diaries: download european tour 1996.
Mark Spybey's Tour Diary, part I.
We arrive in Amsterdam and are ferried to the town of Nijmegen, where we spend almost six days in preparation. Our equipment is hauled into the studio of Nils van Hoorn (chez dots) by a local farmer and his tractor equipped with a basic fork-lift. Not for the first and last time on this tour, we watch in disbelief as our cases are suspended in mid air. One hundred gilders and half an hour later, we set up. We are joined by the last two members of our crew, Ryan Moore (of the legendary ones) and Frank Verschuren, sometime soundman, lighting and monitor man of the dots. It is cold and grey. We visit a schlager, which can be best summed up as some kind of Dutch masochistic ritual, featuring drunken patriot musicians and drunken patriots singing drunken football songs. Nijmegen is small. After a few days wandering the streets I begin to recognise faces in the crowds of shoppers feasting on cheese brodjes and dark coffee. Our home for the next thirty three days, the nightliner and it's custodian, Peter arrive and whisk us away to Herford in Germany for show number one.We drive as Kraftwerks "Autobahn" plays on the stereo.
Herford see ms oblivious to Download. The venue is large, well equipped, cavernous.We meet with the Offbeat crew and are introduced to Pee Wee, our merchandiser from Essen, with his long braided hair, rag tag leather jacket and obligatory German issue NIN t-shirt. We are puzzled about our tour schedule, which features as many days off as shows. Herford seems to be in the middle of nowhere. A casual crowd seems mildly shocked and is quickly doubled as we finish by hordes of night creatures attending a disco. We pack our equipment in complete chaos amongst the swelling droves ofparty goers. Peter heads for the east and a day off in Rostock before our second show on board an ex-East German fishing trawler the ms. Stubnitz.
I fall in love with the east of Germany. Despite the influx of advertising, stores and flash-git bmw's I can still see the signs of a country bereft of West German cosiness. The boat is a complex of metal boxes, fully functional, managed by a group of people brought together by the dream of running a floating arts centre. We spend the first of our many days off walking around the boat and it's environs. It's temporary neighbour is a fair which attracts a curious assortment of waddling parents with children and professional drinkers. Pee Wee walks into a group of skinheads who pull him to the ground by his hair and proceed to kick his face in. He staggers onto the boat bleeding from his nose and mouth. A passer by who just happens to be a Nurse, helps me to take care of him until an Ambulance arrives. Pee Wee is drifting into unconsciousness. His face begins to swell alarmingly. The Nurse speaks no English but I can tell he is worried. He keeps Pee Wee awake. He is obviously concerned about his eye which is turning a deep shade of red. Pee Wee disappears into an ambulance, imploring me to ensure that his girlfriend travels the eight hours from Essen to take him to a West German hospital. We are angry, shocked and in disbelief. Pee Wee later has to have an operation to repair the bones around his eye which were broken four times. We see pictures of his eye two weeks later. The white was replaced completely by a dark red colour. His face swollen to twice its size. One Nazi was arrested. We later learn that Rostock has an infamous group of neo-nazis who burnt down a housing complex of Vietnamese people. I am somewhat startled that this sleepy, beautiful shipping port could hide such ugliness. We drive overnight after rescuing our gear from the fishing nets used to transport goods from the ship.
Potsdam lies some 16 miles outside of Berlin in what used to be the East of Germany.Russian troops vacated this town only two years ago. It was once the centre for the Russian army in East-Germany. We play in a beautiful old industrial building, the Waschaus. It is warm. In a nearby hall I spend some time with an English abstract painter, Sally who is preparing for a show. Large, voluminous canvases are stretched onto the floor of what was a garage for Russian tanks. Our show is well attended and the crowd is loud and enthusiastic. For the second encore we play Energy Plan from Microscopic, which we reserve for occasions such as this. We are followed around by a group of young video-makers who document our every move. My faith in what was the East Germany is quickly restored. We sleep and arrive in Coesfeld, which lies at the head of the Ruhr region in the west. The Fabrik Club is obviously an ex-warehouse, on the edge of a sleepy industrial town. It is huge. Anthony calculates at a 12 second reverb time. The walls are littered with posters of bands that have played there recently. Anthrax, Fear Factory and Genesis.P.Orridge. We are plagued by a poor monitor sound. A group of people stand infront of me during the performance. One is Pee Wees girlfriend who hands me a small toy horn that Pee Wee bought for me at the fair minutes before he was beaten up. He wanted me to play it and i do, at every possible juncture. To celebrate, I wear my "only good fascist is a dead fascist," t-shirt. I say goodbye to Doctor KILL, my friend who had travelled from England to see two shows, before jetting off to the States for a lecture tour. The good doctor has a Phd in Physics, writes for the German magzine New Life ( who presented the tour ) and is prone to doing things such as taking out ads in the magazine saying the legend KILL twenty eight times.
Our journey north to Scandinavia takes us to a remote but beautiful camp site in Denmark. It rains. Our crew is divided between those ( such as myself ) who fall in love with the strangely west-coast of Canada scenery and those who presumably seek the concrete and sweat of the city. Showering costs Krona's. Doing laundry costs Krona's. Floating in a sea of alien currency and locals who go out of their way to be friendly, I spend my time walking on the beach, trying desperately to remember famous Danes and notable historic events that have influenced the growth of this country that seems so placid and benevolent.
We drive to Arhus for the next show past a landlocked U Boat. Always the spectre of World War Two. A small club, a PA that Anthony labels "a walkman" and a group of friendly Århus people set the scene for our best show yet.Philth seems possessed, be bounces tonight and the audience follows suit. Dervish dancers. I scan the sky for the northern lights. We meet our new Merchandiser Thorsten, who is tall, muscular, young and positively Teutonic. He stashes a baseball bat in the boxes of T-Shirts. I have no doubt in my mind that he would use it. We are pampered by caterers. Gourmet vegetarian cooking for Ryan and I.
I have the signs of a head cold and my chest hurts. We set sail for Göteborg in Sweden from Fredrickshaven. More Scandinavian Krona's to deal with.The ship is a floating tank of alcohol and bad disco music. We are forced from the comfort of our pods on the nightliner to lay spread eagled on couches amongst drunken morning tourists and gamblers. It is said that Swedes travel on ferries to do two things, drink and shop. We are painted a strange puritanical picture of Sweden. Alcohol is considered dangerous apparently, which I remain unconvinced of. Göteborg is a sea of politeness and grey port like architecture. During the performance to a rigidly vertical crowd that claps with uncanny politeness between songs, I feel a tearing in my chest. I walk off stage at the end and silently sit in agony as my ripped chest muscles go into spasm. When we arrive in Stockholm after a long overnight drive i cannot move from my pod. I have torn muscles that make breathing difficult and singing excruciating. Our Team Pharmacist administers a tranquilliser that makes me sleep deeply and relaxes my muscles. I have to be woken to do the soundcheck by Frank who reassures me that i look awful. I feel awful. With the prospect of a weekend in a hotel in Germany ahead I take another tranquilliser. The crowd is polite and reserved.We play in what appears to be a sports hall. Nugent and i vainly try to connect with Graham Lewis from Wire who lives here. We share a post gig case of Carlsberg with a group of thirsty fans and head off back to Göteborg, via the ship to Denmark, calling back at the club in Århus. I am amazed to see the same faces from our show three days ago. It is 2am. Frank wakes from a cold-disturbed sleep and tells us about a nightmare he has had. Apparently he was in the process of being attacked by a character called "facepuller." For the rest of the tour we assault him with messages from the facepuller. When Frank sleeps his hand always seems to protrude from his pod. He would often wake to find things attached to the curtain wire surrounding his bed. Freaked, Frank later has another dream about the facepuller. Our subliminals are obviously hitting their target.The drive to Gelsenkirchen is long. My chest hurts. Rest is needed.
Gelsenkirchen is the home of Offbeat. It is a spit away from Essen, Bochum and Dortmund in the heart of the industrial Ruhr. Ryan attempts to board the nightliner to sleep (unsuccessfully) as he misses the security of his pod and cannot stomach the thought of a night in a hotel bed. We head off to a birthday party in a small apartment festooned with catholic regalia and a brightly painted host called Marcel who plays Klaus Nomi and techno mix tapes. I suddenly think for one moment that i have been catapulted into a 90's version of Warhols factory. All of the characters are there. We spend hours in translated conversation with pierced party people and NIN T shirts. When we return to the area for a show in Bochum two weeks later it is as though we were returning home. I spend an afternoon with my Brother John and his girlfriend driving through the Ruhr visiting one of the damns destroyed by one of the famous bouncing bombs. Acres of wealthy German motorcyclists and caches of frites mit mayo.
Leipzig, a gothic-wave Festival. It feels good to be back in the east. Needless to say, we do not venture far from the Werk 11, a huge ex-factory site of a venue with a glass roof, scaffolding and a stage immense enough to cater for cEvin's Drumosaurus with space for Phil and I to move about. The Drumosaurus really is a piece of inspired insanity. cEvin sits in the centre. Mission Control. His arms a tangle of motion. The crypt spills forth and the creatures of the night converge talking rudely through Twilight Circus.I always get the cold rush when I hear Ryans music kick off. It means that i have to get ready. It is beautiful, strident music and it seems to go right over the heads of people tonight Not for the first and last time our entrance to the stage is sheathed in clouds of acrid smoke.It takes me several seconds to locate my equipment.Disorientation sets in.We are shielded from the crowd of some 800 people tonight by large padded metal barriers.Anthony has received several frantic warnings from the organisers of the festival who are completely freaked by our volume.He has to physically wrestle with people who motion by and pull the faders down.They say that they fear the roof will fall in.Mark Nugent,our filmmaker has been preaching the validity of riots as a promotional tool but even Download would stop at the prospect of showering glass on Goths heads.They even try to yank down the volume of our monitors.The band are blissfully unaware of this until a flushed Anthony comes backstage post show and regails us with his heroics in the face of the anti-volume squad.I later hear that another band played the night before and raised the roof with complaints from sleeping neighbours.C'est la vie.Great show. We leave the city of Leipzig for the haven of Bamberg in Bavaria for another three days rest." The tourist tour," as Ryan dubs it.
Bamberg is the home city of Peter,our dutiful driver and tourist guide.It is a small but beautiful rococo town with a cathedral nestling precariously above the sleepy streets.The locals call it " little Venice."We lick our road wounds and sun bathe in the first flood of summer.Peter introduces us to the local brew,a thick and mouth watering smoked beer," rauch bier."We alternate this with delicious white beer and Russell ( technician supreme and overlord to the drumosaurus ) samples more ice cream.Phil,Ryan and I are the walking wounded.Phil has ongoing sinus troubles and periodically looks and feels ill.Ryan has an injured hand that he picked up hammering spikes into Nil's farmland and my chest feels like I have had something like an anvil dropped onto it from a great height.I call my wife Elaine from a call box which acted as a perfect greenhouse causing rivulets of sweat to fall off my brow onto the phone as a crazed German woman shouts at me from outside the box.Bamberg was so beautiful and I vowed to return as we set off to Munich and a days sightseeing before our gig at the Backstage club.
Go to: Mark's Tour Diary part II.
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