I slept very hard on the flight to Amsterdam, and was able to spread out, as it was almost empty. When I landed the airport was very busy, and there were people running around, after a long wait I got my bag, and hesitantly I went over to the customs area. I walked up to the customs agent, and said, "So what do I do now?" And he said: " you go out the door". That was it! HA! No stamping, no checking, no searching!
Anyway, after that things got pretty strange, as I was truly confused! Ohh! Foreign languages! My feeble tiny American brain wasn't used to seeing all the signs in Dutch. I must say that it took a few minutes of pacing back and forth to get my bearings straight. I finally figured I needed to catch a tram. Trams are little above ground cable car like things that zip around the winding streets barely missing the millions of people on bikes. It felt like I was in Disney Land- as absurd as that sounds- it felt like a ride. I can imagine now what it must be like to ride the NY subway for the first time now...
Anyway, I was able to call the club, got in, met the soundman for the night's show, dropped off my appallingly heavy suitcase and hit the modern and main "Met" type museums. They were just Ok in my opinion; they had a few marvelous decorative items and all the major Rembrants, so that was nice to see. The modern sucked, Big Tracy Emmin show- she's terrible.
So I met up with Arnold, my contact in Amsterdam, and we did the sound check and grabbed some dinner. There were 3 total on the bill, the first were a FANTASTIC duo/couple from Osaka (no they had not heard of me) called Pop Off Tuesday made this brilliant, delicate, soft but very weird music. The woman sang and played guitar and the guy manipulated her voice and guitar and also played samples, etc. They were GREAT! Very innovate sounds with trumpets and scratching sounds and bells and little children's voices all mixed together. Then this bad Nazi's from Mars took the stage, and sounded like a more "punk" Atari Teenage Riot. So I FINALLY thought they were over, and I went to set up, and they came back out and did an un-called for encore! How funny!
Then I got on the stage and tried to get the crowd to make some noise. I said shit like "Am I in Rotterdam? Fuck no! Let's hear it Amsterdam!" complete silence... oh well. I played "Prog's not dead" and they went fucking berserk! They screamed and clapped after that. I played a really great set and the sound was fantastic, but I realized that it was really 7:30 am our time. So I cut it a bit short. No worries they called more, they clapped and shouted. So before I could even get off the stage people came up to talk to me, and a guy interviewed me and a girl kissed my cheek! HA! So I looked over at my "merch" table- they bought everything! I had to refuse people! I didn't want to sell out on the first night! Great start! I even sold 2 CD's outside the venue to guys that waited around for me! HA! Loads of people came up and talked to me including a group of kids at the Royal College of Art in London who want me to do a gig there sometime...
The next morning we took a very quick tour around A'dam, including of course the infamous red light district. I was very surprised to see how ordinary it all was. Then we went to the VPRO radio station. Jesus, this was a huge unbelievable contemporary building with loads of avant design. So I did a 40-minute spot (20 min longer than normal!) and played 3 songs, and chatted myself up as well as Duran x3 and END! They said they defiantly want us all three to do something there next year! We'll see... So they were very nice, and very complimentary in general....
Holland is really very sweet and pretty, delicate and flat. The canals really do run everywhere; so many times you can see standing water in the fields, etc. Almost like lower Louisiana, but much more controlled. The Rotterdam guys were very cool and more than a little flattering. This guy who runs a magazine called "Fake" is very interested in my work, and we did an interview.
The show in Rotterdam was an interesting one; there were 2 sets, the first an improv session with a Trumpet, stand-up bass, and a flute with effects/baritone sax, the second me doing my solo thing. So I thought the improv session was fucking cool, with some really amazing moments. So during the break I went up to the other musicians and told them how nice it was to play with them, and how I thought it was really good- they obviously didn't feel the same way! I was really surprised by this, so out the window flew my lighter, quieter solo set, and in came the fast as hell, breakcore madness set! So I played and danced and yelled, and freaked out, and the people there loved it...
We made it back to Sasha's place not too late, and stayed up a few more hours talking about black metal! Turns out Sasha's a straight up metal head! The next morning I got a quick tour of Rotterdam, including a visit to the birthplace of Gabber! That's right Midtown records, I made it a point to but the worst record in the store. After that I had about an hour to catch the train to Belgium.
Antwerp was gorgeous! Easily the most beautiful so far. The gig there was just an "instore" appearance, which means that I played a few tunes, and people hung around the small space smoking lots of huge splifs and browsing records. By the time I played it looked like a Cheech and Chong movie!
One interesting thing that happened was that about 1/3 way into the program this OLD guy that looked like Santa Claus shows up, and flashes a peace sign. Then he walks to me playing, I then see he has 8 stitches across is nose. Bar fight? Dog Attack? Who knows? Any way he says to me loudly in Flemish something to which I look like a deer in the headlights, and then say, "Yes. English?" he says yes then walks out of the store. I stop playing and ask my friend what he said. " He said he has video tapes of you when you were 10 years old". That was it! Crazy bastard!
I had a bit of a nervous breakdown swapping trains in Brussels, the train system here is quite efficient, but VERY confusing. You only have literally a few minutes to get the right train and car on that train. Often boarding makes a slaughterhouse look humane.
Wolfgang met me on the platform in Cologne. We went to the gallery- a strange small square room with green tiles on the walls up to about 4.5 feet. They had a very small sound system, and we set up, and grabbed some dinner. When we returned we found that the crowd was the largest ever in attendance for the gallery about 40-50. I went to play right away, and really got into it dancing and rocking and talking/yelling. Very fun. They went crazy! They yelled, they clapped! So I was finished and they just didn't move! They clapped and cheered for about 8 minutes! Seriously! So I played 3 more songs, then did the unplug thing. About 20 people pounced on me, and there was a feeding frenzy for the merchandise! I had to again refuse people. I met a number of the famous Cologne musicians, many of whom I have followed for YEARS. I can't believe that they all approached me with reverence! HA! Oh! Also about 5 people wanted me to autograph their Cd's! Crazy crazy crazy! 3 guys drove 200km for the show and bought one of everything. We went drinking at a bar, and it was nice to talk and hang out, etc. Very cool on the whole...
So far I've found Berlin to be the coldest and most remote city so far - but I really havn't seen too much of the city. The streets are wide, and the buildings very old and beaten, mostly in hues of gray and brown, crumbling almost decorative facades, with strongly ornamented signs of modernity. Esso stations shaped like UFOs, international minimalist architecture and the occasional flashy American fast food restaurant.
Christophe, who booked the show, met me at the platform, and we went to the apt where we were staying the night. 4 big rooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom- 280 Eu a month! Probably a lot like Brooklyn in relation to Manhattan. Then Jace/Rupture got in from his train. He's really such a great, great guy. We have a lot in common and talked for most of the 2 days that we traveled together. Seeing him was just like seeing him in NYC, all good.
So we went to the venue for the gig, it was a huge space under a train track bridge. It was very "rock" though, and littered with beer bottles. We did the sound check, etc. and then began the long wait. NO ONE came before 12:00. Finally at 12:30 I went on playing for maybe 10-15 peeps in a big space. I did my thing, and had a mic, but was not that drunk, etc. By the time I finished there were probably 150, people seemed to yell and dance, etc. Then I packed my stuff up and went into the crowd. No one talked to me at all. I felt like a pariah! Finally I went outside and cooled of, then a few people said nice show politely, etc etc. I did however meet some of my musical favorites including Christophe De Babylon. Looked very much like a blond Max Beckman with slicked back hair, etc. I did talk briefly with Sascha, the guy who "broke" my music with De:bug mag. Jace played easily his best DJ set I ever heard and the bastards finally started to dance. We finally left the club at 4 am, and made our way home.
The next morning we went for brunch with the Society Suckers and Christophe. That went late and we scrambled to get the train. We got to Hamburg, caught a cab to a HOTEL! (YES!) and got to our rooms. Oh my god. It's called the Florida Art hotel, and each room is designed by a contemporary artist. The place is sort of like a Madonna Inn but made by cracked out German artists. My bed had a string of green lights around it and was wrapped in multi colored words in German. All the electrical outlets were lined with red fun fur. Jace's room was much stranger, with these foam blocks that hang off the wall, making you feel like you're sleeping inside some sort of modernist rubics cube.
Rolph picked us up. He's this fucking insane German guy with a funny as hell accent. He took us to a strange and tiny restaurant. It was basically a kitchen counter with a drink machine and the menu written on the wall. Evidently it's different food everyday, and the place was sort of crowded. Jace and I also seemed to be the source of much interest because they all talked about us and laughed, but I wasn't sure if we being made fun of or if they knew our music and were excited... The best and most cool thing though was this guy in the corner. We learned that it could be arranged that people could DJ in exchange for food. This guy in the corner was so fucking rad. The short description of him would be to call him a "young colonel sanders". He had bushy brown hair, a brown tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, a tan-ish shirt with a ribbon tie, under a sweater of some sort. He played the best - and most absurd- music ever. "He ain't heavy he's my bother", "Lady" by Lionel Ritchie, Bob Dylan, etc. He focused on great music that NO ONE would ever play in the US, and I'm not sure if he realized how strange his selections were. Jace and I were fascinated by him, and then he came over and introduced himself. I have to get his name again... He was awesome, and very friendly. I almost expected him to speak with a southern accent, but of course he was German (duh). Then in the middle of all this nice and strange music he throws on revolution #9, backed by "There is a light that never goes out" by the Smiths. I wanted to applaud!
The venue- the Golden Pudel- has easily been the best so far. I had heard that "I would love it", but that's all I really knew. It was fantastic, very small - but cozy. People in Hamburg are totally cool - warm, friendly, funny, drunk, and loud. Loads of people came, and they danced and were really into my set. Even though my computer crashed out about 1/2 way through, it was easily the best show so far! Funny thing is how many women come out to the shows here. I feel like it's some sort of victory in some way as that NEVER Happens in the US. Fantastic show...
Jace flew back to Barcelona the next morning and I stayed in Hamburg an extra day to hang out with long time correspondent and friend Markus who runs Enduro records. So I walked around the city during the day and I walked through the most amazing fair that I've ever seen. German street fairs- or maybe it's just this one, are astonishing complex, and truly spotless. The rides are immense- such as STAR WORLD with its 50 foot tall moving (and German rapping) robot, half a dozen automatons and spiraling spaceships. I took as many picts as I could. I met up with Markus, and we just ate dinner, had a few drinks, then chatted and went to bed around 12:00. Sleep is now my new best friend!
I caught the train on Tues morning back for Cologne and the A Muzik guys. Of course they are awesome, and set up a very informal gig for me at a small bar that night. I dropped off my stuff at Wolfgang's place, went to eat a nice Mexican dinner (it was fairly authentic too!) and drank a few margaritas. Then we went to the bar where they literally forced drinks down my throat. We drank and played music until 4, Wolfgang was so drunk he almost passed out, and didn't remember getting home the next morning. I was way drunk- but not as drunk as Wolfgang (i.e.- I remember everything). But I think that was what made me sick- I woke up feeling bad, scratchy throat, etc. now I feel worse, sinus clogged, etc. Anyway, Wednesday was a lost day. Slept late, laid around, took it easy, went to eat German food- Ok on the whole, then bed by 10:30 pm.
Thursday was interesting because I hung in the Amuzik shop - sick on the whole, but I met more of my musical heroes ranging from Jan from Mouse on Mars to Scratch Pet land, to L?K?O (who knows all the same people I do in Japan!). They all were great, and treated me as an equal, which they certainly didn't have to do.
SO anyway, I hitched a ride with this guy (Till- editor of "Auf Abwegen") to Frankfurt later on Thursday night to play a show. It turns out it was at the club run by probably the largest experimental label in Europe- Force Inc. And it really was a truly strange club - an old lap dance bar that they basically covered ceiling to floor in tin foil; so think lounge meets "Factory". They had me set up in this really small space, assuming quite normally, that I would just sit there, and I said I needed some room to move around in. Anyway Laiki says "You want to be on stage?" then runs away, gets this keyboard stand, and puts it on top of this big table, so basically I'm set up like a gogo dancer now. I reluctantly agree to the situation, fearing that I would get dancing and down would go the laptop. Not too many peeps showed up, which was fine, and then I was supposed to play at 2 am. I did my thing, and the cord that they had used was bad, so about 80% of the set was only from 1 speaker, which sucked, but I tried my best. Of course being a laptop gogo dancer hurt the possibility of fixing the sound problem- as well as made it almost impossible for me to move around and drink the now standard big bottle of water during the sets.
Pretty much as soon as I was finished, I split with my ride from Koln- Till - a really great guy and music journalist. On the way out the door I was paid, and given a key and an address. Till gives me a ride to this address, and - thank god- walks me to the door and into the apt. I felt really uncomfortable, no phone number, no contact, no idea where I was, etc. But it actually worked out just fine.
I awoke early as I knew that the train ride to Vienna was going to be 7-8 hours. The lady who lived in the apt name was Julia, she made me a cup of tea, called the train station for times, etc. She was very nice and her place was quite nice looking despite being about 1/2 through remodeling.
I went to the train station, found out that the earlier train was booked and would have to wait on the late train. So with 4 hours to kill I decided to go to the Force Inc. label office. They let me use the email and I finally made contact with my friends in Vienna.
This train trip is a bit odd though, the landscape outside is so dark; with the buildings almost black stone, and the dark woods appearing as though they are at the bottom on the ocean. It feels like the train is going back in time. Now I understand why the people here bitch about the rural people being so conservative. It looks in many ways like they live in the 1800's!
So I didn't see much of Vienna- just my contacts flat then the venue. The show was a more "punk rock/ breakcore" sort of show, which was cool. Located in a bunker painted white and only accessible via steps carved out of rock, the show was crowded with hardcore types. Eiterherd, the guy who would put me up in Graz on sat, played a rocking set before me and a guy from NYC was slid into the bill. It turns out he saw me play in Brooklyn, was in Vienna and asked to be added to the night. He's cool, and we'll hang back in NYC. SO anyway, I played a great show after that, really danced hard and went nuts. People went crazy, danced, yelled; etc etc. Loads of people came up to me after the show and told me such nice things!
The original plan was to go to train down to Graz the next day, but what happened was that after the Vienna show we ended up driving down. We left Vienna at 4:45 am, and the guy driving had had a spliff or two, but he seemed competent. Little did I know that the drive was through foggy mountains! I feared for my life, but the guy was cool, and we got there just fine.
So the next afternoon when we got up, we went to Graz and looked around the city central. Basically, the oldest part of the city is a small mountaintop with stairs up and a castle-ish series of buildings at the top. It was beautiful and lots of picts were taken. We made it to the venue, which was quite large and well organized with a professional sound system, professional staff, and good peeps in all. About 450 people showed up that night and I knew that I really wanted this to be a good show. I danced hard, and had a microphone, but didn't do too much talking. I think it was probably the best show of the tour. Certainly it was the biggest show, and I danced hard, and so did lots and lots of people. The show in Graz was recorded and will be broadcast on national radio here in January.
At 4:30am the owner of the space turned on the lights, the 100 or so people that were still dancing freaked out, and started yelling and then started destroying stuff. The scene started to get uglier, but then our Taxi finally came.
Getting back at the apt about 5:30 am, we ended up sleeping until almost 2 pm. The plan was to catch an early train back to Vienna do some sight seeing, then meet up with the radio guy for the interview, etc. But unfortunately it took quite a bit longer to get motivated, so we finally made it out of Graz at 5 pm- now dark- and made it in Vienna at 7pm. We go to the apt of Bernd, who works for FM4 Austrian national radio to do a quickie interview and just hang there most of the night, leaving to catch DJ Pure and friends at a café for just a few minutes. Finally, bed at 2:30, coughed a lot during the night.
The next morning I began the long plane ride back to New York, expecting to sleep all the way.