Email 1st October 2005

Subject: Fish 2005 - Viking raids

Dear Fishheads, Freaks, fans and the Company!

Well the boat docked on Saturday afternoon and we raised our oars and charged our glasses to a fine raiding party. No casualties, lots of booty and a treasure trove of stories. One of the best times over in Scandinavia for a long time!
It nearly didn't happen! Frank and I had flown down to Stansted on the Thursday night as the flight to Trondheim was too early on Friday to risk missing the connection. A combination of early / late buses to the Holiday Express at the airport and a grabbed pint of Guinness meant we arrived at the hotel just as the restaurant closed. A couple of expensive bottles of cheap wine later with the recently arrived Dave Gould (Drac) and Steve Vantsis and then to bed avoiding the temptation of the faux hard core porn pay per view channels. An early call and off on the shuttle bus to face my least favourite airport in the world. It seems every time I check in for a flight I get the obnoxious, charmless most unhelpful and rude attendant and wowee did I get one today. If the "bad" Gollum had bred with the cliched Essex girl stereotype and she was on the wrong time of her cycle and the Scottish boyfriend had just run off with her best friend and the Ring and she had just discovered she had terminal piles then you get the drift. Despite the slight hangover and the gnawing hunger I raised my best smile and offered a "good morning" greeting that might as well have translated in her twisted mind as " no anal sex tonight then my precious!"
No reply, no thank you, no please, just orders and gestapo like questions. My suitcase had gone on the truck with Yatta on the ferry three nights ago and I had hand luggage which turned out to be too big (despite having been ok on at least 15 flights this year so far including the last Easyjet one down from Edinburgh) and too heavy, " Health and safety regulations, it could fall on a child"? I asked for the specific regulation and was met with "I can always refuse you on the flight if you want!" I still held some degree of cool which was beginning to freeze to killer mode but I recognised I had one chance to get to Trondheim for the gig. She was holding the deck and both she and I knew it. I had to take all my valuables out the bag including my Nikon. I was entrusting all my gig stuff including stage clothes, medications and lyric book to this poisoned dwarf. An arrogant little tyrant who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the public and would probably find more suitable employment as a prison guard or giving cigarettes to beagles. I took a sly photo of her for the web site as I left but thought better of it and deleted the image as she remarked to her colleague in Frank's earshot that she was going to have me thrown of the flight for "taking photos in the airport!" Doh! I was so glad when I got on the flight - right at the back in the very tight window seat. No wonder air rage exists when you have check in staff like that! Twisted little creature. I hope her next shit is a hedgehog!
(Some of you out there may think I am a bitter sad person and I am sure she is a "wonderful" person who was on a bad day but Wow I am so glad I got that off my chest. Writing is therapy :-)
I arrived in Trondheim sans reading glasses which had fallen out my "hand luggage" en route. Bugger!

I was whisked off in a taxi to a radio station while the band checked in to the hotel in town. I sucked down half a cigarette outside the terminal and managed another in the taxi thanks to an understanding heavy metal lover who played Swedish hard hard rock on the journey to the interview. I hung about in an obviously smoke free environment at the station before an interview and a spin of "Kayleigh". They didn't have any solo material on their drives! Not a good sign! Interview was fine and it was off to the hotel where I walked into the lobby and got out my pack to light up. I might as well have had a rucksack bomb!
It was then I discovered that there was a total no smoking ban throughout Norway in all public places! Including pubs!! Doh!!!
I now know what is coming to Scotland next year and realise the writing is on the wall. It says NNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Ah well, time to rethink my vices!

Sound check took ages as they would throughout the entire tour as Chris Archer was dealing with everything himself and every rig had it's own unique problems. We got on stage at around 10. It was a long day, I had been like a yo-yo most of the afternoon as I huddled outside the university venue with a taggle of students puffing away in the drizzling rain. I suggested on stage that it may be a good idea to add "smoking causes pneumonia and frostbite" to the Fear packaging.
The gig went really well, the audience mostly new and unaware of the solo stuff. A great result overall with the set which had become relatively regular in recent months. The rust didn't show after a few weeks off and we got a solid reaction.
It was great to see all our Norwegian friends again. First gig is always a bit stressful but the tension was somewhat loosened when Andreas, despite being warned, took a macho slug of a "special" Tabasco sauce named "Who Dares Burns" that I gave to Yatta as a present from an army friend of ours. How we laughed as Andreas looked hospital bound for around 15 minutes trying to salve his torched mouth and throat with anything he could get his hands on. Kiwi fruit, haribo bears, white wine, water, cucumber and of course beer! He looked exactly like Beaker from the Muppets! :-)

It was good to have Mark Wilkinson along for the road trip. His first in years if not ever. I seem to remember him out for a couple of days with the Marillos but that might have been the hallucinatory tour conditions back then. Drac was eying up Mark's stall with suspicion. With another merchandiser on his patch I thought this might denigrate to a turf war. I thought the set up looked really cool and in the end it proved very successful. Mark looked a bit nervous on the first night as coming into the long rehearsed circle of acid dry tongued musos, gruff crew as well as a vampirical merchandiser was a tough call. And of course our ringmaster Yatta was carrying his usual bludgeoning witty comments at close hand. Accompanying our sorcerer of the airbrush was none other than his apprentice, a not so young Robert Mead, out for a party and a whipping! Together with the afore-mentioned hot lips Andreas, Annstein the tour braniac, Roy our faithful driver from the Northern Lights tour, Benji the chaos coordinator and Lars our wild eyed photographer, we were a company with potential for true madness and mayhem. Ladies and gentlemen the circus was in town!

The night was relatively calm but simmering nicely after the show. We had a relatively early flight to Bergen and to a sold out gig in Ricks, one of my favourite haunts. Added to the early pressure of the tour was the Scotland v Italy game at Hampden. We had discovered a Scottish pub in town that was screening the game and the entire day was dominated by talk of the game especially with the Norwegians winding us up for the Wednesday night showdown in Oslo with their national squad. Steve Vantsis and I already had tickets for the Norwegian game and prayed for a better result than the last time when we hosted both their national team and our Viking friends in Glasgow. We were crap under our then German coach and lost one nil. The gloating was too much to bear. A loss to Italy made the Oslo game a redundant issue as we would be out the World Cup and miss out on Germany 2006 and a chance to seriously party around an obvious tour opportunity with the Tartan Army!
Soundcheck was intolerably slow and even a few Guinesses and a kebab couldn't take the edge of the day. Yatta was doing the pointy finger bit on me - "Don't get pissed and don't shout!" Down to the "Highlander" and on to Kilkenny's and outdoor smokes. At least they had the decency of putting a TV set in the window. The Vantsis and I were joined by Frank, Debs and John Tonks as well as a few of my colourful Bergen mates. Tension was palpable as the game kicked off and I could barely watch as the seconds ran like minutes. When Kenny Miller scored the pub erupted and it was obvious that Steve and I weren't the only Scots there on the edge of our bar stools. Half time became a welcome respite and we were joined by an incredulous and now worried Andreas, Benji and Roy. Suddenly the Wednesday game in Oslo wasn't the certainty it once was and our Viking friends were beginning to realise that, under the coaching guidance of Walter Smith, Scotland were a far more dangerous outfit than when the last time they humiliated us at Hampden Park!
The second half crawled as Scotland held on tenaciously to their lead. Attack after attack was thwarted and we looked like we had a win until a lucky deflection evened the score. End result was one-one and all was to play for in Oslo. Worried faces followed us up the road to the gig. I still had my voice and was looking forward to a sold out show at Ricks.
The night was superb and we consolidated our reputation with a brilliant show in front of a wonderful audience. The atmosphere was terrific. Tickets were being sold for nearly 200 pounds outside the venue and we could have played two nights there. After show was beaming smiles all round. This was a famous victory and band and crowd knew it. Everyone was talking about the performance in the venue bar and reviews were going to be stunning. A natural impulse to celebrate into the wee hours was overwhelming but an early trip to Stavanger next day and a hotel that was in the next county triggered restraint on this singers conscience and I slipped into dreamland after a couple of strawberry daiquiris and a taxi trek home!

Next day was an early rise and the warm sunshine of the day before was replaced by a familiar North sea drizzle and a teasing wind that whipped the edges of the waves in Bergen harbour. We were travelling to Stavanger on a ferry! A short stop at Ricks bar on the way to the docks to pick up Andreas' credit card was a warning of what was to come. Some of our little troupe had gone trolling last night!
"Ferry" conjures up images of rusty hulks and stacked decks above holds full of vehicles. This was a far more salubrious affair and was more like a private yacht crossed with a tour bus. It was due to stop at around 7 ports on the 4 hour journey south to Stavanger and around a 100 or so people reclined in the spacious "aircraft" seats spread between two decks. The rear of the upper deck had an outside area where the smokers could huddle in the wind and, as the ship was moving at some rate, it was some blow back there. Teenagers were taking photos on their phones of each other adopting "superman" poses, leaning over to about 45 degrees in the wind. Of course Drac had to do the same! :-) Meanwhile below decks and just as we were crossing some choppy open water the ship began to pitch and jump the waves. It was becoming noticeable that one of our party was suffering. A marine chameleon that went through the spectrum but spending a long time in a green hue, his head hovering threateningly over a red plastic bucket, our Viking hero, Andreas!!! After all the bravado and swaggering there was our intrepid dawn patrol point man in the throes of sea sickness. A pale shadow of the warrior we know so well. People around him shied away, children ran to the safety of their parents, grown men looked on disdainfully. How we laughed! :-) (Photos will be on the web site soon unless I hear the sound of spinning coin! :-) We arrived in Stavanger late afternoon and headed to the hotel and sound check. Yatta as always had driven down with the back line overnight; the stamina of the man is incredible, and looked as fresh as a daisy that had been driving a truck all night!
This gig had been a bogey one on the previous tour as I had been beaten up by a virus I caught while white water rafting. This time was different and I was fired up. After a Thai meal, our first non fast food since Trondheim, we hit the stage around 10 to an audience that at first seemed indifferent. It was a Sunday in Stavanger and it showed. We played a great set but it was hard work getting the crowd switched on. Stage gazers mostly, the energy levels coming back to us were low and required a lot of boosting. In the end we got a result and everyone enjoyed the show but after Bergen it was always going to be a downer. I was told later that Stavanger is notorious in Norwegian band circles for being a "difficult" city. Our mob loved it and the travelling fans rated the performance highly. I was disappointed. Such is your lot on the road!
Another early rise and a flight to a day off in Oslo! Football was on everyone's minds and our Norwegian friends confidence was quivering. If Scotland could beat Norway then we were back in the running for a play off place for the World Cup in Germany next year. The Tartan Army had started to filter into the city and we headed up that night to Andy's bar in the centre for a few Guinesses. It was quiet. In fact so quiet I headed back to the hotel before midnight, sober and crammed with sushi that Tony T and I had gorged ourselves on earlier. This was the quiet before the proverbial storm!
Tuesday and a sold out Rockefeller. The first time I had ever sold this gig out. This was going to be a special day!
Up late and then a wander down to the Quayside on a beautiful sunny day for lunch and a few swallies with some of the boys and girls. I was beginning to suffer from "Oslo neck". I have never been in a city with so many gorgeous women and as I would mention on stage that night to see the Tartan army boys as they walked up the streets in their kilts, heads swivelling backwards and forwards and side to side taking in the bevvy of beauties that constantly swirled past them was a joy to behold. John Tonks and I took up "hunting" positions in a bar by the glittering waterside. A couple of lions lazily gazing at the endless parade of glamour and promise. And that was just the Scots in their kilts! A few Margueritas and then up to the gig and soundcheck. I was awaiting my own kilt which a friend from Haddington was bringing over. It arrived just in time to get down the road to Andy's bar where our Norwegian friends had set up a meet with fans and organised for the Oslo Caledonian pipe band to play for the Tartan Army in attendance. The Army website had been told about my gig and been invited to Andy's for a pre gig party. Needless to say they had been there most of the day and I arrived at the pub to be piped in and met with raucous roars and a blitzing from flash cameras. It was a great atmosphere and pints of Guiness appeared as if by magic while renditions of Scottish football songs were chanted over the mayhem. I had to remember not to get caught up in it all and Yatta's warnings still rattled in my head. "Don't sing, don't get drunk, don't be late, you have a sold out gig!" It was so hard not to resort to type and forget I was there for a show not a football match!
At around 8 or so the order went out and the pipe band assembled outside to for the march to the Rockefeller. This would be one of the finest moments in my touring life as a dozen pipers and drummers struck up and we began to head for the gig. Around 200 or so people including Norwegians, Tartan Army regulars and musos marched through the streets of Oslo to a hair-raising, hearty thumping, blood-pumping collection of songs including the "Black Bear", "Flower of Scotland", "Scots Wha Hae" and "Scotland the Brave" amongst others. We were cheered from other bars we passed, all crammed with kilted, tartan clad, feather bonneted Scots, drawing admiring looks from the locals and especially the ladies. It was a brilliant experience and as one of the Scots marching beside me said "This is better than a limo big man!". It took us around 25 minutes to reach the venue. One of the proudest moments of my life!
The band played outside the Rockefeller while I made my way inside to get changed for the show. I was on such a high.
The gig was a homecoming and the welcome to the stage deafening. What a tremendous night. We literally tore the place apart and "Misplaced" took the proverbial roof off the building! The audience were with us all the way and beyond. Energy levels were in the red all night and we whipped the place up and took it on a ride that was unforgettable.
After show the grins were everywhere. Big stupid grins that couldn't hold words. A truly spectacular performance.
And tomorrow was a day off and football! :-)
I headed into the night, kilted up and Scottish strip on, with the remnants of the pipe band providing my own personal accompaniment back down to the pub. About ten of us marched back to Andy's led by four pipers and a drummer slightly the worse for wear. We entered to raucous applause as most of the pub had been at the gig. Guiness arrived in buckets and with a day off I could indulge in the anthems, rattling of "500 miles" the Proclaimers number at the top of my voice with the others. This was a magical night.
I trudged into the dawn from a hotel that wasn't my own with a mouth like a trawlers bilge tank and a throat that had barnacles. It was dreich and drizzling. I passed wandering kilted ghosts that gathered around kebab shops and park benches. This was match day and I hoped the team hadn't followed our example! Taxi, my hotel and bed until 4pm.
At 4 we all met up in the foyer and headed to Annstein's house. His lovely Thai wife had laid on a banquet for us all before the match. The boys were all there and nerves were frayed. Steve V and I were especially taut with the Norwegians nervously cocky. The Thai meal was totally superb and a few glasses of wine steeled us for the battle ahead. All the band except for TT had decided after the last nights partying to join in the match experience and Debbie, John T and Andy T managed to get tickets in the Scottish end while Steve, Mark W and myself headed into the Norwegian section in the upper levels!
The atmosphere was fantastic and both sets of fans mingled outside the stadium with no sign of trouble or any friction at all. Our wandering pipe band was draped in a Norwegian flag proclaiming "We are the whale killers" by an exuberant and very pissed gang of horned helmeted vikings. There were a lot of very pissed people around the stadium. We met up with all our gang and headed for the interior of the arena. Tension was running high and Steve and I could hardly breathe. Lose this game and our World Cup dream was dead and over.
Inside the stadium Steve, Frank, Mark W and I found ourselves on the upper tier right at the front and overlooking the 3000 or so Scots below behind the goal to our right. They were singing their hearts out and Yatta's words of warning were still in my head.
Unbelievably, the Tartan army were outsinging the 20,000 Norwegian fans and when the teams hit the pitch the atmosphere was unbelievable! The match went in Matrix like slow mo and I bit my nails to the quick. Norway scored and for a moment I thought the world had exploded until the ref whistled for an infringement and the goal was chalked off. Scotland started to take control and then out of the dark blue a deft flick by ex Hibby Kenny Miller went over the Norwegian keeper and hit the back of the net. I mutely screamed to the heavens. The Norwegians were stunned. The ranks of tartan erupted and the stadium on three sides went quiet. Andreas, Roy, Annstein, Benji and the others stared at their feet. We were in control and our new hero Kenny Miller stepped up again and knocked in number two. This was unreal! We had turned into the blue Brazil and were playing some immaculate football. The Norwegians had no answer. Half time. Being Scottish we are used to severe disappointment and even at two nil up things could still go drastically wrong. Kenny Miller was injured and had left the field at the end of the first half. Our star striker who had terrorised the Vikings was off and we had no effective replacement. The second half was mostly Scottish possession and thanks to the Hearts goal keeper and resolute defending it looked like we were going to get away with it. Minutes from the end the Norwegians clawed one back and suddenly it was frayed nerves and beating hearts. When the whistle came the euphoria was overwhelming. This was the first time I had ever seen Scotland win away and to do it here in such an important game was sheer ecstasy! You could have driven a tour bus through my grin and left space for a backline truck to pass!
The Norwegians were gutted and those left in the stadium stared at the moon! We now had a chance to qualify again! Slim but still a chance! It's great being Scottish!
We exited with thousands of kilted tartan warriors all singing their heads off or wandering in a daze of incredulity with goofy smiles!
It was pointless trying to find a taxi or bus so Steve, Frank and I started to trek the 40 minute road into the city. All along the route there were Scots and Norwegians marching together, the latter shaking our hands and congratulating us on the victory. Everyone was so friendly and there was no animosity or gloating from either set of fans. A great example of how it should be at matches.
We arrived at Andy's bar to find it turned into the tartan Gremlins club! Guiness was flowing and the chanting was loud and merry. Just to make it a perfect night for the Jocks news started to filter through the bars in the main street, accompanied by further sounds of celebration, when it was discovered that England had just gone down 1-0 to Northern Ireland! It was frenzied and dangerous and so easy to get caught up in the party atmosphere. All over the city kilts were swinging and songs were breaking out, bars were rocking, pipes were playing and Norwegians had suddenly become Scotsmen! It was a fantastic night!
But I had a gig and had to take of my party hat and put on the sensible head. I went back to a quiet bar near the hotel and met up with Yatta and the others who had watched the match on TV. We also joined up with Roy and friends who were glum and disappointed if not downright embarrassed by the nights proceedings after goading us for days. A few drinks later and the result was forgotten. Just a game after all! I was however still smiling when I woke up next afternoon!
We were playing the Sentrum, another venue just across the square from the Rockefller. I had been nervous of committing to another Oslo show especially after a sold out first night. I had decided to change the set about for the second night as some people were making both shows and I wanted to make it a bit different. "Brother 52", "Incommunicado", "Market Square", "Raingods Dancing" and "Make it Happen" replaced "Pilgrims Address", "Innocent Party" and "Numbers". My worries were unjustified as around 750 fans gave us an even better night than the Rockefeller gig! It fired up from the start and just got higher and higher. I would never have believed that we could have bettered the Rockefeller but we did to the amazement of everyone concerned! Truly the finest time I have ever had in Oslo!
After show I headed back to Andy's and a few pints before the hotel and an early leave in the morning. I was knackered!
Next day was a flight to Copenhagen.
We had all left out luggage in the hotel for Yatta to pick up and drive down to Denmark, leaving us with hand luggage for the plane and an easy check in. On the way to the airport Andy Trill was frantically texting on his mobile with a very worried look on his pale face. Andy had looked out his party hat before the gig and had packed that afternoon leaving the gig directly for the funzone. He had taken out his gladrags and left his passport in his suitcase which was now on a truck heading for Copenhagen. It looked like we would be relying on Frank for guitar! We were not happy! I pointed Andy at the immigration office at Oslo airport and checked in with the rest of the band. I didn't expect to see him again.
He ended up last man on the plane and was met with a stony silence from the rest of the band. In Copenhagen he met Haddington Bear!
Bottom line is that we had a gig that night to 800 fans who had been waiting on the "Return to Childhood" show and they nearly didn't get the full singing and dancing performance because someone had forgotten basic rules of the road. A very apologetic and wiser guitarist took the stage that night!
Another endless soundcheck, another rushed kebab and onto a stage to be met with a tremendous response. It may have been last gig of the run but it didn't show. The energy levels were high, the voice was in great shape and the band were gelling brilliantly. The shows were just getting better and better. "Misplaced" as always took the show onto another level and "Fugazi" put the big gleaming cherry on top of our last gig of the tour.
Aftershow and the batteries ran out on this duracell bunny. A few drinks and then off into the dawn and a get up at 7am for a flight to Stansted and then Edinburgh and a warm bed.
It had been a great tour and a wonderful experience for all concerned. We made new friends and cemented our relationships with old comrades. I have to thank Annstein, Andreas, Morten, Roy and Lars for all their brilliant work at putting together the Norwegian shows. For all the promotion and professionalism, their kindness, friendship and hospitality and the overall superb organisation of the dates I can only thank you from my heart. The same goes to Karsten, Billy, Fleming and the boys in Copenhagen who did a great job with the Amager Bio show. With fans like you guys I feel genuinely humbled and proud to be a friend.
How can anyone think about giving up gigging when these sort of experiences are waiting for you out there on the road.
Roll on the next one!

all the best

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