Subject: Fish 2002 - Return of the Raingod - "I'm not dead yet! Feeling a lot better"
Dear Fishheads, Freaks, fans and the Company,
I feel like a pinball at the moment and the never ending travelling has meant that I am either recovering or preparing for another trip while juggling so many commitments on a personal and professional level. Currently sitting here with a vicious ear infection, the Japanese garden/water feature that was Tara's school project for the summer submerged under 8 inches of water with all the bamboo plants, cement, sand, girders, bricks and stone scattered on a flood plain, my good sporran missing a tassel and a host of visitors due for the weekend when I take my place as Highland Chieftain at the North Berwick Highland Games in full tartan glory - it is as stressful as you would expect here at the studio.
OK! First things first. The picture disc! It will definitely be ready on the third week of August. The plant that Voiceprint had contracted to manufacture was going bust and sold out to a conglomerate. Our project was lost in the takeover as the new guys rescheduled the pressings to accommodate their own contracts. Then they sold the plant to another bunch who rescheduled all their projects etc. Rob Ayling decided that he'd had enough and took the picture disc to yet another plant. It is now on line and Voiceprint are severely embarrassed by events. I can only apologise on our behalf to those of you waiting on orders to be fulfilled.
I have decided not to advance-sell any more projects until your confidence in us can be restored.
The "Kettle of Fish" DVD is going into production as soon as I am happy with the elements. I rejected the first master I was sent as the lip synch quality on the filmed interview was terrible and the interview/voice-over that is on a separate soundtrack was unintelligible and I insisted it be re-recorded. That is now accomplished and once I am satisfied and have the units here at the Studio I will make it available for sale.
"Sunsets on Empire" will also be released on DVD later this Autumn. I am trying to secure the rights to the documentary directed by Jorg Bushka which some of you may have seen at the Conventions. It was filmed in Koln on the Sunsets tour and is a great insight into the band and crew on a tour which was the most extensive I ever attempted and which nearly broke me. A separate interview on the tour is also planned as a feature.
Both titles will be in PAL and NTSC.
I travel to Germany on the 8th to meet up with Mario Boelt from the Company Germany. We will be viewing the edits of the 4 camera shoot that was made in Enschede at the recent European Convention. The images and edits I have seen so far are excellent and capture the incredible vibe of the weekend. Elliot Ness will be mixing the sound in late August and I will be interviewed on my thoughts as yet another feature on the DVD which is planned for release just before Christmas.
As well as the DVD I will be putting together a separate live album of material due for release around the same time.
The convention was a huge success due to the intensive planning and preparation by Mario, Astrid and Harry Brinks and other members of the German and Dutch Companies. Yatta and Mo, together with so many others, played a huge part in instigating an event that I plan to repeat every second year, Haddington being the alternative venue and the site of next year's convention in the summer.
Apart from the Canterbury festival on the 23rd August and the Norwegian tour in September I plan to spend the rest of the year working on "Field of Crows".
There may be some independent dates in November/December as part of the recordings but the next main tour will not leave these shores until March next year.
I have a number of shows with the SAS band in August and then the Chiddingfold/Southampton Christmas gigs in the week of 4th till the 8th of December. Tickets will be available through the SAS web site nearer the time.
I only returned from New Orleans last Monday having played a show for Microsoft in the Generation Hall on Friday 19th. I sang "Kayleigh", "Lucky", "What Do You Want The Girl To Do", a verse in "We Will Rock You", "With a Little Help From my Friends" and "Roadhouse Blues". Other singers were Paul Young, Madeleine Bell and Mark Shaw.
Tara came over with me for the week and we had a great time shopping to excess (XXL- the magic letters!), feeding marshmallows to alligators from our airboat as we careered round the bayous, traipsed round the aquarium and IMAX and did all those Father/Daughter things that you try to cram into the short time you get together. I would never have imagined that I would be in New Orleans - the spawning ground of hedonism - and been in bed before midnight every night! :-)
I was a wee bit worried when I got the phone call on the mobile asking if I was dead or not just as I was about to head into the swamp to visit the alligators. Obviously the rumours of my demise in a car crash in the US were greatly exaggerated. I was concerned just in case it was a spiritual glitch and the car incident had been misread by some medium. As the alligators swarmed for their sweeties and Tara wandered round the shallow boat deck I knew that if she fell off I would be next in and last out. To cap it all there was a 12-footer called "Kim" who our valiant pilot told us could leap 3 feet from the murky waters! The other Kim at the office was fending of a host of e mails and calls about the alleged incident and it had, unbeknownst to me, caused some concern. A very unfunny joke if it was by the idiot that started the mill!
Brunei had been far more dangerous and Louise and I had a brilliant time with the Army and the Shell employees who had invited me over to play the part of Highland Chieftain at their games. I spent a night in the "sticks" with the Commanding Officer and Quartermaster of the Jungle Warfare Wing accompanied by Jags our Ghurkha radio op. It was the most exhilarating thing I'd done for a while and to be honest on the first 40 metres climb up a near sheer face covered in barbs, vines and more creepy crawlies than you could wave a stick at, I thought I was having a heart attack. Fully kitted up with only 30 pounds in my pack in 96% humidity and 90 plus degrees I felt very embarrassed as I struggled, wheezed and pained my way up the sheer slope. From the trail at the edge of the forest it looked like a wall of green and I thought initially that it would be a casual stroll. I didn't realise that there was a 2000 foot bloody hill hidden behind the trees.
I made it up eventually after the guys shared my load and offered me sympathy and around 3 litres of water that was leaking out of my colander-like body at a hellish rate.
As we sat around our candles under the hammocks and mozzy nets in the darkness which fell around 6 o clock I reckoned I'd gone through adrenalin shock. Being the oldest by 2 years made me feel a bit better but a life of wine and smokes showed it's claim on my fitness. The night was incredible and I plan to deal with it in detail in the next fanzine and eventually as an article on the site. I did however fall victim to the Ealing Comedy routine in the hammock on first launch and spent most of the night with one eye open. Next day was a lot easier and I made double the distance from the first day with full pack. The guys were great company and I can never thank them enough for the opportunity.
We were picked up from the next hilltop by Bell helicopter whose pilot turned out to be a Hearts supporter from Gilmerton! A bit of low level flying, skids just over the water of the crocodile-infested river had me humming "Ride of the Valkyries" over the intercom to the amazement of all on board and then it was back to base and beer!
Definitely the highlight of the trip!
The games went well and Louise found herself abducted by "terrorists" as part of the Army Display before she herself was taken heavenward on a stretcher to Mac on the Bell.
Having 3 Gurkha pipe bands playing "Amazing Grace" before a march by with salute to the Chieftain came close to bringing a tear to my eye!
The stand up gig for the community went down a storm and an unrehearsed 2 hour set containing 5 or so acoustic renditions has got me thinking about exploring a different avenue.
I did another comedy gig at the RASS festival in Germany, just before Brunei. This however was no laughing matter.
The RASS festival had been on the calendar since early doors this year and since then I had received numerous e mails and calls from various people connected with the event all needing assurance that we would be playing a full headline electric set. I had arranged for a full rehearsal with the new band and prepared for the festival which was being built up by the same people to being a major musical event that had "surprise" artists who'd turned up with just backing tapes!
The travel preparations were a joke and it ended up that nearly everyone in the band was travelling from different airports and arriving at different times. I had to go to Berlin 2 days previously to sort out some family problems and arrived on the Sunday before our show in a bad mood and checked into a genuine hovel disguised loosely as a hotel. I went down to the site to discover that all the acts on the Sunday night were miming "pop idles". It didn't look good. After the families drifted away, the remaining audience were marinated and Military Police cleared the site as soon as the last tape ended.
I had to play an acoustic set for radio the following afternoon before the main gig. Wires got crossed, there were 2 radio spots organised, one an interview, and I ended up having to leave for the site earlier than I thought only to find myself lost in the huge event of which the music stage was a sideshow amongst the city of stalls and acres of military equipment which itself was overshadowed by the sprawl of Funfair. It took me ages to find the BFBS radio mobile unit and the 30 minute interview turned out to be 3 mins and a dose of "Kayleigh" from the only Fishy CD they had. I ran from there to the main stage to join Robin who'd borrowed an acoustic guitar for a rendition of "Sugar Mice" and "Kayleigh" to an audience of families and kids scattered loosely on the grass below us. This would be the moment of our day as we later found out that the performance; which was pretty powerful under the circumstances, had just been beamed Worldwide to every military radio station from Kabul to the Falklands and from Sierra Leone to Northern Ireland. From then on it was all a downhill slalom on bad acid.
The other bands on the bill went on and on and on. Mostly amateurs in the early part the bill went into a Who's Who of the "chicken in a basket" circuit who revelled in the chance to play in sunlight. Lee from Imagination - OK, The Searchers - acted as if it was their gig and wouldn't shut up, Showaddywaddy - live music from "dead" people and Slade without Noddy but with Dave Hill who bounced round the stage like a cross between Tigger, Goofy and the Mad Hatter on angel dust all combined to drag the night through a bad nostalgic haze and all taking longer than their allotted show times, thus making us later and with a shorter set. At one time I was asked if we could only play for 20 minutes. My retort is unprintable.
We were promised 80 minutes and after the ersatz Slade had squeezed the last of any chord of sympathy from the fast dwindling crowd we eventually went on without any sound check and a basic line check to play an embarrassing and infuriating 40 minute set. The monitors were all over the place and Steve Vantsis' bass went down in the first number and didn't come back on for about 15 minutes. With a regular unit it would have been tough. With a new line up it was a nightmare as no-one could hear the cues and no-one knew the numbers well enough to busk through the chaos. It came close to falling apart on stage. The sound was all over the place and it wasn't until about 30 minutes in that we regained control. We just finished "Kayleigh" when the Military Police ordered the sound to be turned off and us to get of the stage. Yatta begged one last number and before the last chord of a very short "Lavender" finished we were shut down and ushered off by extremely brusque and rude security. I was furious. We were outnumbered and outgunned. The band hardly spoke to each other. We knew we had screwed up. This was not what we had been led to believe and I felt really embarrassed.
We "headlined" to about 2000 people, mostly drunk or trying to hear the band through the hullabaloo, totally pissed off at the sound of a short and shoddy performance. It is marked in memory as being one of the worst festival experiences ever.
To cap it all the local security guys commandeered the "limos" and we ended up in the back of a van and in a hotel bar that nearly sparked into a rumble when the Greek owner tried to rip the boys off. I was already in bed and dreading the long splintered journey home including the 3 hours in Dusseldorf airport. A dreadful start to the gigging season.
I needed the Brunei trip to recover and recharge before the extremely high pressure zone of the rehearsals for Enschede. Time appeared to be my worst enemy.
End of part one!
lots of love
Onkel Fish xx
Mo: Fish had to stop writing this in order to appear as Highland Chieftain at North Berwick Highland Games. He should finish part two next week, after his trip to Germany.
Email 3rd August 2002