Wednesday, March 28, 2007

let's try again tuesday 27 march 2007 westfield mass.

i wrote that last blog grog weeks ago. I am in Western Mass., holed up at Louis Barlow's parents house, relaxing and gathering my thoughts and energy after the most crazy, exciting, frustrating, fulfilling, exhilarating few weeks/months. So much has happened. Time has flown by so fast. I have not been able to collect my energy and find the time to scribble down thoughts, relate events that have happened, changes that have taken place, and I feel really frustrated about it. Last night I lay in bed and cursed myself for not having done anything about it.
I wrote something properly on this medium a couple of months ago when I was mixing the album. At that point, I was on a roll. I had recorded the album including overdubs, and the mixing process was going really well. Shortly after writing the blurb in the studio, we hit a wall with the mixing. The last 4 days of mixing dragged so hard. It's so frustrating when you have a deadline to meet and you know that you have to complete your art without compromising it. Sometimes the harder you try, the worse things get. It was a steep learning curve to try and find solutions for a mix, not just technically, but also mentally. Patience is the key. Faced with a really sharp timescale on all fronts, it was a true test of character to see whether Maarten and I could pull it off. I have to say that we succeeded.
The next thing that cropped up was that the person that I had booked to master the album, bailed out at the 11th hour.
I turned to my friend Helmut in Berlin who works at the mastering company called "DubPlates". He came through like a trooper and did a FANTASTIC job mastering the album. The result is an upfront sounding album with presence and dynamics. Helmut and I would Skype each other and video conference with each other through the nights. He would send me mixes online, and I would listen and comment on them. All praise to Helmut.
The artwork was collated by myself whilst mixing the album! All the ideas were sent to hedwig in Groningen (our webqueen) and she translated my ideas into the layout. Thankyou Hedwig!
And finally, the finished product had to be handed over to the label boss Marcel. He was away on holiday for a large chunk of the period I was mixing the album and doing the artwork and was uncontactable in Andalucia. There were anxious moments when I felt that not getting hold of him meant that important information was not obtainable and that this meant that we would not be able to get the album pressed in time for the American tour. But marcel also came through and we got finished copies of the album of the evening before we flew to the USA. Thankyou Marcel!
So as you can see, there were many people involved in this project without whom it would not have been possible. Yet this is not the whole story. The album was completed, but we still needed a band to make the trip to America to do the tour with Sebadoh. January was a pissy time. There were many exciting things to look forward to, but there were many crappy things that dragged things down and just made life miserable. The biggest pisser was the case of the guitar player. Our former guitar player, Pim, decided he couldn't do the tour.
In stepped Jer. I can't speak highly of my bandmates on this tour. Wilf has been magnificent behind the drumkit, and as a member of the touring party. Fully hands on, he is in his element on the road. Helping set up drumkits, set up the merch, sell the merch, packing the van, driving and scraping the van, cooking on days off, etc. Jer has been great. He has been playing the guitar like a demon, and has been charming and helpful in every aspect of the tour. He is the merch king, and is fully hands on with all things to do with the tour. He searches for fruits and nuts and berries and can spot a national park at 100 paces!

And so to the United States of America. We entered the country as peasants on holiday. Hollywood welcomed these unassuming gringos on the day before the Oscars. Lou picked us up at LAX on a warm, balmy saturday night and drove us to his beautiful house in Silverlake. His lovely family were there to welcome us with hugs, and pizza and champagne. Jason, from Sebadoh, was also at home, and this warm bear of a man would light up even the most miserly of hearts. The day after, we drove around Hollywood, hoping to run over a celebrity or 6, but ended up at Guitar (or should that be Retard) Center, buying pre-tour crap. It's so easy on the eve of a tour, to go into one of these stores, and be so buoyed by the prospect of hitting the road and possibly encountering the rock fame game, that you end up buying tons of crap which you think will enhance the performances, but in fact, will just get lost under the back bench in your van and only be found at the end of the tour. Keep yr feet on the ground and yr mind on yr purse. These Guitarded Centers are full of wankers noodling on guitars, thumping on basses, bashing on drums, old farts reliving their youth (and also hoping that young pups recognise them). What a racket goes on inside these places. It should carry a health risk. Some employees walk around with a earplugs in all day!

So we've done 17 shows to date. We are at the half way point. How's it going, I hear you wonder? Well goddammit let me tell ya!!!!
IT'S BEEN AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I feel bad for not having written earlier and explained to you the flow of this tour. But at the same time I don't feel bad at all!!!! It's been our adventure. It's been our thrill. It's been our triumph. It's been our joy. Everyday has been the first day of the rest of our tour. And each day has provided us with untold pleasures and new experiences. There has been so much going on, and I have been so busy, that at the end of each night, I have not felt the need to turn on the 'puter and be the Sam Pepys of ye olde tour. Instead, i have sat with my fellow tour amigos, sipped on a beer, listened to records or watched the telly, and shot the shit with them over the day's quirks and spills. I can't tell you how happy I have been. I am tourmanaging this whole roadshow, and doing sound for "Sebadoh" and playing in TBM. I'm busy as hell, but not tired from it all. And thats because the people on tour are righteous and without ego (ok Eric gaffney, I can take your quirks, but at heart, you are, I feel, a good person). And we all have a job to do, and we all do it well. "Sebadoh" people have been lovely. I have always considered Lou and Jason as family....and they are, and have been for many years. With them, i feel like I am on the road with my brothers. Eric has been the wild card, but I have grown to like our very own Austin Powers. Whenever anyone calls me on the phone, who knows the band, the first question I always get asked is "How's Eric doing?". Not, "how's the tour going", or "how are the shows", but how is our very own Eric doing? And Jer and Wilf have been stars.

Having spent so much energy in the months beforehand to get the record ready and prepare for this tour, it was with huge relief that we finally trod on the boards at the first show in San Diego. I was without nerves. The soundcheck had been extremely brief, but productive. Our pre-show meal was absolutely awful! The venue was sold out, and packed by the time we returned to start the show. Wilf, Jer and I had had a handful of rehearsals, including one the night before the San diego show, at Lou's practice space in Los Angeles. The crowd were sunkissed Californians who were here to witness the reformation of the original Sebadoh lineup for the first time in 15 years. But first they had to chow down on the quirky, jerky, erratic sounds of the Limey/dutch noise pop combo. At 930pm, on Monday 26 February 2007, "The Bent Moustache" cranked out the first chords over an American public. We played a tight 35 minute set, and the atmosphere got better and better the longer we played. Nervous audience members let themselves go after a couple of songs and realised that they weren't going to be served sub-standard pre-show slop. This was a band that knew what they were doing and had tunes to boot (aren't i bold saying all this....get me a job on the "Rolling stone"!!!!!). We had a terrific reaction and sold 10 CDs to boot! Booyakasha. The eagle had landed. Send it on brothers and sisters. It was a great feeling. It felt like vindication for all the shit I had had to put up with the months beforehand, the enemies i had made, the hard work that had been put in. It really felt like the fruition of much much hard work.

Let me explain to you all how our team dynamic works. 6 of us (3 Sebadoh and 3 TBM) travel in a big black splitter van. This splitter van is very comfortable and has aircraft seats inside, so you don't have the disadvantages of a bench, like in the 15 seater passenger vans. What happens in your seat, stays in your seat! And you can recline and sleep if needed. Or you can plug in your computer and printer into the wall sockets and get your office up and running. Or plug in the iPod into the van stereo and beat out theme music for Wilf whilst driving. 4 of us share the driving....Lou, Wilf, Jake and I. We share the same backline and same channels on the mixing desk. When we arrive at a venue, we load-in (except Eric who is the master at finding ways at avoiding load-in and load-out.....that guy has perfected the Toronto, he jumped out of the van 2 minutes before arriving at the venue to go and "pee" and didnt turn up at the venue for another 1.5hours claiming he had got lost / locked up in a basement somewhere! This stuff is could write a whole book on it!). After load-in, Sebadoh set up the equipment onstage, Wilf and Jer set up the merch, and I EQ the system and get the mics ready for soundcheck. I soundcheck the band, and then we soundcheck. Venues love this roadshow, as we share the same backline and don't need to move anything onstage, and the in-house engineer uses the same channels that I have set up for Sebadoh. Whilst we play our show, Sebadoh boys watch over the merch (this usually ensures more sales as the general public are very happy to meet their heroes face to face), and when they play, Jer and Wilf watch over the merch and I mix the band. A self contained unit with minimum of fuss. At the end of the night, all band members pack everything up whilst I settle up with the promoter. Easy as pie.

The show in San Francisco was special. It was a festival at the wonderful Great American Music Hall. I had done sound here for "Mum" and "Dinosaur Jr." amongst others, and now it fely weird to know that I would actually be on the stage. This feeling has passed over me more than once. I have been to so many of the venues before, but as a sound engineer. And now I was actually meant to stand on the stage and play whilst somebody else did my sound. Thats another weird thing! Somebody else doing our sound. i always wondered how I would react to other sound engineers. i know that i always want to be treated with respect and not be pissed on when doing sound for other folks. And in return, I have treated the in-house engineers with respect and outlined to them beforehand what I hope to have the band sound like. I certainly have not acted as a sound fascist and run out and tell the engineer what he should be doing (Lord knows I have had this once or twice before from people who were clueless about sound....stand up Alabama redneck). Most of these guys know their job well, and although it is a huge advantage to have your own guy running sound for you night after night, if you can't afford your own engineer, you are at the mercy of the in-house guy. If treat the guy with respect and thank him regularly, he will do a good job for you. Be an asshole to him, and expect to get shit through the speakers and monitors.

Anyway, San Francisco was special. The people who work there are sweethearts. The venue was sold out. The bill was great for th evening. we were staying at the Phoenix Hotel around the corner (walking we could drink!). It was all setup. We played second last on a 4 band bill. And what a show! It couldn't have gone better. We played a blinder ladies and gentlemen. On the second song, I leapt in the air, and landed so badly on my left knee, that I heard it rip! I fell to the ground in agony and carried on playing the bass on my back. Nobody suspected anything! I carried on playing, and slowly turned over and onto my knees. The big test would be to see if I could stand up. If I felt pain, the show would be over!!!! I slowly stood up, and felt mild pain, but was able to stand and worm my way to the mic to carry on the vocals! Fuelled by alcohol, the pain was suppressed, and we did the whole show with yours truly pretty static, apart from vehement headbanging! We got a terrific reaction from the San fran audience! The honcho of Revolver distribution was there (biggest independent distributor in the USA) and he offered us a distribution deal as soon as the gig was over! Oh the pain!!!!! I have been wearing a knee brace ever since. I am due for a knee operation some time this summer anyway, but this was pretty much the last straw! But it WAS a fab show!

And so to the Pacific Northwest! Portland and Seattle jigged in their flannel shirts. The rain beat down predictably. Beautiful mountains soared up high. The Gods peppered snow all around. My friends Chad and Nikole came to Portland from seattle and carried love, smiles, and their car keys for us. Why the car keys? Because we had to make the trip to Vancouver in Canada, the day after Portland. "Sebadoh" went up there on their own. Wilf, Jer and I amde the trip up there as tourists, using chad's car. We had nothing at all with us except our passports. We were just good ol' boys going up there to visit a few friends, never meanin' no harm, and then set to return to the US of A. Getting into canada was a cinch. Stepping into the border control office and seeing the "Sebadoh" boys sitting there, but prtending not to know them was a hoot. We played a cracking show for those canucks and then set back home. We got to the border at about 2.30am and met with the most hard nosed, suspicious, asswipe of a customs guard. Oh, and the "Sebadoh" boys just happened to be in the waiting room when we arrived, and although we never "knew" them, they were witness to a fine grilling. That guy just didnt give us any room to breathe. But we kept a stiff upper lip, kept a straight bat, and played a fine innings under tremendous pressure. We were through and back in the land of the glee!

Los Angeles was a double edged sword. The Troubador crowd were full of posers and the older Sebadoh fans.....the crinkle, white haired fans who had matured in hollywood, and for whom a wild night out was seeing real musicians bleat out indie rock and then return home to their cocoa and slippers. We received a stiff reaction from them....even though so many of those lazy f****rs came and told us they loved the show afterwards. Why didn't you let us know during the set ya lame assed numptys? But Spaceland was magnifico. Saturday night crazy party people hooted and hollered and shouted weird spazz at us. The set was tighter than a gnats ass and funkier than Bootsy's pants and more fun than Iggy's cockploits.

"you guy's rock", "awesome", "that was totally rad", "You guys were so much better than Sebadoh". If I got a dollar for every person who said these things, i would be a rich man indeed.

I have spoken at length about "The Bent Moustache" but let me talk about our sponsors "Sebadoh". Lou barlow, Eric Gaffney, Jason loewenstein. The original lineup. Together again after 14/15 years. The classic lineup. So many songs. All 3 members contribute songwriting. 3 different characters. Another band on a reunion trip? NO!!! these guys have a purpose to coming together. It almost feels like an unfulfilled destiny. They parted ways not having achieved all that they could have. Eric is the wild card. lets not make any bones about it. "Eric go wild". A character you could not have invented. Austin Powers dress sense and effete mannerisms. His quirky outbursts and demands make for hilarious chinscratching. Is he for real? Does he mean what he says? Yes? this genius or pure crap? The fans are divided. The webby reactions to shows grace Eric with no favours. Ungenerous to a degree. His songs are cool. Sometimes he plays too many of them....give the other lads a chance. His stage mannerisms suggest he is happy to be onstage but also that he wants to be the star. i suggest that you let your songs do the talking, because when Lou and Jake come up with theirs, your songs are left trembling at the knees. Those boys write KILLER songs. But eric is special in his own way. And Eric is one third of what makes Sebadoh special. The other 2/3rds are Jake and Lou. These guys write amazing songs and they all contribute to the whole that is the 'doh. I love this band. They have made chaos cool. for all the time stretches between songs, and all the shite talked about between songs, it is ultimately the songs that win the day! Their set presence and rapport is unique. Nobody drags such extreme reactions from audiences like "Sebadoh". Nobody divides audiences more than the 3 disparate members of "sebadoh". Nobody writes so many different syles of songs than "Sebadoh". It has made for the most pleasurable experience behind the mixing desk. The 3 guys switching instruments every few songs, Eric asking for reverb in his monitor and some overhead too, firing between love songs and then hardcore! I freakin'love it!!!!!!!

Days off in Los Angeles at the end of the first stretch of touring on the west coast. A time to recharge batteries. cook good food, go to the MOCA to see an exhibition on feminism and art in the 60s and 70s (some good and alot bad!), reassess how the bands been playing and what we can do to make it better (this has been a plus side of the new guitarist...he has the balls to talk about the sets, songs, and inter-react with fellow musicians onstage, and buoy everyone up over performances), meet friends, go to the movies, go record shopping, buy a turban for stage gear, go to Griffith Park, have long talk with Lou, go to gig, etc etc. This has been Lou's idea to have a few days off after every 2 weeks of touring. Genius! It works!

And so to the mid-west! What awaits! Long drives! Heat! desert! Cacti! Indian reservations and casinos! National parks! Mountains! Little sleep! These mid westerners know nothing better than to get steaming drunk and shout at bands, and buy no merch. let me bitch about how little merch we sold in the midwest. Damn you! We bust our asses for thee, and you spent all yr money on booze and yeehar. Buy our Cd and some whupass. It contains 5.4% alcohol. Forst means strong lager! Take it home, play it and lie in a pool of vomit the next morning! One town blends into the next. The drives are beautiful. The deserts are amazing. Arun has asked me to bring the biggest cactus home in the aeroplane! I have bought seeds for him which I will send home. Evidence of the injuns is everywhere in the names of places and the history of the land, but all they have been left with in their legacy are reservations and casinos. We have a friend in Portland ("Chief" he's called would you believe) and we pass the casino between Los Angeles and Albuquerque where he earns his fortune and from this he can live a life of drunken luxury.......(Ian Astbury : it ain't cool to hang onto Indian culture. And being in the "Doors" (you're not real) is less cool!).

Boulder in Colorado is tolerated on St patricks Day. every frickin' american is Irish for the day!!! An excuse to get absolutely slaughtered on alcohol and for young women to be ravished / raped in the night! Its a frightening ordeal. Frat boys flex Guinness muscles . Women sway from side to side in miniskirts laughing feverishly as boys ogle at prey. inside the venue things are more sedate and mannered. We play a cracking show and the self appointed Oirsih do jig to our sounds. Its a good craic. "Dinosaur Jr." management are there to show faces (Lou is there and I am there so they have to turn up). There is no mention of "Dinosaur Jr" plans and whether they need my services as a sound engineer, and conversation is kept polite. You can pretty much take it that the yes men have won their day and that control is finally complete. They can appoint at will and milk all cash cows to bleeding point. "It's a shit business" as Joseph always says. How true, how true!

Chicago and Detroit proved to be a feeding ground for sympathetic music fans as usual. We listened to "The Mekons" driving to Chicago and commented on the fact that this town had always been a supporter of the underground and good music of the maverick musician/band. And "The Mekons" were such a case. From leeds to chicago. 2 tough towns full of sheep shaggers! And the analogue set should calm down too! They gave "Sebadoh" and us a wonderful reaction and set us up again as musicians with a purpose. Thankyou! The Detroit venue had a bowling alley downstairs. i was so pissed off we never had time to freak those lanes. I did it last year with Dino and had so much fun! Agh, late night tour schlep! In Holland we would have closed shop at 6pm for meat and 2 veg. actually Holland wouldn't have had the imagination for a bowling alley at a venue. They would have turned the space into 25 little apartments. Breezeblock brigade. Stupid fools. Unimaginative oafs!

We decided to bypass the remaining 2 Canadian shows for fear of retribution by USA home insecurity. We wanna do the eat coast of amerikkka. So we headed to western Mass., to the house of the parents of Louis Barlow. John and Louis Barlow are the sweetest people in the world. They have welcomed us and looked after us like we were family. And THEY ARE FAMILY!!!! Fantastic people! They understand the dynamics of musicians. And they give space accordingly! And John takes the piss accordingly! And I take the piss accordingly! We cook food for them. They take us into the countryside. They take us to all the cool record stores and wait whilst we spend hours searching for vinyl! They have love and they have respect! They turn their home over to us. Lou's wife and child are here too. This is fantastic!

Our missed shows in Canada were not without an upside to matters. We got ourselves onto the "Gladtree" festival in Amherst Massachussets (this is splet wrogn i kown!!!!). A 3 day festival featuring artists from the free NoIzE underground (your typical "Wire" reader would be cremaing themselves senseless). We went on Saturday and Sunday and saw and heard some amazing stuff. Featured artists included MV&EE, Jack Rose, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and many many many other lesser know, but cooler artists, acts, bands, musicians, performers. Anyway, we played on the Sunday after the "Vashti Bashers" ( a 3 drumkit assault and synth and mad vox from Dredd Foole). Our guitar player vanished to NYC on saturday to visit friends for a few days, and we enlisted the help of Joseph Mascis on guitar. We rehearsed on Sunday morning, and by the time of the gig, he had forgotten all, and improvised his way through the 3 song set! It was great fun. It went down pretty well and Thurston and Kim mentioned how much they had enjoyed it....amongst others. I didn't mention anything about their latest musical misadventures.

um.....thats it for now. There have been mad tales on the road, but now is not the time for that. I will endeavour to keep the books up to date and flourish with spicy tales. I am just happy to have managed to get this down. I will get photos up before long. There are alot. I am sorry for the delay between posts. I have been buying vinyl on the trip and my portable record player has been busy! I miss my family but iChat is FANTASTIC for staying in touch. My satellite navigation system will arrive tomorrow and travelling between towns will be so much easier. Our new album is really good. I am so so so so proud of it! We are a little band from holland but we are making big strides in America!

Peace out!


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