Monatsarchiv für Januar 2010

30.01.10 Offenbach

Samstag, den 30. Januar 2010

Yesterday’s blog from Dresden was realy good, or so I thought, until I noticed it was empty, and that I had in fact forgotten to write it. Well, tough luck, you can’t have everything, always.

My life as a bass player has been interesting these days. We are now playing in some big rooms. Generating low frquency audio signals with some Kilowatts of power in such a room is like farming dinosaurs: they just will not do what you want them to do, and anyway, first you have to train the sheepdog, which is about the size of two sperm whales. Of all these boomy creatures I am probably the least intelligent, and not ‘adapted’, as Darwin would put it, for works on this scale.

The goal of the bassist, as he or she is called, is to somehow organise these great mountains of air into a form where they can be understood as ‘music’, whatever that means. Traditionally the bass player got the job not because of any musical ability, but because he (as it was back then, until Suzi Quattro and Carol Kaye) happened to own a Ford Transit van, by far the most important bit of equipment for a young band. No Transit, no gig.

The biggest part of the bassists job is to not make any mistakes, because mistakes on this scale are BIG, and tend to upset other members of the band. Let me put it another way: the aim of the job is to not upset  your colleagues. Is that it? Is that all? Better not to have bass at all I sometimes think. But there IS a positive side to the thing, which is that the bass is there to hide the mistakes that the other members of the band make. You can shovel a ton of mistakes into any simple bass figure. In fact, the simpler the figure, the more mistakes it will hold. This has to be balanced by a need not to simplify so much that the audience goes to sleep: they like a bit of Dinosaur action, and can sleep later.

Next week: the role of the Fender Bass in the cave rituals at Lascaux.

28.01.10 Leipzig

Donnerstag, den 28. Januar 2010

Recently I have been given several suggestions for blogging topics. Write about the hotel, no not the hotel. More on depression, that depression stuff was a mistake,  I lked the thing about Ricci’s flightcase, man was that Ricci bit stupid, and so on.

In Leipzig, the first thing that comes to my mind is The Devil, Satan, Old Nick, The Horned One. Him, and his rep Mephistopheles doing a deal with the greedy and ambitious Faustus in the Auerbach Keller.

A few years ago I joined the Dark Forces here, in the form of the Leipzig Wave and Goth Treff. I was playing in the Veljanov band, and we appeared at this festival of the Gruft along with about 100 other bands. We arrived the evening before the show and checked into the festival hotel, The Sheraton I think it was. The next morning I came down for breakfast, too late to go into the normal restaurant, and was directed into the Festival Breakfast Room. What a sight! A room about the size of two football fields, entirely filled with Goths, punks, dwarves, trolls and dragons. I was dressed as I usually am, like someone who works in a second-hand bookshop. I don’t have a gothic bone in my body and have never worn black. When I entered the room a heavy silence fell as all these freaks turned to study me, trying to identify which circle of hell I might belong to. Most of them got it right immediately: here is someone who works in a second-hand bookshop, and they did their best to make me feel at home. Grufts are always friendly.

Another time In Leipzig I came across the Auerbachkeller and had a meal there so I could tell my grandchildren I had been there, deal with Devil etc. Unfortunately I forgot that I was there so all that money and time spent on my grandchildren was wasted. I did, however, manage to make a recording of the restless spirits trapped forever in the keller. Listen here:

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27.01.10 Erlangen

Mittwoch, den 27. Januar 2010

I have been told that the first railway in Germany ran between Nürnburg and Fürth, giving Erlangen no claim to fame in the history of German rail. However, having been here before, I have seen with my own eyes a great transport spectacle. In the railway station of Erlangen I saw, one tuesday morning about six years ago, more bicycles parked than I have ever seen before, or since. Also, Kevin Coyne used to live here, and Adidas and Puma started here, back in the upper paleolithic.

At night we live in hotels, some better than others. I have a system for finding out how good the hotel is. Unlike the setup in your own home, hotel designers like the guests to be able to control all the lights in the room from any location in the room. In the Hilton in München, for example, you can switch on the light in the bathroom whilst lying on the bed, and the bedside reading light can be operated from the shower. Sometimes the wiring system becomes so complicated that it goes rogue, like Sarah Palin, and can’t be operated at all, switching on the TV when turning off the bedside light, or suddenly turning off all the lights as you walk from the bathroom to the bed in the middle of the night. My hotel quality check system part one is: can the light switching arrangement be learned before checking out the next day? If not, the hotel is unsatisfactory.

There is also the matter of the little dish that holds, or fails to hold, the fragment of soap that the hotel issues to guests who want to wash themselves while bathing or showering. I will go into this in more detail some other time.

If you happened to be standing beside the Autobahn this morning you probably heard us go by. We sounded like this:

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26.01.10 Stuttgart

Dienstag, den 26. Januar 2010

In another part of my life I was a book reviewer. I reviewed books about birds for a magazine called Bird Collector. I know nothing about birds.

One of the books was a memoir by a pigeon handler who travelled around North Africa behind General Montgomery’s army. This has been a land for warfare since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, so this fellow was doing what had been done by military animal handlers for millenia before him. The reason they were there this time was that they were looking a missing person called Irwin who happened to be the father of the by-now ex-mayor of Stuttgart. Which brings us to…Stuttgart!!!

I like the place. I especially like the Stuttguardians with their drill-like feet and their little helicopter hats, so they can drill down or rise into the air as the geography demands. In their pockets they have mouths and in their mouths they have pockets and both pockets and mouths taste good because these people know how to live. And live well! Hurrah for Stuttgart!!! Franklin, our busdriver, tells me that they don’t look after the roads properly. But why should they when they have such wonderful tunnels? And mouthpockets? And helihats?

Also there is the world’s largest Underground Station. Or was it a station underground? So much mystery about the place, so much to learn, and so little time.

25.01.10 München

Montag, den 25. Januar 2010

So. We had the day off, here in München, and very nice it was. It takes about a day to bring the machine to a stop and clean it out. The problem then is getting it started again in time for tonight’s show, but I’m sure we will get it going somehow.

An entertainment we have these days is to make bootleg recordings of our concerts. If I want to record the show in München, for example, I will go into the audience with my handheld recorder and make a recording. The quality is really very good. But there is a problem. There is no bass in these recordings. Why not? I discovered after some research that it has something to do with me being in the audience and not on the stage. I’m still trying to come to a full understanding of this phenomenon. There was one really good recording made by me Jakob, and Sven, which sounded like an excellent drum solo with some violin. Extraordinary.

Ricci doesn’t have these kind of problems because he has a different setup from the rest of us. He travels in a cryogenic flightcase. His case contains all possible facilities including a swimming pool and a gallop for his horse. Before the show we wheel him out, apply the 20KV electrodes, zap him into life, and play the show, unter Strom, so to speak. The power runs down after a while, which is why all the ballads are at the end of the show. The rest of us travel in a ’94 Opel Astra and a long wheelbase Twingo.

Anyway, if Ricci wants to make a recording, he gets his case to do it. If you find yourself during the concert standing next to a cryogenic flightcase, now you know it is Ricci making a bootleg recording. If you hear a very long drum solo, that means the rest of us are making our own bootleg recordings.

23.01.10 Innsbruck

Samstag, den 23. Januar 2010

No blogging today, I’ve got some other stuff to deal with. Tomorrow we have a day off, so I’ll be back with you the day after tomorrow. Cheerio.

22.01.10 Linz

Freitag, den 22. Januar 2010

Felix Austria. I am always happy to be here. The gloomy depressive atmosphere and charming people strike a friendly chord in my own gloomy depressive heart. If only I had some of that charm I could be Felix myself, but I fear it is not to be.

I have suffered from depression since I was a kid, on and off. Sometimes just as a barely audible background noise, and sometimes the full blown can’t get out of bed for two weeks, dreaming of death, variety. If you have something like that in your life, I send sympathy.

We rode overnight from Bern in our bus, sleeping well after drinking the Swiss whisky (Swotch) we were given in Zuri. In the morning I used my trusty Tascam to record this interesting whispered conversation between a Mars Bar and a Milky Way. I will try tp post a link to it, which my Blog captain, Mr Regener, tells me is possible.

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I’ve just done something I did not mean to do. On grounds of privacy, I had hoped to complete this series of blogs without mentioning anything at all about the personnel involved in this journey. No names, no gossip, nothing at all about the music group E—— O- C—- , but it must now be clear that there is someone here called Mr Regener. OK, that was it. No more, nothing nix nada.

Actually I have nothing more to say. Tomorrow maybe. Innsbruck always brings out the extrovert in me.

21.01.10 Bern

Donnerstag, den 21. Januar 2010

Now we are in Bern, the capital city of Swatch, or whatever this place is called. Or maybe Swatch is the national whisky of Swissland. Anyway, it’s all good.

Here’s the thing about Bern: Bern has a station and on the station is a clock and once a day the clock reads 12 noon. Albert Einstein was here, taking a train that was heading out of Bern. On his way out of Bern he passed Element of Crime, coming in. Albert understood that if he was outgoing and we were incoming then the light from the clock would reach us sooner than it would reach him. (What light?) Therefore we would get to lunch before him. This is in fact exactly what happened, which explains why Einstein is the greatest scientist of all time. Got it? It’s called The Theory of Relativity. Einstein liked to make his stuff easy to understand, with strong clear metaphors, which also explains why he gets better press than the Quantum Physicists, who had crap marketing advisers, although there’s more money in their stuff.

Once I took a train out of Bern, heading to Geneva, at the other end. I had a first class ticket because I wasn’t able to understand the guy in the ticket office, so I just said ‘yes’ when he asked me something I didn’t understand. Anyway. I was hoping to watch the station clock as it got smaller or later or the light came from it or whatever the theory would say about it. The first problem was that you can’t actually see the station clock from the train to Geneva. Probably Basel then. The other thing was the first class was full of all these smooth dudes from the International Olympic Committee. (Speakin of Smooth Dudes, I met Herb Alpert once. He’s the KIng of Smooth). These IOC people all had gold Rolexes and weren’t at all interested in the station clock thing. I was the only science tourist that day in that train, except maybe for the fellow looking at tickets (he checked mine very carefully) who was walking from the front of the train towards the back. In order to get to lunch sooner, I guess.

Tomorrow we go to Linz, which was where one the 20th Century’s leading politicians went to school.

If you are wondering why I don’t write backstage stuff about Element of Crime, the answer is that I might, in a while, but right now I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

20.01.10 Zurich

Mittwoch, den 20. Januar 2010

Yesterday the first concert of the tour took place in Zurich, and tonight, by popular demand, we play here again. What a success!! We played all of the 24 songs without falling over, or bursting into uncontrollable laughter, or, especially in my case, sneezing.

And then to bed. In a Swiss hotel which gave me the dubious pleasure of THE MOST UNCOMFORTABLE BED I HAVE EVER TRIED TO SLEEP IN. I can’t bear to write more about this now. Perhaps later.

I have been in Rock and Roll for pretty much all of my adult life. I have been all over the world with it, up and down the hill twice, and it takes a lot to surprise me, I’m sorry to say. However…yesterday I took a walk through what someone described as ‘The Banking District’ of Zurich. I was shocked by the amount of money on show, the Maseratis, the Patek Philippes, the gold-plated brioches.

I felt sorry for these two fur coated ladies being helped out of the Bentley by the chauffeur and a doorman outside Sprüngli. Their wealth took a long time to accumulate, to secure, to insure. And now the world is creaking and cracking, the bank regulators are on the march, the Americans want the numbers of the unnumbered accounts. But you can rest easy ladies. The Amis and the regulators don’t really want that. They are just talking for the benefit of the rest of us. C U @ Sprüngli next week, girls.

The next edition of this blog will come fron Bern. It will deal with Einstein, the station clock and the model trains, or something like that.

19.01.10 Zurich

Dienstag, den 19. Januar 2010

The last time I came this way, blogwise, was about four years ago. Element of Crime travelled then through the same snow, at the same time of year, in a bus driven by Driver Franklin and his beautiful wife Dani. At that time they were dressed as an emperor and his queen, in silk and satin, and we the band and crew lounged in our pyjamas around the bus’s many internet terminals, smoking hookahs and sipping Grand Marnier. We were on our way to Austria.

This time things are different. Franklin and Dani are dressed in oil-stained combat fatigues, circa Gulf War 92, and the charming three wheeled charabanc has been replaced by an armour plated 18 wheeled battlebus. The band and crew sit on hard benches running down each side of the bus, hands on knees, staring at the feet of the person opposite. There is no conversation, but some hold photographs of their wives and children.

‘Why, Franklin’, asks someone, ‘why must it be like this, when before life was so beatiful, and we were so young and full of hope?’

Franklin is chewing on the butt of an old cigar. ‘Because, my friend, the last time we drove south at the start of a tour, we were heading to Austria. This time we are going to…Switzerland.’

Someone at the back of the bus started to cry, but only for a moment. Manliness comes before fear at such moments. Micha, the soundman, makes a bold joke: ‘The Swiss have different plugs on their electrical equipment. None of our things will work.’ This doesn’t get get as many laughs as it would on a good day. ‘They have different money from us. We’ll be helpless at the Raststätte’, offers someone else. The mood is becoming lighter by the moment. It seems as if sharing this difficult moment makes it easier to deal with, as the psychotherapists had promised in the pre-tour counselling sessions.

Zurich is our destination, and later in the evening we must perform a full length concert of Element of Crime hits, old and new. How we manage this will be revealed in tomorrow’s edition of this thrillablog. Till then, wish us luck…