diaries: download european tour 1996.
Mark Spybey's Tour Diary, part II.
We eat copiously at a news bar in Munichs university district, "the Schwabing." Ryan, Little Frank and I walk to the English gardens in the heart of the city. It is hot. We wander by a Bier Keller and spend three glorious hours listening to a Bavarian band consuming thirst quenching Weiss bier and black bread with cheese. Munich is another beautiful city. The first large metropolitan city we have visited. We meet up with Pansy Division who are playing at a smaller venue on the same club site. Dustin their drummer toured once as a member of a support band to Puppy and is also known to Ryan. I exchange T Shirts with Chris their bass player. Our show is played in a venue with a plastic roof in excruciating heat.I give out pre show instructions to the crew regarding the prevention of de-hydration. Another crazed breakdown in the face of another disco. We try to sleep on the bus as the disco rages on full force. We all suffer from sun burn. I have taken to enlisting the help of Phil in bandaging up my injured chest muscles. I feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame as I scrape for enough wind to blow my trumpet. It has got to get better soon.
We drive to Austria through the alps singing songs from The Sound of Music. We flash by Salzburg and decide to stay in Linz, on the banks of the Danube for another day off. Tomorrow is my birthday, the third birthday of the tour. Frank suffered his in Rostock, Ryan in the den of goths at Leipzig. I get to spend mine in Vienna. Linz is a sleepy chocolate box of a town. Famous as being the home of Anton Bruckner. Peter opens a bottle of wine and my birthday is toasted under the stars on the banks of the Danube.
Frank warned me about Vienna."Expect opulence," he said. He was right. Extreme beauty oozed out of the citys pores. In honour of my birthday I gave myself plenty of time to scour the streets and was treated to a visual feast. We were told that our show in Prague tomorrow had been cancelled by a nervous promoter. This was a major disappointment but we vowed to go there anyway for a rabid day of tourism. Our show in Vienna was in an underground club and we played to our most conservative crowd yet. Vienna reeked of the middle class, Freud and the Emperor Franz Josef. Nugent, our guide to the world of conspiracy theories, regaled us with tales of Kurt Waldheim. I meet up with some Slovakian fans who tell me that half the crowd had travelled from Slovakia for the show.
We were turned back from the border with Slovakia because we had no work permit. We had to make a huge detour back to Linz to enter the Czech Republic. We were shaken and jostled in our pods by the harsh Czech roads after been boarded by a Czech border guard who refused our bribe of some Download merchandise. I peered out from the curtains surrounding my pod at this guy as he nervously talked to Peter, a large handgun at his waist. Kill indeed. Nugent said he was going to the Czech Republic to buy Semtex Frank had been to Prague six times and knew the city well. I ended up spending a day with him plodding for 12 hours around the wonderful streets of this city. Time has been kind to Prague." Liberation," has had a number of effects..new cars, advertising,shops, restaurants and all out tourist infiltration. We speculated on whether Vaclav Havel would like Download given his affection for the Velvet Underground. I paid homage to Kafkas house, after all i did name my dog after him. We stand in silence at the acres of walls lovingly lined with the names of all the Jewish Prague residents murdered by the Nazis. Frank shows us the area of the city used to film the movie Amadeus. A city scored by history and miraculously intact. The highlight of the tour.
We endure an aching drive through the tattered roads of the Czech Republic and east Germany. The bus is strewn with human debris, bottles, bits of Nugents film depositories and video tapes as I pick my way back to the lounge at yet another truck stop. This time, Igor, Peter's additional driver worryingly reports that our van full of gear has gone missing.Tom, it's driver, apparently went to sleep in a truck stop near Dresden and we have nightmares of thieves making off with our booty. He turns up one and a half hours later, tail between his legs, like a scolded puppy dog.
A hastily arranged show at Berlins Knaack club. We walk from the venue in the east of Berlin past Alexanderplaatz into the Brandenberg gates. Here i am accused loudly of stealing a watch by an Iranian street merchant. I anxiously empty my pockets and beat the retreat, souvenirs in hand...east German army relics, a model Trabant and a Russian medal for Elaine. Frank and i scour for Checkpoint Charlie or what remains of it and we hasten back to the show which was a family affair with many of the Potsdam crowd showing up to hear us. Kai, the sound engineer from Potsdam is working at the club. I am beginning to like the Massive Attack cd he continuously plays.
We leave the east for the last time and head to Frankfurt and the best equipped venue of the tour, the Batschkapp. A large crowd raves about the show and we are encouraged to do Energy Plan and Download as encores. We see nothing of Frankfurt. The venue is in a sleepy suburb next to a busy railway line. The offbeat crew turn up with yet another tour T-Shirt. This time a full colour rendition of Sidewinders sleeve. T-Shirts are like hard currency to us now. A clean shirt puts off the spectre of laundry. We hide our sweat drenched stage clothes, obligatory T-Shirt and shorts in the darkest recesses of the bus and pretend they don't exist. Our other backing band the guys from Individual Totem who have done four shows with us say goodbye. They have bought me a fisher price toy that has loud noise keys and a telephone handset linked to this ridiculous figure that dances whenever a sound is made. They live in Frankfurt.
Another two day tourist break leads us to the outskirts of Bonn alongside the beauty that is the river Rhine. We stare up from the campsite to see the ruined tower which inspired the legend of Siegfried. A short ferry ride leads us to the haven of Konigswinter. We joke that Europeans spend copious amounts of money to vacation here. We are simply catapulted from beautiful places to even more beautiful places, all in the comfort of the nightliner. In Konigswinter we drop into a bar straight out of a David Lynch movie with ungainly tourists and embassy staff from Bonn dancing to a group of polish musicians playing songs such as "Hey Macarena......" The singer has this uncanny ability to radiate warmth and communicate with every member of the audience through adept sign language. I am told that they play for 12 hours minimum, six days a week. We heard Macarena at least three times. That roughly works out to about 60 renditions a week. It is quite unthinkable. Heady with the strains of Polish-German friendship we stumble back to the pod and our drive to Bochum for the next show. Back to the Ruhr.
Bochum is intensely hot. It reminds me of my home town in England. A coal mine stands ominously close to the Lurie Club which sits deep into the warren of a forgettable shopping mall. Another family show with many of the Gelsenkirchen crew in attendance and my worst sound of the tour. I felt as though my every utterance could be heard in painful detail. The PA system toiled under the weight of our sub-bass and Anthony heroically grappled with it throughout the performance. I am presented with an incredible toy that has thirty samples of various household objects, tunes and rhythms which quickly become a staple source of sound for me. The journey to the stage was through the crowd. I have stopped bandaging my chest. It is beginning to feel better but sneezing and coughing (forced expiration) is still intensely painful. We are all excited about the prospect of England. Especially Nugent and I who are both English. I left only four years ago, Nugent when he was seven years old but he still uses his English passport.
Ryan and Frank feel depressed to be back in Holland. Frank is Dutch and Ryan has lived there for the past four years. cEvin is returning to play at the Attak club, where he last played with Puppy in 1988. It is a tiny stage which we have to reorganise and add to due to the presence of Haujobb who are playing with us for the first time. Apparently, one of their members, Dejan is Serbian and he could not get a working visa to travel with us to England. I spend the afternoon depressingly enough watching England humiliate themselves in a languid football game against the somewhat humble Swiss team. Peter watches me as i lunge at the screen shouting obscenities at useless lard ass English players. He laughs warmly. I am going to miss him. Phil Silverman from the dots comes to the show as do the Gelsenkirchen posse. We excitedly leave Enschede for Ostende in Belgium and a nine am ferry to Ramsgate, Kent, England....home.
The crew complain bitterly about the fact that they are not allowed to sleep in their pods on the car deck. I scour the deck looking for my first sight of Dovers famous white cliffs. I am feeling emotional. Strangely attracted but repelled by the England I was so desperate to leave. Ramsgate was the birth place of my Father during World War Two. We also visited there on the last holiday we had with him before he died nearly 25 years ago. As we approach Ramsgate i see the infamous silhouette of the nuclear power station at Dungeness, which is close to where Derek Jarman lived. Jarman is someone i admired deeply, someone whose death from Aids two years ago struck a deep chord in me. As though a close friend had died. I remember speaking with him on the telephone in 1991 and writing to him. Someone whose presence I had felt, whose work had stimulated me for the past ten years. A close friend and collaborator with Genesis.P.Orridge amongst many others. At our first truck stop in England i rush from the bus and hear my first English accent, buy a Sunday newspaper and some English chocolate biscuits (food of my youth). The drive to London was joyous. I helped navigate peter through South London to our coach park underneath Tower Bridge..our home for the next four days.
cEvin encourages us to eat at an Indian Restaurant next to the Embankment station. Instant regrets. I rush out to but a copy of Time Out, London's entertainment guide. We gulp when I read that Front Line Assembly are playing in town backed by Godflesh and head off to the Astoria on Charring Cross Road to meet up with old friends. Bill and Rhys have just started their second european tour in the past year. Everyone is pleased to see each other. Like a little bit of Vancouver glued onto the city map of London. Godflesh are stripped back down to the duo of Justin and Ben and play with refreshing rage. They toured with Puppy. Old friends of cEvins. We trade addresses.
I discover parts of London new to me. I visit a Jarman retrospective at the Barbican.Incredible good luck. The show is quite stunning. A mixture of personal effects and paintings going back to the early sixties. His last angry abstracts executed with vigour, thick impasto and vivid in colour were painted whilst he was in the process of losing his sight. I too feel angry. Angry at those who believe that they are magically immune to the virus. Angry at homophobes. Angry at the waste of lives. Seeing Jarman marked by the ravages of Aids and it's complications shortly before his death.
Frank and i take a pilgrimage to see the movie Trainspotting before it is released in what i understand to be a bastardised version in North America adorned with glorious subtitles. Later that evening, after a heartening talk with Elaine, Frank and I go to see Welsh speak at the South Bank Centre. He reads from his new book,"Ecstasy." His voice unfortunately lost in a sea of PA muddiness and an accent so strong that even I had difficulty following the text. Perhaps he is in town for the forthcoming England - Scotland football match to be held on the same day that we play in London at the Camden Underworld.
We blow off our first U.K show in Milton Keynes, thankfully, after taking advice from our U.K promoter. Justin said that Godflesh were booed off after ten minutes. I later hear that it is a stronghold for the fascists of the British National Party.
After another day pounding the streets of London we drive to a Birmingham which is clouded by a mist of orange clad Dutch football fans drinking their way towards an evening confrontation with the Swiss. It is surreal. The grey concrete of Birmingham shrouded in compatriots of Frank's. Of course Frank feels quite nauseous. The Foundry is situated in Pub Central, adjacent to a quite excellent modern art gallery. The crowd dances frenetically throughout the set. The crew, very much aware of the tours end in sight has it's sights set on the London show as we drive north to Bradford, Yorkshire, for the penultimate show.
I am visited by my parents who drive the 100 or so miles from their home to spend some time with me. They seem happy that Peter compliments me on being one of the tidiest people on the bus. Everybody younger than them are called "lads" and i am known as "the bairn." We play in a well equipped larger venue that is the obvious home of metal bands and archaic punk acts such as The U.K Subs. The promoter has sandwiched two local bands on the bill before us and this causes ruffled feathers before a second stage is constructed infront of drumosaurus. As the venue fills I begin to feel decidedly unsafe. The NIN shirts line the back walls. The backing bands are on the metal side of the Sisters of Mercy, or the Mission or something. Between songs they make sarcastic comments about Download. A completely drunken Skinhead head-butts the side of the bus. Peter wants to move the nightliner to a safe location. We are in an area mainly populated by Muslim people. As we prepare to hit the stage i hear the call to prayer punctuated by the screaming of cars as the joyriders show off their trophies to all and sundry. Welcome home Mark..I was born and raised in Yorkshire, my home county and I feel unsafe. I join Ryan for the Twilight Circus set with Phil. After the two opening bands I thought he could use some moral support. Just as we start to play the metalheads seem to piss off somewhere and the NIN shirts take the club over. Safety. They dance furiously. The English audiences really want to dance. I feel somewhat self-conscious knowing that the crowd can understand my lyrics, shielded as i was in the rest of Europe by the language barrier. Of course Anthony layers my voice with aeons of effects, as indeed i do. Nugent seems happy with the visuals. He improvises (with the assistance of his wife Violet who has flown over from New York) by holding a projector up and flashing the image directly at me. He flaps his hands over the lens like a deranged bird. I have a "to hell with it" attitude, half expecting one of the plastic glasses used in the venue (real glass is never used in England.......) to bounce off my head. It never happens. They love the show. We escape to London overnight. Intact.
After a morning spent looking around Camden Market we adjourn to the cavern that is the Camden Underworld.cEvin is asplendant in his newly acquired psychedelic clothes, Phil looks like a techno dandy in his plaid hat and green velvet shirt and I wear a new (and therefore clean) pair of long black shorts. The crew (read Russell and Frank) have mastered the art of assembling drumosaurus in less than two hours. cEvin arrives cradling a Theremin. Thorsten hauls in the boxes of merchandise for the last time. He has been home-sick, loved Bradford and loathes London. He says in his Teutonic way, "I hate old things.." Throughout the tour Ryan has been visiting record stores, labels and distributors on behalf of the Circus. In London he visited with Adrian Sherwood at On-U Sound. They have sold 250 advance tickets for tonights show and the Promoters feel confident that the place will be packed out, which it is. A French band Naked Apes is sandwiched onto the bill. In the spirit of entente cordiale, a large group of French people have come to see "The Load," (as Ryan affectionately dubs us). We seem to spend hours going from interview to interview. Elaines sister Ann visits me, she has just returned from Vancouver and bears a card for me from Elaine. Ryan and cEvin are playing together so well. Tonight it is a concentrated blast of a show. The crowd are pushed against the front of the stage. They lean on my table of toys. Someone reaches out and starts to play with my Yankee Doodle spinning top. I beam a look of disapproval and it is returned. Between songs people shout out," Mother Sonne," and "Beehatch," the latter in vain as it is not on our set list. I wrestle with poor monitor sound and microphone stands that fall apart in my hands. Frank is dispatched from his monitor desk to search for a functional stand. The crowd dances and follows our every move. We celebrate the end of the tour with a blistering, "Energy Plan," cEvin and Ryan driving the beat with rabid intent. It is always my pleasure and ability to spend time during the set looking at each of the players. cEvin is a portrait of fixed concentration and intent. Phil sways in mid-trance, bursting into leaps and bobs beatlike. Ryan smiles and laughs when we make eye contact, mouthing tour in-jokes such as, ....you are..."completely insane." Russell sits at the right of cEvins riser, alert. He comes to ask me if things are OK when we hit the stage and it always makes me feel comfortable. Frank beams at me from the monitor desk. Always ready to respond if problems arise. Anthony dances whilst mixing. He plays with my vocals. Sometimes the link between the sounds I make and what Anthony does to them is uncanny. In Vienna for example I was the last to leave the stage after the encore. I left my guitar infront of the monitor with a vibrator humming away over the pickup. A beautiful drone ensued. I walked off stage and Anthony manipulated the sound through his effects for at least two minutes, the stage deserted. Nugent is usually out of sight but I can turn around and watch his images being projected and occasionally stare into the light of his projectors. As for me, well I dislike the school of rock posturing. I have a box of toys which I dip into whenever I feel the urge, a contact microphone at the ready. I cling onto the microphone stand, my muscles locked. My eyes fixed shut save for the stares I project at members of the audience. I feel completely absorbed, lost in the music and feelings provoked. When things feel right, cEvin and i will launch into improvisations. Phil is always there to add some structure. At it's most savage, our show is almost free-form punk jazz. Lot's of noise. Loud, incessant, driving. The kind of show I like to watch, musicians enjoying their work. No rock school theatrics. No waste. We leave London at 5am, after a brief visit to a club (more like a tribal gathering) called Slimelight. Frank and I are scared. Slimelight is a time capsule. All I want to do is sleep. Ferry from Ramsgate to Dunquerqe, France. It is here that we say our goodbyes to Thorsten and Igor who drive the van and gear to Gelsenkirchen. Thorsten grips my hand strongly. He found a new spiritual home at Slimelight. Making up, no doubt in his own mind, for the rest of London. A long drive through Belgium. I and many others sleep. We wake to see the dijks of Amsterdam, say our goodbyes to Peter and check into our hotel on the banks of the singel canal. It is over. In the morning Peter drives Frank and Ryan back to Nijmegen before heading to Bamberg.
To all those I didn't mention, sincere thanks. My memory shrinketh. Sincere thanks to all at Offbeat, especially Stefan and Thorsten S.
To Elaine for keeping me safe from the mundane and the malevolent.
U.S.A by numbers follows in late july and august at a venue near you.
Return to: Mark's Tour Diary part I.
Return to: deadvoicesonair.com: being: diaries.
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