Monday, 27 May 2013

Return Of The Snakes

Thurs 18 April, Clane – In the west of Ireland the wind was so wild you had to shout to be heard…if anyone was bothered to listen. Took the train to Dublin. It broke down for 15 minutes in some unknown town. With three new buttons sown on my antique grey coat I was feeling dapper but it all went terribly wrong when my travelling companion spilt orange juice over said garment.

Waited for an hour in the cold outside Houston, with the bus eventually arriving and taking us through Cellbridge, Barberstown Castle, St. Raffan, Green Cross and arriving into Clane town. Visited the Country Market looking for birthday presents and later had dinner as the rain came down in buckets.

Fri 19 April, Wicklow Town – No time for a rehearsal. Al was in Portugal and arrived back at 6pm and we met at Sonic Studios and hit the road straight away for Wicklow to play at the Castle Tavern on the banks of the River Vartry, which rises in the Calary Bog under the Great Sugar Loaf mountain up north. The Tavern is run by gentleman Ray. He’s organized a good PA for us and we chatted to a few youngish American tourists. (at our age, nearly everybody is young) They said they could only hang around for a few songs as they wanted to explore the town, but they stayed right to the end of the show….and bought a CD too, so we must have played in a fashion that could be described as entertainment. Lots of folks told us they really enjoyed it etc. etc. and when asked, none admitted to being tone-deaf. Then we drove to Dublin and I slept like a log in Al’s place in Finglas.

Sat 20 April, Dublin – A bunch of dodgy pop stars were arriving in to Al’s Sonic Studios bright and early. Some charity record was being recorded. I didn’t recognize any of the pop stars, but I was informed that Ronan Keating and the other Boyzone/Coronation Street guy and the skanger guy were due in so I left rather pronto. Later that night we played in Sin E down on the quays. Paul Gallagher and I engaged in our ritual CD swop. He had a few bootlegs for me including Steve Earle and Joy Division from the Paradiso, Amsterdam. I gave him a copy of “Things Aren’t The Way they Used To Be”.

Clarence had his full band with him, so I asked Cliff up to play with us on organ and he was great. We need more of this and an email address was procured. A late night listening session ensued with Drive By Truckers blasting through the speakers in Ed’s den. I introduced him to the music of Dave Kusworth and he expressed an interest in hearing my Lady Olivia track which I located in my gmail account in mp3 format. He nodded off half way through.

Mon 22 April, Dublin – We were sitting in the Czech Inn having a drink. The Princess suggested a plate of chips, and within 2 minutes the waiter arrived with a big plate of chips saying “these are on the house.” A good start to the afternoon. County music, some slightly dodgy Nashville type stuff, but also some cool sounds like Emmylou Harris and Waylon Jennings drift out through the speakers. Then it sadly turns into mindless euro pop and eurotrash dance music. And then silence which is most welcome. Time slides by. After about 20 minutes of golden silence Big Tom singing “Four Roads To Glenamaddy” blasts out at top volume. Maybe he’s big in Czech, but then I suppose he’s big everywhere.

Fri 26 April, Göteborg – Found a great Stones bootleg “Some More Girls” in a local record shop. Blue vinyl, good sleeve. Basically it’s out-takes from the Some Girls LP from 1978, if memory serves correctly. Keith sings “We had it all”. Another long lost gem is “Spare Parts”
Met Terje at Amerikabaren to check out his PA before going to see Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in Pustervik. They were great, wham bam …no stops between songs, straight into the next one….sweat dripping off Mr Spencer like a shower of rain on a spring day.

Sat 27 April, Allingsås – Found some old cassettes marked ‘song ideas’ dating back to 94 / 95. Slotted the tape in the ‘door’ of the old machine and started to listen. One song goes  “give me an airplane ticket, 9 to 5? you can stick it” Think I may need to rewrite parts but the chords and general vibe seems good. This one seems to be recorded in some long forgotten studio. Its got violin (probably Sheila Sullivan, sounds like her) but the organ player I can’t recall…or even which studio it was. Other songs are home recordings made with a ghetto blaster.

Mimi called around with home-baked biscuits - sugar rush time. A letter arrived from Lady Olivia Robertson saying she loves the track we have recorded. My only aristocratic friend in the world does a spoken-word piece over my long rambling tune and I had sent a CD to her home at Huntington Castle in Clonegal and thankfully she has given the project the thumbs-up. In her letter she tells me that the last time she was in Sweden was in 1936. That’s a long time ago.

I knew it would happen. I would arrive in to Allingsås and fail to get the PA working. After a frantic call to Terje he talks me through it and it makes noise. On with the show. Not a bad gig. Took a train back to Göteborg and then a tram and then a walk up the hill and home.

Thurs 2 May, Göteborg - After answering emails and doing boring chores such as registering new songs with IMRO, PPI etc, and trying to track down photographers to get prints for record sleeves, I sadly slipped in the back door to facebook. It’s usually a waste of time, and as time is all we have, you shouldn’t waste it. Occasionally facebook may lead to a gig or the discovery of something interesting such as Prins Prebens page, a Norwegian artist. 
Over on the Dangerous Minds site I learn that Alejandro Jodorowsky has made his first movie in 23 years. Watched the trailer, then put on a Burial Hex CD and boiled water for Earl Grey tea. Downtown the foxy barmaid in Pustervik chats away in Svenska in a very very friendly fashion before realizing she’s mixing me up with somebody else. I took off my shades and we thankfully swapped to the English language and I apologized saying “Sorry, I’m only myself today.” Sometimes it would be interesting to be somebody else….perhaps the guy she thought I was. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Warum ich liebe Deutschland

Wed 3 April Berlin -  On arrival at wind blasted Tegel I thought it would be wise to head straight for the venue, but a re-think led to an attempt to get to Ebs place in Neukölln. Getting on the wrong bus was a bad move and valuable time was lost in the labyrinthine search for Hauptbahnhof, and when this monsterous building was eventually found, platform 15 was located without much fuss or use of brain cells and with a charmed eye the cityscape view from the window of the S-Bahn was a welcome respite from the views of the past few weeks. Berlin always seems like the New York of Europe....or is NYC the Berlin of the United Police States Of America?

Located Ebs domicile and later we ventured to far-flung Schliemannstraße 31, picking up Karin along the way. My Swedish friend Anders sent a text (as is the fashion these days) to say he was in Potsdam and would make it to the following nights show. Following a quick soundcheck in the basement of Intersoup we repaired to the upstairs bar. Who walks in only Anders having changed his mind about Potsdam. With him, another Anders who just happens to be Slick Andys Dad! And his Mom too. (Slick Andy-drummer with The Last Souls) Anders #1 met Anders #2 & his missus on the U-Bahn. They had one of those “what are you doing here” conversations. Anders #1 explained he needed to get out of Sweden for a while “but Im now going to see Eamonn Dowd play?”

To which Slick Andy’s Dad replied. “Eamonn Dowd?..he’s in Berlin?”
So we all had a drink and everyone reflected on this odd meeting and odd gathering of folks in a small strange venue down a sidestreet on a bitterly cold Wednesday night in Berlin. I however didn’t find it odd in the slightest. These things tend to happen all the time. After the gig it didn’t take long to realize we were in the same room as possibly the worst DJ in Europe. All his records sounded like Fleet Foxes B sides if they were written by that twat in Coldplay with the designer stubble.


Eb was fading fast. We found a restaurant and I ordered red wine and spaghetti. An intrusive TV screen hung overhead. Men from Malaga and Dortmund were kicking a football around a big field. The realization dawned that we had eaten here seven weeks previously. A poster on the door told us Portishead were playing soon. They still exist? A flyer for another gig sported a photo of a girl who looked like Gram Parsons. The clock said 1.15am. 


Thurs 3 April Berlin – Right part of town, wrong time. Tried to hook up with Anders #1 but he had already moved on to another neighbourhood. Passed by the Anti Racism shanty town, snow strewn streets, Tentsville in a park beside Oranienplatz. After a long ramble through Kreutzberg I had a drink in Zum Elefant on Oranienstrasse where the grumpy mishapen barmama slowly slowly poured the drinks just to prolong the agony. But The Clash were on the stereo and nobody bugged me. A red and golden car with magnificent Arabic script was parked across the way but the artistic affect was ruined by the dust. A few doors up I purchsed good quality granular incense imported from Oman. The Vietnamese food tasted more like Thai. On Weinerstrasse I finally met Anders and Eb having taken a few lomo type photos of Gorlitzer Bahnhof. Not in possession of a Holga or a Diane analogue camera the app on my phone did the job just fine and didn’t cost anything. Its ok to slip into tourist head-space every now and again.


The gig at Gaudy was a rockin’ affair with support from London/NY country outfit The Wildfires and Jon Mills, also from London Town. Nice folks them all. Had good fun with Wildfires Paul and Christina afterwards, a few light refreshments, stories and the swapping of CD’s, email addresses, ideas, some good, some bad. Im sure we’ll see each other again.


Fri 4 April, Wolfsburg – Somebody found a dead child in a charity laundry bag around the corner. Cops marked the crime scene. TV ran the story. Life is cheap for some people. Purchased a 25 Bahn card. Had an adios amigo beer with Eb in one of the train stations and a couple of hours later I was on a mission to find edible food in Wolfsburg. The gig was hard work but I got paid and nobody complained. Chatted to Janeranne and her shy boyfriend. She flicked through my black moleskin note book containing half written songs, imaginary LP titles and the rambling scribblings of somebody who is compelled to write and document various ideas that memory could never store.


Sat 5 April, Essen – The Hagebergkrug Hotel up on Grauhostrasse is one place I hope to never see again. Arriving downstairs from my smelly room at 9.55am I was informed that breakfast was over. But I protested saying that last night I was told 10. Yes, said the young lady, but you have to order it by 9.45. Eventually, with the aid of google translation I convinced her to russle up something for me. After 10 minutes a cup of tea, two slices of shiny generic cheese, a piece of bread of questionable freshness and a solitary tomato arrived in front of me. I’m then handed a bill for 6 Euro. Since when does one pay for a breakfast in a Hotel? I stopped drinking the tea and told her to take it away. I could get a proper meal in a cafe for less that 6 Euro. A beer was politely requested, and I would pay for that. 2 euro 50 cents changed hands for the beverage. Dreadful music was on the stereo. When the execrable Depeche Mode came on with their insipid nursery rhymes I had little choice but to order a taxi and get out of there.


Sometime later I was able to catch up on emails curtsey of the wifi in an overpriced Vietnamese restaurant. But at least it did taste Vietnamese and not Thai. Had I known the venue later that night provided a meal, I would have done with an apple.

Slept all the way to Essen and walked the streets of a town I’d never visited before. Johannes Delemere and Petra arrived and we chatted about their old friend (and client) Nikki Sudden. Wild stories were told, bad habbits dicussed, the autobiography was mentioned and the soon to be released 6 x CD box set debated at length.  After the gig photographs were taken and I also met Danial Teusner, cousin of Chris. A 3am taxi to the lonesome train station preceded an hour long train ride to the airport and a sleepless night followed in order to catch the plane to Copenhagen and onwards to the cold heart of anywhere and nowhere.