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.