This was orginally printed in retarded form in #346 (March 2012) issue of punk fanzine Maximum Rock’n’Roll. Those clowns printed the notes rather than the final article I sent them, half of which was a deranged stream-of-consciousness tirade merely intended to jog my memory when I got home and had time to write it up properly. The rest of it was a first draft and unfinished. I should have known better than to send them the notes… Here’s the proper final version, as it was originally intended.
To say I’m excited about this tour is like saying John Candy was a wee bit plump; in the weeks leading up to this I’ve been out of my mind with anticipation. JAPAN!! It’s my third time here and second with a band, but this tour is different…the line-ups are like something out of a rawpunk jazzmag, the quality of the bands we’re playing with threatening to blow us way out of the water thrice nightly. To make matters just a touch more interesting, our drummer quit the band three days after returning home from the U.S. tour in July (tour diary from which is here). That’s right, he decided that he couldn’t take the d-beat hooligan lifestyle and gave up on us like the nancy drew that he is, without a single care for the commitments he’d made.
Left in the lurch as we were, it was looking like we’d have to draft in a late replacement and spend three-to-four nights a week in the rehearsal room for the next month to even pretend we were ready. With the intervention of reality in the form of work, girlfriends, occasionally relaxation etc, this wasn’t the most attractive option…not to mention that he was an amazing drummer and it’d be nigh-on impossible to find a suitable replacement in that short amount of time. And even more unrealistic to attain the same level of competency which constant touring and playing live together engenders. Indeed…what a fucking dick. But at least I finally understand all those Victory Records songs.
At the eleventh hour, we struck upon an enormous piece of good luck: our mate Shin said he’d step into the breach. The owner of Osaka’s Punk & Destroy record shops, Freedom Fighter label and drummer for Framtid and Nightmare, we couldn’t have found a better replacement anywhere. And if you can rely on anyone to keep their word and honour intact, it’s a Japanese chap. Fucking score!
We arrive late on the 14th September at Tokyo Narita Airport after a grim 30 hours in transit from Melbourne. No border hassles and we exit into the departure lounge to meet Satoshi and Ebi from Iserismo, together with So who runs Hardcore Survives Records. Back in October 2010, Yeap booked an Aussie tour for Isterismo which went extremely well, meaning that they were more than happy to return the favour. We’ll be doing all nine dates of the tour with them, booked by Satoshi. Add to this that we had a split 7” released on Hardcore Survives two weeks ago, plus the fact that our 12” has now been around for three months, and the stars are aligned for a fucking awesome tour. We drive into Tokyo’s Koenji district where we drop our bags off at Shogo Isterismo’s place and head out for some traditional punky punky night street drinking and rice balls. Naturally after such a long journey we’re gasping for a good drink, and proceed to get smashed over the course of a couple of hours.
Morning brings a horrendous hangover after a mercilessly brief sleep. Ah well. I hang out on the balcony to get a bit of air and read my book since Yeap’s snoring is far too much to snooze through and Satoshi’s flat is smaller than my bathroom. The lads take forever to wake up so I go for a walk and get some Pocari Sweat (fuck you hangover) before we eat breakfast with Satoshi and make some banners for the tour. This evening will be our first rehearsal with Takoyaki San and although I was pretty sure I’d be taking it in my stride, I’m starting to get nervous….really fucking nervous. Perhaps it’s just the hangover and lack of sleep, or maybe the previous days spent in an enclosed space, but I’m getting edgy as fuck. We head down to Koenji square to get some food and check out some record shops. I pick up some awesome random shit in Record Shop Base (Tokyo’s best punk shop) before we meet Shin. It’s awesome to see the big lanky maniac again, though I’m defo feeling the nerves, especially when he admits that he’s been so busy that he hasn’t had much of a chance to learn the songs and just had half the LP on his headphones for the train journey…oh bugger. We buy some beers and Satoshi picks up two bottles of Jaeger and it’s down to the rehearsal studio. We play through the set and it’s, let’s say, “stunted”. Not bad, but not good.
We go out and have another beer and a chat with Shin, catching up with the mad shit going on in his life over the last few months. We head back in and…BOOM!! We play the set and it’s fucking incendiary! Get in there Frank! The horrendous weight lifts and it’s all fucking insane madness, smashing round the rehearsal room and feeling it. I’d been so fucking nervous; playing Japan is essentially the peak of existence for a punk band and to do so at less than your best is extremely humiliating. Without being too soap-opera about it, there’s a question of honour and pride involved; I could talk for hours about how bitterly disappointed I am in our ex-drummer’s decision to bail on us, as there’s no substitution for the hard graft we’ve put into rehearsing, touring, writing, recording and playing 30+ gigs over the last few months.
We head out and get some more beers and the sense of relief is palpable; fucking yes. Once more through the songs and it’s proper good. Oh fuckin hell yes…this tour is going to be insanely good. We finish up around 11pm and head down to Koenji to drink. The punks are out in force and Greg (who sorted out our U.S. tour) plus Alex from Perdition (who we played with in New York) have just turned up from the airport, we’re fuckin smashing the Jaeger and beers, Louis Vaginors and a couple of lads from Adelaide come and drink, Yeap’s taking advantage of his size over the locals and throwing people into the fountain, my inner scumbag is coming out and I’m being nasty to the gaijins, and it all fades into a wonderful alcoholic haze. Ah…tour!
I wake up feeling splendid and quickly realise I’m still drunk. A couple of ibuprofens and a beer works as insurance and Satoshi makes us some great food before we head down to meet Shogo at his flat and take a bus to Koenji for record shopping. The wrong bus, actually, since Shogo’s a total space monster. Yeap amusingly invests $70 in a Terveet Kadet LP at Record Boy only to find the exact same one for half the price at Record Shop Base five minutes later. Naturally this provides no end of entertainment to myself and Penke. I get an awesomely ridiculous Kriegshog t-shirt and a couple of good 7”s. We’re booked in to rehearse at 3pm so we meet Shin and get a few beers before running through the EP songs and getting ‘em down. It’s all fine but I feel weird…floaty and a bit out of it. Yeap’s the same. Can’t figure out if it’s from the long flight or the drink. So we have a beer about it.
After a couple of hours hanging out with Greg and the lads at their mate’s awesome UK EXTRA clothing shop we head down to where the gig’s on tonight. It’s a secret show; the Isterismo lads were freaked about our whole drummer situation so they’ve sorted out this warm-up gig at a tiny Brit bar on the third floor of some building in Asayagaya, just us and them. We get there and the owner and his mates are sound. The lad doing the mixing is this Scottish chap who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ewan McGregor and he certainly has his work cut out for him…Shin has to use brush sticks because of the neighbours while we’re saddled with 10 watt practice amps. The PA can barely handle Yeap’s vocals and we spend about half an hour pissing around to construct a serviceable sound…I split my signal between three teencey amps and the results are hilarious. We get our drink on and I’m becoming more and more partial to the local Yebisu brand. I’d only had their stout last time but the lager is decent, malty and clear. On tap so it’s the obvious choice. We hang out and drink and wait for the gig to start.
ISTERISMO play and they’re awesome. People are going bananas, smashing around, crowd surfing and the small room is packed. The sound is weak as hell but what can ya do. I’ve managed to maintain a reasonable level of inebriation so when we go on it’s fine. I can hear almost nothing except for the drums but it doesn’t matter; people are off their fuckin heads and going pure mad. Shin is fucking perfect…not a single error and it feels like we’ve been playing together for years. Legend! It’s Satoshi’s 28th birthday tonight; a lot of the time after shows here there’s a big party somewhere with food and drinks. Everyone gets a drink and the promoter does a speech about I don’t know what and everyone cheers and has a big laugh. There’s a cake for Satoshi, which Shogo mashes into his face after the candles are blown out. Someone throws it at Shogo and he ducks and it whacks some girl in the face. Ian Perdition shoves a ton of drugs down his face and turns into a shambling mess of a manchild. Tons more drugs go around and we proceed to get completely buggered before taking a taxi back to Shogo’s. Yeap and Satoshi head back to sleep and myself and Penke pinch some whiskey and go drink with Shogo and Zumi Slow Motions before heading back to Satoshi’s to crash out at Shit O’Clock.
We’re woken up by Yeap deciding that 7.30am is a great time to play one of his new records really loud in Satoshi’s one room apartment. We shout at him until he turns it off and I get another bit of patchy sleep before waking up properly. Yeap’s losing his voice due to the fact that we’ve not been rehearsing for the last month and is pretty worried about it… It doesn’t help that people smoke constantly everywhere here. I take a shower and get caught having one due to an inability to keep my ablutions quiet, which causes all manner of amused discomfort to the lads. What can I say…I’m a barely civilised barbarian at the best of times; all sense of decorum goes out the window on tour. Penke gets on the internet and ends up in a state of serious agitation due to managerial dramas in the footy, especially when it turns out that Western Bulldogs are still without a manager. He admits to having drunkenly written out an application for the job a few nights previous…aaaah, good stuff.
We need to be at the venue for tonight’s show by 1pm to soundcheck and sort everything out. It’s on at Antiknock in Shinjuku and the line-up is insane, though it’s all pretty much eclipsed by the fact that GAUZE are playing. Fucking GAUZE!! We get a couple of taxis since we’ve got a huge amount of merch to bring, along with our instruments. We also have to stuff all the tour records; we’ve had an extra 100 from the first plates pressed just for Japan and Shin’s done an amazing job of adding extras and making it all look fantastic; screen-printed outer bag with art from Sugi, an awesome pink obi, alternative printed covers, a screen-printed inlay plus a screen-printed inner sleeve. Unbelievable. It looks amazing but takes some serious assembly. We soundcheck and it’s excellent, though Yeap’s voice is slightly patchy and below its usual paint-stripping volume.
We finish stuffing the bags and myself and Penke run off to find a restaurant so we’ll avoid all the linguistic wrangling about veggie this and vegan that. We get some awesome rice, soup, pork and egg stuff and head in to check out Disk Union next door. Every time I’ve been in Tokyo I’ve ended up accidentally buying a fuckload of records in here…but this time I went way over the top. There was a sale on just for that day, with everything under 1,000 yen being sold for half-price. I pick up 15-20 classic LPs, all sorts of shit, and everything for $5 or less each. Dead Kennedys, Riistetyt, Devo, Bad Brains, 4-Skins…all sorts of great albums, in mint condition. We head back to the venue since it’s already after five and the gig starts at 5.30pm. It’s already filling up and we get in just as FILTHY HATE are starting. They’re Satoshi’s other band, Heresy/Ripcord style fast punishing hardcore. Two singers occasionally attacking the crowd and crazy energetic madness, it’s a good start to the night. Afterwards I bump into my mate Nenji from previous times here and we have a beer before LIFE begins and we leg it in. As always, they’re fucking amazing. Insane mix of anthemic hardcore and pure blistering rage.
Their bassist Nori is a tsunami of destruction, swinging his Rickenbacker around like a sword and bouncing off the walls. It’s like a hardcore version of Where’s Wally? …every time you look over to where a bassist might reasonably be expected to stand, he’s somewhere else: in the crowd, on top of the PA, in the corner behind the drumkit, behind the heating vents…they play one particularly amazing new song from the forthcoming LP and it’s excellent, really can’t wait for this record.
The place is packed and people are already going mental; the last show of the NDT tour was in the same place but tonight is already shaping up to be ten times crazier. I head out with Penke and Greg to get a beer and we stand around to drink and talk about how fucking mental everything is and accidentally miss ATF and half of AVFALL; it’s not like other countries where it takes a half hour for the next band to set up and start…it’s a straight-up changeover and start within five minutes. I’m pissed off cos I particularly wanted to see ‘em both; what I catch of AVFALL is deadly. Raw Scandinavian style chikan hardcore with a ton of OTT fury.
By this stage I’m nervous as fuck. It’s weird; it’s been about ten years since I felt proper nervous before a gig. I feel like I’m about to start a fight (which I suppose is true enough), that weird buzz of edgy aggression and violent energy. I go backstage and warm up and feel like a total nerd…GAUZE are in there doing their stretches and so on. I do some scales until my hands are limber enough, though all my muscles and joints feel like shit. I watch a bit of FEROCIOUS X but it’s hard to focus and enjoy it since our first proper gig with Shin about to start…playing right before the titans. Jesus. I’m cacking it mightily.
We set up and start and…it’s amazing! People are off their fucking heads, stage-diving and crowd-surfing, myself and Penke are killing each other (at one point he actually punches me in the face, the cunt) and Yeap’s all over the place. His voice is fine, though with the UFC match onstage I’m out of tune as often as I am in tune. At the end people are screaming for more, so we do one. It’s fucking awesome. I feel fucking amazing. We did it. No major fuck-ups and now GAUZE are about to play! Aaargh!! I run and get a beer before going back again to get a good spot stageside the better to watch the band. It’s totally packed and the anticipation is insane; people are utterly rapt. When they start I’m just sort of stunned. GAUZE are kind of a phenomenon; it’s difficult to understand from hearing the records just how seriously people get into the band. There’s a huge amount of people wearing their shirts and singing along to every word, and the intensity builds with each song. They don’t stop at all…straight through. I get more and more excited until I eventually stage-dive and go fucking mental in the crowd. It’s total warfare and nobody can get enough; a band at the top of their game for over 20 years, who have somehow combined all eras of hardcore. Fuck.
I head out to get more drinks and bump into some old mates, we hang out and I’m basically just sort of blown away by the whole thing. Someone comes out and shouts that ISTERISMO are on. I run in to see them and it’s fucking amazing; the sound is insane. Total nightmare of vicious chaos, Satoshi’s like a mad banshee whilst Jun and Shogo are desperately trying to destroy their instruments, Ebi keeping the whole thing in some semblance of order with a pounding assault of broken d-beat. Jun actually succeeds in destroying his bass and we have to run around sorting it out with different cables and pedals and I stage-dive into the classic move of not noticing the huge gap in the crowd…six feet down on my back on the concrete floor: …oof.
Afterwards it’s like some kind of punk bazaar with all manner of trading going on. I end up with about five new t-shirts and a bunch of 7”s and patches. We head out and trade shirts with Gauze and drink and take a bunch of photos before heading back to Koenji, where myself and the two lads go with Shogo and get some really great ramen with roast pork. We head back to the square and do some more drinking, somehow segueing into a session of ‘90s Britpop street karaoke. It’s gonna be an early start so we head back and get showered and lie down for about four hours kip.
Until tonight, the best show I’d ever seen was Neurosis in Dublin in the ‘90s. And now it’s this. Amazing: one of the best nights of my life.
I wake up feeling tired but good; a hilarious situation ensues as Satoshi and Yeap attempt to transport six huge boxes of merch to Shogo’s house using only a skateboard. It goes fine for the first two seconds before the whole thing collapses into a crushed pile of vinyl and fabric, providing top-notch laughs to me and the Penkster, at least until we feel guilted into helping. We pile into the van at 8am and drop the Adelaide lads off at the station. It’s a decent tour van we’ll be taking, a 10-seater Toyota Transporter with plenty of space. Ebi, Jun and Satoshi are taking turns driving; I offer to help out but I’m hugely relieved when they say no…driving in Japan looks stressful enough, so I can only imagine how bad it must be when you can’t actually read the signs. The traffic on the way out of Tokyo is insane; as far as I can gather it’s some kind of holiday this weekend, though Sunday is the traditional family day here since so many people work on Saturdays, so the roads would probably be busy either way. Truckstops are amazing on Sundays here. Everyone’s out with their family so you see the maddest people just hanging out and eating crazy shit from the thousands of food options available. There’s all these Japanese soldiers in uniform with helmets and everything, plus U.S. marines in hummers decked out in full combat gear, the result being that it’s like some kind of mad Godzilla remake.
We’ve a longish drive with a couple of stops along the way, though it’s all fun since we’re just hanging out and talking bollocks with Shin, Greg and the Isterismo lads. We arrive shortly after 5pm and load in. Nagoya’s a bit mad; the punk scene here has a lot of connections with bikers and yakuza types, hence things are pretty violent and there can be a weird atmosphere around gigs. We’re playing a small basement club called Day Trip and there’s an eskie full of beers and chu-hi on ice so we crack into that. Punk clubs in Japan are fucking awesome; loads of them are really dark and intimidating, red lights and black paint etc. I still can’t understand how they make it work with rent for all the tiny fantastic shops and bars, since space is at a premium and a lot of these places cater to extremely fringe-interest stuff. With punk gigs, that’s why the entrance price is often twenty to thirty dollars, and I guess stuff in a lot of the bars and shops is fairly expensive, but it’s hard to imagine how they manage to meet the overheads.
Day Trip is full of mad-looking crusties getting charged up and sorting out merch tables. No soundcheck which is nice since I’m pretty hungover and couldn’t be arsed. My old mate Leader shows up and he’s kindly brought vegan food for the hippies, so we hang out and have a beer outside and he introduces me to his friend from years back who’s one scary motherfucker. He owns the dojo across the street from the venue and does MMA, his other mate is a judo master and they both have all sorts of violence-related accessories hanging off their belts. Fuckin’ ‘ell. Leader walks off and I keep talking to the two lads before noticing that there’s three or four musclebound tough cunt young lads hanging around in the background just sort of keeping watch and generally menacing people. This scary punk dude comes up and grabs my beer and starts drinking it and just looks at me. The two other dudes just kind of stare at me aswell. I start laughing and pull another beer out of my pocket and they start laughing too. Crikey. I stay for about a minute more and quickly leave to go back into the gig. I’m going into the backstage room to change my guitar strings when I overhear some kid I don’t know telling someone from one of the other bands that he’s a friend of Kromosom and he’s here on tour with us. He isn’t. He’s a punk tourist who happened to come at the same time. Now, I’m a fairly easy-going guy, but this is the fifth time I’ve noticed this chap taking advantage of us. People in Japan are so accommodating that they’ll do anything to help you out, especially when you have mutual friends. This means that by saying this kind of thing you’ll generally get away with not paying in, taking free shit from distros, getting people to do favours for you, eating band food, drinking band drinks and staying at band sleeping spaces. Which is all well and good, except that these things are generally quite limited and expensive, and there’s rarely enough money, food, beer or sleeping space to make sure everyone who’s playing every night or driving every day is comfortably covered. Now, I fully understand being a bludging cunt…but I don’t like paying to play. Especially when it’s financing some kid’s holiday…so don’t steal my fucking shit. Sorry…rant over.
ATTACK SS kick off the gig and they’re excellent, crushing chaotic brutal d-beat with two guitars and a manic singer. They end in fine fashion, leaving the stage one by one until it’s just the drummer. SYSTEM FUCKER follow and they’ve developed a lot since I last saw them eight months ago. There’s a stronger influence of the japcore style and their fashion has gotten ten times madder; as if it wasn’t enough that Yuta has the most amazing hair of all time, he spends the entire gig trying to kill himself with acrobatics, along with everyone else in the room. SHOCK TROOP follow with a mid-paced dose of harmonica pub rock, not that interesting but not bad, before FOLKEIIS explode onto the stage. FUCKING AMAZING. The NWOBHM influence that began to creep in after their excellent Hell Kaaos Night 7” has exploded into an insane mix of their previous Finnish HC influence, John Zorn and Ordo Ad Chao-era Mayhem. Incredible; their new record’s out soon and I’m so far beyond excited to hear it. What’s more they’re really fucking nice kids. Next up is REALITY CRISIS, who are probably the scariest band I’ve ever seen. The guitar player turns out to be dude who grabbed my beer earlier and he’s casting the evil eye around like there’s no tomorrow. I’m reminded of when I first saw them at the Kawakami Forever gig and told the bassist afterwards that they were awesome and gave him a demo of a band I was in…he threw it on the ground, trod on it and turned back to his mates, who all laughed at me. What a pack of hilarious mean cunts! Live, REALITY CRISIS are the fucking maddest band I’ve ever seen; even though this show wasn’t as nuts as the previous I’d witnessed, it’s still basically like watching a gang get on stage, pick up instruments and immediately start threatening everyone in the room.
I swear that they collectively smoked about 300 cigarettes whilst playing. The minute they begin the singer starts swinging out of the light fixture kicking people in the face while assorted band members attack the crowd. It’s seriously like a full fucking street-riot onstage, with the crowd going absolutely mental. The madness onstage makes System Fucker look like the Beatles. There’s a big speech in the middle of the gig from the short-haired vocalist, which we’re later told is him going totally mental at the crowd and promoter because there aren’t enough people there, which is apparently because it’s a public holiday so everyone’s doing family shit. Bt that’s not good enough, apparently. Either way it’s pretty scary. This band make most Western bands seem about as full-on as the Wiggles. Seriously. Next up is ISTERISMO and they fucking destroy; best set from them so far. Satoshi attacks the crowd while Jun goes wild on his bass, the crowd going even more nuts than the previous bands.
Next up is D-CLONE; I’ve really been looking forward to seeing these guys again and it’s just as I’d hoped: the most insane live sound I’ve ever experienced – so fucking loud. Seriously…four guitar cabs for one guitar? Christing heck! It’s incredible madness with both members literally trying to smash their instruments mid-song before throwing them back on and continuing. Musically (okay, okay, “noisically” then) the crazy song-structures are becoming more and more complex, which shows how far they’ve gone beyond the Disclose influence which uncomprehending detractors throw at them. This is Discharge in a fucking laser war on Ganymede…and it rules. Furthermore, D-Clone are the pinnacle example of how punk is live music…like almost every band tonight. Stamp collectors: keep your limited editions and coloured vinyl. Gimme a beer in my hand, a band onstage and next-day tinnitus any night of the week. After D-Clone I just have to ask Hiroshi to borrow his amps…there’s no way I’m going on with a pissy ol’ two cab set-up after that wall of noise. He agrees and we have a good show…friendly and violence, the traditional way!
Afterwards there’s a big party in Day Trip with lots of food, drinks and madness. Things almost get a bit hairy when Penky starts arm-wrestling cunts and some local hardmen get their stare on. Which, of course, is only pointed out to us after it’s too late. Luckily it seems that a lot of raucous laughter and idiotic behaviour keeps things civil, along with me rather graciously (if I do say so myself) letting some mad yakuza beat me in arm-wrestles. Just to be polite and keep the peace of course. Afterwards we head back to the lads from SYSTEM FUCKER’s house where an extremely odd porno party develops. I head off and take a shower while various ne’er-do-wells crowd around a screen and watching sweaty people bumpin’ uglies. I’m desperate for a good sleep, so I head upstairs around 3am and find an empty room and crash out.
Someone boots me awake around 7am and I’m wide awake immediately; I go downstairs to Ian and Alex Perdition passed out in unnatural poses. I find a permanent marker and decorate Alex’s face with a backwards Japanese temple symbol and sexy references. It turns out that those two and Yeap had stayed up drinking with the lads until 5am, at which point Ian passed out before getting up and whipping his knob out on top of Hiroshi’s girlfriend. Someone managed to wrestle him into the bathroom before any wee came out…dear-oh-deary me. We load into the van and get on the road to Tsuyama, a small mountain town in which an enclave of punks has built an awesome scene around the K2 venue. It’s a beautiful drive, in the middle of which we stop at perhaps the best truck stop in Japan. Aside from the amazing curry and ready opportunity to pinch things with impunity, there’s a shocking statue of what I take for a racist depiction of a black person, before being told it’s supposed to represent an Indian curry chef! Now, does this mean that it’s double-racist, or does a second instance of obscene-but-mistaken racism in fact cancel out the first? Either way, it’s a great photographic subject.
Not half as great as what comes next, however. If you’re not familiar with Mexican child rap sensation Mini Daddy, I suggest that you familiarise yourself with his work immediately. That way you’ll be able to understand just how amazing it is to see his brother-from-another-mother walking around a Japanese truckstop, with a mullet, a skeleton Mario t-shirt, and a madly coiffured poodle. Not to mention that his Dad just happens to be wearing a Jah Rastafari t-shirt and looking real mean. Good lord!
We arrive in Tsuyama and soundcheck before myself, Panky and Greg decide to take advantage of the brief few hours we have here and go for a stroll. Last time I was here we didn’t get a chance to look around, and the countryside is unbelievably beautiful, so we head off down along the river telling stories. It’s like the alpine forest is trying to reclaim the entire town; every crag, every promontory has roots and tall pines spilling over the edges. Mist and cloud cover swoops low, creating dense spirals over the thick green woods, whilst a number of wide rivers and swollen streams cascade down from the mountains, spanned by ornate delicate bridges. It’s breathtaking; more akin to the Norwegian countryside than my typical idea of Japan. We go into a liquor store and get a couple of tallies before heading down to walk along an interesting-looking stream below an old Japanese styl feudale castle on a hill. Our stroll takes us down to a seemingly abandoned temple/shrine, with everything there dedicated to cats. Someone’s knitted a jumper and a hat for one of the cat statues, which we can only imagine is a mischievous Japanese teenager prank: “let’s do something REALLY respectful tonight…it’ll blow peoples minds!”. On our way back to the venue we stop in at a supermarket and buy tons of awesome junk and I manage to half-inch a bottle of pricey Suntory Yamazaki 12-year-old single malt, nevertheless freaking out that the one elderly store detective has finally spotted his chance to become a local hero on the technologically superior anti-theft hardware Japanese stores most definitely must possess. But I was too quick for his crap old-man eyes, so no hassles.
We get back to K2 just before DEATH DUST EXTRACTOR kick off, but unfortunately Penke’s already gotten the final can of Miracle Body chu-hi so it’s back to being a pudgy mess for me. DDE begin and it’s fast, heavy crust, like a more punky Effigy with some Celtic Frost moments. I crack into the whiskey and it’s absolutely bloody gorgeous; smokey and full of body with a crisp, quick taste to it. Which I ruin with a shitty energy drink, because I drink too much of it too fast and am in danger of being too pissed to play. MASSGRAVE follow and they’re a mix of fastcore, crust and raw punk, classic example of how smalltown bands come together with disparate influences. DISTURD follow and it’s vicious, punishing crustcore with neck-snapping mosh parts: deeecent. Next up are LAST and they’re SO good; it’s like if you took ’80s UKHC thrash rhymths and married them to a d-beat framework with a total maniac on vocals and audacious guitar work. NIGHTMARE follow and it’s great to watch Shin behind the kit instead of playing on front of him…such an amazing drummer (and what a sexy little bastard!). It’s an energetic show with a load of classics ripped out and next up are SKIZOPHENIA.
These were maybe the best band I saw last time I visited, and they’ve gotten even better. A touch of the punkier side of Finnish hardcore mixed with ‘80s European classics all blended up with a ton of hi-octane energy and awesome OTT fashions. Things start getting loose with plenty of pogo and stupid dancing, and by the time ISTERISMO hit it things are getting well rowdy. By this stage the general madness is escalating every night and Satoshi spends half the set in the air; it’s sheer brutality and I love it! We set up and go for it and it’s insanity; the whiskey is gone, the mood is bright and it’s a proper fucking chaos night. At one point Yeap punches some dude in the face and he starts pissing blood out his nose, before he climbs a ladder down the back on the venue and launches himself off it to flatten about five enthusiastic teenagers. Myself and Penkethman are playing Mortal Kombat 10 against each other for most of the gig with the result that eventually his bass breaks and his has to borrow Jun’s. Meanwhile, the poor soundman is on a horrible fishing trip in which Yeap is the fish, the mic is the bait, and the mic lead is the tackle…which is unfortunately nowhere near adequate for the catch. Fuck…the bastard fish just broke the mic!
Afterwards we have a mad party and everything is excellent; people are so welcoming, there’s loads of great food, and this mad lad we met last time forces us to drink a buttload of tequila with him. I start taking the piss out of one the Adelaide lads for drinking all the beers and things start getting hazy as I’m never one to take the impolite route of turning down an offered drink. I remember a lot of pseudo-violence involving fireworks and a bunch of people going to a quiet house to sleep, with the rest of us going bananas in K2 to Blitz, The Blue Hearts and Bastard before we’re all kicked out and stumble back to the singer from Last’s gaff to continue the party. I vaguely remember getting there and it being totally packed with people, but subsequent to that things get fairly Polaroidish. According to Penke, what happens next is that there’s a load of food laid on for us, and Mr. Adelaide lays into it, eating all the noodles before anyone else can get a look in. Fucking crusty freeloading cunt. I have a go at him about it and he responds “calm down, princess”. Oh dear. Oh deary me. I’d been content to use deprecating humour as a pressure valve thus far, but since this is the Nth occasion on which this scabby twat has gotten in my face with his piss-taking behaviour, I can no longer keep it in. I lay into the poor cunt, telling him exactly what I think of how he’s acting. This only makes him eat faster, to Penke’s amusement. Eventually Penke tells me to “settle down and let it go”, and I only slightly remember this part, but apparently my response is “okay…okay…I just really want to hit someone in the face” after which I stare Adelaide out of it for a half minute. He takes the hint and goes to sleep on the balcony. Under ordinary circumstances I’d never indulge in this kind of aggressive spleen-venting, but he just went way too far…something had to be done. We drink on and pass out sometime around 6am.
Someone wakes me up and it’s fucking 8.30am. I’m still drunk so it doesn’t hurt. There’s only one solution: more chu-hi. I crack one and sit on the balcony with the Adelaide lads. Poor ol’ Aelaide is positively terrified; there’s no hard feelings matey boy, just sort your fuckin gash out. We walk up to K2 in a big gang and stop at a convenience store on the way where I get some manky food and rob a bottle of Kahlua. It’s just too easy over here. We take a heap of pictures and meet the rest of the lads who got a proper sleep elsewhere before it’s time to leave. Ushi from SKIZOPHRENIA is coming with us to stand in for Ebi on the drums for this and the following gig since the Ebster has to return to Tokyo for work. It’s no joke here; it seems that when you got a family and you get a job, you don’t let go of it or you’re gonna end up like one of these old dudes stacking shelves in the supermarket. The drive is amazing…some of the most beautiful forest I’ve ever seen. It’s a dull overcast day with low-hanging cloud, and although I’m desperately in need of sleep, I just want to keep watching. There’s a potentially monstrous headache lurking at the back of my bonce so I eat some ibuprofen and codeine. Shogo gives me some sleeping pills he’s got and I have another chu-hi. Things start getting pleasantly fuzzy and before I know it I’m blissing out in the most wonderful way…the forest is speaking to me and I’m having all sorts of bizarrely amazing ideas…this feels like acid…Shogo mate, give us a look at the packet of your so-called “sleeping pills”…WHAT THE FUCK!!? Rohypnol!? Whoever knew that roofies, sugary alcohol and painkillers were such a potent combo! Fuck yeah, this rules! We pull in at a toilet truck stop and I have the best time ever wandering around and borrowing Greg’s phone to take pictures of the forest. We get back in the car and I’m off to the moon, chatting away to the forest and discovering the answer to the mysteries of how life develops. The forest is clearly the answer to Japan’s incredibleness and I’m spouting nonsense about the earth, ancestors and society… it’s only the next day that I realize I’ve been reinventing the nazi “blood and soil” mythology in new words. Hmmm…not the best approach. Luckily for everyone, I soon pass out and don’t wake up until we’re nearly at the venue in Fukuoka.
I’m amazingly refreshed and the city looks awesome. There’s a huge tropical storm on and it turns out we’re at the tail end of a hurricane. There’s gorgeous girls and mad fashions everywhere and Shogo tells us how all of Japan’s cutting edge fashions originate in Fukuoka. We load in and the venue is awesome; real tight and pokey but well laid out. And punk as all hell. I have a quick drinky poos and myself, Greg and Panky take off for a glance around the place before soundcheck. We go to a department store full to the brim with odd pervy stuff before we have to run back. Get there just as NEMESIS begin their soundcheck: HOLY FUCKING SHIT. Best new band in I don’t know how long…even just their soundcheck is unfeasibly intense, leading to that crucial smashy feeling. Aw yeeah. Head blown off. We hang out and have a few drinks, I change my strings and have a big chat with Shin about crap, begging him to just tell us to shut the fuck up and put us in our place when & if we’re out of hand, since the typical kindness and manners of people here mean that it’s way too easy to get away with being a massive knobhead 24/7. NEMESIS start up and it’s unbelievable. It’s their 7” launch show and we each go out and immediately buy about 5 copies each for friends at home. AI follow with their intense japcore sound though I don’t get to see the whole gig because of having to set up.
We’re on next and it’s an awesome show; less anarchy violence from us and more from the crowd. Really starting to feel Shin now without having to glance around too much; the pulse and beat that works its way into your veins as you become accustomed to each other. Mmm…homoerotic. Fukuoka proves itself to be the maddest city in Japan with a vast array of mad rooters going utterly fancy crazy during our set; no surprise that this was where the intense insanity of the original Kyushu noise punk sound originated.
END OF POLLUTION follow with an unexpected assault of heavy crust in the Amebix/Antisect tradition; heavy, ominous and hulking. Great show and I’m keen to hear some recorded output. ISTERISMO close the gig with an intense display of ricochet-laden Satoshi hysterics and a particularly spacey set from Shogo. Some dude picks up Jun’s bass and starts playing it and he goes fuckin’ spare and starts on the cunt and it looks like it’s all gonna kick off. Shit!! It gets calmed down and there’s no hassle in the end.
Afterwards we have a party at the club with loadsa cocktails, beers, food and so on. Shogo makes an incredibly delicious curry and we all chomp it down. Everyone’s really sound and there’s that great feeling of togetherness and unity that you get in scenes from remote places with a wide range of ages involved. I’m drunk as the proverbial monkey’s uncle by this stage. So is passed out in the tiny backstage room along with the guitarist from AI, this total mad cunt in a World Peace t-shirt who’s been punishing like a madman all night long. All too soon it’s time to go. It turns out we’re sleeping at the girls from END OF POLLUTION’s gaff.
We get there and it’s full of awesome toys, though it quickly turns out that someone’s got a big fetish for nazi stuff. Yes please. We briefly flirt with the idea of stealing a Hitler Youth dagger but decide it’d be just too mean, so instead we quiz the EoP bassist about it. Turns out her boyfriend’s a skin who’s very into this kind of thing. She’s familiar with Australia via Romper Stomper and comes out with a right shocker when we ask her what she thinks of the movie: “I hate yerrow monkeys!”. Crikey!! She’s got some Irish whiskey which I show an appreciation for and she suddenly becomes a lot more animated when she learns that I’m from that hallowed isle. I take a shower and pass out gratefully on the floor. Might as well take advantage of the four hours sleep we’ll be getting…
We wake up and struggle out to the van. Get in and drive. Now that I’ve had a taste I need some more: gimme some frickin’ roofies, Shogo! I have an absolutely fantastic time, drifting off on a pink cloud. It’s much more mellow without the chu-hi and painkillers involved. I take my pants off cos it’s more comfortable. We stop at this hilarious truck stop and Satoshi dresses me in his kilt after I wander off pantyless. There’s a tent full of scantily clad ladies with blue hair giving free cigarettes to people. I wander in for a bit and they’re all really nice to me but I don’t feel like smoking and they get a bit disappointed. I kind of space out around the place and rob shit before it’s time to get back in the van and drive on. I have a bit of a kip and wake up to a beautiful drive; I just don’t want to sleep, there’s way too much to look at and talk about. We cross a massive series of awesome bridges over to Koichi and it’s turning into a massive pain in the arse to keep this fuckin’ thing updated too before I forget everything, but now that I’ve started… There’s thousands of little islands and some of the most beautiful post-industrial vistas I’ve ever seen. I really want to visit a Japanese cemetery up close; soon after we get to the town we’re playing at I spot a huge one on a hillside and manage to wheedle a go of looking at it out of the lads.
I’m still fuckin Buzz Lightyear and can’t get my pants on so Satoshi decks me out in his kilt again and we have a stroll around. It’s amazing. We’re strongly advised against taking photos at a random grave, but we do anyway because we’re punks. We drive on to the venue, arriving at the club nice and early. It’s an awesome looking place with a huge backstage, giving us the first chance to spread out in a week. Greg’s in his element! We meet the girls from AKKA and Masuda from AXEWIELD who we’d hung out with on the NDT tour and head off to get some proper Udon, the local delicacy. My food sensei Shogo orders and shows me how to dress it all up: it’s goddamn delicious. We head back to the venue in high spirits and I take the opportunity of an internet connection to catch up with shit…bad idea.
First up I have an email from the Aussie Deptartment of Immigration telling me that my work visa application is being disputed by them [it’s now dead in the water, leaving me a bit fucked…but that’s a whole other story]. Secondly, I get an email from Ireland with some real bad news about some horrendous shit from my home town that I won’t go into. I’m pretty freaked out. I hide behind my shades and watch the first band and try not to think about it. I watch AXEWIELD and they’re fucking amazing, but I’m totally distracted and feeling a proper dark mood descend. Afterwards I’m freaked and go to talk with Panky about it for a bit. I don’t know who plays next but all I want to do is get some weed. No weed so I start drinking heavily. Start getting pretty angry. I think we play next after switching with ISTERISMO but I don’t really know. I vaguely remember watching AKKA. Someone gets me some proper strong sleeping pills and I start taking them. Don’t remember anything else.
Wake up on a padded floor in an amazingly cool room and I’m extremely confused. Look around and it turns out we’re at Masuda Axewield’s house. There’s fantastic toys and cool shit everywhere including a mad Teletubbies display, which is a favourite of his wife. I feel fine, and well refreshed. Apparently we’d come back and I took more pills. Penke ended up snatching them off me and eating a couple to stop me consuming more. The story goes that I’d gone into the shower and come out and passed out, leaving the others to drag me into the sleeping room. No recollection. Anyway, I apologise to Masuda and try and make up for being such a knobhead. There’s tons of fruit juice and water which I can’t seem to consume enough of. We’ve got a day off today so the plan is to drive to Kyoto and hang out with the lads from Warhead. On the drive we stop at a buttload of gas stations and nick loads of shit. We’ve to drop Ushi off at the station so he can head home to Tsuyama; Ebi will meet us again tomorrow in Osaka.
We get to Kyoto and I’m still a total space mongo so I drink a load of coffees and energy drinks. We take a walk around one of the bigger temples and it’s hilarious. All these douchehounds start taking pictures of us and Panky laughs at this tourist spazzer with a big hickey. We see him a minute later and the poor cunt’s after popping his collar to stop people seeing – HA! There’s all sorts of fat ugly tourists around so we don’t stop for too long…just long enough to get some snaps with this Austrian lady from a touring opera group who begs a photo. Go on then, love. It seems we’re supposed to play a surprise gig at a rehearsal space tonight and I really, really, really couldn’t be arsed after the night I’ve had, but so be it. We head down there and schlep the gear in. Turns out it’s not a practice space but actually an awesome little bar; it’s a fuckin’ mad place. One tiny rectangular room with a bar with a door from it into a bigger square room with a stage and a big screen TV. Sort of horror-themed with this legend of a guy running it. He can’t speak any English but he’s wearing a Swans t-shirt and has great taste in movies, so that’s good enough for me. We start getting the beers in and the chaps from Warhead are cooking us dinner. Awesome! Basket Case is showing on the telly, followed by Zombie Strippers. We’re hanging out and eating, chatting, drinking and it’s a deadly buzz. Kenta shows up, this awesome straight edge photographer kid that we met last time, and Araki (the Warhead drummer) and his wife are there with their new baby. The poor little tyke takes one look at me and bursts out crying! I’m feeling these fucking intense feelings, due to what I’d found out yesterday plus the residual downers in my system, but there’s also a heightened sense of occasion, of synchronicity. The kid soon becomes curious and keeps reaching out to me, touching my studded jacket, and so I take her and hold her for a bit as she smiles and gurgles cheekily. I make the most hilariously inappropriate faux pas…let’s just say that when a six-month-old child has a picture of a rabbit on her jumper and you’re pointing at it, you should take care not to mix up the words “usagi” and “konojo”. Oh jaysus…I’m so embarrassed. But no-one seems to mind or find it strange, and despite the fact that very young kids usually bore me to tears, the kid is entranced by me so I pick her up again and hang out with her for a bit more and it’s fun. There’s this huge conflagration of my past and future in my head and it’s fucking mental; I can feel things changing. There’s meanwhile an odd tense feeling amongst everyone.
Panky’s feeling it too so we decide to go out and each get a 2-litre of water and an energy drink at the convenience store. We sit down to drink it and Panky starts shivering. He’s asking do I feel cold. I say no, I’m really warm and that he must be mental. Two minutes later I’m feeling it too. It’s exactly like I’m coming up on LSD or MDMA. I tell him what I reckon and he’s the same; that odd, dissociated feeling of cotton wool unreality before a trip kicks in. We’re freaked to bits. There’s three possibilities: number one and most likely, the alcohol we’ve been drinking the last three hours has reactivated the downers in our system, giving us an odd trippy feeling. But since it was almost 24 hours previous that we took them it’s hard for us to accept that this is the case. Number two and very unlikely, we’ve been spiked by someone for a laugh or to see how we’ll react. Number three and extremely unlikely, it’s a ghost that we disturbed at the cemetery in Kagawa exacting its revenge. Keep in mind that we’ve been drinking hard for a week and have intense downer paranoia and it perhaps doesn’t seem quite so mad that this is what was going on in our heads. When you get these intense drug feelings so strongly, you gotta wonder about it…whatever it is, there’s only one option: go with it.
We head back in and I have that fractal tension that precedes a trip; I can’t really talk to anyone. I hang out with So a bit and keep the jitters down. I go into the bigger room and Akira is showing and there’s way too much going on. It’s the scene where the Clown Gang bash Tetsuo, and again, the synchronicity is too much for me: Akira was the first time I ever felt any curiosity about Japan, in a nerd magazine called Commodore Format, when I was about 8 or 9. There was an article about the 100 movies that should be made into computer games, and Akira was one of them. The cover of it was displayed. I’d never seen anything like it. I got the video in Virgin Megastore a couple of years after and the comics soon after that. And now in the midst of this tour, coming up on fuck knows what, I’m watching it with all these people I’ve met through punk, having one of the maddest experiences of my life. The resonance is insane, and I come up hard, and after that everything explodes and it’s amazing.
The tension dissipates and we’re having a mad party and shit gets wild as all hell. Whiskey, sake and a bottle of gross plum wine that Yeap robs from a 7-11 mean we’re all steaming drunk with Warhead, who dive into our van totally out of control and decide they’re coming with us. Everything goes mad and I can’t write about the next three hours, but eventually we get to Osaka and the party continues. Straight down to Konton and get crazy wild on the piss with my old mate Yamazaki, the total fucking legend barman from Konton. He’s showing Mad Max on the TV, the singer from Corrupted is there and tells us he’ll be coming down to the gig tomorrow along with the dudes from Zouo, we’re drinking tequila and beer, beer and tequila, we head out on the streets and I smoke a fake joint from the rasta shop beside Punk & Destroy and get high as shit and wander off watching some skaters making a video. End up talking about proper good Japanese hardcore with this awesome skater kid and make him miss his friend landing a trick on the 87th attempt (very dishonourable) before I spot the other chaps again and we go into a convenience store and rob more whiskey. Shit is getting crazy out of control by the time I get back to Kansai Punk Support Centre and crash out. Holy fuck.
Wake up with a customary semi-clanging stuffed-up head and blunder my way down to Freshness Burger…not in the mood for anything eggy, soupy, ricey or noodly and I didn’t eat much yesterday, so I get a couple of burgers and a coke in. It does the trick and I wander off to check out the streets. Osaka is the best city in Japan; it’s so fucking awesome, especially the Amerikamura, where the KPSC is situated, along with most of the best venues and literally hundreds of fascinating shops. Every odd branch of subculture is celebrated to an insane degree here; everything. The record shops are blindingly amazing, with the staff intensely knowledgeable. The music shops have an incredible array of gear and expertise. The hip-hop clothing shops blare the best shit on their stereos and go so far as to sponsor visas for dudes from Nigeria and Uganda to come over and wear NYC style clothing…they pay these dudes to just hang around outside the shops all day to make them seem more authentic! It’s FUCKING MENTAL. I wander down towards Mandarake, the best manga and weird otaku culture shop there is: it’s a superstore of mania. Four floors of madness. I nearly spend $150 on a 1/6 scale model of Tetsuo in his semi-mutated guise, but when the shop nerd takes it out of the box it’s not that good, so I leave it. I buy a couple of things and then walking back towards KPSC I bump into Sugi on the street; he’s after coming from fuckin’ Hiroshima on a bus for the gig! That’s HOURS! We head back to Mandarake cos I wanna get some recommendations of obscure ‘70s horror manga off him, so he helps me find a ton of awesome books. We head back towards Shin’s place and bump into Greg and Panky who are off to Don Quixote to buy some stupid shit. I tell Sugi I’ll see him later and go with them.
Greg’s gotten hold of a map and we wind our way through the mad little streets of Amerikamura, past all these bizarre sex hotels and mad shops. We get down to a fashionable shopping area chockablock with cuties; there’s a plethory of head-the-balls apparently “working” on the streets, just hip young things decked out in fuck-knows-what kind of outfits giving out flyers and suchlike. It’s all very mysterious. We head into Don Quixote, and still in a bubble of tour mania, buy a ton of awesome crap. I get some fantastic manga jigsaws for my puzzle-hungry honeygirl back home and a ton of other mad shit as presents, but it all gets pretty headachey too soon so I head outside and get an ol’ Pocari Sweat to take the edge off. The best part is seeing this couple choosing dildos, the girlfriend making a big show of how she doesn’t really want to be there while making coy eyes at us with a cheeky shy smile the whole time. Ah jaysus.
Today we’re getting tats so we need to hurry the fuck up and soundcheck so we’ll have time to get down to the studio and get done before the gig. We go down and load in. The sound is fucking awesome. There’s a hulking tension built up inside me and even the soundcheck is a blessed relief; we fuckin kill it dead and it feels so good that afterwards I’m feeling uncontrollably randy and have to leg it to the bathroom for Relief Part III the second we’re done. Ahhhhhh…suddenly everything’s a lot more relaxed. Oof. We leg it down to the tattoo studio and get going…Shin goes first cos he’s go so much on today. The man never stops. He’s a bastion of industry. He gets the circle K on his frickin’ neck, which leads to his wife getting mad angry at Yeap –hahaha! The Isterismo lads go next, each getting the circle K in various places on their bodies, with handsome sex maniac Shogo hilariously getting it on the pubic region of his hip…”oh, you’ve got a tattoo? That’s so cool! Can I see it?”; “yeah, sure baby, but I don’t want everyone to see, just come in here a minute…”. Go on, ya chancer! The lads are all freaked as it’s the first tattoo for most of them. I reckon last night’s madness with Warhead marked their entry into the criminal underworld…now they’re fucked for life! While they’re all getting done I head back to raid various shops, spending almost all my time at Mandarake when I discover an entire floor of crazy photo and art books, trying to look at as many as possible in a short amount of time and select a few for later purchase. I wanna go first of us since it’s taking forever and I don’t wanna miss any of the bands. Myself and Yeap flip for it and he tries to cheat me on it, the cheeky cunt! Either way it doesn’t matter, since we end up not having enough time. Greg comes back later to get “chaos nights” in kanji on his bicep: tuff! Yet before that comes the genesis of perhaps the most intense shit I’ve ever experienced…
Myself and Panky meet Sugi again and whack some takoyaki into us before bumping into Greg. We meet Louis from Vaginors on the street and he tells us about this mad goth shop called Territory…from the description he gives I just have to go down there. We edge through some back streets and find the place. It’s down a stairs, in a basement. You open the door and beyond there’s a big rusty creaky old churchyard gate into the shop. Within, it’s like a creepy dank gothic castle from the 1700s…it’s impossible to actually see the dimensions and walls within. Everything is covered in layers of dust, cobwebs, velvet…bookcases, shelves, candles and decorations adorn every inch of space…red lights shine through the gloom. It’s actually scary. There’s a bigger-than-lifesize statue of Baphomet looking down on me, with a huge fucking boner. Suddenly one of the statues moves! My heart fucking leaps. It turns out there was a creepy goth chick standing there all the time. She glides away from behind the counter past a red velvet curtain into the back. Some kind of beast is ruffling its feathers out there…there’s a huge “caw!ing” sound…they’ve got a live fucking raven in the shop!! And then the singer from Corrupted comes out –turns out he owns the place!! There’s a huge stuffed white wolf, incredible satanic items and mad jewelry, occult SS artifacts and a ton of other mad shit. I want to buy it all but limit myself to a few select items because it’s very expensive. The dude from Corrupted is real sound and gives me a couple of extra things for free –what a legend!
We ascend back to reality and my mind is blown. Greg and Louis have legged it, presumably because the whole thing was just too freaky. I don’t blame them. Panky and I are out of it so we get some food and a beer from the convenience store and watch the early evening buzz of a Friday night in Osaka develop. Everyone’s getting their stocks in, having a quick bite before they head home to change and whatnot. I leg it back to Kansai to charge my hair before we go to the gig. Tonight’s line-up is insane…it’s kicking off when we roll up; LAST MEASURE are first and they’re awesome. Honestly I’d been biased against them cos they’ve got an American in the band (a nice chap called Jessie who I’d met before), but once more I’m revealed to myself as a profligate racist when their mad crasher crusty American hardcore knocks my head off. Leg it out for a beer before ZYANOSE are up, and they rule. Imagine, if you will, Confuse colliding with Hawkwind, on acid, composed and enacted on two basses and drums, with atrocious dental hygiene. So good. The venue is packed and people are going bonkers. FRAMTID follow and it’s the best I’ve seen them since the European tour in 2007. There’s some excellent new songs on display, boding well for their imminent second album and taking things back to their earlier sites of influence: crazy intensity, more backing vocals and anthemic repeated shouty bits. Shit is out of control and people are going nuts; there’s these three drunken crusty cuties laying waste to the boys in the pit and it’s fantastic, the first time I’ve seen Japanese girls go proper mental at a gig without being onstage! Fucking YES. I go down to warm up a bit because I want to be on form tonight and the cosntant punishment my body’s taking is exacting its toll in muscle stiffness and wrist/finger pain. ATTACK SS begin and it’s vicious, the singer is this huge tattooed skinny monster who’s just grabbing people and tossing them around like 50p coins. Next up is ISTERISMO. I stand down the back for the first few songs and notice all the lads from Zouo standing there too. People are going pure mental and I can’t take it anymore when they launch into their deadly pogo song off our split with them and have to get into it before running down to do a final warm-up with Panky. He’s after fucking his wrist in during ISTERISMO and it’s bothering him. Someone’s left a bag of beers backstage (basically a closet). Panky robs one just before Jacky Crust War comes back and tells us it’s Zouo’s beer…shit! One of them comes down and has a word in Jacky’s ear…“hey, they say that you guys can take beer from here if you want. It’s a present.” Heheh. Yeap comes down to say ISTERISMO are finished, bringing some kid with him who’s had his fucking face smashed during the gig. His entire eyebrow has turned into some kind of a gigantic tit. Amazing.
We set up and there’s a heavy buzz of anticipation. By this stage the thievery has gotten way out of control and my guitar case and jacket is laden down with multiple bottles of whiskey. I take a one out, have a few pulls and pass it round. Stick-count and we start; it’s fucking insanity from the first second. There’s no way we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the bands tonight, based purely on the lack of time we’ve had playing all together. The only thing for it is to make up the difference in ferocity. End the first song, get out more whiskey, have a swig, pass it round, repeat for the next three songs. People are getting real fuckin loose and we’re killing each other onstage. The band and crowd are crashing into me constantly, or I into them, so I’m way out of tune. Give it an occasional tuning between songs but fuck it. I start the wrong song after Yeap’s introduced a different one and him and Shin lose the plot at me. Fuck it. We go into the right song and charge through to the end. Not the tightest set of the tour but I reckon we make up for in energy; it’s Shin’s second night in a row playing with us as his second set, and he does well. People stream out for some air and dotted around the room are half full bottles of whiskey…come on, you creampuffs!
Afterwards is a dreamlike experience of hilarity, an immense night of total chaos. We get our drink on in fine style and it seems the guitar player from Attack SS has been instructed to apprentice himself to Panky; he’s matching him drink for drink at the bar, which Panky soon realises, downing each one immediately and forcing the poor u-14 squad to follow. Pretty soon Attack SS Jnr. is steaming drunk and falling around the place. Heheh. The sound young lad we’d met in Tsuyama is back, once more insisting on tequila shots. We get the beers in and Bad Dirty Hate play an afterparty set in the sub-sub-basement bar of Hokage. It’s great fun, a nice foil to the Spending Loud Night buzz of all the bands tonight. I’m hanging out when Jacky grabs me; “Cormy, you have to come with me”. He introduces Taiki to me again, the Corrupted singer, and says I need to go with him. He doesn’t speak any English so Jacky translates. I’m sort of freaked, not knowing what’s up, but I know Jacky well and trust him so I go along with it. They lead me down a maze of backstreets and won’t tell me where we’re going. Taiki eventually stops at a metal door down a narrow alleyway and unlocks it. We descend a stairs and enter this cryptlike space. I think it’s connected to Territory but I can’t see anything of the shop we were in earlier. One wall is a cage of thick metal bars and there’s an extremely odd aura. Jacky translates, and Taiki tells me it’s a shrine to Kawakami. Taiki was one of his best friends and much of Kawakami’s stuff was left to him. He used to tattoo in here. I’m sort of overcome; again, this intense synchronicity. It was back around the turn of the millennium when I’d just moved to Dublin and had been getting into crust that I got heavily into the Dis shit, ordering everything I could with Dis in the title from obscure Scandi and German tape distros. Japanese d-beat noise? Yes please. It was a discography tape starting with the Tragedy LP and the beginning of my love affair with OTT punk noise (I could shite on for pages and pages about Disclose and this is already way too long, but if you give a shit there’s a two-page article on my crackpot theories concerning Kawakami and his various projects in Zero Tolerance magazine #20 Nov/Dec 2007). My first visit to Japan had been for the final Kawakami Forever tribute and now on this trip I’m here, in this place, with these guys, doing this shit. I won’t go into what happens next but it’s insane; just the craziest occult shit I’ve ever felt. Taiki’s words and actions are some of the most affecting of my life, and I leave feeling humble and, frankly, mental.
I walk around feeling just out of it. I wander the streets of Osaka, enjoying the Friday night spectacle and end up hanging out with these hip-hop skater chicks. They’re pretty funny and curious but don’t seem to quite know what to make of me. Don’t even know what to make of meself at this stage. I wander back around towards the nearest beer shop to Punk &Destroy and naturally there’s dozens of punks out the front drinking, including all the lads. I’m just after missing the funniest thing I’ve ever heard of: while Panky was walking down the street after the gig he saw this tiny little poodle dressed up as a punk. He’s got a little leather jacket and a leopard skin pants on, so of course Panky picks him up to do a “num num num” on him. Being the exact point at which the dog chooses to do a big piss all over Panky. I can’t believe I missed it! I’d almost rather have been there for that than away doing what I was for the past hour or so! We have a great fuckin laugh about it and decide it’s time to head to Konton. On the way down through the myriad underground alleys and tunnels myself and Penkethman hear something in the background…through a door…could it be…yes it is!! Fuckin’ Oasis! There’s this tiny little jazzy Manchester bar with a suave barman and four patrons. We barrel in and order whiskey sodas. There’s this odd androgynous lady and I just can’t stop staring at her. She’s magical. We have a great big laugh and listen to Happy Mondays and Noel Gallagher’s new band (which is shite) and before long the bar is empty except for us two. We’ve had our fun so we leave and head down to Konton. I see my old mate Yamazaki and we’re on the drink again! From this stage on things get patchy. At some point we’ve left Konton and we’re walking along the street with a big crew of punks. My last Polaroid memories are as follows: laughing maniacally at an entire row of fashionable idiots waiting to go into a nightclub whilst walking along giving them all the finger. They seem equal parts scared and delighted. The singer from Avfall getting pointed at by a giggling group of pretty girls. This causes him to run grinning at them, roaring “bitches! bitches!”, at which point they all scatter, screaming. Penke picking up a bottle of whiskey in a 7-11 and walking out with it waving at the store clerk, who’s desperately trying to avoid eye-contact and smile politely at the same time. Somehow being high up on a building and throwing a bicycle off it. Oblivion.
I wake up in a dark room after some sleep to Greg telling me to come down to Freshness Burger. I leave the darkened room and discover that we’re back in KPSC. I’m terrified, with a strong dose of The Fear. I’m sure that Greg needs to tell me something and I have vague memories of monstrous behaviour from the night before… I’m worried that I’ve gone too far without having any recollection of it. I head down and order a burger, get a coke and a Pocari Sweat, and sit down with Greg, ready to hear the bad news… Paranoia. It turns out it’s nothing, he was simply asking me if I wanted to get a burger. Fucking hell. I wolf down my burger and check my email to see if I’ve gotten paid. I fucking have, and way more than I expected: thank you work, watch the fuck out Osaka! I rush off on an insane blowout, decimating two weeks wages in two hours on records in King Kong and books + toys in Mandarake. At every shop counter my heart is in my mouth that my debit card is about to explode and a squad of econo-cops will run in as red lights flash and shutters go down on the doors. My card continues to work and I score the most amazing collection of books. Amazing amazing amazing. Fuck it, this is why I work… I leg it back to Punk & Destroy II laden down with bags and pack up the van, utterly manic. We wave goodbye to my main man Chuhiro while his cool girlfriend Naoko (fiancé now!) comes with us to Yokkaichi. It’s an amazing drive as we ascend high up into the mountains. The scenery is heartrendingly, unbelievably beautiful. The lads have put Oasis on the stereo, we’re zooming through incredible forest, and Japan is just amazing. I feel so fucking great. It’s around then that I realize that I’m still drunk as a bastard, which is probably why I’ve been running around Osaka on an obscene spending spree.
The drive is insane and so’s my head. We take a break at a truckstop and I buy some healthfood to try and reset my brain. I later find a piece of paper on which I’ve scribbled “head is on the moon follow heart”. We pass this hilarious spaceship car with a little dweeb driving around in it. We arrive at Club Chaos and are met by all the lads from Contrast Attitude and Acrostix, and its great to see Gori, Shin and Tam again. Bring the gear in, meet all the local lads and say hi. Reality Crisis are soundchecking and by this stage I’m feeling The Fear something awful. Paranoia creeps and every time someone looks at me it’s all I can do not to run and hide somewhere curled up in a ball. I grab Panky and we head to the convenience store where I get in two cans of chu-hi. I’m a gibbering mess and we walk to this dogpark and sit down. Our paranoia isn’t helped by the other two lads reckoning we were too drunk last night and ruined the set, which neither of us agree with. It was fucking fun and even though it’s not the tightest we’ve ever played, people had a real good time. Greg agrees. We drink our chu-hi and within one can I’m okay again, semi-drunk from the alcohol in my system. This is the only way to get through to the end without going insane; there’s going to be no personal space for days yet, with very little sleep and a lot more intense experience. We start having a laugh again and lose the hellish paranoia, and I decide to not really drink until after the gig…just one or two to keep in check. We’re now ready to go in and check out Vortex, the most amazing punk shop in the entire world. We go absolutely mental buying tons of awesome stuff while the Japanese lads all go for food. Not hungry. Everyone’s too polite to tell us to hurry the fuck up and every time we start to leave, something else cool catches our eye. We finally catch on that the gig’s actually starting and they have to close up. Fuck! We leg it to the gig and ACROSTIX have already started. Double fuck!
We’ve not missed much, and I’m glad cos they’re amazing: perhaps the best live band in Japan, musically speaking. Their progressive bent is unbelievable, the way they’ve developed since the early Amebix influence remarkable. Some of the new songs have this excellent Motorhead vibe with Tam’s drumming underscoring some of the maddest songwriting to arise out of their unlikely amalgamation of japcore and crust. Unique and original. The beats and rhythms are unlike anything else; can’t wait to hear where this band goes. CONTRAST ATTITUDE follow and it’s awesome. I’ve never seen such a viciously intense band onstage who’re such a nice friendly bunch of lads offstage. My heart nearly explodes when they play Who Can Change The Future: probably my favourite punk song of the last decade, play this at my fucking funeral. PERSEVERE follow and they’re pretty cool but I don’t see it all as I gotta change my strings. Hiroshima punks with mad tattoos and a strong ‘80s UK feel. REALITY CRISIS are up next and they’re not quite as mental as the other day but still fuckin’ terrifying. My paranoiac head reckons they’ve put their banner up over our Hardcore Pollution tour banner as a two fingers to us and I’m feeling agro. Silly boy. ISTERISMO follow and attack the crowd like the mad bastards they are, Satoshi jumping off the stage on top of me so that I run around with him on my shoulders and throw him back onstage.
I’m still sober as a fuckin’ judge after just a couple of drinks all night. We play and people go for it; Shogo cracks a rib. It’s decent but not as mad as other nights; what with the accusations of last night I concentrate on playing guitar instead of attacking people. The Nagoya punks are present and the System Fucker boys are going wild. We pack down our gear and hang out for a while, but it’s boring being sober. Everyone’s real friendly and nice, the Persevere boys in particular. Their guitarist/singer seems really happy and gives me what seems like a heartfelt bow and handshake when I tell him that I visited Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial on my first trip here. We head to the afterparty…yessss!! It’s in this great proper traditional Japanese restaurant with amazing food. Last time I was here the vegans ruined it, but this time I’m going to make sure and get some proper food. Kenta, Gori, Greg, Shogo and Kyouichi sit with us and we have the whole room to ourselves, about 30 of us at four tables going nuts. Shin makes a big speech in Japanese about the gig and punk and all sorts of stuff which I don’t understand and there’s a massive round of kampai!’s and general madness. Sensei Shogo-san sorts me out with all the maddest Japanese fantasy food I’ve ever wanted to try but never had the opportunity to: mad sashimi, raw beef sushi, roe and fish, it just doesn’t stop. Reality Crisis turn up and there’s just the maddest buzz around them; I swear, these guys just emanate hassle and violence. My head is twisted into ribbons and later Panky admits to having the same unfounded paranoia as myself: I go to the bathroom alone and I’m just waiting for my head to get slammed into the tiles, checking my pockets for something sharp, just expecting a nasty kicking. And all because of some arm-wrestling in Nagoya. What a pair of dopey paranoid knobheads. No more downers for the lads. We go on having a deadly laugh and drinking heaps of beer before it’s time to go. The Reality Crisis lads head out being real friendly and shaking hands, saying we’d see each other next time and all the rest, and I feel awfully foolish. Calm down you dickhead.
We walk back to the new Vortex shop; it’s on the high street in Mie and four times bigger than the old one. They’re building it themselves and living over it too. It’s so nice…Shin Acrostix and his wife will run it, living above it with their kids, while Tam will finance it with his good job in the city. Making punk future. I’m utterly destroyed, really looking forward to a good sleep since we’ve got an early start to make it back to Tokyo in time for our final gig. I have a shower and a “gentleman’s leisure time” to try and calm down before putting on some fresh clothes and finding a spot to sleep. It’s not to be. Whatever’s been going on over the last week and half, it’s resulted in near total nervous failure. I can’t sleep. Everyone else is asleep and I’m just lying there trying to calm down and breathe deep. Stop thinking and drift off. Lights and images dance on my vision. Total exhaustion is giving me the poor-man’s-acid effect. With my eyes closed, red and blue spirals start to fade in, making circular patterns and forming smiling laughing faces. I try to keep my eyes open; whenever I close them I lie there seeing images of Kitaro and Hino manga, cute horror figures marching off cliffs and morphing into weird sex things. Red and black pulsing filth, noises weaving into an ambient fabric, I get up and walk around and I’m still feeling mental. No peace. I stay awake all night going nuts and take some more ibuprofen to try and shut my brain off. Dawn fades in and the sound of the city waking up becomes a tapestry of insane music in my head. Eventually peoples’ alarms go off around 7am and everyone gets up. My head is in shreds and I’m a paranoid wreck.
I can’t stand to be around anyone so I go and sit on my own downstairs. We make it to the van and say goodbye and I take some more rohypnol because I need to sleep or else I’m going to kill someone. It comes on hard before I drop off; the cracks are beginning to show after two weeks in close proximity with each other, and it’s the worst time ever to discuss anything, especially tour money. I totally lose my mind for another few hours and Shogo somehow manages to calm me down and make me feel okay. I eventually drop off after zoning out to soothing industrial landscapes through the countryside.
I wake up and we’re nearly in Tokyo and I feel okay again. All I really needed was sleep…over the past seven days I’ve literally had less than 20 hours. Sleep deprivation is hell. We go to Satoshi’s house to pick some stuff up before it’s time to drive on in to Shelter for the final gig of the tour. But not before a hilarious prank… We’ve gotten a bunch of awesome Kitaro statues in Osaka as presents for the lads, one each to represent Jun, Shogo and Ebi, especially because we’ll be giving Satoshi a very special present the next day. Satoshi’s been a little bit jumpier around me the last few days, understandably since I’ve not exactly been a paragon of sanity, and also because Shin’s been schooling him in being a tour manager when dealing with a bunch of knobs from the West: when something needs doing or it’s time to go, you don’t ask…you tell. He’s in a hurry to leave while we’re in his apartment whispering about shit and rifling through bags. We’re just deciding which of the figures are most similar to each of the three lads, but he doesn’t know that…in retrospect it looks very much as if we’re deciding what to do about his cheeky behaviour…we’ve been going on with all this d-beat hooligans nonsense for the last few days, so when we’re back in the lift he’s all edgy and looking at us. I look at the other lads and shout now and pretend to grab Satoshi, as if we’re jumping him in or getting him back or some nonsense. He jumps a mile and looks like he’s going to shit his pants and I feel really bad actually cos he’s such a nice chap…but it’s still frickin’ gold! We give him a big hug instead.
We hop in the van and I pick up my leather jacket from Shogo’s and eat an apple and drink some green tea and now I’m feeling okay again, pretty good actually. We arrive at Shelter and it’s a fucking cool venue. We head in and meet some old friends, set up and soundcheck, spending most of it on an ill-advised cover of Take ‘Em All. The sound is really great, the best of the tour so far, so we go and get lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Excellent food. I’m super excited about tonight; I think it’s going to be great. We give the lads their presents, explaining how the different characters remind us of them. They’re mad happy over it and we all go to take a walk around the various punk shops in the area. We meet Masaki and a bunch of the lads from last time in Tokyo. The shopping insanity continues and I get some cool shit; the best ever Poison Idea shirt and a hilarious enamel Macc Lads pin. The Isterismo boys have gotten me a present of an awesome Motorhead pendant which they give me and I’m dead chuffed. We head down to this other shop and meet Tom from the eponymous Tom & Boot Boys. We’d played with his other band Punk & Disorderly when we were here with NDT and he remembers and is stoked to hang out again. I pick up some more presents for people and I find a few cans of Yebisu stout in this butcher’s shop, my favourite second only to Guinness. What a drink. I go in and change my strings; gotta sound perfect tonight, no room for fuck-ups. Tonight is So’s gig; he’s set the place up perfectly and it looks amazing. It’s the first time the venue’s had a punk gig in five years because of the trouble that always arose previously. We hang out backstage with Shin and he tells a hilarious story about his first ever Tokyo punk gig, which was at this venue. He’d traveled up alone from Osaka, just a young lad, and didn’t know anyone. The Tokyo punks back in the day were right scary cunts and wouldn’t think twice about bashing some little twerp from the countryside. Shin got freaked cos his pole spikes were only about a foot high, whereas all the Tokyo lads’ pole spikes were at least two foot high. He was so freaked that he never went to gig and ended up sleeping on the streets!
The first band begin, ASMODEUS. It’s Antisect-styled crust with a very modern metal guitar sound. Not really the best but they’re pretty new. I get a drink and have a chat with people outside. Once again I’m taking it fairly handy until after we play; this is the fucking big one. This is all Shin’s oldest and best mates, the fucking Anti-System Mafia, and we want to do him proud. It’s the tour finale and he’s done us such an honour by taking time out of his hectic chaotic life to save our tour and break in Isterismo to the facts of touring a Western band in Japan. People can sometimes have an odd opinion of foreigners over here and this is the first time Shin’s played in an international band, and we want to prove that’s not made a mistake in lending us his talents…the whole thing is quite overwhelming. Four misfits from Australia, Malaysia, Ireland and Korea playing punk together in Japan and making it work. The other side of globalisation! REDNECKS are next on and it’s Ebichan’s other band, who he’s singing for. It’s manic thrash hardcore and it’s AWESOME. Afterwards I head out and head over to the convenience store to pinch a bottle of something. They’ve got fucking Hennessy!! Not seen this before in Japan and since I’m feeling pretty pimpish I grab that one. I bump into Souichi outside and we hang out and catch up a bit. He wants to swap his JD for my Hennessy –not likely mate, but have a swig! UNARM follow and it’s alright, but they’ve had a number of member changes and unfortunately it’s just not at all as intense as before. By this stage the Hennessy is kicking it and now I can see why all them gangsta chaps drink it. I’m feeling well groovy, boppin’ from side to side and gettin’ all yeeeeah. FORWARD are next on and they’re incredible, so tight and focussed, Souichi is the most amazing guitarist I’ve seen in a punk band for years whilst Ichiya is simply beyond anyone so far witnessed over the past two weeks. What’s The Meaning Of Love closes the set and is the highlight of the tour for me…Ichiya leaves the stage, getting down on the floor, surrounded by thirty punks all singing along…this is the fucking meaning of love! An experience I’ll never forget. Afterwards there’s LOADS of money on the floor; myself and Panky take one look at each other and shake heads after a second. Anywhere else in the world for sure, but over here we do the honourable thing and start shouting about it. Turns out it’s this sound American chap Patrick’s, he’d lost it stagediving and crowdsurfing. I warm up a bit until ISTERISMO start. Myself and Yeap have been chatting backstage and realise the boys are kicking off, so we leg it out and stagedive. Fool that I am I manage to pull Shogo’s cable out. Duh. The gig is intense and insane, perfectly embodying the general ethos of the tour: friendly and violence.
We set up and start and it’s madness from the first stick-count: total mania. We’re a good mix of the chaotic violence we started out with and the more competent tightness we’ve developed over the past nine gigs. I no longer need to keep an eye on what Shin’s doing, and he’s right with us too. The Hennessy is kicking in a big way and I’m having a great time, posing out and even managing to keep my leathers on right to the end, heheh! It’s a great show and a fitting finale; people want more, so we consider the Cocksparrer cover. The two lads don’t want to but Shin’s mad up for it…so we come out and do our shambolic cover followed by Sentenced To Life. It’s fuckin’ brilliant and I stagger off to crash out backstage before I realise I’ve forgotten my drink. I go back to grab it and see that Yeap is still bantering with the crowd so I go to shove him over the barrier to crowd surf; I miscalculate and he slips, bashing his face in off the metal crowd barrier…oh shiiiiit. I check to see that he’s not bleeding or passed out and then walk off, since I know he’ll be raging and want to kill me when he gets up. Bollocks anyway…I feel shitty about it but it was accident, so what can ya do. I head out and chat with my old mates Eiji and Heat from DSB and they’ve got a demo of their new band, Vespera, allegedly a mix of DSB and Polish punk à la Post Regiment (listened to it since and it actually does sound like this!). It’s handnumbered 53/100: “go mi”, since that sounds like my name…and has the added bonus of meaning “trash”! The amount of thought people put into things here is simply mind-boggling. I see various other old mates and drink some more before heading back in. The atmosphere is great and I start chatting to Ichiya after Souichi introduces us and it turns out he’s really into Ireland and Irish stuff. Ha! Turns out he’s well into Guinness, which I just happen to have a fresh cold can of in my pocket. I show him the right way to pour it and he’s dead chuffed. We have a good chat for a while about having kids and suchlike before I decide it’s high time to go and see how the human warhead is getting on… Yeap’s in a state backstage with an icepack to his head; I go to apologise but I’m told he’s too pissed off so I go and drink at the bar with Penke, Masaki and Greg instead. Everyone’s in a great mood and we have a mad time drinking and taking loads of photos with everyone. The afterparty continues until it’s time to load out and we take a couple of taxis back to Koenji. We head for a second afterparty to a small restaurant and I’m wrecked, needing some weed now to calm me down. I’m way too up again after various stimulants and I’m not looking forward to proper quiet nighttime with no distractions. We can’t get any weed so I just drink more before we head back to Satoshi’s. I have a shower and quickly fall asleep, thank fuck…but it’s not a pleasant sleep. Nightmares plague me and I wake up suddenly feeling hands around my throat choking me. I sit up with a gasp clawing at my throat and looking around. Nothing there. I sleep again and wake to see a pile of skulls under Satoshi’s bed; turns out it’s just paper bags. Christ.
We’ve got an appointment with Tokyo Hardcore Tattoo today for 10am so we head out with Satoshi to Koenji one final time and get some bananas on the way. Satoshi’s a bit edgy again and wants to do some shit to help with the nerves but I’ve had enough; there’s a holocaust in my head and I don’t need more stimulation. The shop is legendary, hence Satoshi’s reservations…there’s some serious characters down there and you don’t want to put a foot wrong. Well, he doesn’t want to put a foot wrong…we can do whatever we like since we’re dumbshit gaijins. We’re met by UK, our tattooist for the day, and Yeap goes first whilst I try to call my girlfriend. It’s impossible to find any public payphones. I get a sandwich and a beer and it’s Penke next, getting Rabiasan done on his arm, hangin’ with the dinosaurs. We’re all getting the same thing; Rabiasan with DBH below. I head down to Village/Vanguard to get some souvenirs, presents, perv stuff and art books before I go back and it’s my time. It’s a bit weird to have my arse out in the shop but we sort it out and poor ol’ UK puts a real brave face on her embarrassment at coming face-to-face with a spotty gaijin arse for, I presume, the first time. She does a great job and adds her own flourish with some freehand kanji at my request while I float away on a cloud on endorphins. As I lie and bliss out the hallucinations start to return; the endorphins keep it pleasant but I need to open my eyes and trace the whole path of how I came to be in this situation back to years in the past in order to ground myself again, remembering that it’s all real and nothing is amiss. After I go through this process I feel completely relaxed and secure again. It’s done and I hear the lads describing me to as “ichiban chikan” to Katsuta, the shop owner, previously of Tetsui Arei and currently in Extinct Government. Ichiban chikan indeed…very honourable, thanks guys! I get a THCT hoody and we take some photos before heading off in high spirits.
I find out that Shogo’s been admitted to hospital and it makes me feel awful; his chest had been hurting a lot the previous days and it’s gotten serious. Kinda floored, really hoping that it’s okay cos it’s hard to get a straight answer from the lads. We go for lunch and present Satoshi with a gift we’ve bought him for his birthday and for doing such a good job on the tour: the first EU’s Arse 7”. He’s over the bloody moon and can’t contain his excitement. But he’s done us proud, paid us well and given us the best tour of our lives. We get a delicious curry in before it’s time to pick up the van to take us to the airport. Good ol’ Shogo turns up and it turns out he’s cracked a rib. He’s proud as punch; another one to show the girls! We grab our stuff down from Satoshi’s and decide to load it all up into the van on the way. Having learnt my lesson from previous trips, I’ve brought an enormous empty suitcase to bring back all my loot in. I carefully load it up and there’s some extra room for the other lads’ stuff. The traffic is horrendous. We get there in plenty of time and are treated like rockstars, except the security knobheads rob my extremely expensive bottle of Suntory 12-year-old which I’d forgotten to transfer to my hold luggage after wrapping it in a ton of smelly socks in my clothes bag a week ago. Fuckin’ shite. At least it was free. Onto the plane and it’s one final roofie to kiss reality goodbye until we arrive for our two hellish connections in Aussie, and one Hungry Jack’s later we’re back in Melbourne, picked up by our gorgeous girlfriends and ready to head into work tomorrow…JAYSUS.
Just less than four weeks since we’re home and a bit of perspective has returned…it took two weeks to simply get over the physical and mental duress of the tour, and with the benefit of hindsight, certain things have become apparent. In retrospect, eating so many fucking downers unhinged me into the manic depressive tendencies which haven’t reared their ugly head so vehemently since my early twenties. It seemed the only way to sleep but I should have been cleverer about it. A lesson learnt, I hope. The first night back was a descent into hell; I was under such exhaustion that the second I closed my eyes I found myself in a dark cell, being pulled into the corner, through the corner and into a parallel colourless world. Struggling awake was akin to swimming up from 50 metres deep in the ocean, after which I was wide awake, panting, in terror of sleep once again. I read for a while, and eventually couldn’t keep my eyes open. Occult semi-lucid satanic nightmares followed and I had an odd night, eventually wrestling control from the shadowy faceless figures in my head. It wasn’t until two days later that I got over the fear that I was being possessed and had impregnated my girlfriend with the spawn of possession. Funny but not actually. It was only by this afternoon that I could listen to the Goatworshipper CD I got without losing my mind. It’s the closest to a nervous breakdown I’ve ever been and it was terrifying.
Even without the chemicals and alcohol, touring in Japan is madness. It’s like taking a holiday in the future, in an alternate reality, on the moon. Everything moves so fast and social rules and codes will never be understood by those who’ve grown up in the West. All these Nipponophiles who move to Japan trying to understand how it all works and be like a Japanese person…just give up and enjoy the rollercoaster ride, lads. You’ll never get it and you’ll always be a gaijin. The pure depth of experience we had on tour was incredible…we were constantly looking back on things that seemingly happened days ago only to realize that it was only that very morning that they’d occurred. Weeks worth of experience rammed into hours; less than two weeks in the country seemed like two months. Time inverted.
Overall I was once again blown away by the togetherness of Japan’s punk scene and I’ve come back full of inspiration and energy for new projects. The way people approach punk is so fucking real over there; the attention-seeking, anti-social, white-guilt ridden extremes which have turned the Western punk scene into a social club for perennial victims has got nothing to do with this place. People work hard at what they believe in, and make sure that they do it right. Compared to our U.S. tour three months ago and despite the huge amount of great people we met and awesome shows we had…it makes the place look like a fucking joke. The Isterismo guys are such fucking good lads and they went all out…the amount of effort that went into this tour is insane. I want to improve my Japanese just so I can have proper conversations with Jun and Eb …their constant behaviour makes it clear that they’re a pair of proper hilarious bastards. So, that’s about the size of it…Satoshi, So and Shin made this the best organised tour I’ve ever been a part of; Jun, Ebi, Shogo and Ushi made it a whole lot of fun; Greg, Penke and Yeap made it a hooliganistic rollercoast of audacious hilarity. Arigato mates, fuck the world and fuck you, we’re never giving up. KAMPAI!!
Here’s a funny little sound-byte I’ve been meaning to upload for a while…it’s from my interview with Jaz Coleman for the Killing Joke feature back in ZT034. It’s a pretty good illustration of what a fantastically mad bastard he is. At first I struggle to get him back on track before eventually realising how pointless it is and just letting him wander wherever his wacky mind takes him. What a legend!
I wake up the worse for wear and feeling somewhat sheepish, not being able to remember just exactly how I’d railed against the punk scene of the good ol’ U.S. of A. Forgive me America: I still love you! Once again we’re spoiled with great food from Tobia for breakfast and I manage to hustle off a couple of reviews right on deadline before taking a shower and getting back in the van. There’s a lot of bikers on the California highways. Scary hairy blokes on huge hogs…awesome! I’m dying so I get into one of the beds in the back and drop off to sleep, which I manage to keep up for most of the journey. We stop at some little college town a couple of miles from Santa Barbara since there’s better food options there. It’s pure California: palm trees, kids skating, sun blazing, blonde tan cuties all over the place. The others go for Indian whilst myself, Penke and Granty need a beer, so we go to a halfway decent burger joint (where I get fucking IDed, again) and eat there. Before heading down to the show we go to a huge liquor store and pick up some decent beers; I go for six Stone’s IPA after Terri & Todd’s recommendation and it’s well decent but a little dangerous at almost 7% volume.
We head into SB and get a phone call en route; it looks like the show might be in jeopardy. We head down to the ‘venue’, actually in fact an Avis car rental garage where someone’s dad works. This guy’s band are allowed rehearse there, and they’ve had huge problems finding a venue, so the gig’s being held in a fucking Avis. Problem: no-one involved in the actual day-to-day running of the place is aware that there’s going to be a hardcore show there, and a mint condition Pontiac Firebird is right in the middle of where the crowd ought to be standing. It’s impossible to get the keys and move it as that will mean admitting that a band are playing rather than just rehearsing, and so maybe the show’s off.
Now, as irritating as it might be that the promoter’s made a fucking mess of the show, such irritation is of a slightly lesser degree than the smug pleasure I ascertain from such a wild vindication of my feelings on the U.S. punk scene. RIGHT AGAIN –HURRAH FOR ME!! The others admit to feelings which could reasonably be taken as a sort of “disenchantment”, and therefore basically confirm that I’m great and they’re stupid.
We hang around and get drunk and moan about the promoter, who’s trying to blame anything and everything on anyone but himself. He’s a neurotic cowardly mess and it pisses me off. Fess up you dick. We’re talking about just moving the car since it’s unlocked, but he‘s fucking terrified and won’t have it. His plan is to have all the gear and band against the car with loads of blankets over it and the audience opposite so it won’t be touched…I’m joking with Terri about wrecking the place and pretending to hit the car with a little wooden panel beating mallet, when suddenly the fucking top flies off and hits the car. Oh shit…the promoter comes in and notices and throws a fucking eppo, but I tell him to cool the jets and luckily he doesn’t notice the scratch so it’s alright. We go out and drink on and I’m getting in the mood and the first band start. They’re regrettable mid-90s Victory Records SxE style moshcore, the singer’s got this stupid Morrisey quiff and huge Xs tattooed on his hands that are going to look fucking great when he’s over 21 and actually allowed to drink. The set-up inside isn’t too bad though, with the crowd pinned in and nowhere to escape. A good-sized audience has turned up and there’s a very good chance that the cops will come to shut the show down, so as the band who’ve travelled furthest we’re going on next. We set up and it’s looking good…the sound is sketchy and hard to balance, but this one’s gonna be about a different atmosphere: total fucking chaos!
From the word go it’s vicious; I manage to crush a half dozen people into the corner and a number of people flee during the first song, replaced by others coming in to see what all the commotion’s about. Duder gets the old trusty accidental ‘headstock to the eye’ and someone gets a clout off a mic stand. It’s pure madness and I love it: a tiny space, blood sweat and beer, screaming distortion, bikini girls going mental, fucking great! It’s always so awesome when a show looks like it’s gonna suck and then turns out like this. Warcry set up and hit it and they’re fucking excellent; best I’ve seen from them so far. Raw, brutal and kinda sassy…there’s a certain burly impudence to their sound that takes them beyond the Discharge worship into a different space. Proper good. Great instrumentalists and a mad stage presence.
Afterwards it’s business as usual: beer and merch. This dickhead comes up pissed off that he had to pay a full $5 ‘donation’ to get in (it’s apparently illegal to charge entrance to unofficial premises) and wants a t-shirt for $7 instead of the exorbitant $10 we’re asking. Yeap completely ignores him until he goes away. Predictably, he returns two minutes later and pays the full cost. The promoter pays us surprisingly well and is forgiven his earlier douchebaggery. We hang out with various surfcrusty madsers and go back to their house, getting a crate of Corona and the makings of a pasta dinner en route. The Warcry massive cook up a feast of spag bol and it’s gorgeous, and we hang out and get pissed and mongo. Party time, excellent, pass out…not bad for a Monday.
I feel curiously fine in the morning, having somehow gotten a decentish sleep. Naturally, Penke is walking on me, as he so delights in doing come morning time. I wake up and have some coffee, a banana and a beer before we head back to the little town from last night for breakfast. It’s a gorgeous day and we get decent bagels from a fresh little place before taking a stroll down to the beach and, um, taking in the sights. It’s not a holiday without sunburn, so I take one for the team and get a bit red around the shoulders.
It’s not a particularly long drive, I’m still tired so I get my kip on and feel all the better for it. We drive to Keith’s sister’s house, where we have a beer and meet the family. His dad decides to come with us to the show, which is in this Mexican place called The Boulevard with Temple Of Dagon and Knifefight. Unfortunately Temple OD have cancelled due to injury so a band called Armistice play instead, which sucks (dude) since I’d wanted to see them. We go to the Mexican place next door and it’s seriously fucking shitty…disappointment. Worst torta ever. I try to find a phone to call my girl but it’s impossible…no such thing as callshops in this country and payphones seem non-existent too. We get a few beers in and set up the merch, I meet an old mate and we chat, and Armistice start. I’m not really into it and the place is totally empty…gonna be a quiet one. Some punks start showing up and LA girls look fucking mental…the get-ups they wear are straight out of a frickin Ratt video. We drink on and Knifefight play and they’re pretty decent, the crowd’s growing a bit and we set our gear up. I’m feeling particularly low on energy but once we start it’s there…loads more people have come in and there’s an aggressive air about…most everyone’s Latino and speaking Spanish, people are drunk as fuck and up for it. There’s this one annoying cunt on the stage who seems to think he’s helping. He knocks over the mic stand and then spends two songs getting right in my way trying to fix it. He grabs me in a bear hug in the middle of a song. He stomps all over my pedal board, somehow crushes the side of and pulls leads out. Finally he empties an entire can of beer over my head in the middle of a song so I hit him and he fucks off out of it. Meanwhile an awesome show seems to be going on but I’m distracted and out of tune. I finish a can and throw it down the back, so someone decides to throw a full one at me which misses my face by a couple of inches and wallops me on the shoulder. The sound is good and the gig is fun but after I’m just so exhausted. I smoke with some cholo punks before heading back in for Warcry, who fuckin kill it, followed by the dudes from Makabert Fynd jumping up and doing a couple of numbers. I go and hang out at the merch stand and we drink and be merry before it’s time to head back to Nick from Knifefight’s place. He’d been over in Australia with his band just before I moved there and Yeap had helped them out, so in returning the favour he was letting us & Warcry stay at his family home.
We get back there and Nick starts getting out his extensive gun collection. An AR-15 is the pick of the bunch, though the Remington and Kalashnikov are frickin awesome too. We were meant to go shooting them, but the plan’s been revised since we heard about Warcry’s mate getting wrestled to the ground by security at the airport and prevented flying because he’d been shooting the day before and had powder residue left on his clothes. Everyone gets extremely uncomfortable when Penke starts running around pointing the guns at people and making shooting noises. A couple of people leave the room and there’s some shocked faces around, except of course for Penke, who thinks it’s all a right jolly jape. We go out to the shed in full-on party mode and end up drinking a crazy amount. We’ve bought a bottle of Jaeger and have managed to keep filling the van up with half-empty crates since no-one’s interested in drinking warm beer. Now that we’ve got a freezer we’re able to burn through all the assorted refreshments we’ve hoarded. Nick and a couple of the lads go to In-And-Out Burger and get totally amazing burgers for everyone. We get monged, Todd plays us a rough mix of the new Tragedy LP (first impressions are good…minimal d-beat and a burgeoning Bathory influence) and for once Granty passes out before everyone else. Eventually all the beer’s gone and so are we…
Final show tonight…I’m feeling rough as fuck when I wake up, though I’m distracted from it all by Lynn Townsend, Nick’s hilarious granny. A feisty one, she used to be a schoolteacher and principal in the local high school, which by all accounts was a fairly bananas kind of establishment. Think Dangerous Minds with Dame Edna instead of Michelle Pfeifer. She compliments my underwear and gives everyone a hard time until we manage to get showered, shaved and shut back in the van to go into the city. First stop is the best Guitar Centre I’ve ever been in. Guitar Centre is basically like Playboy Mansion for musicians, and the one in LA is reputed to be the best of them. It’s like a huge superstore with thousands of guitars and accessories, all for incredibly good prices. My plan’s been to buy a Rickenbacker at the end of the tour and take it home, if the price is right and the feel and tone are good. But they don’t have any…ah tits… I get 20 packets of strings since the savings are incredible, and Nick says that maybe another place up the road will have a Rickenbacker or two in stock. We go to a vegan restaurant and get some excellent food (tofu scramble with surprisingly convincing bacon and maple syrup pancakes for me) before heading down to the other guitar shop. No fuckin Rickenbackers. They try to interest me in other basses but nah…keep saving till next time.
I can feel a potentially fatal hangover lurking so I get a nice big bottle of Ranger IPA, which does the trick. Kirky buys a full set of Zildjian cymbals for a criminally low price, getting the four of them plus a gig bag for more or less the price you’d spend on a single crash or ride in Australia. Nice one the Kirky boy! Next stop is the LA branch of Amoeba Records and things get filthy; since I’ve just ‘saved’ a large amount by not buying a Rickenbacker I feel justified in spending an offensively large amount of money on vinyl and books. We’re there for almost two hours before getting back in the van and driving an hour to Long Beach. It’s true what they say about LA traffic. It’s fucked. The whole city is just one big spaghetti junction going on for miles and miles. You literally couldn’t do anything here without a car. We get down to the LBC and do a blunt with Snoop Dogg before wandering around the streets near the venue trying to find food. We eventually settle on a shitty Mexican sports bar called Taco Beach. The waitress is on crack or something because she’s totally out of it and keeps forgetting our orders and getting things wrong. We drink shitty margaritas, switch to beers and eat dodgy tacos…at least it’s cheap and there’s a Liverpool/Everton match on the telly.
Smutty innnuendos rain down as we visit the sex shop next door between the venue and Shitty Taco, which in addition to all the usual fantastic adult-themed paraphernalia also has a five-minute time limit during which you have to buy something or leave. Unfortunately no-one asks us to leave, even though we spend a bit longer than five minutes there, so we leave of our own accord and hang around outside the venue. This city is grim; shiny beach town with nothing to do. Every kid going past seems to be a skater, which is probably sensible since the architecture here’s great for it and what the hell else are you going to do. I was hoping the show would be in the ghetto and there’d be some regulating going on, perhaps gin-and-juice supping or smokin’ a pound of bud or at least a drive-by. No such luck. People show up at the venue and we load in and drink a couple beers. The venue’s pretty cool, it’s the shabby basement of a ritzy bar and the staff are pretty alright. Mundo Muerto open and they’re awesome. Anthemic Spanish style punk with attitude and actual songs. I’d pissed off now that I missed them in NYC due to talking and drinking outside…excellent band. The Helpless follow and it’s decent raw noisepunk, but the sound mix is awful and the guitar tone ear-piercingly gross. I’m drinkin’ on, determined to have a good one for our final show, but the exhaustion has really caught up. Next are Raw Nerves and it’s modern hardcore; well executed but nothing I’m really interested in. There’s some confusion about who’s next and it’s decided that Warcry will be since that’s the billing on the poster. It feels a bit weird since they’re a much more established band than us, but whatever. They play a good show but seem to suffer a similar lack of energy that I’ve been feeling; it’s also kind of a weird vibe at the show. We set up and get a good sound and it’s time to fuckin smash it…last gig…let’s do it.
By this stage, Yeap looks like something out of a Hong Kong action movie…head covered in burberry mic patterns, a black eye, cuts down his neck and forehead. We thrash out and give him a few more war wounds, the crowd is full of maniacal Latino crusty punks going bonkers and it’s deadly…a good finale. It’s nice to play last and be able to leave the gear onstage for fifteen minutes whilst we calm down rather than hustle to remove it whilst dripping with sweat. Afterwards we hang out with various locals who’ve come down and eat some weed cookies Granty’s mate gives him. All the remaining merchandise gets devoured by the crowd, meaning we don’t have to carry it home: excellent! We get in the van and head back to Nick’s house for our final shindig, and the cookies are coming on nicely.
Buzzy buzz, we stop for more beers and get back to drink it up. I’m out of it and everything’s hilarious, and I’m gonna miss these guys. Mac & cheese is produced from somewhere and our munchy heads chomp it down. Everything’s hilarious and we’re falling around laughing our tits off. Nick and his bro Josh are fuckin sound and it sucks that we’re not gonna continue touring with Warcry, but there you go…I’ve not exactly paced myself, so I really wouldn’t have it in me to continue…not without a few days rest anyway. Eventually all the fun that can be squeezed out of the night is done and I crash out on the garage sofa.
I’m dragged kicking and screaming from an all-too-brief slumber to say goodbye to the Warcry lads and lassie and so we do…hopefully not long before we see them again. I get another forty winks before we go out to get some food at this chain taco place called Chipotle. It’s pretty awesome…I get a chicken “salad” and it’s hilarious: a bed of lettuce covered in chicken, beans, cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream. Salad, indeed! We go to a huge mall and get more clothes, electronics, presents and so on, taking advantage of the price difference and exchange rate. American malls are amazing: just as you’d imagine them to be. Before it’s time to take Kirky and Penke to the airport we get in a gorgeous swim in Nick’s pool…great stuff. We bring the gents to the airport, bid them adieu and make our way to a bar near Disneyland where Makabert Fynd and Trench Rot are playing. One of the support bands is possibly the worst neo-crust band I’ve ever seen. I calm my ailing stomach with a few pints of not-bad Guinness and dose of biftocracy. Trench Rot are amazing, their singer having to stand looking in the door with his mic stand while the others play inside because he’s under 21.
Ah, good ol’ America! You can drive, marry and die for us in a war, but you can’t have a beer! Or indeed, even be somewhere that people have beers. Makabert play the best I’ve seen them and we hang out for a bit before driving back to Nick’s. I get a brief sleep, dropping off sometime after 3am after being kept awake by Yeap’s inhuman snores ov dess. I’m woken by the dogs licking my bloody face around 7.30am…Penke must have been teaching them a thing or two. We shower, dress, get an awesome breakfast of steak and eggs on the way to the airport, and it’s time to say goodbye to Nick. Total legend, he’s taken good care of us the past few days. We get through the airport nonsense and now all that’s left between us and reunification with our other halves is about 30 hours in transit…
I’m exhausted, my ears hurt like hell, my muscles and joints are screaming and I’m hideously alcohol bloated, but the last month has been amazing. America was not what I expected; the positive surprises far outweigh the negative, and almost nothing turned out as predicted. The people, so different abroad, are amazing. So friendly, so up for it, just genuinely kind, gracious and interested. I fucking love America and Americans; there’s no pretence, there’s just the U.S. as it is. Mmmm hmmm. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that it’s the good ones who mostly stay at home…since 95% of the population have no passport and earn shit money, it’s mainly just the rich ones who go abroad. And it’s no surprise that rich people are all too often a horrible pack of smug bastards. Most Americans tend to love and hate the same things about their country that foreigners do, in wildly unpredictable ways. It’s extremely different to any other country I’ve ever travelled or toured in, and it’s patently a nation of individuals.
This is perhaps the most shocking thing; it’s every man for himself over there. As Infest put it, where’s the unity? I’ve never been one to agree for the sake of agreement, in fact I’d rather disagree for the sake of disagreement, but since I was a young teenager, underground music and the DIY ethic has been about communication, a network of friends, people doing it together ‘cos no-one else would do it for us. On both coasts, we ran into a lot of attitudes from promoters, bands and people in general that are totally alien to what you experience in Europe or Australia. Gear is very rarely shared, and often only begrudgingly: it’s mine, get your own. Promoters have little understanding of the expense involved in touring, and when it comes time to divide the door-takings, matters get decidedly bizarre. Bands who’ve driven a hundred miles or less getting the same as a band who’ve come halfway round the world. If it were not for two things our tour would have failed massively on a financial level: merch sales, and the fact that Warcry lent us their backline and gave us all the payment beyond van rental and petrol. We sold out of everything; we’re only bringing a couple of patches and badges home, with all three shirt designs and the entire first pressing of the LP sold out. This is a far cry from a European tour. Don’t get me wrong, Europe has just as high a percentage of sketchy promoters…but there’s a couple of strongholds where you can end up with €1,000+, and they’re the ones who pick up the slack for the failures. On this tour, it seemed that almost everyone dropped the fucking ball. The shows were good, people were there, but somehow we often ended up with embarrassingly inadequate payment. A few places did good by us, but something like half of the promoters seemed shockingly inexperienced and amateurish. It was interesting to go with a tour manager, but ultimately, an unnecessary expense; in the future, the old tried and trusted method of a self-booked DIY tour will be resumed. At least then if the money’s not there there’s no-one to blame but yourself…and if you’ve booked it yourself, you’ll know exactly where you stand when it’s time to extract extra money from the promoter.
Am I merely turning into a Sad Old Man like so many friends before me? Is this merely a feeling of having paid my dues, of deserving more, of thinking I’m something special after a dozen or so tours of varying success? I don’t think so. My top three shows in terms of performance and response were Richmond, Gilman and Boston, yet in terms of atmosphere and buzz, it was DC and Santa Barbara, both of which were badly organised in a shitty venue to crowds not particular to our genre. But it’s the chaos; it’s the madness, the threat, the feeling that everything could fall to bits at any second. That’s what punk is to me: chaos and energy, new friends and old connections strengthened. I feel we’ve laid a good basic foundation in the U.S. with this tour, and hopefully word of mouth, some good performances and another couple of releases will pay off when we return. I can’t wait to come back to the U.S.A. But until then…well, we’ve only to wait until September for Kromosom vs Japan: as they say in the local parlance, dude fuckin hells yeah!
NEXT: JAPAN TOUR DIARY?
We wake up three hours later, arriving at 10.30am with some vague semblance of humanity about us and go through the whole airport rigmarole. It’s not so bad cos we’re being picked up by Kelly, an old mate of Yeap’s. Naturally, everything is all about bad Nirvana references and suchlike. First thing noticed is the weather: after the Texan furnace it’s mercifully cool and temperate. The vegetation and landscape are completely different to the east coast, the sky grey and overcast. First off we drive into the city and go to a café/bar where Kelly’s mate Gerard works. The place is closed but he’s come in and cooked up a load of great food for us…awesome! We eat and drink some coffee and I’m semi-delirious from exhaustion. That whole poor-man’s-acid effect again. We get some more coffee across the street from a couple of real friendly lady vendors and head back to Kelly’s van. There can only be one destination: Kurt Cobain’s memorial! Across from the house where he topped himself there’s a little park with a bench covered in graffiti and gifts left for the man himself. We leave a tin of tuna since it’s okay to eat fish since they don’t have any feelings (hi-oh!) and I leave a plectrum since Floyd The Barber was actually the first song I ever worked out for myself on guitar…soppy, I know!
We head back through the city out to Georgetown where a lot of the punks live, including Gerard and Alan who’s putting on the show. We get to their house and it’s real nice, they’ve moved in recently and done it up well. I’m completely out of it so I take a shower and go for a bit of a kip in the basement. It’s the weirdest sleep ever…I have odd dreams about dogs, fist-fighting with Penke and being chased, but all the time I’m still aware that I’m lying on a sofa in the basement. I eventually realise that I’ve slept a little and that I won’t be sleeping any further.
I get up and catch up on some work…fucking review deadlines crawling up my arse. The lads have made more amazing food so I get a bit of that into me. We’ve got a night off and this ex-Totalitar band Makabert Fynd are playing in Seattle tonight so we decide to go down to that. I feel manky so I’m looking forward to taking it easy; a few beers bring me to a level of sanity such that I can stand being around people…we go to the gig space, just a short walk from the house, and it’s sort of a weird vibe. There’s a strange atmosphere around proceedings here in Seattle. Trench Rot play and they’re good; kind of like a slightly straighter Void or Die Kreuzen. I meet an old mate, Danarchy, it’s good to see him but I’m still out of it on my Austin hangover. Makabert Fynd play and unfortunately they do nothing for me. Not in the mood. They play a couple of Totalitar tracks and it’s alright, but…nah. They’ve run out of beer at the show and I’m pretty happy to go when the bands are over. Yeap has somehow, perplexingly, found a second wind and wants to head on out to the pub with the bands.
The other three of us go back to Alan’s. I get monged off his stash and chat to the lads from Trench Rot, drinking water and waiting for an excuse to sneak off…the highlight is when someone hilariously and in all innocence remarks that he’s heard we’ve been getting ‘jewed’ by promoters over money. Nothing like a bit of casual racism to brighten up a quiet night, eh? We’re sleeping in Alan’s room, so I’ve laid out some bedding. Kirk and Penke have the same idea around the same time, so we piss off and go asleep.
Or at least, I go to sleep…the others aren’t so lucky. Apparently Yeap comes back not long after, drunk and snorey. He’s snoring up a storm such that he wakes Penke. Then Alan comes in, accompanied by a young lady. They proceed to bum the arse off each other, with poor ol’ Yeap lying beside them. That stops his snoring, and indeed, the pair on the bed are copulating so wildly that one of them occasionally grabs Yeap’s bottom. Why he didn’t just join in I can’t understand, but either way, it’s all very torturous for the Yeapster (much to Penke’s delight).
I make some coffee and take advantage of the internet to continue catching up with real life nonsense. I mainly just miss my girl and want to go home…fucking exhaustion. I’ll be okay by tomorrow. Penke and Kirk head into the city, determined to take advantage of the rare chance we have to spend some time somewhere rather than just getting back in the van. Keen wee bean roaster that he is, ol’ Kirky boy’s chompin’ at the bit to test the mettle of Seattle’s coffee scene. I’m still burnt out and couldn’t be fucked with anything, so I stay at the house and nerd it up. Yeap and I head out with Alan and Gerard to a guitar shop and to get some lunch. I’ve forgotten my fuckin strap at the venue in Austin so I need to get a new one, plus some straplocks. Total pain in the arse. We meet John, a mate of Yeap’s, and get lunch. It’s huge sandwiches all round. The other lazy buggers all drive back in John’s car and myself and Gerard walk it, stopping in at his mates, who it turns out are mates of mine too…small frickin’ world. I’m told a story about myself from after the lucha libre three years ago involving a bottle of tequila, a girl, the Mexico City subway and five cops, none of which I remember.
We go back to the house and I fix my guitar up. I’m still wrecked, so I go for a nap. It sorts me out so that I’m able for the evenings activities with a brighter disposition than would otherwise be the case. The dudes have a vegan potluck every Wednesday, so people start turning up with food and drinks and I start getting into it. Meet some more old friends and have a few drinks, Porkeria are there, Warcry turn up and we drag our shit out to the van and head down to the space where the show is on, The Morgue. We’ve got a whole new set of t-shirts to sell so we wrap, tape and mark them up as the first band start. Occult SS, they’re fuckin awesome. A bunch of long-haired dudes playing Hellhammer meets punk…I’m keen to hear more from them. Head down with Danarchy to buy a few cartons of beer and I get IDed…I’ve no passport on me so they won’t give me my fucking beer. I’m livid and storm out kicking the door open. I’m reduced to asking a nice man in the parking lot to buy beer for me, like any common snotnose teenager. We head back in time to see Porkeria, who’re real good, but as with last night there’s a weird aura…it’s a real folded-arms kind of a town.
We’re up next, and it’s our first time using this gear, so we spend ten minutes checking shit out. I’m borrowing a couple of Rivera heads from Grant, Warcry’s guitarist, so he runs me through the motions. They sound fucking awesome: a monstrosity of decimating distortion! It’s a pretty good show, though the bass is way too low. Turns out one of the speakers is blown in the bass cab. The crowd are pretty tame and somehow Kirk gets his set-list mixed up so we’re sort of running blind. Warcry set up and play and it’s awesome, though again the crowd are pretty lame. A couple of people seem like they actually want to be there, but everyone else is all arms-folded self-consciousness.
Afterwards I go and hang out with this weird crusty wizard who’s been living in Seattle but is moving away the next day, so he’s determined to get totally blotto. We share his pipe for a while before it’s time to load out. As we get everything out to the van, it becomes apparent that there’s only three guitars present…one’s missing…wait a second…it’s fucking my one. I stumble around looking everywhere it might be, vaguely certain that I’ve just left it somewhere and forgotten. Nah. It’s nowhere. Panic time. I’m starting to get pretty freaked by the time Alan tracks it down: turns out Occult SS took it by accident. Hmmm. They’re almost back at their practice space, where they’re gonna unload before bringing it back. We’re in a hurry to get on the road since we’re driving to Portland tonight. It ends up taking over an hour for the dudes to return with my guitar. We’ve been joking about them robbing it, replacing it with a crappy Squire or something, so when they arrive in a pick-up truck with two guitars in the back I grab them both, shouting ‘tax!’ and handing one to Penke before getting my own one out. One of the Occult SS dudes immediately gets real serious and hops forward, and it almost seems like something’s going to happen for a minute before he cools the jets and stops being a silly sausage. I unnecessarily open my case and check that everything’s in there before we load up the van and take off. We drive and I stay awake for most of the three hour journey, talking bollocks to Grant and Todd. We arrive at Grant’s place around 5am and crash out.
I’m rudely awakened by our childish bloody bass player throwing a pillow at my face. Lovely. I totally was not interested in sleeping any more, like most other mornings when he tends to do the same. I take a shower and Grant wakes up and makes some coffee before we leave the house to get some breakfast. Portland’s real nice, very green and quite spread out…lots of space everywhere. We go to this café that’s supposed to be good for vegan food and all that. It’s sort of shitty though…everything’s overcooked, deep fried in way-too-old oil that tastes dirty. I get a shitty cheeseburger that totally ruins my impression of The Great American Cheeseburger. Kirk gets biscuits and gravy that’re great but everything else stinks. Including the waitress. Apparently it’s a Portland thing to treat the customers like shit. Nice Guy Kirk ruins everything by leaving a five dollar tip…how’ll she ever learn?
We take a drive around the city and go visit an old mate, Ethan, who’s working in this place called Voodoo Donut. He gives us a box full of mental donuts, sweet as hell, there’s even a maple syrup and bacon donut! Gross. We eat about half and bring the rest over to Keith at Black Water (his record store), sweet-tooth that he is. The shop’s awesome, but I limit myself to buying just the final Atomizer record (neglected to pick it up when it came out) plus an LP just released on Keith’s label by a band called Ripper. It’s playing in the shop and it’s fucking awesome: filthy Motorhead metalcrust done in a way I’ve not heard before. We head back to Granty’s house to pick up our shit and drink a few beers before going to the show, via some fancy coffee place to keep Kirky boy happy. The show’s gonna be in the building complex where Keith’s shop is, people are barbecuing in the back yard and drinking, it’s a good buzz and everyone’s real friendly. We make a couple of burgers and get our drink on. Frenzy are opening the gig and it’s their debut show. Three members of Nerveskade with two basses, one of which is played by Skell Distort Reality who’s just moved to Portland. One of the basses is way too loud and sort of drowns everything else out, though the songs sound good and it seems they’ll be an intersting band when they iron out the kinks.
We play next and it’s great, people go nuts and the sound is awesome. We’ve replaced the bass cab with a different one and it sounds HUGE. These Rivera heads fucking rule, the sound out of them is humongous. I cool down outside before Warcry and drink a beer or two. Warcry play a good show and the black clad spiked-haired massive are going bonkers for it, and afterwards it’s drinking, smoking, acting cool. Myself and Penke get on the whiskey sours and Ethan wants to bring us to some variety of vegan punk strip club (!?), which I’m perfectly willing to go along with purely out of professional curiosity, but since it’s a long drive to the East Bay we’ll actually be leaving tonight, so…no time. We pack up the van, get monged and I fall asleep in the back.
I wake up as we drive into California just before the sun rises; it’s straight out of some old Western, desert ridges and scrubby bush, the moon hanging low on the horizon as the sky fades to blue and the sun appears. I snooze again for a bit before we stop for petrol and driver duties switch from Todd to Keithchiban. There’s two beds in the back and plenty of room, plus decent air-conditioning and good fuel efficiency…great van. And at a much cheaper rate. We get some fruit and coffee and I pick up some presents in a shop before we continue on towards Oakland. We get to Brian and Tobia’s house, some old friends of the Warcry dudes, where Brian and Terri make great food…fried potatoes, vegan sausage, scrambled tofu, biscuits and plenty of coffee. Aw yeeah. I get a shower in and read a Flannery O’Connor short story…Brian and Tobia have a good book collection in their front room. Everyone goes to sleep and I start feeling drowsy so I get a half-hour kip in before it’s time to leave for the show. We drive through Oakland to downtown Berkley where we check out Amoeba Records and make some purchases before going for a couple of beers in a decent pub with a good selection. It’s a hilarious neighbourhood, all sorts of old hippies and weirdoes bummin’ around all over the place. Tonight’s show is in Gilman Street, probably the world’s most famous self-managed punk venue. It’s kind of a big one…despite the fact that people seem to have pretty negative opinions about the place, I’m still real excited to play there. Even more so since an old mate from Ireland who’s moved to California is gonna be there, my old hardcore guru Rob Levinge. He’s the dude who made me lots of mixtapes and schooled me on real hardcore back in the ‘90s when all I listened to was metal and youth crew nonsense. We get there and Rob’s out front –so great to see him! We load all the gear in and check the venue out…it’s huge. There’s no drinking allowed in or outside the venue, so we head up the road and I get some tacos before we pick up a six-pack to drink in the van.
The first band have started by the time we get back, Deras Krig, they’re pretty good, raw noisy hardcore finishing with an Anti-Cimex cover. We drink in the van and talk shit and next up are Negative Standards, who fucking kill me. It’s like Neurosis and Counterblast with a touch of Logical Nonsense, they set up on the floor and have all the lights out with two TVs playing various horrible images. It’s amazing and afterwards I pick up their demo tape…can’t wait to listen to it. The venue’s been empty as fuck all night but suddenly during Negative Standards all these people start turning up and fill the room; apparently everyone had been hanging out at bars and parks nearby to drink, since Gilman’s modus operandi doesn’t allow any quaffing of relaxing beverages. It sort of sucks, since the reality of the matter is that hanging out with large groups of people simply isn’t in any way tenable without alcohol. We set up and things are looking good for time so there’s no stress. This is really trippy: we’re at Gilman in the East Bay, they’re playing Dead Kennedys over the PA and I’m setting up to play a gig…if 16-year-old me could see me now, I’d be fucking stoked beyond words! ….we sort our sound out and it’s good (read: LOUD). I’m fuckin psyched and we kick off: fucking awesome show! Total insanity and mayhem on the floor and stage, people are losing their fuckin minds. This kid grabs the microphone when we finish and just keeps screaming into it, who it later turns out is Billie Joe from Green Day’s kid. Afterwards we drink on and I say my goodbyes to Rob as his wife picks him up. There’s a dude there called Yosef with good taste in bad metal, we hang out and talk for a bit. He used to write for MRR but stopped recently when he was asked to take Vasaleth out of his yearly top ten for supposedly being dodgy. Very silly nonsense altogether. What happens when you’re one of these people? Do you hear a band and then force yourself to actively NOT enjoy the sound if you happen to figure out that you disagree with them about something? Or do you just pretend that you don’t like it when you’re talking to other politicians? I just don’t know…
The plan is to get some food and head to a dance party somewhere. Strangely, it being 1am on a Friday night, everywhere’s closed and we’re reduced to going to Safeway. I get a roast beef sandwich and it sort of does the job, We head to the party and it’s bongs galore. Yeap’s found a mac & cheese somewhere and is busily devouring it, I’ve gotten a six-pack of Pilsner Urquell which Penke bizarrely and tastelessly looks down upon, and the party’s pretty lame, but it’s fun nonetheless. We get monged and Granty treats us to a masterclass in disco boogie. We stay on for about an hour and things aren’t really looking like they’ll be particularly more fun, so we drive back to Brian and Tobia’s and sleep.
Once again I’m rudely awakened by Penke, who seems to think I’m his girlfriend. I punch him in the kidneys, he slaps me and a brief scuffle ensues. What a lovely way to greet a brand new day. After a great breakfast of blueberry pancakes we jump in the van to make the most of our day in San Fran. Cue various predictable jokes in the worst possible taste. We go to Golden Gate Park and it’s gorgeous, really green and lush, beautiful botanic gardens and a little Japanese teahouse thing we want to visit and rock some Gauze in. The whole place is fuckin’ packed though, so with no parking available we drive around for a bit before heading down to the seafront where there’s some old baths and wild cliffs.
We’re watching the waves crash in and I notice a dorsal fin. Then two. Frickin’ sharks! There’s tons of great whites in these waters, which excites the shit out of me, though a couple of seconds reveals these two as dolphins. It’s still awesome; we watch for their return but there’s no sign. Yeap gets us to pose for pictures which we reluctantly assent to before heading back into the city for some food. We go to a Mexican place and I get some awesome chorizo and pastor tacos. Kirky’s on the prowl to check out some reputable coffee houses, so he loudly and obnoxiously berates us until we go to get some along Haight Street. Makes a nice change from the big meaty sausage he ate in Austin. Then it’s down to this bar called Molotov’s where we get fairly sozzled at an early hour on over-strength IPAs. It turns out that the Warcrybabies are big fans of quality beer and willing to go the extra mile to drink something worthwhile. A most excellent turn up for the books… Based on a certain beardy individual’s portrayal I was expecting something of a dour faced PC police showdown, though nothing cold be further from the truth. These guys are fuckin’ great fun…dirty jokes, bitchy humour and an appreciation of fine food and good beers: too easy!
We go down to the venue, The El Rio, and load in. There’s a hilarious soundman there who looks, acts and sounds like he might have put in time with The Mothers Of Invention. He takes a particular liking to Todd and insists on overusing his name throughout the night, Toddy Todd McTodd-Todd. Myself and Penke walk into the bar next door where Cheech Marin is the karaoke MC behind the bar. He throws us a couple of mics and we rip through Johnny B. Goode before ordering a pitcher. We get through that and head back in next door, where Liz, an old mate of mine, has turned up. It’s cool to see her and we hang out and get our drink on, though she’s actually not drinking and is busily sorting her life out…good stuff. The first band play, Geister from Canada, they sound pretty good from outside but by the time I get in they’re on the last song. Next up are Xeroxide, playing raw dirty hardcore. It’s members of various SF crust bands, Stormcrow, Sanctum, Desolation etc. Unfortunately the experience is somewhat marred by a really dull, blunt sound. I can tell there’s good shit going on but the two guitars and bass mush together into a soupy mid-range mess. Pity… We’re on next and I’m already pretty much steaming drunk. I’m also feeling pretty energetic, so I head in with Yeap to do some Jaeger shots and calm down for the show. We set up and again it’s a joy to play through these Riveras…if I keep talking about how great they are d’ya reckon I can get sponsored? RIVERA ARE GREAT AMPS. *Ahem*, so anyway, we set up and play and people are looking a bit arms foldy so from the first chord I’m in amongst it, throwing my weight around and getting down on the floor. It’s an awesome show and Yeap does a great job of terrifying the local population, once again I get a few more dents in my guitar and nearly take someone’s eye out with the headstock. Close one…he’ll escape with a black eye and I’ll have to suffer one less slave in Valhalla. Afterwards myself and Penke go to redeem our drinks tokens at the bar and end up drinking rather a lot with the Xeroxide boys. They’ve made the mistake of telling us we can have any drink we want with our drinks tickets, so naturally I get a double Jameson and soda the first time and a double Glenlivet the next.
There’s a buttload of shots consumed and the moment we’ve been waiting for all tour finally transpires: the unveiling of Kirk The Jerk. Mild-mannered barista, bicycle enthusiast, cupcake lover and all around nice guy by day, once in a while ol’ Kirky gets a little too loose on the booze and jerks out. It’s relentless, and a joy to behold. Except one of these days he’s not going to have his mates around to save his bacon…by the time we leave both the soundman and the promoter are trying to fight Kirk, who’s smilingly egging them on. It all begins when we’re loading out and the soundman comes stomping out: “who stole my fuckin’ beers?”. Apparently someone’s robbed a crate of Pabst, and Frank Zappa reckons it was Kirk. I’m taking the Flippant Arrogance approach: “mate, we don’t drink shit beer”; “sorry pal but we’ve got better things to do with our time”, etc. Naturally, Kirk has actually robbed it, but that doesn’t stop him telling the soundman he’s a dick, saying he’s old and asking him why he didn’t go home hours ago. The dude’s getting more and more riled up and is letting us know in no uncertain terms what he’d like to do to the Kirky boy. We’re calming it down, and next thing there’s a series of smashing sounds. Guess who’s throwing empties at traffic. I take the Responsible Hard Cunt approach popularised by Begbie in Trainspotting and start roaring at people who definitely didn’t do it, and vaguely succeed in distracting attention away from Kirk. Meanwhile, he’s found a wheely bin which he keeps attempting to insert into oncoming traffic. The promoter comes out, raging, and tries to get a hold of him. We manage to hustle everyone into the van and take off amidst shouts and threats that we’re barred for life. Ah well…banned from the pubs, nothing new. We drive back out to B&T’s place in Oakland, during which I black out and loudly pontificate on my disenchantment with the U.S. punk scene (which I’ll get back to at the end of all this). We’ve been stuck with a lot of sketchy and/or inept promoters and I allow myself to get all in a tizzy, which provides no end of amusement to the lads, who proceed to give me a right dressing down. Well excuse ME for having an opinion, ladies. I get monged with Granty and the boys have a grand old time running rings around my stoned paranoid mind, but what can ya do…pass out and go asleep, that’s what.
NEXT: CALIFORNIA MADNESS AND LA GUNS!
We wake up and I’m a total mess. Start pouring water and vitamin c sachets down my face to get over it. We go to a vegan soul food café and it’s great; soul food is basically southern U.S. country style cooking. I get deep-fried tofu with tartar sauce plus a baked potato and greens. It’s all good but the greens are amazing. Fucking hell I need nourishment. Too much fried crap. Shoulda got broccoli instead of a potato, but y’know, that shizzle’s ma heritage baby. We leave and I get a few hours kip. We stop at the most amazing shop ever, a huge megastore full of “patriotic” items. Yeap shoplifts a large White Pride World Wide bumper sticker and I get some oversize confederate flag fluffy dice, whilst Penke only just about manages to not get a bumper sticker saying “if I’d known about all this I’d have picked my own damn cotton”. Crikey! Some of the stuff in there is pure gold, though it’s slightly unnerving to chat with the store owner and the lunkheaded neanderthal I’m guessing is his son. We stop for food at a gas station deli counter a bit later and we all get mac & cheese. Shit’s getting infectious. Penke gets some deep-fried frogs legs too and I nab a pair. They’re delicious, like a mix of chicken and cod. The motorway continues right through a huge swamp, raised on concrete pillars. At one point it rises in a huge bridge and the view is amazing…miles and miles of green leafy bayou and winding waterways. But unfortunately we ain ‘t see us no ‘gators.
I’m pretty excited about New Orleans; ever since I was old enough to know anything about anything NOLA has been the one place in America I’ve wanted to go. Something about the mix of cultures, the style, the filth…it’s extremely appealing. And on a Friday night? On tour!!? HELL YEAH!! We stop about an hour outside the city and this cute black girl gives us a hilarious spiel about the city; “boy, them Noo Orleans girls are gonna go bananas on yo’ banana”. Jesus! As we reach the city limits it’s all about Three 6 Mafia and baby, I’m gettin’ in the mood.
We arrive and drive down to the club we’re playing at. It’s called Siberia and allegedly owned by the girl from White Zombie, and the neighbourhood it’s in is rough as a badger’s arse. Basically looks like a third world country. I’m excited as fuck. We load in and get a few beers and Night Fever turn up; they’re old mates from Copenhagen. We figure out set times and all and go down to the French Quarter with Nikolaj, NF’s guitarist. We get take away cocktails in half litre Styrofoam cups and do jelly shots in some alcoholic candy store. This shit is nuts! We head down Bourbon Street and things are wild as fuck. Hot semi-naked chicks drunk as fuck everywhere, fat tourists staring wide-eyed at everything, stern-faced cops and bouncers beside skimpily dressed trannies and crazy prozzers. We get “hand grenades” on the street, a crazy cocktail that might contain even more sugar than alcohol…and there’s a LOT of alcohol in there. Things are getting pretty loose and we get dragged into a strip club by some cute girls. It’s mental…the polar opposite of My First Strip Club experience from the night before. We buy Greg a lap dance from a very cheeky stripper. He’s reluctant but eventually accepts after she whispers to him (he later tells us) “hey, they’re paying –don’t you even think about taking this money offa me”. He regrets the whole thing even more after she tells him “ain’t you never heard of deodorant? I hope I don’t smell like you after this, boy…”, hahaha! She even offers to “take care of him” upstairs for an extra $40, but he politely declines and she struts off. We make a hasty escape since we need to get back in time for the show.
The second band are on by the time we get there and they suck. Bad metal hillbillies who do more insulting of the crowd than anything else. It’s sort of funny but they’re not really insulting enough for it to be proper funny. Night Fever get ready to go on and we help them set up since we’ll be sharing the backline. There’s supposed to be some local heroes playing after us called The Foot and one of their fans bad-humouredly tells Penke we better be good cos they’re amazing. He tells him to piss off. They demand to play next but we’re not having it; no more pissing about like in Richmond. They get into a big huff and try to face us down about it. No luck. We tell them to piss off and they take their gear and leave. Night Fever go on and play a good show, but crowd response is minimal. There’s this one HUGE black dude doing pit moves on front of the stage. It’s awesome; at one stage he flat out squashes two guys up against the wall! Night Fever finish up and we get ready; I’m already pretty smashed and with the whole atmosphere it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the best gig ever. Wrong as fuck! We start off pretty hard and initially it seems like we’re going to be playing mainly for our own entertainment; within two songs the whole place is like a warzone. The bassist from Down & Crowbar is standing on front of Penke repeatedly punching his bass like it’s a fucking punching bag. Penke smacks him on the head with the bass. He punches it again. Penke whacks him again. It goes on like that for about five songs before Penke realises he’s not gonna win. There’s this one dude who keeps screaming and running into the wall as hard as he can. Yeap lifts up a monitor and throws it into the crowd and I get over-excited and kick a hole in the wall. Someone finds a manikin and throws it onstage. Yeap hoists it up and throws it and it hits someone in the face. The crowd are demanding an encore…I pick up the mic stand and fuck it across the room and we do two more. It’s fucking awesome! Best show so far! New Orleans rules!
Afterwards…well, the less said about afterwards the better. Let’s just say that what happens in New Orleans stays in New Orleans…we get back to the hotel at around 6am.
I get a surprisingly decent sleep and wake up vaguely refreshed…we shower and leave the hotel room around 12.30. It’s gonna be around six hours drive so we hit the road and decide we’ll stop for food along the way. I’m looking forward to Texas: so far, the south fuckin’ rules. We stop at a Waffle House and get breakfast –American hash browns, yesss! The lady serving us is sound; she tells us all about her tattoos and wants to chat. I love the way people down south are so amicably curious. It’s hot as hell and getting hotter, though I still manage to get a few hours sleep. We stop at a hilarious gas station and get tons of shitty souvenirs. And some good ones. By the time we get to Houston I’m frickin starving. We get down to the place the show’s supposed to be at and it’s awesome –an open air Mexican bar with a load of picnic benches outside, cocktails and margaritas, all sorts of nice looking people hanging around, air-conditioning, a friendly vibe…and then we find out the show’s at the abandoned house next door. Dude. Fucking. Hell. Yeah.
We walk in next door and there’s two guys outside who kind of ignore us. I ask the one closest the door if there’s a show on here tonight, and he disinterestedly concedes that there is. We go in and have a look around. It basically looks like a Polish squat. The management comes in and gives us the low-down. Apparently, the place is a ‘speakeasy’. He gives the cops $200 a month and they turn a blind eye, ensuring there’s no real trouble. He serves beer and whiskey. We get a drink or three.
Over the course of a few beverages, it turns out that the guy running the place is a total legend and hilarious character. He literally gives a shit about nothing other than making money, yet still seems to keep the place going somehow. The promoter Chuck turns up after a while, followed by some bands. There was apparently going to be food, but it turns out we’ll only be getting it at his gaff after the show, when we’ll actually be unable to eat it since we’ll be driving on to Austin. So, we head off, and end up at quite a fantastic Mexican restaurant. Margaritas and some great food get us in a good mood. A bit too much great food actually –pretty soon after finishing we’re all in a total food coma. We get back to the show and it’s pretty busy. I feel stoned off my tits…I’m so full of food I’ve no idea what’s going on. I drink a beer and just want to burp all the time to make space in my stomach. The first band starts and I’m all confused. They’re decent, but I go outside and sit down on a sofa for a bit and try not to go asleep. I’m seriously out of it. I watch the next band, Dead Line, and they’re good but I’m still massively confused. We’re playing in the middle because there’s six bands and it’s supposed to be over by 11pm. The place is cool, there’s a great crowd, people are up for it…but I might as well be on the moon. Completely spaced out. It comes around time for us to play and Greg (the all-seeing eye) suggests that I need to get off the beer and drink some whiskey. I do, and it cuts through the layers of enchilada clogging up my brain. I get vaguely lucid, and we play.
It’s completely nuts, but I’m on another planet. I don’t NOT enjoy it, but I’m not really there. I still get sweaty as hell and afterwards myself and Yeap walk outside and I go to get another beer from the van (the ‘speakeasy’ has run out but luckily we bought an emergency crate earlier). We loiter on front of the fan at the venue next door and chat to a weird girl. It turns out that earlier there’d been a bikini competition for under-13s, during which the announcer woman had made a very tasteful joke about a topless category. Charming. As soon as we’re cooled off we head back into the venue just in time for Deadly Reign, an ex-WB2D raw d-beat crust trio. They’re fucking well good, but within the first song this huge fat Mexican dude in a green t-shirt starts bashing everyone. It turns out that the ‘speakeasy’ has another event booked for 11pm, at which point our promoter has to stop charging entrance. People are still turning up, and it’s going to be a techno dance party. This fat dude is obviously at the first hardcore show he’s ever attended and has misunderstood that aggressive music means you should hit everything, including the band, crowd and amplifiers. Everyone gets pretty annoyed and people start hitting him back pretty hard. He flies towards me and I swing an elbow round and get him a good one on the chin. He calms down for two seconds and then starts again. Someone punches him and he responds, and ten people start kicking fuck out of him. The fight barrels out the door and I stay watching Deadly Reign, not that interested in a 10-vs-1 beating. The room empties by two-thirds. I stay for another song before realising that the room is still empty. I go outside.
It’s fucking World War III. There’s at least four fights immediately visible on the street. All the way up and down, people are boxin’ the heads off each other. A punk runs down the street with a Mexican girl punching both sides of his head from behind. Two girls are fighting until one gets her hair caught in the other’s earring, at which point they both scrabble about before realising there’s no positive outcome and disentangle themselves. Random pairs of dudes are punching and kicking each other. The original green t-shirt dude is being corralled down the street by his mates, shouting and screaming, bleeding all over and missing a tooth.
This is frickin awesome!!
It’s when I start noticing the dudes in MC patch jackets turning up that Greg grabs me and suggests loading the gear out. I run in and find the boys and we get everything out amidst the pandemonium. Things have now gotten scarily quiet on the street but people are still turning up for the second party. We see the end of Deadly Reign and have a few more beers. The final band, Red River, set up and start and they’re quality raw d-beat punk, noisy and wild. More people are turning up and it’s looking more and more like a whole lot of fun, but Greg’s real antsy to leave. I have a wee pipe with Matt from Dead Line but then we have to go…it’s a pity, but what can ya do: the boss has spoken. We drive three or four hours to Austin and go to Greg’s mate Jack Barfield’s house. Sleep glorious
Not actually that glorious…patchy and wakeful, but sleep nonetheless. Jack’s place is great, a really nice bungalow with full air-conditioning (Austin’s in the high 30s all the time –sweaty and humid as hell) and a great collection of records and books. We’re gonna have a crazy day: two shows, the first being a boat party on a lake with Krumbums. I’d been to a similar thing here three years ago with Judgement and Annihilation Time playing and it was wild as hell, so to say I’m looking forward to it is an understatement.
After we wake up and do some laundry we head out to an Indonesian restaurant that the apparently does a great Sunday buffet. It’s pretty good; alongside all the meaty stuff there’s plenty of vegan food to keep the hippies in business. The clientele are fucking nuts; I’ve never seen so many facial tattoos in one restaurant. There’s this one dude who’s tattooed like a bloody leopard. Some Jim Rose circus kinda thing. I fuckin love Austin! The city slogan is apparently ‘Keep Austin Weird’ and it’s supposedly the most tattooed city per capita in the world, which gives some idea of the vibe around the place. Zac from World Burns To Death comes to meet us with his girl Andrea and it’s great to see the crazy bastard again. I only have two modest(ish) plates and stop just short of feeling stuffed, as we’re not likely to eat much more again today. Not bad for $10. It turns out the boat show won’t start until 5pm, so that gives us longer than we’d thought. We head back to Jack’s place and sort out our laundry before driving to the lake. We wait around for people to turn up and the weather starts turning shitty; still warm but grey and overcast. It hasn’t rained here in two & a half months and now it looks like it will this afternoon. Lovely.
People turn up and we load our gear on, just instruments, pedals and cymbals since Krumbums are generously allowing us to use their backline. Apparently about 160 people have bought tickets but only about half that show up due to the weather, so the boat’s only half full when it leaves and it seems the whole thing might be a bit of a wash out. We bring along our mate Banana Bob who we met in New Jersey at the boardwalk. He’s a stuffed Rastafarian banana who we spent about $40 trying to win before eventually just pinching him. We hang out with Zac and get a start on the beers as the boat takes off for the island in the middle. There’s two kegs and the $20 ticket price covers it –drink all you want. It seems that tattooed bikini-clad weirdoes attract a certain type of ‘party favour’ and stuff gets pretty loose pretty quick. The boat docks out by the island and people start jumping in and swimming; the water’s gorgeous and it’s all great fun, but there’s some fucked up little fish that keep biting myself, Kirk and Penke. Seems they don’t like Asian food, ba-dum tisch! The third time it happens I get out…it’s actually pretty sore and horribly shocking. Austin bloody piranhas. There’s a barbecue with sausages and I get one and a half, the other half going down Yeap’s pants after he custard pies me with a plate full of soggy salad. There’s another boat of jock and cheerleader types docked beside us…some of them make a brief visit over but quickly get freaked out and flee.
Pretty soon it’s time to get started, and the sun comes out just before…bugger. I’d actually been quite enjoying the overcast weather, and the lesser amount of people on board makes it all a lot less hectic and more relaxed. We set up and start and it’s madness…beer and water all over the top deck mean footholds are impossible so it’s a slippy affair. Halfway through the first song Yeap grabs this dude in a GG Allin shirt and throws him overboard –amazing! People are looking terrified and flocking downstairs or towards the back of the boat to escape but the mic lead’s pretty long, so they’re not really having any luck. Yeap gets a nice big juicy cut along his hand after he runs into me and I shove him away. He slides into about five people and they all nearly fall down the stairs…nearly, but unfortunately not. At one point he’s running around swinging a chair at people and someone leaps overboard to escape. Tremendous!
We finish up there’s immediately a confrontation with the dude in the GG t-shirt. Turns out he’s a fucking coke dealer and had an eightball in his pocket when Yeap made him walk the plank. I woulda felt bad only a mate had told me a sketchy story about that very chap earlier on. He’s looking like he’s about to kick off but Yeap gives him the whole smiley hug treatment and he settles down. Krumbums play and it’s hilarious. The singer is off his fucking face, this little Mexican dude in some kind of Bavarian flower girl dress. He’s grabbing everyone’s beers and tipping them over himself and everyone else, sporadically jumping off the side of the boat and slip-sliding all over the place. The music’s pogo punk of the Casualties variety with some Circle Jerks and Peter & The Test Tube Babies numbers thrown in to spice things up. I’m off my face and having a great time, getting in a last dive or two before the sun sinks below the horizon and we head back. As we arrive at the dock everyone starts to realise that someone’s missing…we’ve left someone out at the island…surely not…it’s Banana Bob! Penke apparently saw him heading off on the island with a couple of bikini babes, whilst Kirky swears blind that he saw a small dreadlocked figure face down in the mud as we left, but didn’t do anything cos he was sick of BB getting all the hot chicks…ah Bob. We’ll miss you. Awesome day, and we still have another show to play! On the way back some girl with massive cans grabs Yeap and fills his hands before he can escape –she dives in for the kill and he ducks under, wriggles away and makes good his escape. Back in the van I drink about two and a half litres of water on the drive back to Austin, desperate to rehydrate before the night continues.
The show is at The Mohawk, a cool bar in downtown Austin. It’s pretty busy for a Sunday night, and I meet a couple of mates who it’s great to see again. I’m still out of it and remain so for most of the bands…Deadly Reign from last night open up the show and it’s good, ‘90s era U.S. raw d-beat crust. They’re followed by Dead Line who benefit from a much better sound than yesterday, intense and noisy. Last before us is Vaaska, who I’ve been looking forward to see. It’s wild European raw punk with awesome lead guitar and a vicious feel to it. People are interested but no-one’s too out of hand; very much a Sunday night crowd. We set up and spend a minute getting the sound right…it makes all the difference as it sounds excellent. I’m still totally off my head when we’re about to start so I go to the bar for a Jaeger shot (the musical equivalent of Viagra) and get peer pressured by the Deadly Reign lads into having something called a Mountain Lion. It’s two cups, the first containing whiskey and something else, the second containing pickle water. It’s odd, but it does the trick: I feel keen and awake as a fucking lightning bolt. The gig is excellent; starts off slowish but after a couple of attacks people are moving and shit starts getting wild. It’s mainly a blur but a fucking awesome one. Someone’s thrown a can and Kirk’s pissing blood out his forehead, Penke’s in another world, Yeap’s going bananas and I’m feeling it proper good. We finish up and I’m incapable of anything more…
A few more drinks and we load up the van. The plan is to head back to Zac’s place to party, so we get a few crates and head back there. A bunch of the Houston kids turn up along with other assorted characters. It’s fucking awesome and shit gets obscenely wild before Greg wants to head back around 6am…I can’t make up my mind, but christ knows I need the sleep…Yeap stays to hold down the fort for Kromosom and the rest of us take the old man option and head back to Jack’s. I get the proper bed in the spare room and it’s amazing…soft, air-conditioned, lovely…deep…sleep…
I wake up close to 2pm after the first really proper sleep in two weeks. Daaamn that feels good. Shower and a coffee and I feel surprisingly alright. Mornings on tour are not known for their brightness…we head out and pick up Timmy who’s putting on both our Austin shows (we’ve got another one tonight) from the record store where he works, along with a couple of purchases. We’re going to a Mexican restaurant that’s supposed to be great, and it lives up to its rep. We start off with avocado margaritas and chips with salsa and I start feeling a bit dodge…no food since yesterday afternoon so my stomach doth protest…I get over it and order tacos al pastor, my favourite Mexican food which I’ve not had since I was there two years ago. Everything’s great but once again I can’t clear my plate…American portions…they’re mental.
We leave Greg and Kirk back at the house and go to a nearby mall with Jack & Timmy since myself and the other two need new shoes and jeans and want to take advantage of not having to travel today, as well as the fact that the prices are miniscule compared to back in Aussie. We get sorted out and head back to the house where Jack’s wife Dominique has made us a huge feast of vegan fried chicken, vegan mac & cheese (hello Yeap) plus broccoli and green beans. I go heavy on the veg and light on the other stuff, but only with the greatest effort…it’s all too delicious.
Since this is gonna be our last night with Greg and his van before we fly to Seattle tomorrow morning we have to clear out the van and pack up our remaining merch aswell as our own gear, clothes and purchases. What a drag…we get it done, and at least the sun’s gone down. I’ve lost my MP3 player. Bugger. We do a stock-take and we’re down to a tiny number of t-shirts, with one of the three designs completely sold out. We’ve nearly sold all our records too, and with the entire first pressing gone it looks like we might be in trouble later on, though we have one more box of LPs and t-shirts waiting in Portland and some of the limited pink vinyl put aside for our official release show back in Melbourne.
We head to the gig which is in Austin’s only ghetto at this hilarious dive bar called 1808. Just three bands tonight, and this being the third show in the same city it’s likely to be a quiet one…all the more so since it’s Monday night. People slowly show up and I get a few whiskey sours in and start feeling good. First up are Night Siege, fast hardcore in the style of World Burns To Death. It’s not bad but lacks any real hooks or defining moments. Zac and Andrea turn up and we get drinkin. He’s giving us a ton of shit for wussing out last night and not staying on, but man…I wouldn’t give up those gorgeous hours of real sleep for anything. Criaturas are up next, it’s three of Vaaska with a different drummer and a female vocalist. Spanish style hardcore, pretty good stuff but I’m more interested in the rare opportunity to hang out with Zac and take the piss out of all and sundry. We set up and play and it’s fun. A decent sound and all manner of pushy-shoviness makes for a fun set, though by this stage the aggression is meaning that we’re left with a steadily mounting injury list. All fun and games until someone loses an eye…
Afterwards we pack down and drag the shit out, getting it all ready and consolidated for our flight at 6am. We go on to this huge pool hall bar; $4 pitchers until 2am. We’re well and truly tanked and matters are becoming increasingly hilarious in the Texan way. These people are maniacs. When they stop serving at the pool hall we move on back to Timmy’s house and start on the rum. Shit is getting extremely out of hand, which naturally is the only way it possibly can when we’ve got a flight to catch in three hours. The highlight comes when we get Zac with the best practical joke ever…earlier on he’d been jibing Yeap that he’d tried to snuggle down the night before with his friend Liz. I’d stoked the fire and Yeap was feeling a touch of paranoia…his imagination has obviously been running wild and he comes out to the porch where myself and Liz and a few others are drinking and smoking. He flat out asks Liz if he tried anything last night, afraid perhaps that he’d blacked out or was sleep-leching, or maybe just trying to turn shit around back on Zac. She replies ‘no!’, shocked. He’s about to go in and slag off Zac when we devise a cunning plan…first I’ll go in and ask Zac if he told anyone else, because someone posted about it on Facebook and Yeap’s girlfriend has just phoned me freaked out and upset. Then Yeap will come in looking for Zac and we’ll take it from there.
I go in and ask Zac to come into the kitchen for a word in his ear. I manage to keep a straight face and he’s totally freaked out. Penke comes in during it, afraid that something’s up. Since he knows nothing about the joke he thinks it’s for real and starts freaking out since it’ll mean a ton of hassle for the rest of the tour. Yeap comes in and there’s total silence in the rest of the house…he’s trying not to laugh meaning that he’s got this fucked-up creepy smile on his face, the smile of a psycho about to fuckin knife someone. Zac is positively shitting it. Yeap starts to question him and just when it seems about to kick off we crack up laughing. It’s fucking hilarious! The relief on Zac’s face is pure gold, followed by the embarrassment that he fell for it. So fucking good!
Unfortunately if we’re gonna make our flight we have to leave…it fucking sucks, I’d love to stay and party all night, but instead we’re gonna have to suffer. We drive to the airport and there’s a sweaty five minutes when Yeap thinks he’s lost his passport before it’s found. We say out goodbyes to Jack and Greg…but we’ll probably be seeing them in September on our Japan tour, so it’s not such a bad goodbye. It’s been fucking awesome touring with Greg and we’re sad he’s not continuing with us, but he’s off to Europe in a couple of days with a band he manages and we’ll have a different driver on the west coast. We get it over with and head in. Too early and we’ve to wait around for the check-in to open. The entire process is slightly less painful due to our inebriation and it all goes as well as can be expected, given the realities of an airport at 6am after two weeks on tour and no sleep. What’s worst is that the flight is in two parts; a 40 minute one from Austin to Dallas, followed by a three & a half hour flight from Dallas to Seattle arriving at 10.30am. The first bit is a load of whatever. We take off, Yeap falls asleep and coughs explosively all over the neck of a horrified businessman on front of him, the rest of us fall asleep, we wake up and arrive.
The transfer in Dallas airport…oh god…that half hour of walking and taking shuttle trains…I would genuinely have rather been dead at that point than continue…we somehow make it onto our flight and to our seats and sink into a half-slumber…uuuuuurrgh…
NEXT: WEST COAST TOUR W/ WARCRY!
I get a fairly patchy sleep in and wake up a bit before midday. Shower and a shave and I’m feeling good, we sort ourselves out and head for breakfast to this awesome little place called 821 Café that caters to the vegans aswell as the meaties. Yeap goes for the mac & cheese, which he seems to be developing a worrying addiction to. Eating that shit at least once a day. Sometimes twice. I go for the “Big Meaty” –with a name like that, how could I not? It’s a bed of rosemary potatoes covered in ham, sausage and bacon, all covered in cheddar and monterrey cheese: aw yeeeeeah. Not only that, but since I’m feeling pretty USA, I have to try the biscuits and gravy too. The amount of food I get could feed a whole family. It’s obscene. I barely make a dent in the Big Meaty, getting less than halfway through. I only manage a few pathetic bites of the biscuits and gravy, and so I’m forced to regress to a practice which I thought I’d left at my granny’s house a couple of decades ago: hiding food under other food.
Afterwards we head down to a record store, Vinyl Conflict, owned by Brandon from Government Warning/No Way Records/ex-Municipal Waste and his wife Laura. It’s an awesome shop but unfortunately they don’t have that Punk Is Everything book I’m looking for. We hear some great records and I pick up a copy of the Hjertestop LP on green vinyl for $10. Myself and Penke both need new shoes so we get Greg to drop us off at some huge mall while he gets himself a new phone; I get some black Converse for less than half the price I’d pay in Australia. We get back and set up the gear in Matt’s basement and jam on a new song we’ve been working on. Penke’s Hartke bass head has been giving us troubles through certain cabs too so we fuck around with that until it works.
Pretty soon it’s time to get down to the venue so we head there and get burgers. It’s a cool place called Strange Matter with loads of old arcade games and a scrappy kinda vibe about it. Nobody’s in too much of a hurry to start and it’s around 11pm by the time the first band goes on. First up are Black Age and it’s nothing to write home about, followed by Lost Tribe who I’ve been looking forward to hearing since they were described to me as 40% Discharge, 60% Joy Division. It’s more like The Fall or Bauhaus crossed with Murder City Devils. Not bad, but not Discharge meets Joy Division. They put on a good stage show, backlit with white lights and a smoke machine. Following them are Syndrome, who Brandon’s playing drums for. They’re decent, though hampered by some technical difficulties. Raw d-beat hardcore with energy and aggression. By this stage things are dragging on and I’m well on the way to being too pissed to play. Greg checks to see if we can go on before Aghast but the answer is no. It’s now past 1am and people are leaving…too many bands for this late a start on a Tuesday night. Aghast set up and play and it’s not what I expected; I saw them with Framtid in Copenhagen five years ago and they were great. Raw, jagged crasher crust d-beat. This time they were without the same impact and seemed pretty messy. We do a couple shots of Jaeger, set up quick and get going. This is it: after the first couple of gigs to warm up, we properly hit it yesterday and now we’re on form. The gig is awesome; best I’ve played with Kromosom. It’s rough and sweaty, people are killing each other on the floor and we’re doing the same onstage. At one point I shoulder Yeap hard and he spins around and shoves me off the stage. I feel my foot catch at the edge and for one terrifying second it seems I’m going to have to choose between my guitar and my teeth. As the six foot drop looms up I somehow get my leg out and land fine, continuing the song and staying down there for a couple more. Fuckin’ close one. The gig basically degenerates into Kromosom vs Richmond. Yeap throws the mic stand into the front row, they throw it back and it goes on like this. We finish up and I can’t talk, covered head-to-toe in sweat and breathing heavy. I grab a pitcher of water and go outside to cool down. After I’ve sat in a puddle of sweat for five minutes a cop car screeches up and this big officer dude gets out screaming at me that he’s gonna arrest me and all this shit. Turns out I’m sitting against the door of the police station. Duh. He lets me off. We head back in and do shots and drink beers before packing down and heading back to Matt’s place; we keep on with leisurely drinkin’, talkin’ and smokin’ until around 5am before hitting the sack.
We head back to Café 821 and I get a large coke to help with the hangover…the waitress goes to take it before I’m finished and there’s a face on me like a child who’s been told there’s no Santa Clause. Then she brings it back full and I realise that you get free refills: once again, America FUCK YEAH. Having learnt my lesson yesterday, I just go for two eggs. It’s still humungous, but I don’t leave an embarrassingly full plate behind. Granny’d be proud. Yeap gets mac & cheese. We stop in at Vinyl Conflict again to pick up a demo of Brandon’s one-man death/thrash band Obsessor and then hit the road since it’s a six hour trip. En route we drive through the most intense storm I’ve ever experienced. Lightning, thunder, hail the size of my fist, trees coming down at the side of the road, zero visibility, every car with their hazard lights on, half of them pulled up at the side of the highway…it’s fuckin scary. Seriously fucking intense. We stop at a little convenience store somewhere in North Carolina and this crazy tweaker gets out of a pickup and walks up to us shouting and gesturing ‘I wanna join the club! Let me in!’. He’s about 6’4” with long red hair, a baseball cap, a pimply face with plasters all over it and hugely dilated pupils. I tell him he’s already in the club and he seems happy and wanders off hooting.
Tonight’s show is in a little bar called The Get Down with Autarch and Megahurtz. We get there and load in and it seems like a cool place, someone’s made us a chilli and it’s a good one. We make a start on some PBRs and chat to the locals, who are real friendly. I meet a couple of dudes with Irish relatives who turn out to know some friends of mine from back home and pretty soon we get to the whiskey shots. Autarch start and it’s something like Kylesa and Red Sparrows with a His Hero Is Gone influence. Not my thing really but done well. We play next and it’s decent, a good sound and people are into it but my ears are hurting like hell. Nevertheless it’s enjoyable, and next up are Megahurtz. They’re awesome: two girls and three dudes playing crazy crust thrash with wild guitar solos and tons of energy. Like early Megadeth with a Sacrilege edge. We continue with the whiskey and beer and start living up to the D-Beat Hooligans moniker. Someone’s taking pictures and we’re doing a lot of football chanting, Kirk gets overexcited and starts throwing beer around, and then gets handed a mop. The mop quickly becomes a weapon and somehow myself and Penke end up wrestling violently about whether or not AC/DC are really that good (they’re not). It all gets pretty lairy but luckily enough sense remains that we give up before sustaining any serious injury…though there is a scary moment after we crash into the jukebox when it stops working for a second and it seems we may have to do a runner.
We go back to Justin from Autarch/Kakistocracy’s place and hang out getting drunk on awesome ales from this brewery called Highland Brewing Company. Vague memories of going to another house down the street, something involving bongs, and eventual oblivion.
I wake up feeling pretty decent, so I’m clearly still drunk. Apparently I’d tried to bro down with poor old Greg during the night. He was having none of it so I seem to have wandered around until I found somewhere soft to lay my head. Turns out that a girl tried to do sex on Penke last night at the other house we went to…she’d been after him the whole night and eventually lured him back her room on the pretence of listening to a conspiracy radio show he quite likes called Coast To Coast. Hah! As soon as he was sitting comfortably on the edge of her bed, she stood up, turned off the light and jumped on him. He pushed her off and literally ran out the door and all the way back to Justin’s place –amazing!
We sort ourselves out and I drink another Highland ale to stave off the potentially monstrous hangover looming on the horizon. Justin takes us down to Rosetta Café where they do great vegan/veggie food and also have a good range of local ales on tap. Naturally, Yeap gets mac & cheese. I go for chilli cheese fries. They’re fantastic. I’m gonna be so frickin’ fat by the end of this tour. We get back in the van and I get a couple of hours sleep on the way to Atlanta. The highlight of the journey is when Kirk discovers the Playboy I’d stashed under a seat in the van and promptly gets blamed for it…heheh! We’ve got a couple of hours to kill before the show so Greg takes us to this legendary little joint called the Claremont. It’s a strip club GG Allin used to live over, and it’s got a reputation as a place where you can see, shall we say, “alternative” ladies dancing. We walk in and get a few cans of Miller. It’s dark, dingy and neon, with a smell of old sex wafting around. This 60-year-old lady in a skimpy costume gets up on a little stage which is inside the circular bar. I know what’s about to happen but I really don’t want it to. Shit gets a little bit too real a little bit too quick. Basically, if you ever feel like seeing a stripper with her jugs around her ankles dance to New Order while shouting at the barmaid to order her a couple of cheeseburgers, now you know where to find it. We have a couple of beers and end up chatting away to the oldest stripper this side of the Mason-Dixie line for a bit before heading down to the gig.
It’s on in the basement of some kind of art space, and there’s a touring band who’d jumped on the bill just finishing up as we get there. Greg and Yeap head to the liquor store and pick up a crate of Miller and we get our drink on. Tons of people start turning up, loads of kids from Florida who’ve travelled five hours for the show, at least half of them girls, which is a nice change from the usual hardcore sausage fest. It was the same in Asheville actually. Bukakke Boys are first on and rip out some blazing negative hardcore, good shit. Disfigure follow with some U.S. tinged d-beat chaos and next up are Disable with their Disclose-influenced hardcore assault. Dis, dis, dis! We go next and it’s a good show; people go fucking nuts, beating the crap out of each other and singing along, but the set-up means that I can’t hear shit from my guitar so it’s hard to get into it. People seem to have loved it and assure me it sounds great out on front but if I can’t hear it properly I just don’t enjoy myself. Can’t win ‘em all.
Next up are Mauser who we’ve been looking forward to seeing based on reports from friends and their excellent 7” EP. In a word, they fucking KILL. Best band I’ve seen this year, hands down. It’s fucking rare that I’ll feel like braving the pit but this shit is so fucking intense that I can’t not. Raw, loud, charging crasher crust, white hot raging d-beat madness. Their drummer’s incredible, hitting hard and somehow fitting double the hits into every roll, the bass is like a nuclear holocaust, the guitar raw and cutting and the vocals pure shrieking wrath. Hell yes.
Afterwards we hang out and drink more, talk to the Mauser boys about getting them over for a week in Australia after their Japan tour. We’ll be staying with Jesse from Bukakke Boys, who just happens to live around the corner from the Claremont…guess where we’re going. We get there and it’s crazy; from being the only customers at 8pm it’s now packed full of punters and loose as fuck. There’s a band playing jazzy blues hits, elderly ladies dancing their tits off (literally), all kinds of weirdoes sloshing around and a bunch of scary bikers at the bar. Naturally Yeap goes up to the smelliest, hairiest, ugliest one of them and goes ‘hey mate, nice jacket’! The dude just kind of growls and looks him up and down. We slowly back away and head to the dancefloor. Most of the kids from the show who’re old enough to get in have come, so there’s a lot of silly dancing going on. Yeap stagedives and the maracas lady runs and hides behind the drums. Half the blues band look terrified, the other half are loving it. There’s this old black dude wailing on a saxophone so all the punks end up chanting “saxophone, saxophone, saxophone!” and he takes it up a notch. We drink on and eventually take the party back to Ruby from Bukkake Boys, via the supermarket –an extremely messy and drunken affair. I realise that we haven’t eaten since breakfast and that’s why we’re already steaming drunk. We get back to the party and I’m barely hanging in there. The doobie whacker consumed with Mauser’s bassist Larson right before their show doesn’t help matters either, but either way, by the time we start shotgunning beers I’m already out of it…
NEXT: TEXAS CHAOS: STREET RIOT IN HOUSTON, BOAT SHOW IN AUSTIN…
Despite having toured Europe, Asia and Latin America over the past decade with various bands, this was my first time touring the USA. No matter how you happen to feel about the United States in terms of culture and society, as a touring musician only Japan can compete in terms of milestones. Coming to the US as a band is fucking awesome – all the more so with plenty of hype and our first 12” just out. It’s my first real trip to the country, discounting five days in Austin for Chaos In Tejas three years ago.
But let’s back up a second… Having moved to Melbourne at the beginning of the year, I only joined Kromosom four months ago. The first Australian band I’d seen tour Europe was Pisschrist, and they remain one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. When they broke up, Kromosom was the natural progression, albeit in a much noisier, more raw form. I mentioned joining to them last February as a joke, and next thing you know, that’s it –I’m in. We’d spent the last three months rehearsing, writing, recording and playing as many gigs as possible in preparation for the tour…but still with one more hurdle to jump: U.S. customs and immigration are notoriously suspicious of anyone they think may be entering to work without the proper visa. I suppose the logic is that they only want tourist money coming in rather than American money going out, but it’s meant that various friends from Japan and Sweden have previously been refused entry when attempting to tour here. The border cops are merciless…they’ll trick you into spilling the beans, look through your phone & email account, google your name etc, so you gotta prep all you can and then just hope that your luck holds long enough to get through, or it’s months of hard work down the drain. Our luck holds and it all goes fine, albeit with a lot of waiting…particularly hellish after a flight of over 24 hours.
Our tour manager is an old friend and legend of the U.S. punk scene, Greg Daly. Having toured everyone from Amebix to Baroness in the past, he’s well experienced and knows the easiest way around everything. He also doesn’t take any shit from dodgy promoters and finds the best parties: exactly what’s needed! We spend the first few days at his friends’ place near the beach in New Jersey attempting to recover from the atrocious jetlag and buying new guitars, cases, pedals, drum stuff etc. Except instead of rehydrating and getting some rest we just get drunk as hell and feel tired all the time. But we do at least have the time to go shopping. We’d left all our gear at home due to the attention it would attract from immigration, so we’re renting Disfear’s backline and buying new instruments. Kirk got his drum breakables off the internet, so myself and Penke go to a couple of shops and end up with a Gibson Explorer and Fender Jazz bass…very nice. We’ve got two nights in Philadelphia before the first show in Boston so we test out the gear and backline in Greg’s basement, run up the Rocky stairs, eat Mexican food…and get drunk as fuck.
It’s well over 30 degrees and hotter than Satan’s cock as we load up the van in the late morning to leave Philadelphia for the first show. Traffic is awful so the journey takes around six hours. Greg’s van is a good size, space for double the amount of people so plenty of room to stretch out and attempt to sleep off the rapidly worsening hangover courtesy of last night’s karaoke holocaust. A beer and a burger en route help somewhat, and we arrive in Boston at around 6pm. I’m ready to be good-naturedly belligerent at the stage-Irishness of everything, but none of the areas we’re around are actually decked out in Paddy garishness…disappointing. First stop is the new Armageddon Shop, the all-vinyl record store owned by the dudes from Dropdead. They’ve been running the shop in Providence for something like 20 years and just opened the Boston store six months ago…it’s excellent. I pick up the new Metalion: Slayer Diaries book I’d just seen reviewed plus a couple of other zines and records. We drive to the venue and load in; it’s a decent size and shape and has a cool stage area, so things are looking good. I find a hardware store and buy some velcro and glue to sort out my pedal board. We drink a beer or two and we’re told there won’t be time for a sound check so we go and get some food.
When we get back we’ve missed the first band…bugger. BloodKrow Butcher are next and they’re decent; a snotty young 3-piece playing aggro U.S. hardcore, fast and pissed-off. Sounds like Discharge without sounding anything like a Dis band. I start working on a few PBRs and meet some old mates and next up are Fuckheads. As expected, noisy distorted hardcore with a Japanese edge is the order of the day. It’s a short intense set and things are warming up nicely. That is, until the next band start. It’s some Spanish band who’ve jumped on the gig whose name I can’t remember…some kind of crossover thrash with hardcore influences is what they’re peddling. Five years too late guys. And if you really insist on finishing your set with a cover song, it certainly shouldn’t be Municipal Waste.
We set up and get our sound right and the place is pretty full. People seem up for it, with our merch table doing a good trade all night and seemingly high expectations due to the ex-Pisschrist connection and recent hype. There’s a slight amount of trepidation on our part, since both myself and Penke will be trying out our new gear live for the first time. No worries necessary: it sounds excellent, like a fucking war in hell. All the annoying hisses, squeals and white noise from using a daisy chain for the pedals is cut out due to the T-Rex fuel tank I picked up in New Jersey, so the overall sound retains that horrific blown-out element without the same level of migraine-inducing, teeth-grinding high-end. From the first note the gig is pandemonium; Yeap is living up to his Human Warhead nickname while Kirk plays incredibly fast and loud, myself and Penke creating a wall of noise and trying not to fall into the amps. Multiple crowd surfers and insane tattooed crusty kids smash their way through the stage but there’s no real fuck-ups and after the set people want more. Kirk’s destroyed, but eventually relents when the rest of us point and chant at him together with the crowd…two more songs. It seems that whenever chanting starts in the U.S. people have no choice but to capitulate…USA, USA, USA!! We finish up and Yeap disappears out the door puking. I’m totally soaked through and need to catch my breath for ten minutes, so I get another beer and cool off. This girl Kate we met in Japan on the NDT tour showed up so I go with her and partake in a little Bob Marley action. After that everything’s pretty funny; we hang out, drink, I pack down my gear and we load out. Greg’s picked us up a crate of beer so we furtively get a start on that, since people are massively paranoid about drinking on the street…if this was a punk gig anywhere in the UK, Ireland or Australia, there’d be a dozen drunken reprobates outside clutching cans of something cheap and nasty. Maybe the cops are extra shitty to people for street drinking here. Or maybe Boston punks are just…nah! We hang out for a bit and go with some people from the gig to a party in a warehouse rehearsal space where some bands are playing and people are drinking. It’s not that much fun, in fact it’s more of a practice session than a gig, so we head back to our friend Jill’s place, drink a few more beers, talk bollocks and go to sleep.
Less than six hours sleep and we’re up and off to NYC, stopping at what are called “traffic plazas” on the way to eat. It’s basically a miniature food mall of chains…excellent! I get a “Chicken Po’Boy” from “Popeyes”, and it’s amazing…basically a fried chicken sandwich. The others get cheap Mexican food. We arrive pretty early in Brooklyn, where we’re playing in the basement of a bar called The Charleston on Bedford. Brooklyn is exactly as I’d imagined: weirdoes, hipsters, crazy people, skateboarders, all that typical New York riff-raff. Not feeling the best so we have a few beers for a curer. Still feeling exhausted so I go for a coffee. It’s not doing the job –back to the beers. Fucking jetlag…I’m out of it. Feels like I’m coming down off acid for the past five days. We meet old friends and drink, I get a mindblowingly amazing slice of pizza and the gig starts. It’s a fucking TINY basement with room for maybe 200 people max. I miss the first band and next up is Perdition; they’re excellent. A bunch of punk-as-fuck dudes in their early 20s playing raw hard-hitting d-beat chaos, akin to a way noisier Doom. I miss the next guys aswell before seeing some of Mundo Muerto. They’re playing raw straightforward hardcore with Spanish vocals. Decent. We set up and play and it’s fun. Low ceilings and mad punks don’t mix well so I end up with a cut on my head. Afterwards takes a bit of recovery but people are forcing drinks and shots on me…I semi-willingly oblige but I’m getting nowhere; the accumulated hangover and jetlag have destroyed me. I go and get a slice of delicious chicken and avocado pizza. Yeap’s keen to party at some rooftop with the Perdition dudes but everyone else is wrecked; he opts to come back with us to where we’re staying. I get monged and zone out…American weed is uniformly hard-hitting. Or, in the local parlance, this shizzle’s the chronic, yo! We get a shitty sleep, plagued by badly behaved cats who enjoy knocking over waterglasses and trying to drink your wee while you piss. Dirty little bastards.
We leave early as we’ve got two gigs today; an afternoon all-ages show at The Barbary with Ceremony and some hardcore-hardcore type bands and a later show at some nightclub for Philly Punx Picnic with a load of punk bands. It’s not a long drive, maybe two hours, and we stop on the way at some rest stop place. There’s nothing I want to eat so I end up with a shitty hotdog. We get to Philly and go straight to an awesome breakfast diner called Honey’s, typical American style with great food. But I’m full of shitty hotdog so I can only handle a coffee and an orange juice. Typical crime of passion…what a waste. Then it’s straight to the Barbary. We hang out and I specifically don’t drink and feel bored. The place fills up with a big crowd of clean-cut hardcore kids before the first band start and they’re alright, common-or-garden American hardcore. The next band are some God-awful load of muck, crooning nonsense that sounds like Helmet crossed with Pearl Jam interspersed with occasional hardcorey breakdown parts. Is this what’s popular in this scene nowadays? We set-up and play and Yeap gives himself a few more injuries. It sounds great and it’s a decent set-up, circle pitting and madness on front of the stage but the majority of the crowd aren’t that up for it. No breakdowns so they rarely manage to have a go of that little karate dancing thing they ‘re so mad about. We do about 30 shirts and 30 LPs at the merch stand. Afterwards I feel shitty. Despite drinking literally about 5 litres of water since the night before I’ve hardly pissed at all, and the lingering cold from a few weeks ago plus the jetlag have obviously dehydrated me way more than I thought. I’ve never felt this bad after just a couple of days on tour before; I’m de-fucking-stroyed. I suffer behind the merch table for a while and watch Ceremony. They’re great. A full album would bore me but live it’s different; the band are obviously well road-tested and have an interesting mix of modern Bridge Nine hardcore, power violence breakdowns and ‘80s LA punk influences. The crowd is utter bedlam: people walking on each others’ heads, shoes flying everywhere, a dude dislocating his shoulder and a lot of histrionic moshing and singalongs. Very entertaining.
I continue to not drink or smoke and we leave for the other show, picking up some “hoagies” on the way back to Greg’s, since we’ve busted a cabinet and need to pick up another at his house. A hoagie is basically a sandwich roll. French bread etc. They’re good. We hang out for a bit and then head to the other gig, which is nearby at a fancy nightclub. There’s a lot of dirty punks hanging around outside drinking and it’s about half-full inside. Mercifully air-conditioned…the weather is crazy hot over here. I drink my first beer of the day and it goes down nicely. The local draft beer is Yard’s, a really good ale, and we’ve got plenty of drinks tickets: let the games begin! There’s quite a lot of bands, BloodKrow Butcher play again and are by far the best of them. The place gradually fills up. Ceremony play before us and they’re excellent again, the crowd not half as wild as earlier. The singer comes over to the bar beside me and whacks his own head off it with an audible THWACK, before staggering around clutching it and falling over. That’s the spirit! We get our gear onstage and set up and I’ve built a fairly good head of steam by now; it’s getting far easier to deal with the heat. Hopefully this is the end of my jetlag. It’s a good show, the best part being when Yeap somehow manages to cut a huge chunk of flesh out of his wrist leading to an endless stream of hilarious comments relating to his dirty gash and the possibilities of it becoming infected, smelly, etc. I feel guilty for a second after a brief sortie into the crowd during which a nice girl in a pretty dress gets a smack in the face off my guitar. The sound is great and it’s an enjoyable show to play.
Afterwards it’s shots again and endless pitchers of beer from our drinks tickets. We hang out and get rowdy before heading back to Greg’s house with a load of people. The liquor store’s closed so no more beer, but Greg’s got an emergency bottle of whiskey which he gives us…best fuckin tour manager, YEAH!! Turns out someone there’s got another bottle of whiskey and a case of beers. Things are all good and we party on until someone gets a stereo going and then all hell breaks loose. Appendix comes on and people start pogoing and dancing wildly in the kitchen. This awesome chick Courtney who lives with Greg runs into the kitchen and dives through the air, landing on the kitchen table which then slides across the floor. Everyone starts having a go until someone realises that the table is covered in broken glass and we’ve all been cutting ourselves. Rose Tattoo comes on and everyone just starts smashing shit. A number of people leave and a couple cower in the corner but shit keeps getting wilder. Anti-Cimex comes on and this dude Eric tackles Yeap and knocks him over, so I put Eric in the bin. Then Yeap jumps on my back and I get him off, pick him up and throw him against the wall. The mayhem migrates to the living room and I end up with a huge black bruise after unsuccessfully attempting a flying elbow drop on Penke. Things continue much in this fashion…
…until I wake up on the sofa and remember where I am. I get some water and see that it’s almost 1pm. I feel great. I feel the edges of a hangover scratching through the remnants of last nights drunk, but it’s an honest-to-god proper tour hangover and none of this jetlag bullshit that’s been plaguing me for the past week. Thank fuck I’m over that…never had such a tame time on tour before. We head out to find some diner or café or something for breakfast, but everywhere’s shut cos it’s the 4th July. We end up going back to the hoagie place and I get an obscenely huge sandwich. I can only finish half….three types of meat, two types of cheese and all sorts of filling. God bless this fine nation.
We sit around talking shit and smokin’ out with Courtney and the gang from last night. I look at this photo book called Punk Is Everything until it’s time to go. Amazing book…lots of flyers, old photos and record covers covering the history of punk up until roughly 2000. None of those annoying “back in the day” commentaries and a fascinating progressive lay-out that moves forward by linking style, influence and innovation rather than a simple chronology. I’ll have to pick up a copy. Uneventful drive and we arrive in DC shortly before dark. Tonight is a basement show at some dude’s house, with a BBQ and beers in the yard. There’s some right funny characters there, but the basement is frickin’ TINY. Smallest place I’ve ever seen have a gig. I’m disproportionately amused by the presence of Playboy magazines in the bathroom, an event which would have catastrophic potential in the European punk scene. Seriously…if word went around Germany about a punk house with porno in the bathroom, entire feminist separatist groups and male support enclaves would form over it. I amuse myself further by taking one of them and hiding it in the van, the plan being to blame it on whoever finds it.
First band up are like a really sloppy version of Born/Dead. Snotty U.S. styled hardcorepunk, energetic and political. It’s not bad but not really good either. The dude playing guitar starts giving out about America so we heckle him about how great it is and chant “USA, USA, USA!!”. About half the crowd joins in. He offers to fight anyone who loves America, so I say I’ll take him up on it. Love it or leave it, motherfucker –freedom ain’t free. He mumbles something about outside later and then there’s a long uncomfortable silence before they start another song. After them is No Tomorrow from North Carolina, a 4-piece crustcore unit in the style of State Of Fear with some ENT and later Disfear influence. There’s this hilarious local chap who seems to have randomly walked in who keeps shouting at them to play some Soul Jah Boy. They’re decent, but the room is a fucking furnace. We borrow all their gear because it’s just not worth dragging the backline in. Two Peavey heads from the ‘80s, VBR120s I think, and putting my pedals through their clean channels sounds awesome. We set up and start and it’s total madness. People bouncing off the walls, Yeap crushed against the ceiling doing the spider pig, the world’s tiniest circle pit and rivers of sweat. It’s one of the best sets ever, incredibly good fun, but we just can’t physically do any extra songs…every last drop wrung out.
I cool off outside and smoke with the No Tomorrow dudes. One of them is selling bootleg patches of another band I’m in so I give him a load of shit about it and tell him I’m going to have to confiscate them. He takes it way too seriously so I’ve a hard time convincing him I’m joking. We let off a load of fireworks and a beered-up Kirky starts launching them at people. A tree beside the van goes on fire, provoking a short-lived but intense panic from the guy whose house it is. The beer runs out and it’s time to go, since we’ve decided to drive to Richmond through the night so we’ll have the full day with no driving tomorrow. The dude who’d offered to fight sheepishly mumbles his goodbyes and takes off. Poor bugger. We stop en route at this fantastic 24-hour convenience store called Wawa’s that has a virtual reality sandwich making computer. It’s fricking amazing. You create a fantasy sandwich from touchscreen buttons, and then the computer tells a dude to make it! America –fuck yeah! We arrive in Richmond at Greg’s mate Matt’s house and drink a beer before crashing out.
NEXT: AMATEUR MMA IN ASHEVILLE