I’m very happy to announce that I have joined Alcatrazz, the band formed in 1983 by Jimmy Waldo, Gary Shea (who named the band) and Graham Bonnet. Over the years Alcatrazz has included people like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Jan Uvena and Mark Benquechea, the latter who has drummed since 2017. Now, since Bonnet stepped away, vocals are handled by Doogie White who previously graced the ranks of Rainbow, Tank and Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock to name but a few. On guitar is Joe Stump; world renowned six-string demon who, when not on the road or playing live with his solo projects, spends his time being a Professor and teaching at Berklee College of Music.
Alcatrazz has just released its latest album ‘V’ and we will be hitting several tracks off it. It is an absolute pleasure to be playing the parts written by Mark on the drums as he is a superb drummer. Icing on that cake has been learning a track off the album played by Nige from Saxon, which was one of the three with which I auditioned.
We will be hitting the road with a vengeance as soon as this Covid fog starts to lift, but for now, these dates will get the ball rolling:
Back To The Roots Tour 2016. So, who are we supporting? Tarquin the Hairdresser on his UK Tour? Alan Titchmarsh on his Gardening Tour?
No. It’s Udo F**king Dirkschneider on his ‘Goodbye to Accept Tour’ with Canadian metal heroes Anvil.
This is a genuine blast for all of us: we played with Anvil in London once before and found them to be very affable blokes; and Udo has been a musical hero since I first heard Accept all those years ago in New Zealand. This is the last time that he’s going to be playing Accept songs so what a gig for us to snag.
This is actually the end of our ‘Blacklist Tour’ which has taken us to eleven countries; sometimes in the most peculiar circumstances! Next time we head out it’ll be with new tracks and a new album on the way \m/
I bumbled up on the train to Burnley the day before the first show to sort out new skins and all that on my kit. The bastards that run London’s public transport services conspired in an attempt to make me miss my train by cancelling every moving vehicle in my vicinity – but I prevailed. You can’t stop I.C.O.N that easily Boris!
The first show was Manchester Club Academy. Nice little venue. I was supposed to play the Academy II years ago supporting Saxon (first gig of that tour in 2007) but they had been held up and ultimately we couldn’t play. As coincidence would have it, John Asten (Udo’s bus driver) had been driving Saxon on that tour too. First time I met him he told me to fuck off back to New Zealand. Ha ha ha! Excellent bloke and it was really good to catch up again after all that time. It’s weird because there are a few Saxon connections on this tour: Udo’s drummer Sven filled in for an incapacitated Nige a while back and also the first time I played alongside Anvil was at a gig at Birmingham NEC headlined by Saxon. Small world…
Anyway…the stage was pretty small in Manchester so I used Robb Reiner’s kit rather than complicate the issue. We are in the strange position of playing as soon as doors open on these dates (thank you UK for your stupid curfews) but by the time we had finished a good crowd was there who seemed to enjoy it. We’re only doing 30 minutes so it’s over in the blink of an eye. No real problems although Robb has his pedals very loose and soft while I like mine firm and hard (ooh-er missus!!) which made it a bit hard to get used to. Great to see some mates in Manchester as well 🙂
The second night was Newcastle and again I was on Robb’s kit (this time with my own pedals) which was very cool. The Riverside is a really nice venue and again the gig whistled by in no time. Mister Def Annton One came down to say hello which was nice too.
Because we were in the wilds of Geordieland for this show it was a night at a trusty Travelodge before the MAIN event the next morning: Morrison’s breakfast. Awesome as ever 🙂
Sheffield was next and a show at The Corporation. This time I was on my own kit tucked in the corner of the stage. With about 30 minutes to set up and soundcheck, it was the perfect moment for Scott’s amp to commit suicide. Marvellous. The local crew guys went above and beyond trying to fix it but to no avail (in fact all crew guys at all venues have been superb!) Lips offered the use of his gear and then Olli, Udo guitar tech, plugged Scott into one of their rigs and the day was saved with minutes to spare. The mighty Welsh Minister for Metal – Tosh from Siren FM – was present too and it’s always great to see that young chap. Again the gig whistled by, then load outside, pack up and relax.
Fortunately I have now developed the dreaded ‘tour cold’. That’s awesome! I’m really pleased about that. After all it’d be too easy otherwise. We toured Europe twice over winter and the U.K. once and not even a throat tickle. Now it’s spring here in England and I’ve got a fucking lurgy. Oh well…paracetamol and medicinal rum should sort that out.
Onwards to Buckley! Over the border into the Land of Dragons…
So where were we? Apologies for the delay in finishing this tour diary; but I’ve got an excuse and it’s a cracker 🙂
Anyway….from Sheffield we were next bound for The Tivoli in Buckley. Reece piloted the trusty ICONSteed to the destination in pretty good time and we were ready to load in. Once again, I was using Robb’s kit as he has a pretty wide set up and the stages were just too small for three kits. In fact I only used my own once on the whole tour. Nice place The Tivoli, though we had no dressing room or anywhere so were actually relegated to outside (!) or in the draughty doorway; and it was bloody freezing! By now my ‘cold’ was really taking hold so it wasn’t ideal, but never mind. Scott and I also discovered the joy of a leaking shit pipe that ran from Udo’s upstairs dressing room into our…um…loading ramp. So that was an absolute bonus for us 🙂
It had some funny moments in Buckley. A really nice bloke called Dave who did lights there (but wasn’t allowed to give us any lights for some reason) managed to stand all over Scott’s pedals just as we were about to begin. Just an accident, but it ratcheted up the tension a bit. Then, literally as we were ready to start playing, a very strange and zealous security guy jumped up on stage and asked to see our passes! Ha ha ha! “Okaaayy…now can we go?”
“Um…where’s the soundman…it’s gone 7pm?” “He’s gone to get some chips.” Ha ha ha! You couldn’t make it up really. Fortunately he came back within minutes and we were still off stage within our allocated half hour. And it was a pretty good gig 🙂 Another funny question of the night: “What time does Dirk Schneider start playing?” “Well, Dirk and his boys will be on about 9pm” “Okay, thanks.” Clearly a long term Accept fan 🙂
At the end of the night I felt like absolute shit though. Couldn’t stop shivering and we headed back to Burnley for the night where a hot bath at least stopped the chills. But the cough was getting worse and my temperature was rising (chills…temperature rising…losing control…I’m sure there’s a song from Grease in there somewhere).
The next day we were off to the wilds of Norwich and The Waterfront venue. What a fantastic place! Really cool people and we were sharing a dressing room with Anvil as well, who are always a pleasure to be around. It was an excellent gig with a great crowd, though I struggled a bit because of how I felt. So apologies for not making too much eye contact with you guys up front, I was concentrating on trying to hit the right drum.
That night we headed back to London to crash at my place for the day off that followed. And that’s exactly what I did – went to bed to try and shake this thing off. Unfortunately it just seemed to be getting worse. Angie and Mark had started coughing now too so I guess I was spreading the joy.
By the day of the last gig I was very worried. Being sick, light headed and all that sort of thing does not generally make for a good night on the drums. It was an important show so couldn’t afford to fuck this one up. We made the venue in no time and as always the staff there were absolutely brilliant and loaded all our gear in. We had a nice little dressing room downstairs, but every time I went up and down the stairs I’d collapse in a coughing heap of phlegm. Awesome. This was going to be great. Showtime was half an hour after doors and there was a great crowd there when we started; including Phill and Terry from Diving Unlimited 🙂 To be honest I don’t remember too much about the show as I was really trying to just focus on hitting things at roughly the right time at least. But it seemed to go well and then we were off. I’d had a small salad and some chocolate milk before the gig and was determined not to vomit on Robb’s drums as that could really put a damper on things. I was successful too…made it all the way back to the dressing room before…well…it wasn’t pretty, let’s just say that 🙂
And that was it. Tour over. The band had played really really well. Mark then had a large part of the bottles of Jagermeister and Vodka and proceeded to get very pissed – which was well earned – while everybody else wandered about meeting people. Again, sorry I didn’t spend much time upstairs, I was drifting in and out of sleep downstairs in the dressing room.
The tour had been great. Anvil are really cool people – including their excellent TM Dale (guitarist from Jaded Eyes) and merch lady and US/TM Delilah. Really nice people all round. Plus we were made honorary members of the Metal Pounders Union 🙂 The Udo guys were absolutely fine too. Spent a while talking to Fitty who was a very nice bloke. Olli and Arno were top blokes in the crew and the other guys quite friendly. The dark haired guitarist bloke seemed to use up his quota of smiles on stage, but he did own a fetching pair of leather pants and did an admirable ‘Rebel Without Wi-Fi’ pose leaning on any available wall. Still, nice enough guy and we got the occasional ‘S’up?’ from him (which took me a while to figure out wasn’t German). So, thanks Udo and Anvil – we loved the whole thing 🙂
There is of course a brief epilogue… The next night I went slightly confused and delirious. An ambulance carted me off to North Middlesex Hospital where I took seven bags of saline IV, two bags of penicillin and one bottle of paracetamol before coming around a bit. My blood pressure disappeared and I was wheeled into the Emergency Resuscitation room which was disconcerting. Some poor bloke called Chris was next to me as doctors tried to keep him breathing. The Police everywhere had brought him in after an assault and it sounded like he had a crushed windpipe. I hope he is okay. Don’t remember all of that night…but do remember poor old Chris. Turns out I had pneumonia. So a few days in hospital (where EVERYBODY was absolutely magnificent), four tubes in my arms with all sorts of stuff going in, shitloads of blood tests and drugs and then I’m out again. Thanks for all the well wishes – it really meant a lot.
What’s next? A new album \m/ The Blacklist Tour is officially over.
As we bumbled around six gigs in Europe I made a vague attempt at keeping a diary using my phone (hence the strange formatting). It was an excellent tour and we had a proper blast….so here are the various stages in one almost coherent ramble…
Bastards In Europe Tour; March 2016
Viva Europa!Back over the ditch – or under it this time. We took the Channel Tunnel for a half hour trip under the ditch that has historically pissed off Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Uncle Adolf. Nice and easy – didn’t even have to present passports (!); the British immigration guys waved us through, the French one asked if we were British and then just let us go without even stopping the van. Ha! The ‘European Ring Of Steel’ may have rusted a bit 🙂
From Calais it was only a short run to Ghent…or Gent, not sure which. Anyway, we were ridiculously early so it seemed only polite to sit in the town square and have a couple of beers. Beautiful town and the people were really friendly.
Loaded on at six into the superbly named ‘Kinky Star’, sound checked and ready to rumble in no time. It was a baptism of fire for a new RUDE 18″ Crash/Ride supplied by the ever-cool Martin Potts at Paiste as a replacement for a cymbal that had been cruelly murdered on the last tour.
(The cymbal was shuttled down on an overnight ‘before 9am’ delivery for the morning we left London and arrived at 9:03!!!! Horror! That’s three minutes of waiting in British traffic that was squandered!) 😉
Cheers Martin – the replacement is ear-bendingly superb.
So anyway – the venue is very cool as are the staff. We had food and beer, and all that, in the upstairs ‘backstage’ and felt just generally looked after.
Support band Ynfamia from The Netherlands are nice blokes and they kicked it all off at about 9. By the time we got going an hour later the place was full and they were a loud and enthusiastic crowd – mosh pits and all. Great gig and we even blasted through a couple of tracks we hadn’t played in quite a while 🙂
After the show we stayed in an awesome old building that a local dude had arranged – hot shower, comfortable beds…perfect 🙂
Up just before the crack of noon we bumbled down the road and found a Slovakian restaurant where we had a fantastic meal (for €3.50! I love this country!). Turns out the owner is a headbanger and so we ate lunch in a Slovakian place in Belgium listening to I.C.O.N streamed on his laptop. Happy days 🙂
Now off to The Netherlands; gig tonight in Nijmegen. Now….during the war……..
Tour Diary: Bastards in Europe (part two)
A Bridge Just Right
Nijmegen – what a great gig. We rode on up the road from Gent after Bedlam in Belgium into The Netherlands for some high voltage rock and roll. Found the venue in no time – but had a couple of hours to kill. Fortunately, because the locals are very nice people, the venue’s neighbour – a bicycle repair shop – invited us in for a coffee while we waited. What cool people!
Before long, the venue was open and we were loading in. A really cool place with an excellent vibe. Plus the barman was a diving instructor who had been a ‘neighbour’ in Bonaire when I was in Grenada 🙂
Set up and sound checked and then met the support band System Overthrow who were excellent.
A huge downstairs dressing room – fridge full of beer – so much food we were challenged to finish it (but we rose to the challenge and triumphed) – and a really enthusiastic crowd all combined for a second excellent gig.
Really enjoyed it.
Was great to see my old mates Pete and Jarno again: they travelled 90 miles for the show. Top blokes and a great live sound team.
So, another cracker and then load out, say goodbye and off into the darkness like four out of shape Batmen. Superb.
Now off to stay with a superb pairing people before the show in Amsterdam tomorrow….
Tour Diary: Bastards in Europe (part three)
(Not suitable for Mary Whitehouse)
Staying with the incredibly hospitable Anke and Danny for a couple of nights with the Amsterdam show in between. Crazed amounts of food and drink and then a wander down Amsterdam to a brewery in an old mill. Fantastic!!
On the way we went into a coffee shop and I thought, “fantastic…I could do with a brew”. Of course the bloke behind the counter looked at me like I had three heads when I asked for a nice cappuccino. But then…maybe to him I did have three heads. Don’t know…but I sensed that I may have been missing something and it seemed only sensible to then go for a beer elsewhere.
At the mill brewery the brew of choice was ‘Columbus’ I think – absolutely bloody great!
And we had the joy of discovering that signposts for West Amsterdam are abbreviated to ‘A’dam West’.
Holy Roadsigns Batman!!!
I remember the last time I was in Amsterdam was on the Vicious Rumors tour. Myself, Paul Clayton and Beam went for a wander which ended up in the red light area (purely by accident of course). I’ll never forget something we saw in a shop window…
Now…you see some pretty unusual things for sale there, but nothing will ever compare with what I can only describe as a Black and Decker two-handed power tool with a huge rubber cock attached to the end of it. It looked petrol engined too!
Not the most romantic sexual encounter…imagine it inserted into ‘Top Gun’:
Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis are getting all soft-focus and sweaty while some sappy 80s pop plays in the background. There are gasps of anticipation as billowing curtains fill the room – and then Tom pulls out his ‘Black and Decker Knobber 2000’ and pulls the starter chord. “Brace yourself Kelly! This may make you wince.”
Anyway, I digress…
It was an excellent day, made all the better by ending with an excellent gig at The Cave. A great little place and cool staff and crowd. Our old mates Ynfamia were opening again which was cool. Loved the whole gig.Great to see keyboard maestro, my old mate Joop who came down to say hello too. A late show – hitting the stage about midnight. Awesome!
So today we are back to Belgium. Thanks Anke and Danny – your hospitality has been incredible.
On the road again…
Tour Diary: Bastards still in Europe (part four)
So we departed The Netherlands and barrelled on back into Belgium. Reece has been doing all the driving so far so I’ve been sitting in the back like a spoilt bastard for each voyage thus far. Our destination was the Titans Club in Lens, a picturesque little town not far from Mons. It’s always fascinating (on a personal level) travelling around this whole area and into France. Not only because of decades of studying World War Two, but also knowing my Grandad’s service history and story as part of the Australian army in World War One. So many places are familiar; some because I’ve spent time crawling around bunkers and trench lines and some because they just feature so prominently in the battle histories. When you are in the region of towns like Mons, Ypres, Vimy, Le Paradis, Arras and so on…well, it’s always amazing and humbling in equal measures. We’ve passed an interesting group of buildings and bunkers which I’m pretty sure are the remains of a Luftwaffe airfield too.
Anyway…back to the metal…
The Titans Club is a great little venue and we were loaded in and ready to rumble in no time. Our partners in crime for the evening were the French band Gang, and a fine bunch of chappies they are indeed.
As is the way in Europe, the hospitality was off the hook: food, drink and a three star hotel complete with breakfast the next day, all organised by promoter Walter and his crew. It was magnificent and hugely appreciated as always.
The gig was a cracker and we all had a particularly good one in Lens. Got a great response from the people out front so we were a bunch of happy campers.
In fact the whole day was smooth as a smooth thing with no derailments anywhere. Being a Sunday it was an early curfew and we were done and loaded out by 9.30pm!!! A polite few beers and that was it.
Up at the crack of mid morning, loaded up on breakfast and then hitting the road to France in the footsteps of the Ghost Division. We passed through the border control as easily as Erwin once did and then on to Arras where we will linger a while until the gig in Lille. Can’t wait. Every show so far has been great and I always love playing in France so it should be a blast.
No sleep till Lille!!
(Actually that’s bollocks – there’ll be tons of sleep and food and beer, but you know what I mean)
Tour Diary: Four Go Mad In Arras
Apologies for the radio silence but we’ve had a few days off in Arras; lovely place and very interesting.
Yesterday, however, in a bizarre chain of events (over which we will draw a discreet veil of silence) involving many drinks of beer, a deserted road, some Gendarmes, a small sliced sausage and glasses of Calvados, I have managed to sprain my knee which has swollen up and stopped working. Let’s see what tomorrow brings 🙂 Onwards to Lille!! \m/
Episode Five: Le Midland Strikes Back
It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although Larry’s knee has been destroyed, The tour itinerary has driven the I.C.O.N forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.
Evading the dreaded Arras Gendarmes, a group of Metal Bastards led by Mark Sagar has established a new secret base on the remote French world of Lille.
The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Sagar, has not dispatched any sound men into the far reaches of space…
Yes, we departed our lair in Arras and headed for Lille for the second to last show of this tour. It’s not a great distance, but good job I wasn’t walking because my knee had swelled up a bit and was generally just jammed pretty solid. I gaffa-taped a bandage on it to give it some support, which actually improved things a bit. Anyway…we were off again into action 🙂
The venue, Le Midland, was easy to find and we were actually able to load in early and leave our gear there for a while while we hunted for a kebab and frites. Nice little venue really.
Lunch revived us a bit and after a bit of hanging around got back in the venue to set up. Tricky putting a kit together when your knee is not cooperating but we literally had hours so it was no problem.
Then we waited.
Fortunately at 6pm or so, our awesome metal bastard friend Laurent from Paris turned up with his equally excellent mate Fabrice. It’s always a pleasure to see Laurent – a top guy who genuinely loves his music. Two hours they drove to make the gig: magnifique!
Sound check time came and went and we were getting a tad jittery until the support band Icarus Rising turned up. Nice guys (and girls) and it was then that we discovered there was no sound man and it was a DIY job. Not a problem at all…as long as you know 😉 Nobody had told us or our esteemed management/agent, nor the promoter even. But, like I say, not a problem if you know beforehand.
So we hustled in and set up some mics to soundcheck. Scott handled sound for both them and us and it sounded very bloody good out front. Well done sir.
Meanwhile, people were starting to arrive. Laurent was amazing at standing outside and getting people through the door too. He was talking to one guy who wanted to see the show, when a girl the guy knew walked past.
“Bonjour. How are you?”
“Very well thank you”
“Are you coming to the show?”
“To see the English band?”
“But I have plans”
“That’s okay – you can cancel them, they’ll understand”
“But I don’t like Heavy Metal”
“You’ll like this one”
Ha ha! He deserves a commission 🙂 All done with a smile on his face and much laughing I hasten to add. Thoroughly nice bloke – and I think she came to the gig too 🙂
Anyway – showtime rolled around and we kicked off. I was quite relieved to find that once my knee was bent into place it worked just fine on the bass drum so despite the occasional “ooh la la!..that fucking hurt!” moment it went pretty well. The crowd were awesome and, in the end, we did very well. Loved it 🙂
Eventually it was time to bid everyone adieu and we were off to our accommodation that had been arranged. This went a little less to plan and, although the chappy involved was a very nice bloke…let’s just say we got a couple of hours sleep on a tile floor before heading to awesome Ostend and finding an excellent B&B to shower and sleep in until tonight.
The Metal Bastards roll onwards
Episode VI: Return of the I.C.O.N
I.C.O.N have returned to their home planet of England in an attempt to rescue the population from the clutches of a vile lack of heavy metal.
Little do they know that ADL Management has openly begun construction on a new tour even more powerful than the first dreaded tour of the UK this year.
When completed, this ultimate tour will spell certain joy for the small band of Metal Bastards struggling to restore proper heavy metal to the galaxy…
Yes we ended the ‘Bastards in Europe’ tour with an absolute cracker at the Jeugdhuis OHK in Ostend. After relaxing for a few hours in our palatial B&B we bumbled along to the show which was already starting to fill up with a whole lot of metalheads. I love the European metal scene because nobody gives a shit what the latest trend or fashion in metal is – they like what they like and there were patched denims and leather jackets as far as the eye could see. Bloody brilliant. The promoter Wim was an awesome bloke as was his entire crew who helped us load in and later load out (a bonus as my buggered knee meant I was moving with a speed equivalent to Candelmass’ slowest track).
Anyway, food, beer and all that jazz were available in abundance and we hung around with the three other bands who were very cool blokes indeed. It was a great night even before we hit the stage.
Two guys from Skullfest came down to check out the show – we’re playing their festival in June; really looking forward to that because these guys were great 🙂
Despite running a bit late we hit the stage at full force and really had an absolute blast. The crowd were nuts and the tour had genuinely ended on a high note. The setlist stayed more or less the same for the tour:
Feeding The Negative
Welcome To My War
Drowning In Their Screams
New Born Lie
Seven Second Warning
So that was it. After the gig we lurked for a while and then crashed back at the B&B and got some Zs in before heading back to the Channel Tunnel and under the ditch to Angleterre.
A fantastic little tour and now we contemplate another six-date tour in April; this time opening for Udo Dirkschneider and Anvil. Udo has been top of my list for decades after I first heard Accept and I CANNOT WAIT for these gigs. Of course, being the UK, there are curfews all over the place which means that for us these are early shows. So if you want to come down and get loony with us Metal Bastards get there when the doors open and come on in. It’s gonna be bloody great \m/
Yes, it’s finally time for the BRA Tour. Just to be clear – for those familiar with Sid James’ work – it’s not the BRA tour because it’s a pair of heavyweights travelling together around the UK…no…it stands for British Riff Alliance; I.C.O.N and The Heretic Order hammering eight venues this February.
The night before we kicked off, I.C.O.N had a good rehearsal during which I messed around once again with the drum set-up – going single bass once more because a couple of stages are quite small and because some (but thankfully not all) sound engineers come over all faint at the sight off a double bass kit. These are sad times…
First up was Grimsby and a welcome return visit to Yardbird’s. It’s always a pleasure playing here and Robbo and the Warlocks look after bands very well. So we loaded up and headed northeast.
Now, you may notice one or two minor exaggerations in the following story – but they are only tiny alterations to the facts.
Clearly we had entered another ice age. It was COLD. VERY VERY BLOODY COLD. Even the snow refused to fall and it just remained grey and COLD as we began the tour. By the time we arrived in Grimsby we were expecting to see Mammoths, Polar Bears, Abominable Snowmen (which I think I actually did see) and Imperial Walkers ready to storm Hoth’s rebel base. And it wasn’t just me with my thin New Zealand blood, it was the Lancasharians who were also complaining of the cold. We arrived after having turned blue and Robbo must have been surprised to see a band comprised of four freakishly oversized metal Smurfs. Anyway…once we had broken the ice seals off the van (which is now repaired and fighting fit after committing suicide in Trieste) we loaded in with assistance from local Sherpas and huddled around whatever radiators we could find and began to thaw out. It was so cold that when Merch Empress Angie attempted to gaffa tape an electrical lead to the floor (health and safety and all that) the gaffa tape told her to bugger off and refused to stick to the frozen tiles. The Heretic Order arrived not long after – and a fine bunch of blokes they are and a bloody good band as well.
The gig was smooth considering we haven’t played live for a few weeks. We had some excellent pizzas before we played and had actually managed to thaw out – no doubt the Heretic Order were burning witches somewhere to help raise the ambient temperature. I was overjoyed to discover that I still had toes just before showtime and – thanks to the gift of feeling in our hands and feet – the gig was rocking.
We crashed in the Yardbirds’ bunkhouse and even managed to drive Heretic Danny out of the room with a concerted snoring offensive. So it’s 1-nil to I.C.O.N.
It was a fairly early (and COLD) start for us the next morning as we were due to head to Lincoln for a live session for Siren FM Radio courtesy of the mighty Tosh and Kev – top blokes, good radio presenters and proper supportive metalheads. We found the station among the icebergs in the grounds of Lincoln University and loaded all our gear into the second floor studio. A pseudo-policeman/security bloke seemed a bit perplexed at the arrival of the Metal Smurfs loaded with backline but Kev fended him off and we were away.
Now, being inhabited by waif-like, narrow waisted young students, the University building was heated as if from the fires of Isengard itself and we were comfortably roasted and back to our normal pink/grey British complexion in no time. It was fantastic!!!!!!!!
We ripped through four tracks with two cool student blokes at the helm and then a quick interview with Tosh before slinging out hook back into the frozen wilderness headed for Birmingham.
Scruffys was the destination and we reached it bang on load in time. It may be small, but I really like Scruffys because you can get a good vibe going and the sound is always spot on. Our backline was up this time as we were last on and everything ran smooth as a smooth thing -apart from Reece attempting to find free parking and apparently travelling to the Outer Hebrides in search of it while we were growing old standing on stage ready for soundcheck. But he prevailed and parked near the venue and all was eventually well.
Koncept were opening, featuring Iron Knight alumni Jamie Gibson and it was great to see him again. They were on fire too and have an album out soon. Bassist Craig spiced up the gig by breaking his strap so spent most of it playing his bass on the floor. The Heretic Order were excellent as always and we played a set that we were all happy with. It was also good to see another Iron Knight, Wayne, who came to see the show (and now slings strings for Guts For Glory), Dan Carter from Left For Red and Gizmo from Estonia (by way of Birmingham). Good gig 🙂
We got back to HQ at about 2 or 3am or something. I couldn’t tell because my watch had frozen as it’s so BLOODY COLD!
So we’re up to number three as the BRA bounces into Manchester tonight.
The adventure continues…
(Warning: Reader discretion advised. All opinions are mine. The following update contains waffling about irrelevant things, profanity, heresy, blasphemy and nudity. I haven’t written it yet but it’s a pretty safe bet…)
The BRA jiggled into Manchester for the third show of the tour. After suffering the torments of frozen doom over the previous days the Ice Age had now receded slightly and correspondingly the Severe Weather Warning had been downgraded from what the BBC shipping forecast designate as ‘fucking cold’ to a mere ‘bloody cold’. Now…I don’t believe in deities, but on this occassion it was clear that Höðr (the God of Winter) was still suitably pissed off at the world and it was a miserable rainy grey day. Kind of like most of a British year.
Anyway we rumbled into Manchester for a gig at The Rebellion Bar, which, if you haven’t been there, is a spiffing place that has good sound and a nice wide stage. Opening the show were Vice who we’ve played with several times before, so all in all it was a solid night of metallic goodness. I even noticed that the demons from Devilskin had defiled the dressing room with one of their stickers from the show they played there a few nights before. Bloody New Zealanders….they’re everywhere.
Anyway, we loaded in no problem. Tonight as it was the Heretic’s turn to close the show I was using Ernie’s kit. He opted to use the house bass drum with his own bits added to it and it sounded mighty indeed. There was a brief problem when the catch on his new Hardcase hardware locker jammed solid and actually had to be broken off to liberate the aforementioned stands. I’m sure it’s a temporary glitch that will be remedied tout-suite as I use Hardcase religiously…well, I don’t exactly chant and pray over them, but you surely get the picture…and they are the most excellent high quality bits of gear for looking after the trusty Mapex, Paiste and Duallist pieces of my drum arsenal. Great cases that I cannot recommend highly enough.
Anyway…soundcheck came and went and before long doors opened and the evening was off. It was most excellent to see some familiar faces who came to spend the evening with us all, including my old mate Tom who used to strut his funky stuff as the bassist for the now-defunct Marshall Law. Excellent bass player and all-round good egg.
We bumbled on stage at about 9pm or so and blitzed through the set which now had Prizefighter added to it. There were a few equipment hassles. The second tom mic was positioned cunningly in the way of my right arm so I proceeded to knock it flying after one song and it hung next to my double bass pedal’s left beater; swinging backward and forward every time I did a tad of double-bass work (which I do quite often). However, the mic was not destroyed and I managed to reattach it reasonably effectively for the rest of the set. Made drum rolls a little interesting as you had to map a way around the kit that was pretty unnatural…but hey-ho. Scott’s guitar sound disappeared at the beginning of Welcome To My War which became Welcome To My Bore as Reece and I went round and round…and round…..and rouuuuuuuund the intro as he chased the problem down to another mic that had decided to playfully leap free from its holder and hide from the perplexed guitarist.So – if you are of a religious persuasion – you can take your pick of deities that were messing with us on this night: Loki (God of mischief and pissing about), Bragi (music) or Elli (old age). I doubt it was Vör (Goddess of wisdom) and being in a band it sure as hell wasn’t Njörður (wealth). In fact running through the various Norse Gods, Goddesses and ‘Mrs Gods’, I realise that we are frequently visited by the God of Inspiration when writing new tracks. But his official online description doesn’t really make him look too good:
“Kvasir – God of inspiration. Killed by Dwarves.”
Anyway, my train of thought appears to be getting derailed… We rocketed through the rest of the set and apparently the onstage hassles were not evident from off stage and people seemed to really enjoy it. The Heretics were excellent again and this time our very own God of Haircuts Mark Sagar joined them onstage for a blistering version of Killed by Death (not Dwarves) in honour of the Mighty Warted One whose presence is being sorely missed in this world. A fitting tribute.
Then it was done. Gig number three in the can for the BRA Tour and a gap of a few days before we trundle through the language barrier and into Newcastle. Looking forward to returning to Trillians.
On a personal note I’d just like to end this by expressing my outrage at the dickheads who appear to enjoy dropping litter at every available moment. Driving into Manchester (and pretty much everywhere else) I was depressed at the bloody mess EVERYWHERE! Lazy ignorant fuckers dropping their shit all over the place and destroying the world one piece of crap at a time. Here’s a news flash for you nimrods: it doesn’t make you look hard; it doesn’t make you look cool; it makes you look a thick ignorant bastard. Speaking of which, the night ended spectacularly as we drove away when a group of ‘well dressed young men’ who clearly can’t handle their booze got their collective arses handed to them by a bunch of bouncers. Blood for the Blood God. Idiots…
Oh yeah…I ‘promised’ nudity as well. Here’s my naked leg. I have two of them but this one’s my favourite.
We had a short break of a couple of days after Manchester. On Monday morning I headed south to say goodbye to a special lady who has left us at the ridiculously early age of 46; proving once again that there is no natural justice in the world.
The tour resumed in Newcastle which meant a train ride from London to Manchester and then into the trusty steed to head north-east. The train was hilarious as it showed the absolute determination of people to avoid any form of human contact. Sitting down next to and opposite people, you say hello (because my mum and dad taught me that being polite is important) and they completely avoid acknowledging that you even exist. You have to admire their determination; it takes a steely nerve to be such a completely ignorant bastard. So…I communicated with my phone and iPod instead. Fuck ’em.
Anyway, the train of joy reached Manchester on time where I was picked up by Mister Knowles and we reconvened in Burnley for the rest of the trek. Pretty uneventful other than endless bloody roadworks in the way. It was still cold – but not quite the glacial conditions of the previous few days.
The target for tonight was Trillians which – if you haven’t been there – is a complete bastard to find. The load-in is conveniently disguised as a car park with not a single clue that there is a venue on the other side of it. The Heretics were there before us and had apparently enjoyed their tour of Newcastle searching for the bloody place.
I like Trillians a lot and am pleased that it has fought off the closures inflicted upon it over recent years. We were finishing the show and it was just us and the Heretics tonight so an easy set up.
To be fair, it was what can only be described euphemistically as ‘quiet’ – although the people that made the effort to be there seemed to really enjoy it.
I’m not sure if it was the accumulation of some strange weeks almost since the year’s beginning or what, but I didn’t really play like a champion at the show. We got through it without any major derailment but I personally felt pretty disconnected from the kit so flailed around a bit aimlessly here and there. Ah well….still raised a sweat and fucked my hearing up a little more. Im sure my focus will come together more in Scotland.
Trusty Travelodge hosted us for the night and then the main event – Morrison’s breakfast! Yes…it’s always a good indicator of a proper UK tour when you have the ‘combo-divine’ of Travelodge and Morrison’s.
The good thing about Morrisons is that there are plenty of healthy salads and lighter, but still filling, choices to eat. So, a big fried breakfast it was, topped off with endlessly refillable coffee. Wunderbar.
Scott – who had breakfasted earlier – opted to have a ‘currant tea-cake’ which is a peculiar monstrosity beloved of all these northern people in I.C.O.N. It’s basically a bread roll with what appear to be dead flies in it. Kind of a hot cross bun without the cross. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have these hideous items in New Zealand, but I am not a fan, as most things with currants in taste like shit to my delicate palette. So henceforth Mister Knowles will be known as ‘Tea Cake’ for his unrepentant sacrilege to the God of Food.
Because we are a juvenile pack of bastards, a smirk and a titter were raised when a staff announcement asking for a ‘Charlotte Moist to report to checkout’ came over the tannoy. It’s not big or clever to mock people’s names – but somehow it happened anyway. Even Tea Cake was chuckling. Poor girl, that’s a name destined for schoolyard problems.
(Party Political Broadcast follows on behalf of the ICON Party) Of course any guilt that I may feel about such juvenile behaviour was completely alleviated by seeing footage from Prime Minister’s Questions in Westminster on Farcebook. Never fails to amaze me how this herd of gibbering over-paid buffoons is allowed to continue without us peasants staging another long overdue revolution. Absolute pile of shitbags. The U.K. needs an enema.
Off to sunny Edinburgh now – the gradual loss of feeling in my feet an indicator that it may well be chilly over the border in Bonny Scotland…
Two Minutes To Lunchtime
Over the wall into Bonny Scotland – one of my favourite countries. It’s always good to be back up here and we were headed for Edinburgh and the show at Bannermans. It’s a nice drive along the A1 and we made good time to the venue.
Now, apparently Beira is the ancient Queen of Winter in Scotland and made the Scottish mountains by accidentally dropping rocks from her wicker basket while striding about the place. She carries a hammer for shaping the hills and valleys, and is said to be the mother of all the goddesses and gods and herds deer, fights spring and freezes the ground. She also apparently hangs over our band, looking at me and says ‘fuck this guy in particular’. Because I was COLD! Yet again my feet seemed to have deserted me. Yes the scenery was awesome; yes the sky was blue(ish); but my vibrating eyeballs made it hard to take in. By Odin’s frosty scrotum, it was cold! Now I know why Mel Gibson’s face was blue in Braveheart. Thanks Beira 🙁
Anyway… Traffic ground to a familiar UK-style halt in Edinburgh but once we reached the venue load in went without hassle. The Heretics were finishing the show tonight so once Evil Stu had coasted into sight in their mighty chariot all the gear was in and we were ready to rumble. There’s a very nice band flat upstairs and it was actually warm!!! So bonuses all round.
In a slightly unexpected moment one of the first faces I saw in Bannermans was Jamie Gibson from Koncept who we had played with in Birmingham. He and his good lady Julia were holidaying in the frosty city, so it was cool to catch up again.
I have to mention as well that over the road were a bunch of blokes standing round in kilts. Kilts!?!! Have you guys got no blood in your bodies!?!!! There I was in hoody, jeans, boots, leather jacket, hat and gloves while talking about how nice the day was to a bunch of blokes in bloody kilts!
No opening band meant we were first on and I’m pleased to say that my drumming mojo had returned. The band sounded absolutely thunderous and there is a fantastic bass thump in Bannermans which made the drums sound massive. I.C.O.N played an absolute blinder, which felt good.
The Heretic Order also played a complete cracker. Funniest moment of the night unintentionally came from Heretic Danny mid-set. Now, Danny (Lord Ragnar) is from Gibraltar so he has an accent that combines Gibraltese with English, Spanish and a touch of Hades. To this interesting mix he decided to have a stab at Scottish too… “Hello Scotland. Good to see you here…you men…and you lassies“
“Okay, this one is called…..”
It reminded me of The Heretic show in Manchester where Lord Ragnar confidently roared through the microphone: “Hello Birmingham!!”
Ha ha! Great stuff 🙂
Anyway, the gig was superb and then we all scuttled upstairs to demolish the excellent rider of food and beer while swapping road stories. Was a good chance to sit down together and talk bollocks.
Next morning we loaded out and bumbled off for a Morrisons reload. Dumfries was the target for tonight and we reached there early enough to waste a few hours in the nearby pub.
The Venue is a cool place and the gig went smoothly. A reactivated Turbyne were playing too and it was good to see them all again; they toured a bit with me when I was in the BB band.
Nothing to report from the gig – everybody played well and we had a blast. Lord Ragnar didn’t try his Scottish on the unsuspecting audience this time. Mark got up again to do Killed By Death as well.
Back in the van….hurtling through the frozen night….landed at I.C.O.N HQ at about 2.30. Two more shows to go: Deeside tonight. I wonder if Ragnar will have a stab at a Welsh accent….
Yes, back in sunny Dragonland. We bumbled over to Deeside with a short run; Captain Bevan piloting the trusty steed on all of this tour. The chariot’s new engine appears to have some extra steroids compared to the last one that was cruelly murdered in Trieste; so all is well as far as HMS I.C.O.N goes.
Spent the trip plugged into my iPod; mainly listening to Exodus and Exciter (Violence and Force). I remember when Exciter’s Dan Beehler tried to get Jay and I kicked out of the Headbangers Open Air courtesy shuttle bus once on a BB gig. After he failed he decided to completely ignore our existence. Dick. So, enjoyed listening to the album again, but bite me Mister Beehler.
We were closing the Deeside show so got all our backline on and checked in no time. Strange acoustics on stage at first made the kit sound very quiet – an affront to the God of Thunder and all drummers everywhere. Normally I can make ‘Tea Cake’ Knowles do an involuntary bowel movement with a surprise snare hit – but this time nothing! Not even a gust of wind! Very disappointing. Nonetheless, by showtime it seemed to have perked up a little volume-wise; maybe it just needed a few bodies in the room.
The Heretic Order were particularly good tonight – though we are all getting concerned about Danny/Ragnar who is getting far too fond of his makeup routine. Anyway, they were grand. Evil Stu even belted the lights while attempting to encourage the audience to clap along – his infernal bass majesty giving the innocent lighting rig a hearty wallop in his fit of paganistic and infernal enthusiasm. Marvellous!
We hit the stage and blitzkrieged through the set without problem. Everyone played a blinder and we were all pretty happy. Cool organisers and crowd made for a smooth gig.
Back to HQ and now on the way to the last show in London. Of course now we deal with the ire of Smogasaurus: the God of Deeply Fucked Up Traffic. This isn’t the kind of jam we enjoy!
See you later London; lets get royally blasted into oblivion with a night of metal – if you’ve got the balls for it.
London was evidently calling and after a few hours sleep the steed was pointed south on the M6 – delayed slightly by traffic chaos but reaching the wilds of Islington at just about the right time for load in. The Heretics pulled up at about the same time and before long the venue was full of gear and getting set up for the final show.
Because the Heretics are a London band we figured it would make sense for them to close the show so I was back on Ernie’s kit for the night. An extra support for the BRA had been added in the last minute shape of Die Kur (we were, of course, hoping for a band called ‘Underwire’) so we were just going to line-check before going on. With that in mind it seemed only polite to bumble over the road and express our admiration of Mr Wetherspoon’s work until doors opened.
It was great to see some familiar faces at the show – much appreciation to those of you that came along. It’s been good to see people during this tour still checking out and supporting original bands in the UK rather than sitting on their arses at home or treading the same old covers routine while bitching about the lack of up-and-coming future metal acts. The irony of that never fails to amaze us all! It seems that there is still no shortage of metal fans who ‘listen’ to what is good and what isn’t depending on who is ‘in or out’ or what part of the scene has been officially sanctioned as acceptable (or mandatory) to support. One of the strengths of heavy metal right from its early days was that people didn’t just follow the herd, but instead made up their own minds about what they did or didn’t like. Plus, it didn’t matter whether other people were into the same stuff or not…music is a personal thing anyway.
But, I digress…
Back at the gig Die Kur kicked off and within minutes the bass head on Ernie’s kick drum gave up and split down the middle. I had a suspicion it would as it was a single-ply Evans and right from the first show it had looked a little taken aback by the hammering it had received. A hasty run (yes I can do a hasty run when I need to) to the van allowed me to grab my spare trusty Aquarian Super Kick II that was in the back. It was already a used skin and had seen months of action, but was still in good shape and complete with double kick pad. So with a keyboard solo whirring away on stage, Ernie and the Die Kur drummer changed the skin and the gig rumbled on.
Our turn rolled around and we hit the stage for 45 minutes of loud headbanging noise. The sound both on stage and out front was superb and I really enjoyed the whole thing which flashed by in no time. (My daughter Megan had come along too and took a few photos – photography is her new endeavour while she’s doing her physics degree and I think she’s got a great eye for it. She doesn’t do gig photography, it’s more events and ‘general life’…have a look at her Facebook Page.)
After that it was time for a beer and watch the Heretics rip it up. Then it was over. The BRA was finished…for now. Loading out had that familiar strange ‘end of tour vibe’ that hangs over everything. It’s an unusual feeling that is part tiredness, part accomplishment and part melancholy as you realise there is no soundcheck tomorrow and you have to find other things to do. Even if you have another job or activity that you really enjoy, it always pales in comparison to a good tour. There was the brief diversion of freeing a slightly confused (and big) rat that came into the venue and couldn’t find the door again until it was herded in the right direction and then we were on our way.
The tour was an absolute blast and The Heretic Order were not only an excellent band but truly top notch blokes to hit the road with. Hopefully we’ll do some more show together sometime soon and I’m pretty certain that the ‘British Riff Alliance’ will rear its ugly head once again.So to keep abreast of any future BRA news, keep tuning into the I.C.O.N website and forum. By the way, thanks to those Metal Bastards that have registered on the forum, and thanks to those metal bastards that braved the ire of the various Gods of Winter to come and get crazy with us and the Heretics on this tour.
We’re out on the road with The Heretic Order for The British Riff Alliance Tour which is bloody great so far. Nice bunch of blokes and an excellent band. I’m trying to keep track with a small Tour Diary type thing…if you want to check it out then go to the I.C.O.N website here.
We had finally reached the last day. Woke up in Köln and prepared to head off. We were actually on the outskirts and in, what were in daylight, pretty bleak surroundings. The guy who showed us to our apartment was from Galicia and a nice dude, but the whole area was pretty grim. When we drove out we passed a ton of industry and about thirty tiny, scruffy little caravans on the side of the road. There were enough open windows to see that each one had a girl in it. Pretty sobering sight to be honest.
So we high-tailed it for the border, tore through Belgium and were back in France in good time. By now Reece and I were both feeling pretty tired even with short drives. We had a five hour run and checked in to the hotel before heading to Le Forum; an excellent venue with – once again – amazingly helpful and friendly staff, right down to the large security dudes.
It was great to see my old friend Laurent Nozérac who came down to the show wearing the Kill and Destroy shirt I designed while in the Blaze band. Haven’t seen one in a while. Laurent is a top guy; well in to his music and just a pleasure to hang out with. He also very kindly brought a nice bottle of wine as a birthday present 🙂 Cheers Laurent.
With soundcheck done in good time, we, Fire and Water and the Mindcrime band and crew all sat down for an excellent meal. Was nice to just relax and talk for a while.
Before long, doors were open and the place quickly filled – probably the biggest crowd of the tour Tomás and Clodagh hit the stage and gave a spectacular performance. They were joined by the Operation:Mindcrime band on ‘The Liar’ which was great. Plus Thomás and Clodagh gave a shout out for my birthday – much appreciated, thank you.
We hit the stage ready to bring the noise and had quite a cracker of a gig 🙂 The audience were fantastic. It was slightly surreal at one point during a tuning break when I looked around and saw a bunch of people on stage. The first person I saw was actually Emily – with her bright blonde hair – and she was carrying a bottle. Clearly my train of thought was still boarding at the station, and I wondered why she was on stage. Was she bringing extra water? It was hot after all…
Gradually the cogs in my mind meshed together and I saw she was also with the rest of the Fire and Water and Operation:Mindcrime people. They came onstage with Champagne for us. John got on the mic and said some very very nice things about I.C.O.N and then got the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to me. I know it makes me sound like a sap, but I actually felt quite emotional at that moment. Ha! Must be getting old 😉 Thank you very much ladies and gents for the exceptionally nice gesture.
With a glass of Champagne to steady the nerves we blasted through the second half of the set and then our part was done. The crowd were spectacular – what a way to end our tour.
All that remained was to watch Operation:Mindcrime one more time, while also flitting around between friends old and new. They were – predictably – superb.
After many goodbyes we were eventually off to the hotel. Calais tomorrow and then home eventually – I wonder if The Lord will send another nun to guide us?
This tour has been quite a trial in many ways. By the time I get home, we will have driven 7,000 miles in four different vehicles – one of which is still stranded in Trieste with a bunch of grinning imbeciles who claim to be mechanics.
But, as difficult as that has been, the people we were on tour with made it incredibly easy too. Tomás and Clodagh of Fire and Water were always a joy to be around. Incredibly talented and equally nice, it was great to meet them and I know we will be seeing more of them. Geoff, Kelly, Scott, Randy, John and Simon (fantastic drummer!) of Operation:Mindcrime were the same – an absolute pleasure to share a tour with; hugely talented and very very cool people. Tour manager Ingo was awesome – a great TM and great guy. It was nice to see Emily’s smiling face at each gig and she was not only a really cool person to be around but also helped us no end with our Merch. Susan was fantastic and without her idea to haul our backline we may have been well and truly fucked when our van broke down. And last, but definitely not least, the hardest working crew, Ty and Ollie – two fine gents that it is my privilege to know.
This may sound like mindless gushing – but I can honestly say it’s a great thing when everybody you are on tour with is so cool. I’m going to miss them all, but hopefully we will cross paths again soon.
And, of course, thanks to our guv’nor Anna who organised the daunting – and ever changing – logistics that meant we never missed a hotel or scheduled arrival (apart from Rome which nobody could have made happen!)
What a blast this tour has been. If you ever get a chance to check out either band – don’t hesitate. You won’t be disappointed!