Sunsets Tour Stories
I thought I would have been able to get the pigeons out a bit earlier with messages from the tour, but as you can imagine the burn in has been a bit severe. Tonight is Sheffield Leadmill and soundcheck's just finished late due to the never ending problem with Keith's gear. All through rehearsals the constant reek of hot soldering irons coming from the centre of enough wiring to rerig the Starship Enterprise. We coped with the early gigs but after Glasgow it was decided to bring a more experienced back line technician to replace Keith's roadie, who'd proved to be a little bit out of his depth. Subsequently it was found that the wire patching in the guitar equipment was a mess and had been not only affecting Keith's confidence, but ours as well as Andy Williamson, my outfront sound guy, who struggled to deliver a good guitar sound from the signal emanating from the labyrinth of bleeping flashing lights. Duncan Ross ('winewaiter' of the 95 tour) is our technician of the week and brings that much needed sense of security you need when operating in guerrilla touring mode. He'd turned up at the Edinburgh show to say hello after returning from Vancouver, where we all thought he'd disappeared for good after the last tour. The college course in sound engineering didn't happen and he came back, as luck would have it at the right time. The Edinburgh gig was plagued with guitar problems and signalled a major rethink on the roadie situation as panic set in on the backline and Keith struggled through bangs, crashes and eternal silences to conjure solos. As word was had the next day in Glasgow and the change was made. Another dark cloud lifted.
Up till then it had been a stress laden tour as on the 10th May my wife had been taken seriously ill and was told she had to undergo a major operation on the 24th, the day of the 'Railway Hotel' show in Haddington. I don't wish to go into details at this moment, but I'll go as far to say that the tour was close to being cancelled and it wasn't until Glasgow that she was given the all-clear by doctors and the tour was given the green light. I was fully prepared to cancel all touring this year should complications have arisen and my wife to her enormous credit insisted that the tour should not be cancelled. Her strength and bravery was outstanding throughout the whole experience which overshadowed all the problems and stress that surrounded the album release and tour preparations. The first gigs were needless to say dark affairs backstage and travelling to and from hospital and dealing with all the ensuing domestic and family arrangements was something that no one wants to ever repeat. Thankfully she's now home and recovering well and we're both ready to cope with the aftermath and press inquisition which will undoubtedly happen and which we'll both deal with in the appropriate manner. When I received the phone call giving an all clear a few hours before the Glasgow show a huge weight lifted from our collective shoulders and prompted a phone call from stage during the show where the audience said 'Hello Mrs Fish' before we played Cliché down the mobile and the crowd ended the call with 'Bye Mrs Fish!' She was gutted to have missed the shows and is trying to recover as quickly as possible in order to party down in Berlin on the 28th June at the B-Zwei concert.
The band and crew pulled together brilliantly during all this and since Duncan's arrival it feels like a tight cohesive unit and is surpassing all my initial expectations. It's still early days yet though and we're still not convinced or comfortable with the set list. It's a bit like wearing in a new pair of Doc Martens (working boots or fighting boots depending on your inclination). I'm still working out what I'm doing in between and during songs as a frontman. As always too much talking (I hear you laugh!) resulting in weird set curves, but I think I'm compensating for a set list structure that has too many flats which I'm not sure is down to too many new numbers which the audience aren't yet totally familiar with.
The central medley from Jungle Ride into Assassing/Credo/Tongues/Assassing/Fugazi (end section)/White Feather (with switching end sections from Credo) works brilliantly the bands playing sheer excellence incarnate. The outro songs work with Cliché, 52 and Lucky closing the set but the encores " Worm" , " Exile" ending with the final section of the " Company" don't hang right. " POJP" is a great opener but " 1470" , " Goldfish" , " Family Business" and " WCIG" are somehow in the wrong order. " Raw meat's" only been played at the sell out Edinburgh show so far and " Change of Heart" has only been in the set at Haddington. I know it's looked on as bad form to name the set on the " list" but as it's constantly changing and will continue to diversify I don't have a problem with indulging in the shape shifting. It's a tough one to get right and with open airs on the horizon, some of them in territories totally unaware of newer material certain tracks will be added or withdrawn to suit.
As far as gigs so far, Edinburgh and Glasgow have been the best for us closely followed by Belfast, Aberdeen and Dublin. The Irish shows were both late gigs, 12.15 in Dublin and 11pm in Belfast. It's hard keeping the adrenaline up all day in those situations (and avoiding the bars!). On top of that there's always a high proportion of the audiences just attending the late night bar. Needless to say it's tough grabbing their attention. Most of them get too drunk to heckle constructively.
List subject - heckling - I love em - feed the bear!!! I was trained in Scotland remember. " Grendel" calls are just aperitifs! Also having 5 guys on stage (4 jocks) all over 6 feet doesn't make for successful stage invasions and an " invite" will result in a kicking. (A titanium mike stand is wonderful for that vital dental treatment you've never wanted!). Anyway enough negative thought. I don't really have many problems (touch wood) as reasoning or humiliation works most of the time and remember when one gets really out of order they're usually in a crowd which if I've done my job well belong to me and will react accordingly! If not I'm in serious trouble and will soon have a crowd of villagers with torches outside the bus!
OK zip ahead a number of hours real time. I'm on a train heading north out of Newcastle. I was dropped off at 9am after a night on the bus following the Sheffield gig. I'm heading home on the day off to see the wife and do the band's laundry. (Mickey S still has the white shirts!) The gig last night was wonderful and rated up there with the Edinburgh show. " WCIG" moved into position after " POJP" but there was still a lull before the medley. Yatta, my everlasting production manager still doesn't like " Jungle Ride" but I have to admit I enjoy the 'difference' within the style of the overall set. Theatre my boy, theatre!! The words are sometimes difficult to remember in order and a freeform approach is called into play during those " awkward" moments - but it works.
With last night being the final event of the 'classic rock society' 3 day event, a number of prog luminaries were there including John Collinge, Editor of the US based " progression" magazine whose last issue included an 11 page interview with yours truly. I also met " Mastermind" , a NYC based outfit, recording on the Cyclops label. We shared a casual bottle of wine and discussed " lyrics" for a while. Jill Douglas was in attendance camera and all as was Martin Hudson editor of CRS mag " Wondrous Stories" and compere for the evening. After opening up the editorial of the recent zine with a diatribe on foul mouthed musicians he came in for a bit of stick, as did the audience who initially were too damned polite and had to be heckled a bit from centre stage!!
The turnout was pretty good and so far all attendances are up on the 95 UK tour. I've not given up on this island yet! BTW Simon Log threw in another of his cynical pokes a while back about parental guidance stickering implying once again that it was a cheap gimmick to raise sales figures. How oh log type creature? I never realised that swear words were such a marketable commodity. The BPI (British Phonographic Institute) of which Dick Bros is a member sent notice to all members in March this year new UK guidelines on stickering. As 52 has one word on the album and remixed versions we had to comply. You may not know (& judging by previous jibes you don't) but radio stations can be fined if a complaint is made by members of the general public about bad language. Stickering helps DJs and parents who are sensitive about their kids listening to swearing. Because of the one word on 52 we were obliged to sticker. If you want a copy of the BPI mandate I'll post it to the list. As far as I'm aware stickering doesn't aid sales it can hinder. Retail outlets will sometimes not stock stickered product. (K-mart USA anyone?) and it's a trend that will continue to spread as UK outlets follow American leads. Corporations are becoming increasingly more sensitive regarding the family friendly images they try to project! Although censorship doesn't " exist" in our society it occurs in more subtle ways and is just as effective " Fucking brilliant man" . Talking about censorship/bad language, I spoke to Mark Wynne last night and he told me that although he'd received my posting to the mail list he'd not seen it on any of the " Dailies" and as I missed a few I took it for granted it had gone through. So don't be surprised if a posting appears out of synch with the flow. (I have now forwarded that mail message onto freaks - Mark)
I'm out of synch at the moment this now being the day of the Newcastle Show. A good day off was had with a meal with my speedily recovering wife and some quality time with the wee one who now has 6 carp for the pond in the garden. There was some office crap to deal with including a fax from a merchandise company who deal with the concessions at the London Shepherds Bush Empire. They informed us that they will be take 25% of the gross plus vat (17.5%) of all merchandise sold in the venue. On asking what they did for this fee I was told they provided 4 sales people (read cheap kids) and a settlement after show. I told them I already pay a guy on the road to do this. No go. I intend to sell outside the venue. I personally find all this offensive and part of the continuing demise of a music industry I used to love. Middle men are destroying the live scene and making touring nearly impossible at club level. Without merchandise sales to back up tour losses I can't tour effectively and as this concession trend moves down from the arenas to the clubs I can see the day when live dates will dry up due to excessive costs outstripping income.
The major light I have at the moment is the USA and Canada where Viceroy and WEA are genuinely excited about the album. I have 6 weeks of dates between 17th July and 28th August. These are not yet confirmed but as soon as they are they'll be posted on the list and on the site. Obviously with the North American tour moving into place the Swiss festival appearance on August 2nd has been cancelled. (Did someone out there just say " oops!" ) Also confirmed is a festival in Malta at a new amphitheatre in Bugibba on July 6th. It's a free festival run by the ministry of culture.
OK that's me kind of up to date but I'll leave with a wee anecdote.
On the Glasgow showday I had to do a signing at Virgin Records and having just received the phone call saying that my wife was given the all clear I was bouncing along the street on a real high having overtipped the taxi driver and walking into a Virgin store along the street from the one I was supposed to be at much to the amusement of the staff and myself. Lo and behold walking along the street in the opposite direction was Iain Banks an old friend of mine and creator of the Wasp Factory and my all time favourite book Espedair Street. Much animated greetings were made and it transpired that he was on his way to a bookshop to sign copies of his new scifi novel as I was on my way to sign away 'Sunsets' at Virgin. I hadn't seen him for over a year and the coincidence of this chance meeting in such circumstances were absurd to say the least. Needless to say on this World tour there'll be many more such occasions. Life's kind of like that.
Hang loose and stay cool out there.
Love Uncle Fish
Email 6th June 1997