Killing Joke European Tour blog 2012 Part 2 Lord of the flies …..only on a bus
LORD OF THE FLIES …….only on a bus.
“When a band is on tour, the descent in to childish savagery and bizarre rituals is a bit like Lord Of The Flies, only on a bus.” Christian Brett
This wonderfully insightful quote was sent to me about a week ago and had me roaring with laughter, broke my melancholy and dissolved the claustrophobic atmosphere on our tour bus, humour ( As any road hardened vet will attest ) is the cure to almost all ailments whilst on the road. Also camouflages the pain and loneliness of the long distance road runner. Best served dry, like a summons.
Reminds me of another great quote, this time from David Gilmore on why he hired, Guy Pratt, one of my oldest and funniest friends, to replace Roger Waters in Pink Floyd… ” Good bass players are ten a penny, but a good sense of humour is hard to find ”
Very quickly we descend into the realms of the super ego melodrama, demented child-kings, bombastic truculence combined with vinegar bitter arrogance, where the trivial becomes the great significator of the profound.
It is our good fortune that we find we have some very quick and sharp witted minds on board, not withstanding the dark and bible black gallows humour of the band itself. We have a good spectrum of humour from the absurd and insane antics of the crew to some very dry ironic and insightful moments from Captain Johnny.
One of the best journeys was driving through the Alps to Italy from France through the night. Everyone had gone to sleep , i put some ambient epic on loud in the back lounge, turned the lights low and fired a small one up , stuck my head out of the roof porthole and dissolved into the valleys and mountain peaks, not a even a shave of the moon, the stars were very bright , tiny explosions between the cathedral clouds. Vast whale banks of mist glided bellow us, close enough to touch as we climbed up the into the mountains .Everything went Herman Hesse “Journey to the East” meets “The sound of music” and once more it really felt like a star fated quest and an nobel adventure that we were embarked on.
The waterfalled valley wind sung through the groaning bus …… the sound of madrigals on wing.
The next morning fish-tailed, fur-hoofed and with air-con dry, sandpaper lips we giddy off the bus, blinking into the bright Italian alpine morning sunshine.
Vast amounts of spring blossom was gently sailing through the sky, spiralling round like wild confetti horses……mmmmm another day.
Italy was good but all the venues were out of town, so no art or culture vulture action in Rome or Florence or many international gatherers but…… good gigs, great food, great conversation and greater people .In Milan, the most amazing looking crowd, young slick designer punk, model looking women with an industrial Si/Fi goth icy look, some immaculately groomed beautiful people.
Zurich and Vienna were good also and sunshine came out for us.
We had a long band meeting and made some band decisions, most of which would be denied, changed or ignored within a few days.
There are not many windows on our bus and you can go for days without seeing any sunlight and your feet hardly touch the floor. Reality becomes suspended between the twilight zone of performance and soundcheck.People start spinning out
In Munich i left an electric razor in the hotel bathroom, within an hour they had delivered it by hand to me personally at the gig venue…..wow, i cannot think of another country where that would happen.
I was dreading Dortmond where we were playing a metal festival that Saxon were headlining “we’ve hit a new all time low” i lament and i seriously started to question why we, why i was there? A long way from home from my art/punk vision of what it is i’m doing as an artist. Saxon opened their set with a cover of “Love like blood” sadly Jaz was on the way back to the hotel before he could hear Biff’s homage!
However the day was interesting and entertaining and Philip Boa was on and that was great.
My pre-show DJ set made my day, i had made this one up for Germany and it features only classic German 70s krautrock music, bit like taking coals to Newcastle as there was a sea of blank expressions from the packed audience as the ambient drones of Harmonia wafted across the field, except for one guy in a Neu! t-shirt, who was jumping around in ecstasy throughout. By the time i got to Moroder’s classic “I feel love ” they were throughly confused but were so up for their big day even the Iron Maiden denim mullet crew had started dancing.
Musically we are tightening up into a looser groove, the psychedelic is getting more pronounced with Geordies subtle manipulations of tried and tested riffs morphing into many psychedelic colours and now i am adding more funkadelic to the bass……..the music is starting to weave its magic .
Diamond Dave had stroke of genius and has added a small guitar amp to my rig so i can get that early sledgehammer krunch and …..bass distortion feedback ! Also there are more women in the crowd… after the London show a friend had remarked that her girlfriend has said the gig felt “better than sex”….. Not only that on another night a very attractive girl told me before the show that the bass on some songs brings her to orgasm ….Yea! Now were hitting the sweet spot !
Which reminds me….
Still a lot of wildebeest low wailing feed back on stage from Geordies semi acoustic Gibson, although some of it, the intentional bits, sound stella but theres a lot going on that is just not supposed to be there….he blames hollow stages…. !
I shudder to think what it would sound like with an SG or Les Paul…. it would rip your throat out !
Me and Geordie have been blasting the tunes in the back of the bus loud in to the night, the bus has a great pounding sound system which drowns out the sound of the air-con fans and the traffic, lots of Trance and from X Dream to Deadmaus, classics like Funkadelic, ZZ Top, John Bonham , Scratch and even Bad Company.
Tom, our drum tech and myself would play DJ ping pong, we would have Doom rock/Black metal vs Stoner rock battles , Gogoroth to Floor, the drone rock of Om and Earth, Sleep to Kyuss.
Both Big Paul and Jaz are now really digging Om ….and some bubbling Berlin minimal techno and of course the Krautrock or its correct title “Komiche ” is working well racing up the Autobahn, great to see Geordie slapping his knees and hollering in deep pleasure, like a cross between Hank Williams and Chuck Berry.
A lazy Beltain moon hanging low, deep dark amber gold crowning the oil refineries glow on the horizon whilst autobahn neon lights strobe past. Mein Gott its a vibe!
Being on tour also affords the opportunity for long conversations and many shared story telling. Subjects range from music, poetry, Beethoven, Napoleon, painting, art and politics, serial killers, death, religion, free love, surrealism, art and outsider art , art nouveux,Tantric philosophies , Kali, Buddhist philosophy, impermanence, fine wine, european beer , french cheese and the first and last of all the mystery’s …..girls.
This has been a great pleasure, in between drinking pints of tea, reading dozens of books, the storytelling is a greatest reward.
On touring, Jaz likes the build up and focus of the gigs and the no responsibility of it all, the way everything is done for you and you wake up in a different city every day.
Big Paul is struggling, pacing around the dressing room like a caged tiger, not used to be around so many people for so long.
Geordie has reduced his needs to a military functionality whilst on tour, even his braces have been adapted with special clips that don’t come off, although they do play havoc with airport security scanners!
Despite Jaz and Geordie complaining a lot, my favourite of Geordie’s is ” How can we fly like eagles when we are surrounded by turkeys? ” or ” Basically i am a working class snob” by way of explanation for his grumbling about the band and a multitude of other things, unfortunately being a snob isn’t exclusive to posh aristocrats and is rarely a good thing, wherever your from …..it’s where your at thats important.
You can see they love this life on the road, they have done it for so long, its all they know….. This is “Home” for them and they adjust easily to the pace, for me and Paul its a lot harder.
The factious Mick and Keef dynamic between Jaz and Geordie is common in a lot of great bands, usually between the guitarist and vocalist. Not to be avoided, as it is an essential part of the “chemistry” but it can lead to some serious mistakes (and terrible albums) as the super egos strive for power domination, they can leave a scorched earth policy of artistic suicide and commercial sabotage and without some serious conflict resolution within the circle of the band…. a split up band. This is of course a primary role of the “producer” and i know it well, again i find myself in this archetype within the band, even though my official role is just the bass player…. often it is a no win situation….caught between a rock and a hard place.
The one philosophy/politik we do all agree on is that of nuclear energy and weapons being mankind’s most insane behaviour. The sleeve of the new album, with the skull and industrial meltdown, i think captures what the hidden meaning of all our work is, the imminent extinction of the human race unless we radically change the way we live on this planet. For me that means the inevitable return of paganism and the unilateral dismantling of all nuclear power stations and weapons.Yet It seems we are only united by our eagerness to be deceived by appearances. The Uk has plans for another ten and in the USA hundreds, its very eyry and hard to believe there have been over 3000 nuclear explosions including tests over the last 40 years. And yet i constantly hear intellectuals , politicians on TV accepting this as a viable cheap energy.Watch this very scary animation for the point to be made fully
“The wise Gods seal our eyes;
In our own filth drop our clear judgements;
make us adore our errors;
laugh at us while we strut
to our confusion”
We are supposed to be going to Japan for a concert and Jaz will conduct an interview at the Fukushima reactor site.The fact that those rods are still in meltdown and the only thing the authorities can do is pour water on them, thus contaminating the sky through radioactive steam and the sea from the wash off …until they develop new technology to stop the meltdown ! How crazy is that?
Surely our leaders and the executives of these nuclear energy companies should be arrested and put on trial for crimes against humanity of the most horrific nature? Surely that would be what a sane society would do…..?
Hamburg is always a great gig, in the day i want to the port docks and saw The Queen Mary 2 glide into the vast automated harbour, that is still littered with unexploded bombs from the war. Her deep and epic foghorn blasting out like some pagan Viking horn. Awesome ship, the biggest liner in the world. I like Hamburg….Full of sailors, dancing girls, freaks and lots of music…..it’s not hard to imagine what it was like when the Beatles played here for up to 6 hours a night in the 1950’s, it’s wild now but must have been really amazing then.
Missing my kids like mad, good talking to them every day, they had me in tears yesterday. I am questioning again why am i touring this long ?
Berlin aaahhh such a great city, warm memories from the late 70’s when we first came here, like a European New York but even more decadent…. listening to “The Idiot” by Iggy which sums up the time for me, decadent and feral and very sexy, 24 hour bars , 7 am and the place is rockin’ with freaks and transvestites…. Wayne County and Iggy Pop smacked out in the back room, Bowie glides past like a ghost. The people are fantastic here very laid back and uber cool.
I meet up with friends at this great Rasta beach bar round the corner by the river , real sand and 30 degree sun ….perfect…and great to see our former KJ keyboard wizz Nick Walker, who laughs as he recounts the day when he first accepted the Killing joke gig, he had just put his neck out and went to see an osteopath, the first number in yellow pages he found.When he got there he had his treatment and then was talking to the therapist and mentioned he was about to embark on a tour with KJ when she dropped her tray in horror, she was the wife of the previous keyboard player who had just left the band after being set on fire on stage by Jaz , again…..it wasn’t the first time !
Thats one huge coincidence, what are the chances of that happening!
I asked him what he thought the value of Killing Joke was …he swiftly replied “Nourishment” I considered this and said “What… like emotional manure?” he thought about it “Yes in a way” and in a positive sense that is what this band is about, bringing out those repressed emotions, transforming the pain and intensity of life along with the futility of existence into something with meaning and purpose, its brave and has a fearless warrior energy….. it is about creating your own mythology, it is something dark with a deep pale root that allows and encourages new growth, new beginnings ….. like a seed that needs to go through fire to germinate.
The Berlin show surpassed all the others apart from Paris and we left the city on a good high for the long drive to Belgium……not long to go now .
Gent is a beautiful medieval city with the best food this side of Lyon.I catch a harp player playing a celtic harp in the cathedral, stunning atmosphere really enchanted i also saw the Van Eyck bros epic painting ” The Mystic Lamb” which i have copied many times from books and prints but never seen in the flesh, wow it is special i lose myself into it .
As i leave i reflect on how this tour has become a kind of pilgrimage for me and share this with Paul later, he felt the same and said how he had lit a candle in the same cathedral that day for his father who died only a few months ago.
The show was emotional as we say our goodbyes to our support bands The Icarus line and the Crying Spell. Both bands have been great companions on our big adventure and received very warm responses from our audience every night especially in Germany and we wish them a lot of success for the future.
We also lose some of crew, Terry and Pedda, our work experience runners, the Laurel and Hardy of the team who have had to endure the most flack from the band members, My advice to them on working with KJ at the beginning was “Leave your dignity at the door ” and “Afterwards everything else will be easy”. They have had one huge adventure and are wide eyed and bushy tailed as they prepare to return back home to Bristol the next day, no longer mere inexperienced kids …..now they have well earned their sovereign crown and return home…. almost men.
Also leaving is Dean our Merchandise guy who has been the most fun to hang with, always positive never, loses his rag, a charmer , popular with all the girls and always very helpful and very very funny.
Sad to lose these guys but we now fly into the last 2 shows, one in Finland the other Poland and they have to return with the tour bus to the UK…… Still more ego’s clash and melodramas unfold on our bus of lost souls. Geordie wants to blow out Japan and is demanding we record in New Zealand pronto or he doesn’t see the point in continuing the band, i see Paul wince and head for his bunk followed by Jaz and finally an emotionally exhausted me.
In Helsinki tempers flare as equipment breaks down, Paul throws his sticks down in disgust…. Jaz doesn’t want to do “Love like blood” as his voice is croaky, i remind him in Poland that that wouldn’t have stopped him in the early Post-punk days, he grunts approval and we do a five song, including hits encore , a fitting way to end a great tour ……leaving the legacy intact.
When i talk to some of the fans after the shows, its clear that for some of them we are the best band in the world and that was one of their best shows but this is the biggest problem…….Jaz is such a great frontman he doesn’t have to do much to get a rapt response, yet on occasion when he does engage with the audience, when he really gets in their face, talks to them directly…then….. it gets really good, Paul is pretty consistent and as we have progressed he is drinking more, shots before the show and also playing more relaxed which makes the groove that much more sexy..You still get a pummelling with him Thor-ing down every night. And ” Big leggie” Geordie ….ice cool , even a bottle of tequila down he still provides sparks of lightning through the hum and drone of excessive delay and feedback , swaggering effortlessly with his gunslinger hips, his panache owning the stage, firing riffs with nonchalance and a menacing grin…..like Clint Eastwood meets Alexander the Great.
Then theres me kicking the earth with my hoof’s, summoning an invisible avalanche of sub bass warping through our bodies, making mistakes and revealing in them, out of my comfort zone… grinning but trying hard not too.
It is a great pleasure and honour to play with these legends …..still vast potential lies ahead….perhaps?
I had bought a Lilly plant for the bus in Barcelona , it sweetened the male aroma of our cock-heavy bus and i have diligently and lovingly watered her for 2 weeks but now looks tired and worn out all the flowers have withered and the branches hang limp in the stale atmosphere of the bus…..This tour has gone long enough, its time to go home
Despite the beauty and variety of Europe, coming home to England in the beginning of May is a wonderful moving experience, nothing and nowhere can match the abundant verdant beauty of England at this time of the year even when its raining, the magic here has a deep and dark root….Green upon green and all shades in between, its simply stunning. Even london is a joy, full of energy and opportunity and teaming with some of the most pretty yet insolent and edgy women in the world….Yes i feel very privileged to be home, feel like i have been in an enforced exile. I love being in Killing Joke and i love my brothers in the band, i won’t be giving up on her yet, we have travelled way to far and for too long to even consider it, even though it feels like i am stuck in some kind of Fitzcaraldo nightmare…… hauling a grand piano up the Amazon to build an opera house in the middle of nowhere where no one is listening….
Sometimes…..I do know the value and respect its magic, it is still worth something and what i learn and get for from it , even though hard to describe is worth all the struggle and turbulence that comes with it .
At some of the gigs Killing Joke it still feels like i am in the best band in the world, maybe the last of its kind, and with the best audience, the atmosphere is unlike any other band i have experienced, a great tribal celebration, polar contradictions unite …..inclusive, exclusive….. inviting and menacing. Authentic and theatrical. Primitive, poetic and relevant. Dangerous yet strangely attractive.
A ferocious and cosmic noise …..everything i could ever want out of a band.