock 'n' roll samplers and an Iggy Pop LP. Problem is, everything I bought is on vinyl and there's no record player where I'm staying. The one CD I found worth spening money on is a compilation of stuff that Presley covered early in his carre and stuff that influenced him. Big Mama Thornton, Lowell Fulsome, Carl Perkins etc.I'm still reading Peter Gularnick's biography of Presley. Now, I knew he was white trash, but I hadn't realized he was such a mama's boy, so I've used this line in a new song I wrote today called 'Roll Away.' The line goes..."Elvis was the King alright, the King of mama's boys..."It's a good song and I'll be performing it tomorrow night for the good people of Gothenburg.
Fri. Feb. 11 Gothenburg......The gig is at Kom Musik bar on Olivesdalgatan. A good crowd are in and they listen to every note, so it's just as well I'm on the ball tonight. A great gig, get an encore, chat to some new fans, sell a few CD's. Meet up with Alex Niitsoo from local band Guru Baba who reckons he can help me out with some new contacts. Annalie, Pieter, Carolin, Arvid are all down for the gig. Meet Arvids cousin Andreas who is a great guy and we all wander off into the night in the direction of Jantorget. Have a few drinks in Louisse Bar which I like a lot.
Sat. Feb 12 Gothenburg......Swedish TV is truly terrible. Bad enough giving Cagney and Lacy a prime time slot, they've gone mental on reality shows, home produced and imported. Paradice Island, Big fucking Brother, Poor Little Rich Girl, Babes in The Bush, Nanny 911...the list is fucking endless. There's one about a middle aged big titted lady who has had more plastic surgery than Michael Jackson. She's the ex-wife of some mafia Don and she's looking for a new husband. Good luck !
On Channel Z I see a great band called Vijaya, but after doing some research I'm told they released one single a year ago, no album available, so thats it. While taking the piss out of Swedish TV commercials I slip on the frosty grass and land badly...flat out .... really hurt my back. I reckon Loki (Nordic trickster archetype) is responsible, decided to teach me a lesson for taking the piss, and perhaps I deserved it.Later at night we have a few drinks (in fact we have quite a lot of drinks) down town. On our way to meet up with Andreas at Sticky Fingers I fall for the second time. At least this time I can blame it on the snow which has been falling steadily for the past few hours. Luckily no bones are broken and we have a wild time at the club.
Wed. Feb. 16 Stockholm.........Roll out of bed after four hours shut-eye. Grab a coffee and catch the 8am bus. Luckily I sleep for most of the seven hour bus ride. The place we're staying in is a hell of a lot better than the kip we stayed in the last time we were in this town. One's got to be careful walking around in the snow and ice. Don't want to fall again. The gig at Wirstroms in Gamlastan is ok. Hang out with Swifty's old friend Furnace who organized it for me. He's got a baby due any day now, but his mobile doesn't ring, so it's not tonight.
Thurs Feb 17 Stockholm.....After checking my emails and generally TCB (taking care of business) I call the Frames management in Ireland to get the OK to play support to them in Gothenburg next Saturday night. The venue people are cool, they're saying, get the OK from the band, which I do. So, there's another gig for me. Then its time to get down to Central Station. I buy Lemmy's autobiography 'White Line Fever' and hop on the bus for the 700 Kilometer drive west. By the time we reach our destination I've finished Lemmy's literary classic. It made me laugh out loud more than once, which isn't a bad complaint.
Sat Feb 19 Gothenburg......................Blame it on the beer packages. As an enticement to customers if you buy a beer they give you a bottle of the same brand for free. It's called a beer package and a lot of the bars do it. I kind of over-did the beer packages last night. Got out of it, fell over, couldn't get up. Eventually got into a taxi but the guy thought I was gonna puke. Åsa convinced him I'm not a puker. Once every four years or so. Now, Brian O Toole is a great man for what he describes as "the casual puke". Nip around the corner, throw up and then he's back in business. Åsa K- she'll say ..."I don't feel so good.." Into the toilet, a few minutes later she emerges a little red-eyed but soon she's knocking them back again. By the time we get to Kaggeledstorget I've lost my serial killer hat, but the taxi driver is kind enough to carry me to the door. Of course I can't remember any of this. First I heard about it was when I woke up this afternoon at 2.30........Can it be true ???
On the way to the venue I stop off to buy another hat identical to the one I lost. It was very good to me, looked good, kept head warm and my ears safe from the bitter Nordic wind. (Andreas says it makes me look like a serial killer, but I can live with that)Tonight's venue is Sticky Fingers and I'm opening for the Frames. Meet Glen Hansard right inside the door. We shake hands. It's been a long time. "I bet you're wondering what the fuck I'm doing here" I ask. "Actually Yeah" he says. I explain the venue wanted me, but I have got the ok from mission control in Ireland. The E.Q. for the monitors breaks down during sound check and it never gets going again so the onstage sound is thin, and front of house could be louder, but generally it's an ok gig. The venue owner goes over to Alex and says "I only have to hear 15 seconds of this guy to know he's good". This I take to be a compliment.
Hang around and watch The Frames. Haven't seen them in a few years, in fact it's about 8 years ! Afterwards we drift towards the dressing room.. The bass player reckons we met before in Dublin and I don't doubt him one bit. I give Glen a copy of Exit Hellsville, he gives me a contact for Prague and the tour manager gives me another beer from the fridge. Just like that.
Sun. March 6 Dublin......Spring sunshine streaming through the window. Cup of tea and Swedish biscuits. Life is good. Dreamt last night I was in New York, and having a bad time. I AM going to NYC on Tuesday, but as always I'm going to have a good time. Last night's gig in town was fun. Thin Lizzy's 'Boys are Back in Town' on the PA before we went on was a good omen, and put me in good form instantly. Enjoyed myself, amused myself and I think I'm correct when I say the audience were entertained, and that's what it's all about.
Chris played great as always. He's much better when he leaves his ear-plugs out. If he has them in , he hits the drums even harder, if he leaves them out, there's more dynamic, and he's a hard hitter anyway. T-Bone came by to check us out, gave me a copy of his new CD. A few familiar faces in the crowd which is always nice. Chat with Tom from Cork and his buddy. Also meet up with Rob Murphy and Cormac, a friend of his that I hadn't seen in about fifteen years, or more.
Tues. March 15 New York.....Played earlier at The Sidewalk Cafe to a decent crowd. I played well and handled the occasion admirably. A few nights ago I caught up with Bronagh Gallagher. She and her band played a gig down at the Crash Mansion, followed by Mainline, who certainly have been studying Black Rebel Motorcyle Club. They were good, but maybe took themselves a bit too seriously. And the name is a bit of a joke....I can't imagine any of these black clad middle class boys dabbling with smack.
Jack's guitar playing has come on a lot and we've have a great time hanging out. A few days ago we visited the Chelsea Museum of Modern Art and saw a lot of cool installations and some great paintings. Saw 'The Village' on DVD. Really liked it. Bought a few records and battled my way through a snow storm.