FEARLESS ODYSSEYS INTO THE ABYSS.
Can’t pretend that this tour has been easy, it has at times been the most challenging yet. I’ve taken David Bowies advice on touring, “Read like a Bastard” And i am ploughing through some great books including some Dylan Thomas short stories. Lots of Eastern esoterica including Osho and some Buddhist meditation techniques by Thich Nhat Hanh all keep my batteries topped up and also a new translation of some very old Sanskrit erotic poetry. Jaz is wading through various UFO cover ups and conspiracy books and Mishima is never far away. paul Ha opted for some sword and sorcery fantasy epic called “Fire and Ice” and was a little embarrassed about it but explained it enabled him some pure escape-ism without having think very much , i can understand that the tour bus grinds you down very quickly and any kind of escape is swiftly grasped with both hands.I can totally see why bands often fall into drink/drug/addictive dependancy on the road.
It’s like being in a traveling zoo, locked up in widow less boxes all day and night then paraded out to perform for a couple of hours.The cure for me is to stay healthy and be as creative as possible, even though your physically and mentally exhausted.
Don’t get me wrong i love the gig’s but touring is always a bitter sweet experience for me, on the one hand you get to meet some amazing people and the rolling wagon of the tour bus , a nomadic tribe of adventurers , a family circus, and the band and crew bonding is all great .Sailing into the unknown like some majestic metallic pirate ship.Fearless Odysseys into the abyss.
Although that soon gets claustrophobic and your bunk starts to feel like a coffin pretty quick .Then again i sleep really deep on the bus, nestled and rocked in the arms of our metal momma. bang on some ambient epic on the headphones and drift off into clouds. Occasionally I peek through my tiny porthole and glimpse the rolling hills whistle by under the cold tango orange, motorway light glare and pale moonlight. There was an incredible half waning moon hanging low and large on the horizon as we left wolverhampton, bright as a button through the low lying fog.Stunning cold beauty.
Then there is the “killing time ” before and after soundcheck/gig.I have been reading lots and vinyl hunting and going deep into my laptop writing new music.You only realise how exhausted you are when you stop for a day off, you feel like a wrung out dishcloth.
It’s like deep sea diving if you come up too fast you get the bends, so we try to take it all nice and easy, which of course is impossible with Killing Joke!
Seeing our city’s centre’s decent into decay is depressing, where a lot of shops are ether boarded up or are pawn brokers and charity shops.
What we need is some radical regeneration, Art enterprise zones in every city centre, where artists pay no tax and have almost free rent ,so as to create vibrant creative communities. And Festivals….lots of them all year round. These policies are what has helped Berlin become the cultural capital of Europe over the last 5 years.
As we don’t manufacture anything anymore, the artistic creatives, musicians , all the painters ,sculptures, conceptual artists of all discipline’s and all the arts and crafts, our what we should be promoting , facilitating and encouraging. It is our last hope; one of the last industries we have, and one that is seriously under appreciated and supported.
Missing my family makes me physically wretch but i have had my days off at home and that has made this tour a lot easier, Europe will be tricky.Spending time with my extended family of Killing Joke is a joy, its aways a combination of agony and celebration.
That ‘s always a good dynamic for inspirational writing and i have been busying myself with some great new tunes and other book writing including this blog.
The smoking issue weigh’s heavy, with an officious mentality sweeping through this fair Island which has left both myself and Geordie shivering in the rain catching a toke after a hot sweaty gig more than a few times. or trawling around town during the day like homeless vagrant hobo’s ……No wonder we all came down with flu last week
This all makes Big Paul very happy as he lives in NYC and is a voracious non smoker ,muttering under has breath about “Sharing needles” when we do light up in his vicinity. Also Jaz ,sober for over five years and has now also given up the evil weed, this time for his for his voice, which is sounding much stronger for it and that only leaves myself and Geords .Were both practically chain smokers.
Why he loves Prague so much is you can smoke anywhere and smoking is still regarded as a pleasure there. It’s making us miserable and grumpy ,bit like David Hockney when he bangs on about it. Unfortunately puts you off touring altogether (takes the pleasure out of it) Controversial issue i know and it doesn’t look like the relentless will to make it really hard to enjoy will stop. There doesn’t seem to be any relief from the politically correct, health and safety brigade…. in fact its getting worse every year.
The gigs have been intense and getting great reviews, some saying, best we’ve ever sounded. So something in the chemistry is still working.Still good to see the the old KJ snappy edge is still in full effect with some very public locking of horns on stage and off.
One of the best bits is the after show chatter, once we have got past the post gig post mortem about who made what mistake and where etc.Tthis where we talk of old memories and adventures and sometimes joined by old friends recounting and reminding us of others long forgotten.
A favourite subject is our old rehearsal studio, an old cottage and barn Wales which was run by this family of gentle hippy’s .
Squirrel and Nutkin ran the show and made us feel right at home with lentil pie and gallons of steaming tea.
Jaz would brew up extremely strong magic mushroom tea with hundreds of mushie’s, but wouldn’t drink any himself as he had had a bad acid spiking experience as a teenager with extremely strong liquid STP ,(you don’t see that around anymore ! )He kept having horrific flashbacks but didn’t mind spiking me and Geordie ! We would get completely wazzocked and go for longs walks. One day we got lost in these woods ,wandering in this marsh like water bound forrest with vivid flouro green floating algey everywhere, finally we found a road and i flagged down a land rover for a lift but Geordie was so spooked he ran off and hid behind a tree! Another time we went riding on the “Pondersoa” cowboy ranch, where the horses didn’t take to Geordie’s elevated state of consciousness and kept biting him, until he finally jumped off and ran back down the lane to the cottage screaming.These were the sessions yielded our second album “Whats this for?” Jaz reminded me of one of the gigs on that 2nd album tour.I had come off stage and proudly proclaimed , grinning, to Jaz that i had played the entire set in a a different key, that was when i was playing my “stray moose” fretless bass that drove Jaz crazy on tour as he pitch’s his vocal tuning to my bass and i was rarely in tune. I was still very much in ultra sensitive Syd Barrit , post acid meltdown mode.There is a great bootleg where you can hear my fragile whimpering between songs “Nobody loves me” and then an irritated Big Paul mutters “Shut up Youth” very funny
Paul is the most focused in the group .He is up early out for a run, has super healthy diet and is found tapping away on his practise kit most of the time backstage.His artillery pounding of the kit each night is something to behold and this far into the tour he’s become a super tight tribal beat machine, head down and kicking the teeth out of band and audience every night.A treasure and a pleasure to behold.
Geordie is also on fine form and spitting lightning from his banjo every night .He has an ability to subtly change well worn familiar riffs and reinvent the songs without them sounding too different, every night a re-invention . An Jaz has got to be one of the greatest frontman ever. On stage he is so intense, so completely honest and what he has to say has such meaning at least for him, total commitment.
I have to mention our amazing crew Tom , Terry, Diamond Dave and Dean.They have been amazing and provided unrelenting support throughout.
We also have had some great bands supporting us this time out, The Crying Spell from Seattle, great rich melodies ringing out from singer Len. Kind of The Cure meets Roy Orbison meets NIN.
Produced right ,These guys could be huge.
Also The Icararus line , dark Birthday party, dirty Beefheart blues meets the stooges ,they look really fucking cool especially the guitarist who has the same understated charm and flair of Hendrix but locked down with a Black Keys discipline .
Also in London the mighty Echotape opened the show with their dark post rock psychedliia and swirling euphoric electectronics .and last but not least The Hot Mochachinos. Three kids doing their first gig
blinding post rock /punk , hopelessly under rehearsed and underprepared but great none the less.
There have also been some interesting cats turning up backstage and in the local bars. In Glasgow there was this Blacksmith called Rob and his beautiful wife Meg. Rob had a forge on the Isle of Sky and made magical swords. Very knowledgable on esoteric properties of the Blacksmith and put me right when i wrongly compared it to a form of alchemy. In an animated display and with intense passion he described the process as forging Iron out of sheer rock and the art of creating a sword, with the sheer will of the smith’s hammer through all the elements, fire, earth ,water , air and the individual will of intention, amazing and inspirational. In manchester i met an Irishman called Patrick who we used to knock around with in my pre Killing joke days over 30 years ago! He reminded me of so many adventures i had clean forgotten and brought back a flood of memories ,we had an amazing laugh talking about Studio 21, which was a legendary happening post punk disco/club in the centre of London and where i found myself Jamming with the Sex Pistols and Billy Idol on Christmas day 1978.What i remember most about that was Steve Jones going “Ok, lets do Roadrunner” which we all went into and then Billy started to sing a completely different song “C’mon everybody” still…. it sounded great.
These are the great rewards of going on tour , priceless moments re-visited and new ones made.
In Glasgow we met bass legend Derek Forbes from Simple minds and we got hammered on an amazing 30 year old Sake, a gift from a friend from Japan .Glasgow is such a great gig with easily one of the best crowds anywhere in the world . We met “Kenny” a very funny man with a sharp dry humour and amazing memories.He reminded me of the gig venue’s names from early 80′s of some really obscure gigs.
We also managed to blow up the house system and take half the street with us,yea! lucky it was near the end of the set, our sound man and tour Captain Johnny Hasket gets a bonus when that happens!. Geordie gets very passionate when discussing fishing, he has booked a day’s Salmon fishing near Portsmouth, its £80 for the day , which i thought sounded a lot but then he explained there were river’s near newcastle where you can pay up to £250,000 for a years fishing! Geordie talks about tickling trouts and the alpha waves coming down stream, the low frequencies opening you up ….The Zen of it all!
i Have just read that David Whitaker the legendary arranger and composer has just died, i was lucky to have worked with him a few times
notably on legendary cult band ‘Shack” . He also did the original string arrangement for Andrew Loog Oldham on the track that The Verve sampled for “Bitter sweet symphony” as well as working with Nico and Marianne Faithfull and had also done a lot of the classic French artists, doing string arrangements for Serge Gainsborge and Francois Hardy , which is what got me into wanting to work with him, i found it so amazing that his arrangements, which sounded so “French” were actually made by an English gent living in Oxford! He was a lovely man and his wonderful wife Sue would always bake him a cake and bring it down to the studio session, to keep his sugar levels up.If she was late he would sometimes explode in a diabetic rage of filthy swearing in front of the whole orchestra , all the more shocking as he was such a soft spoken, genial gentleman.Characters like David are what makes what i do as a producer such a joy, individual unique characters with a strong sense of independence and integrity and a very dry sense of humour.
Just got a proof of my new volume of Poetry “Middle Class Riot” , its large landscape format and substantial over 25 poems and large illustrations, it looks beautiful and Christian and Alice from bracketpress have done a fantastic job , with two colour art prints and and embossed over jacket , it’s the most substantial volume yet ! She will be available with or without the vinyl album package of my acoustic folk album “Middle Class Riot” in May or June form Pledge.com.This coincided with the sad news of the death of Moebius , the genius french graphic artist, who along with Beardsley, is one of my biggest influences.
If you haven’t seen this artist’s work google him for an amazing illumination into his incredible imagination.
Did a storming show in Wolverhampton , Paul Ravens home town and Jaz was delighted to see his name next Elgars in the roll of honour list upstairs. after a long encore the crowd refused to go home and were baying for more, so Jaz , already in a bath robe just hopped on stage and asked the crowd “What do you want?’ ,” WARDANCE !” the crowed roared back! ! We did Wardance and the place exploded….everyones lust for more was slaked and we all left well satisfied into the night .
The next night was Portsmouth where summer comes early and the girls are pretty.One of our best show’s yet ,The crowd moshing through all the new ones, more old friends and much belly clutching laughter all round.
Oxford today and its the last gig of the UK tour , Jaz has hired a hall for a special announcement, which only he knew about, he said as we have all lost our Dad’s , we are going to do a ceremony for our father’s.nice touch I thought it was going to be the library in some auspicious Oxford collage but its a room under the pub next door , still auspicious .Well with due ceremony and drama we all gathered at the appointed time and place including Jaz’s mother and various gatherers.
Jaz said he had three things to declare .First was about his Rosicrucian philosophies and beliefs. Oxford is the home of his and Paul’s order of the Rose Croix, that they both joined as teenagers and the rituals they did then were what they believe brought the band into existence and us all together. He talked about “The Great Work” and some secret knowledge only he and Paul shared, ( i did asked Paul backstage afterwards what that was and he wouldn’t tell but chuckled loudly!) Then he gave thanks and praise to each of the band and his mother and our fathers .
The vibe was getting a bit weird , bit like being at your own funeral, i was a getting a bit concerned Jaz was going to commit a very public ritual Hari kari , I did notice he had been reading Mishima a lot recently. Fortunately this was not the case and Jaz announced his withdrawal from drugs , alcohol, money and smoking , a renunciate and he nominated Paul as sole trustee of his assets , “Thanks a lot ” muttered Paul as i let loose a knowing chuckle! ( later on Jaz gave a few thousand pounds worth of Cuban cigars away to Matt Tibbet , a renowned smoker gatherer in a nobel declaration of his resolve)
Then lastly Jaz announced his forth coming marriage to Yutta, Paul Raven’s Ex wife! Well after a few moments of stunned silence and then a really big cheer, bride and groom embraced and the congratulations commenced. Meanwhile I ordered a large whisky for his mum and everyone celebrated their happiness and one of the best gig’s followed where Jaz again shared his happy news on stage with the crowd . Cannot think of a better way to end this tour!