Email August 3rd 2006

Subject: Fish 2006 - Where did all the raingods go?

Dear Fishheads, Freaks, Fans and the Company,

It seems as if someone has towed the entire island a few thousand miles further South as Scotland is just not Scotland any more. Temperatures in Haddington are - as all over the Isles - breaking records and the good news is that this will extend into August when it's supposed to be even hotter. I even played two festivals last weekend and it only rained once and that was a satanic storm that lasted 20 minutes. My powers have waned! Not that I am too unhappy about it though it does take nearly 90 minutes to water the garden. No hose pipe ban up here funnily enough! :-D

It has been totally full on up here in recent weeks. Rehearsing with the full band and Gavin Griffiths, our new drummer, before going off to Germany for the shows. Add to that the Convention organisation it's been a mountain of work. Elspeth has been outstanding in helping put this together and has been dealing with the details to the point where I honestly feel that this will be the best organised event we have ever put together.
A full rundown to date will be sent out on a separate post and will provide you with an up to date schedule and contacts for the weekend.

We left for the Loreley festival on Thursday 27th, Gavin, Frank, Heather and I leaving from Edinburgh to London 3 hours after Andy and TonyT with the others travelling from Birmingham direct to Frankfurt. Tickets had been difficult to get which meant Tony and Andy spent the 3 hours waiting for us at Heathrow where we were to pick up the flight to Frankfurt at 4.45 with Steve Rispin the sound engineer. It was all so jolly and the seven of us proceeded directly to a bar where we made camp and settled into what was to become an accidental party session involving vast numbers of Bloody Marys.
The expected two hour connection became three and then, as cancellation after cancellation went up on the board and the 'delayed' signs flashed, our flight was then scheduled for a 9.15 departure. We had been given "food vouchers" which went into the kitty to support the seemingly endless production line of Bloody Marys. We had to eventually cheat and eat solids but managed to quaff a couple of bottles of wine. Yatta reckoned that between us we spent around £400 in the 8 hours (11 for Tony T and Andy - Tony was so "relaxed" he bought two rounds! :-D ) We eventually got on the plane and then spent that extra hour you really don't need waiting in our seats on the jet on the tarmac.
On arrival in Frankfurt and in the morgue lights of a cavernous and near empty baggage hall we discovered that 4 items of luggage had gone missing, Steve's bass guitar, Gavin's cymbals, Andy's guitar racks and Tony's key racks. We were on the last flight which meant we had to hope the gear arrived on the first incoming flight from Heathrow in the morning at 10am, three hours before our soundcheck at Loreley.
I had got into bed in the hotel at around 3am after sorting out all the missing luggage details with the BA staff. I was up at 9 to catch the mini bus at 10 to Loreley, about two hours away. I met Yatta in the lobby, the gear hadn't arrived on the first flight. This was all getting too tight.
No equipment - no gig, and on stage at 9 with a strict curfew. Yatta left for the airport, we left for the festival site after first stopping off at the hotel in the Rhein valley just below the festival site perched on the hill. I managed 45 minutes nap in my room and then the call came in for soundcheck leave.
Arriving at Loreley was a weird sensation. I was last there in July 87 when I met Yatta for the first time, two weeks before I got married. Walking onto the stage in an empty auditorium I was overtaken with nostalgia and sent a couple of texts off to Mark K and Ian Mosley saying as much. Their replies zipped back wishing us luck with the gig and within 5 minutes the skies began to darken in true "Omen" satanic style and the wind picked up. We knew it was a big storm but as the rain went from a vertical deluge to a horizontal lashing I though I was in the Atlantic on a boat deck rather than a festival stage on a mountain in Germany! It was surreal as the storm unleashed it's energy, bending trees, scattering a forest's worth of leaves onto the site, ripping down backdrops and forcing water into any pieces of equipment not in the centre of the permanent open air staging held like a plastic sail above us. A swarm of roadies rushed to cover anything in the open with sheets of polythene and the sound tower battened down it's hatches as the storm raged through. In 20 mins it was all over and the sun burst out as Yatta turned up - as if on cue - with the missing equipment. It turned that he had to go direct to the BA missing luggage desk where the lady there told him that the equipment was still in London and wasn't scheduled until the next flight arriving later in the afternoon. Just at that moment a trolley wheeled by a BA baggage attendant went past and Yatta immediately recognised our gear. So much for computer tracking!
The storm had actually given us a break and we completed our check with our full gear wired in.

Gavin was understandably nervous and we had a long wait until we hit stage. 'Mostly Autumn' were first on, not through choice, but as their drummer had to get back to the UK that night for a wedding early next day under threat of emasculation they opted for first slot.
They played a good set but would have benefited from the huge walk up that occurred as the night went on.
Loreley has fallen out of favour in the last 10 years and the new management is trying to re-establish the venue as an integral part of the festival circuit again. It's still an impressive arena and our crowd of around 3000 made it look well decked with pink faces. It actually seemed a lot smaller than I remembered as we had 18,000 back in 87 and to be honest I had been wary of taking on this show as we had played so much in the area on the recent tour. The crowd that did turn up were excellent and gave us a great response when we took the stage after the German prog band "Sylvan" who warmed up the audience to good effect.
Gavin was wired up to go and we took the stage with "Big Wedge" and into the set we have been playing on the last tour. He was great and after the show drew great praise from all including a beaming Yatta.
The one addition to the set was a performance of "Just Good Friends" with Heather Findlay who walked on to my stage for the first time. The duet got a great response and bodes well for the Convention.
I was really pleased with the attack from the stage and the way the band has settled quickly with Gavin on board. We deserved the extra encore outwith our allotted time slot and left the stage to a wild reaction. Not quite 87 in crowd size but the response was proportionately relative :-D After show there was a palpable sense of relief and the wine flowed backstage, yours truly taking point until drawn to the stage again by the sound of 'Second's Out' the Genesis tribute band. I snuck onto the keyboard players mike and sang a couple of backing vocals before being ushered to centre mike by the lead vocalist. "I Know What I Like" was battered out and I was in my element with two drummers and a sound alike unit. I thought I was great! But I was very, very drunk :-D The promoter loved it though and the vibe was great with smiles all round, mine exceptionally goofy! A wonderful day!
Back to the hotel where the boys had a balcony party, the boss retiring in the face of a demanding schedule later that morning.
Up at 10 and three hours of neck-jangling sleep in the back seat of the minibus after a couple of eggs and a coffee.
We arrived at Seebrunn around 1pm, 34 degrees and an arena bleached by the sun. This was the first time this festival has happened and as this was the establishment year figures were low but the promoter was happy. We hung about backstage until we went on at 7, all drained by the heat and facing an audience spread over the field with a sound system that wasn't exactly cranked up. We played well enough but the lack of atmosphere was energy-sapping and although the 1500 or so who were there gave us the reaction we still walked offstage a bit deflated after the success of Loreley. Everyone in the backstage area loved us and the promoter was over the moon at our performance. It didn't help us much as we knew what we can do in the right environment. It was very well organised and all the staff were helpful and friendly with smiles all round all day. It was a shame they didn't pick up the numbers the festival warranted. But it's a long term plan on the promoters part and this was the year of the Rock and Roll guinea pigs!
I met up with Dee Snyder for the first time since 83 or so and met Uriah Heep for the first time ever. They followed us as first band in the darkness and played a great set. I didn't fancy hanging around for 'Saga', it had been a long enough day.
I dived off halfway through the Heep set as I wanted to get back in the hotel to clean up before a quiet beer or three in a bar in town with Heather. We swanned round the corner and lo and behold there was Yatta and Steve Rispin at a table next to some of the guys from 'Sweet' who had played earlier in the afternoon and who we knew from a festival in Estonia quite a few years back. Andy Scott was there with his son who admitted after a few bevvies that as a boy in Gerrard's Cross around 88 that he had nicked a crate of beer from outside my garage!
Turned out they had lived up the road. Now Sweet's sound engineer he was able to repay the debt with a few rounds of Tequilas and everything was forgiven! :-D
Up next day for a 2pm leave for Stuttgart airport and a 4 hour wait on our flight to Heathrow and then Edinburgh. I slept in the terminal, on the flight to London and on the flight to Edinburgh which left 90 mins late! Heather and I arrived at the studio at 12.30am. The endless bloody glamour! :-D

This week has been a catch up time and an audition for a TV show in London on Wednesday, the results of which I get in September. As usual the dilemma is constructed as the TV films during the period allocated to the last touring segment of the year in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. Yatta is once again at the mercy of producers in another business. If the TV project comes off then the dates will be moved into very early 2007.

The Convention is pretty much wrapped up as far as the organisational set up goes and we have further acoustic rehearsals here at the Studio for 4 days next week, the band travelling direct from Holland after the Schollenpop festival on Saturday.
After that it's the "Fat Tyre" festival near Zurich, a couple of days off and then zip over to Mexico for a gig and back for the Haddington showdown. It's coming at us fast and furious!

On other news the DVD of 'Return To Childhood' will be available from the 21st August on mail order through the website. I will also be carrying this at the Convention. I don't have a price as yet but we will be taking pre-orders on the website hopefully by next Monday depending on when Snapper give me the details I need from them.
As this new title comes out I will be adjusting the prices on the other DVDs as part of an overall sale on the back catalogue.

The plan is slowly starting to come together with the Scandinavian/Eastern European dates nearly all on line at the end of September/October and writing sessions with Steve Vantsis filling in the gaps between the next batch of tour dates in November/December before getting into writing in earnest for the next studio album in the Spring of next year. I envisage having the album ready around June next year but the general release will coincide with the tour beginning around August.

Calum Malcolm is recording the acoustic shows at St Mary's for future use and in all probability this will be combined on a DVD with the possible orchestral productions in Venezuela which are currently under discussion for next Spring. This will give me a project to work on and release around April next year and fill in the gap before the next studio album.

Amongst all that there is a garden that - to say the least - has proven very demanding this year! I went a bit overboard with the planting and am giving away acres of veg to the neighbours and friends. There is enough lettuce to feed the entire cast of "Watership Down"!
I am actually pretty proud of what we managed to do this year against the odds regarding tour duties. Heather has transformed herself into my 'garden elf' and has been a saviour when it came down to the salad beds that are overflowing just now.
Next week we will mostly be eating tomatoes! :-D
The sun shines brightly on Spittalrig and I can hear the wee bastard caterpillars munching away on my brassicas as I type. Biggest wasp population for years. God bless em! They are my only ally in the war against the tide of crop munchers that I have apart from the cats who have a quick paw swipe at the crowds of luminous green creatures when they get bored of hanging around the pond playing with my goldfish who now number nine at the last count! Still desperately hanging onto organic principles although sometimes I do fantasise about a B52-like strike with chemicals on the entire patch. Letting nature take it's course is sometimes very frustrating.

Never thought I would be praying for rain in Scotland. Could do with a good downpour. Give me that extra 90 mins in the pub! :-D

until next time
lots of love
Onkel Fish

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