Saturday, 6 December 2008


Fri 14 Nov. Gävle……Im not used of travelling first class, but with economy seats sold out I had no option but to buy the first class ticket for the train from Göteborg to Gävle, via Örebro. Knut Hamsun’s “In Wonderland” kept me company as we rolled out from the west, heading northeast through the farmlands, vast forested areas, lakes and rivers. It was dark by 4pm. At Örebro, I only had 5 minutes to make my connection and the information on the screens was confusing. If I missed the next train I was stranded, no way forward, no way back, but I caught it in the nick of time and we made our winding way north through Arvesta, Kyrvbo and one horse towns like Sandriken. Apparently Gävle is more northerly than St Petersburg, so I was prepared for the wintry chill.

CC Puben is a big enough place, a long room, good PA, big stage. Small audience however, but I made some new friends and sold a few CD’s too. Local band The Daisy Cutters were to give me a place to stay, but they never showed up. Instead, Andreas and Catrine were kind enough to offer me a bed. Photos were taken and story’s told. We took a taxi out to their suburban apartment, chatting to their neighbours along the way. Vodka and fresh strawberries with a secret ingredient was a most welcome nightcap.I forgot to set my alarm clock; just as well Catrine came in to wake me up. A taxi appeared from nowhere and before I knew it I was on the train, destination Stockholm.

I had a three-hour stopover in the Swedish capital. Time for food and a beer. The low hum of conversation is a welcome antithesis to American etiquette. A lady in white walks by with in patent leather high-heeled boots, a bearded man in a white cowboy hat follows closely behind with two well-groomed cocker spaniels. The aroma of hot dogs and burgers. Get fat fast, food. People are making small talk, a waste of time in any language. Back on board the train, I try to read, but soon nod off. I wake up and we’re pulling out of an unknown town, all tower blocks and dusk grey doom. Dead trees that look like skeleton fish. People get on and get off, a slowly evolving cross-country game of musical chairs. Ten hours after I had set out, I arrived into Goteborg. I was in bad need of a decent meal.

Wed 26 Nov. Rockfield….We had arrived into Dublin, all Christmas trees and phoney good cheer. Stayed with friends in posh Foxrock as the economy crumbled all around us. A 6am start couldn’t be avoided, and by 8am we had braved the morning rush hour and made it to Heuston station and boarded the Westport train. It was good to be back in Mayo again, like a place from another time. Misty afternoons spent wandering in the fields, past the faery fort up towards Ruane’s.My ancestor, Daithi O Dubhda, was the last pagan king in Ireland. Fair play to him, he held out to the bitter end before pressure from the Xtian hoard in Rome pressurized him into taking up the alien middle-eastern creed. That was back in the 7th century. The castle still survives in County Sligo, and in fact it’s for sale. I can’t afford the one million euro price tag, but with the property crash, who knows what could happen?

Fri 29 Nov. Dublin….Three hours by train and we arrived into Dublin. Had breakfast in some place on South William Street. Can’t remember the name. Went down to the Temple Bar Music Centre to set up for rehearsals. Åsa and Freja went off to meet friends. Both of the guitar amps I tried were useless. Chris arrived, and thankfully he had a Marshall Valve State for me. We ran through the songs, took a cigarette break, ran through the set a second time. Called to guitar doctor Kevin up on Exchequer Street who had promised me he’d have the Antoria electric ready for me. He didn’t. Just as well I brought my Epiphone Casino over from Sweden. Wandered the streets for a while, before dropping into the Stags Head for a drink. Didn’t know a soul there. Made a phone call or two, nobody answered.

Met with Chris and we drove over to Smithfield, home of the Cobblestone. Les arrived, as did Orla the promoter, sound lady and hustler supreme. Sound check was completed and we sipped on a few beers. Dayo played support and it was really nice to have so many old faces down at the gig. The place was full and I reckon if I moved to Mozambique, we’d be able to fill the Button Factory. With Ed, Barbara and Joe we went over to Sheila’s house for late drinks. I think I nodded off for about an hour before the doorbell rang and there was my taxi. We drove straight to the airport, where I had a wonderful breakfast of two beers and promptly boarded the flight to Gothenburg.

Fri Dec 5.Göteborg….Les arrived yesterday evening, Chris arrived several hours later and that’s a long story. I’ll keep it short. Apparently if you’re not an EU citizen you can’t do ‘priority boarding’ and as Chris is Australian, he was left stranded in Dublin airport. We got him another flight, at great expense via Copenhagen. But today is another day and I don’t want to dwell on the idiocy of some airlines.We went out for a ramble, picked up some beers and wine. Back at HQ I played some new songs for the guys. They like some of them.. They don’t like some others. That’s fine. We stopped off at a drum shop (there are such things) for a bolt for a kick pedal, and then went to Storan for sound check. Met up with the guys from The Don Darlings who are on the bill. Cool guys. Also promoter Jenny, but things are delayed so Les needs to find a shop that can sell him some cable for his laptop. We have a beer or two and then dinner. Word arrives that we can sound check, and it’s a painless exercise. Take the tram back to HQ where there’s a party going on. I think I’d have preferred peace and quiet, but I managed to sleep for an hour anyway.The gig itself was ok. The sound wasn’t as on the button as the sound check. Such is life. I enjoyed the Don Darlings set, and I enjoyed playing too, a good audience, but it just could have been a lot better. A lot of folks I hadn’t seen in a long long time were down and late drinks were had in the dressing room. Nobody fell over, nobody threw up or fell down the stairs or tried to steal somebody’s girlfriend, or set a newspaper on fire. Nobody ordered pizza and refused to pay when the delivery guy came, nobody broke the door off the fridge or complained about the lighting. It was one of those nights when there was no unnecessary drama.

Sat Dec 6 Göteborg…. Another difficult day for Chris. One of those where he must be cursing the Racketeers. He had stayed in a Hotel in the city centre, but somehow still managed to miss the airport bus, and had to take an expensive taxi. Ran into some trouble with security in London, but eventually made it to Dublin in one piece. Meanwhile, Les and I got down to the job of recording some new songs I’ve written. We stuck at it for 5 hours or so, took a break and had dinner. The sun went down, a turquoise sheen across the horizon over by the docklands.Records were taken out and played. Hank Mizell, Fabienne Del Sol, Alan Stivell, Little Milton singing ‘We’re Gonna Make It’..Ann Peebles. Holly Golightly, the great Clifton Chenier, the King of Zydeco. Rory Gallagher wrote a song about Clifton, you’ll find it on his 1990 album ‘Fresh Evidence.’ Hank Williams got played, Little Birdie, Calexico, Spade Cooley and Hank Snow. I consulted the Tarot at one point. The hands on the clock scraped a slow circle through time.

Sunday, 5 October 2008


Sun 21 Sept Goteborg....Today’s the day that we sent out '45' into the belly of the beast that is the internet, available for all and sundry to download for 99 cents. I received a few emails and myspace messages from folks saying they liked it. Seems I've still got a few friends out there. The weather has been really warm most days and we got more mileage out of the summer than expected.

A few days ago, John in Berlin sent me another strange link to a piece of film of some band doing a song entitled ‘Jesus Is My Friend’ a sort of metro sexual take on the born again genre. A bit like Soft Cell meets Daniel O Donnell. To clear the cobwebs from my mind, I got stuck into Peter Gray’s great tome ‘The Red Goddess’ a poetic exploration of Babalon (as opposed to Babylon) which arrived in the post along with 2 copies of Man Myth & Magic. Time is an abyss. Took a ramble over to the other side of town to see a cool country band called Little Green at the Musikenhuis on Johansgatan. A good gig it was too and I ended up dropping into a bar I stumbled across over near Järntorget. A few American tourists were hanging around, the DJ wasn’t as annoying as they usually are, and I was left to my own devices. Coloured liquid in a small glass never looked so good. Later I took the # 1 tram over and got off near Redbergsplatsen, got home, poured a glass of wine and put on a Joe Ely record, sat on the balcony.

Henrik and his lady had a crawfish party. I don’t eat those cockroaches of the sea, but I went along for the vibe. Ate the salad and drank the vino. Neatly printed pages were laid out on the table. The lyrics of those old Swedish folk songs that they sing at dinner make no sense to me. But every time they sing one in unison, you get to knock down a shot of schnapps. Some sort of yellow liquid that’s sweet but its got a strange kind of kick. It certainly creeps up on you. Not a cloud in the sky, darkness descended and the night was bitter cold in the specially erected marquee. I had been asked to bring along a guitar and do a few songs. I’d have preferred not, but I thought it would be rude to refuse. My fingers were like ice. It was difficult to play, but everybody was pissed and didn’t notice how sloppy I played. After I left a fight broke out.

Monday 22 Sept Berlin…Just as I got my baggage off the carousel the phone rang and it was Mark Mulholland with instructions on where to meet downtown. Just as well, Berlin is huge and still confuses me. Mega City Transport Paranoia caught me momentarily. Besides, I had flown into Tegel and I think I usually use the other airport, Schonefeld. The bus ride is about an hour long. Get to Mitte and meet Mark, grab some veggie food and a beer. Visit the Cannery Row office, say hi to Frank.Mark has to make a trip to the post office, so I hang around in some small bar. What else would you do? Meet up with Kevin (who is doing publicity for the label) and Abbey. Stories are told of the road, touring in Romania, Czech, life in the UK, Scotland, France, Germany….wherever , and it’s a real good time.

Joe from Two Dollar Bash is celebrating his birthday and there’s a party in his pad. We visit and the vibe is good. Later Mark wants to hear the mixes of the new stuff I’ve brought with me, but he nods off to sleep mid way through the second song. I found a sofa and had a lie down.

Tues 22 Sept Zeitz…A quick cup of tea and it was time to roll. Mark went to the airport, bound for Paris, I caught a train to Zeitz, reading William S. Burroughs ‘Place of Dead Roads’ as the train rattled and rolled through the east German countryside. It was a grey, bleak day. A sad and lonesome day. Zeitz Haupbahnhof ( train station) is a spooky place on a rainy Tuesday. Some of the platforms are overgrown with knee high weeds, water tumbling down from the cracked drainpipes. An eerie silence hung over the place once the train had pulled out and the few souls who disembarked had scattered quickly. Why would anybody want to live in such a place? Chance seems to have tossed them here like driftwood. I saw a little bar, the only sign of life. A beer set me back €1.30. The disgruntled moustachioed barman gave me the low down on how to find the Green Island Pub, the place I’m due to play in a few hours. I made a quick phone call ahead to the bar to check if they’re open. They are. Have a second beer. I’m beginning to feel ok. I need to charge up my phone, so I plug it in beside the poker machine. The barman is mumbling to himself as he cleans the coffee machine. An off-duty security man arrives on the scene. Not a word is spoken as he collects his regular coffee, sits at the table where my phone is being charged, lights a cigarette and stares at the monkeys on the TV. A nature programme. Monkeys are the stars of this episode.

Down at the bar, doors are already open and a few people have arrived and laid down their hard earned cash. I meet Andreas the owner and after a very quick sound check I’m introduced to Heike who gives me a firm handshake and looks me square in the eye. She kindly drives me to the Pension Christof located at Geussnitzer Strasse 22. I quickly check in. ‘Your room is horrible’ she says. Its ok, I tell her, its just for sleeping, I’m not bothered with the crap décor. The proprietor is showing me to the breakfast room. I’m concentrating really hard in order to remember all this stuff…down two flights of stairs, turn left, there it is. Then, back up one flight of stairs to find the exit. Leave the key in the room. ‘Great!’ I say ‘We should be off.’. I swing around, open what I assume is the exit door and walk straight into his sons bedroom. Heike looks on disapprovingly. What a terrible sense of direction I have.Back at the bar, I have dinner, a beer and do the gig. A cool listening crowd. (well, they paid in to hear me, so it would have been bad if they talked all the way through) I sell quite a few CD’s and chat to some local folks. Heike re fills my glass. Time is sliding by, I have cash in my pocket and I’m a long way from home and I’m tired with small talk and I need to lie down.

Wed 23 Sept Nurnberg….It’s a cold and wet morning. Breakfast is the standard German fare, bread, cheese, a boiled egg and a slice of some sort of salami type meat product, which I avoid. There isn’t any tea, so I sip at the strong coffee. I rarely drink coffee, vile stuff after a night of beer. I grab a glass of water. Unsure which direction to the town centre, I wander aimlessly, but find the main shopping street by chance. Enough with the walking, I think to myself, so I hail a taxi and catch a train out of the ghost town.I got into Nurnberg with some time to kill before the gig. I had a slow beer in the train station and then took a taxi over to Pegnitzbuhne, where I had played a year ago. It was nice to meet up with Marcus and Bea again, who took such good care of me last time and were wonderful hosts. I played the gig and a small but appreciative crowd were there and CD’s were sold and signed and it was a good time. I remembered Yodan from last time, a gentle giant of a man, not a word of English, so we communicate by means of rock n roll telepathy… and he filmed the gig too. Met up with Robbie Krieger and Wolfgang. A singsong after the gig, over at the bar, was good fun. Later Bea arrived with a big pot of spaghetti, and we all tucked in. I had forgotten to eat since breakfast, so the food was much appreciated.

Thurs 25 Sept. Nurnberg…..This was to be a day off. A gig hadn’t materialized. Read my book, Burroughs powerful raging torrent of words. A mad visionary experience. Unsettling, funny and wild. I got a verse to a song that had been floating around in my head for weeks. Scribbled it down. Went out for a walk. Back to bed. I had a lot of sleeping to catch up on. Later, Dead Again were playing in the club and I played a set, before Marcus joined me on piano and the rest of the guys for a version of ‘Don’t Let me Fall’. We also did ‘All Along the Watchtower’…a very long version. It was good fun. Stayed up til 5am talking to Wolfgang about the Second World War.

Fri 26 Sept Greiz…..Tried to get a ticket from the station at Muggenhof, but I couldn’t understand the machine, although a kind Asian lady tried to help me. Then another kind lady (German) told me I could travel with her on her ticket. I asked how much I should pay her, but she said a ticket holder could bring as many as five guests for free on the S - Bahn anytime between 9am and 9pm. So off we go. Seven or eight stops later I was at the Central Station and I thanked the friendly kind stranger. I found a fridge magnet for my mother (she’s collecting them these days) and some nice silver earrings for my lady. At the same stall I found a ring for myself with a good black onyx stone, and I got a 10% discount. Not a bad start to the day.

Having indulged in this episode of retail therapy I walked through the throng of people, transitory souls, in search of the ticket office.The ticket I bought was a confusing document, which included an unexpected bus connection, and I neglected to get the itinerary details clarified before I boarded the train from platform 12. The result being, I missed the connecting bus at Reichenbach. A phone call to Norbert fixed this problem. I hung around and waited, as one does on tour, and eventually the car arrived and we drove the remaining 10 kilometres to Greiz. I met with Gentleman Daniel who was slowly but surely, in a zen-like methodical fashion, putting the PA together. Then I did the sound check and had a beer. Daniel told me about his band. I had plans to go to the Pension for a shower, but that plan soon went out the window. A great meal of spaghetti with green pesto arrived on the table. I realized there was time left to go for a ramble.One can only assume this was a once glorious city from the many majestic buildings, two castles and the long wide avenues of apartments, each building sturdy as a fortress. But many of the stately homes and municipal buildings are now vacant, weeds growing on the balconies, dust on the windowpanes. I wouldn’t be surprised if tumbleweed rolled by. Street lights buzz and crackle. There’s a sadness in the town at this time of year. The old abandoned hotel is full of the ghosts of long dead Nazis. As usual in Peanuts, I sold a few CD’s and met some good people. Afterwards I ate a cheese sandwich, drove to the Pension and had a much needed shower, slept a few hours, maybe four. Fate decreed a restless night of tossing and turning. No rest for the wicked I suppose.

Sat 27 Sept Berlin…..An unwelcome fast sprint down the platform at the train station was the final wake up call. I had got through the breakfast like a chore. Bread and jam, no tea available. Last night’s dreams of old junky friends haunting my every nerve. Once on the two-carriage train, I grabbed Norbert’s hand and we had a firm, real man’s handshake. Two men from polar opposite life styles, but with an understanding of each other. See you later alligator. I had to ask a lady on the train how to get a legit ticket from the machine, the train driver eyeing me in the mirror all the time. They don’t get many foreigners ‘round these parts.

I got off at Gera, and went in search of a small bottle of cognac, the best cure for my bad stomach. Couldn’t find the required medication. Went back upstairs to the platform to await the connection to Leipzig. A young lady approached me and asked if I want a free ticket to Leipzig. I told her that I had got one all the way to Berlin, but I thanked her for the offer. She explained that her job just bought her 5 tickets, but she was quick off the mark and in the few minutes that it took the train to roll into the station she had made a few calls on her mobile phone (or handy, as the Germans call them) and a few of her friends arrived to avail of the free trip. Who can tell what they intended to get up to in Leipzig, but a Saturday night in Leipzig’s gotta be more exciting than a Saturday night in Gera. There’s no competition.

I tried to ignore the razor pain in my gut. I had 20 minutes in Leipzig train station before my connection to Berlin. I careered down the platform, a man on a mission. Found the bar. A few quiet types there. Ordered the cognac. Cost me 1.80. Down the hatch. Went back down the platform feeling healed, like Paracelcus of yore at home on the highway. Was I deluded? I didn’t care.By the time I got to Berlin I was feelin’ mighty fine. I hailed a taxi and we set off for Friedrichshain. Suddenly the taxi-driving lady pulled over. ‘ I can’t go any further, there’s a police barricade,’ she complained. Just then 400 roller skaters hissed by. Several streets had been blocked off for the race. Another 57 whizzed by, all decked out in their tight fluorescent shorts, knee pads and helmets. I hopped out of the taxi and made my way to Gartnerstrasse via train and U Bahn. Met up with my host Tom, had a beer, sound checked, grabbed something to eat, did the gig. A nice crowd came down, John and his buddy, Joe from Two Dollar Bash and assorted friends. Anna, Hank, Dugald. Some folks I had met last Monday night. A few head cases were hanging around too, as you’d expect in Artliner. Later I went to Corona’s DJ gig down the road. The Kinks, old rockabilly, Holly Golightly all got a spin, and not a CD player in sight. Chatted to Dugald from Oz about records and producing and his lovely lady and with Hank about all sorts of things.

Sun 28 Sept Berlin….Had a long sleep and rambled through the market a few streets down the way. The place has some good record stalls, mostly vinyl, but nothing cheap. You can buy food, key rings, microwave ovens, bad cheap footwear, cutlery, fridge magnets and postcards. Other stalls sell old jackets that nobody with style would contemplate wearing. Old yellowing angling magazines, rickety furniture, cool art deco furniture, dull musty furniture, clockwork mice, snow domes, cold war era gas masks, dog collars, cassette tapes, automobile spare parts. Vases of every size, colour and shape. An old metallic device for mashing vegetables. Cans of spray paint, household appliances, phials of mercury, remote control racing cars ready to roll. Paintings, books and jewellery. I picked up a few singles, something by The Staples and ‘Talkin’ ‘bout My Baby’ by The Impressions which has got one of the best snare rolls I’ve heard in a long time. A wonderful warm sounding record. Bought some good quality incense from the bald chap who stands at his stall smoking joints all day. We had a little chat. His buddy shook my hand when he learned I was Irish.I later found a street lined with restaurants and made a beeline for the Thai joint. Sat outside, it was still warm enough to do that, and slowly made my way through a big Prussian blue plate of vegetarian noodles with tofu. Washed it down with cold H20, and made a phone call to HQ in the Nordic world. I was feeling content, all alone in this city, a place with such a tragic history. A place where I always feel ok. No street hassle, do your own thing, and nobody bugs you. A place where people understand the concept of minding their own fucking business.

Back at Artliner I had a few beers and a cognac and along comes Andy. He’s the guy I met last year who runs the open mike session. He asked me up to jam with him and we did a few old rock n roll songs, and a few country things. Good fun. Then Patrick from Belfast, who sounds a lot like, and looks a little like his hero Townes Van Zandt, got up an did a set as did Kevin and the night rolled by. Matt Le Harp, just in from Prague joined us for a while at out little table. By 4 am it was time to make my way to the airport, so I grabbed my two bags and guitar, shook hands with Tom who was getting ready to close the bar, and hit the road.

At the airport I found a comfortable seat in a café and caught a few hours sleep. Wasn’t feeling too bad when I arrived into Goteborg at around 1.30pm. Freja’s hearty laugh and big bright smiled cheered me up as I had a quick beer in Central Station. There’s a Swedish dish where you get cooked cold potatoes, leek, bits of meat or tofu, egg and plenty of soya, throw it all in a pan, and fry fry fry ! I call it Peter Pany, but I can neither spell it properly nor pronounce it properly (pyttipanna editors.note). Never the less, this is what I cooked on arrival at my humble abode over near Redbergsplatsen. The autumn leaves had been tumbling down and in the week I was away, the view from the balcony had been altered considerably. The trees, all ochre and burnt sienna, looked lost and lonesome. The sky was an ominous slate grey. I needed a cup of tea.

Tues 30 Sept Gothenburg….. The invitation arrived. I’m to perform a few songs on K103 FM, a local college radio station. There will also be an interview and a chance to plug our gig at Storan, the big white Victorian theatre here on the Avenue in town. I threw on the Two Dollar Bash CD and boiled the kettle. Records by Bobby Bland, Charlie Feathers and Inneke 23 and The Lipstick Painters were played at top volume. ‘Waiter Of Your Sleep.’ A great song. The Coasters singing ‘Down In Mexico.’ It was time for more tea. There was no need to pack my bag, I hadn’t bothered to unpack.

Wed 1 Oct Stuttgart …After 36 hours in Sweden it was time to go back to Germany. A different plane than last week apparently, and my guitar wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin, so it had to go in the hold. The flight was delayed for over an hour, so I kept on reading Burroughs. Arrived into Berlin late, grabbed my guitar off the carousel and thankfully its in one piece. On the way from Terminal A to terminal C I got caught in a downpour, and I was then given the wrong information on the gate for the onward flight, but I figured it out and got to Stuttgart ok. Navigating the S Bahn isn’t easy, but following a phone call to Nicol, I figure it out and get the #2 train to Bad Cannstad, passing through twelve stations along the way. Nicol was there to meet me and his new pad is up around the corner on Seelbergstrasse. Here he lives with his new lady Iris, on the seventh floor of an otherwise vacant building.So, we dragged the gear up seven flights, lift not working, and he showed me around his huge apartment.

Iris has a baby grand piano in one room, Nicol has his office, there’s a spare bedroom for yours truly with a huge balcony. I could see the Ferris wheel from the window and just about hear the sounds from the fair ground. There was a festival on and all the streets were lined with May Poles, or an Autumnal version of these pagan phallic symbols.The building used to be an office block. They’ve got no neighbours, so we could make as much noise as we wanted, but we ended up having a quite civilized evening. We cracked open a few beers and had a chat. Iris started to prepare some food, and the first bottle of red wine was poured into three glasses.

Fri 3 Villingen……Yesterday I rambled the streets of Stuttgart, it being my first time in this city. . Bought some gel crap to put in my hair, bargain vitamin pills, and took the train to Hauptbahnhof and wandered the totally modern city centre. By chance I met the lady photographer from Villingen last year. She’s in town selling postcards, and so I met up with Bernhardt in a bookstore as he attempts to sell merchandise to the manager. Bernhardt, by coincidence happens to be promoting Saturday nights gig in Bonndorf. We go for a drink to a bar where he thinks business can be done at some stage. It’s all part of the never-ending hustle for gigs. Later, on Charlottetemplatz I found a good record shop and bought records by Ronnie Hawkins, Chuck Berry, Alan Stivell, Buddy Herman, Larry Clinton….good Big Band stuff, a blues compilation with Bessie Smith, Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ida Cox. I bought twelve LP’s in all, retail therapy baby. Mr Noodleman, who has a stall outside the main entrance to Bad Cannstad station provides me with a € 3 box of vegetarian noodles.Iris had a gig, and afterwards she joined Nicol and I as we wandered from bar to bar in the rain. At Kap Tormenso we see a not very interesting punk band playing. We chatted to the owner Tobias, who seems interested in doing business. As we have a few drinks Nicol tells the story of a gig we played a few years back in Staufen and the ‘situation’ concerning the bar tab. Since when did a musician in Germany have a beer tab ? Of course it turned out the guy who ran the bar in was American. Did we pay? No we didn’t. When he asked me to pay what did I say? “Fuck off.” I don’t recall any of this, it was a long time ago. I believe Mick Morrissey, who was with us on the night was a bit shocked.

Taxi back to the apartment and crashed out. This afternoon we hit the road, driving on up to Villingen. After sound check Mario handed me € 70 and said, go have a meal. So we went down the street to the restaurant on the corner, which happens to be owned by his brother. I had pesto spaghetti, can’t recall what Iris and Nicol had, but there weren’t any complaints. Superb food.Back to Limba for the gig. The club owner, Super Mario is celebrating his birthday, so there’s a party atmosphere. I played the gig but the crowd was drunk and real noisy. But Mario is happy, although he’s got his hand in a bandage as a result of an ‘argument.’ Marco and Jutte are down, as is Hartmut and Tom, who filmed my last gig here. At some point in the evening I was chatting to some people in the corridor, when one of the bar men opened up the cellar door (a metal hatch in the floor) and climbed down, not leaving any barricade or warning sign. That looks dangerous, I thought to myself. A lot of people were out of it. Ten seconds later Mario came running in cos the cops were outside and he tumbled straight into the hole in the floor. I couldn’t believe it, right before my eyes. It all happened so quickly. I shouted out to him, but he didn’t hear and next thing he was down in the cellar. Luckily he was ok. A bit shook up, no bones broken, and certainly lucky to be alive.

Sat 4 Oct Bonndorf ….Hartmut and Marco had cappuccinos, I had a beer. We were in a little bar in Villingen. I needed to lie down, so that’s what I did, checked emails and later re located to Café Limba where I spoke to Christoff about gigs and I met Super Mario who was limping around the place, with a sore leg and bruised ribs after his tumble into the cellar. Bernhard collected me and we drove to Bonndorf. The gig was in the Ice Café. I had played here before about two years ago. Souncheck, dinner, a few drinks, and then the long wait . Hanging around, that’s the main thing that happens on the road. Hanging around for the plane, hanging around for the car, hanging around for plug board, hanging around for the audience to arrive. Most of the gigs start an hour later than advertised. I noticed I’m in the local paper; there was a photo, and a blurb claiming this is the recommended gig of the weekend.I enjoyed the show. Played well, got a nice vibe going with the audience and sold CD’s and we all hung out afterwards. Had a good time. Made some new friends I hope.

The drive after the gig is a bit vague. There were long winding roads through rough terrain, farm houses, bridges across mountain streams, the odd luminous road sign guiding us on the road to wherever. We eventually arrived at Bernhard’s girlfriends house. A starry night, I could easily find the Plough, but no sign of the moon. It was hiding its face from the extraterrestrials. On entering this quiet as a mouse farmhouse I discovered that Sabina had kindly made up a bed for me in the living room. It made sense to crash out straight away. It had been a long day. Several hours later I awoke in stygian darkness. I was bursting for a pee big time. Felt my bladder was going to explode. All that free German beer and Mexican gold tequila. I fumbled around in the dark looking in vain for a light switch. Instead I found a doorknob. Twisted it, gently opened the door. I could hear the steady breath of people sleeping. Still couldn’t see a thing. Aware that Bernhard hadn’t told me where the toilet was, I was doomed. I found a window, opened it out and felt the fresh cold air. Emptied my bladder, closed the window and back to my bed.Several hours later I awoke to the sound of young voices. Bernhard and Sabina’s kids were up for breakfast, so I got up and we had tea and toast and I confessed about my window-pissing incident, which they found amusing, thankfully.

Sun 5 Oct. Freiburg ….Following breakfast I rambled down the country road, up towards the river. The sweet musty smell of the brown cows, sleeping in the midday sun, just like the John Cale song. A little brook over yonder, the low buzz of grasshoppers, Hansel and Gretel lost in the woods. The road sign read Sommerau, 5K from Bonndorf. Although this is the middle of nowhere, there’s a 5 star hotel perched on a hillside. I walked through the reception and into the restaurant / bar area. Felt out of place. While Sunday hikers roam the hills, posh folk pack the bar and most of the tables are reserved. But that indeed was a blessing in disguise. I took my 30cl glass of cold pils outside, found a table in the autumn sunshine, got a phone call. Nobody around. The distant rumble of a jet. Fat German middle-aged cardboard cut-out man lights a cigar. The incense of death. Kali unwittingly invoked. Azrael on the speed dial. The sun was cutting through the ozone like a blowtorch.

Back at the farmhouse we had lunch, I showered and watched Bernhard’s daughters’ award winning short film.It won first prize at the Hamburg Film Festival. We drove to a little town, can’t remember what it’s called, passing the Rauthous brewery along the way. We had time for a beer before I boarded the train for the slow ride to Freiburg. Manfred met me at the station. He’s been promoting the gig, and it’s my first time playing at White Rabbit, a cool club with a seriously big PA. Sound check is painless, despite the fact that the sound engineer is obviously very very stoned.After an enjoyable gig, I chatted to Mick, Ziggy, some American guy and a few others. It was a late night and a taxi ferried us to Mick’s place where I slept peacefully. The following morning, he kindly gave me his copy of ‘ A Riot Of Our Own’ by Clash tour manager Johnny Green, with illustrations by Ray Lowry who did all the cartoons for the Sandinista LP insert. By the time I got to Stuttgart I was on chapter 5. I had a stay over, and got up at 4.30 am to catch the S Bahn to the airport. More time spent hanging around. Found myself in Berlin, and a few hours later I was in Gothenburg city airport.

Saturday, 17 May 2008


Tues 8 July New York........After the usual stupid questions from the immigration officials at Dublin airport I got on the plane bound for New York. Slept soon after boarding and that’s the best way to deal with a transatlantic flight. I awoke in time for the horrible dinner, ate a bit of it, the bread, cheese and the desert. Wisely avoided the main course. I spent some time reading DBC Pierre’s Ludmilla’s Broken English. He won the Booker Prize and the Whitbread First Novel award a few years back for Vernon God Little. I read a few chapters and nodded off again, arriving into JFK a little later than expected, shortly after 1 o clock.After meeting up with Jack we go out for a bit of a ramble.

Up at Kim’s on St Marks I notice the vinyl section has moved downstairs and it’s been expanded too. Vinyl is making a big comeback, a wonderful two-finger salute to the record industry. Went down to the crazy old antique store on Houston where I got a cool pair of boots once upon a time, but today there was nothing worth buying, apart from a mummy sarcophocus, but I reckon Aer Lingus wouldn’t let me on the plane with that on the flight home. We picked up some Indian food at Punjabi. Later we watched the DVD documentary If I Should Fall From Grace with God, the life story of Shane MacGowan which was interesting and funny too, and sad.Slept for a few hours and a lady rings the doorbell. She’s collecting money for a neighbourhood family whose son was shot last night. A few bullets to the head ended his life. Gone gone gone at 17 years. Jack reckoned he knew him to see. Apparently it was a gang related hit.

As we strolled to the local pawnshop in a hunt for cheap guitars, we noticed the area right around the corner cordoned off by cops. Two rival TV crews were there filming their slots for the News. We didn’t find anything of interest in the pawnshop and Jack was feeling peckish so we swung down Delancey and into Chinatown. We visited some place renown for its good value, and had dumplings and pancakes. Re-fuelled we continued on our merry way in the hot summer sunshine. On Prince’s Street we came across a guy playing golf using empty half pint milk cartons instead of a ball. The object of the exercise was to get as many milk cartons as possible into a bin about 20 yards away. Nobody took any notice of him. Only in New York!

Bought four books for the princely sum of $2. Two by Thomas Hardy, one by Sir Walter Scott and one by Solzhenitsyn. I played guitar for a while, getting my head around a few new songs I’ve got on the go. Down at the Rockwood Music Hall I played a gig. Kevin Lynch arrived in big golden aviator shades and a new Mohawk haircut. It’s always good to see Kevin. I also chatted to Niall and Nashville Mike who used to work for EMI, then Virgin. I’ve forgotten who they’re with now, but they seem to want to do business and we talk shop for a while. Andy Fitzpatrick whose been living here for years showed up for the gig. He played with the harvest Ministers back in the day, and later with the Da Da’s. He told me Will Merriman had been over recently recording. I pass Will every now and again on the street in Rathmines and we wave at each other. Andy tells me that Will plays music, reads the Bible and gets on with life in his own way, and fair play to him. We later relocate to some bar called the International and later to Softie’s.

Another day, another cup of tea to wipe the cobwebs from my brain. Over at Academy Records I check out a lot of records, listening on headphones before I purchase. After a trip to Kim’s I’ve got in my possession, LP’s by Merle Haggard and Junior Parker. I’ve got 45’s by John Lee Hooker, Bill Justis, Jimmy Reed, Johnny Cash, Richard Maltby, and a great new single from Demon’s Claw’s. I also picked up a few interesting experimental / avant gard slabs of vinyl. A split 7 inch on the Black Horizons label featuring My Cat Is An Alien and Valerio Cosi. In the same vein, but sounding a bit more sinister, a bit like David Toop on bad acid are Devillock and Yellow Swans. Very good stuff indeed.Mexican food arrived as if by magic and we watched a movie, There Will Be Blood which was entertaining, a hell of a lot better than the Dylan film I’m Not There which seemed like a pointless exercise in feeding the myth. I’m so tired of rock stars complaining about their success and the trappings of fame. The whole premise of the movie seemed to revolve around complaining about being a spokesman for a generation. If you don’t want to be remembered as a ‘spokesman’ then why did you sing all those political songs, why hang out with Joan Baez, with the civil right movement singing at Martin Luther King rallies ?. To be famous? Fine, just don’t complain, stick with playing gigs for the pope.

The following morning was Jacks graduation and we were all very proud up at the Great Hall At Cooper Union. In the early days of the hall, audiences heard Abraham Lincoln and Sioux Chief Red Cloud speak. It later years Mark Twain, P.T. Barnum, Allen Ginsberg and Bill Clinton spoke from the Great Hall stage. Photos were taken, film was filmed and lunch was had. An email informed me that Darragh McCarthy was in town, and I should phone him, so I did. We chatted for a while and I invited him out to my gig. ‘I’m very tired’ was his reply. It was 4 o’ clock in the afternoon. I needed a lie down and Jack later woke me up saying we gotta go. Let’s try out a song, I said. We ran through Don’t Believe What They’re Saying a few times, Jack playing acoustic slide and then took the subway to Brooklyn. I played my set and some people had come in from Jersey for the night and it was all good fun.

The Jalopy Theatre is run by Jeff and Lynnette, good folks who moved down from Chicago a while back, but have plans to eventually move to Zanzibar. For the time being, Jalopy functions as a cool venue, with a music store up front, where they repair and sell old guitars, fiddles mandolins, harmoniums…you name it. Jack joined me for the last song and it was great to perform in public together for the first time. A great vibe indeed. Lynnette arrived with a big chocolate cake and we let the good times roll, dogs running riot, beer bottles getting spilt, stories being told. Later, much later, as we took a taxi back across the Brooklyn Bridge I felt a tinge of sadness. The New York skyline looked magnificent, lit up like a Christmas tree, but I knew I wouldn’t be back anytime soon.

Sun 22 June Dublin……Spent most of the night cruising through the mad labyrinth that is the internet looking for alternative ways to package CD’s. Im not too fond of those jewel cases that always end up scratched and sometimes broken. I threw out a spread of the Tarot and the hours came and went. Kelvin L. Smith played on the stereo as dawn broke and the sun rose slowly in the east with the help of Lucifer. I went for a lie down at around 9 in the morning, but set the alarm for 10.30, as I had a train to catch. I was just after buying my ticket at Heuston Station when I got a phone call to tell me that Mark Griffin had dropped off a copy of The Hexagraph for me. This was a one-off Zine that I put together back in ’93 when I was in a band called Captain Hex and we thought it would be fun to publish something instead of doing a record. I had been in touch with Genesis P Orridge’s crowd, The Temple Of Psychick Youth and got permission to publish extracts from their booklet Television Magick. The Hexagraph also had a piece on the record label, Micky Rourke’s Fridge, a comic strip and amogst other things we published poetry by Pat Boran, Larry Cosgrave and Bil E. Kinnarney. I wonder whatever happened to him ? I hadn’t seen a copy in a good ten years, and as I boarded the Westport train I tried to remember what the issue looked like.

Tuesday was spent cycling around twisty rural roads, visiting the eerie Kilcolman Graveyard, and exploring laneways that led nowhere. I even managed to crash the bike, and ended up with a bruise on my knee and one on my arm after I took a fall. Hours were spent reading John McGahern’s Memoir. Very readable, if a bit depressing. Strangely the Ireland of the ‘40’s that he describes so well lasted into the early 70’s. There’s a lot I can identify with.

Back in Dublin I spent the afternoon mixing tracks in the Trinity College recording studio and later after cider at the pavilion bar we visited another pub and eventually had dinner at the Millstone restaurant on Dame Street, where the red wine flowed freely. Went home and fell asleep. On awakening a new day had dawned and the mixes sounded good. I flicked through my long lost copy of The Hexagraph and the memories came flooding back. I was late arriving and missed the first half hour of Holly Golightly’s gig. She was great, a bit tired, but still wonderful. They’ve got a hectic touring schedule. It being the solstice we got the artwork finished and the missus got It Doesn’t Matter At All over to the folks at downloadmusic and it’s available as a single for 99 cents. As all this stuff was being sorted I felt the creepy cabin fever feeling one sometimes gets. The city was in the grip of a slow creeping dampness. My least favourite form of rain ruined the day. The drizzle lasted for hours. I met Les in an Asian place on the north side and caught the oldtimey session in the Cobblestone and then on to a makeshift art gallery for an opening and the obligatory free red wine. Indian food followed and I fell asleep. In a few hours I’ll be on my merry way to New York City……..

Thurs 12 June, Dublin…..I was rooting around on the shelf looking for a pen when I found my 1,000,000 dollar bill. I was handed this phoney note in Etobicoke on the outskirts of Toronto last summer and had completely forgotten about it. I recall that I was strolling back from the liquor store with two bottles of cheap red wine. I was touring at the time but we had a night off. It was probably a Monday night, can’t be sure but I remember it was one of those hot and humid evenings. It had been raining all day and not a breeze stirred. I could hear the seagulls down at the lake. A well-dressed lady walked by and handed me the note, never said a word and slipped into a hardware store. On the front of the note is a picture of a non descript middle aged man, a sort of ‘town elder’ type, the Canadian maple leaf over his shoulder and the 1,000, 000 sign to his left, underneath it says…ce billet non cours legal / this is not legal tender. The flip side has a picture of the Toronto skyline with seven fighter planes flying overhead in formation. Off to seek vengeance on the infidel no doubt. All around the note in small text is the “million dollar question.” It reads….Will you go to heaven? Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain ? Jesus said “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If you have done those things, God sees you as a lying , thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that you are guilty and will end up in Hell..”Well, it looks like I’m royally fucked. I’m not into theft, apart from melodies, but I certainly have lusted after several women in my time and thoroughly enjoyed my lustful activities.This god of the Bible seems so cross, not much fun at all. Give me the great god Pan any day. It’s also interesting that the Christians use a phoney one million dollar bill to get their message of misery across. Which reminds me, didn’t the mythical Jesus say “Blessed are the poor. “ I’ve yet to see a bishop live in a bedsit.

I put the dollar bill back on the shelf and off I went on my merry way to the recording studio deep in the bowels of Trinity College, which was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Jonathan Swift all studied here. Back in the dreaded 80’s I played here at the Trinity Ball a few times, and if somebody told me I’d attempt to mix an album in the studio one day, I wouldn’t have believed them.We got some mixes down, and it being a hot sunny day, had a drink at the Pavillion Bar over near the cricket pitch. Later I had a drink in the Lincoln Inn around the corner, followed by dinner in some Italian place on Parliament Street. On arriving home, I found that The Gun Clubs’ Las Vegas Story had arrived in the post. And I was pleasantly surprised to see it’s on bright green vinyl.The following morning I was up bright and early to pick up a CD of mixes in town and then dropped into Spindizzy Records in the Georges Street Arcade to pick up the current issue of The Devil on 45 Zine, which comes complete with two free CD’s of prison blues, folk songs and spirituals from the John Lomax collection, dated 1939.Phone calls were made, emails answered, and as usual there’s more stuff going out than coming in.

A cheque arrived as a result of the Rambling Jack video getting some TV action the past 18 months. Has it been that long ? Yes, it has. TG4 played it a few times and apparently Channel 6 have played it 127 times, so I owe Elton and Co a pint. Flicking through a freebie paper I discovered that Holly Golightly will be playing here in a few weeks, so I can’t miss that. Johnny Cronin sent me a text message to say he had bumped into Bruce Springsteen in the Temple Bar pub in town. They had a chat and Johnny gave Bruce a copy of The Aftermath’s new album. It’s been on my stereo a lot the past few days. I spent 2 days listening to the B side of Bowie’s Low . Occasionally the A side got a spin too.

Friday I was back in the studio and some of the stuff sounds good and some sounds crap. That’s just the way it is. Back to the drawing board. Saturday was a hot day in Dublin. I phoned a few people to see if they could put me on the guest list to see The Legendary Shack Shakers who were playing Andrews Lane Theatre. It was all looking good, until I got a call from Seanie Foy saying, hey, phone this number. I did, and it was the promoter offering me the support slot. When do you want us there ? I enquired. In an hour was his swift reply. At such short notice it was definitely going to be a solo set for me. There was no way I could have got the band there in time.My set was short and sweet, but bitter too, the way it should be. The sound was good, and I was pleased with everything. Shack Shakers frontman JD Wilkes certainly seemed fond of spitting all over the place, even into the audience. A bit like a ’77 punk gig in reverse. They were a good band though. I’ve got one of their albums, but it didn’t get played much. A bit too frantic for my liking. We ended up in some club underneath the Stephens green shopping center, which might have been called Rocket 88.The following morning I recorded some organ onto a song of mine, and that was my week.

Thurs 15 May, Dublin…..My old friend, and promoter Pat Cannon had sent me an early morning text. I replied with a phone call after I scrambled out of the sack, my instincts telling me he wanted to meet for a beer, and how right I was. We met in Madison and apparently he’s buried the hatchet with Slattery’s and he’s promoting a gig there with the bass player from Dire Straits and wants me to open up. Safety in numbers, so I agree to do it. We re locate to another drinking establishment and then I ramble home in the sunshine.

The postman has brought me a few surprises. The first is a letter from Justine Scott in New Jersey. She’s sent me a few photos of yours truly performing at Kenny’s Castaways in New York City, an establishment famous for a Bruce Springsteen 7 night run of gigs in the early 70’s and the place where The New York Doll’s held down a residency in the same decade. My one-off gig there a few years ago didn’t however make much of an impact on the history of rock n roll. Justine also enclosed several photocopied pages from a book by Douglas Monroe called The Lost Books Of Merlyn. A fanciful title of course, because there are no lost books of Merlyn or Merlin depending on how you want to spell it. I can imagine the author arguing with the publisher and the marketing department over the title, and the author losing out. Such is life when somebody else is putting his or her money on the line. Some of the information is interesting, such as the connection between the use of pumpkins at Samhain and a spell unearthed from The Book Of Pheryllt, a rare 16th-century text. Much is written about the Celtic cult of the severed head. There’s even an Invocation of the Sidh from The Book Of Ballymoat, but you might need to think twice before you try that one out. Still, fair play the likes of Mr Monroe and people like him for taking the time out to translate old document and spend days in libraries pouring over medieval manuscripts. I tip my hat to RJ Stewart and Peter J Carroll and all the other psychonauts out there.

A royalty cheque was safely tucked away in another envelope I opened, and a package from Germany contained two DVD’s of two gigs of mine from last month, one in Spaichingen and one in Villingen. Both were filmed and edited by Tom, so thanks Tom. See you next time.On my way down to the gig I bump into Johnny and Mick Cronin from The Aftermath, apparently trying to locate my flat. They accompany me to the sound check and subsequent gig and we all have a good ole time. Went home straight afterwards with a clear head and the guys drive to Mullingar. Slide into my bed and read some F.Scott Fitzgerald and quietly and without much fuss, I enter the Land of Nod.

Friday 16 May, Dublin…An early start, and following a healthy breakfast and three cups of tea I got myself into Trinity College in the city centre, where Les and I set about trying to mix a few tracks. Unfortunately the session had to be cut short following a phone call to say that Les’s young son was sick and needed to see the doctor. In fact, he had to be taken to hospital. I went home and had red wine with lunch while we grooved around the flat to The Aftermaths fine new album Friendlier Up Here. Later we went out for a ramble and I picked up a few canvases, as I plan to paint next week. Called into Russell’s down the road and relocated for a beer or two in Anseo on Camden Street. Got a phone call from Leo in Portugal to say that he has postponed the Button Factory charity gig until October. The new date clashes with a solo gig in Germany, and that’s a pity. I really wanted to do the Button Factory show, it’s a cool place, and I’ve never played it. Oh well, it’s out of my control. Dinner over at Mario’s in Ranelagh cheered me up big time.

Sat 17 May, London….Arrived in Gatwick around 1 in the afternoon and Les argues that we have no guitars, we have no schedule, so lets have a beer and relax, no pressure. I agreed and that’s what we did. We were in London to shoot a video for a new song 45, which will most likely be a single, in some shape or form or format. I phoned my old friend Fi Shanks who made the video for Rambling Jack which resulted in us getting on TV for the first time in seven years. Fi gave me no nonsense instructions on how to get from A to B, so we took the black line tube up to Camden Town and walked the short distance along the crowded street to the Elephants Head pub. Fi arrived with his camera and new lady (who’s name alludes me) Les had a cheese sandwich. We all had beers.The rain came down at a steady pace, the bars and streets were buzzing with action.

Up the road at the Camden Market we flicked through records while Fi filmed. At one stall I explained to Les what a dorje was. I held on in my hand. The guy at the stall informed me that dorje was the Tibetan title, while Indians called it a Varja. This I already knew, but I enquired if my explanation was accurate, as I had talked about sorcery and thunderbolts etc. and he concurred. I decided there and then to purchase said item, and following a simple transaction involving £6 the metal item was in my pocket.At another stall I tried out a cool old Burns guitar. It looked great but the fret board was way too wide for my fingers. Les was going to buy it , as he’s one of these musicians who can’t go into a foreign music shop without buying something, but changed his mind at the last moment. We got chatting to the stall owner, an Armenian chap who asked us where we were from. When we said Ireland, he said Ah!! I lived there. He then pulled out a photo of Leixlip Castle, saying he used to live beside it. Then he insisted we guess his age. I reckoned he was 46; Les wasn’t as kind and guessed 52. The guy smiled….he was 62.The rain wasn’t taking a break. We needed one, so Fi took us to some bar and I had to talk to a guy from a record label on the phone and then we took a bus someplace. Dropped into an off licence to pick up a few crates of beer and made it to the big rambling house that Fi shares with the singing star of Daisy Chainsaw and Queen Adreena. The drummer from the last line-up of The Clash also lives here, but all are away in France, on tour I presume. Pizza seemed to appear as if from nowhere. Fi has just joined The Popes and he played us new recordings from Shane McGowan’s old backing band.

I once again took my phone out of pocket and got it touch with old friend Andy from Sweden who by chance lives just down the road. He called over to help us drink the beer. I grabbed a red Hofner guitar and we filmed more stuff for the video.Later we checked out two gigs at the Cross Kings, can’t remember the names of the bands. It was a late night and after about 2 hours kip, we had to hit the road. At one point we were on a tube going the wrong way. Les kept saying, we’re gonna miss the plane. I said, it’ll be fine. And it was fine. We caught it by the skin of our teeth. Back in Dublin, I slept for a few hours during the afternoon and then on VEOH I watched a documentary on magicians down through the centuries, the mythical Hermes Trismagistus, Paracelsus, John Dee, Crowley etc. Veoh is the new website run by the same people that had stage 6, but that proved too expensive to keep going apparently.I felt a few new songs coming on…….time for more tea, and perhaps a good nights sleep.

Friday, 25 April 2008


Wed April 23, Freiburg….It was my first departure from the brand new terminal 14 at Dublin airport. Apparently all flights to Germany or the UK depart from this place. Big and spacious, even the bar is inviting at 6am. On arrival in familiar Frankfurt I got my ticket and took the 3 hour train ride south to sunny Frieburg. Mick was there to meet me at the station and he needed a coffee, I had a fruit juice. We stopped off at a bar for a few beers and I met with Eddie Punch, a musician who proudly tells me he’s been signing on the dole longer than anybody else in the town. They hate me down at the dole office he proclaimed! I needed a lie down, and back at Micks apartment I stretched out on his sofa for a while, only to awaken to Nicol Steiner’s smiling countenance. This to me spoke volumes. Soon enough we were in Nicol’s Mercedes on the way to the gig, which was at a place called Beatbar Butzman, or something like that. It’s a small place, nice vibe, owned by a youthful brother and sister team. Rolf had emailed to say I could use his PA, which was still there from a gig he had promoted a few days ago. I had played in Rolfs bar, Rattenspiegel, back in September 2006, the last time I played Freiburg but unfortunately it’s closed down now.

Before the show I needed some food. I couldn’t read the menu as I can neither speak nor read German, so somebody said, have that, it’s fish. But when it arrived it looked like onion rings. Nicol mimed, making a grim face and doing strange crawling movements with his hands. Fish with many legs he said by way of explanation. Crab!! Aha, I said. Normally I avoid Cockroaches of the Sea, but I was starving so I ate a few, washed it down real quick with a beer to get the rubber tang out of my mouth and did the show. It was my first gig using my brand new guitar, an Ibanez jumbo acoustic. It arrived a last week and I got Eugene the guitar doctor to fit a slightly expensive Fishman pickup. Sounds good. I really enjoyed the gig and the small bar was packed. Some old friends showed up, Rolf from Staufen, Peter from Egon 54, Andrea, and Wolfgang who had a present of a Ryan Adams bootleg from a show he did in Royce Hall, UCLA in January of this year. Afterwards we all drank our beers, vodka and tequila. I made some new friends, Ziggy, Bernhard from Manis on Fire…it was a good night and a good start to my visit to the Black Forest.

Thurs April 24, Spaichingen…Woke up real late, around 2pm, but I had a lot of catching up to do. I located some bread and cheese and tucked in. I know that some people are easily shocked, and I’ve met people who read this Diary from time to time and think Im some sort of head case, but unless you’ve been on the road of rock n roll, sad and lonesome as it often is, there’s really no understanding the head space one gets into. And so, having thus explained that touring is a form of life, but not as we know it, I washed down my breakfast of bread and cheese with an ice-cold beer from the fridge. I then sat on the balcony over looking the small courtyard and bashed out a few chords on the guitar. Im really happy with the Ibanez. It sounds good, looks good and has a nice slim neck making it easy to play. I had got to the point with my Epiphone that I didn’t even want to pick it up. Maybe it needs to have the action adjusted, but it was good to me for the last twelve years and travelled with me through fifteen or sixteen European countries, Thailand, the US, Canada….and now it’s at home. I’ll take it out for recording purposes, as it still sounds good. It certainly won’t be gathering dust.

We hit the road in a Ray Charles fashion, pedal to the metal, stopping off at a roadside petrol station for chocolate and beer. I picked up a bottle of Desperado, a beer laced with tequila. It sat on the shelf smiling down at me. To it’s left was Jack Daniels and coke in a can. We drove to Spaichingen to play at Spaichingen Gymnasium, which is a gig in a school concert hall, organized by my friend Hartmut.. The sound was good and the lighting too. Students were taking care of business and afterwards I thanked them and told them the truth…that there was more money in being a sound engineer or a lighting technician than being in a band. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but I think they got what I was saying. Tom travelled down from Villingen armed with his expensive digital camera to film the gig. Not many people showed up but the small gathering that was there seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards the school principle invited me into his office to present me with a T Shirt and strangely, a big bag full of pasta. Taggliatelli, spaghetti, penne and a few other types. I like past a lot, so I graciously accepted. I also got cash. Stayed up late with Hartmut as he explained the importance of Krautrock to me and we polished off a bottle of good red wine, a perfect ending to the day.

Friday April 25, Villingen…..After a breakfast of bread, cheese and a boiled egg washed down with a good gallon of tea, I relaxed, made and received a few phone calls while Hartmut corrected exam papers. (He’s an English teacher). Over at Marco’s place I dumped my gear and along with Yutte, we went downtown to a little bar. An elderly lady from Kenya struck up conversation. We had a few drinks and I was introduced to a drummer friend of Marco’s. The sun was shining, but it wasn’t too hot. Later, I went and had an afternoon nap, and I needed it.

Nicol had arrived back from Stuttgart and it was time for sound check at Café Limba, one of my favourite places to play in Germany . Dinner was great creamy vegetarian pasta, and the gig was good fun. Tom arrived and filmed it and people danced and got into the vibe. I met lots of people, some I knew, and some I got to know over the course of the evening. Financially it was very rewarding and Nicol claims it was the best gig he’d ever seen me do (and he’s seen a few) and proprietor Mario was over the moon. I must have done something right!The following afternoon we were back at Limba for refreshments. I picked up records by Kevin K, The Walkabouts, Johnny Cash, Lee Hazelwood and The Sonic Angels in Bernhard Zipfels record shop next door. The Croatian girl who worked the bar last night, asked (through an interpreter) if she could make some Racketeers T Shirts. No problem was my quick response. Being a photographer, she wanted to do some shots, so we relocated to Marcos pad and over the course of forty minutes or so; she used about five reels of film. On the balcony we did the photo shoot, and after a while Nicol took out his trumpet and blew some cool stuff over a few improvised riffs I teased out of my Ibanez. People in the adjoining apartments came out onto their own balconies to check out the scene.

Before long we were back on the road to Freiburg. Marco drove down in his camper van and we dropped into Ziggy’s pad before going down to some festival and a few other bars and stories were told and a good time was had by all. I nodded off on Nicols sofa around 4am and awoke an hour later. My taxi had arrived, and within twenty minutes I found myself standing on the platform at the train station ready to board. A few hours later in was in Frankfurt Hbf. I read some of Flann O Brien’s ‘At Swim Two Birds’ while I waited to board my homeward bound plane. Job done.

Thursday, 20 March 2008


Wed 30 January, New York...... He brought his banjo in, wrapped in a shroud. Dressed in a dark suit, his hair was side-parted and slicked down with hair oil. Tall and pale and slightly stooped, he wore a black moustache. He looked like across between a 1920's door-to-door Bible salesman and that odd character from German pop-synth band; Sparks. His banjo playing was rudimentary, and his songs sounded like Tom Waits on real bad acid. But I liked the man with no name.I was at the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn, New York on a bitter cold January night. Every Wednesday, they present the Roots n Ruckus event, a night of folk, old-time and blues.

Earlier I had seen another guy play. He reminded me of a young Townes Van Zandt, dark, tall and skinny and with a genuine Southern nasal whine. He sang some great old songs, but I didn't catch his name either. All these guys had a habit of mumbling their introductions. Free food was being served down at the back. Ladies drifted by with plates of pasta. I didn't eat. Didn't need to. I had a beer and soaked in the atmosphere.A bitter wind was blowing as we made our way down Columbia Street, ancient skeletal trees bending in the breeze, trashcans waiting to be emptied. Two well-dressed guys in a big black Sedan drove by slowly, rolled down the window and asked for directions to the Brooklyn Bridge. We were useless with directions. At Carroll Street we took the F Train to Manhattan. That night I dreamed a dream. I was in some foreign city. Nothing unusual about that, however I felt both lost and at home at the same time. The north wind was blowing hard, driving through the sky big, black, heavy clouds. A high sea was raging and dashing its huge, slow, foamy waves along the coast with the rumbling sound of thunder. The waves followed each other close, rolling in as high as mountains, scattering the foam as they broke. I quickly crossed a wide majestic bridge and made my way to an area of bustling activity. Labyrinthine streets brought me to a small bar, where I met somebody I knew. It felt like Xmas, or some festive season. The ladies were of east European aspect. Everybody seemed to be expecting something to happen. I had a gig the following night and a storm was coming.

Fri 8 February, Arnhem…..There’s a great line from a Mercury Rev song that goes "bands, those funny little plans, that never go quite right." And it’s so true.Before xmas, I had the rather misguided notion that we should, and could record a new album in a matter of a few weeks and have it out really fast. Although we've got about twenty songs down it looks likely that a new album will have to wait until the tail end of the year. Instead, a batch of singles will be released throughout the next year, the first on the vernal equinox, and the next one on the summer solstice. It makes sense that the next one should be made available on the autumnal equinox, with the last one seeing the light of day on, you guessed it, the winter solstice. Each single will be available as a download, as is the fashion these days. Marking time on the wheel of the year is a concept I'm keen on.

Having my head full of Sonic Youth songs was not the ideal way to approach a few solo acoustic gigs, so I put on Okkervil River’s great LP “Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See” and even took time to rehearse. I flew into Brussels and from there made my way by train up into The Netherlands, arriving in Anthem a bit late. I had been off the booze for over two weeks and was feeling all the better for it. However, reality bites hard and I knew there was no way I could get through three gigs in two days without a drink or two. The bar lady said "would you like a drink ?" so I had a beer and before long somebody got me a Geneva Gin as well. There's an axiom of the occult path that proclaims 'man know thyself' and it serves well. The gig was at the wonderful Oranje Koffiehuis. I hadn’t been there before, but everyone, the staff, the locals, the audience were good people. So much so, that I didn’t even make it to my hotel. Eric invited me back to his pad for a late drink and he put on records by Grinderman, Keith Caputo and Motorpsycho, who are Norwegian, if memory serves correctly.

Sat 9 February, Antwerp…Breakfast was a boiled egg, bread and cheese. I’m not big on coffee, but this morning I had some, and after Eric had given me a few CD’s, including the recent album by Nick Cave’s new band Grinderman and the soundtrack to the movie The Proposition, plus a few other CD’s we went off on our merry way. Eric took me down to the train station and not being in possession of a credit card, he kindly used his piece of plastic to buy my ticket. I reimbursed him with hard cash; we shook hands and parted company. It was a bright sunny day, but still bitter cold.

The train rolled on towards Nijmegen, a city considered to be the oldest in the Netherlands. The first mention of Nijmegen in history is in the 1st century of the Common Era when the Romans built a military camp on the place where Nijmegen was to appear; the location had great strategic value because of the surrounding hills, which gave (and continues to give) a good view over the Waal and Rhine valley.As we crossed the River Waal, an enormous barge slowly drifted by, on the way to god knows where, it’s unseen cargo remained a mystery to me.The phone rang and it was Arnt from Belgium wondering about my estimated time of arrival. As we spoke, confusion set in and I nearly got off at the wrong station. Onwards to Roosendaal where I had a twenty minutes wait before the next train. The sun was going down and it was going down real slow, casting long shadows all along the platform. Elderly moustachioed gentlemen strolled by chatting in Flemish. I felt like a man from another time. Two Buddhist monks in traditional saffron robes waited on the 17.35 train. I wished there was a bar open, and there probably was, but it could have meant carrying my bags down three flights of stairs.A few hours later I arrived into Antwerp Central. Asked directions outside but nobody could help me out. A Norwegian lady approached me with map in hand and helped me try and locate my destination. She even insisted I keep her map as she was off home to Norway. However, I had the address wrong, so I just thought to myself, to hell with this, I’m taking a taxi.

Before long I was at Den Hopsack. Had some salad and soundchecked. I was on the phone to Andrew in Dublin when along came Frank. Always good to see Frank. Ten minutes later I was on a street corner on the phone to Åsa when along came Inneka eating an ice cream cone. We strolled back down to Den Hopsack and Inneka did a set with a little help from Frank and Wim, who used to be in that great band De Bossen. I played my set and all went well, although I ‘ve played better gigs in my time. I felt rusty.

With Arnt we hopped into a car and sped right across town to the 219 Bar where I was to play another gig. The gear for the DJ was unsuitable and the PA just wouldn’t do what it was supposed to do. We attempted a soundcheck but that’s as far as it went. Gig cancelled at the last minute. Meanwhile the crew we had with us re located to some other place where Wim was having a birthday party of sorts. Luc from Kinky star in Gent arrived and drinks were drank and stories told. At some time around 5am I got a lift to Central station, where I had to wait for close to two hours to catch a train to Brussels. It was a bleak and freezing cold morning. A depressing way to spend a few hours. Somehow or other I managed to miss the train, and in a bit of a panic, I managed to get the next one and I got to the airport a little weary and bewildered, but still in one piece. I treated myself to a glass of red wine before getting on the flight to Dublin and falling asleep straight away.

Sun 17 February, Tilburg…On Friday we had rehearsals, as I desperately tried to remember how to play 7 or 8 new songs. We’ve been recording them, but that’s a different story to letting rip as a three-piece. But it all began to come together and we ate pizza and Chris crashed out in my place. A few hours later we scrambled out of our respective beds, grabbed a quick coffee and Maurius, my friendly Romanian taxi driver pulled into the driveway. We met with Les at the airport and off we went. On arrival at Brussels airport I bought the tickets to Brussels North and ended up waiting on the very same platform I waited on eight days ago, when I was bound for Arnheim. Today we’re heading north into the Netherlands again; only this time our destination is Tilburg, located in the southern province of Noord-Brabant.

Not much is known about the earliest history of Tilburg. Documents from the year 709 C.E. show the name Tilburg for the first time. After that the sources remain silent for some centuries. In the later Middle Ages Tilburg was more of a local 'region' than a village or city, although a couple of small hamlets provided its population centers. One of them was known as 'Eastern Tilburg' (Oost-Tilburg), which was later reflected in the name of Oisterwijk ('Eastern Quarter'). This village centered around a small (probably wooden) castle or 'Motteburcht' on an equally small hill, which became derelict and was torn down after a few centuries at most. Apparently King William II (1792-1849) always bore a warm heart towards Tilburg. "Here I can breathe freely and I feel happy", he once said about the town. I sort of feel the same way about it myself.

I know we played Tilburg before, back in 2000 and possibly in ’98 too, but I’m a bit vague on that.On arrival, I’m heartened to find our hotel, the imaginatively titled Hotel Centraal, is right across the street from the Station Centraal. We checked in and had a drink or three at the bar. I had agreed to do a guitar work-shop at 4.30pm so I needed a lie down to get my head together, so at 3pm I hit the hay while Les and Chris went off out on a ramble around town. Promoter Will arrived to collect me and we walked the short distance to the Paradox Club. The guitar clinic was an odd affair. I’m no whizz kid with a guitar, so instead I talked about song writing and showed the small gathering of people a few of my licks, mostly modifications of old rockabilly riffs, and I pointed out the similarities between the licks used by Marc Bolan and Eddie Cochran and Charlie Feathers. I talked about the importance of getting the most out of three notes, a thing Johnny Thunders had down to a T. A couple of guys got up to jam, and Chris sat behind the kit and jammed along too. Later, we had dinner, sound checked and waited….and waited.

The gig was well received, a good crowd, who got into it, and it really was great to play so much new material. We managed to get through about 8 new songs without a (noticeable) hitch.Afterwards, CD’s were sold and Les went to the toilet for a puke. A girl at the bar asked me if we ever played Galway. I said the last time we played Galway was about three years ago. “I’m moving to a place near there” she said. “Where ?” said I. “Claremorris, have you ever heard of it,” Sabine replied. I told her that I had grown up about four miles from there and I knew the place well. A long night followed, chatting to people about music and life in general. The following morning, Les had recovered from his vicious stomach bug to regale us with tales of his once successful , but alas short lived, solo career in Japan. We had time to kill in Schipol Airport, Amsterdam and spent it well, smoking cigarettes, and drinking beer. What else would you do in an airport at 11 am?

Fri 22 February, Dublin.....A bunch of people arrived down to The Cobblestone that I hadn't seen in years, Gary from Cork, Fergus, Leo who lives in Portugal these days running some sort of classy health farm. It was great to see my old friend Sheila Sullivan again. She passed on a message from journalist Jim Carroll who apparently reads this diary. Jim used to write nice things about a band I was in five lives ago, and then stopped writing nice things about me. I suppose I did lose the plot for a while. But then, who doesn't. So, hi there Jim, hope your keeping well. Sheila was a Racketeer for a couple of years, but wisely took early retirement. However, being in the Racketeers is a bit like the The Eagles song 'Hotel California' ..."you can check out, but you can never leave..." Two years ago Sheila guested with us at our gig at the Rhythm & Roots Festival in Kilkenny, and of course she played violin on "She Said" from Silver & Dust.I played my set and I seemed to keep it pretty much together with Les joining me on two of the new songs, "The Women 'Round Here" and "Sweet Angel." I strapped on my old electric Epiphone Casino for the last song ("Racketeers Lament") and got a wall of sweet distortion and feedback and that went down well. After a short intermission Patrick Freyne and his Bad Intentions played their set and they were great as I had imagined they would be. Then I DJ'd for the rest of the evening and didn't get a chance to chat to as many people as I had time I'll bring a tape.....remember those things, tapes ?

Thurs 20 March, Dublin........... I noticed all the real good Van Morrison clips on youtube have been taken down, including the piece of film of him performing that most beautiful song about such a dodgy place, 'The Streets of Arklow.' The performance dates from just a few months back from a show in the US. Magical it was, but with all the big record companies getting themselves all worked up over copyright laws, it's been taken down. It reminds me of the early 80's when record sleeves bore the legend 'home taping is killing music.' How silly it was.
I found some new footage of Dylan doing a gig in Buenos Aires and he's back playing guitar again, after years of slamming away at his keyboard.

The deep baritone of Walter Jackson boomed out of the speakers, shaking the wall and bringing the sweet sound of soul to the north end of the building. It was time to put on Fabienne Delsol again. Her wonderful 7inch of bright yellow vinyl arrived in the post from those great people at Damaged Good Records in England. 'Im gonna Catch Me a Rat' is a great slice of country garage pop with French Fabienne sounding sexy and cool. The flip side is three minutes of melancholic psychedelia with melody. I wish there were more records like this in the world. Word came through that Mac of Mac's Records died. He was one of the first people I got to know when I moved to the big bad city. Many years later we recorded together when he recited poetry over a track that ended up as a Captain Hex B side, but it wasn't his fault it didn't sell. I once asked him for a job. This was back in about 1993. Times were hard and I was really broke. Poor Mac looked real perplexed and started to tell me that there was more to running a record shop than just hanging around playing records all day. I knew that, I wasn't stupid, but it brought it home to me, there and then, that I was unemployable. He was a good guy, Mac. In recent years I would drop into his shop Final Vinyl on Camden Street to root around for records and CD's. He always had a story for me.

I missed the Church service, instead I caught up with folks in the pub across the road where we paid our respects and knocked them back. Met with Enda McDonald, who I hadn't seen in about twenty years, Acko, Bootleg Paul, Frank from The Baby Snakes, currently hustling for the Master Musicians of Joujouka. Tom Cook was there who had managed a few bands over the years and in more recent times had a wildlife radio show. Not a lot of difference there, studying wild life and managing a band.I had to go and do one of my occasional DJ gigs over at the Belvedere. On arrival I discovered a room full of very drunk and very messy Welch rugby fans. I suppose it could have been worse. I played records by Charlie Feathers, The Stones, Faces, Patti Smith, T Rex, Tommy Blake, Howlin' Wolf, Holly Golightly, Roy Orbinson, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, The Gun Club, The Stranglers, Blondie and many more. Had a few drinks, made a phone call and my taxi arrived and we cut across town. Back at home I fell into bed with my book on Henri Toulouse Lautrec and read about his life hanging out with the hustlers and the whores, the dancers and dipsomaniacs. I always loved his posters, lithographs and paintings and he sure was prolific. I drifted off into the Land of Nod dreaming of Henri taking boat rides to Bordeaux, or a barge up into the Netherlands on holiday, always travelling by sea, if possible. Mixing his mad cocktails for his friends and drinking gallons of wine after a trip to the circus on a sunny Friday afternoon. Spending hours down at the Moulin Rouge drawing his good friend Jane Avril.

I awoke to the sound of hailstones lashing down like miniature golf balls, setting off car alarms across the square and throughout the neighbourhood. People ran by on the street shielding their faces from the onslaught. I put on a Charlie Parker record, made myself some tea and had toast with orange marmalade. A good way to greet the day. I've currently got 119 TV channels and they're all rubbish. Occasionally I'll find something worth watching. At 5am last night I discovered a documentary on Tibet as it was before the Chinese came. Old film footage from the 30's, 40's and 50's , lovingly restored, showed a country unlike anyplace else on the planet at that time. Great costumes, but a little obsessed with religion. Later, Les and I got some new mixes down and 'The women 'round Here' is ready for virtual release. Angela Carter is fuelling my imagination again and there are a few new songs floating around up near the ceiling. I have to coax them down onto paper or tape or both.