Friday, 24 December 2010

Thursday October 14, Göteborg… I’m being followed around by the god Thoth. He’s making me take notes, scribble down phrases from William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch, stay up to 5am trying to write lyrics to long forgotten riffs recently discovered on Sony FX cassette tapes. Write your blog, Thoth tells me. Scribe of Ma'at in the Company of the Gods….i will do that.

By chance I discover some homemade documentary film on youtube about the murder of Bridget Cleary (1895) often referred to as the last witch burning in Europe. But it wasn’t really that. For a start it wasn’t the remnants of the vile Inquisition or a Witch Finder General type scumbag that killed her, but her husband and a bunch of her relatives and neighbours. Her Father was even there. I had read a lot about this years ago, first unearthing the story as a 9-year-old kid in Patrick F. Byrnes ‘Witchcraft in Ireland’. About 6 or 7 years ago Angela Bourke’s account was published – ‘The Burning Of Bridget Cleary’ . I started to read it again. On google maps I found the house where she was murdered. I couldn’t believe (A) it still stood and (B) it was lived in. Now that I’ve been there in the virtual world I’d like to visit on the physical plane of this vague reality. I might go there on the astral by accident. Been lotza places by accident, real and imaginary. Took down copious notes, a song or two may be brewing. And Thoth, Ibis headed god of scribbling (and more) says ‘keep writing.’ It’s one way out of hell.

Thursday October 21, Dublin…It was like old times. Stories to be told, plans being made as we drifted from one watering hole to the next up an down Baggot Street. But it had been an early start for me, up cockcrow to catch a flight over via Copenhagen, so come 4 o’ clock I went down to Temple Lane Rehearsal Studios. We had a room booked, but we weren’t due to start until 6, so I managed to get two hours sleep on the big leather sofa. Foxy was there to greet me as I awoke from my slumber. It just so happens that he was down the corridor with his crew The Mosquitoes. Would he meet me for a drink after rehearsals? No, he couldn’t do that. Chris arrived in and we got down to work. He had brought in a Yamaha amp for me and I tried it out and liked it and it’s mine for the weekend.

Afterwards we visited Sweeney Mongrel to see a band (whose name I can’t recall) from Westport. Then onto the Ha’penny Bridge Inn, The Working Man’s Club and Les’s flat and time for a lie down.

Friday October 22, Dublin’s Fair City…. Jessica was having breakfast as I stumbled into the kitchen. I was looking for the toilet, wrong way entirely. She pointed me in the right direction and I went back to bed. Hours later in Sweeney Mongrel I was checking out things for the gig when in walks the undisputed King Of Rockabilly, Seanie Foy with Edel and another friend. He was on Erdinger (non-alcoholic) I needed to self-medicate a bit. Good times….good times. It had started to rain and a few buskers came in and asked if they could play in the bar. Mark (the fixer of our gig) said this was a great idea and he sorted the folks out with a few free beers. Not every pub would be so kind. The played a mix of bluegrass , hillbilly , country and sounded great. After a while the rain eased up and off they went on their merry way. I went for something to eat, rambled the streets and it was time for sound check, a painless affair and the sound guy knew what he was doing. Afterwards we drove out the country, stopping in for provisions at some roadside shopping centre, a few glamour puss babes buying vodka, the young people of Ireland preparing for another debauched Friday night out. Then we spent a while on Chris’s barge. Joy was there to greet us with some pasta with green pesto sauce. The barge is a lot bigger than I had imagined. Homely, welcoming and tranquil.

Back into town and there’s a good vibe on the street. The gig was really enjoyable and familiar faces were there, and a lot of unfamiliar ones too. We all really enjoyed playing and that’s what it’s all about. A bonus if other people like it too, and I reckon they did. Long may the rock roll.

Sunday October 24 Dublin… Having spent the day (and night) in Clane, County Kildare, I was back in the capital for an afternoon gig in the IMOCA (Irish Museum Of Contemporary Art) Freezing cold during sound check and gig as well. Niall Toner Jnr and Johnny Rohan were great. Reminded me a bit of the Jayhawks. Unfortunately I missed Sean Millers set. I played a few acoustic numbers, then Chris and Les got up and we did our thang. Jessica told me her handbag was nicked the other night. Petty thieves beware…never steal a witch’s bag ! Not a good idea. But on this Sunday we had a nice gathering of old friends, and some new ones too and despite the arctic conditions we had fun.

Sunday October 31, Göteborg… Recorded some songs with Damon from the Don Darlings. A good version of Delia, and a song of his own – can’t remember the title. Got some handclaps on one of my own songs and wrote another song by accident as often happens. I was trying to play something else and along this tune came like an uninvited, but welcomed guest. Put down some tambourine on a song using an old one with a skin. Before long Freja unloaded a bowl of yoghurt into the tambourine. Smells fruity now.

Downtown wandering the foggy grey streets with Paddy Lynch. He’s on a visit from London. After drinks at a Spanish place we were all hungry as vultures after a skunk weed spliff. Just up around the corner we found the Thai restaurant with the tuk tuk in the centre of the room. I asked the friendly waitress for 3 beers, saying I would go for some wine when the food arrived. Her smile faded as she informed me that they were under new management. A muslim guy has taken over and won’t allow alcohol on the premises. So out the door we go. Near Nordstan we visit Mother India, go through the ritual of getting a table, coats off, reading the menu and then they tell me the only have folkbeer and NO WINE. They’ve lost their licence. Got on the tram. Five stops later we’re in another Indian restaurant and its third time lucky.

Friday December 3, Copenhagen….. The train was late getting into Malmo, so it was a bit of a panicky scramble to get onto the correct platform and catch the next train down and into Denmark. A very very disgruntled Austrian tourist had missed her train due to adverse weather conditions, and thus would not make it in time for her flight home. Felt sorry for her, but the more she went on and on about it the more my sympathy faded. She ranted and ranted to the friendly lady who sat beside me. I read my Anais Nin book and went off someplace else.

The Danes weren’t prepared for so much snow. 6 or 7 inches of the white powder covered the thoroughfares of Copenhagen. Navigated my way with help from a kind stranger. The gig was a small club called Bartof Café. Good sound, good people. A single domestic turntable behind the bar with records being played over the sound system, a small record shop tucked away in the corner.

Central Station, down past the Tivoli is a cold drab place at 9am. Breeze blowing through, no place to warm up and relax. Everybody in transit or looking lost. Eventually we’re travelling across that 20 mile-long bridge that gets us back into Sweden. Stop in Hamstad with the great yellow-bricked Best Western Hotel casting a weary eye over the cold-war-era bleakness of the train station. A lady across from me reminds me of Lena Olin. Onwards up through Falkenberg and Kungsbacka. People hacking away emails into their laptops. We’re moving into a lost era. The art of letter writing is a thing of the past. Time is slow. We’re running late. All the toilets are out-of-order. I still feel ok. I can take a leak whenever we reach our destination. The eternal optimist strikes again.

Friday December 17 Göteborg…. A lady got on, young (compared to me anyway) and out of her bag she pulled her knitting kit. I was trying to mind my own business, but I was afraid she’d take one of my eyes out with those long needles. Frantically she knitted for a whole 4 minutes, then stuffed it all back in her bag and she got off the tram at the next stop. I suppose she thought I was a weirdo reading my book of Anton Chekov short stories. Whatever gets you through the day, or in this case…whatever gets you through the tedium of using public transport.

Back at HQ I put the finishing touches to some songs from a previous life (the late 80’s). Hours spent knob twiddling, getting the EQ right, a bit of compression here and there. Then back to the 21st century to have a run through of few songs for tonight’s gig. Had intended to have a lie down as I’d been awake since 5am, but it never happened. Just didn’t get around to it. Outside it was bitter cold. Minus 12 Celsius. The gig is at Klubb Sonja in Hakket. After sound check I had dinner with Steafan and a beer. Needed to get out of dodge for a while. A ramble around Jantorget was in order. On Andre Långgatan I heard music coming from a place with frosted windows. Went inside, a white room with an accordion orchestra belting out the tunes. About 5 or 6 piano accordion players with a thumping double bass player. Sounded like Nordic folk music but I could be wrong. The place was packed with what looked like an invited, but very appreciative audience. On my merry way and had a beer in L’Assassino, and then back to Hakket. Anders, Martti and Kaarina were just arriving. Caught the tail end of the set by Det Blev Handgemang. Soon it was time for my set. I enjoyed it, sound was good and Marti said he needed to smoke a Cuban cigar. No need for a coat, Martti is from northern Finland and this type of weather means nothing to him. A Stena Line ferry sailed by, a big floating monster of a vessel, the first surreal moment in an evening of many.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Thursday July 15, Göteborg…
Toyed around with a Sony T-630 Reel to Reel ¼ inch tape recorder I got my hands on a few weeks ago. It’s three-speed, with built-in amp and original 1960’s speakers. I need to source tape. I happened to have one virgin reel lying around since the 1980’s, pre digital age, but I need more, so more shall be bought. Next on the shopping list is a record player that plays 78’s.

Going to the drug store / apoteket / pharmacy in Sweden is an experience. For a country that is collectively so vehemently anti-drug, it looks like a great percentage of the urban population are doing an Elvis on it. Self-medication is the new jogging. All the pharmacies have cues miles long, with white-coated experts rambling around the aisles to offer advice and guide you to your pillbox of choice. All I wanted was Treo, a hangover cure.

Joe Fournier, the great Canadian country rocker was doing an in-store over at Dirty Records so I went there with Damon from the Don Darlings, stopping off for a few beers along the way. Met up with Thomas from Little Green too. The barman in Jazza - the Jazz club where they rarely seem to actually play Jazz, was kept amused by Damon’s banter in his genuine Texan drawl. Hours drifted by and I somehow managed to end up on Hissingen having taken the wrong tram. Hissingen, an Island off the west coast, yet still part of the metropolis, is the Swedish equivalent of stab city Limerick. If your in Göteborg and you want to get killed just go to Hissingen. I got out of there as fast as I could and didn’t look back. I played a gig there once…. before anybody told me it was dodgy. But I was older then.

Saturday July 17, Åmål…Breakfast comprised of The Gourds ‘Ghosts Of Hallelujah’ album at top volume. Then some Kitty Wells, and as my egg was boiled good and hard I put on the incomparable Malcolm Holcolm.Central Station was unnecessarily confusing as usual. I had bought a train ticket but it turned out a bus would take us to Trollhattan, and then we were to change to a train. But of course the announcements in Central Station are only in the Kings Swedish. Never in French, or English or Danish. No time for tourists or foreign residents here. I was lucky to figure it out and get on the bus in the nick of time. Read some of Gustav Flauberts ‘Salambo’ on the journey up. By the time we got to Mellerud, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Pulled out of the one-horse-town and picked up speed, whizzing through the forest. But an hour later as we rolled into Åmål it was raining again.

I was in town to play at the Americana Festival. An open-air event, the poster looked good, the sky looked dark. I met up with Norwegian Björn and he was telling me all about his new Ibanez guitar that he loves so much, when it dawned on me that I owned the same one. I grabbed my case, opened it up and there it was, a twin to Björn’s recent purchase. Only difference was that his had a built in pick-up. I had the one without a pick-up but I had got my Irish guitar doctor to put in an expensive Fishman bridge pick-up and a golden Fender volume knob. After a while Björn invited me up to his workshop, where he stores his PA, guitars and amplifiers. He’s got a custom built amp there too. Built it himself and all the knobs go up to 11. Sounds great, the reverb shakes the room and the overdrive gives me a cold sweat. After a few hours of hanging around at Café XO, I hang around a bit longer. Little Green had arrived, and eventually I played my set. 60 minutes on the dot. Enjoyed it too, and some regular faces were there despite the miserable weather. Still, everybody seemed determined to have a good time. I ended up on stage with Joe Fournier too for a bit of a sing-along on one of his tunes, completely unrehearsed and it was fun. He’s got a great band too.

Friday 20 August, Dublin….Christopher Hitchins book on Mother Theresa kept me entertained in a weird sort of way as I awaited sleep. After a few hours lie down I was on my way to the Emerald Isle. Friday was spent trying to avoid the rain, and rehearsing at Temple Lane Studios. I tried out two old Marshall amps. Both were knackered, had seen better days, brown bread, fucked, broke down, useless, totalled, dead as a doornail. Not a sound. Tried out an old Roland JC120. It worked. I used to own one of these and used it consistently from the late 1980’s until the early 1990’s. Then I started using a Marshall Valve State, which broke down more times than I care to remember. The Roland served out its time as a piece of furniture. On a few occasions it served as a table and I ate my dinner off it, but I recall it mostly tipped on its side as a sort of bookshelf. When I decided to sell it, it took ages to scrape all the spilt candle wax off the surface. The guys in Green Day apparently went through a phase where they used these amps, so there suddenly was a market again and I sold it on to a young guy in Dublin. These days I use a Fender Performer for gigs, and a Fender Champion for recording, but if it’s a borrowed amp or rented back-line, anything goes.

During rehearsal we tried out Lou Reed’s ‘Waiting For The Man.’ It sounded ok having never played it before. Good build-up. So that goes on the set-list, last song of the night. Spied Carmen from Lima, Peru on Exchequer Street and waved over. Then I spotted John too so we went for a few drinks. Last time we met was in Berlin two or three years ago. A few hours later I was on a bus passing by the Family Pharmacy in Clane County Kildare. A good name for a band – The Family Pharmacy. Spent the night in Clane and had a glass or three of red wine which lulled me into a false sense of security and the Land Of Nod beckoned.

Saturday 21 August, Dublin... Had intended to get some sleep between sound-check and the gig, but of course this never happened. The sound-check took a lot longer than I had bargained for and they complained about us being too loud and the neighbour might complain and call the cops etc etc etc. We enjoyed playing and mistakes were kept to a minimum and it was good to see some old faces there. Some folks I hadn’t seen in years. Paul had come up from Cork, Sabine from Tilburg, The Netherlands (via County Mayo) Kevin from Rockfield, Ann, Alana…a wonderful gathering indeed. My old friend Dominick was bar man in the other room, and kindly allowed us stay back for a late drink, despite the fact I had a LOT of people with me. But it all worked out in the end.

Sunday morning, boiled egg and toast, cup of tea. With Les I went back to the scene of the crime and packed up the gear. Larry Egan was playing the trad session in the front bar of the Cobblestone. A great accordion player, Larry toured with The Racketeers in 1997. A mad bad five-week tour through Sweden, Finland and The Netherlands. No plane flights in those days. We all travelled in a nine-seater van from Dunlaoghaire Harbour to Hollyhead, down through Wales and England to the white cliffs of Dover, over to Le Harve, or was it Calais? then up through Belgium and into the Netherlands. We spent the night (in the van) in Amsterdam, then drove up through Germany and I cant recall where we crossed into Sweden, probably from Kiel to Göteborg, then hit the motorway for Eskilstuna and promptly ran out of petrol ! The driver hitched a lift to the next town, bought a can of petrol, hitched back to the van and we got to Eskilstuna in time for the first gig. Those were not the days my friend.
It was good to see Larry and he asked me to do a song, so we played ‘Racketeers Lament’ together. He wanted to hear ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’ but I couldn’t remember the words so we did ‘Don’t Look Back’ the old John Lee Hooker song that we used to play back in those days. A few hours later I was in the airport in Copenhagen. Having forgotten to change the time on my watch, I nearly missed my onward flight. Heard my name called out over the Tannoy and made my way to the gate.

Thursday 26 August, Göteborg…..Last Monday, along with Jessica Carlsson paintings were hung at Cafe Chao over in Masthugget. Posters were up, publicity taken care of, so tonight’s the night. A good gathering of mostly like-minded people. I played my songs, the PA behaved erratically but these things happen occasionally. Damon from the Don Darlings got up to sing a song there was a good vibe and CD’s were sold and Jessica sold a painting. The exhibition runs for six weeks so fingers crossed. The place is run for Jorge from Buenos Aires so it’s not your usual Swedish joint. Relocated to Henriksbeg down the hill for a late night hang-out.

Friday 17 September, Göteborg…. 33 Andra Långgatan is the address for Dirty Records, probably the best record shop in the city. Mostly second-hand, but some new stuff too, a lot of vinyl, a coffee counter and organic beer available too, albeit 2.8% beer. Following two quick (5.2%) beverages in Jazza next door where I met Anders who had seen me play Cafe Kom a good few years back, I ran into Dirty Records and played my gig. A nice crowd of interested people were there. I played for about an hour and later with a motley crew of outsiders we reconvened to L’Assassino for a few hours. Tired of sitting on my stool, if offered it to a lady who had none. She seemed to think I was trying to get-off with her. Can’t you offer somebody a seat with no hidden agenda ? What’s the world coming to ?

Anders tells me about his annual party at his workshop over in Gamlastan and that he might have it next week if Im interested in playing . I tell him that I am indeed interested, so phone numbers are swapped …and email addresses too. I got home without any major problems. Didn’t get on the wrong tram, didn’t end up on Hissingen.

Saturday 25 September, Göteborg….. Spent some time checking out William Egglestons photographs at Konstmuseum. Upstairs they have a room with etchings by Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) and another room has a recently restored Rubens. Dick Bengtssons ‘Landscape with Church’ is an odd painting with a swastika in the bottom left-hand corner. The left-hand path ? No, theres’s no connection. The room with the abstract expressionists makes one feel like going home and getting a canvas ready for assault.

Rambled over to Vasagatan. Not much happening. The streets were of no interest. They need to be alchemized with some drama. I got back to base and attempted a re-mix of ‘She Said’. (I had discovered the original recording on a Boss recording machine so I was interested in a bit of knob twiddling.) Also re-recorded vocals and some guitar parts on a song called ‘The Needle And The Nail’ that I had worked on a few weeks ago. Sadly, it turns out to be merely B side material.

Put on The Invaders single ‘Heaven And Hell’. A King Tubby’s production, theres none of that praise the Lord / Jah Rastafari malarkey. “Heaven and hell are conditions in life, you can’t live in heaven when you are dead. The preacher knows the truth, the rich man knows it too. We have been brainwashed for a long time, we have been taken for a long ride.”…and that’s just the chorous. The label gives scant information on who the Invaders were, but the publishing date is 1977.

Daylight dimmed to a ghostly twilight. I was in Gamlastan. Anders had lit a bonfire and people were standing around drinking beer
and eating Mexican food. Played for
an hour and the 70’s Fender PA held out and the whole evening had rustic appeal. Its not everyday one gets to play in a carpentry workshop with an antique stove for heat and good company in abundance. Sold a lot of CD’s. A Finnish blacksmith bought five, as well as the 7inch single, ‘Time Is All We Have.’ I commend his good taste.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Wed Jan 20 Göteborg, Sweden……theres that creeping madness that seeps into your veins as you watch the flakes do their slow motion routine. The snow plough is king around here. Sitting in Lilla Resturangen down at Olskrolen, its falling outside in a city that rarely succumbs to the travel chaos other places have to endure. Its one of the longest winters in years with non-stop freezing conditions, today even the trams aren’t running properly. Elvis is on the stereo and the guy from the local record shop is sitting alone at the bar with a beer. Two guys are discussing Roxy Music and a couple at the next table are speaking in hushed tones. No need to. I haven’t a clue whats been said. Another language, a different tribe.

I had to walk back home, minus 17 degrees but thankfully there was no breeze. A still day with the snow flakes falling vertically in dead straight fashion. Back indoors I wrote some emails and listened to the Two Dollar Pistols ‘Hands Up’ album, good old fashioned honky tonk. Got a good mix of ‘Time Is All We Have’ and lay on the sofa reading Edgar Allen Poe and I was off someplace else.

Up cock crow and located the phone and spoke to Peter King in New Zealand about cutting a record. He claims he’s cut one and a half million records in his time and he’s just after drinking fifteen shots of bourbon with a local band who are visiting him in his rural hideaway from where he cuts these records on three lathes he built himself. He used to be a drummer, so that explains a lot. Our conversation left me feeling inspired by his dedication to his craft, which isn’t really a job, it’s a vocation. It was 9am in Sweden (but 10pm in New Zealand) and I got back into recording a few new songs I’ve been working on.

After a while I needed a break. Put on a record, Okerville River who sound a bit like an American countrified version of Planxty on amphetamines.
Mark Lanegan gets played too, “I Hit The City” with Shelly Brien on back up vocals. A cool lady but a lady of mystery. Where did he find her ? and where did she go. No web presence , a bit like Tony Tuff.

Spent the night out in Tollered, following Jessica Carlsson’s exhibition in Lerum. Tollered is like a picture postcard under four feet of snow. Got back to Göteborg the following day and put on the Detroit Spinners ‘I’ll Be There’. Sweet soul music to ease me out of hangover trauma.

I had a gig in Henriksberg opening up for the Don Darlings. (I sing on one track on their new album). The venue is three floors up, over near Masthugget. The place is packed and there’s a real good vibe. The bar looks out over the harbour where we can see chunks of ice the size of snooker tables floating off to Denmark.

Mon Feb 22….The melting snow melts deeper and the rust is gaining ground.
The local postman is a strange cat. Its minus 12 outside and he doesn’t wear a coat, or a jacket or a hoody….he wears a T shirt. Obviously immune to pneumonia (and the mythological swine flu hoax) he came to my door with a cardboard package bearing round pieces of vinyl. I tore it open and discovered 7inch records by King Coleman “Alley Rat”, Arthur Big Boy Crudup “Mean Ole Frisco”, Fleet Foxes “Mykonos” Earl Williams, Buster Smith And His Heatwaves, Betty James “Im A Little Bit Mixed Up” and Dave Bartholomew’s “Mambo Gumbo” which reminds me of the theme music from the 60’s TV show I Dream Of Jeannie. And that’s ok. I used to fancy Jeannie in a bottle when I was six. Another package arrived with the two first White Stripes LP’s and Dex Romwebbers single which happens to be on Jack Whites label. Apparently White has produced an LP for the over-rated Wanda Jackson. I checked out her website. She’s calling herself the Queen of Rock. What will Courtney Love think ? I could think of other people more deserving of the title. Chrissy Hynde, Patti Smith. PJ Harvey.

Out on a ramble, I was approaching Stockholmsgatan tram station. I saw lady staring up at the full moon. She was singing to herself, or to the moon. Was this a witch at work? As I got closer I was disappointed to learn she was singing “The First Cut Is The Deepest.” Sheryl Crow did a version a few years back, but Rod Stewart’s version is the one I know the best. Rod had a big hit with it in the 70’s, but I think the original might have been by PP Arnold. The lady, who probably wasn’t a witch, got on the tram and I got on and discovered I had book of short stories by Virginia Wolf in my pocket. Took it out, read a few pages. The girl sitting across from me has one of those cold storage smiles.

Mon May 3 Tollered, Sweden. ….. Decided to have a look at the Irish papers on the internet. A bad idea. Nothing but bad news. I see that there are to be 40million Euro cuts in Health Care. The directive from the government to dentists is to cut back on fillings for folks on medical cards. The plan is 181,000 fewer fillings, instead they should just pull the teeth out like back in the 1950’s. Maybe the cuts can pay for another few fancy hotel rooms for Mary Harney, or a years supply of vodka.

I needed something to slake my thirst. Dropped into ICA, which is a supermarket chain, not a branch of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association. Bought a bottle of black stuff called Cocka, a sort of cola I presumed. I was making my way up the steep hill in Lunden overlooking the tall turquoise spire of St. Pauli Kyrka. Feeling the uncomfortable thirst, I took the bottle-opener out of my pocket, snapped the cap off the bottle and took a long swig. A tall blond lady approached smiling and said something to me in Swedish referring to the bottle of black liquid in my hand. “Im not sure what this is!” I replied. She took the bottle in her hand, looked at the label and switching to the Kings English said “I don’t know either, but you won’t get high on that.” “I can take care of that later” I said . She laughed and wandered off down the hill.

By the time we got to Floda it was getting chilly and the rain had started. The only bar was a Chinese restaurant called China. We waited for Jessica and had a drink. We then drove out to Tollered where food and drinks awaited and plans made for a joint exhibition of our paintings.
I went out for a ramble in the morning, walking through the town down by the old mill and in through an inviting doorway looking for the restaurant. Met a couple who had rented the place out from the local bikers. Drum kit and a few amps set up on the stage, chairs here and there. There had been a private party on the previous night and they were in the process of cleaning up, although the place looked clean enough to me. The guy handed me a bottle of beer…on the house. We had a little chat. The usual sort of chat one has with friendly strangers…., where I was from, what I doing here, why was I here? I wasn’t sure I could answer that one. Could I phone a friend, or ask the audience? Tricky question that. Ah yes, child care is affordable…..and Ireland is bankrupt. Yes, now I remember. There are other reasons too, but I simply thanked them for the beer and off I went.

A few hours later we were in Alingsås. Checked out a café (can’t remember what its called) and the plan is that we will hang a few paintings here in November and I’ll play a short set and that will be that ! Further down the street we were going to eat in a Greek place, but they weren’t open, although all the staff were hanging around smoking cigarettes and drinking espressos. Around the corner I found a Chinese place and we ate there. Took the train out of town and headed west into the sunset.

Sun May 9 Cefalu, Sicily…. Arrived into Trapani Airport in the afternoon, located on the north western coast of Sicily. Got the tickets, a couple of bottles of water and boarded the bus. Timetables don’t mean much in Sicily. It took over an hour before the bus moved, and when it did we had to pull over and let a guy on who had managed to miss it. He was running frantically across the car park trying to catch-up before we exited the airport grounds. He got on, all sweaty and panting, and off we rolled, Jack taking in the sights before burying his head in a Henry Miller book, Freja and Åsa arguing about seating arrangements. Hazy grey/blue sky, dusty roads and rusty bridges. Cacti growing alongside the viaduct. We passed by Partinicio and rolled on through the countryside. The heat was intense and the past sure is tense. We were over an hour late arriving into Palermo. Located the old train station and got the necessary information concerning our tickets and departure time mingling with gypsies, crooks, wide-eyed tourists and diseased pigeons. Down a side street we found a deserted restaurant. I had tagliatelle with mushrooms in a creamy sauce, not sure what my travelling companions had, something with meat. Washed it all down with a litre of wine and made a beeline for the train. It was like a scene from the 1950’s. Steep steps led to the narrow door, then down the long corridor rocking back and forth, we found our own cabin. This wasn’t first class, we were travelling on the cheap yet in antiquated style. I remembered I had a Nikon camera so I took some photos as we sped along for a few hours, before arriving into Cefalu just before sunset. Of Greek foundation, the city evidently derived its name from its situation on a lofty and precipitous rock, forming a bold headland (Κεφαλὴ) projecting into the sea. The place looks and feels great.

This partly being a sort of occult pilgrimage I was conscious of the fact that Aleister Crowley would have walked down this very platform, the station having changed little since the 1920’s. AC was a regular user of the train as he took his trips over to Palermo to pick up prostitutes of both sexes, to break up the monotony of life at his Abbey Of Thelema where he schooled his disciples. He made his first train journey from Palermo to Cefalu April 1st 1920 with his merry troop of libertine companions to begin an experiment in hedonism, sex, drugs and magick. It came to an abrupt three years later when he was deported by Mussolini.

The town it a lot smaller than I had imagined. Located the hotel out on Lungomare Giuseppe Giardina along by the shore. Checked in, cracked open a bottle of wine. Went out, found a restaurant and ate again, and washed it down big time, the powerful waves rolling in from the Tyrrhenian Sea. I raised my glass to Perdurabo, Ankh-f-n-khonsu,The Beast 666.
In the morning Jack and I, armed with a map and bottles of water to combat dehydration, set off up the hill to try and find the ruins of the Abbey Of Thelema, and there we found it near the football stadium. It was a strange feeling approaching it. I had read so much about the place, seen the old photos and thinking of the lives that were lived here I was still conscious that the locals don’t take kindly to strangers and certainly don’t want foreigners visiting the old house. The front door, the original one too, was boarded up, as were all the windows except for one. We climbed in, and it lead straight into the Chamber of Nightmares, which was the main Temple. Some of Crowleys paintings are still to be seen on the wall. I set about taking photographs. Filmed the place as well, inside and out, the sound will be used on some recording I’ll do in the future. Some furniture is scattered about in the kitchen, cooking utensils, bottles, chairs, cupboards…old rusted beds are still in the bedrooms, and the place is in good nick even though the roof has fallen-in over the main hallway.

Tuesday May 10, Trapani, Sicily…..Trapani was founded by the Turkish tribe, the Elymianss to serve as the port of the nearby city of Erice (ancient Eryx), which overlooks it from Monte San Giuliano. The town took a hammering from the Allies during World War II, but some of the streets obviously survived. Its still got charm.
Less charming are the ATM’s which don’t want to give me any cash. Credit cards aren’t my style, and walking around in the sun all day isn’t my style either. Eventually, with the aid of some locals we found the hotel with its perspex lift and roof-top views of concrete jungle sprawl. This could be anyplace mediterannean. Took some photos, read a bit of Edgar Allen Poe, scribbled notes in my note book for some song whizzing around in my head.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Fri Oct 23 Wurzen ….Felt a bit rough when I woke up in Leipzig and found myself still wearing my suit in bed. I thought those days were over. Evidently not. Oh well….just another rock n roll morning. Smartly remembered to retrieve my passport from the reception safe and went to the Asian Diner. Friendly smiles greeted me. Rice and tofu got me feeling ok again. Across the way at the train station I ended up aimlessly rambling through the subterranean shopping area. A friendly looking bear sat smiling at me and I felt compelled to give the lady 10 Euro and thus rescued Teddy from shelf-life. I told him that in two days he’d be meeting Freja and his new home would be in Scandinavia.

Liquid refreshment was required, and the train station bar was the place to be as the radio pumped out an unusually good selection of songs, Them’s version of ‘Its All Over Now Baby Blue,’ old country tunes, Lizzy, Elvis.

Got on the train and arrived into Wurzen in Saxony, built on the rambling River Mulde. I met Igor and Melanie. The venue is the NDK and I’m made feel very welcome and there’s a real good vibe. Dinner, sound check, hang around, played the gig. A small crowd in, but I enjoyed it and the folks in the audience must have too, because quite a few bought CD’s. I met some good people, including the cool Rosa Martinez from Espania who took some great photos and Hempi, a local double-bass player and his pregnant wife. I’m sure we’ll meet again.

Sat Oct 24 Berlin…Igor had kindly boiled an egg for me. Also on offer, good quality bread and real black tea. What more could you want ?…A good start to any day, and a great view out the window of the apartment too over-looking the town, all ochre rooftops and towers. Grey sky trying to turn blue. Got into Leipzig hassle-free with an hour to kill. Onwards to Berlin and I keep surprising myself with my navigation skills….all the way from Berlin Haupbahnhof to Gartnerstrasse without one taxi !

Thai food was on my mind and I managed to find a place I’d eaten in before, but it was disappointing. A new chef perhaps. My stomach needed settling and finding a bar that sold cognac took three attempts. The gig was down at Artliners and was good fun with Anto and friends arriving. I got to meet Nora too, who I had a correspondence with for a while. Hung around and got into a taxi and went to the airport and got on the plane for Göteborg via the obligatory stop over in Copenhagen.

Sat Oct 31 Åmål….Samhain, festival of the dead, candles lit on the cold graves. The train ride brings thoughts of those who are no longer with us, the ones who made a difference. Bitter cold wind blowing in from Lake Vänern right across the town of Åmål. After dinner I met up with photographer Tony Berg, who is also an artist, music fan, guitar collector and all-round good guy. Chatted to Fredrik and crew, and some familiar faces and old buddies from the summer come down to say hello. A good night it was.
In the morning I found myself in a big rambling guest house where the guy on the reception desk wouldn’t accept money for my cup of tea and helped me with my bags as I got ready to leave, the hands on the great black clock read 8.25am. There are still good people in the world just in case you’d forgotten.

Sitting on the train, there I was minding my own business. I’d been awake for four hours so I thought it was acceptable to have my first drink of the day. Nothing fancy, a beer would do. The bar was on my carriage. ‘Can I have a bottle of Falcon please?’
’No’ came the reply. ‘We can’t serve alcohol until after 11.’ It was 10.50, but there’s no point in arguing or trying to cajole this guys into any sort of law bending compromise, they never see things the same way as you or I. So I sat down and read a few more pages of Guy De Maupasaunt. I’d read all his short stories before. Anne Marie Hourihan turned me on to Guy a few years back.

At exactly 11am I approached the bar once again. The barman smiled, and with an apology handed me the can of beer. ’It’s ok’ I said, ‘Your not responsible for these crazy laws.’
He was just a guy trying to hold onto his job, do things by the book, that’s the way that some people have to do it. It’s in the DNA, or maybe the truth of it lies in the bank account. Either way, my motto always is ‘live and let live.’ The time slipped away as the train slid down the track. Robert Forster songs running wild through my head, The Go Betweens, Crime And The City Solution, Bad Seeds, Fatal Shore….Oz has given us a few good bands.

Tues Dec 2 Göteborg…..Postman Pat brought me ‘Alphabet 1968’ the great LP by Black To Comm, they of the youtube video featuring the giant rabbits. While on the subject of all things black, Black Mountain’s album ‘Dog Days’ has been on a lot. Shanta has been on the phone several times, and I’ve also got about seven emails concerning tonights gig at Gamla Port. It’s a 40 minute affair, a short set in front of drunk students, and in theory it sounds very dodgy, but I timed it well, going on early before they got too messy, everything went really well, got the money and got out of dodge.

Sun Dec 6 Dublin…. Got over to Dublin on Thursday night and stayed with Les. Up early in the morning and we went to his new studio over on Lad Lane, tucked away behind an art gallery, a few installations in the yard, busy beaver artists getting ready for an opening. Al Cowan came down to play drums and we tackled two new songs. Later Les rode off into the sunset and Al, Mercedes and I went to Mario’s restaurant in Ranelagh for a late dinner washed down with red wine. Saturday afternoon we were back in the studio for overdubs with some Yankee roasting a pig on a spit outside the studio door to the horror of Les’s vegetarian lady. Later on I ended up at Horslips in the O2, their first proper gig in thirty years (with the exception of Belfast two days ago), and they were great ! Late drinks and dinner with Joe Wall in an Indian restaurant in Temple Bar. Sat on a sofa for a few hours, nodded off, got up , went to the airport and went back to Göteborg via Brussels, or was it Copenhagen ?

Thurs Dec 10 Nörrkoping…A five hour bus ride got me to my far-flung destination in the province of Östergötland in eastern Sweden situated by the mouth of the river Motala Ström, at Bråviken, an inlet of the Baltic Sea. It was dark and cold. Several hundred candles lit up one of the parks near the bus station, streets more or less deserted, old factories, wooden houses, and old part of the city of medieval aspect. I would need to see the place in daylight to get a grip on its ice cold charm.
The gig was at a venue called Munken, nice place, nice folks. The sound guy did a good job and I hung out with the DJ afterwards, then took the 5 hour bus trek back west again reaching my bed at 7am. Job done.

Wed Dec 16 Nurnberg…..Every time I play Pegnitzbühne I have a good time and tonight is not an exception. Not many people showed up, but Marcus had taken the time to learn of 4 of my songs, so during sound check we nailed a few more an he joined me on piano and organ for a good few number and it added a lot of colour to proceedings. Tentative plans are made for a tour together, possibly next year. One of the cats shared my bed while the temperature dropped way below zero.

Thurs Dec 17 Stuttgart…. Got the train in from Muggenhof to Hauptbahnhof and had a beer as I awaited my connection. The guy beside me had his apple pie smothered under a mountain of cream and he seemed real satisfied. Transient people wandered around, a girl in the corner was crying her way through an argument with an older man who might have been her father. Bar staff looked worn-out, I caught my reflection in a glass, I just looked tired. The train took us through fields of snow, trees frosted and frozen and it was a long few hours. I was reading a biography of Robert Graves and sipping on a plastic bottle of mineral water. The gig was at a place I’d never played before called Kap Tormentoso. Bar / restaurant upstairs, venue in the subterranean space. I had a drink or two with tapas and rambled through the Xmas market. Nicol phoned saying he was on the way. I went back to base and we hooked up. Always good to see Nicol and Iris too. The gig was good fun, a wild bunch of interesting characters who bought CD’s and paid compliments and a good time was had by all.

Fri Dec 18 Villingen ……Apparently Nicol spent a lot of the night puking, and at one point was about to piss onto the radiator thinking it was the toilet but Iris showed him the error of his ways. I awoke feeling not bad at all. Took some vitamins, a cup of tea and found myself over at the second hand record shop on Charlottenplatz. At the street market I drank some Glogi, the German equivalent of Glögg, a sort of hot or mulled wine, but the Swedes do it best. Later, we drove up to Villingen, collecting Iris along the way. Café Limba is now under new management, and the vibe seems a bit different that previously but its still a good gig and Nicol blows some great trumpet and we all enjoy ourselves and Hartmut is DJ for the night. I got paid and celebratory drinks were had with Franz and nobody got hurt, nobody insulted anybody else and the snow continued to fall from the heavens and it was bitter cold as we walked through the lonesome streets of Villingen.

Sat Dec 19 Freiburg….Next port of call was Egon 54 in Freiburg via some crazy old hotel with very steep steps and no life. The temperature had dropped to – 14 and there was nobody on the streets, cars crawling by at a snails pace. Some more old faces, friends to greet, tales to tell.

Sun Dec 20 Frankfurt…. Arrived early, around 9am having not had the chance to see a bed. Slept a bit on the train and missed my stop but got things sorted. Frankfurt Airport is big and slow. Everything takes forever. The weather was really bad, things weren’t looking good and my flight was cancelled. Eventually at 5,30 I boarded a plane and promptly fell asleep, only to wake up 2 hours later and we hadn’t moved an inch. After a few announcements they confirmed this flight too was now cancelled. Got off the plane feeling bad. An 11pm flight was also cancelled so I made my way to a Hotel curtsy of Lufthansa. It looked posh on the outside, but was dull and cold inside. Checked in at 2am, got up at 6 to get back to the airport

Mon Dec 21 Göteborg…… I was on stand-by for an 8,30 flight but it I didn’t get on. I needed a drink and in the company of 2 perplexed Swedish guys I downed a few beers and wondered what to do. One of the guys even bought a CD off me…..after he had played a few tracks on his lap-top. To cut a very long story short, I managed to get on a plane at 12,30 and get to my humble abode by 6pm. (Lufthansa lost my luggage too )
Xmas seemed to have arrived in my absence and feeling more than a bit shook up, I dealt with the many people who were there in my living room, in the kitchen, and all the time in the back of my mind was the thought that I would get about 3 hours sleep before I had to get a flight to Dublin, but such is life. It could be a lot different, but this is the way it is, and most of the time it suits me fine. I’m not exactly 9 to 5 material.

Tues Dec 22 Dublin….Three hours sleep, made it to Landvetter in one piece, and off we went. By lunchtime I was having a glass of red wine in Copenhagen, by early afternoon, a pint in D4 Towers Hotel, Ballsbridge Dublin. A Robert Graves biography kept my brain active for a while.

Wed Dec 23 Rockfield…. Arrived at my destination, passing through a snowy Claremorris, a town that derived its name from Maurice de Prendergast, a Norman who came to Ireland in 1169. The town itself only dates from the 1600’s. History lesson over.
And so I had made it to my eighth town/city in eight days in three countries. It was what you might call a busy few days. It would be another two weeks before I was reunited with my luggage. Such is life. I like the Buddhist type philosophy of non-attachment / non-disinterest, which works equally well in the recording studio as it does with lost items……..and people.