Monday, May 9, 2011

Exhumed in Europe Spring 2011

Exhumed in Europe 2011 Part the firste

Idiots abroad

or –

How I spent my Spring Break

Let me get this out of the way first. Logistically, Exhumed is a mess. A lumbering, clumsy clusterfuck of a band. We have no rehearsal space, are missing significant pieces of key gear (although this is being remedied as I type this), live in different cities, and never seem to have the basic elements of being a band down. That said, we have a killer new album under our belts, a great record label behind us, rad booking agents on both sides of the Atlantic, and years of experience at pulling victory out of our asses at the last minute. And so it remains in 2011.

On the morning of our flights to Oslo, we forgot the following: 1 entire T-shirt design; our backdrop; all of Danny's clothes and drum hardware; my bullet belt; and a brand-spanking new severed head to drink blood out of at the end of the show. Wes was the only person that didn't forget anything, but he also had all of his clothes in a grocery bag. Oh, did I mention that we barely made the flight? Hopefully none of the wonderful people that I mentioned above (record label, agents, etc.) are reading this blog, as I really don't mean to erode any (very probably misplaced) confidence they may have in us, but I have to tell it like it is. The important thing is this: we made the flight to Norway – we played the shows, we lived to tell, or rather to blog, the tale.

Luckily, we flew KLM to Amsterdam, which means that they don't charge you for booze. Wes and I enjoyed several Johnnie Walkers that made the morning's rough start a lot easier to take. I also got to see “The Fighter”, which was a killer movie. We hit Amsterdam without incident, hit the bar, and then made our way to Norway. Of course, when we collected our luggage, my guitar was conspicuously absent... That was a bit disquieting. After hassling with the attendant paperwork that one must endure when one's luggage is lost, we met the very amiable tech-death metal legend Kelly from Atheist and headed to the hotel.

We were greeted by an extremely polite dude who was listening to a great mix CD w/David Allan Coe, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and other country classics, which was a very good omen. The hotel was a bit surreal, as it was a pretty nice hotel (2.5 stars at least) that had been taken over by the Inferno Festival. All the TV screens showed ads for metal vendors at the fest or new releases from Norwegian metal labels. Motorhead played over the PA as we checked in. Fucking weird. There were heshers everywhere, and a lot of goth-looking clothes going on which was a bit strange as well. We had planned to get guitar strings and a few other essentials after landing as we ran out of time to do so before leaving, but we were informed that everything was closed for Easter – all weekend. After dumping our luggage, we headed to the venue to get our wristbands, passes, and most importantly... drink tickets!

It felt a little weird for our first show back to be in a place where we didn't really know anyone, and we just kind of hung out at the rooftop open-air (the weather was great) bar by ourselves for the first hour or so and felt a little goofy. That problem was soon solved, as we were joined by an old friend, Christine, and quickly ended up hanging out with a bunch of people, including Bard Eithun (ex-Emperor) who was a really nice, down to earth dude. Soon we were several drinks in and making friends left and right. I had a very solid buzz and took in a killer set from Aura Noir and then headed downstairs to check out one of my all-time favorite bands, Voivod. They took the stage and just crushed the place. I immediately headed upstairs to see some old Bay Area heroes of mine, Forbidden, who were also excellent, then headed back to the hotel drunk and feeling no pain.

Danny and Leon hit the sack and Wes and I headed to the bar to cajole drinks out of anyone foolish enough to befriend us. We ended up drinking Satyr's brand of red wine (yeah, the dude from Satyricon has his own wine which was served at the fest... whoa.) with Christine, Craig and Steve from Forbidden, and a few other people until about 5am. Craig graciously offered me use of his guitar the next day, which was really, really nice of him. Especially considering that in 1989 I was a 13 year old who used to headbang to “Forbidden Evil” in my bedroom all the time! We also got a lot of advice on how to get my guitar back from the airline, how to pick up Norwegian chicks, and a lot of other seemingly pertinent information which I forgot immediately after leaving the bar.

The next day... headaches, beer shits, and worst of all, the realization that we a) had no money, and b) were out of drink tickets set in. But we always find a way, right? We didn't play until 12:30am that night (immediately after Immortal's set – what a great slot, huh?!?) so the challenge we put to ourselves was to stay sober until about 10pm anyway. Wes set about re-tuning Craig's guitar from Eb to B, I got our merchandise going, and just when we had to go down to the desk to borrow a screwdriver or something, Wes and Danny keenly noticed my guitar sitting there! Sweet relief! We headed over to the club for soundcheck, and things seemed to be getting on the right track at last. After soundcheck, I cobbled together a new set of strings that I got from the incredibly helpful and polite production staff. Since this is Norway, and everyone tunes to E or D, the strings were waaaaaaay thinner than the guage we usually use (.013-.56), but the set that was on my guitar were really old and the fifth string had already broken several times, so just about anything was a step up. I ate my sandwich I had taken with me from the hotel's extensive (and delicious) breakfast buffet and headed to the hotel's workout room. By the time I was done there and showered, it was about 9 or so, and I got a call from the fest, very concerned that we were late for our signing session (which is weird in and of itself- we're an underground Death Metal / Grindcore band for cryin' out loud!). Yours truly apparently didn't read the one of the promoters' several dozen emails correctly, and thought it was going to be right around the time we played... whoops! The really embarrassing thing? We had to have a van come and pick us up at the hotel because every time we tried to walk to the venue (maybe half a mile away from the hotel) we got hopelessly lost – unless we were drunk, in which case we walked straight there and back with no problems. Wes and I hit the venue and met quite a few nice kids with shit to get signed and took some pictures with them, which was cool. Danny and Leon were already at the venue, but Leon's phone was off, so they missed the whole thing. Hoo boy... as I type this, I realize that we really gotta get it together.

At any rate, we quickly found the guys from some of our old tour buddies in Soilent Green, Today Is The Day, and Vomitory, and our beer problems were as good as solved. We were ready to rock at last. The room we were playing filled up quite nicely as Immortal wound down and we bashed out a surprisingly (to me anyway) tight and coherent set that went down really well. After exhorting the crowd with a typical “So Norway likes Death Metal, huh? - I don't think you fucking heard me, I said NORWAY LIKES DEATH METAL, RIGHT?!?!?”, I can confidently confirm that Norway does indeed like Death Metal. Heading back to the hotel we had more drinks with Steve Austin, Shane from Napalm (who told a wonderfully drunk and enthusiastic tale of receiving the Genocide demo in the mail on January 31st, 1986, with Wehrmacht on the A-side of the cassette) and the Vomitory guys and Christine, and left the bar around 3 or 4, somewhat of an improvement from the previous night.

I was up early the next day to hit the breakfast buffet before splitting for London, where I ran into Horgh from Immortal (he had played drums for Hypocrisy when we toured with them several years ago) to congratulate him on a job well done the previous night and then got ready to fly out. This time we were a bit more ready than we had been leaving LA, and we met all of the Atheist guys, who we would spend the next 10 days on the road with.

The flight was short and sweet, and our work permits were properly filed and presented at customs, which makes a huge difference – the last time we visited the UK we were stuck in customs for almost 2 hours – so things we pretty much humming along. Our driver Mat, was there at the gate, on time to pick us up, we had all of our luggage and it seemed like things were coalescing nicely at last! We were even able to get some proper guitar strings and everything! The show went down really well, and I began to understand just how great Atheist are live- I literally hadn't seen them play since 1992. They executed their material flawlessly and demonstrated that technical, progressive Death Metal can still be aggressive, organic and powerful. We were recommended to hit a bar in town called the Crobar (yeah, I would've thought there'd be a “w” in there as well), as the show was over by 10:30 or some obscenely early hour. We got cabs and hit the bar – a true rock bar with a great juke box stocked with tons of Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Kreator, Celtic Frost and much more killer shit. Beers were drained, friends were joined and made, including an American serviceman named Andrew (I think?), an old friend of Danny's named Niki, and a very helpful blonde who had an Exciter patch on her denim (my kind of girl, for sure!) whose name has completely escaped me. The party escalated from there – everyone except me left around 2am or so, and somehow or other I ended up in the office of the bar partying with the bar staff until about 5am. A lot of details as far as how things went down are fuzzy at this point. Shit, they were fuzzy the next day. I do remember doing a shot of something and instantly vomiting. That was pretty gnarly. Anyway, the cab I ended up in dropped me off at the wrong Travelodge, which I didn't realize until I tried my key in the door and it didn't work. That was interesting. Luckily, I was able to hail another cab and get to the right hotel (two of them on the same street) within a few minutes. I stumbled into the room as the sun was coming up for about an hour and a half of sleep before the van left for Germany.

This day was pretty much gone for me. I slept until about 6pm or so, when I finally emerged, crusty, cranky and very hungry and thirsty. Today's show paired our package with the excellent Macabre / Birdflesh / Rompeprop lineup, which was great. I joined the other guys and old friend Adde from Birdflesh / General Surgery just in time for dinner. Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, et al) was also on hand as he was on tour with Macabre. It was great to meet him and tell him in person how much I dug the Circle Of Animals record he did. If you like Ministry, Killing Joke, Godflesh, Pigface, God, Head Of David, etc., you should absolutely check it out. Anyway, back to dinner. We of course went to the wrong restaurant (our dinners were paid for by the venue at a place called Maze, and we went to someplace across the street) and ended up having to buy our dinner like idiots. We decided to hit Maze anyway and get our food to-go for after the show, a decision which would prove to be prudent. By the time we made it back to venue, I was feeling more or less human, and Rompeprop was just wrapping up a killer set. Birdflesh was next, and were as lethal and hilarious as ever. Macabre was beyond awesome, and it really hit home how psyched I am about our upcoming tour with them in the states and Canada. I always love playing Essen, not only because the kids there are awesome, but because it's the hometown of one of my very favorite bands, Kreator. The show was great that night, maybe the best of the whole trip. The kids were going fucking mental and we were loving every minute of it. After the show, I asked Adde “Was the set too gay?”, he smiled and responded “Just gay enough.” That's when I knew we were on the right track.

From there we hit Paris, a city I've been to many, many times. In fact, I even vacationed there (and you thought I had no culture!) so I was much more interested in sleeping than I was in taking in the sights. We did get out for a bit to try and find some new underwear and socks for our under-wardrobed drummer. The show went down all right, and I got to see my old buddy Malek Baali for a minute afterwards. We fully intended to go out and get shitfaced, but the need for dinner, high prices in the neighborhood and a lack of overall momentum kind of foiled us. Alas, tomorrow would be another day. And hopefully a drunker one. We headed east to the beautiful country of Switzerland. Of course, myself being a lunkhead of the highest order slept through the alps and only woke up once we were in Zurich itself. The thing that sticks out the most for me was that the beer we had here was probably the worst beer I've ever had in Europe – yes, it was worse than Kronenbourg. Luckily we had Jack Daniels. We all bunked in one room in a hostel, where Leon took matters into his own hands and bought some good beer for all present, and we proceeded to get hammered with the Atheist guys at the hotel. The next morning I took one of the least satisfying, but most overdue showers of my life. A quick trip through the well-stocked continental breakfast bar and it was off to Italy.

Again, I slept through some spectacular scenery, and awoke at the venue for load-in. One thing that will scare the hell out of you being in an underground band: A really huge venue. This place could have easily held 1200 people. That was a bit big for just us and Atheist. I was a little apprehensive about filling the place up to say the least. Our hotel was ridiculously nice as well – Wes and I had a suite all to ourselves with two king-size beds and a huge, jacuzzi tub. Danny and Leon's room was considerably more modest, but still pretty damn swanky. We got back to the club, checked out the usual array of bootleg merchandise you have to tolerate when playing Italy, and were relieved to see a lot of cars in the parking lot. The place wasn't full by any stretch of the imagination, but it definitely didn't look pathetically empty either. We hit the (huge) stage, had a good, well-received show and hung out with our old pal Marco from Brainwash. We went out to meet some of the kids after the Atheist set, and were amazed that they actually smelled worse than we did. That never happens! The next day I resolved to actually be awake for the drive through the alps.

To be continued... Hopefully the other guys will send me their pictures in time for pt. II so you can see some of the stupidity...