Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jogging Through History

Old Father Time pays no heed to the ageing process, and despite my best efforts to duck and dive his probing "get old" jabs, he has managed to scar me in several ways. My days of running half marathons, jogging recreationally, and taking a brisk canter to catch the bus were, I thought, a thing of the past when my knees started giving up on me about 2.5 years ago. Pain in my left knee after a swift gallop would leave this old nag lying on the couch with a big bag of ice to curtail the swelling.

On tour I would usually try every other day to go for a run. Not only was it a good way to keep in shape, and fight the tour flab, but the best thing about it was that you got to see more of the city than you would normally do on tour. Running through the backstreets, past major monuments, through beautiful parks, over imposing bridges, gives you more of a flavour of that city than any quick sightings through your tourbus window ever could do.

Over the last couple of months, I started to run on a treadmill in my local gym. To my surprise, I felt no adverse reaction to a 15 minute jog on the machine. Further tryouts gave me faint hope. When I finally picked up the courage to actually run around the fields at the football club I am trainer at, and felt great for it, I once again had hope.

And now, on this Kissogram tour, I even dared to pack my jogging suit into my suitcase with a view to perhaps doing something I love again. And I have. My first attempt at pounding the streets was in Paris. I strove to keep any fear of possible impending pain at bay, and measured my running steps so as not to stumble over paving stones or kerbstones. I feel that if you carry fear of injury or pain in your head that your body reacts accordingly and will allow this to happen. An hour of running through Paris was awarded with an enormous feeling of achievement at the end and a body and mind that leapt for joy knowing that it had overcome an enormous hurdle. Since then, the paving stones of Copenhagen and Berlin have felt the full brunt of 70kgs of athletic prowess. And no pain in my knees!

And so onto the history lesson.
Berlin was protected by concentrated anti-aircraft defenses, including three huge concrete flak towers. Flakturm 1 in the Tiergarten was completely destroyed after the war. The massive concrete walls of the front half of Flakturm 3 remain in Humbolthain Park. The main gun positions at each corner were for long-range 12.8cm flak guns; the smaller pedestals below were for smaller caliber guns of shorter range. On the left below is a view of Flakturm 3 during its destruction after the war. The aerial view on the left below, from Google Earth, shows the remains of the Humbolthain flak tower today.
Flakturm 2 was located in Friedrichshain Park. This is where I jogged through today. Following the war it was mostly destroyed and buried in rubble from the bombed city. Today only a small part of one of the upper parapets can be seen above ground. flaktrm2.jpg (167500 bytes)

These structures are / were massive. The Nazis had a plan to use these also as the last place where the population of the town would gather and live in if everything went wrong! From here they would resist all foreign elements and live and fight till the bitter end! If you go to Hamburg, you will find a similar enormous flak tower in the St.Pauli area of town. This building in Hamburg is now a music store! This bunker provided me with a wonderful Joe Meek compressor. Those ol' Germans were actually planning to build music stores and not flak towers. Somehow the original idea got skewered!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dribbly nose

I hate getting sick on tour. I've been really lucky in that respect in that 95% of the time I remain pretty healthy, and other people's sniffles and bugs pass me by. But this time I just knew it was coming...stepping into our minivan, with Jonas from Kissogram cranking the heater to 30 degrees, and me sticking the AC on. It was a climate clash, global warming/cooling showdown, hot hot heat versus ice ice baby. The result was / is that I have left a trail of snotty tissues from Paris to Copenhagen. I have sneaked back early to our abode for the evening , with a view to some r+r. The worst thing about it all is that you have to carry on through thick and thin as there are shows to play for days to come. Another huge drive tomorrow, and my body is flailing. You know when you get a cold and you feel fluish, and your body tells you that you your energy levels have diminished, and that your eyes are gonna explode, and your nose is all red and sore as tissue paper around Europe is made from sandpaper, and your head feels like its attached to a jackhammer, then thats where I'm at right now! Going out in Hamburg last night with Olli, who owns a bar there and plied me with free booze, didn't help either. But hey, when you've gotta bro down, you've gotta bro down!

Touring with Franz Ferdinand is great. Band and crew are as nice as pie, and have made our lives so easy. Maximum respect to them all. I've been on tours where the main act have imposed dB limits, only allowed the support act a certain number of channels on the desk, kept the opening act at arms length from the main band (banning them from dressing rooms, not allowing them to eat or drink from main act's rider / fridge), imposed POW terms and conditions for the duration of the tour. Not fun. So now you're curious as to which bands these could be eh? Ok, I'll let you in on one....just one band. Ever see "Dig" the movie? It wasn't Anton's band, but.......

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Ex Factor - Lille Le Grand Mix 15 March 2009

Losing a band member who has been part and parcel of the sound, setup, and spirit for the last 30 years would prove a major blow to any other musical formation. But to Dutch sonic sculptors The Ex it has provided them with a new found spirit and energy, and musical freedom that leaves most of their contemporaries floundering.

Late last year, lead singer Jos decided to call it a day with the band he had been a member of for the last 30 years. The Ex recruited singer / guitarist Arnold from Dutch band Zea as his replacement. Last night was their second show with this new starting lineup.

And what a show it was. From the initial guitar scrapings and drum shuffles, followed a cacophonous 3 pronged guitar assault pinned down by Kat's brilliant rhythm sticks. Infectious tunes with an african tinge provided the canvas for vocals which have seen colours of melody added...something not really associated with Ex songs. And the interplay between the 3 guitarists (note no bass....only Andy's baritone guitar anchoring the low end) was a joy to hear. Maximum riffage and tunes galore. More hooks than Ali, more bite than dracula. The set was dynamic and powerful, and the audience, both old Ex-heads and new-timers, were completely engrossed to the end. Somehow it all went by too quickly.

In a time when reunions are the norm, and rehashing the past is a ritual, there are still some bands who blaze their way forwards and push the whole darn concept of being in a band to the max. Those old bands who come together again and try to make a new album together usually fall flat on their faces. But some bands have never split up and have shown that a belief in the music you make and a trust amongst the people you work with are possibly the most important tools in a band dynamic. Thank goodness for The Ex.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

4 days, 2 shows. Something to be encouraged I would day, off day, show day, off day. Lille is our base on off days, and we are being accomodated and hosted by Joe's wonderful parents. Home comforts are a rare treat on tour and if afforded the chance to be fed and watered and a have a bed in the warm environs of a family home, I will gratefully take that. Lille is a surprisingly beautiful town, almost bourgeoise. I only saw Lille as a stopover town for the Eurostar, but now I know that it was also the place where they discovered the first anti-tuberculosis vaccine! That town went up in my estimations after learning that fact I can tell you. Tonight we will go and the new formation of The Ex in Lille. Exciting.

Tour life also presents you with a whole lot of time for yourself. At home, there are never enough hours in the day to do all the things you want to / have to. On tour there are moments where nursing a beer is the highlight of the day. Nowadays with the advent of Facebook, going backstage resembles entering a bleeding internet cafe. It's MacBook central as people tell the world that they woken up, and then 2 minutes later everyone knows you've cleaned your teeth, and 5 minutes later you are congratulated by an A+R douche you met 10 years ago for 2 minutes backstage somewhere in godknowswhereville for having posted the fact that you just had a good dump! Boring boring boring.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

it's always a weird time when I have to leave for a tour. i usually start getting homesick about 3-4 days before I leave, and the first 2 days of any tour are pretty bad. But this time round.....nothing. Not a pang of misery or a tickle of tumult. I put this down to the fact that I have been home for so long (by choice), that as soon as the bank balance starts shivering, and tour life memory seems so distant, then hitting the road for a few weeks of music, brotherhood and touristic attractions seems rather appealing. This perhaps over-glamourises the life, but hey, on day 1 of the tour I'm feeling positive. Read this page in a week and see how I feel then.
Touring with a band you've never met before is always a lottery. Meeting the band for the first time is a bit like when dogs meet each other on the street / in the sniff each other's proverbial butts to ascertain x-factor of the others....will you get on, are they nice people, do they have a good taste in music, are they veggies/meat-eaters, are they demanding or relaxed, do they have a sense of humour or are they German?
the band I am with are opening for a larger band. This larger band are taking their own catering. Oh joy!!!!

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Bent Moustache reaction to harsh review

He's got a point.....or 6!

A Bent Moustache harsh my 13 year old nephew

Just thought id check out your website 4 the bent moustashe- found lots of pics of u playing the bass and giving it all this and that with the hair............. For a start that bass looks horrible and doesnt suit u..... looked at the juke box on your website- listened too some of the songs- very depressing and instruments to not go together........singing is not the best could do with updating- just been making websites in I.C.T at school & ive seen better web designs.......

Look at the upsides- its just 1 persons OPINION!


Crisis Reading

Dead Aid - Why Aid Is Not working And How There Is Another Way For Africa

written by: Dambisa Moyo

not for the faint-hearted

The constant media bombardment over this freaking crisis is getting to be a......crisis! I've asked alot of people about who's been affected by it and not alot of people seem to have an answer for it. 25 years ago the miners in Britain started a year long strike against Thatcher and her henchmen who sought revenge against the unions, for their part in having brought down the Heath government in the 1970s. The miners foresaw in a micro-economic sense the problems we are in now. The advent of Thatcherism / Reaganism /Friedmanite policies ushered in the new era of yuppies, economic self-aggrandisement, greed, petty thieves in the form of bankers and fat city cats, and the era of me, myself and I! The bands then had plenty to shout about, and maybe now, in a 21st century home recording / myspace kinda way, the bands will squeeze out some imaginative rants against the slimeball globalists rather than asking someone to "Take Me Out". I saw bands in the last few weeks that got me excited excited as 25 years ago when music was a weapon against the lawmakers, parents, authority, and you felt that only the bands and their followers knew how you felt. Hats off to Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, Wavves, Gang Gang Dance. I've been writing and recording music the last 2 months where I actually felt I had a purpose and direction in what I was doing. Is this what professional musicians feel? Am I just living a charmed life where I can afford to give over so much time to my music? No...I made that time for myself and have been focused enough to go and work days and nights on my own, or with bandmates to get this shit done. Now I sound like Bono....fuck that. I don't wanna end up like St. Bono saving the world. That guy holds more power and sway than African leaders of state. That isn't right. Now sort the crisis out Bono!