And then there were none…

It seems that all good things must come to an end and in this case it was prematurely. While Girlschool had all trooped off home after Newcastle, for us, after a couple of days either relaxing in Newcastle or travelling down towards London we were in good shape for the last two shows: Camden Underworld and KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton.
(By the way, I made a quick visit to the excellent Catpawcino Cafe in Newcastle for a bit of a recharge and spent a while with a hairles Sphinx cat perched on my shoulder while I enjoyed my coffee. I’m missing the menagerie at home).

There was nothing special to report from our transfer south; we rolled up to the trusty Travelodge in good time to have a beer or two and bumble around foraging for food. No problem.

By the morning of 1 December we were definitely getting itchy feet and eager to get back on stage. Rendezvous time for wheels up on the van was 2pm and we assembled as planned and on schedule. It was then that manager Giles informed us: ‘Denise has Covid.’

Bloody hell!

First and foremost we were relieved to hear that she was feeling okay so far, just like suffering the dreaded tour cold. So that was good news. But it meant that Girlschool were now definitely out of action. We too had to undertake proper testing and hatch a cunning plan. Various scenarios were discussed, but ultimately, with time running out on show day, we were forced to call the last two shows off; postponed to an unspecified later date.

So, it was a crappy end to the tour all round, though Alcatrazz were negative for Covid and preparing to head to their respective homelands. Apologies to all that had planned to come and see the shows; and I know that at least one mate of mine was standing outside The Underworld when he got news it was off. However, there is nobody more upset at this than the collective Alcatrazz and Girlschool members who wanted – needed – to play these last two shows.

But not yet.

So…please wish Denise well. We are gearing up for work on a new album; my first with the band. Thanks to everybody that came to the shows, and the disastrous end of the tour will tell you why we may not have been out and about mixing with the crowds as much as we normally would like. Hopefully next time, when this bloody virus is more under control (?) But, nonetheless, we had a blast playing some great venues for a lot of very cool people.

Here’s a bunch of random photos…


We’ll be back soon.

“What’s with all the cocks?”

So, let’s see if I can remember what’s been going on for the past week. We camped out in Hull for two gig-less days, quartered in the city centre Travelodge. It was most tranquil, apart from the sirens outside every now and then. Hull looks really different to the last time I was there and we basically contented ourselves moseying around and sampling the occasional pub. One evening, after some excellent fish and ships at the Minerva  on the waterfront, most of Alcatrazz as well as esteemed Tour Manager Danny bumbled to another pub called the Big Blue Bell, or something like that. There, as well as finding an especially fine brew to drink, Danny suggested that we engage in that evil pastime; the game of darts. Now, it’s not that I’m against darts, I’m not, but if you have mediocre dartists then it is the kind of game than that can drag on to the end of the world with nobody able to score the required ‘out’. I always greet it with the same horror that the dreaded Monopoly used to strike in my heart when it emerged to be played with the family.

The Minerva

Anyway, as I suspected, nobody was what you could call a crack shot, although Jimmy did nearly manage to hit his own foot, which was indeed impressive! Our sheep-loving keyboardist was teamed with Associate Professor Stump, and this all-American crew seemed adverse to actually hitting anything as planned. Seconds became minutes, minutes became hours, hours became days… weeks… years……. millennia…. and yet the game dragged ever on.  Finally, as Jimmy calculated what angle he would best employ to achieve his required double, factoring in visibility, air movement and potential arm fatigue, the imperturbable Stump finally cracked

“Hey Jimmy. It’s dawts, not chess. Just throw the fucking dawt!”

Jimmy missed. The entire board. Ha ha ha!

However, after we had all aged considerably waiting for the damn game to end, bugger me if Jimmy didn’t eventually throw the winning dart.

Showing Jimmy where the board actually is.

Anyway, we enjoyed the brief lull in Hull, Gary almost becoming unwittingly embroiled in a fight between a very pissed man, the pissed man’s shoes and a rubbish bin, at 10.30 in the morning. I think the rubbish bin won.     

From Hull we had a string of five gigs in a row: Chesterfield, Edinburgh, Bradford, Troon (Winterstorm Festival) and Newcastle. For the Real Time Live gig in Chesterfield we relocated to a Sheffield Travelodge and arrived without particular incident to a city which seemed perceptibly angry. Everywhere, people were shouting and scrapping and just being dicks, so I have no idea what that was all about. The drivers were almost Italian in their complete disregard for anybody else on the road. It was most puzzling.

Of course, being winter I was starting to develop the dreaded ‘tour cold’. This particular bastard was becoming a bit savage quite quickly (covid tests proving reliably negative throughout). So, that was a shame. Oddly enough, I think part of the problem is the widespread use of LED stage lights. Now, these are great, as they draw little energy for superb lighting effect. However, they generate no heat at all. On stage I tend to shake my furry head a little and flail about so much that I begin to perspire freely.  Combined with that delightful UK habit of unheated dressing rooms and unheated venues, on stage you can actually get very cold in a wet shirt unless you are moving a lot, i.e. between songs etc. And then back to the fridge that is the dresssing room, and voila! La cold arrives! I’ll never let Udo Dirkschneider and his band off the hook for denying I.C.O.N. the use of dressing rooms  and giving me fucking pneumonia, so at least we weren’t in that position. But nonetheless, the dreaded cold arrived.

From Chesterfield we were headed north, over Hadrian’s Wall to the wilds of Scotland, and Captain Doogie took the helm of the van as we raced for Edinburgh and the gig at Bannerman’s. En-route we stopped at chez-White and met Mrs Doogie as well as their handsome little hound that they had rescued. Mrs Doogie had even made two delicious pumpkin pies in honour of our Yankee contingent and we wiled away some time eating pie and having some tea and coffee. And very nice it was too.

I always enjoy Bannerman’s. Guv’nor Christian runs a good ship and we were in the flat upstairs for the night while Girlschool blitzed a nearby hotel. It was a predictably great gig and the first one that Doogie had actually played there with his own band, as opposed to being a guest of somebody else’s.

Doogie continued racking up the frequent driver miles while I slept off my cold and we retraced our steps to Bradford before re-retracing our steps to Troon. At the Night Train in Bradford, Mister Stump spent some time marvelling at the knobs who spend their time drawing knobs on the walls of an otherwise nice dressing room. There was a dubious array of ‘bus stop cocks’ all over one wall; ranging from the clearly diseased, to the clearly wishful. Why? No idea. Never really got the compulsion to do that.

“This is a cool dressing room.”
“Nice sofas, freshly painted, cool.”
“Let’s draw limp cocks all over it!”

I assume it’s all autobiographical.   

In Bradford we debuted a new track (which went well) and were then put into the Midland Hotel, just a few minutes walk away, and which was most triumphant indeed. Apparently Laurel and Hardy, Laurence Olivier and the like had all stayed there (not recently though). There was a wedding going on at the hotel which did create a slightly surreal moment when one member of the Alcatrazz/Girlschool touring party wandered in there looking for the bar. Errr…sorry, wrong room.

In Troon we played the mighty Winter Storm Festival which was really well run by very helpful cool people. Ironically, we probably didn’t play at 100% at this show. Nothing thoroughly debilitating, just not quite on all cylinders. But hey-ho, we got through and crowd were great and people happy. What was even more splendid was that the guitar that Doogie supplied – signed by us, Girlschool and King King – was put up for auction. The money raised was to be split 50/50 between dementia and stroke charities very close to Doogie and Girlschool’s Kim’s hearts, and the winning bid by a spectacular man named Douglas raised £2008 for these charities. Well done that man!!!!

Getting chilly at the motorway services

At the festival I had my first plate of haggis, neaps and tatties with gravy, for quite a while and it was the bollocks! In fact, I can’t remember what is in haggis, so it may actually have been the bollocks, but regardless, it was very tasty.

The back of my cold was now broken and I was eating medication like candy to chase it successfully away.  Once again we were in a truly pukka hotel, The Riverside Lodge, so it was only polite to have a debriefing beer or two there afterwards. Marvellous.

Now we re-re-retraced our steps back down into England to the familiar stomping ground of Trillian’s in Newcastle. We got stuck behind the slowest driver on Earth, amongst the shittiest road works around, in truly dire weather which meant we were late arriving. Danny and Girlschool had got set up underway and we arrived in time to get it done with minutes to spare before soundcheck.

This time the band were definitely firing on all cylinders and I loved every minute of it. The crowd were great, and the gig rocketed by in no time. Day off tomorrow. Time to recharge before the final assault on the capital and then Wolverhampton. Bring it on!   

Gratuitous Scottish photobomb of otherwise splendid drummer portrait.

No Tower for Doogie

The saga continues…


From Stoke-on-Trent (and the correct hotel) we sprang into action like the collective pack of coiled vipers that we are and stumbled down towards Blackpool . About half an hour after leaving the hotel, Associate Professor Stump became most unexpectedly animated when he realised that he may have left his shirt behind. The ever-calm Doogie took charge and phoned the hotel.
“Hellooo. We are the hairy people that just left, yes..the ones with unusual hair colouring for gentlemen of our ages, and we appear to have left a shirt behind. It’s a black satiny blousy thing…he’s American you know.”

As it transpired, the professor was being absent minded, and he had actually packed the offending ‘blouse’ so catastrophe was averted. Otherwise, it was a cozy and uneventful little drive to the show at the Waterloo venue. Now, this place is just something else. It was rescued from dereliction by a fine group of men who poured every ounce of effort into creating a truly spectacular venue. Complete with Lemmy’s Bar and some fantastic mementos from the Mighty Head, the place just oozes rock and roll from every pore. Owner Ian and the entire staff and crew were awesome and we were camped out in the room upstairs, which was über handy for us.

Upstairs at The Waterloo
Bunk of the Stump
Jimmy…counting sheep no doubt…
Lemmy’s Bar at The Waterloo

Doogie had earlier floated the idea of departing the Stoke hotel at stupid o’clock in the morning so that we could reach the town earlier and all troop up Blackpool Tower during the day. The unprintable response from everyone, which almost certainly involved anatomically impossible suggestions, failed to ruffle our imperturbable lead singer, though he issued the empty threat of a prolonged and vigorous sulk. Fortunately, we know he is just not that guy, so justice prevailed; departure had been at a reasonable hour, and no tower for Doogie.    

Before things got going I was fortunate to see Scott (I.C.O.N. guitar) and his much nicer wife Caroline, whom I have not seen for some years. ‘Twas great to meet up 🙂

By the time the show rolled around there was a good crowd and tons of good vibes floating everywhere. As we have been alternating with Girlschool, we opened the show and it was an absolute belter. Loved it. The whole band played well and Doogie ended up doing a large part of the encore without his mic as the audience sang along.  Proper goosebumpiness (is that a word?)  Anyway, all too soon it was over and then Girlschool staged their four-woman blitzkrieg and reduced everybody to rubble. Superb.

A reasonably early night was unfortunately required as the next day was a six-hour drive to Swansea and my trusty (and talkative) GPS took us by way of the Welsh countryside to enjoy the views and indulge Jimmy’s peculiar habit of photographing sheep. Now…I’m a fairly liberal-minded guy, but, although he swears that the photos are for his wife in Chicago who loves all animals and is particularly enamoured of our woolly friends, I remain vigilant and will keep an eye on our little keyboard deviant.

For about thirty miles we encountered a peculiar creature that must have been one of those rare Welsh tortoises that I heard about. This particular species was crouched behind the wheel of his micro white VW and threatening the very existence of the time continuum as he appeared determined to actually move in reverse with the speed at which he travelled. With many twists and turns of the road, as well as oncoming traffic and the periodic disruption of the crazed Jimmy yelling ‘Look! Sheep!” (not exactly a rare event in Wales), I was unable to overtake the tortoise who, when faced with 500 yards of straight road actually accelerated to what must have been at least a double figure velocity! By the white hairs of Hermes’ beard, would this purgatory never end?! It was indeed a challenging drive, alleviated at least by travelling through some quaint, picturesque and, dare I say it, old-fashioned Welsh villages and pondering out loud what would happen if we simply deposited  Joe Stump and his unnaturally hairy chest amongst them and observed the results in our finest David Attenborough narration. Alas, we had no opportunity to attempt such an experiment. Instead Joe sat up front and instructed me in the fine art of mixing cocktails.

Eventually our tortoise took a left turn, opposed to our right one, and we were able to speed up events, reaching Llanelli and the Travelodge in time to drop bags and move on to Swansea and the gig at Hangar 18. Nice venue, still a work in progress upstairs in the dressing room. Sadly it was up several flights of stairs, but before long we were set up and soundman Pete began wiring it all up. On the floor above, the dressing room was still being finished off and there was a brand new toilet which had been cemented into the floor that very day. This, of course, did not dissuade our esteemed manager Mister Lavery from perching on said porcelain and tipping it over. Marvellous. On a band destruction scale it is only baby steps towards the Keith Moon Rolls Royce in the swimming pool, but Mister Lavery at least gets a D+ for inventiveness.

“Are you in a band?” “No Madam, we sell soft furnishings door to door.”

So, the gig came around and went pretty well. It seemed a little quiet on stage to be honest, but there was much activity at the merch table afterwards, so you never can tell what is going on. All in all, a good show.

Rider Raiders in Swansea

The unparalleled joy of a six hour drive began at 9.30 the next morning, and we ignored my blabbermouth GPS and stuck to the tortoise-free motorways. The next show was Grimsby and the fine Yardbirds club run by the Warlocks MC. I’ve played there many times over the years and the guys are always very cool, especially Robbo that books the bands. During lockdown they completely revamped the place and it’s now much bigger with a huge stage, PA and lights. A superb job they’ve done on it. Though it was raining and cold…no actually, make that COLD!…outside, we were in and set up in no time, ready to rumble. We were on first and hit the stage running. Sadly, my drums and associated equipment had other ideas.
First song: snare mic falls off. Okay, no problem. Lands on snare, but Danny to the rescue. Cool.
Second song: tom mic falls off. Okay, can deal with this. Avoid tom. Fix after song. Cool.
Seventh song: bass drum splits. Really? I mean, REALLY? Bollocks!
Fortunately, it was during Joe’s guitar intro so I leapt out from behind the kit and ran across the stage to the dressing room which no doubt puzzled the collected Girlschool people as I burst in, ransacked my gear bag, and scrambled out again. I always carry an Aquarian patch – heavy duty adhesive beast —so while Joe extended his solo (you never need to ask him twice…he must be paid by the note 😉 ) I slapped the patch on and we were once more ready to rumble. The patch worked a treat for the rest of the night. Other than that, the gig was grand. A good crowd, pizza backstage, only half an hour later to the hotel in Hull…Wunderbar!

Yardbirds’ new stage.

Two days gig-less now follow. Ahhh…sleep, laundry……….beeeerrrrr! Toodle pip.            

Displeasing the God of Travel

So we’re in full on tour mode now. Second gig tonight at Stoke. Yesterday we played Milton Keynes, after meeting up with touring partners Girlschool and TM Danny at the hotel.

The trip from Preston down to Milton Keynes Travelodge was pretty smooth. Pitched up in time to dump bags and get ready before heading to the gig at the Crauford Arms. Nice venue and we were set up and ready to roll on schedule. Good to be back in the swing of things and the show breezed by happily.

Associate Professor Stump and Danny at Milton Keynes.

Doogie was on fire, and apparently overcome with the enthusiasm of the moment the dirty beast flashed me by lifting up his kilt in front of the drum riser! To paraphrase the man himself, it looked like a penis, only…smaller.
After this shamefully debauched rock and roll moment the remainder of the show was tame by comparison. Actually, it wasn’t…the gig was great and fair to say everybody had a blast.

I was fortunate to meet up with friends who had come to see us. Dave (mighty guitarist from Chokehold and others) and his infinitely better half Cath were there which was awesome. Cath even bought a bag of biscuits for Biscuit, which was really nice 🙂 Also there were Ian (IV Stroke bass and vocals and master motorbike builder) his also infinitely better half Mel, and their daughter Daisy and her boyfriend Harley. Great to see them, and Daisy even brought along some magnificent chocolate brownies that she had made for me 🙂 Really nice!

The next morning Gary and I marched off for a decent breakfast, meeting up with Dave and Cath once again before rolling away from Travelodge to a nearby Morrison’s to engage in shopping for evening food and, for those who had not already eaten, grabbing a cafe breakfast. Sadly this store ended the unbroken chain of Morrison’s triumphs by completely failing to register the said ordered breakfasts, and sending various members of the Alcatrazz touring party away hungry and poorer as the failed ordering all took place digitally and “we can’t do nuffin’ about a refund.” Disaster!!

Bravely, bottom lips quivering in despair, these casualties of the culinary war returned, bruised and battered to the van and we hit the road for Stoke.

The trip was not too long and we were scheduled to reach Travelodge to dump bags and have a break before heading to the gig at a club called Eleven. Fantastic. Girlschool were staying in a different hotel this time. So far so good, and we rocketed back up the M6 ahead of schedule. Things were going so well that I decided the best way to capitalise on this was to drive an hour out of the way to the wrong fucking hotel and put us behind schedule instead. Great success!! Must learn to read the actual tour itinerary properly lest the mighty god Meili mess with me once again!

Nonetheless…we triumphed in the end and reached Eleven, set up and soundchecked before handing over to Girlschool for their check as they were first on tonight. Of course, they played a blinder, despite Kim crippling her Les Paul after one song.

We hit the stage on schedule and everything went to plan. The sound was great out front, monitor sound good and everyone played well. Big Doogie kept little Doogie in check… Jimmy got all his solos…the audience got louder as we went along. All in all…a great night. Two down, several more to go 🙂

It’s all good, and I’m loving being in this band.

I have more photos to add, but lack of internet is temporarily foiling the attempt.

Alcatrazz: Jet to jets… of water.

The tour continues (well, actually it hasn’t even started).

We’ve been camped in Preston for the period between Hard Rock Hell and the first date of the tour with Girlschool in Milton Keynes on the 17th. We have been staying in a most splendid Air B&B place above a book shop (yahoo for me!) and next to a convenient store, pizza place and several pubs. So far so good. New music has been written, old music dissected and discussed, and future plans hatched to further the Alcatrazz march to victory. We have been predominantly inhabiting The Wellington pub, and enjoyed their spectacular Remembrance Day feast of a kind of pea soup with pork in it, corned beef hash and trench cake, all prepared in respectful memory of the men of the First World War (and every war since). My Grandad was one of them — though obviously not from Lancashire, but an ANZAC that went ashore at Gallipoli and then survived the Somme, Paschendale and the Hindenburg Line — and I was really happy to see such a memorial take place in this pub, in which there were several old soldiers having a pint after the day’s remembrance services.       

Discussing musical theory at The Wellington.

Anyway…I digress…it has been cool here and people very friendly. We have hooked up with Andy who will be a helping hand on this tour, as he has been on others. All in all, it’s fair to say that we are just about ready to rumble into action again. Today (Monday) was photo session day. The event had been thoroughly planned and coordinated, with even our resident vampire/night owl Joe Stump promising to spring manfully out of bed by the crack of noon in order to capitalize on the brief period in which no rain was expected.

By the allocated time, we were all high, live and dangerous…suitably pimped out for our photos and dressed to kill. As we were just about to head out the door, however, the hot water pipe of the upstairs bathroom chose that exact moment to commit suicide and flood the room with scalding hot water. I myself was seated comfortably downstairs awaiting our imminent departure to photo land when the commotion of agitated Americans stampeded down the stairs. At first I believed that reports of the ‘flooding’ were mere hyperbole, but upon leaping lethargically into action I discovered them to be, if anything, an understatement. By the Mighty Waves of Neptune!! The Gods of hot water had clearly become enraged. It was pissing forth in a mighty torrent and sloshing around the room, onto the carpet. Within minutes, the peril of our predicament was amplified as the demonic howling of the apartment’s fire alarm then unexpectedly burst into ear-splitting life. Here I was knee deep in bloody water and the house was warning me I was going to burn to death??! As Jimmy Waldo so succinctly put it: “What the holy fuck is that noise?”

Apparently our flood had run through the floor and was now gushing out off the fire alarm on the ceiling below and running down the stairs. Hmmm…things were clearly taking a turn for the worst. With fire soon alarm brutally despatched and silenced, and as grown men rushed aimlessly about shouting ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’, this humble drummer decided to rip the rest of the fractured hose off the wall and direct the water torrent into a rubbish bin. Great success! Phase one complete: no additional flooding. Phase two then began as we needed to cut off the water supply. With Gary and Jimmy bravely manning the buckets, I immediately turned off the mains. Unfortunately they were the gas mains, so the effect was minimal to say the least. Andy and I then flexed our collective muscles and confronted what we assumed was the root of all evil: the boiler. There were dials and switches. I activate several and succeeded in doing nothing other than confusing myself. Andy pulled out the washing machine and dryer in search of a stop cock and triumphantly found…nothing. However, his next brainwave was solid gold as he charged downstairs to the bookshop and proudly (and, no doubt, somewhat unexpectedly) announced he was cutting off their mains water supply. And just like that, as if Moses himself had parted the Hot Sea, the water pressure diminished, until there was no more, and Jimmy and Gary’s bucket brigade ceased operation.     

Mister Stump displaying his customary level of agitation in moments of crisis….with ‘cawfee’.

Water was evacuated, towels were drenched and dented masculine egos restored as we gloried in victory over our elemental enemy. A fully qualified plumber later arrived to make more permanent repairs.

Now we were ready for photos, the session passing quickly and without incident (other than that rascal Doogie White doing his best to make me laugh as I assumed my finest heavy metal stance).  Despite this scoundrel and his nefarious activities, the poses were struck, photos taken…and dog shit trodden in. Marvelous.

Next, Giles, Jimmy and I boarded Andy’s car to be whisked to the van rental place in preparation for the imminent tour. No problems there…all sorted, paid for and documented. One final obstacle remained: Jimmy needed to buy a 3-metre microphone cable. Using the car phone Jimmy called the nearest music store and enquired whether they possessed such an item. Assuredly yes, came the response, to which Jimmy added that it could be 2-metres…or even 1 metre. Ummm…yes, came the reply…again. “Okay cool, thanks.” Jimmy hangs up.
“Um,” asks Andy, “where is the store?”
“I don’t know.”
“Okay…well, shall we find it?”
“Of course”, replies Jimmy, who then cunningly asks his Smartphone where the nearest music store is.
Alexa, or whatever the phone’s name is, helpfully replies: “The nearest Chinese is Wong’s Noodle Bar.”
“No! I need the nearest music store!”
“Wong’s Noodle Bar is your nearest Chinese.”
“NO! Nearest M-U-S-I-C Store!”
“Wong’s Chinese is after your next left hand turn.”
By this stage both I and Giles were suggesting that Jimmy phone the man back and ask where he is located, to which Jimmy rather perplexingly stated that he hadn’t spoken to him.
“Ah…but we heard you.”
“I don’t know where he is…”

“Wong’s Noodle Bar is your nearest Chinese.”

Clearly things had taken a turn for the surreal and time appeared to stretch to infinity as we waited, adrift in our sea of confusion. Giles then helpfully suggested that we could forget the mic cable and just get an extra long fucking noodle for Jimmy to use instead. You see, we were getting hungry in the back of the car and patience was perhaps wearing perceptibly thin. Finally Andy seized the day and we toddled our way into Preston in search of the music store, becoming ensnared in a glitch in the one-way matrix and driving from dead end to dead end. Eventually…after no doubt passing Wong’s Noodle Bar several times…Jimmy miraculously phoned the man back, who guided us to his exact location. Victory was snatched from the aching jaws of defeat and Jimmy bought his cable. Now, though, for some inexplicable reason, I had a hankering for Chinese food….

Anyway…despite its bizarre twists and turns, it was  a successful day. Though now I wonder what the hell will happen tomorrow…     

Heading towards another debriefing session…

Alcatrazz on the road…

So here we are with a new chapter in musical adventure. The story so far…

I’m very pleased to be part of Alcatrazz, a band that started life from the ashes of the successful group New England. Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) and Gary Shea (bass) formed the band and are still there rocking it today. Through its ranks have been such notable musicians as Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Graham Bonnet, and the current line up is completed by Doogie White on vocals and Joe Stump on guitar, making this a seriously heavy hitting band.

Rehearsals started at the excellent Panic Music Rehearsal Rooms in Acton, London, where Jimmy, Gary and I convened to start working the set; the first of nine rehearsal days, between eight and twelve hours long. Mark (the owner) and Rob are awesome people who went the extra mile in every way, including providing a safe collection point for numerous gear deliveries. We crashed at the Acton Travelodge which put us in walking distance of the studio and the three of us battered our way through the guts of the set for the next few days until Joe and Doogie arrived once we had the ‘vibe’ together and we were finally able to hammer it along as a complete band. And mightily grand it sounded!

Rehearsal time…

However, on a personal note, after becoming acclimatised to southern Italy, well…by Odin’s frosty scrotum, I found London to be cooooooold. However, manfully undeterred, I have weathered this particular climate disaster and avoided the dreaded ‘tour cold’ thus far (or Udo’s speciality…the gift of pneumonia).    

While in Acton we became frequent customers of the Spice Shack for lunch and the excellent Deliish cafe for breakfast; so much so that I’m sure they miss us now that we are gone. The days were good and relatively injury free apart from some heavy blisters, one skinned knuckle and a grazed knee from falling out of my Travelodge bed (yeah, yeah…it’s a long story). Hangovers were minimal…digestive systems relatively intact…Travelodge sleep generally good…so, all went well. While many around us appear to be abandoning any ideas of Covid protocols, we are all masked up and as sanitary as a heavy metal band can be. That spiky little bastard virus will not get its grubby paws on us!

By Wednesday 10 November we were ready to rumble, and after some van related skulduggery, moseyed with purpose to the bustling metropolis of Great Yarmouth and the Thursday headline slot at Hard Rock Hell. There we were quartered in excellent little chalets; the band’s American contingent in one, Doogie, Me, Giles (our manager) and Nicole (merch lady/photo wizard) in the other. Of course…this was not without incident…

HRH and my own room! Woohoo!

It appears that, hailing from Noo Yawk, Mister Stump was not what we would call ‘kettle savvy’. During the course of creating one of his fine cups of coffee he filled the Russell Hobbes electric kettle, joyfully anticipating the taste and aroma of finely roasted beans and scalding hot water mixed together. He then, of course, placed said kettle on the electric stove element to warm it up…which it did indeed do. It became so warm that it melted over the electric hob destroyed the kettle and Joe’s dream of a fine beverage.  The billowing clouds of black smoke had ruined the moment for him.             

On gig day we had a nice long soundcheck and the HRH crew guys could not have been cooler; very helpful, very professional and friendly. I was using my in-ear monitors for the first time in actual action and they were a revelation: clear sound, plenty of volume, but without blowing my eardrums in. This is the way forward!

Showtime came and we hit the stage on schedule for our 90 minutes of glory. It went pretty smoothly, especially considering this being the first return after the enforced Covid break from live performances. The set was good and it was interesting to feel how songs did or did not fit together live. Very few hiccups. However…of the few that did occur, perhaps most notable was the second half of opener ‘Grace of God’. During this portion of the song, Doogie performed a vocal feat of immense power and beauty, rivalled perhaps only by Pavarotti’s unreleased cover of Slayer’s ‘Dead Skin Mask’. It was possessed of soaring highs with melodically poignant passages sure to make the most hardened headbanger weep with uncontrollable joy. Of course he had also switched off his microphone, so we, and the world at large, were robbed of what Doogie assured us was one of the finest pieces of vocalisation ever performed in public. Shame.

Gary and Doogie, one of the finest voices in rock (especially when audible through switched on microphone).

Nevertheless we remained undeterred. Mister Monitors emerged from his bunker to correct this grievous oversight and the rest of the set went swimmingly. We accidentally robbed Jimmy of one keyboard solo by coming into a verse too early and I’m certain that it too would have been the most thought provoking and incredible piece of music ever performed; enough to have the spirit of the mighty Jon Lord beaming down upon our very own keyboard wizard…but alas, it was not to be.

Jimmy mourning his lost solo.

For me, it was an absolute pleasure to share the stage with four highly skilled and professional musicians and I loved every minute of it. These boys are all at the top of their game already and knowing that it will only get even better as the band hits its stride, is exciting stuff.

All too soon it was over and we loaded out and returned to base. The next day was a pretty horrendous travel day with further van related skulduggery, but we are now firmly based and preparing for the tour with Girlschool to begin on 17th in Milton Keynes. Cannot wait. In the meantime, Joe Stump and his magic bag of snacks will be appearing in the resurrected ‘Joe’s Deli’ series on the Alcatrazz Facebook page, so keep an eye out for that. But never EVER let him use your electric kettle…

That’s it for now….more soon!