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!