Thursday, December 8, 2016

Raid Over The Peoples Republic...

We returned to Chapel Hill this past weekend. It recently occurred to me that even as a pre-teen growing up in Virginia, Chapel Hill seemed to hold some sort of weird mysterious allure. Trickling down from older siblings and other avenues of teenaged gossip (page one news, this), Chapel Hill was spoken of in reverent tones as a place where youth culture actually held command over the rule of adults, where the status quo caved under the ideas and attitudes of the bohemian and served as barometer of all things that were going to be big tomorrow.

All idealized fantasy of course, but when your 11 you sorta don't know any better.


All I knew was what I had been told, and my imagination filled in the blanks. By the time I was 13 I was becoming more aware of the culture that permeated from the town. Having relocated to a suburban hellscape outside the port city of Norfolk, I was exposed to the cool new bands via a local DJ named Carol 'Hell Yeah' Taylor (who has sadly since passed). She would eagerly talk up her regular visits to Chapel Hill, often returning with new recordings of groups like the dB's, Let's Active and others. It was collegiate cool, but it colored my otherwise nascent punk rock sensibilities.

Frankly the hype was unfounded. Once I finally visited the town, I was left wholly unimpressed. Infused every year with a new crop of wide-eyed and idealized youth carting along the dregs of their hometown hype, Chapel Hill is in a state of eternal flux. Contrasting the free-spirited creative with the career-minded academic, it is a forever churning piss-pot of bad ideas funded by Mommy and Daddy's money - the grist composed of more dollars than sense. True, most all of these college towns are exactly alike in their generalized non-conformist way; insulated yet not immune to the horrors of the Real World lying in wait just beyond the horizon...

Enter ANTiSEEN; mongrel horde from the outlands, brandishing weapons of electrified torment! Here to ruin your groove...

The club is called the Local 506. We played here a year or so ago and I've looked forward to returning. If Chapel Hill is in itself unimpressive, at least the club is cool. It's ran efficiently, is basically clean, has a cool staff and a good PA. The backstage greenroom is actually upstairs. It is pretty nice with a large lounge area with clean bathrooms, including a shower. I like the Local 506 a lot.

We load in quickly and relocate to the neighboring pizza joint. We are instantly thrust amid a roomful of Chapel Hill's shadow side; the Future Yuppies of America. These are the frat boys and sorority girls enveloped in their own world of GPA, IPA and NCAA. They don't even acknowledge or so much as look at us, but I can't help but study them intently.I lasciviously consider their sexual habits and mating rituals. The boys seem eager if wholly inept. The girls smile frustrated smiles. I prejudicially contemplate their entire lives; nobody's on the short road to nowhere.

After masticating like a pack of rabid dogs, we return to the club and hunker down in the greenroom. I can hear the opening band soundchecking downstairs. They seem intent to practice their entire set. I'm convinced that some of the bands that open for us never practice until the soundcheck. I crack open a beer and sink into a sofa. Jeff's brother Greg is here along with Michael Pillmer, who does our web site. Todd Goss shows up, too. These are all longtime friends and its great to see them. We debate wrestling (the validity of the claw hold) and politics (the validity of the president). Unlike so many online debates I've seen, ours always end in fits of laughter. We can laugh at each other and we can laugh at ourselves.

Before I know it, it's time to play. We casually ready our equipment. I don't feel rushed but somehow feel a little nervous. Greg Clayton gives us a grand introduction and we launch into 'NC Royalty'. It feels a little off. I think I got so anxious that I'm cruising at my own speed.
I got to make up the set list for this show and purposely put in a few songs I personally have trouble playing. I wanted to practice them more but we have been so busy with recording new material as well as the holidays that our practice sessions were limited. The guys assure me that I play everything fine and truthfully I don't think anyone else notices. It's just my own personal drive to perform better. I never want to get lackadaisical or complacent. 


I fall back in line rooted by Gooch's drumming and soon am in the zone. We fire off a set full of old classics fortified with some of the new songs. It's encouraging to see that people seem to really get off on the new stuff. The crowd is somewhat smaller than the last time we played here but seem way more into it. I can't see more than backlit shadows, but everyone seems to be moving. The response we receive is great. We hit our climax and return for an encore of 'Cactus Jack' and 'Destructo Rock'.

If Chapel Hill was ever the epicenter of... uh, anything, it was certainly this night. And Ground Zero was the Local 506. And what was causin' all this...???  Anyone that knows me can attest that I'm not given to moments of self-aggrandizement but I truly feel this line-up can hold their own against any band treading the boards anywhere in the world, especially in Chapel Hill...







We've been progressing on new material. Recently Barry demoed out some tracks he built from some of my riff ideas and it looks like the right direction to go. The plan for the next six weeks is to start getting more tracks recorded for what I personally hope to be a full length LP. We'll see. Either way, I feel really lucky to be a part of this and I anticipate producing some really great stuff in the future. Meanwhile we've got a few things recently recorded that are very close to seeing release, including our split with Malcolm Tent. Plus the 'Southern Hostility' Demos, which is something I'm super excited about! It's all coming soon, folks. And Tennessee, we're headed your way in January, so get ready! As always, info can be obtained on our facebook page and www.antiseen.com - so get on it!!




In closing I wanna take a moment and extend 'happy birthday' wishes out to my old friend Jeff Williams, aka Biggy Stardust. Jeff is the host and creative force behind the 'Possum Pit Podcast', our semi-weekly discussion panel that you can find on iTunes or YouTube. Inspired by the 'Broadstreet Breakdown' podcast, we contemplate the finer points of World Culture - pro wrestling, rock & roll, TV sitcoms and b-movies. If you haven't checked it out already, I eagerly invite you to do so. And leave a comment and/or rating while your at it.

Anyways, I first met Jeff Williams sometime around early 2001. With an easy going attitude masking a sharp, dark wit that outmatches and outpaces my own, his friendship has proven to be one of my best. For several years we gleefully aggravated and annoyed anyone we felt suffered from an over-inflated sense of self-worth. Which pretty much meant anyone that wasn't us. Like some sort of distorted punk rock version of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet show, nothing was off limits for our barbed commentary (read: contempt and insults). With loudmouthed alcohol-fueled stupidity that steadily advanced (already) negative opinions toward us, we soldiered onward reveling in the loathing.

Taking it too far was par for the course, and ultimately sent us sideways with each other. I'll take the blame for that misstep. With the aid of some maturity (and sobriety) we've mended the fence. The mileage has included some of the proverbial change of venue moments that life inevitably provides. We are very different than we were a decade ago, however we also still very much the same. Which is to say we time our punches a little better. Anyhow, not to be overly sentimental or nothing, but I love the guy like a brother. Happy birthday pal, all the best to you!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Callin' From the Funhouse...

I recently had the opportunity to see 'Gimme Danger', the new documentary on the Stooges. It gets two big thumbs up from ol' Russ, and I feel anyone reading this should definitely make effort to see it. I'd like to claim an adolescent allegiance to the Stooges proverbial "O Mind" and all its revelatory glory, but I caught up way late. The first time I heard the Stooges as a teenager, I didn't get it. I guess my teenaged suspicion of anything I perceived as "popular" tinted any first impressions with the prejudicial stain of contempt (and if I'm to be totally honest, it still does). I think the term willful ignorance is apt. Perhaps the constant praise and adulation The Stooges seemed to receive from all quarters caused my stubborn counter-reaction. I had been turned on to the MC5 and obviously the Stooges name was almost always tagged with their own. However upon first discovery, the '5's evangelical fire-and-brimstone boogie was more easily and readily digested than when I first heard the Stooges. The droning mantra 'We Will Fall' didn't help, either. So my initial reaction was "yeah, more boring hippy shit..."

So I foolishly dismissed the Stooges outta hand.

I've often argued that music isn't necessarily subjective. Quality will stand. It will penetrate and endure. There's a very real reason why something like the Ramones - once considered un-commercial at best, and anti-commercial at worst - is now used in commercials. This may seem like a trivial accomplishment, yet when you consider that advertisers spend large amounts of time and money in researching and analyzing their ability to maximize the widest and most effective range of attention, it says something pretty profound about our culture. Even when stymied by limited exposure or distorted by the tasteless appeal of contemporary standards, the good stuff will slowly seep into collective consciousness, informing and influencing the future. It never rests and never fades. Sooner or later, its gonna get got.

And sure enough, I inevitably and finally got the Stooges.  

I was given a bunch of old cassettes by a friend, comps and collections of different things he thought was cool. Among them was a tape with the word 'FUNHOUSE' scrawled across it in big blue letters. It was on a rainy late night drive that I absentmindedly jammed the tape into my car stereo, completely unaware my life was gonna change. The music was abrasive and dark, but not in stereotypical Black Sabbath fashion. It also had a swagger and sneer, but not like the Rolling Stones. It didn't boogie, it didn't groove. It had dynamics but wasn't academic. Unstudied and unconscious, it drove on its own insistent beat; neither urgent nor relaxed. It was all at once rebellious, unifying, ugly, sexy, dark and blinding. It was crushing and direct. It said nothing yet meant everything. Nothing so bleak had been so beautiful. When the saxophone started to wail on '1970' I swear to god I got cold chills... It was an intensely personal experience the likes of which I've probably only had a handful times in my life.

The Stooges remain a blistering testament to the audacious power of Rock & Roll; what it meant and what it could mean. So much so it is almost painful. As a reminder how awful and irrelevant most music is, their legacy stands as a stubborn affront in the face of mainstream convention. Music created and performed by (and for) outsiders with little interest in politics, fashion or anything else. It is the sound of teen angst Saturday night dead: greasy hair, acne, sweaty t-shirts, dirty denim, Boone's Farm Wine, nowhere to go and nothing to do.

'No Fun'...

I can only wish I had discovered this music at an earlier age. I would like to believe that I would have readily recognized and appreciated its sense of liberation in self identity, but truthfully I was a misfit kid seeking acceptance and understanding. I was too young and immature to realize that beyond the space of my own two ears lay little promise or opportunity. And there are few things quite as daunting as confronting yourself. Perhaps if I had heard 'Dirt' when I was thirteen I may have advanced on the path a little more quickly. Not because I believe myself to be dirt, but I needed to recognize my own sense of self-worth however seemingly insignificant, which is exactly the point.

I like to believe my personal motivation to express myself musically is not far removed from that of the Stooges. The approach and method the Stooges took with their music validates and confirms the idea that for many of us, music isn't merely a simple pursuit of trivial entertainment or misguided ambition for fame and fortune. It's the vehicle of the broken and un-blessed, an avenue of self-fulfillment that transcends the boundaries of success, commercial appeal and appeasement. It's the voice of the disenfranchised and disillusioned, forever and ever outside the carefully policed parameters of a politically correct culture of "cool"....




We are looking forward to returning to the Local 506 in Chapel Hill on December 3rd. This is our only show this fall, so I'd encourage anyone and everyone to make effort to attend. We wont play again until 2017, so don't miss it. We've recently laid down some NEW tracks for inclusion on a split with the inimitable Malcolm Tent! We've recorded one of his tunes, entitled 'Do It Now'. Details and info on that will be forthcoming. Meanwhile just in time for X-Mess and before the clock ticks away on its 25th Anniversary, TKO is releasing the 'lost' unheard demos of 'Southern Hostility'!! I actually once had a copy and let me tell you - it's not something to miss. Limited to 500 copies, it is pressed on yellow vinyl and includes a large 19"x22" poster. I've been wishing and hoping this would see the light of day, and finally it has! We still have a limited amount of copies of our newest release, "WE'RE # ONE" available as well. 


Get in on the action and get you some!!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fall Brawls...


Awright, bothers, sisters and muthas... ANTiSEEN is BACK in the U.S.A!!


We took a short break from being up in each others face all summer, but regrouped and worked up a tasty new set fortified by a new 12"ep that I hope you've all scored by now. And if youin's ain't, you better getcher ass in gear!! "WE'RE # ONE" is out NOW and going fast! We crated up a few stacks and hit the gravel with a few dates in the ol' home state, taking the NOISE to the people...




RALEIGH - Sept 4


Back in the Eighties there was some sort of inter-city scene rivalry between Raleigh and Charlotte that was fueled with a lot of suspicion, jealousy and bitterness. Raleigh was considered the more sophisticated and intelligent faction, led by Corrosion of Conformity who were making headway into the national consciousness with an effective if not wholly generic heavy metal-hardcore punk hybrid that made panties moist at the brain trust of MRR and Thrasher Magazine. Charlotte, on the other hand, was the ugly step-child; the unwanted bastard cousin led by a bunch of redneck yahoos playing a two chord sputtering mess of noise called ANTiSEEN who got notice from the poindexters at SPIN and Forced Exposure. People in Raleigh thought the whole Charlotte scene to be lost in a mish-mash of bad ideas and ineptitude while Charlotte thought Raleigh to be elitist snobs eagerly keeping up with the trends.


In a weird way Raleigh has long held a sort of uneasy truce with ANTiSEEN. There has always been a small but loyal following, however widespread acceptance remains elusive. So it was somewhat surprising to me when I discovered we had been asked to come and open a show for the infamous Midwest punk band Sloppy Seconds. Sloppy Seconds and ANTiSEEN have known each other for years. Jeff once joined them onstage in Atlanta and they opened for ANTiSEEN a few years ago in Chicago. We were only too happy to return the favor, and it was a show I was eagerly looking forward to.


Jeff rode up a day early to visit his brother. The rest of us met up at Barry's that afternoon. This was our first show since coming back from Europe. It kinda felt good to be back in our own van, tooling down backroads in our own home state. Our trusty roadie Brandon was back in tow, too. I played DJ on my iPod as we debated finer points of cultural reference such as music, television and professional wrestling. The trip was short and before I knew it we were rolling into Raleigh.


The club is called The Pour House Music Hall. It is situated snugly along a city street among other shops, bars and restaurants. Traffic and parking is a hellish experience in downtown Raleigh so we thought ourselves lucky when we found a spot about thirty yards from the club. It was merely a loading zone and although we could unload here, we had to move the van another four blocks after unloading.


We hustled the gear in quickly. Sloppy Seconds were already onstage setting up. Everyone was too busy to really chit-cat. I surveyed the limited space on the stage. We were told we could backline our gear in front of the Sloppy's stuff, but I didn't think this was fair for the opening bands. We put everything in corner spot and I hoped nobody would mess with anything.


The boys from KIFF arrive. They're one of the two other opening bands tonight. Barry, Gooch and myself tag up with KIFF's singer Andy Miller and his girlfriend Kirstin to go find something to eat. We take a short stroll around the block and stop in at a burger place called Chuck's. I get a really great BLT and am surprised to find they sell Stroh's beer. I have memories of my grandmother drinking Stroh's, but I never had it myself. It wasn't too bad. Pretty soon KIFF drummer Jason Wheeler joins us. We kill some time hanging out before heading back to the club.


When we return I find my friend Brad Mullins has arrived. I've invited him out for the show. We go to the backstage greenroom, which is actually upstairs and on the opposite end of the building. We find Greg Clayton hanging out and catch up with him for a bit. Brad and I started our first band together as teenagers and Greg played drums on my MBW records. We all played together in the final incarnation of the MBW band over twenty years ago. My new pal Brian Hase has also showed up. He came down from upstate Virginia to catch the show. We hang out and talk a long while as well.


There is a great turnout for this show. Pretty soon the first band starts up. I check them out for a bit. They're called Drunk In A Dumpster. I had figured they were going to be a young band but it was guys my age. They played a pretty straight forward barrage of no-frills hardcore punk rock. KIFF followed and played maybe the best set I've ever seen them do. I think they played all originals, which to my experience having seen them before was a little unusual. They were really tight and leaned into the swing.


We finally take the stage and I quickly set up my gear. The soundguy, Jack, is really cool. He's a veteran sound engineer who has spent a lot of time on tour with a lot of "big" bands. As we're setting our stage volume and monitor levels he asks if I'm cool with everything. I ask for more volume in my monitor. He goes, "Why don't you just crank that ol' Hiwatt up?" I have never had a soundguy tell me to turn up before! It actually alters my sound somewhat but I'm so shocked I barely even care.


We volley thru our set and I'm in the zone. My playing is a little loose but I'm feeling great and put a lot of energy into my playing to compensate. We are getting a really great reaction - I guess I had kinda figured the Raleigh crowd to be more reserved but I am happily proven wrong - they're into it. We have shortened the set a bit and hit it pretty hard. It's over before I know it and the crowd shouts for more, but we decide against it, not wanting to take advantage of Sloppy Seconds time.


Sloppy Seconds are great. Their pop-injected, sneering style of punk rock is what weak Lookout/East Bay/Epitaph bands aspired to achieve and failed miserably at. Of course the pedantic PC thought-police dismiss bands like Sloppy Seconds as "sexist" or some other such nonsense, but they rock harder and are more inventive than some bottom shelf pop-punk band that sounds like Sesame Street children's songs played at 78 speed. And that's the fact, Jack.


After the show we load out and say our good-byes. I'm a bit bummed I wasn't able to score one of the Sloppy Seconds Traci Lords t-shirts, but there's always next time...




ASHEVILLE - Oct 1


Last spring we received an offer to perform at this years 'Hellbilly Hootenanny' festival up in Asheville. It's an all day event largely centered around a vintage car show. We were honored with being asked to headline the music side of the festival. Perfectly scheduled in the early fall, I was looking forward to this trip up to the mountains. And Mother Nature did not disappoint - you couldn't have asked for better weather. We all convened at our practice studio in the afternoon. By the time I had arrived Barry Gooch and Brandon had already loaded the van. Jeff showed up shortly after and we piled into the truck for the ride up to Asheville.


The club is called New Mountain. Its an old building surrounded with ample space to contain the festival. We arrive to the just before sundown. We easily found where to park and were almost immediately met by Stacy, the festival organizer. She is really cool and has everything set and ready for us. we are able to score some free food and wait for our turn to load in. I wander around for a bit. An adjacent parking lot served as staging for the car show,which is long over. Most of those folks have packed up and left, however there is still a good-sized crowd lingering for the music. I expected to see a lot of rockabilly types but most were just regular folks drawn to the festivities and enjoying the evening.


Someone nudges me as I walk past. It's our friend Marcus from Germany. I am as equally surprised and yet not surprised to see him. He's known to pop up unannounced fairly regularly. I don't know what kind of job he has, but it must be pretty good to be able to afford the time and money for the travel he puts under his belt. At any rate its always great to see him. No sooner had I finished saying hello to Marcus than do I run into Josh Mayfield from Hellstomper. He's been working as an truck driver as of late. He and his lady took some downtime between trips and made it up for the show. To me it's pretty humbling to know people are still very actively devoted to following the band even after Joe Young's passing. We've worked hard to maintain a pretty high standard that was set long before I joined.
 
The band Hillbilly Casino were parked next to us and after their set we hung out a bit. They're good folks. Their bassist, Geoff, works with the great photojournalist Dave Flewwelling. They played with Southern Culture On The Skids the night before and say they were told to pass on a 'hello'. I am somewhat surprised and flattered to learn that they like ANTiSEEN. 


Eventually its time for us to load in. The stage is fairly large and is surrounded by a large screen that has our logo digitally projected on it. I casually get my stuff together, taking whatever time necessary to tune up my guitars. I've decided to use my black Tele tonight, as it seems to be a bit "brighter" so to speak. I keep my white one on standby in case I have any problems. I don't like to switch horses mid-set, so it would have to be something fairly major. Otherwise I'll play on thru it.

After returning from the European tour we decided to tweak our set a bit, allowing room for few of A-SEEN's countrified roots to show a bit. In addition of our version of Ralph Stanley's 'Black Eyed Susie', we added Ernest Tubb's 'Thanks Alot', and Jumpin' Gene Simmons' 'Haunted House'. We also worked up another old classic 'SEEN tune, 'You're Gonna Tote An Ass Kicking'. Plus we've been playing 'LO-FI'  from our new record "We're # One" and added  'Fight Like Apes' as an opener as well.

The sound is not good here. I don't think the PA in this venue is really suitable for loud bands like ours. I was warned by the Hillbilly Casino guys that the monitors were clipping out. I personally do not experience this, but it is very difficult to hear anything. I stand rooted fairly close to my amp and rely on visual cues whenever possible. It's clear to me now that the recent heavy touring and practice schedule we've kept since the spring has seasoned us. If there are mistakes it doesn't throw us. We can adapt and adjust and keep moving forward. The idea is to deliver.

 
Always.



CHARLOTTE - Oct 6


Shortly before we left for Europe we scored a local gig with the infamous Russian band Svetlanas. They were booking another American tour and hit us up to do some shows together. We could only commit to one, but I hope we can do more somewhere down the line. They tour incessantly, having been banned and exiled from their home country. In Russia it is illegal to possess or distribute any of their recordings. Seems freedom of speech is still a difficult concept for the Russian government. But then it seems sometimes freedom of speech is a difficult concept for the scene-sters of  Plaza Midwood, too...


Recently a few locals took to calling us "misogynists" and - even dumber - "rape apologists". I took personal offence to the latter, as I have personally had experience in my own family and also close friends with this issue. I neither make light of it or wear it as a badge of broken honor. Too often I see empty rhetoric disguised as enlightened understanding and compassion that, as matter of actual fact, is little more than cheap, opportunistic grandstanding on the real hurt and suffering of others. Because it looks good for them to care.


The dry irony that the two bands opening this show  - Svetlanas and Hammerlock - both happen to feature strong females was not lost on me. Again, it isn't an issue we champion - coz we don't preach, we practice. We don't react, we act. It isn't about trying to impress anyone with our social consciousness, because lets face it - nobody gives really gives a shit. And nobody will ever give us credit if they did give a shit. I shouldn't have to speak the obvious, but people seem only too eager to paint us with a broad brushstroke. Sorry, but guess again. I don't care who you are, how you vote for or if you even vote at all. I don't what color you are, who you sleep with, how you identify or where you take a piss. You don't get to dictate to me the quality of my character just because I might have hurt your pwecious wittle feewings. Joke 'em if they can't take a fuck. And you know what? Fuck 'em anyways


Oh sorry - did I cause a "rape trigger"???


Christ. Anyways here I am ranting again. So, where was I? Oh yeah, I remember - I was just about to the part where WE kick ass and take names...


It is the Milestone Club again. The band has so much history in this room it isn't funny. It's almost eerie walking into this place. We played here over the summer. I insisted we close that set with 'Destructo Rock' because it was the first song I saw ANTiSEEN play live the first time I ever saw them, which was here at this club. The rumors are the place hasn't much life left. If indeed it should close forever, I'm content knowing that I've been a small part of the history here.


Hammerlock are from Oakland, California. They were on tour and decided to come up to catch this show. Once we heard that, it seemed a no-brainer to add them to the bill. They play a style of punk infused southern style rock that kinda brings to mind Nashville Pussy. They open the show in a direct, no-nonsense style. Svetlanas follows. They are fronted by Olga Svetlanas, easily one of the best frontpersons of any band out there today. Her style is pretty down and dirty; all agro and in your face - literally. She spends most of the set on the floor in the crowd. The band is tight, driven by the solid drumming of her husband, Diste. They blister the place and set the bar pretty high. I'm not intimidated as I am inspired. This is a tag-team effort. Everyone wins tonight.


We hit the stage opening with 'Fight Like Apes'. Everything that was "off" in Asheville is most definitely "on" now. The Milestone is simply the best sounding room in Charlotte. It's not a big turnout, but we turn it out. We roar thru the set and it feels great. I can't see, however. The sweat is burning my eyes. I don't mind. I like playing against myself, both sonically and physically. We knock off a mean-assed version of 'Walking Dead' and I let my HiWatt drone out a long wave of feedback in the middle of the song before slamming it back into gear and driving it home. I'm so absorbed with what I'm doing and where I am that I get lost in the moment and charge into 'Fuck All Yall' at the wrong spot. We improvise and jump off into 'Haunted House' at a key point totally unrehearsed. It works. I'm so proud to be a part of this line-up, how well we play with and off each other. We hit a double barreled encore of 'Cactus Jack and Queen City Stomp' and then its all over.


After toweling off and changing shirts I hang out a bit, speaking with some of the folks who came out. One guy drew sketches of us while we played. This sort of thing is always cool, I'm flattered when he asks me to sign it. We take pictures with Hammerlock and Svetlanas. I can remember standing in the exact same spot nearly twenty-five years ago taking pictures with Cocknoose and the Murder Junkies. It's weird how much things have changed, yet also stayed the same. As I drive home I see the city skyscrapers turn out their lights and again feel fortunate to be a part of this, a worldwide sub-sub-culture of people that aren't unlike myself - unable to fit in, trying to make something happen for themselves outside the conventions of mainstream mediocrity. We are similar, yet so very different  - too different, perhaps, for even the acceptance of what has become 'credible' punk rock ideologues. We at least have each other.


And we make these nights our own...





Meanwhile we keep moving forward, doing what we do. And there are lots of irons are in the fire. We are busying ourselves with the process of writing and recording new material. I know I keep promising that, but it's coming, believe me. There's also some cool unreleased stuff in the vaults that will soon finally be released. We have no shows scheduled until December, when we will return to Chapel Hill. Details on that are forthcoming. We also have dates we are ironing out for winter, so keep your eyes and ears open for those. As always check out www.antiseen.com or find us on Facebook. You can also find my personal fb page at www.facebook.com/madbrotherward  and of course write me direct at madbroward@yahoo.com  - comments here are welcome, too. Questions? Suggestions? Requests? Insults? Let me hear you!!


Hope to see yall soon!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I Was A Teenage Ramones Roadie...

I've written before about what a game-changer it was seeing ANTiSEEN for the first time in the fall of '89. Another standout moment for me happened the following spring. I was eighteen years old and trying to puzzle it all together. I had the raw ingredients; the requisite bad attitude, an appetite for change and unquenchable thirst for a knowledge of this crazy new world I was clumsily wading into. I simply needed a starting point - something that both gave foundation and direction. Something that could bring all my crazy ideas into focus.

And then the Ramones came to town.

Now, obviously there's nothing I can tell you about the Ramones that you don't already know. However at this point there was a LOT that I didn't know. When I was about 10 years old there was an article in the local paper about punk rock; what it was and what it all meant. It focused on a local band called "Luke Puke and The Vomit" (I can't make this stuff up, y'all). Coupled with other stories  and rumours I had heard, I figured that vomit was a regular and vital part of punk rock. And as anyone knows me can attest, I was (and remain) a Class-A vomiphobe of the highest order. There is probably nothing I find more repugnant. Moreover for all I could tell, punk rock was violent, tuneless and ugly. So I dismissed punk rock with this simple prejudicial reasoning. However the truth of the matter was that punk rock confused and scared me.

Throughout most of my teenage years I suppose I considered myself a metal-head. Of course, I was far too nerdy to ever be accepted by the true hoodlum juvenile delinquent metal-heads. Plus I never could stand the stench of cigarettes, which, along with a chain wallet and long hair, was de rigueur for any self-respecting hood. I was already swimming upstream with an overbearing Christian zealot mother who disallowed anything she deemed "satanic" to violate my virgin ears. Still I tried in vain to grow my hair (which was so thin the ends would split into these goofy curls and was perpetually oily no matter how much I showered) and collected whatever records I could embezzle my lunch money to buy. It was of no use. The metal kids just laughed at me.

By tenth grade I had manage to build my own little troupe of outsiders, rejects and misfits. We had our own little assembly area in the courtyard of East Mecklenburg High School amid the established social order of jocks, hippies, hoods, blacks and preps. There was a sort of hierarchy of relative cool. And we came in dead last. My group was
a mishmash crosshatching of all the others; like someone had made a casting call for an ensemble of stereotypical high school kids. And much like Anthony Michael Hall in the movie 'Sixteen Candles', I was the leader, the "king of the dipshits".

My friend Diane tried to turn me on to the Ramones. She was convinced I would love them. She once tried valiantly to goad me into going with her to see them at a place called the Pterodactyl Club. She liked all the weird "alternative" music that I have always found to be mostly weak and stupid. But I knew and actually liked a few Ramones songs, so she almost had me talked into it. However she also once tried telling me that I would love the Red Hot Chili Peppers, too. Not happenin'. Ironically Diane's older brother Lee was very briefly the bassist for ANTiSEEN. Small world.

Among my group of friends was a guy named Scott. He was a big dude, about 6'2 and an easy 200lbs. He also sported a red Mohawk and a black leather jacket with the logo of the band the Exploited painted on the back. At first I thought this guy was a joke, but somehow we became pretty good friends. It was Scott who connected the dots for me to get into punk rock. He reasoned since I liked Metallica and I also liked Danzig that I would probably like the Misfits. And that did the trick. I was slowly introducing myself to a plethora of bands that I was discovering was way more exciting than what I had been listening to. Scott let me borrow a lot of his records, stuff I still listen to today. He was also the guy who turned me on to ANTiSEEN.

Scott actually worked for the Pterodactyl Club as well as it's sister club, the 13-13. One day he called and asked if I was interested in seeing the Ramones for free. They were scheduled to play the 13-13 the next day. All I had to do was help load in. I didn't know what exactly that entailed, but I was open for anything. He said just be at the club at one o'clock on the following afternoon.

I arrived early, in fact I think I was the first one there. Soon several other people showed up, all part-time employees of the club. I recognized a couple of them as members of local bands. Live music was still a new experience for me and I was excited to be around it all. The club had contracted out for a PA , but my memory on this is hazy. Looking back I suspect it was only to augment what the club already had. Sometimes bands have particular requirements for sound and lighting. I do remember, however, the load in door to the club. There was a loading dock with a bay door that opened directly to the stage, leaving maybe only about five feet of overhead clearance. It was a tight fit. It had started to rain and we scrambled the stuff in fairly quickly. Despite being a bit wet, I started to think this "roadie" stuff was a piece of cake...



Then the Ramones stuff arrived.

The Ramones had a large Ryder-style truck that was tightly packed with their gear. They opted not to back all the way to the dock, fearing the truck might get stuck in the mud. The truck had one of those extending metal loading ramps, so to compensate they extended the ramp, bridging the distance between the rear of the truck and the dock. Only the truck was sitting somewhat higher than the dock, so the ramp was uneven. The rain made all the surfaces slick and somewhat treacherous. Unloading stuff off the truck proved tricky, trying to maintain your balance and not slip while manhandling the heavy equipment cases down the metal ramp.

The Ramones road crew were all seasoned New Yorkers with all the attitude that goes with being one. It wasn't that they were rude, they just didn't seem to give shit about anything. They were literally sliding down the ramp with expert skill. One guy sang "Surfin' USA" as he whooshed down the ramp with a giant equipment case. I kept expecting someone to fall, or at least drop something over the side, but nobody ever did. Everything worked in rapid order, but it was hard work. My ineptness was apparent but they didn't seem to mind. At one point I was carrying  part of the drum riser. It was painted metallic silver and at a glance looked to be heavy steel. But it was just made of wood. It got slick with rain and as I crossed the ramp it nearly slid out of my hands. I quickly caught hold of it but not before leaving a four inch splinter imbedded in my finger. I pulled it out and started to bleed profusely. One of the roadies smirked, "aw, you got a boo-boo?". Somebody got me a Band-Aid and I kept humping gear.

It took several hours but we finally got it all loaded in. The roadies were busy setting everything up when one of them asked if I would set up the dressing room. He pointed to a large case and told me basically what to do. I arranged everything but discovered they later rearranged it after I had finished. I later discovered the big case was actually their wardrobe case. In it were drawers of picks and strings and various other items such has hand towels and whatnot. However I was surprised to discover this was also where they stored their leather jackets. They hung neatly on hangers looking like superhero costumes waiting to be donned.


Some of the other local guys starting mocking the lead crew guy behind his back because he reminded us of the comedian Jon Lovitz. I cannot say for certain this was the infamous long suffering Ramones Tour Manager Monte Melnick - I've long suspected it was, but now as I write this I have serious doubt. I figure Monte was likely handling and corralling the members of the band rather than the members of the road crew. A large amount of deli sandwiches arrived and soon the crew had all gathered around the bar to eat. I wasn't sure if I was included in this, so even though I was starving I stayed back and out of the way.

Then the Ramones arrived.

Even though I wasn't really fan yet, seeing the Ramones walk into the 13-13 Club is something I'll never forget. I mean, they looked so ordinary and yet so... different. I obviously recognized Joey straight away, towering over the rest. Johnny was wearing a jean jacket even though it was early May. Marky looked huge to me, like a pro wrestler. CJ had only recently joined and looked incredibly young. Joey slinked around aimlessly while the others talked with the road manager guy. There was a game room located in the rear of the club, and Joey wandered in there, staring at the screen of a video game machine. Meanwhile Marky was yelling at the lead crew guy. "I don't know what you guys have been doing all day, but I'm worried about how we're gonna sound tonight!!", he hollered. The lead crew guy just smiled a wry smile and nodded as he chewed on a sandwich. "Here", he said "have a sandwich, Mark." I thought maybe Marky might punch the guy but he simply threw his hands up in disgusted resignation and stormed away.

Suddelny Joey comes slinking back, giving me a passing nod. I'm still taking the whole scene in, standing against a wall, minding my place. Joey walks into the main room, surveys the stage and comes back over to me. "Hey", he shyly asked, "you have any quarters?" His voice sounded like a muppet, only with a thick nasal New York accent - "qwahtahs". I'm struck dumb, fumbling in my pockets aware that I'm essentially being invited to play video games with Joey Ramone. Unfortunately I had no quarters and he slinked off to ask someone else. 

The crew finish preparing the stage and soon the Ramones are assembled for a soundcheck. I cannot remember what they played, but I do remember they couldn't barely start a song. Johnny would hit a chord and look over at CJ. CJ would look back questioningly (no pun intended) and Johnny would nod. Then CJ would bark "ONETWOTHREEFOUR" and they would all blast a single note, stop and stare at each other. It didn't seem they knew what the hell they were doing. I wondered what the hell kind of show this was going to be. This was the legendary Ramones?? They did this several times before actually playing a whole song. Then they disappeared, shuttled away to a hotel somewhere.

An opening band arrived and set up. I had nothing to do now but hang out. Scott showed up with another friend of his whose name I cant remember. Like Scott, he had a Mohawk only it was jet black and lead to a long pony tail hanging down his back. We hung out after the doors were opened and made fun of people as they made their way in. "New Wave Yuppies!" snorted Scott. "They are reliving their college past - but wouldn't be caught dead here otherwise!" I remember spotting Joe Young and nervously making small talk with him about the home video ANTiSEEN had just released titled "Video Shit" (good luck, collectors).

The opening band was called 'Slurpeee!' and I really don't remember anything about them other than that at key points the singer held up poster boards with stupid sayings on them, like "SKANK" and "SLUT" or some such other nonsense. I don't remember liking or disliking them, and honestly probably couldn't tell the difference at that point. It was a live band and that was exciting enough for me. Their set was brief and soon the stage was being readied for the Ramones.

I stood towards the rear of the room to watch. The crowd started to chant "HEY! HO! LETS GO!" as the pre-recorded opening of  the theme to "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" played over the PA. Suddenly Marky appeared behind the drums. The others strolled to position onstage and then they blasted into their set, and I was blown away. This band that couldn't barely play a single song earlier at soundcheck suddenly were ripping thru song after song after song without barely stopping to so much as breathe. I was unaware this was the Ramones M.O. and the shock of it all was leaving a massive impression on my teenage brain. They played the handful of songs I knew almost straight away. After that it was just BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Song after song in rapid succession, drilled out tightly and quickly. And athough I didn't yet know these songs, I knew I would immediately make effort to learn.

After the show the band huddled in the tiny dressing room waiting for the crowd to leave. There was still some downtime before I'd be called into action again, as the crew had to take down the equipment before we could load it out. I tried to buy a t-shirt but the merch guy was already packing up and hissed a nasty "we're closed!" Clearly my fifteen bucks wasn't gonna make or break his night (this is something I've always remembered, especially when I sold merch for ANTiSEEN - I've always tried to make whatever concession I could for someone wanting to purchase something. Even as recently as our European tour, I gave my personal shirt I was saving to a fan in Prague. I never want to treat fans poorly).

Somebody mentioned to me that Semie Mosely was here. "Who's that?", I asked. I was told he was the guy who built Johnny Ramones guitars. He had brought a new one this night as a gift (there is a picture of this in the book 'Ramones: An American Band). I assumed he had jetted in from somewhere but was told he now lived up in the mountains here in North Carolina. As he was leaving I got to shake his hand, totally ignorant to the fact I was meeting another legend.

After we had finally finished loading out I walked across the stage and noticed a mic stand on the floor. It was the one Joey used, sticky with the gaffer tape. The footing had broken and the roadies merely cast it aside. I asked permission from the club owner to keep it, he said sure. I kept it in my possession for years but I think it was eventually lost or stolen.

This night clearly proved itself to be a very special and memorable experience for me. The very next day I got my first Ramones album and never looked back. It was one of those intangible 'got it' moments that once it hits, you can never lose it. I think that although my experience is hardly exceptional, it is notable if only that this was at a point when the Ramones had long since quit making relevant music. Looking back they were clearly phoning it in, collecting the paycheck and not giving a shit. But to me it was magic. It maybe wasn't so much how they did it, but that they even existed at all. It was so different and direct, serving as conduit channeling a mega-wattage adrenaline spike that I've never recovered from.

And I never will.

I really can't think of anyone that "hates" the Ramones. From the old school to the new, from the crusty street punk to the suburban mall punk to the skinhead to the anarchist and beyond - the Ramones are in our collective DNA. They are the pivotal touchstone that grounds and directs everything that came after. In this age of watered down sub-genres, post-genres and endless redefining and recycling, the Ramones remain the unbreakable common thread that - however tenuously - connects it all.

Our culture will continue to assimilate, re-assimilate, fracture, fragment, regurgitate and - if not simply outright decline, at least just apathetically slouch. But we will always have the music and memory of the Ramones, and all the potential it provided for the disenchanted and disenfranchised.



We accept you, one of us...




Sunday, August 28, 2016

European Tour Journal Pt 3



And so our journey continues...




MEPPEL - Aug 4


Leaving the Czech Republic proves interesting when we are routed off the motorway on a detour that leads us on winding back country roads. It was actually pretty amazing; unlike the depressed grayness of Prague, the countryside of the Czech Republic is a beautiful place. The towns are like movie sets; you can imagine the history of this place during the Cold War rule of the communists. Somehow they have managed to survive and thrive. Once back on the motorway we drive clear across Germany. It is a hellishly long ride. It takes all day to reach the Netherlands. It is around 7pm when we finally arrive to the tiny town of Meppel.


The club is called Clouso. It's another tiny tavern with a small stage. The owner is a guy named Marcel, who is very cool. He booked us at the last minute when the cancellations opened a few dates. He usually books stuff more along the lines of rockabilly and country, but is stoked we are here. I'm stoked, too. This is an awesome little place. We load in on the tiny stage and are fed an incredible home cooked meal of steak and potatoes. The hospitality and kindness Marcel and his wife treat us to is pretty humbling.


After eating Barry and I walk around the tiny town a bit. It's an incredible place with cobblestone streets and canals. We come across a street festival that encompasses several blocks. There are two large stages erected and we are later told this is a weekly occurrence here. I'm told the bands are cover bands, one being an ABBA tribute act. Shame we gotta miss out. Although there are lots of people walking around it doesn't feel crowded. Nobody seems rushed. The atmosphere very quiet and relaxed. I decide I could live here happily for the rest of my days. Admittedly, I've not seen much of the world, but from what I have seen, the Netherlands is the Best Place on Planet Earth.


We return to the club. The place is filling up. I meet a guy named Bart who has travelled over from a town out towards the coast, about two hours away. He has come alone, and still has to be back in time for work in the morning. It's people like this who impress me the most. The dedication and devotion to this music is amazing. I reckon Bart could teach the Americans a thing or two about rockin'.
 
We do a line check before we play, trying to establish a suitable volume for the room. The soundguy warns us about volume being a bit of a problem and we try to accommodate. Soon we are situated and start the set. It becomeS apparent right away that my guitar needs to be louder. After the first song I turn up - the neighbors are just gonna have to suffer. The crowd is mostly curiosity seekers. They don't know the band but respond enthusiastically. The isn't much room to move and we play a little loose, but still deliver a pretty hot set.


Afterwards we load up and hit the motorway again. We are about two hours away from the Captain's hometown. We decide to make run for it and crash there. The midnight drive is nice. I stare up at the stars and take some time to appreciate what it is I'm getting to do. Jeff and Barry have done all the real work. Jeff has been coordinating this tour with our booking agent Luuk,since the spring. He has had to deal with the added stress of adding shows when previous shows were cancelled. Meanwhile Barry has handled the day-today logistics of getting us from one place to the next. He has driven essentially this entire trip; long grueling hours behind the wheel, navigating his way like a pro. He also is the primary loader/unloader of the van. It's a lot of tough work, the unglamorous everyday truth of what it is to tour. Both handle the business of the band without comment or complaint. It's all part of the deal and the work ethic is pretty impressive.


We arrive to the Captain's place around 2am. I'm exhausted but still take the opportunity to shower before crashing.



HASSELT - Aug 5


Christian Meas - AKA Captain Catastrophy -  has been travelling with us this entire tour selling merch. Originally serving as a sort of mascot for a rock & roll band of miscreants known as the El Guapo Stunt Team, the Captain Catastrophy character is a phantom stunt man wearing a costume that sort of cross-pollinates Leatherface with Evel Knievel. His face is covered with a white mask and a star-spangled crash helmet while sporting a worn out suit. He later became a television personality in Belgium hosting his own TV show performing stunts and wreaking havoc. It was called 'The Captain's Lounge' and had bands performing in a dinky old trailer while he was featured in a variety of crazy situations and stunts. Often accompanied by a fast-talking, wise-cracking southern huckster and self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Manager"called Johnny Kruger, he would remain silent during interviews, creating an awkward tension that usually ended with him scaring off the guests with a chainsaw. Over the years he hosted a pretty eclectic variety of guests, from Eagles of Death Metal, to Neneh Cherry, to Tenacious D's Kyle Gass to the Black Lips and so on. You find a some of his stuff on YouTube.


Nowadays the Captain character is largely retired. Christian is currently in the process of developing a new show based on his life experiences as a teenager growing up in Belgium. He is also busy organizing his own sci-fi/horror convention. So obviously there is a lot on his plate. Many times on the trip he is found doing work on his laptop. He basically put everything on hold when he got the call to help us, and it sure has meant a lot. Moreover his easygoing personality fits in perfectly with our crusty old crew. 


Captain lives with his girlfriend, Elspeth, a globetrotting fashion journalist. She has welcomed our ragged band of ruffians into their home. The generosity is very much appreciated. Their place is really cool; giant apartment overlooking the town of Hasselt. One room of the apartment is filled with a giant collection of old VHS tapes, with multiple copies of many titles from different countries and cover art variants. The Captain also has a colossal collection of movie posters. I spend time rummaging thru boxes and boxes of old horror and action movie posters. He also has a large collection of soundtrack albums, some very rare. It's an impressive collection to say the least.


Everything is within walking distance here, Captain doesn't even own a car. He takes Barry, Gooch and myself on a walk through town. We have some various errands to run. It's a cool place, a maze of narrow streets and countless shops. We stop at a music store so I can get some new strings. Its surprisingly large and full of killer old vintage gear. There are some pictures of famous people who have shopped here, notably Lou Reed. We also stop at a little record shop. I only make a cursory glance at the titles. I hope to find the new Pat Todd record but don't see it. I flip through a rack of t-shirts and spy a killer John Coltrane shirt. I have no cash on me so Captain spots me a twenty. I'm pretty stoked to get it. We then stop by a tattoo studio to set an appointment for later in the afternoon. Jeff, Gooch and the Captain all get small tattoos to commemorate this tour reading "C'MON HUND". It's an inside joke, something we've been saying this entire trip.


Tonight is an off-night. We had an opportunity to fill this date but decided it was too far out of the way. Plus we have discovered that FLAG and TSOL are in town. Captain knows the promoter and scores us some VIP passes. I'm stoked to see FLAG again. I saw them a few weeks before and it was killer. TSOL opening is an added bonus. We pile into the van and drive to the venue. It feels strange to be not playing tonight and I find myself wishing we were on the bill. There are two additional bands playing, neither of which I've heard of. 
We are allowed to park inside the gated area reserved for the bands. We get ushered into the club, a large building where the stage is upstairs. One of the opening bands are already playing. I peek at them but they do not grab my attention. Neither does the second band. Both are decent, and easily better than the stupid band that opened for FLAG here in the states. All the same I suppose I was feeling a twinge of jealousy that we weren't able to open this show.


We get word that TSOL are held up at the border and will have to play last. This means FLAG will play next. Jeff and I go up to the front of the stage. The crew are already hustling the gear into place. I always like to see how a crew operates; their efficiency in handling all the necessary things such as how they mic the gear, establish sound levels and just the little things that nobody really thinks about yet are essential to a good show. These guys work it out in rapid order. I wish we were able to afford a dedicated crew but I'd hold us against these guys just as readily.


FLAG takes the stage and I find myself suddenly very excited. All of whatever jealousy and wishing we were playing disappears. I'm feeling like I'm a teenager again - stoked to see one of my all-time favorite bands. They don't disappoint. They plow thru the set and its killer. At the intro part of 'No More' Chuck Dukowski starts speaking between hitting the big bass notes that open the song. I can't make out what he's saying, but Keith holds the mic to him for a second. He's making up some sort of weird poem. Something about death and being truly alive. I can't make heads or tales of it, but he's clearly in his own zone, channeling out something. It's pretty intense


In short, FLAG level the place. TSOL arrive but we decide to split. TSOL are in a van like what we and Negative Approach are using. I suspect it has all the amenities NA's van had - reclining seats, bunk, television... Still, seeing it parked next to FLAG's gigantic tour bus sorta puts things in perspective. Make of that what you will. I nearly bump into Jack Grisham in the parking lot. He doesn't seem to be in too pleasant a mood, so I let him pass.
 
I was duly inspired. We get back to the Captain's and I sit down to restring my guitar again. They are indescribably filthy; caked with sweat, beer and blood. Tomorrow will be our last day on this tour, and we are playing two shows. Everyone else crashes out, but I find it hard to sleep. The last two weeks have whizzed by. This is something I never thought I'd be able to achieve. It's happened so fast that I've very nearly taken it for granted. There's a part of me that very much wants to come back home, but there is also a part of me that wants to go on longer. It's not something I cannot easily reconcile. The road trips are long, the downtime is boring, the load-ins are tedious... but the shows are always killer. The people are amazing, the clubs are hospitable and every day brings new surprises and perspectives. I can't help but think of the NA guys. They do this every year, and although our tours started together, they will be here much longer than us. Even on their first day they seemed so readily acclimated to the whole deal. I probably came off to them like an over-excited mark, completely in awe of what it was I was getting to do. And I am a mark...
 
An unrepentant, goddamned proud mark.



KORTRIJK - Aug 6 - SHOW # 1


This is the final day of the tour. We have scheduled an additional show today so we are up and on the road early. We make a pit stop for some breakfast. The European concept of breakfast is markedly different than here in the States. A sandwich board advertises two rolls and a cup of coffee for 6 euros. The boys quickly deduce that there is an option for eggs, but the order gets lost in translation. They wind up with a plate with a single, sad looking fried egg. I decide to pass altogether. Pretty soon we are back on the motorway towards the small town of Kortrijk.


The club is called the Pit's. This place has become something of legend in ANTiSEEN lore. They first played here in '92 and the response was a wild and memorable show. They've tried to make a point to play here on every tour since, and each time is memorable as the first. Todays show is somewhat unusual as it is scheduled for the afternoon, and has been billed as a "secret" show - a surprise for longtime fans.


When we pull up we are greeted by Bowy, who had came to our shows in France last week. He has in his hands copies of both Mad Brother Ward records. Captian and Bowy both tell me that I have a following over here. I come to discover that I had fifteen minutes of fame, only I never knew it. It happened twenty years ago. In Belgium.


The club itself is a funky place. There are urinals located right by the entrance door. Pissing is a shared, communal deal here. Immediately beside the urinals another door leads to the barroom, which runs along the length of the wall into a tiny stage at the far end. An opening band is set up preparing to play. There is also a narrow stairwell that winds up the back into a small apartment that serves as a backstage. A window overlooks the street corner below. It was from this window that the boys took the picture that appears on the flipside of the "Masters Of The Sky" single. We crowd into the window and create an updated take on the classic image.


They have turned this show into quite an event, with a large canopy and grill outside cooking up sausages. The weather is beautiful. The festivities started before we even arrived. There is already a large crowd assembled out in front enjoying the weather and food. It's like an ANTiSEEN block party - it's kind of hard to believe. Jerom from France has driven up, eager to see us once more before we leave for home. I talk to him for a bit; we have to patiently attempt to translate what we are saying to each other, but he's really cool.


Inside the opening band starts. Their set is comprised of entirely Ramones covers. They're a little ragged and loose but its still cool. They take a break before regrouping for a set of originals. Outside I chow down on some sausages. This place somewhat reminds me of an area in southwestern Virginia where I would spend summers as a kid. There doesn't appear to be much happening other than our festivities. I don't see many pedestrians or cars. I do spot some children standing across the street doing little crazy dances to the music spilling out of the doorway. It seems we are quite literally the only show in town.


We eventually take the stage and everyone shoehorns down in front of us. I can't guess how many people are crammed in here but when we launch into the set they go off. Like, off off. People slam and crash about, swinging fists in the air and slinging beer. We charge thru the set and the room seems to pulsate with its own kinetic energy. They chant along with every song and shout requests. Soon I am drenched with sweat and beer. It blurs by very quickly - I can see sunlight peeking thru the cracks of the doors and I feel like I'm in the Punk Rock Twilight Zone. We reach the climax of the set and it feels as if the place might implode. It's an incredible thing to witness and participate in. When we finish they literally push us back insisting we play more. I mean the actually physically push us when we try to get off stage. They wont let us leave. So we play more.


Eventually we have no choice but to finish. We still have to make it to our next show. When people finally clear the room I am amazed to see the remnants of the carnage left behind: the floor is now covered in an inch-deep pool of beer. Jagged shards of broken glass are strewn everywhere. It's an incredible scene. We load out, careful not to slip and cut ourselves in the mess. We've had a lot of special, memorable moments on this tour, but the Pit's really goes above and beyond.






WAARSCHOOT - Aug 6 - SHOW # 2


This is the finale of the tour, the primary reason we are here in the first place. It is called the Roadkill Festival. We are one of the headlining bands. The festival is a mutli-day affair. Other acts over the course of the event include Honky, Peter Pan Speedrock , the Goddamn Gallows, the Carburetors and Bob Wayne. It is an event not terribly different than the Muddy Roots Festival here in the States, only more stilted towards rockabilly and punk.


We are ushered thru a gate and drive the circumference of the festival site. This is a very professionally put-together event. It encompasses two large areas, each with their own stage. One area is covered with a gigantic circus tent and the other is open air. As headliners, we are scheduled to play inside the tent. We are shown our parking spot and decide to wait before loading our gear in. We have the option of using a backline provided by the festival, so we want to see what the options are.


We are given two wristbands, one for all-area access and one for food. Our dinnertime is set for 7pm. I kill time waking the festival grounds. It has been very well organized and executed. There are about five thousand people here. Vendors bookend the site peddling mostly corny stuff catering to the rockabilly types. The rest is standardized heavy-metal paraphernalia. Nothing rings my bell. I do decide to nab a couple of Roadkill Festival T-shirts as a souvenir. It has our name on it, why not?


We all gather for a dinner of bratwurst and chicken kabobs. I eat light, I don't like being full when I play. We then take stock of what they are offering us to use for gear. Although I use one of their cabinets, I decide to use my rented Hiwatt. It has served me well on this tour and I'm used to it now. Barry opts to use their bass rig, a giant Ampeg set-up. Gooch also uses their drum kit, but keeps his cymbals and snare. We are given a few minutes to soundcheck and are soon ready.


We've put together a pretty strong setlist for this gig. We've also added another surprise - Captain Catastrophy!! We are introduced by a masked ne'er-do-well called "Dead Elvis" who is accompanied by the menacing Captain. Dead Elvis rants and raves a moment then proceeds to light the Captain on fire. Captain stands before the crowd fully engulfed in flames as we lurch into 'Death Train Comin'. It's a pretty cool spectacle.


The stage is another state-of-the-art deal with pro sound and lights.  It sounds great up here and I lean into every song with renewed energy. It's a little odd having so much space but I try to incorporate as much as I can. I stare into the audience, the largest I've ever played to. It isn't "our" audience, but they seem to dig it. A few ANTiSEEN fans cluster up in the front and I spot Jerom from France among them. It's cool to see he has come all the way up here for this.


About four songs in, the bass rig Barry is using farts out. We soldier on without him as the stage techs try to sort out the problem. Eventually we have to stop and allow them to change out the rig. It only takes a couple of minutes, but up here in front of a few thousand people it feels like hours. I can't help but laugh, though. Fourteen shows without problem, and only now, in this big environment and crowd do things go wrong. I don't let it flap me. I'm chomping at the bit, eager to drive this set home. Soon its fixed and it takes a moment to regain our momentum, but then we are back on all cylinders.


After the show we load out and have to say our good-byes to the Captain. There aren't too many people who would drop everything at short notice to come sell t-shirts for a band, let alone set themselves on fire for the privilege. Captain has fell in line and shouldered the load with admirable work ethic and good humor. We take a few pics together with him in his full regalia. I finally cut a classic MBW promo on him, one I had been saving the whole trip. He laughs and strikes back with a wickedly sly comeback: "I never liked your records!" We all laugh. I give him a big hug. It's been great getting to know him.


We have two hotel rooms in town. We have to be up and on the road by 3am in order to return to Dusseldorf for our flight home. We only have about five hours, but its enough time to shower and catch a quick catnap. My clothes are all dirty at this point. I dig thru my bag and get the cleanest dirty clothes that I have. I at least have clean underwear and socks - priorities...



RETURN - Aug 7


We roll out promptly at 3am arriving in time for the hellish process of checking in. There is a woman working the line that is from originally from North Carolina. She sees Barry's British-issue passport and thinks he's mocking her with his accent. She leads us down to oversize luggage check and I see my guitar disappear once more. 


We make it thru all the chutes, ladders, rings of fire, blood oaths and whatever else is required to get declared safe enough to board a plane. And this plane isn't anywhere as nice as the one that brought us over. I'm seated on the aisle. I can't recline and have no leg space. As with the flight over I take some sleep aids and hope to pass out. It doesn't work. I get a few naps here and there, but mostly I'm stuck in this terribly uncomfortable and unnerving flight. The only plus is when we pass over the southern tip of Greenland. Even though I have to crane my neck to peek thru the tiny window, its an amazing sight.


We finally land in Chicago's dreaded O'Hare International. Here we spend nearly two hours getting routed thru another fifty rounds of security clearances, each one staffed with the most unpleasant people available. Once we are thru, we have to navigate the maze of terminals that make up O'Hare, a self-contained city of its own. The entire ordeal is interminably long and arduous, and I find myself actually eager to be back aboard a plane. And I hate flying.


We eventually are boarded and taxi down the runway. I catch a peek of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan as we lift-off. Soon the landscape dissolves into a patchwork of fields and farmland before we are above the clouds.


I finally doze off and before I even realize it we are on approach to Charlotte. I am able to spot landmarks from the air as we fly in over I-77.  I recognize the exit below the town of Cornelius and Cowans Ford Dam and McGuire Nuclear Station on Lake Norman. We bank over and across I-485 and I-85. I feel the landing gear drop and can see Little Rock Road, not far from where I once lived. Then we touchdown.


Home again...





In the wake of our trip we are proud to announce the release of  "WE'RE # ONE", a 12"ep of four new songs. It is pressed on multi-colored vinyl, with no two being the same. It includes a download card, a vinyl sticker and a bonus 24 page comic book illustrated by the incomparable Jamie Vayda. Yes, ANTiSEEN are now comic book heroes! Check it out as we do battle on the Planet Of The Apes! Surprise Superstar Guest appearances!! Thrilling action!! Side-splitting humor!! Seriously - this is a pretty great package  - I'd say so even if I weren't involved. All necessary info on www.antiseen.com


Also we make our Stateside return on September 4th in Raleigh opening for the legendary SLOPPY SECONDS. Also on the bill are our old pals KIFF. This is labor day weekend and is gonna be a big one.


Also on the horizon is an appearance at the 8th Annual Hellbilly Hootenanny on October 1st in Asheville with the Barnyard Stompers, Go-Devils, Reno Divorce and a bunch more.
 
Then as if that weren't enough, we return to our hometown on Thursday October 6th at the Milestone Club with the mighty SVETLANAS!! And since we like more bang for the buck, also on the bill are our old friends, the infamous HAMMERLOCK. This is the gonna be the biggest, best punk rock show happening in Charlotte this year, so make all necessary plans - skip school, call in sick to work, break parole, bust outta jail, steal a car, rob a bank, slap yer granny.... do whatcha gotta do!!!

  
And WE will see YOU all SOON!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

European Tour Journal - Pt 2

A few quick notes before continuing. On this trip I finally met another longtime friend and fan of the band, Tim McLoughlin. He came all the way from Belfast Ireland to see the first couple of the German shows. It was good to finally meet in person. Also Diste and Olga from Svetlanas were at the Stuttgart show. We will be playing a show together in the near future, but I'll save the news on that for a later date... The response on the last post was overwhelming. Its the most read blog I've yet written, and I just wanna say thanks. It means a lot, it truly does.


So, where were we? Oh yeah -


Meanwhile, back on the road...




UTRECHT - July 27


We part ways with Stefan in the morning. He has other obligations but has generously allowed us to stay at his apartment when we get to Berlin in a few days. Upon leaving Paris we are stopped by the gendarmerie. There is still a state of high alert in France after the recent terrorist attacks there. The officer is very good-natured however. He asks some basic questions and if we have more than $5000 in cash. Barry responds "I wish!" He laughs and waves us along. Soon we are on the motorway.


Once we cross over the border into Belgium we stop at McDonalds. This particular McDonalds is themed with 50's and 60's memorabilia, particularly of Elvis, the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe. It's rockabilly weenies wet dream. There is, however, a particular and peculiar difference to the rest of the theme: a two story tall statue of Michael Jackson which stands in the back corner of the parking lot looming over all. It is guarded by a large fence which is covered in cards, flowers and art in dedication to the fallen "King of Pop".


Bad taste prevails.


We check into our lodging for the night before heading to the club. It's a bed and breakfast that apparently lodges groups pretty regularly. The interior is decorated with random musical things, from instruments to framed portraits of legendary groups. The residence has an honest-to-god thatched roof and is about 400 years old. It's a pretty funky old place but very cool. We are given a key and head out to locate the club.


The roads are a little confusing. The venue is located on the corner of some sort of industrial complex and we are unable to locate the actual entrance to the parking lot. Barry finally employs a little American ingenuity and know-how, jumping a median and driving down a bike lane taking us into the back of the parking lot.


The club is called 'dB's', which I guess stands for 'decibels'. And yes, it will get loud. The staff here are all very cool and helpful. We load in quickly. Soon our opening act arrives, the infamous Philadelphia heavy metal band Eat The Turnbuckle. For the uninitiated, ETB are a professional wrestling themed band, employing lots of crazy stunts like hitting each other with chairs, barbed-wire clubs and jumping thru tables. Their sets are shambolic bloody affairs and it has gotten them a lot of press, particularly after getting banned in Scotland last year. 
 
It would seem a no-brainer, pairing ANTiSEEN and Eat The Turnbuckle. Our styles compliment each other pretty well. It's somewhat confusing that more dates weren't put together for us on while we are over here, but of course routing has a large part to do with it. They will be headed west after tonight, as we will be headed north. Our European booking agent, Luuk, is travelling with the ETB guys. It gives us opportunity to work out some details for replacement bookings from the shows that were cancelled. Everything is working out smoothly. We gather for a large catered meal of Chinese food. It is awesome. Sitting around a large table, passing the food back and forth, it strikes me that we are like some weird family of orphans, hated yanks in a strange land.


The show is pretty intense. ETB have learned to pace themselves somewhat. Their drummer suffered a broken ankle at the start of their tour here. He plays on with his leg in a cast. They cover the old Cocknoose song "Invader 1 Must Die" and have invited Jeff to join on vocals for their cover of GG Allin's "I Am The Highest Power". Jeff uses his scrub board to deliver a shot to the head of ETB's vocalist, Goldberg. Its quite the spectacle. After their set they all come backstage, bloodied and sweaty. All in a nights work.


We are given a few minutes to do a quick line check. I ask the soundguy to put a lot of my guitar in my monitor. When we start the set I'm nearly knocked over by the sound. It is deafening. I blast away power chords on my guitar barely hearing much else. The set gains momentum as it progresses. We don't have the props and gimmickery of ETB, but we still lay down some serious heat. The crowd really are into it and we get called out for two encores! It was great night of tag-team rock & roll carnage.


We say our goodbyes to ETB and make our way to back to the bed & breakfast. My ears are ringing in an unusual way - instead of my normal high pitched ringing, there is instead a low almost siren-like drone. I wonder if I've done permanent damage and figure I'll be deaf by the end of this tour. I take a quick shower and crash out.




OSNABRUCK - July 28


The club is called the Bastard Club - and is a pretty cool place. The owner of this club has not bent to the demands of the little internet trolls calling for our banishment. He just laughs it off. It's great to have support like this.The stage is located in the basement under the bar. We have to load our equipment in down a stairwell. We are playing with Negative Approach again tonight. They arrive shortly after us. I take a peek at their van during load in. Although it's essentially the same, it's much nicer than ours. It has reclining seats, a bunk and even a TV. They also have their own driver. I'm pretty impressed. The NA guys are all very cool. We help each other loading in all the gear. No pretense or posing with these guys. The stage is pretty tight and the ceiling is very low. Somehow we manage to cram all both bands gear on the stage.


We are fed a really great meatball stew - the likes of which I've never had before, but it sure is tasty. There is time to kill and we all hang out making small talk. It's pretty cool seeing Jeff and John Brannon shooting the shit. Negative Approach was actually an early influence on Jeff when starting ANTiSEEN. It's cool to discover they share so many similar influences. NA's set is, again, killer. They are locked in and fire off song after song with rapid precision. They've been doing a really incredible cover of Alice Cooper's "Desperado" in soundcheck but haven't played it during their set yet. They do, however, also cover the old Sham 69 song "Borstal Breakout" in their set. John invites Jeff to join them tonight on their cover of the Stooges "I Got A Right" and it is predictably awesome.


Our set is great, too. We've been mixing up our set a little every night keeping things fresh. We start a wee sluggish but quickly fall into place. The only slight mishap is when my cables come loose from pedals. I have to make a quick adjustment between every other song. I make a mental note to tape everything down from here on out. We volley thru the set and bring it home strong. I am soaked with sweat and my hands shake. It was pretty intense.
 
Afterwards we sign things for people. I meet Tobi Plumenbohm and a few of his friends. Another guy tells me that he has travelled several hours to be here. I'm always humbled by this. A local band was supposed to open the show tonight but had some sort of trouble and couldn't play. They showed up anyway and were cool folks. I'm able to snag some of the big event posters the club uses for advertising. Osnabruck and the Bastard Club is easily one of the coolest places I've ever played. So many good people here.





GOTHENBURG - July 29


The ride to Sweden from Germany is a long one. We get an early start to make time, which takes all day. We pass thru Denmark on the way up and are stopped at the border. The officer is actually very friendly. He goes thru the process of examining our passports but makes small talk. This is nothing like American police. I keep thinking of the rude Highway Patrolmen we encountered in Wilmington a few weeks prior. They could learn a few things from the border guards in Denmark.


The traffic is awful. Several times it comes to a complete standstill on the motorway. We find ourselves sitting for twenty and thirty minutes at a time. There doesn't appear to be any reason for the delays, its all totally random. We cross two channels that were once only serviced by ferries. Now there are gigantic modern bridges. At the shoreline there is an old lighthouse, a strange juxtapose to the modern engineering of the bridge. We creep and crawl our way into Sweden. We arrive about two hours late to Gothenburg.


The club is called Pustervik. It is sort of like the place we played in Nantes, with a state-of-the-art sound and light system. Only this place is even larger. We've arrived so late that the opening bands are already soundchecking. The soundguy abruptly stops them so we can load in. They have to take their stuff down and wait. I almost feel guilty about it, but I don't question it. Clearly the staff has their priorities, and tonight, we are the priority. Unfortunately there are strict regulations on noise here. It takes some work to achieve a stage volume that is allowable. The soundguy is really cool about it. Ordinarily I ignore their requests, but since he is working with me instead of against me, I comply to his wishes as best as I can. We get in a quick soundcheck and it isn't great, but will do the job.


We are fed a weird dinner of some sort of tomato sauce and pita bread. Its really tasty but I find myself wondering where the noodles are. A lot of clubs seem to be in the habit of serving vegan dishes. We are unabashed carnivores, so sometimes the offerings leave much to be desired. The backstage greenroom is actually up several flights of steps. Its probably the nicest backstage I've ever been in. There is lounge area with sofas and small stereo. It has a classic country CD in the system, which is a bonus. The opening bands don't seem to appreciate it, however. There is a refrigerated cooler full of beer, water and soda, a table full of snacks and chips. There are also two private bathrooms. I manage to lock myself into one of the bathrooms much to the hilarity of the others. The greenroom is so comfortable we all nearly doze off. It has been a pretty hellish ride here and we are all pretty beat. I notice that it is already 9:30pm, however the sun is still low in the sky. It occurs to me that this is the furthest north I have ever been.


The stage is huge and  there is a curtain that is closed between every band. We get our stuff ready and begin the set with the long droning notes and feedback wash of 'Death Train Comin' as the curtain opens. I'm not happy with my stage volume but there is nothing I can do at this point. It's do or die. I'm so caught up in trying to stay focused that I barely notice the giant plumes of smoke emitting from the fog machine. We reach hit the end of the song and I hear Gooch freaking out. I can barely see him for the smoke, frantically swinging his arms. "Somebody turn off the goddamned smoke!!" Barry is double over in laughter.
 
We blitz the rest of the set. I am pleasantly surprised to see the floor of the room basically full. I was somewhat concerned we would be playing to fifty people in this giant space, but the turnout is great. There are some pretty rabid fans up front shouting out songs. We reward them with some of their requests. They reward us when one of the girls up front lifts her shirt. Not a common occurrence at an ANTiSEEN show, but a welcome one!


After the show we discover the opening bands have taken all the beer. I find it somehow endearing. They are nice kids but they don't seem to care anything for us. The promoter on the other hand is stoked. He is called "Junk" (pronounced 'Yoonk' ). He had a really cool poster made for the show and I am able to snag one. He assures us he can book an entire tour of Scandinavia if we ever wish. He has really stepped up and pulled off a great show for us here. It is a surprising bonus that we also have our own private rooms at a motel nearby. I take a long shower and crash out. If every show was like this, I'd never want to come home.





COPENHAGEN - July 30


The ride back to Denmark is relatively short - only about three hours. We make a stop at an exit for some gas and some food. There is a McDonalds that is offering a Chicken Big Mac. Being one to explore regional delicacies, I of course order one. It is awesome, something I wish was available stateside. The Danes and the Swedes have really got it figured out. They're way ahead of us, I tells ya!


We arrive in Copenhagen early. Nobody else has showed up yet so we have to wait it out. Barry takes a walk and much to his delight, discovers an English style pie shop. Some guys arrive to open the place up. They seem quite young to me, but I'm terrible at guessing ages. Tonight we are playing with Negative Approach again. This will be our last show together and tonight we are opening for them. They arrive a little later and soon we have everything loaded in.


The club is called 'Underwerket'. It is a tiny space located in the basement of an arts and crafts center. It is a dank, dirty place, a basic no frills punk rock club. There is barely room for our stuff on the tiny stage. We are lead upstairs to a kitchen area where we are fed more weird vegan food. I don't know what it is, some sort of beans and giant flour tortillas. It's pretty tasty though. I fill up and head back downstairs. The backstage is a cramped room full of junk. There is nowhere to go so I wait it out.


An opening band arrives and ask if they can share our stuff. We let them. They are a duo, only guitar and drums. Apparently this is some sort of side project for them. They also have another band where they play different instruments. They are nice kids and seem pretty eager, but they also drink all the beer. We all find it pretty amusing. John Brannon sums it up succinctly: "We were kids once, too."


Our set is a hot one, figuratively and literally. The room is packed. There is a guy right down in the front in a wheelchair. He's going apeshit, thrashing back and forth in his chair and sometimes even toppling over backwards. Its a trip to watch. I have no room to move on the tiny stage. The sweat spills into my eyes and onto my guitar. At one point the crowd surges forward as people slam into each other. Somebody falls across me and slams into my amp rig. It looks like he is broken in half, but he pulls himself up and leaps back into the fray. It is a chaotic set but we play strong.


NA follows with a blistering set of their own. It is clear that this is indeed their audience. As violent and shambolic as the crowd was during our set, they are more so now. They swing their fists and pile on top of one another, a wall of sweaty bodies in a tangled mass of denim and leather. It's an incredible sight. Tonight they also finally add their cover of Alice Cooper's "Desperado" and also a cover 4-Skins "Chaos". Jeff joins in on "I Got A Right" again.


After the show the wheelchair guy comes backstage. He is missing a leg. He's pretty drunk but polite. We sign stuff for him but he wants to just hang out. He tells me and Barry that he ordinarily isn't in the wheelchair but he has recently injured his good leg. He then tells us about how he lost his other leg as a kid when he got hit by a train. He shows us large bands of scars all across his body. He has developed a wicked sense of humor as a means to cope. He shows me tattoos that read  'NECK', 'ARM' and 'HAND' at their respective spots with large arrows. Above his missing leg he has 'GONE'. He smiles wryly and says that this way he can keep inventory. His sense of humor and positivity is humbling and inspiring. He is one of the more memorable characters I've met on the road.


Load out proves difficult. Everyone is nice enough but they don't seem too concerned with making any room for us to carry our stuff out. After several polite "excuse me's" I finally just start bumping people out of my way. I don't like to be rude, but sometimes its called for I guess. The NA and 'SEEN guys help each other load out. We are both staying at the same place tonight, but they opt to hang out a bit while we head on.


The place we are staying at is a hostel. It feels like a summer camp. Its actually pretty nice - although we are all crowded in the same room. Still, we have our own bathroom and I am able to shower. I climb up on the top bunk and am asleep in no time.


 

BERLIN - July 31


Before leaving Copenhagen we round up with the NA guys one last time for pictures. Its been a lot of fun meeting  and playing with them. Hopefully we'll get to do it again. We talk of maybe doing something in the fall. We'll see. We all pile into our vans and go off our separate ways.


Our van's A/C seems to be on the fritz. It's already uncomfortable enough, but the heat makes it rather unpleasant. The ride back into Germany is long and rather boring. The only excitement occurs when a huge hawk kamikazes into the van, leaving a huge dent. It probably killed the bird, and it later proves to be a pretty hefty expense on us for the repair.


We have no shows scheduled for today or the next. We spend our downtime in Berlin. Stefan Walz, who traveled with us for the first few days of this tour has allowed us to stay at his apartment, as he is out of town. We stop to pick up the key from his girlfriend, Dawn. She has her own cupcake shop, 'Cupcake Berlin'. I feel self-conscious when her assistant comes to the counter. She is very pretty and I feel ashamedly grubby. Dawn is really cool. She generously gives us a box of cupcakes with the keys to the apartment.


It is getting dark when we finally locate the apartment. We settle in, exhausted. Stefans place is in an old building. The apartment is huge, with high ceilings and ancient hardwood floors. I wonder if we are on the 'old' side of Berlin, the side once controlled by the communists. I wonder if this building is a relic of old-school communist architecture. There is a large study that Stefan has filled with all sorts of collectables; old models, toys, games, masks and a library of cool books and records. I stare at it all afraid to touch anything. The stuff lines the walls from floor to ceiling. I feel like I'm in some sort of museum. The value of all this stuff is beyond what I can probably imagine. Its pretty cool.


I make use of the washing machine and then we gather in front of the TV. Captain has been hyping an old movie for the last week and we finally have an opportunity to watch it. It is called 'Stunt Rock'. I can't rightly discern the plot, but it basically follows Australian stuntman Grant Page around Los Angeles while filming a movie. Along the way he befriends a hard rock group  called Sorcerer. They employ theatrical gimmicks with magicians during their set. There are also two pretty blondes along for the ride, because... because.


It's a lousy movie, but we all love it. After the movie I crash out.


BERLIN - Aug 1


Day two in Berlin. There is no sense in moving the van and losing our parking spot, so anywhere we want to go has to be in walking distance. I don't feel much like sightseeing any way. I sleep most of the day. Later in the afternoon Barry and I walk a few blocks over to a large city square. There is some sort of festival happening. I don't know if this is an everyday thing here or not, but there are performance groups staging little plays, puppetry and even robotic animals including a fire breathing mechanical dragon. There is also a large market of people selling all sorts of random stuff. It's like flea markets and swap meets here in the states - mostly just junk.


Barry and I hit a place offering fish and chips - it's mediocre. We then spot a shopping mall and decide to give it a walk thru. It is a giant three level monstrosity, a paean to the crass commercialism. I am reminded here that people are the same no matter where on Earth you are. They are driven by an innate sense of self-worth as defined by what they possess. This mall is no different than anything you find here in America. The superficiality of plasticized consumerism laid out in gaudy fashions, high tech gizmos and flakey novelties.



GOPPINGEN - Aug 2



When people got word we suddenly had some open dates, they jumped at the opportunity to secure us for their own towns. Although it was short notice, people quickly rearranged their personal schedules to allow for our shows. We actually had several offers we weren't able to accommodate due to routing, time and cost. We still were going to do some crazy cross-country runs to make these shows happen, and if it were possible we wouldn't have lost any dates. Sometimes circumstance prevents you from making everything happen, but I'd qualify the effort as a success.


We first stop in a little town called Giegen. We are staying here tonight with another old friend of the band, a guy called 'Evil'. In advance of our arrival here, I sorta pictured what this 'Evil' character must be like - probably a big scary looking tattoo covered biker goon, right? Wrong. 'Evil', Although a large man, Evil is a soft-spoken, clean-cut professional looking fellow who runs a high-end bathroom remodeling business. His home is a compound containing the office and warehouse of his business with his apartment above upstairs. It was a really nice place, very modern and comfortable.


He rides with us on over to Goppingen. Goppingen is a tiny hamlet in western Germany. The countryside is beautiful here, a far cry form the dirty and dizzying hustle of the larger cities. Here there are Old World remains of old castles and buildings that harken back to an era when the New World was little more than a rumor. The history of these hills is almost haunting. There are still modern buildings of course. At one point we pass a large warehouse and Evil tells us that it is the world headquarters for Nuclear Blast records. I joke we should o get a record deal. I somehow doubt they would take us...
 
The roads here are narrow, cobblestone alleys that we virtually block with our van. We arrive to a tiny tavern that is hosting our show for the evening. We are met at the door by the promoter, Christoph. He is another longtime friend of the band. He and Evil are part of a contingent known as the "Ulm Boys". Christoph's clearly stoked to be doing this show, as are we. 


The club is called Zille. We load in to a back room. There is a cramped corner where we will play. No stage, no lights and a tiny vocal PA. Talk about DIY punk rock!  There is no opening act, only us. We cram everything in and its obvious already by the vibe here that its gonna be killer. People are already starting to arrive and soon a large crowd is congregated out in the street. There's a very palpable sense of excitement. Captain sets up merch at a table beside the bar while people queue in line for admission.


We are given the go-ahead and start our set. The room is jam packed. People are standing on tables and chairs. There is absolutely no room to move but we drive into our set. Everyone is crowded around us and signing along with every song. At some points they are so loud it almost sounds like a choir. The crowd is aggro, but not violent. Everyone is having a blast. Tonight feels very special, and will be one I'll remember for along time.


We return to Evil's place and after a quick shower I peruse his DVDs. He has a copy of the great documentary 'Heartworn Highways'. Evil, Captain and myself plop down and watch it before finally sacking out for the night.





PRAGUE - Aug 4


The ride to Prague was long and dreary. I decide the sun never shines here. The city of Prague is highlighted as a European tourist destination but if such places exist, we never saw any of it. The city I saw was dirty and depressed. As all other major European cities, graffiti covers every available inch of space. I imagine there isn't much wealth here.
 
The club is called Modra Vopice. In a certain respect, it reminds me of the kind of place you'd see in Austin, such as Emo's or Red 7. There is a building with a bar and a stage but along one end the walls can be opened to the outside. Another stage stands outside. There are picnic tables situated between the outdoor stage and the indoor stage in a sort of courtyard. Off to another end is the greenroom.


Tonight we are fed steak, a real treat after the weird vegan food we have been getting. There is plenty of beer in a large refrigerated cooler, but mostly I just drink soda. the green room is plastered from floor to ceiling with posters from prior shows here. They've hosted all the big punk and metal bands as well as more obscure acts with some of the most ridiculous names imaginable. Some favorites were 'Burning Butthairs' and 'Begging For Incest'. You can't make this stuff up.


People come up to the door of the greenroom and request autographs. Everyone here is very reserved and polite. We invite them in and sign whatever they have. We are somewhat surprised to discover the soundguy here is a character who we once met many years ago in Atlanta known as 'Czech Mike'. He worked for the Impotent Sea Snakes and was also loosely associated with GG Allin . He comes to the greenroom to welcome us. He looks completely different from what I remember, but still boasts the physical scars of those wilder, woolier days. He talks a bit about the miles between then and now. He seems very healthy and happy.


It's another big crowd. The turnouts here have not been in any way disappointing. There seems to be a lot of GG fans here, no doubt attracted by ANTiSEEN's recordings with him. Czech Mike asks if a friend of his can read a poem he has written before we play. We of course say yes. We also decide to open our set with 'Violence Now' - and when we do, the place erupts. The crowd are probably the rowdiest yet. The ricochet off one another as they slam and thrash about. Its a great set.


Afterwards we sign more stuff. Everybody congregates out on the picnic tables and watch as we load our gear back in the van. As we finally finish and climb in to leave they all stand and applaud. Getting a standing ovation as we pulled out of the parking lot in Prague is something I will never forget. it was pretty amazing.


The only hiccup of the night occurs when we are informed by the promoter that we have lost our hotel reservations. Instead we are directed to another hostel. It takes a few minutes to locate. It is a rather dumpy place, nothing like the hostel in Denmark. We have to share a single tiny room for the five of us, and a bathroom with the rest of the floor. There is, naturally, no air conditioning and the window opens to an alley. Its pretty miserable here but I still mange to sleep pretty good.


We still have a long ride ahead of us...   




-TO BE CONINUED -