Thursday, 26 November 2009

Mon Oct 19 Hamburg….A bad start to the day. The plane was half an hour late leaving Ländvetter so by the time we got to Copenhagen I had the feeling they were going to lose my luggage. But it was ok, long gone are the days when everyday started bad. These days they mostly start off good, so I can deal with the odd exception without optimism being eroded. Anyway, I ran through the airless airport carrying Ibanez acoustic guitar and a black shoulder bag with harmonicas and harmonica holder, tickets, a Guy de Maupausant book and a box of CD’s, the only merchandise sell able. Got to the gate, sweat dripping down my back. There was a young chubby and uncharacteristically jolly Lithuanian businessman waiting for the shuttle bus. We were the last two to board. The bus arrived, got on the plane and off we went to Hamburg. My prediction was correct and I didn’t even have the tarot with me. Having arrived so late into Copenhagen the luggage handlers didn’t have time to get the bag onto the next flight, so after a few minutes watching the carousel go round and around, I gave up and went to the lost luggage desk. The helpful lady was able to tell me straight away that my bag was still in Copenhagen, but she could get it to me by 9. I told her I was due onstage at 9, but it was no big deal. I had most of the stuff I needed in hand luggage and I could borrow the rest. She said she’d see what she could do and I believed her and it was a done deal.

And then I surprised myself by navigating the hitherto unexplored bowels of the S-Bahn and I didn’t even fuck up once. Arrived into the station I had been aiming for and instinct told me I was within walking distance of the venue. I found it within 15 minutes, nestled into a leafy side-street near the University. The place, a bar with two rooms, busy front room where the bar is located, quiet backroom where the gig is. Staff and patrons seemed to be nice folks. Introduced myself, met Davide a friendly German of Italian parentage, went for a walk. Got lost, and then got found and back at the Pony Bar I had a sandwich and sound checked. True to her word, the airport lady phoned and my lost luggage arrived and it arrived an hour earlier than promised, so fair play to you Air Berlin. The gig was as one would expect a Monday night gig to be. Afterwards Davide took me to my lodgings, dropped off the gear and we went down the road to a cool club called Astra Lube. Small, dark and packed. Junius from Boston ( or is it Philadelphia) were three quarters of their way through their set. They sounded great, a lot better than their records. Met them afterwards for a beer and a chat. Astra Tube is a famous club and has been here for decades, but not for much longer. Tucked away under a one hundred year old bridge its due for demolition as the bridge needs to be re-built. The dodgy techno club across the road and the Rasta joint down around the corner will have to re-locate too. Picked up a bottle of water in the nearby filling station and went for a lie down.

Tues Oct 20 Berlin…..Woke up in room with the stale smell of cigarettes, but it was too cold to open the window. Shower followed by vitamins and a bottle of water. Posters on the wall, tell tale signs of those who have slept here. Flo Fernandez, One For The Team from Chicago, garage outfit The Movements. Who’s been sleeping in my bed ? I was under instructions to go to a specific café for breakfast, paid for by the Pony Bar which doubles as a drop-off point for the keys to my crash pad. Went for a walk around the neighbourhood. Hamburg is a cool town , even at 1 o’ clock in the afternoon. Found the place for breakfast, staff are very friendly and helpful and this is all a pleasant surprise, but then I remember that I ALWAYS have a good time in Germany.

Made it to the train station, but figured out that it would probably be cheaper to take a bus to Berlin and this is the case. At the bus station I got the ticket and met a guy from Dublin I hadn’t seen in years. We both had time on our hands, Kevin had coffee, I had a beer and tales were told. He went one way, and I the other. Slept most of the journey down to Berlin, arriving after dark. A leggy blond lady of Scandinavian aspect helped me locate which train I should take and in a rush to get on, I forgot to get a ticket. I had been warned several times by several people to never try to travel without a ticket. I'm not sure what the consequences are, but getting caught isn’t a good thing. It’s a bad thing with a capital B. Onwards the train sped through station after station, and then on comes the controller. Gradually he was making his way towards me and I was the only spastic on the train without a ticket. I did my rooting through my pockets routine, trying to play the role of the stupid tourist while the guy was looking at me with one of those ‘ Ive got you now English man’ looks on his pinched law and order face. Just then a fight breaks out ! Two guys started punching the living daylights out of each other and then the train pulled into the station and the fight spilled out onto the platform. The ticket inspector reluctantly got off the train to try to break it up. But I could see he didn’t want to get involved and was out of his depth. Berlin is such a peaceful, safe city that this sort of thing is unheard of. The doors slid closed, the train took off again. My ticket problem vanished and I got off at the next stop.

East Of Eden is located up on Schreinerstrasse, a bookshop with a bar. Had dinner with Alan in the Thai place across the road. Sean and Orite drop in to say hello. The last time I saw them was in Quebec about two years ago. The gig was fun, with Anto showing up as well as Kevin and host of others.

Wed Oct 21 Leipzig…..On a morning ramble through Friedrichshain I found a middle eastern place, one of the few eating shops that were open. I needed food so rice wrapped in vine leaves, cous cous and various vegetables washed down with a fruit drink got me ready to face the day. And what a day it was, three hours spent trying to locate a cheap train in Lutherstadt Wittenberg station. When I found the ticket office I realized it wasn’t cheap at all. It had been too good to be true anyway. I took the S-Bahn to the bus station, but theres no bus to Leipzig, so I grabbed a taxi to Haoptbahnhof and got a train ticket and I badly needed a beer after all that riding around in circles . Made a phone call. A portly middle-aged man, arm in arm with his hefty rotund wife strolled by with the calm assurance of the wealthy and the arrogant. He was wearing a stars ‘n’ stripes jacket, evidently proud of his country.

The train was crowded, rush-hour stressville, folks take whatever seats are available, no time to pick and choose. A big blond woman sits across from me. Gives me a quick suspicious glance. Maybe I'm reading the signal wrong, maybe not. After a while she takes off her jacket. Tuns out shes a cop on her way home from work. She read her magazine, I read my book. Worlds apart.

Taxi driver in Leipzig got lost but after a while we located what we thought was the club. I opened the door and walked into what looked like a bicycle repair shop. I called out to see if anyone was there and a guy comes running out of a back room, dripping wet, towel thrown around him. ‘Your looking for Noch Besser Leben ? Its next door’ he says. I apologized for disturbing his evening shower. The phone rang and it was Thanos to see if I wanted to meet for a drink. Wrong country my Greek friend. I explained I was with the Germans. (He was in Sweden).

Noch Besser Leben is a cool club. A big enough place in a quiet run-down part of town, all high ceilings and dark wooden panelling. Dinner was a pizza, my room was off the venue, down a corridor, bathroom next door. The gig was enjoyable a small gathering of people who listened. Good response, very good response. Afterwards talking to Tom the barman I learnt he was the guitarist in a goth band whose name I cant recall as I type, but I had heard of them. He told me that he wasn’t the original guitarist, he’s only been in the band since 1986. I thought Tom was about 30 years old, turns out he’s 46. I told him he’s the Ronnie Wood of the goth world, still the new boy in the band after 23 years.

Dean is from New Zealand and was still wearing his cycling gear. He had cycled over 20 miles before he dropped in to the gig. He likes doing that sort of thing apparently. A nice guy is Dean, and he insisted on taking me to the ‘Secret Cinema Bar’. I’m all on for it. We walked down long lonesome streets lined with derelict factories, abandoned warehouses. Not a soul in sight. A spooky lane that runs parallel to the river lined with lime trees led us to what looked like a run-down farmhouse. It was difficult to see what was going on, there were no street lights. We were in somebody’s back yard. Passed by a sculptors workshop and found The Secret Cinema, a big barn with five or six cinema seats anchored to the concrete floor, a DIY silver screen and a few chairs scattered around.. Theres a pool table and a self service bar at the end of the room. The movie is over, but the vibe is good. Im introduced to the owner by Dean. Everybody seems to know everybody else, about 15 people present. Good vibe, laid back. Had a few drinks and somehow or other got playing pool. A few games of doubles. I won the first but the girl from Dresden won the second. Her friend Marcel told me I didn’t look Irish. I think he was being sarcastic. A friend of Deans, a tall man, long grey hair down to his waist pulled into a neat pony tail, beard down to his belly, gave me a lift in his car back to Noch Besser Leben. The cops pulled us over as we drove through the desolate streets. My friend, who hadn’t a word of English, had apparently been drinking only water all night, and his licence and tax was all in order so the cops let us go. Got into bed and had a long long sleep.

Thurs Oct 22 Leipzig….. Crossed over the majestic Weisse Elster River and made my way to the Sleepy Lion, checked in and left straight away. Downtown is full of people. Wandered the streets. I was a bit frightened by the Bundesverwaltungsgericht, which is the Federal Administrative Court of all Germany. The building is so big and imposing it looks like it must have been built by giant aliens from another reality. Or by madmen. It was cold and a light drizzle soon turned to rainfall. A dead pigeon lay on the footpath close to where two boys were trying to get a home-made boat, fashioned from a plastic bottle to float in the filthy waters of the river. Tourists looked lost and the trams whizzed by going to god knows where. Over in Mitte, the shopping district, I found an Asian cafe and had reis gebratener und tofu. Walking through the square and around by the Mädler-Passage, I felt I needed a cognac to settle my stomach. Sat in a low-lit bar, drained the glass, beer chaser.

Daylight was fading fast. I saw happy couple coming out of what looked like a Spanish bar. I asked them what the place was like and they smiled, recommended the bar and I thanked them and went inside. The place was hot and full of people, waitress’s running around, barmen busy and looking important and evidently they even liked their jobs. “Hey Eamonn” I heard someone call out. Down the room, sitting at the bar was Dean, my friend from last night. He was knocking back red wine with his friend Olga, a school teacher from Russia. The conversation eventually turned to the art world. Dean told me about a painting he had exhibited in New Zealand which dealt with his ex. He had taken what could be described as intimate photos of his lady on a daily basis, and these were arranged in neat rows on a large canvas measuring approximately seven by four feet square. At the opening of the exhibition this canvas of pussy shots was finally finished, when he stuck a syringe into his arm, drew back the plunger and with the barrel full of blood, he sprayed a huge ‘X’ across the canvas, thus completing the piece. Dramatic and inspired. The film footage in on youtube although I watched it on Dean’s mobile phone. The mans a genius.

Later it seemed like a good idea to lie down, read my book and get some sleep. Walking through reception I heard somebody call out my name. It was Marcel, my pool playing friend from the Secret Cinema. Turns out he’s the night porter. Time for a game of pool, and with bottles of beer at 1 euro a pop, it looked like it would be a late night.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Thurs July 30, Åmål….The rain came down heavy and hard. Boarded the bus leaving Göteborg. Less than two hours later and three chapters into Andrew Millers’ ‘Casanova’ we arrived into Trollhättan. After the initial pang of commuter confusion, I got on board the train and arrived into Åmål just as the rain was easing up. I had checked it out on google maps and according to the Big Brother of the skies, if I swung a left out of the main entrance of the station and followed the river I should find the town centre. Ignoring the bus service and the taxis, this is what I did. Fifteen minutes later I landed on the doorstep of Café x/o and was greeted by Camilla, and later met Fredrik who showed me around. There’s a big ballroom type place upstairs which they hope to turn into a venue next year. I’d like to play here, but not tonight. The building itself dates from the 1700’s.

I met up with local photographer / graphic designer and occasional musician Tony Berg, a gentle giant of a guy, long blond beard, built like a wrestler. Had a beer, Tony had a coke and we chatted about music, photography, life in Sweden….you know how it goes.

The gig was an out-door affair, but the wind was blowing rough and it was difficult to keep the guitar in tune as it was such a damp evening. Fair play to the audience of 70 or so brave folks who turned up and seemed to approve of my attempts at entertainment. Camilla drove me to a cabin on the shores of Lake Vänern which was my base for the next few days.

Fri.July 31 ..A restless night of tossing and turning, but I had my book to keep me company and its very well written and Millers got a great turn of phrase, one of those writers who effortlessly takes you into another world, a very believable world too. Eventually I got to sleep properly around 8am. The phone rang shortly after midday. It was Fredrik informing me that Tony was at the bar having breakfast and would pick me up if I wasn’t doing anything. I needed a quick shower, so he said he’d see me at 2. And so at exactly 2pm Tony’s car pulled up outside. I hopped into the car, The Clash on the stereo blasting out….I knew there and then that we had a lot in common. Tony drove me around the sights of the small town and we stopped off at his apartment for a while. He showed me his collection of 28 guitars…. and he’s got a lot of CD’s too. His photos and artwork adorn the walls. A talent man indeed.

We had a drink over at the 50’s diner sitting on the balcony, avoiding the wasps, weekend shoppers down below, the River Åmålsån running through the town and into the lake, the third largest in Europe. Back at Café x/o we had dinner and red wine and I felt a bit tired and went for a lie down. Every now and then a hot girl would walk by and wave at Tony, or come over to the table to give him a peck on the cheek. All these leggy ladies apparently had been photographed by him. Not a bad job really !

Due to the dodgy weather the gig was inside the small bar. The acoustics were great and Fredrik and I spent a good while getting the sound right. Often, I can sound check in 10 minutes. Tonight took a little longer, but it was worth it. I met some good people after the gig, sold CD’s and had a few late drinks. A good night by any standards.

Sat Aug 1, Åmål…Another open air gig, down in the town centre got the day off to a good start. Åsa and Freja arrived up by bus and it’s a very rare occasion when this sort of thing happens. We met up with Tony as planned as he wanted to take a few photos. We find a location over near the old chuch and he gots out his expensive camera and started shooting. Some elderly ladies from the nearby craft fair approched Tony wondering if I’m up for signing a few autographs. They must have thought I was Johnny Logan ! (he’s big in Sweden)
Later we found a bar and contemplated dinner, but the beer prices were riduculous and the food menu was more than a bit crazy, so we didn’t eat. Instead we visited Cafe Trädgarden out at the camping site and had a few beers followed by wonderful fish and chips. Marley’s ‘Keep on Moving’ was on the stereo, speed boats bounced across the waves on the lake. After dinner I had a nap and then strolled the half mile back into town. A big beat-up, souped-up black Mercedes drove by. The stereo pumping out honky tonk sounds. A welcome respite from conveyor belt hip hop. I walked past the caravans and camper vans, holiday homes. A heated arguement was underway in the garden behind one of the stately mansions. “Nej, Nej, Nej”..some guy was shouting. Other voices are in obvious disagreement but I’ve no idea what they’re on about. The gig was great, the place packed, I played well and felt I was amongst friends.

Fri Aug 18 Barcelona. I had arrived in previous night, with my host Oriol Stardust meeting me at the airport. A thunder storm greeted my arrival and this suited me fine. Thor was simply saying that everything back in Sweden was fine, and we’ll see you soon. We took the long long train ride out to Cardedeu where Oriols parents have a house in what used to be the countryside, but is now the sprawling flat suburbs. Slept a bit, awoke, went for the walk. Oriol arrived in from work (he’s a journalist) and the afternoon was spent having a look around at the old derelict mansions, one-time playhouses for the well-heeled. Back in Barcelona, we has dinner just up around the corner from the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, spaghetti pesto and a few glass’s of red wine. Antoni Gaudi’s famous church La Sagrada Família was up around another corner but we didn’t have time to go see it, but I had seen before way back in the last century, mid 80’s if memory serves me correctly.

One time Racketeers bass player, Paul Demsey showed up. He had a gig the following night in some Irish bar in town, but was on a night off and it was good to see him and get the news on what he’s been up to the last few years splitting his time between Spain and Thailand. The gig at Macondo was fun with Oriol joining me for a quick run through Brand New Cadillac towards the end.
Sat Aug 19 Cardedeu…Spending the afternoon travelling into Barcelona seemed like a good idea, we had a few drinks and Tapas in some place just off Las Ramblas. In case you don’t know, La (or Las) Rambla is a street in central a 1.2 kilometer-long tree-lined pedestrian mall between Barri Gòtic and El Raval, it connects Plaça Catalunya in the center with the Christopher Columbus monumentat Port Vell. It’s full of tourists, but the locals like it too. Had a swift beer in a bar, cerulean blue walls covered in magnificent paintings of Sumerian dragons. We stood at the bar, I soaked in the atmosphere, lazy trip hop on the stereo, sounded like Morsheeba. Oriol was restless. He’s not a beer drinker, whiskey mostly and it was too early in the day for that. The lady across from me was smoking Lucky Strikes, the barman was grumpy and bored and pulled pints from a great golden tap in the shape of cobra head. I could have stayed all night, but we had to visit a record shop. A very expensive collectors haven. Still, I managed to find a John Lee Hooker single for 1 Euro.

By the time we got to Cardedue by train, I was ready for a nap, but that wasn’t possible. Thre gig time changed from 9 until midnight, but in reality it was 1am by the time I got in stage and it was all a bit hazy. Apparently it was great. Maybe they lied !

Sun Aug 20 Barcelona…Oriol was kind enough to accompany me all the way to the airport, a journey that took well over an hour., a place where smoking is forbidden “ By Royal Decree” according to a sign on the wall. By the time I got to Brussels I had finished reading Joseph O Connors Star Of The Sea . With twelves hours to wait for the connecting flight, it was a long night.

Wed Oct 14 Göteborg…I had started hanging out in bars in Central Station, buses coming and going, railroad tracks leading right across the country and down into Denmark if your feeling like you want to go that far, or in the opposite direction, north into Norway. The transient vibe of the place appealed to some sort of feeling of restlessness or a misguided desire to have wander.
Nordstan is a huge shopping centre nearby Central Station and I’ve had the frosty pleasure of a drink in one of their bars too. And so it came to be that I was there and the stereo was pumping out the latin sounding pop trash, the singers sounding like coked-up chipmunks. Synthetic bass, synthetic drums, rubbish melodies. A cardboard cut-out Swedish guy was tapping his fingers in an unsteady tattoo on the table. Down at the end of the room is the gambling corner. People were winning, and people were losing on the roulette table. The lady at the blackjack table was elegantly dressed in white shirt with black tie, black skirt and matching waist coat. The dealing of the cards and laying out of the chips, just another tea time gig for her. The Thai girls who work in ther nearby restaurant were knocking back the tequila with beer chasers and talking loud. They can’t get Singha beer here, but there are no complaints. Falcon Export will do the trick.

Went to the nearby Mother India restaurant for dinner. I was starving and we got a seat upstairs, the basement room being packed., and this suited fine; my anti-social tendencies being catered for by the friendly Indian waiter. Cobra beer arrived in gigantic bottles, bigger than I’d bargained for. Things were looking good.

Played a gig over in Kontiki, a bar right beside the enterance to the Botanical Gardens. A small crowd on a freezing cold Wednesday night, but such is life. Met some folks who had seen me in Åmål, and Andy and Damon were down too. Deutschland beckons like a ghost.

Monday, 20 July 2009

If You Stick To Your Guns, I Will Drink To Your Health

Tues June 2 Göteborg…..I dreamt I was on 1st Avenue NYC, rambling uptown. I had to meet somebody about a gig in a small underground club up around 6th Street. Business done, I found myself over further east on the grid. It was dusk grey, a breeze blowing in from the river, newspapers rolled by like tumbleweed. I slipped out of dreamland as somebody slammed a door shut. I read a few pages of Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic Of Cancer.’ May the gods of literature, madness and rock ‘n’ roll look down favourably upon his baldhead. Slipped back into the land of nod with a return ticket to dreamland. It wasn’t Amsterdam I found myself in, but it was a Dutch town. I was with Mark Gilligan who was decked out in a very sharp pen-striped suit. Mark looked tired, but otherwise was in good spirits. We were two old hustlers talking shop.

Checking my emails I noticed that at the exact same time I was dreaming of Mark Gilligan, he was sending me a message on myspace. It was time for a cup of tea and a slice of toast with marmalade.

Hadn’t seen any films for a long time, and then I watched a whole batch of them.
’Let the Right One In’ was great, a Swedish vampire movie, set in modern day Svenska, a unique take on the genre. I had been curious about Klaus Kinski’s ‘Paganini.’ and so I got to see his slightly mad, but still watchable swan song .

Who needs Spinal Tap when you’ve got the real deal in ‘Anvil- The Story of Anvil’. It’s probably the best film I’ve seen all year, but then again I didn’t see that many. But its recommended, and I’m not a metal fan. ‘Chemical Wedding’ deals with good old uncle A. Crowley and it’s O.K. but I got the impression the producers would rather have made a biopic had the funds been available. Still, if you’re interested in the Master Therion, it’s worth a look.

Mon 8 June, Rockfield…..I had a plane to catch. The Emerald Isle beckoned. Five hours in London Stansted was a bore, but then again all airports are a bore. I’d never flown into Knock Airport before which is located about ten miles from the Marian shrine. It could have been anywhere west of the Shannon. Windswept, half-built, grey, drab and depressing. Not a Holy Water font to be seen. Glow-in-the-dark-Madonna’s were in hiding.

Those rolling hills of Mayo, the silage done and the smell of cut grass. Bekan church on the horizon, curious cows. Familiar sights. I was reading Maxine Sanders autobiography ‘Firechild’ which had arrived in the post, a present from my friend Cosmic Martin Kelly . It’s an interesting take on the modern witchcraft revival, and of course she was a key figure, being married to Alex Sanders the 1960’s, the self-styled King Of The Witches. She’s not a great writer though, and maybe that’s why she didn’t delve into more meaty subject matter....for example she could have written about her philosophy on how or why magick works in the first place....alternative realities....recent scientific theories about chaos, and how science is becoming weirder all the time and closer to magick than it ever was etc..etc..buts its difficult to write about such matters. Maybe it’s best she leaves that to Peter J Carroll or Ramsey Dukes .

Sun July 5, Göteborg….Turned on the TV, a very rare occurrence, as I like to keep my brain in working mode. Don’t want the senile rot to set in. There was Elvis Costello relishing his role as chat-show host. I assume the programme is bought in from the US. His guest is Elton John and they’re talking about records and song writing. Allen Touissant is on piano in the house band. I turned off the set just at the point where Elvis and Elton start waxing lyrical about Rufus Wainwright. I’m not that enamoured with him. Martha Wainwright is much cooler.
I remember the first time I saw Elvis Costello and The Attractions, early 1980’s, before he became crap. It was in Leisureland Galway, a big rectangular shed out by the seaside. Its got a capacity of at least 2000, Elvis pulled a crowd of about 500. Still, he was great. First song was Sour Cow Milk Blues, followed swiftly by I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea. The Attractions were tight and blew me away. Joe Wall suggested we try and get back-stage to see if there were any free beers available. Security was fairly laid-back. We knew the local crew anyway. I nodded politely at Elvis as he signed autographs for his fans and Joe and I tucked into the band’s rider. Steve Nieve was refusing to speak to anybody because at one point during the gig he came out from behind his organ for a bit of stage-front boogie woogie, and a punter at the front grabbed his leg and his shades fell off and tumbled off the stage never to be seen again. But the missing shdes were also his prescription glasses, and without them he was blind as a bat. So, as you can imagine he was pissed off !
Next time I saw Elvis was about seven years ago when he opened up for Bob Dylan, and he more or less played the same set I had seem him play in Galway. Tracks from the first three albums, nothing else, and it was still great.

I had a bunch of new songs on the way, but the fancy Tascam machine quickly became a pain in the ass. It’s way too complicated for me, and beside, the effects in the Boss BR11 80 are much better. I was spending way too long reading the instruction manual and trying to get information from the net, so to hell with that! I figured out a way to use the M Box as well. So, I’m going to sell the Tascam and I slept well once I had made the decision.

The sun cut through like a knife. It was 7am. Lux Ferre, the blinding light-bringer was greeted with a mixture of light damar and dried lemon peelings in the censer. A Luciferian start to the day. Later, the neighbour complained about the incense. Typical.

I got a call from Andreas, so after a pear cider in Franke’s we cut across town to meet up on Göta Älvbron Bridge. The Banankajen Metal Festival was on and we could see the bands in the distance but the wind was creating havoc with the acoustics, so we couldn’t really hear anything that resembled music. I don’t particularly like metal anyway. Bass player Daniel was there. We had met before but I was fairly out of it and don’t remember a lot of what happened at that time. Andreas had organized a rehearsal with him on drums and Daniel on bass, but we didn’t even discuss it. No need to. The rehearsal could take care of itself. All we needed to do was show up. Instead we had a beer, some vodka, and although Slipknot were due on, Åsa and I split to go to Järntorget. Passing by the harbour we came across the Dance Band Festival. From one of the marquee’s we could hear some cabaret collective doing Chubby Checker’s ‘Lets Twist Again’. It reminded me of Foxy back in Dublin. His band The Mosquitoes played a festival somewhere and Chubby Checker was on the bill. I asked Foxy what Mr Checker was like, and he said, “He was crap, and he wasn’t chubby at all!”. Another time Foxy went to see Bo Diddly. I’m a big fan, but missed the gig. Probably was gigging myself, can’t remember the circumstances. How was Bo ? , I asked. “He was crap, kept looking at his watch all the time.”

Found a bar called the Red Room, or something like that. With beers at 25KR each, it was worth hanging out. Later we went to Publik, then home so sip wine on the balcony with Mariana. I was in the kitchen when Åsa came running in excitedly shouting “UFO’s are out there.” And indeed there were five craft flying in formation, very, very slowly from north to south over the city. Not a sound, quiet as a mouse they were. We both see the planes arrive and depart from the airport all the time, but these were no ordinary passenger planes and military aircraft always seem to fly so fast, so I’ve no idea what they were. The three of us watched them until they disappeared from view.

Rehearsal with Andreas and Daniel was hot sweaty and loud. We ran through about 10 songs, a lot of the newer material worked well. After about five hours we called it a day. I felt alive and well and a part of the rock ‘n’ roll parallel world. New speakers arrived for my home recording set-up so I mixed a few tracks I had been working on. The postman brought me ‘Portable Darkness’ a selection of Crowley writings and a Sigur Ros CD. I played Big Youth records over and over. Sweden fills me with inexplicable loathing. I’m in the same boat as Andy. The place is OK, it’s just the people are all wrong.

Thurs July 9, Köln….. It was an early start as usual. 7am as we rolled out of Göteborg and drove to Helsingborg where we took the ferry across to Denmark. A quick journey, it took not much longer than twenty minutes and we still managed to get a quick beer in: Carlsberg from a black can. The ship sailed into Helingør with its imposing fortress of red brick with its grand turquoise dome. The entrance to the harbour is flanked by two miniature lighthouses, one day-glow red, the other day-glow green. Onwards we drove through the Danish countryside with its instantly alien architecture, all concrete and yellow bricks as opposed to the wooden structures in Sweden, all creams, ochre’s and wine red. The road signs pointed towards Vallensbaek and Gedser. We passed the turn-off for Odense, past the grey concrete towers. The sign told me this was an industrial estate called Essex Park. It looked neither like Essex, nor a park. It was just another corner of hell tucked into an unsuspecting countryside. A prison for those lacking in spirit. I went back to reading a biography of Dylan Thomas.

People were flying kites and sailing their sailing boats and it all looked to civilized and beguiling. I noted that the Henry Kruse truck in front of us made deliveries to Kiel, Lubeck and Sylt. I had tried to gets gigs in Kiel and Lubuck to no avail. Made a mental note to try Sylt when I got a chance. But maybe it’s the same story there.
That Henry Kruse truck slowed us down for a few miles, there was no way of over-taking it. Then we hit the motorway and the dial told us we were doing 125 k.p.h. Coincidentally it was 125 kilometres to Hamburg. But we were bound for Rødby.
From there we took another ferry. It took about an hour. I was already getting bored with Dylan Thomas and his spoilt boy antics. Repaired to the bar that was full of anxious staring amateur travellers. I needed a few beers, so I had a few beers and we arrived into Puttgarten in Germany and drove to Marl where we tried to book rooms but it was full up. The pension at Kuhler was full up too and so there was no choice open to us but to drive to Köln. Found a Formula 1 hotel slap-bang in the middle of an industrial estate and checked in. We had been on the road for fourteen hours and covered 2,200 kilometers. Got room 319 with a view looking out over the car-park. How classy is that? The slightly more up-market Ibis Hotel was across the way so we had a drink there. The staff were friendly but the dinner menu wasn’t very impressive. A blind man had obviously decorated the foyer. Paintings hung all around the room at weird angles, some right in front of others. A shelf loaded with ornaments completely obscured a large landscape. Plastic bamboos stood to attention in a bucket. Outside the rain came lashing down and when it stopped Åsa insisted on going to a nearby Burger King. I ate some potato wedges (my only food of the day) and Åsa had a cheese burger and Freja fell asleep.

Fri. 9 July, Orleans….The CD player wouldn’t work properly so I alternated between Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’ and the Dylan Thomas biography. The road took us down into Belgium and we by-passed Liege and down the steep hill into Luxemburg. Drove by Waterloo where Napoleon lost to the Seventh Coalition in 1815 and inspired Abba to write a pop classic in 1974. Onwards and into France and Viva Le Republic and all that crap. A country where you can’t buy a bottle of wine at a filling station unless you order a hot meal as well.

Bad navigation took us through Paris and the sluggish tide of traffic cost us three hours of our lives. Mariana and Leif weren’t saying much. The folks in the other car which made up our two-car-convoy looked like they had seen better days. By the time we got to Toulouse it was late evening. We split up and located a cool hotel down a long leafy driveway off the main road. It was expensive, but what the heck. Dinner in the restaurant out front was going to be expensive too, but I hadn’t eaten a proper meal for two days and after a twelve-hour drive I was willing to shell out. Just as Åsa is about to swipe her credit card Mariana comes running in a mad panic, across the plush Hotel foyer shouting ‘Don’t check in, no no no!!!.’ Apparently she had found a cheaper place up the road, and yes…it was in the middle of an industrial estate.

I was in bad need of a shave and a shower. The former took five minutes, the latter was postponed. We made a beeline for the nearest building that looked like a restaurant. I had two beers and a bottle of red wine as a starter. The food menu looked suspicious but I did what I could. The food was shit. Nothing to do but pass it on to the wife, she’d eat anything. Ordered another bottle of red wine. Plans were made for the following day but they were made of air.

Sat. 10 July, Puylauren……We drove the remaining 557 kilometres towards Toulouse. The hay is bailed and the sun is cracking the stones. Fields are full of sunflowers. Stopped off in some small place for provisions. Between Castres and Toulouse lies Puylauren, a small sleepy town where everybody seems to know everybody else. Folks greeting each other on the street, waves, salutes, we’re all in this together sort of vibe. The house we’re staying in is less than a mile outside the town surrounded by farms. Built in the 1750’s, from the outside it looks like a slightly run down big-house from a by-gone era. Inside it’s modern and sterile and suffering from an unimaginative dose of the IKEA virus. It’s spick and span, all mod cons. There’s a big swimming pool out the front, but I don’t swim so it’s no use to me. Dinner is prepared and the wine is flowing freely but it’s only a matter of time before cabin fever takes its toll.

Tues. 14 July, Puylauren….Being witness to a bunch of Swedes having an argument is something to behold. The group mind in its lowest form: a vile display of arrogance. But I’m sure there’s something to be learned from it all.

The locals don’t put much effort into celebrating Bastille Day, so I do it for them. Earlier I amused myself and avoided arguments by working on a few new songs. One is called ‘Back Seat Driver’ another is ‘Gone In The Blink Of An Eye’. I’ve got a few others on the go as well, but lyrics are slow to come, but one title should be ‘Pack of Dogs.’ So, rather than celebrating a day of genocide, I’m celebrating the arrival of a few new songs. The bars leave a lot to be desired, but the staff are friendly and I’m beginning to recognize the locals. A thunderstorm blew in across the rolling hills bringing lightning and heavy rain showers. A respite from the heat of recent days.

Fri. 17 July Carcossonne…..Åsa wanted to go home or go to Spain or to Jupiter, but we went to Carcassone instead, passing through Montolieu on the way. A medieval walled city perched high on top of a hill; it’s an impressive sight. Although it’s all aimed at tourists, it’s still a cool place to visit. Not too far from here the execrable King Philip bullied the first Avingnon pope, Clement V into authorising the trials of the Templars. Six hundred were executed for heresy in the ensuing blood-bath. Broken by the torture administered by these xtians, the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay and 122 others confessed to a litany of heretical acts. But de Molay recanted his confession and at his public execution he cursed both that loathsome pope and the King. Within a year both of them had died. However, the seeds of madness were sown, and over the coming years over 600 more were burned at the stake in Carcossonne alone. So, sitting in a bar at 11am I raised a glass to all those heretics, and gave a two-finger salute to the church.

All towers and turrets, the place would make the ideal setting for a bit of gothic photography. Bearing that in mind, we had some food and wine and tried not to think how I was living way beyond my means as I scribbled down notes for songs into a black notebook. Feeling isolated, with neither Internet nor telephones working we made plans to escape to Spain. We also made tentative plans to return to Carcossonne sometime, and stay overnight if possible, but not with the same posse, and we won’t be travelling by car next time either, that is guaranteed.

Sun 18 July Girona, Spain…..We made our escape and got to Spain. Ended up in Girona, Catalonia by midday. It was hot and sticky and great! We quickly found lodgings at an affordable price at the Hotel Condal. It was clean, air-conditioned and the sun didn’t get in. A few drinks were had and the conversation good. Crossed over the River Ter and wandered through the old part of the city, all crumbling castles and not-so crumbling medieval alley-ways, townhouses, restaurants, bars.
Found a place where we had tapas and a few bottles of cheap red wine and made plans for the future.

Monday, 18 May 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

Thurs 7 May Göteborg ….A few months back I had a drink or two in a bar / restaurant on Linnegatan. The place was filthy, dust everywhere… and the staff didn’t understand the concept of clearing the tables. When we asked a waiter for a drink, he mumbled something about somebody else coming to take care of us, but this never happened, so I went up to the bar and got the drinks myself. So, it was with great trepidation I returned to this kip to join friends for dinner.

The bar lady told me that the ‘beer special’ was Tuborg. A good quality beer at 25 Kr a bottle, I ordered 4. Dinner arrived, a selection of tapas and everything tasted good. Later, when Marie ordered another round, we were confronted with draught Heineken, at 49Kr a glass. While nobody else wanted to make a fuss, there was no way I could stomach this dutch piss, so I went up to the bar lady and said I’d prefer Tuburg. She told me I had to sit down and wait for the waiter who would deal with my problem ! I told her I wasn’t going to deal with any useless middle man waiter and that the problem could easily be sorted out straight away. She would take my Heineken and replace it with Tuborg. Doesn’t get much simpler than that ! Looking perplexed, she took my beer, didn’t pour it down the sink, but left it on the bar ready to be sold on to the next unsuspecting idiot, and handed me a bottle of Tuborg saying, ‘this is a little warm’ and briskly walked away into the kitchen before I could ask for ice. I could have thrown the bottle of warm beer at the bitch, but that might have upset my companions and invoked the wrath of the cops.

We obviously didn’t leave a tip, and made our way to Publik for a late drink. Last time I was in Publik was in the afternoon and they were playing Mikey Dread on the stereo. Tonight it was crap acid jazz. Reminded me of Dublin 15 years ago.

A few records arrived in the post. The Flaming Arrows ‘Where Can I Lay My Weary Head’ The Skatelites ‘Ringo’ Enforcer ‘Ride on Marcus’ and a couple of Big Youth singles, ‘Strictly Rockers’ on bright red vinyl and another great cut, ‘Screaming Target’ Apparently Thurston Moore dreamt up the name Sonic Youth in honour of his musical heroes, MC 5’s Fred Sonic Smith and the jamaican toaster who has made so many great records. My favourite Big Youth track remains ‘Marcus Garvey Dread.’ They don’t make them heavier than that. Put the record on and the whole building vibrates.

I went to the Brewhouse, a big courtyard full of artistic enterprise. A lot of film makers have offices there, as well as a recording studio where The Don Darlings are recording their album . I was born with the gift of a golden voice ( I had no choice) so when they asked me to do some backing vocals I put on a Leonard Cohen record and had a glass of wine. An email arrived with an attachment; a rough mix of a song called ‘ Restless Vanity.’ Sounded good to me, threw on a Gun Club record and had a long hard stare out the westward facing window.

When I got down to the studio I was met by Mads and Miquel (and two other guys whose names I cant recall, one being the engineer). Straight into it, 40 minutes later and its in the bag. We had played a gig with The Don Darlings in Storan in the center of Göteborg before Xmas, so it was a cool thing to contribute backing vocals to their new record.

Over on Kungstorget, I sheltered from the rain at 7an / öl hallen, one of the oldest bars in the town. I was on my own, so I took a seat at a table facing the window and looked out at the blue dome of the Food Hall across the way. If you took one part cerulean blue and two parts titanium white and mixed them together, that’s the colour you’d get. Against the stark grey sky it was a new kind of beauty. The rain was lashing down in a west coast fashion. Pretty girls with multi-coloured umbrella’s rushed by. The radio played a selection of classic hits….the Spencer Davis Group ‘Keep On Running’ Aretha Franklin ‘Rescue Me.’ I had this feeling that I should be someplace else, living some other kind of life. It was a vague, shadowy feeling. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The whole day had been illusory. Even the people at the next table seemed fictitious.

Fri 15 May French Riviera…. Took the rented car and drove from Nice out towards Monaco, stopping off at the village of Èze, which is apparently famous worldwide for the view out across the mediterannean. I read this on Wikipedia, so I’m instantly suspicious. Had a drink at the hilltop restaurant, but didn’t eat although the waitress with the best shoes I’ve seen in a long time tried unsucessfully to convince us to dine. Walt Disney used to hang out here, as did Friedrich Nietzsche, but not at the same time or else Cinderella might have ended very differently.
Down the hill, in between the Lambargini’s, Bentley’s and the Rolls Royce’s we found our Opel Corsa, got inside and took the winding road back to Nice. Checked out a few shops in the old part of the city, getting lost down the ancient narrow streets. White chelsea boots were affordable, but how long could I keep them clean ? Probably ten minutes. Found a great jewellery shop, a mad Aladdins cave of silver and gold. Rings, ear rings, pendants, necklaces, amythyst, ruby, carnelian, pearl, topaz, emerald, diamonds. Rings with massive tigers-eye stones, lapis lazuli on demand. But money was tight and I had to walk away empty handed. Maybe in a few days time when I review the situation. Drinks were had at the friendly bar over on Rue de Vincent.

Over at Corniche Belview candles were lit on the balcony, dinner prepared and gallons of red wine flowed freely. The planes were flying low, movie stars and annoying celebrity types were arriving for the Cannes Film Festival a few miles up the road. It was a hazy evening, the chatter of the birds mingled with the low chatter of the humans on neighbouring balconies. I had a few CD’s with me. Picked one at random and stuck it in the machine and Roy Orbison burst through the speakers.

Friday, 24 April 2009


Sat 18 April Göteborg…..The Swedes refer to every drug under the sun (except booze, which they like a lot) as a 'narcotic.' There's no talking to them about it. If some kid gets busted with a tiny lump of grade Z hash he's instantly referred to as a criminal and in deep shit. If you look up a dictionary of etymology 'narcotic' comes from the root 'to make numb' thus referring primarily to derivatives of the poppy and cocoa leaf i.e. coke, smack etc. I've never met anyone who claimed to feel numb after a few spliffs, in fact quite the opposite. Living in Sweden however can make you feel numb betimes, or at least a bit perplexed.

I needed to go someplace. Anyplace. We drove south into County Halland and stopped off at a big old mansion, although the locals call it a castle. We had woken up at 6am, as one occasionally does, so we arrived at this place by 9, not a soul around. Found a great statue of Janus in one of the gardens, ancient stairways leading from the roof top enclosure up into the forest, sculpted palm trees and the sea stretching off towards Denmark. Almost made it to Kungsbacka but went to a town called Åsa instead. As Swedish sea-side towns go, it wasn’t up to much apart from having a great name, so we got out of there. 100 kilometres north of Göteborg we found Skärhamn, picture postcard perfect and the beer on the boat wasn’t bad. A bunch of emails got me sorted for a few gigs in Åmål later in the summer.

The postman arrived with a few interesting pieces of plastic. The Moaners album ‘Blackwing Yalobusha’ is a raw record, lots of slide over an open tuning... a two woman band. They comprise of a drummer lady whose name I can’t recall, and singer/guitarist Melissa Swingle who used to be in two-step polka country outfit Trailer Bride. The Go Betweens ‘Oceans Apart ‘ has been on a lot too as well as the Johnny Burnett Trio compilation ‘Hush Honey’. It’s got all the greats, and a few dodgy crooner type songs too. Calexico’s last album ‘Carried to Dust’ (on vinyl) arrived in one piece from Norman Records in the UK. At least they’ve got everything in stock, unlike some internet companies who advertise loads of stuff on their websites and don’t actually have the records on the shelf at all. Wankers !! One of my favourite records is Volume 3 of the Ethiopiques series. Great far-out 1970’s soul from Ethiopia, featuring the likes of Hirut Beqele and Teferi Felleqe. Mahmoud Ahmed has three tracks on the CD, but the best cuts are by Alemayehu Eshete. A lot of the stuff was recorded using just two microphones, and its all in mono, but who cares, it rocks. Great horn sections too, provided by the police brass band! Thats the way I'll do the next Racketeers record, 2 microphones, one take and a bunch of cops hanging around the studio.

Mixed six or seven songs that had been left unfinished, some were left lying around for weeks, some for months. I had to re-record some parts, especially bass and vocals on a few but got everything sounding ok. A new Tascam 2488 Mk 11 arrived from Germany. Spent a day or two trying to figure out how to use it, and it’s too early to say how I’ll get on with it. It’s got that 24bit digital recording vibe about it. As I type it’s sitting in the small room that’s both office and home recording studio. Seven guitars, bits of other musical instruments, paintings, cables, a computer, a silver phone so heavy you could kill a man with it, a sofa/bed, microphones and microphone stands, two plants, three guitar amps and not enough room to swing a cat.

An email from CD Baby told me that a guy in The Netherlands had just bought 3 of our albums that morning. A man of great taste indeed. Down at Redbergsplatsen I was in a little queue in the shop to buy a tram ticket. This girl behind me starts yapping to me. I can’t speak Swedish I tell her. Oh, ok she says…are you in the queue? I am I say, but that lady over there seems to have formed her own one-woman queue or else she’s jumped this queue. The girl was unsure what to say or do. I tell her this queue jumping malarkey is VERY non-Swedish. It’s against the law !!! Yes it is, she agrees. I got my ticket, paid the Turkish guy 100 kroner. Much as I like the place, it’s time to get out of Sweden for a few days methinks.

Wed April 22 Goteborg…..Left the apartment at 4.15 am, tram, bus , plane, in that order. And there I was in Dublin. Bus, off-licence and taxi in that order and I arrived at Cormacs pad. Hung around, chatted, played records. Sleep eluded me. A ramble around town was in order. A few phone calls, slept for a while, relocated to the Leeson Lounge to see Claire Williams band doing their thing. (Can’t remember the bands real name) Good to see some old friends. A few more hours of sleep, and on Thursday we rehearsed in Temple Lane Rehearsals. Al Cowan is playing drums on these gigs, first time in three years. (Chris was supposed to be in Spain, but ended up in hospital instead, appendix out and no drumming for him ! ) After close to five hours hammering it out, things were sounding tight, but lose too in a good way. Had a post rehearsal drink in the Sheebeen on Georges Street, the rain lashing down outside. Dinner with Foxy and Ann Marie in Ranelagh was great in every way and we had draught Guinness and lots of red wine and spaghetti and interesting conversations and good times.

Fri April 23 Kells…A grey miserable day. Cormac Figgis decided to use me as a guinea pig. He had got a new lens for his camera so he took a whole load of pictures of yours truly posing with Epiphone Casino. Liam Grant arrived in his car and we drove across town to pick up Les and off we went to Kells. There’s a bar there called Arches. Avoid it like the plague. I got the money from the fool, and we went to a little pub across the way and had a great chat…mostly about magick. Then we drove back to Dublin, stayed up late chatting, got into bed around 6.30.

Sat 24 April Dublin….We thought we’d go to the zoo (not my idea) and dropped into the pub at Hanlons Corner over Cabra way for a beer on the way. Who was there only Mr Liam Coade, musician, raconteur extraordinaire and retailer, of sorts. Rosie who buys for HMV Limerick was there too, and presented me with two lists. One was a list of all the people who were barred for life from the International Bar, and another a list of all the people that should be barred for life from the International. Her husband was on one of the lists, not sure which. We never made it to the zoo, but after a few more drinks we had Indian food and I wrote out the set list and we hit the streets.

Down at the Cobblestone it was great to see so many old faces. I was real tired the first few songs but soon perked up and I enjoyed it, as did I presume Al and Les. They weren't complaining, so I reckon they enjoyed it. CD’s were sold and I scribbled my name a few times and Sandra was left in charge of organizing late drinks and that went assways and then she was in charge of getting everyone from A to B but that went assways. Spent an uncommonly long time in a taxi going around in circles, but eventually we were in After Party World, a sort of parallel universe where records get played an instruments get played and songs are sung and stories told. A good few hours later I was in Copenhagen airport eating a dry stale sandwich and realized it was the first food (with the exception of a banana) that I had eaten in 29 hours. Sometimes your having such a good time you forget to eat!

Monday, 9 February 2009


Thurs 5 Feb. Amsterdam….I arose at 7am, looked out the window. A thick fog fell over Göteborg. I had a shower a few hours before I hit the deck, but felt I needed another. No time. A quick cup of tea and slice of toast, bag packed from last night, it was time to roll. Minus 6 degrees outside. Took a tram to Central Station, then the half hour bus ride through the snow to Ländvetter Airport and I’m on my way.

Arrived into Brussels and had to walk for about 30 minutes through corridors, up escalators, down escalators, eventually finding the luggage area. Wrong information made me get off the train at the wrong place and I had to double back to the previous station, which was Brussels South. The train pulled out of the station past the red light area, ladies in bikini’s standing in windows looking for business. It was a long slow train ride to Antwerp. On a day like this all you need is a friendly smile or gesture to make things better, and today it came in from a helpful ticket inspector.

We stopped in Weerde, which isn’t weird at all, and a place called Duffle. Further down the line a few people got off in Mortsel. The name rang a bell in my sleepy brain. It took me a few minutes to realize I had played a gig in Mortsel a few years back. On arrival into Antwerp I realized I had a 40-minute stop over. It was time for a quick beer and a phone call. An eccentric old lady wanted to befriend me and beckoned me to join her at her table. I politely declined the offer, indicating I had to catch a train in five minutes, which was the truth.

I eventually got to Amsterdam at around 7pm, twelve hours after I had set out from home. A long day, and not a note played. The Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ ringing through my head. The aroma of dope, white widow weed, black Moroccan hash. Hookers, musicians, head-cases. Amsterdam, hussle and bustle, always an air of something about to happen here. But the conservative government are on everybody’s case these days and the vibe is changing, slowly but surely. Sound check in Mulligans was quick and painless. Lots of folks were talking about the festival in Deventer where I’m due to play on Friday. The gig was ok, sold some CD’s, met people I had met on my last visit back in 2007. Had a few late drinks with Miriam and Barry, and took a taxi to my bed of slumber.

Fri 6 Feb. Deventer…….Had a real long sleep in, as I needed it. Shower, no time for a breakfast, but still Barry showed me around his new recording studio. Maybe some day I’ll record here, who knows. Grabbed a fresh fruit juice drink from a stall in the nearby market and made my way down through Vijzelstraat, up to Munt Plein..Rolled into Deventer, remembering the station on arrival. Last few times I was here, I arrived by train, but the last time I play Burgerweeshuis I recall we arrived by rented station wagon. The glamour of it all ! I was under instructions to meet promoter Mark in De Hemel and this bar I found in a small square, dwarfed by a huge Renaissannce church. A few cool bookshops were in the area, but I had neither time nor inclination for shopping.

The bar was small, packed and smoky. Got myself a beer and got to work putting a new set list together. Within half and hour I was joined by Robin Hurt and Mick from the West Seventies. We talked shop and Mark arrived with a lady from Bord Failte, one of the festivals main sponsors. Darren Byrne arrived, as did Francie Conway, a man I haven’t seen in many a year. Beers were lined up and they were put down. Advice reached my ear. Time to go. I sound checked, had dinner with the local crew at Burgerweisshuis, framed pictures of The Lemonheads, Dinosaur Junior, and Culture gazing down upon us, acts who had previously graced the stage here.

Met a guy at the bar who instantly bought me a beer, although I already had one, and he chatted away. Told me how he was really looking forward to the gig, but later confided that he was a metal fan. That’s fine, I assured him, I like 1970’s reggae, Captain Beefheart, Northern Soul, Southern Soul, old school R n B, and Dark Ambient. Later, he told me he had spent a lot of time living in an insane asylum and was on heavy-duty medication. I told him that many of the musicians I’ve worked with in the past should be on heavy-duty medication.

Eventually I played the gig and sold some CD’s and scribbled my name on the booklets and got paid and I noticed fog had engulfed the square. The hotel was right next-door; a big wooden balcony over looked the foyer. An ideal location for a Hammer Horror movie. Back in De Hemel there was a sort of party atmosphere but everybody seemed the worst for wear. I ended up in Mark Gilligan’s hotel room with a jazz cigarette and Mark’s laptop doing what ever it was doing. I think he was checking emails; it’s all a bit vague. He needed to crash out so I wandered down the corridor trying to locate my room. Couldn’t find it, couldn’t remember the door number. My key was missing. Could Mark help me out ? Of course he could, only I couldn’t find his room either. They all looked the same. I was lost in a labyrinth of corridors, all white, grey carpet, 4 am, not a soul around. I sat on the steps, keyless and clueless and tried to figure it out. A futile exercise. Who was I kidding ? At reception I made a lot of noise and work up the night porter, who checked the log, found my room, opened the door. I thanked him kindly, in a very stoned gentlemanly fashion and fell into bed.

Sat 7 Feb. Brussels….The alarm woke me up, no time for a shower, no time for breakfast. No need to get dressed, I hadn’t bothered to undress. At reception I sat down to contemplate getting a taxi. I spied Phil from Newcastle, who had been at the Amsterdam gig on Thursday. He was checking out . Didn’t know he was in the same hotel, although I knew he was in town as we had met briefly last night. It was pissing down rain so we shared a taxi to the station. We had fifteen minutes to wait. Into the bar, I had a beer, Phil had tea…and he paid. On the train he chatted up some girl a third of his age and got off in some town I’d never heard of.

Around 5pm I arrived into Brussels Central Station. Blue skies overhead, not a cloud to be seen. Wasn’t sure what to do, I had time on my hands. Take a taxi to the venue or go for a ramble. I had no map and no idea if the venue was close by or miles across the city. Found a picturesque square, none of the sleaze one expects from the area around train stations. A lot of tourists, generally not a good sign, but a Greek Bar seemed ok, so in I went. A bunch of English tourists were leaving, so I had a beer. Got chatting to the friendly bar lady, a native of Athens. She knew Café Dada well, and was a regular. Told me it was just across the square, a short walk, and she drew me a map on the back of a beer mat. I think I might have crossed Grote Markt, but I found the place somehow.

I met with Veronique who’s in charge. Dimitree, the guy who booked me is in rehab, but apparently he’s going to be fine. Not many people are there, and there’s no hurry with sound check. I’m sharing the bill with Shaman Festival. While they were setting up I nipped around the corner to De Dolle Moll. Had a few beers, watched youtube which they had hooked up to the stereo and the bar man was Djing using youtube as his collection. Good stuff too, surf, the Kinks, the Stones. A Hope Sandoval look-alike bounced down the stairs and the jukebox in my brain flips on Van singing “Jackie Wilson Said.” I had another beer.Back at Café Dada I played my set. The place was packed, and after a few songs the guitar was feeding back big time, but I used this to my advantage, coaxing more feedback to end songs, the instrument vibrating violently as I rammed it into the front of house stage left. The crowd seemed to like me. Inneke had driven down from Antwerp and gave me a copy of her great new album. We had a chat and the joint was rockin' and later Veronique took me by taxi to her flat. We shard a beer and a smoke and I was convinced there was more people present, but she insisted it was just us two. Those spirits are following me again !

Sun 8 Feb Amsterdam…On arrival into Amsterdam Central I grabbed a bowl of pasta from the subterranean whole food emporium. Washed it down with water. Badly in need of a drink, I took a taxi to Monumentje, located at Westerstraat 120. I’d never been here before, but had heard really good reports. Bar lady Annelie is pleasant, polite and cool all rolled into one. She kept the small little glasses of Dutch beer coming steadily until the grating edges of reality were nicely sculpted into a more acceptable form.

Proprietor Harry is a gentleman and soon its showtime. I really enjoyed the gig and everybody seemed to have a good time. Lots of presents were thrust into my hands afterwards. Dinner was fish with steamed vegetable in a nearby restaurant. With Harry, I went back to the bar for a while, met some good people, and eventually checked into my Hotel. Can’t remember what it was called, I fell into a light sleep, waking up every 10 minutes, crazy dreams, sweat running down my legs.

Mon 9 Feb Tilburg….Got my gear sorted out, made my exit. A final glance out the window brought on vertigo. I wasn’t in the mood for dragging my bag and guitar around Amsterdam in the rain, so I made straight for the station and got the train. The journey to Tilburg was uneventful, the Hotel right across the road from the station. Checked in, had a drink. Took a badly needed shower and nodded off. A ramble around town was a fruitless experience. Down along Langestraat and up through Schouwburgring, there’s not much going on. Folks out shopping. I phoned Åsa and Freja, went back to the hotel, grabbed some more sleep to make up for lost time.

Down at the Paradox club I met up with Sabine, who is responsible for me being here. Last time I played Paradox was with the band about a year ago, although I thought it was 2 years, but Sabine sets me straight on the dates. Her daughter has baked some biscuits for me and they taste great. As does the Indonesian buffet. Various other presents come my way and I enjoyed the gig. Good sound, good vibe and the night is still young. Will was there and Bartho too. Afterwards Sabine insisted I get the acoustic out and do a few songs while 5 or 6 of us hung out around the bar. So I sang some songs and good times were had and I felt at home, although I was a long way from home. Hopefully I’ll be back someday

Tues 9 Feb Gent…A glass of orange juice, three cups of tea, a boiled egg and a slice of bread made for an ideal breakfast. I was ready for the road, back down to Belgium and tonight’s gig at Kinky Star in Gent. I had to change in Roosendaal. The rain had turned to sleet and it was bitter cold. I nearly missed my connecting train, as there was some last minute misinformation. Arrived into Gent with the rain easing off a bit. Got down to the club in Vlasmarkt where I met Luc and crew.I found an intriguing jewellery store, a lot of Asian, Tibetan as well as Celtic merchandise. But they were closed. Thought I could shelter from the rain a bit, maybe buy something with my hard earned cash. Instead I had to settle for a nearby bar. The TV Jukebox played a lot of dodgy Eurodisco, the worst of the late 70’s and early 80’s, some imported from the states. Occasionally something interesting would come up, like Gwen McCrea or Chake Khan. Then Sinatra came on doing ‘My Way. A guy at the end of the bar decided to buy a drink for everybody in the room. I wasn’t going anywhere. The barman explained the situation. A common occurrence apparently. Framed posters of Belgian star Andre Hazes are all over the walls. The barman is a big fan and proves it by putting on a DVD of Hazes. A bell rings, another round of drinks from the happy man at the end of the bar.

Later I find myself over near St Bavo’s Cathedral and the spooky gothic streets that surround the music school. Sexy vampires lurk in the doorways. One looks just like Ingrid Pitt circa 1973, another like Yutte Stensgaard. I could have sworn I saw Mary and Madeleine Collinson run across the courtyard in white nightgowns.I has time for a lie down before dinner, then sound check, then a while sipping bottled beers in the dressing room chatting to crew. The gig was an enjoyable affair, photos were taken, cd’s sold and back at Luc’s place we stayed up late drinking vodka and chatting about films and music. King Automatic gets a spin on the turntable. This French rocker recently had a successful show in Kinky Star. Everybody’s been talking about him. Luc tells me I should have my own radio show and suggests I look into getting set up for a podcast. Maybe I will.In the morning we had breakfast under the shadow of Luc’s mountainous record collection. He kindly drove me to the station and then he was off to the studio to work on his new album. I had the rather tedious chore of making my way to Brussels via Antwerp and catching the flight to Göteborg where snow and bitter cold greeted me at Landvetter.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009


Sunday 18 Jan Dublin / Rockfield......For years I lived without a television…right through the 80’s in fact, so going into the vast ever changing archive that’s makes up youtube, I get to find all sorts of gems I missed out on years ago. Of course the 80’s was a terrible decade, bad fashion, dodgy music too, but it wasn’t all bad. For some reason I was on the Carbon / Silicon website. I’ve always liked Mick Jones. If I recall properly, I was just checking to see if there are any gigs soon. They’re aren’t. And so a link took me to youtube and on and on, through the Clash and to Big Audio Dynamite. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, but some of the BAD stuff sounded good and some of it was great. A live version of Medicine Show from the Channel 4 programme The Tube was really something else, and even later stuff like Innocent Child sounded all right. A great melody, not so sure about the arrangement though. And things have come full circle. These days I don’t bother with TV at all. There’s one of those fancy flat screen yokes in the flat hidden behind a pile of CD’s, but I don’t go near it. Occasionally one of the Swedish channels will show a good film, but it’s a rare event. Last week (after I cleared the CD’s away) I saw a bit of a documentary about the final days and tragic murder of Robert Johnson, but it was nearly over by the time I noticed what the drug of the nation machine had to offer. Youtube is a sort of TV I suppose, a channel for your imagination. If you think of something, it’s probably there. Howlin’ Wolf, Joe Ely, Gregory Isaacs, Johnny Thunders, they’re in there, but you’ll never see then on TV. But how long will it last before everybody gets all bothered about copyright laws?

Got on the plane and read Anne Bronte. Following a few hours in Dublin where I met up with Les, Al Cowan and Jack, I took a bus west, slept most of the way, but woke up with the driver enquiring from a lady passenger how he could get to Castlerea. A foreign national, he didn’t know the route. The lady really got into the whole vibe as she sat right behind him giving him loads of unnecessary instructions. Here …take a left here NOW !…up ahead there’s a bridge so you’ll have to slow down….keep left on the roundabout….indicate NOW… Poor guy, his head was wrecked. When we got to our stop the driver helped us with our cases. “She’s driving me crazy” he confided. She was the only one left on the bus and he had another 50 miles left before they got to Westport, the end of the line.The wind blew hard and the rain came down. Although the phone lines were down and the storm was getting wild, we still went out walking in the fields, hopping over stone walls, avoiding the electric fences, exploring the wild terrain. Jack hadn’t been in Ireland for 7 years, so we had to make up for lost time. We hung out with 80 year- old ladies who were drinking whiskey at 2 o clock in the afternoon (we had bottled Guinness) , great stories were told and this place is another planet compared to New York. Jack had a belated birthday present for me, a book entitled ‘Very Special People’ by Frederick Drimmer. Its got tales of the often tragic lives of ‘freaks’ such as Tom Thumb, the bearded lady Mme Clofullia, the giant Jack Earle, and Julia Pastrana. Some of it makes for disturbing bedtime reading.

A few days later we arrived back in Dublin. It was late on Saturday night and most bars were packed, but we grabbed a beer in O Neill on Suffolk Street, where I hardly ever frequent, but there weren’t many people about so it was ok. Later on, we took taxis in different directions and I made my way to Cormacs pad. He’s done a great job with the sleeve for ‘Mansions Of Gold’ and it’s his first time hearing it too. He likes it. He gave me a copy of the recent Paranoid Visions ‘Treasure On The Wasteland EP’ and we listened to a lot of soul, talked about records, movies, The Flight of the Concords on youtube. DC Nien doing ‘Reptile’. Billy Childish records were played. Grace Jones new album blasted out of the enormous brown 1970’s Warfdale speakers, with Sly and Robbie back in the driving seat. We opened another bottle of wine. Around 4am I started to nod off in the armchair, so I decided it was time for a little lie down. At 6 Ted woke me up. Just as well, I had forgotten to set the alarm clock. Grabbed the bags, weighed down mostly with merchandise, and made it to the airport in time for the early morning flight to Gothenburg.

Tues 27 Jan. Göteborg………Everybody’s writing blogs these days. A lot of them are rubbish. Nothing interesting…or inspiring. But there are exceptions. I’ve been checking out Tony James’ blog on the Carbon / Silicon website. Tony used to be in Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik, and played with Johnny Thunders a bit. He’s an interesting guy and I think I’d enjoy having a drink or four with him. Courtney Loves’ myspace rants are cool too, but I don’t think I’d go on the piss with her. I’ve been hacking out my old tour diary journals for years now, long long before they coined the term ‘blog’. Not sure why I bother anymore. I think it’s just practice….like playing a musical instrument, if you don’t do it all the time , you lose it quickly. So I’m just practising. And I don’t mean my typing skills. I mean my use, or misuse of the Kings’ English. A lot of this stuff / crap tends to get written long hand in notebooks, scraps of paper anyway, and then I have it typed up by two Hungarian ex-porn stars who work in the racketeers office. It’s a great life !

It’s minus 5 outside and I’m in my bare feet. The roof doesn’t leak like the last place I lived in, and when you turn on the tap in the bathroom, hot water comes out ! What more could you ask for ?There’s a whole world of wonderful dark ambient experimental music out there. People like Warmth, Valerio Cosi from Italy and Robe from Indiana USA. Once you enter their world your in a place where the music sounds like what they might play on the radio in heaven, or hell depending on your taste. It’s a strange parallel world where the cassette is king. Although some of these folks release stuff on vinyl, and of course CD, a hell of a lot of the stuff is out on limited edition cassette tapes, usually with hand made sleeves and the shell is often spray-painted. It’s a suitable medium for this type of music, which usually comprises of pieces that last up to 15 minutes or a lot longer. One such label is Winepress from Lancaster, Pennsylvania who have some really interesting merchandise, and Scotch Tapes, a label that specializes in limited editions of no more than 20 copies. The company slogan is “dead formats are the new cutting edge.” They plan a few releases on re-cycled 8 Track cartridge!Now, there’s an idea !!!