Email November 1st 2007

Fish 2007 - Following the Northern Star

Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company,

We were only home a couple of days before it was time to move again. I slept the first two days as did Taz. Not enough time to get a Tesco's run together. Take aways for the first three days. Harley and Spike, my two cats, were all over us and Harley slept in my room every night I was there. On the day we left I found a live mouse in one of my Vans trainers, a present from Spike. Glad I found it before I got on the bus.
I managed to see my friend Phil a couple of times in the week. He was slowly recovering from his back operation but was having trouble dealing with the pain and the morphine. My other friend Hutch was going into hospital that week for heavy steroid doses to deal with his gut problem and, as he had just contracted heavy flu, I couldn't go near him and risk bringing a bundle of bugs onto the tour bus.
Spent the waking hours sorting out business with Elspeth who was doing a magnificent job holding the fort and running the operation while I was away. That and dealing with emails and laundry pretty much took care of my time. The garden had to look after itself.
Saturday morning we were up at 5 to get to the airport and head down to Birmingham to pick up the bus. Foss, Frank, Taz and I had return flights from the first leg. Stuart was flying back in from his girlfriend's in Bordeaux, Gavin and Yatta were training in from Wales. Paul Kennedy was coming up to Brum from Leighton Buzzard. We would all then drive North to Sheffield and meet with McKinty and Chris J driving in from York and Angus who was getting dropped off by his Dad from Blackburn. James was doing monitors on this show and was then off. We hadn't managed to replace him but figured the Dutch monitor guys would be good enough to handle it. We were still looking.
At the airport while picking up some Savlon for Tara's new ear piercing I bumped into Nigel Kennedy who was coming back of tour to catch the Villa/West Ham match. He's a big footy man like me and the last time we met was at a 5 a side competition at Craven Cottage, where we were both playing. One of the good guys, he's still out on the road with his jazz project.
Onto the bus and a kip in my bunk. It was going to be a long day. The Sheffield show was another replacement and had fitted into our outward trip to Holland. The Boardwalk had suffered a bit as Rush were playing the Arena the same night and we had lost around 40 or so tickets through the original cancellation and people opting for refunds. It was still pretty healthy at around 350 or so but we would have sold it out on any other night.
No back projection as the stage and ceiling were so small. Secret had a night off. It was pretty cramped and the onstage sound wasn't that good. Not my favourite venue, long and narrow and the only way out was through the crowd. I managed a pint with Yatta before sound check. Watched the squirrels running up and down the street outside the pub and waited on the Hibs result from Ibrox. We took it 1-0 and went top for a day. Still unbeaten.
The gig was pretty good but the monitors screwed it for me. A fair 8/10. I was glad to get through it and leave it behind us. Jersey, an old friend from days gone by showed up. Now a policeman in Jersey (his name came round in the first place on a Marillo tour when he was in the forces stationed in Germany) he turned up with welcome duty frees and tales of island life. The gig didn't have a shower but the hotel opposite supplied the facilities. I opted for a bath in the venue! They had no shower but had a bath! The local crew ran it for me so I was straight off stage and in the suds before the crowd had thought of leaving the venue! :-D
We had a day off/travel (I was going to get used to that phrase in the coming week) to Groningen in Northern Holland. I slept most of the way including in the hold of the ferry. I didn't wake up till we were 2 hours off the city.
Scotland had Argentina in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals. I didn't hold much hope. That was first task on arrival, find an Irish bar!
We checked into our last hotel for nine days and then zapped into town for something to eat. It was close to the game so we parked ourselves in our designated bar and Tara brought in burgers and chicken pieces to go with the beers. A cool night spoiled by shite rugby. Humped again and more worryingly England was coming on to form. Bus divisions would soon surface :-D
I shifted back to the hotel with Taz, needed sleep. Gig tomorrow and it was sold out!

Monday 8th October, De Oosterpoort, Groningen.
It was great to get back into real gigs again. Great sound systems and comfortable back stage areas with catering and showers etc. The stage itself is pretty cool descending on hydraulics to load the gear onto and then raised for the show. The local crew are fantastic and ultra friendly. I spent the day sorting out my wireless connection thanks to Steve V after getting a new card from a store down from the venue. I met up with Steve Moss, an Irishman and big fan who worked in IT in the town. A couple of beers and a natter before sound check. The monitor engineer was as expected, ace. We tried to entice him out with us but he had commitments to the venue for other shows. Sound was perfect as was the audience who as I knew from previous experience are a "listening" crowd who give a great reaction at the end but tend to go unnervingly quiet between songs. A dangerous situation for a singer who likes to talk! I had to restrain myself. :-D
But a great gig and a sparkling 9.2/10 score!
The Will Smith intro film had the Dutch audience a bit bemused and I was wondering if it would translate. The rest was all working fine, the band tight, the set curved well, the encores the desired effect. It was great to be back in Holland.
I still had my shamaq that I'd been given in St Ives by a sergeant Miller from the Scots Guards. It was my pride and joy on this tour and had taken over from the one I'd bought in Dubai and worn on the "Return to Childhood" tour. It's a British Army Gulf issue and worked well with the trews that Robin Elliot had made for me from the Dick Tartan. The olive drab shirt with the Star logo was working OK but Stuart had ordered some sleeveless Ts for later in the tour and they were due in Poland.
Everyone was aware of the upcoming Polish shows, ten in all, in a country that was both fun and dangerous as the temptation to party was prevalent and rest hard to come by on the notorious Polish roads. It's the only country in the world where you go to sleep in your bunk and wake up in mid air. It was going to be a demanding section. Veterans in the band and crew talked of it with awe, respect and fear. The children were getting frightened :-D
We stayed overnight in Hotel Bus in the venue car park with a land line connected for power. Small groups strayed into town after a few wee swallies in the dressing rooms. Bad move. I was with Chris the driver and Stuart and we were already wobbling. Chris said he knew the way to the Irish pub but after about twenty minutes we were partially lost. We came across the bar by accident and discovered others in the team in full-on Gremlin mode. It was going down. When the shot glasses came out I knew I was going to have to run up the white flag and retire. The three of us headed out into the night and left the rest in the bar. If getting there in the first instance was a trial, the return was a journey of discovery. Again trusting Chris's instinct (he was our navigator) Stuart and I stumbled laughing along through empty streets, occasionally falling over creased up and helpless. We were totally lost. Drunken, useless karate kicks at roadwork signs had us on our backs and Evil and I ended up facing up to each other, him asking me on. All a wind up and in fun! I put him on the floor with an old judo move and then fell on him. He was so pissed off as it was the first time someone had taken him down for years. Lots of hugs and a big sloppy kiss later we were on our way once again into the realms of nowhere. Chris was starting to get seriously worried as we had been walking for nearly an hour. We had to flag down a bemused cyclist, the only other person we'd seen for ages, and get him to phone a taxi for us. Five minutes later we were at the venue. The gates to the parking area were shut. I tried to slip under them. No chance. It was then Chris pushed them and lo and behold, open sesame! I was in my bunk and asleep in seconds. The others trailed in over the next hour, some in states that they would regret next day. Foss tried the same thing as me on finding the gate shut after Frank had climbed over. He then fell through the gate as he tried climbing it. Chris J and Steve V turned up with boxes of wine glasses they'd been given by the bar owner. The boys had been dancing on beer barrels, until they fell off amusing the regulars no end. First gig in Holland and we were already taking casualties. All good clean fun! :-D
I slept most of the next day and awoke amazingly fresh and ready for action. Others weren't so lucky. Chris J was suffering as was Steve V. Chris the driver got his new name "Hawkeye" for his scouting effort. Berroccas for breakfast. Thank you Mr Hutchence!

Tuesday 9th October, Effenaar, Eindhoven.
Another purpose built gig and an amazing venue. Only a year or so old it had everything over 5 floors including a "green room" where catering was set up. Assorted stories were still spilling out from the previous night. A shower and a run through of the voice at sound check. Everything was working and you wouldn't have known we had been out on the Razz the night before. Groningen had sold out and this gig was up to a thousand already. We played a killer and the crowd were totally with us from the start. The intro went down well allaying fears that we might have to ditch it. A great reception and we ran out at 9.3/10.
A few drinks with our Dutch friends in the green room after steaming showers and then off into the darkness and Copenhagen. Stuart was over the moon with the merch response and Tara was in her element. She had become a serious team member but I'm glad to say she was not one of the dawn patrol in Groningen, opting for a responsible night unlike her father.
As with the UK, all audience figures were up from the previous tour and news from the front was good.
Album and live reviews continued to be really positive and we were all lifted at these first shows on the mainland.
Yatta had talked to the monitor guy in Eindhoven and he'd agreed to join us in Poland after finishing up with his commitments to other bands in Holland. he didn't know what he was letting himself in for.

Wednesday 10th October, Amager Bio, Copenhagen.
We arrived at around 11 to be woken up by a shuddering bus and a crash. Paul, our second driver who was sharing duties with Hawkeye had caught a light fitting on the wall of the venue as he reversed the trailer. Only a matter of millimetres but it had cracked the front window in front of Tara's bunk. Cue gaffer tape and lots of embarrassment. Paul was shuffling about while Hawkeye rubbed it in. Not as bad as the story he would tell later about another driver who, after taking out a brand new Merc convertible in Paris, drove the bus into the yard for repairs and proceeded to take out every window on one side of the vehicle on a crane jib he'd missed seeing on the way in.
Paul was ex-army and meticulously clean. Always polishing, vacuuming and tidying up, he got the nickname "Mr Dusters" and gave us the new name for the upstairs lounge. No longer the "Viper Lounge" it was now "Dusters" as the Mr Dusty vacuum was in the cubby hole outside the lounge door. A quiet unassuming guy who was always so helpful we all felt bad that he'd been the unlucky one with the window.
The gig we knew well and the promoter was Karsten Mortenson, a fan and entrepreneur of sorts. A great organiser whose enthusiasm if matched by the distribution company in Denmark would have given us a platinum album. I'd known him for years when he used to own one of the oldest bakeries in the city. He did us proud and we were up to over 650 tickets sold. He'd made us a couple of his special cakes for the bus with the "13th Star" artwork "printed" on top. Deadly cream filled slabs of sugar, sponge and marzipan that would be munched away for the next couple of days as we travelled North.
But that was later. I got up relatively early and went walking for an hour picking up a box of Sushi at a nearby take away. It made Tara's day. She was feeling the pace as the merch set ups were extensive and started early and finished late. A tough gig but she was dealing with it without complaint and impressing everyone. I was a bit annoyed to say the least when I went on line and discovered that the Scottish press had picked up on my "Sinking the Eight ball" email to the web site. They had stripped out the negatives about her Mother's return to Scotland and our spat, ignoring the bulk of the story and the fact that she was on tour etc. Maybe I should be asking for writing commissions? It was proving that my name was worth hanging print onto again and that my profile was steadily growing. At least I'm not being ignored :-) It just goes to show how they operate and makes a mockery of the complaints from certain quarters about the articles in June about the "wedding". You win some, you lose some. Tara was more pissed off than I was. We both knew the truth and there was no real damage done. I am sure there will be a lot more to come as the album grows and the singles start to move out. ;-)
It was another great show in front of more people than I'd played in front of in Copenhagen for quite a few years. If I had a record company behind me I could really get things moving here but as always I end up frustrated with fans on the street contributing more than people who are supposed to be professionally involved. We left Denmark with cake and an 8.9/10

Thursday 11th October, day off/travel to Oslo.
Norway. A country firmly on my touring map and with press interest raised I had to conduct a major interview with national radio and a TV interview with the main Oslo regional station. We arrived in the city around midday where the drivers had to rest up for their legal driving hours before the haul North to Bergen. Annstein and Andreas had been doing a brilliant job promoting me there for the last couple of years and this was paying off. The rest of the troops had two day rooms in hotels to shower, sleep and watch TV. I was out as soon as I washed and changed. I'd been bribed with an hour's massage before the first interview and, as Fellini wrote it, the young lady in question came from Hanoi in Vietnam. It was just what I needed after the bus journey where my back was starting to seize up with the constant rocking. I walked into the radio station a foot taller.
Interview was great and again the reviews of the album were incredibly positive with airplay already happening around "Arc of the Curve" as preferred track. I skirted around the history as much as possible but as expected the "real life story" was brought up. As much as I don't want to go into detail, as with the release of "Kayleigh" and the "Misplaced" album I know it can't be avoided and the press and media in general will always follow that thread especially as the story has been available on the Internet since the first chapters were written. It's hard to ignore the principal subject matter of an album that is drawing so much attention.
I met up with Taz for a couple of burgers next to the railway station where the TV interview would take place. Two burgers and chips, an onion soup and two beers - a snip at 36 pounds!
The interview was live on prime time news, a big slice of promo for the Oslo gig in two days time. The presenter wanted to discuss "life in the 80's". I declined and offered a view on "life in 2007". He accepted and although we went on air to the obligatory "Kayleigh" video clip the discussion revolved around piracy/Radioheads release and the release of "13th Star" through mail order etc. It went down extremely well and yours truly as expected grabbed control from the word go! Four minutes is a very short time on air and you have to make it count.
A rather attractive but slightly aloof blonde lady, who was the station's movie critic, was in the backstage area. We started a conversation about film. I commented that the latest Chinese martial arts movies drew a lot from the cinematography of Kurosawa and Bergman and were creating a new genre etc etc. Pretentious twat that I am! She was suitably impressed.:-D Another addition to the Oslo guest list ;-) With, I would find out later from Annstein, included a plus one for her famous boyfriend. :-|
I met up with the others after the interviews and headed for a Vietnamese restaurant (Fredrico?) near the Rockefeller, where we'd be playing the gig on Saturday.
We ate early as we'd found out "Crowded House" were playing in The Sentrum nearby. Dee, an old friend and ex promoter's assistant from the "Vigil" tour was their tour manager and so we all got passes to the gig. It was a really cool show and strange to be at someone else's gig mid tour. I met up with Neil Finn and the boys after the gig and had a few wines and a natter before heading back to the bus for the continuing trip North. A busy day off!

Friday 12th October, Ricks Club, Bergen.
Another day room after getting into the city around 2. As it was a Friday it was a late show, going on around midnight. I knew this meant trouble. Although the gigs are great the crowd makes Liverpool seem polite and a late show meant more time for drinking. There was another show on before us, a theatre production, and we couldn't load in until 10 o'clock. A long day.
A late lunch with Taz (two burgers etc. - another 40 quid) and then I hooked up with Andreas and the boys in the Irish pub behind Rick's.
The boys included Mark Campbell, John Boye, Gordie and Jon Lauvik who'd been setting up the promo in Bergen. It was the first time I'd met Mark and John, both major posters on the Marillo site. Mark and I had crossed ether swords in the past over issues and I knew him to be an intelligent chappie. They were great company and over rounds of beer and Guinness that were rattling up at 50 quid a pop we chewed the fat and rumbled through various wind ups and piss takes with the Norwegians. Lyrics were debated in only the way that people on the slow slide to alcohol-induced oblivion can. A mixture of surreal and intuitive reasoning combined with jumps of supposition and tumbling realisation. And I was in the middle of it all. At least I didn't have to type my answers. It was a fun and welcome means of dissolving time. It was just as well the beer was expensive as offers for rounds were spaced out and guarded. We were all running out of wedge. Fast.
Thankfully dinner came to the rescue and we headed up to a Thai restaurant for something to soak up the bevvy and eliminate more time.
Gig was approaching. The crew loaded in as the drama group moved out. I helped them carry their parrot in a cage. God knows what the show was about. We had a cupboard of a dressing room where we holed up. Outside was bedlam, it was a drunk's convention. I knew what was coming. We were all tired and the crew were pissed off as they tried to get a show in some semblance of order for sound check. The monitors were crap and we struggled to get our on-stage sound together as doors loomed. The mixes were done by Paul from front of house. Not ideal.
We eventually got a mix together but it wasn't good. Vibes were bad. It was now close to midnight.
We walked on stage to a 350 strong rabble, most of whom were pissed out of their minds. There was jostling and fights breaking out in the first two numbers. Punters shouting all the way through songs and screaming nonsense. I tried to talk to them but a big rumble kicked off stage left. I stopped the show, security did nothing. This was quickly turning into a nightmare gig and a complete waste of time. There were, of course, a large percentage of the audience who wanted the show experience but there were still a number of wasters who just wanted to either fight or disrupt the flow in their severely inebriated states. I saw at least five separate fights break out in the venue. One drunken idiot stood toe to toe with my great friend Bord who also happened to be an ex world kick boxing champion and owner of the main security team in Bergen. Guess the result? I remember watching John Boye standing a few rows back being bounced around by a couple of reeling drunks with a severely pissed off look on his face. He was struggling to keep cool. I felt sorry for the guys who'd made the effort to get all the way up to Bergen only to see this farce unfold. Everyone on stage wanted out of here as fast as possible and I dropped "Vigil", "Cliche" and "Last Straw" with a grudging "Incommunicado" the only encore. There was absolutely nothing I could do to get the gig under control. It was a foolish decision to go on stage at that time and we wouldn't be doing it again. Ever!
The worst gig of the tour so far due to circumstances rather than our performance. 6/10
I was so glad when the coach finally trundled South at around 3.30am. Everyone was quietly angry. After so many great shows in Bergen in the past this left a bad memory to take with us to Oslo. It could only get better.

Saturday 13th October, Oslo Rockefeller.
Sold out. It was again a late show but only an hour. We arrived outside the venue and I stayed in my bunk till around 2. Scotland were playing Ukraine in the European Championship at 4 so I was destined for a return to the Sports bar where I'd last been with the Tartan Army for the last World Cup qualifier against Norway and our two nights of amazing shows at the Rockefeller and the Sentrum. I met up with Mark, John, Gordie, Andreas and Weird Steve. It was another first meet with Steve who turned out to be another gem of a person. The company grew as more Norwegian fans joined us. The Guinness flowed and the game went well for us. Another victory and we were top of the group. Steve V and I were ecstatic.
Back to the gig for sound check and then off to Vieglings park for a Thai dinner cooked by Annstein's wife. We met up with Benji and the rest of the Norwegian organisers and settled down for an exquisite meal. Mo had joined us and I managed to get some time with her outside the small wooden building that served as the dining room in an area famed for an outdoor bar and picnic area. Mark and Julie Wilkinson were also on board with us, Mark setting up a stall earlier that day in the venue to sell his luxurious artwork prints. They looked stunning and it was the first time I'd seen the "13th Star" artwork in its original form since seeing the drafts in August at the launch party.
From there it was back to the Sports bar and a meet up with the English contingent and the big surprise to all. The Norwegians had set up a 6 piece pipe band to march us to the venue as they had done during the World Cup gigs. John, Mark, Gordie and all were taken aback as we set off across the square and through the streets, gathering fans and strangers as we threaded our way to the venue, pipes blasting and snares cracking. The hairs stood on the back of my neck and I marched a foot taller, as did we all, about 50 of us, through Oslo.
The snare drummer was also a very attractive blonde which drew some comments and a lot of admiration from us all. :-)
We definitely made an impact.
We didn't just march to the venue; we marched right into the venue and the band played a couple of numbers to a staggered crowd. It was perfect.
And the gig? It was the finest performance in Oslo to date, beating even the last Sentrum show. The crowd were so up for it as were we after the debacle in Bergen. Another 9.9/10 made even more special by the entrance of the lead piper on stage at the encores to play "Happy Birthday" to Steve V shortly after midnight. Steve was taken aback and had a wee tear in his eye. A superb show that both we and the boys who'd made the trip over deserved as much as the sell out crowd of over 1000 screaming, clapping and bouncing Norwegians.
And then it was over.
The bus called. Showers, dressing room kisses with visiting friends, the last of the phenomenally expensive wine and long goodbyes that were spoiled by a mad, wild-eyed, pissed up, street Viking who had nothing to do with our gig yet who decided he wanted to get on the bus. Close to a major kick off, it disrupted our exit, until Yatta made his presence felt and talked him gently down ;-)
We were off. It was Steve's birthday, travel day/day off! We headed for the ferry in Sweden that would take us into the legendary part of the tour itinerary that would come close to breaking some and where the clocks would move sideways. Next stop, Poland.

Onkel Fish


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