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Guitar technician reporting from the tourbus....

Monday, 24 May 2010


The near demise of a crow and a motorcyclist were nothing compared to the greenfly genocide on the windscreen of Les's trusty van on our eventful trip down to the capital. An atmospheric show at the Islington Academy was almost cut short due to a baffling technical issue affecting Danny's amp and pedals.  It turns out John's china crash had fallen from the drum riser, hitting the switch on the power outlet supplying Dan's side of the stage on its way down. Now what are the chances of that happening? An impromptu acoustic "Are You There?" filled the gap nicely and we were on our way again. It was an excellent gig, and I think everyone's now enjoying a well-earned chill out before Germany in a few weeks.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


(I think I have this figured out - from left to right: Margaret Thatcher, Michaela Strachan, an Anathema pick for whoever correctly guesses the bloke in the glasses. A young Billy Crystal?)

Ekaterinburg was bleak compared to Moscow and St. Petersburg, though nowhere looks particularly appealing when the weather's drab. A sizeable portion of the city's population appear to make their homes in ramshackle tin roofed huts which I imagine would be quite cozy in the winter months when the fire's going. It was odd to find such a well specified venue in the midst of all of this, and I'm still struggling to figure out the meaning of the giant silver blob hanging from a knackered crane at the building's rear.

The food during our visit to Russia was uniformly excellent, goulash soup being a particular highlight for me. I got to try proper Borscht for the first time as well. The meal on the Ural Airlines flight back to Moscow was such a vast improvement on the one served coming in that I can only assume they read what I said about them in my previous post and gave the catering company a massive kick up the backside. So, do fly with them if you wish, they're alright. The BA flight back to Heathrow was great, only a third full and staffed by stewardesses whose sole purpose seemed to be to keep us in food and perfectly chilled booze. To top it all we were chasing a beautiful sunset for much of our journey west, and the view of London as we came in to land was quite simply incredible.

I like Russia a lot. Everyone we met, be they fans, local crew, hotel staff or whoever were friendly and helpful, and the country itself frequently impressed with its sheer scale and rough edged beauty. I find it hard to believe that I spent so much of my early teens terrified the USSR would blow the crap out of us with no more than four minutes notice, though I feel I may have the BBC to blame for that with their gritty apocalyptic dramas of the time. I'm already looking forward to a return visit.

Ronnie James Dio 1942-2010. Much respect.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A conversation between our Russian promoters:

"Right, we've got an English rock band coming to play a concert tomorrow, they're going to need a hotel for the night."
"Okay, how about this one?"
"How far is it from the venue?"
"Fecking miles away."
"That sounds perfect. Ah, hang on a minute, it's quite close to the airport."
"You're right, I didn't notice that. There is another one that's sodding well hours away from both the airport and the venue."
"That sounds good, we'll stick them in that one."
"They're going to want to eat tomorrow lunchtime. We should find a restaurant that takes so long to get to they'll feel they might starve to death by the roadside before they get even halfway there."
"Yes, and it should have seventies funk-disco music playing continuously while they eat."
"I know of a place which satisfies both criteria."
"Good. Then let me ask you a question. For the drive there, how bumpy will the roads be?"
"Incredibly so."
"Excellent, book it immediately."
 "It seems our arrangements for the band are complete. Lets have some vodka."

Sunday, 16 May 2010


More post-gig drunken shenanigans at the Tochka Club last night after a well attended and entertaining show. Lord knows what time everyone got back to the hotel but it took a major feat of people-management (and white knuckle driving) to get everybody up and to the airport in time for the flight to Ekaterinburg, upon which was cheerlessly served the worst meal in the history of air travel, unless of course greasy pressed ham and horrible cake are your kind of thing. The stewardess burned me twice with her kettle, the dimwit, and this was while she was apologising to another passenger for spilling water over him. Don't fly Ural Airlines, even if they advertise on this page. Russia seems to be caught up in a bumpiest roads contest with Turkey, and I tell you, if I were a betting man I'd have trouble deciding who to put my well-earned fiver on right now. We're starting to wonder if we'll get back to the UK on schedule, what with that pesky volcano and the looming BA strike.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

St. Petersburg

It was a jolly good gig enjoyed by many in the worryingly crumbling city of St. Petersburg where I can honestly say I've never seen such filthy cars - all of them covered in a thick layer of light brown dust. Come to think of it, I don't think we passed a single car wash on our excessively long journey from the hotel to the venue so perhaps the two phenomena are related. After the show we boarded the overnight train to Moscow, a most agreeable mode of transport unless you're the poor sods in the compartment next to the vodka-fuelled big sweaty man's singing competition which regretably I missed by retiring to my cabin early like a good guitar tech. Les has been taking full advantage of the legendary Russian hospitality by having Kellog's Vodka Flakes for breakfast (part of your five a day over here) making for some incredibly artful swearing at all sorts of odd hours, though I must say there have been far too many utterances regarding "hairy arses" and suchlike for my sensitive ears. He also has a new and novel means of finding his way home should he become lost.

About to have dinner in the excellent Tochka club in Moscow. Might go for the ribeye steak.

Thank You Sporty Much!

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Another flight at bollocks o'clock (or bollocks-hundred hours if you've done military service) in the morning from Heathrow meaning a through-the-night slog down the M6 from Heckmondwike via Liverpool. Basically you miss a night's sleep doing it this way, one you'll never get a chance to catch up on. I bet I missed some great dreams. The fatigue does make for quite a pleasant floaty feeling on the plane after a couple of ales though, and conveniently helps one overlook the rude behaviour of French fellow passengers (you know who you are Madame avec le gros cul). Mark (from Cornwall) quite sensibly booked himself a hotel room near the airport for the night so he's nice and fresh, the bastard. Now why didn't I think of that? Les was most impressed with Terminal 5, particularly the thoughtful inclusion of a bar right next to our boarding gate. I don't know how but we managed to shrink our check-in baggage tally to nine items from nineteen - a miracle of downsizing if ever I saw one, though Dan still carries with him a suitcase the size of a chest freezer. First time flying with British Airways for me - might as well have been EasyJet. Most unremarkable. Our Russian hosts met us at the airport. They are called Igor and Dmitri. It's like arriving in Scotland and being met by Jimmy McSporran. Perfect.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Only with this band...

...would you find yourself printing Russian visa applications in the back of a van in the car park of the Staines branch of PC World having just got off a flight from Istanbul after an insane bus ride through perilous terrain at the end of six days hard slog with little sleep and sporadic feasts and an absolute ton of laughs. Beats working in an office.

See you in St Petersburg on Thursday morning.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Today's workplace...

...and I take it all back. The local crew in Izmir (a company called Diva) have been superb. They even keep the cables tidy.


Why is it so difficult to sleep on this bus? It's a nice bus, kitted out like a narrow boat on wheels - you can't look anywhere without seeing polished wood of some description. The bunks are comfortable and spacious (with a full window this time) and all the facilities one would expect are present and correct - playstation, dvd, well-stocked fridge, etc. Ooh, and wifi! Maybe it's the schedule we've been keeping? Once we're loaded up and ready to go it's generally gone two in the morning and that often heralds the first chance we've had to get something decent to eat all day. Or maybe it's the bumpiness of the Turkish roads? It seems you can't go more than two hundred yards in this country without feeling you've driven over a badly designed cattle grid. Or some cattle. You're continually being jolted awake from your shallow slumber, all the while fearing that if the driver takes the next corner too speedily you might find yourself in a heap among the socks in the aisle. Then again it could be the heat. The bus has excellent air conditioning, though unfortunately it's being rationed like food in a Dickensian workhouse. When asked to turn it on the driver cheerily obliges, as he should as the band are paying for it, but then works under the assumption that this will be the only occasion, ever, that we will require cool air. Surely it should have clicked by now, after the quadrillionth time of being asked? If it's hot (which it is, every day) turn the damn thing on. I can hear Bill Hicks' father now as he responds to his son's request for the blessed relief of air-con as they drive through the baking heat of Arizona.

"No son, it eats gas."

One generally wakes feeling mildly roughed up, coupled with the disconcerting feeling that someone's been trying to smother you with hot, damp smelly towels. Not ideal at all.

Didn't see much of Istanbul and Ankara unfortunately, partly due to the Turkish plague of half-arsed venue staff doubling or trebling the time it takes us to set up with their incompetence and lethargy. Moan, moan, moan.

On a lighter note, it's a lovely morning and we're heading to Izmir by the sea for the last show of the tour, and it's open-air. Should be a good day.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Bursa, continued...

Bursa was just one of those gigs. It took hours and hours to set up as we were beset with so many problems (courtesy of the shittiness of the venue's equipment) that Matt almost resorted to a strike ballot within his one-man union, so miffed was he. The in-house sound guy was so lackadaisical in everything he set his mind to (or didn't) we may as well have asked the luxuriously moustached tea/popcorn dude to sort out the stage for us. The chaps who turned up with the front-of-house mixing desk suggested new tone-meister Mark Ellis position himself behind a solid pillar, lest the precious board get damaged, meaning he would neither see nor hear the band. Then to cap it all the on-stage monitoring system conked out almost before a note had been played, which merely made Matt more miffed. I also ended up doing the light show (actually two lights - must ask for a lampy bonus), this being one more thing the useless venue staff couldn't have cared less about.

"Welcome to Turkey," as our helpful local roadie Mustafa so aptly put it.

Looks like a hung parliament back home. I expect much impassioned political discourse on the bus today.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Bursa (apparently kebab capital of Turkey)

Day four (gig three) of our Turkish excursion and bunk flu has me firmly in its grip. Yesterday I felt dreadful and today I feel like shit, so thankfully there has been some measurable improvement. The germ-spreading capabilities of the onboard air conditioning system are of course to blame, the source of the outbreak almost certainly traceable to the bunk of monitor engineer Matt Rowley who's been coughing continually since we checked in at Heathrow.

The technical specs in the venues have been going steadily down hill since we started - today in Bursa we have equipment seemingly supplied by the Turkish equivalent of the Early Learning Centre. In Eskisehir last night we battled shoddy electrics, frankly bizarre mixing desk placement, a ragtag band of misfit mic stands that would not do as they were asked and a stage that, being honest, would have really benefited from a good hoovering. But, as is often the case in these situations, the gig sounded great. I guess it must fire the band up having to battle against the odds to put on a show.

Time for load in now, this time fuelled by a breakfast comprised of Les's delicious birthday cake and an ice lolly.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


A free concert in the beautiful Ataturk Culture Park where the audience were forced to share the area in front of the impossibly high stage with shrubs and hedgerows, presumably quite an inconvenience for some of them. As the show drew to a close the band were extremely honoured to accept a floral tribute from no less a notable than the minister for culture himself, graciously received by Vincent who proved himself a dignified and worthy ambassador, not only for Anathema, but for the UK music industry as a whole.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Best not get too used to this..

My view from my balcony as I write this, shortly after breakfast at the Porto Bello hotel in Antalya. Our Turkish promoters have very kindly put us up here for a much needed rest, our yellow wristbands indicating we can help ourselves to anything the hotel has to offer with complete impunity. I'd say it's a lucky escape for them being that we're all too knackered to take full advantage of such a kind offer, and bearing in mind we reportedly ate, drank and telephoned our way through fifteen hundred dollars in two days during the infamous "Black Cat" debacle in Tunisia last year. After the show tonight (a free one in a big park with Anathema headlining) we'll be boarding the tour bus where I imagine conditions will be somewhat different.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

On my way to meet the band for our six-day jaunt around Turkey. Should be a lot of fun.

4th May     Antalya
5th May     Eskisehir
6th May     Bursa
7th May     Istanbul
8th May     Ankara
9th May     Izmir

Hope the bus has decent air-con.