Monthly Archives: February 2012

Touring In the US When You’re Foreign

I wrote this for the new lineup of Berzerker, just before they headed off on their first tour of the States. It is a mixture of well meaning advice, my own biases based on touring there previously, some bad experiences, and the culture shock you get from touring around the US when you’re a foreigner. I gave it to Todd Hansen, Damien Palmer, and Tim (ex-Abremalin). I think Damien was the only one that read it:

You are not a proper touring band until you have done your first full-length US tour. It is the ultimate band experience. You will play at famous places you’ll have heard about, you will meet more celebs and industry people each night than anywhere else, you’ll see some amazing scenery, and meet gazillions of loyal fans. Your profile and the band’s profile explode after a full US tour, your sales double, and opportunities start pouring in.

That being said, the US is a very different place with a very different culture. This is easily forgotten – the ubiquity of US TV and culture makes the place feel familiar before you get there. And even though touring the place can be the best experience a band can ever have, it is extremely easy to have an appalling time.

We have made almost every possible mistake a foreign band can make on the last three tours, and witnessed bands make plenty of others. I’ve no doubt you’ll all find some new ones to make. There have been some occasions where we have escaped injury, fines, and jail through sheer luck. This document hopefully will ensure that you don’t repeat our previous mistakes, and instead have an awesome experience that you’ll want to repeat over and over again.

  1. travelling to the US

Be aware that Australian travellers to the US are now required to fill in extra paperwork (available from both the consul and the airport) before departing the country – on top of the customs declaration form and visa. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check the Australian customs/travel website for notices concerning travel to the US.

Americans customs officers have even less a sense of humour than your average customs officer, so no lip to any of them. Having said that, our first visa officer ever encountered was listening to Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ when we entered the country and wished us luck on tour.

Make luggage accessible as customs will want to have a look in your bags and cases. Often if you have taped up a case, they will unwrap it so make sure you aren’t relying on the tape to keep your luggage together. If you have joined bags together so they count as one piece (I taped my bass case to a travel bag once in order to do that), make sure they are both tagged and labelled. I once had to search Chicago airport for my unlabelled, unstickered, unmarked bass case. If I wasn’t able to find it, then there was no real way for it to find its way back to me.

Security queues for international visitors are longer than most countries. Put plenty of time aside. US customs can be as invasive with luggage as Australian ones – in other words, very.

Once your plane lands in the US, any further flights are quite often counted as domestic flights – be aware of luggage conditions changing. Some airlines are cool with counting your connecting flight as part of the same trip – others aren’t.

Be aware that there are guys at some of the airports who will be wearing uniforms and will say that they’ve been sent to handle your bags. Your tour manager may have said that he’s arranged transport from the airport, or something, and if you ask these guys if they’re from the tour company they’ll say they are. The baggage guy will load all your stuff onto a trolley and then take it to a cab. He will then demand money or a tip for the service. Your taxi driver may refuse to take you if you don’t tip him. I go over this a bit more later on, but be wary of ANYONE offering to do you a favour in the US without working out first if they’re going to be wanting payment.

  1. police

I never have problems with the police in the UK, Europe, Asia, or Australia. I had HEAPS of problems with the police in the US. I actually had more run-ins with the police in the US in three tours than I’ve had in the rest of my life, elsewhere.

Put simply the US is a tense police state – this is no exaggeration – and a lot of the cops are straight-out bullies. The first lesson we ever learned was that you cannot pull over the side of the road and have a leak in the US (our driver freaked when we suggested that). It is a fast-track to getting arrested for exposure, indecency, and urinating in public. That should give you an idea how uptight they are over there. If you need to have a leak while travelling, by the way, get an empty water bottle and fill ‘er up. This is a new skill you are going to come back from the US with.

One of the main problems we got was speeding and parking fines – be aware that laws and speed limits will vary from state to state, and state borders are not always clearly marked. Unlike the Europe and the UK you can’t “g’day!” your way out of fines.

The police in LA and the southern states are definitely the worst. In LA, our driver/tour manager parked the motorhome in a business loading zone in a residential area (it was Venice beach, just near the beach itself). He went into one of the apartments for a few hours and left the generator on. We were all asleep at the time. I was woken up by banging on the front windshield. I opened the curtain and we were surrounded by cops and angry business owners. They yelled at me until I got the tour manager back downstairs, at which point they promptly fined him. We couldn’t reverse back out because of all their cars, and they told us to drive onto the boardwalk, drive down to the next street, and get out that way. Matty guitarist had gone out for a walk (where, we didn’t know) but we weren’t allowed to wait for him even when we tried to explain he was a traveller and we had no way of contacting him. We turned onto the boardwalk and there were more cops waiting for us there. BAM! – Another fine, this time for driving on the boardwalk. They also took some of our insurance papers and tried to confiscate my passport when I objected. Basically, the other cops had set us up and then scarpered. We found Matt wandering nearby half an hour later by pure chance.

As a metal band with long haired, bearded, pierced, dreadlocked dudes, you will be profiled and pulled over with little or no cause. We know of an incident in the southern states where they pulled over a metal band because they were metal-looking guys. They ordered the band out of the van, got them to put their hands up against it, then went through and searched their entire van for guns and drugs. They basically emptied the van out on the road. At the end of an unsuccessful search they were then told they had twenty minutes to pack up the van and get out of the town. I’ll leave it to your imaginations how it would have gone down if they HAD found anything illegal.

It’s probably best at this point for me to advise against travelling with any drugs. Apart from not being necessary – you’ll be offered all sorts of stuff at almost every show…hell, you’ll be touring with Krisiun for god’s sake – if you’re busted you’ll be arrested and jailed, and often you’ll take your bandmates down with you. For every day you’re in jail, you miss out on playing another show, and the tour goes further and further into debt. Once released you will either be deported and not allowed back in the country or arraigned for a court case at a later date then not allowed back in the country. As a touring band of metalheads your chances of being picked up by the police for spot-checks is far, far greater than it is for normal people. You have been warned.

Even the nice police are tense. We got picked up for setting off fireworks near a highway. Apparently it was a dangerous neighbourhood and they thought it was gunfire. After finding out we were Australian travellers, the cop ordered us back to our hotel “for our safety”.

So there it is with the police. Be aware that you’ll be told to move on, fined, questioned for little or no reason, and lectured. It’s the basic schoolboy rules fellas – don’t mouth off at them, don’t do anything that is going to get you banged up, and play ball with them until they’ve finished up and gone looking for someone else to hassle. If you’re the kind of guy who runs his mouth and gets into trouble with soft-touches like Australian cops, then learn how to keep your mouth shut quick.

  1. other bands

The depth of talent and professionalism in US bands is far beyond that in Australia. Quite often, the opening band will come on with incredible gear and play a blazing set. Easy bands opening up for you to mow down are the exception, not the rule.

The metal scene in the US is HUGE. I cannot overstate that enough. Hell, the country itself is huge. Australia easily fits inside it and the US doesn’t have big uninhabited areas like we do. As a result there are incredibly popular bands that sell truckloads of CDs, are very well respected, and you will have never heard of them before. No-one in Australia had heard of Skinless when we first toured with them in 2001, but when we got over there EVERYONE owned their DVD and knew the guys. The point of this being that it’s best to respect all bands you come across: you never know when you’re playing with a US underground legend.

The fastest way to make enemies is to run over your soundcheck time or your allotted playing time. The tour manager will quickly pick you out as troublemakers and make the rest of your tour misery. The fastest way to make friends is to help load on and off, and assist other bands with setup if they’re having any troubles. Be cool to their techies and roadies. Sometimes if you’re known as being generally helpful the techies will help you out, which is helpful when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and your guitar stops working. And (as outlined further on) the US can have some really primitive backward states, where you’d be struggling to find stamps let alone guitar jacks, strings, or triggers.

The worst insult you can get from anyone on tour is ‘rockstar’. If someone tells you that you’re behaving like a rockstar it is not a good thing. Basically if you’re always complaining about the tour, never help, always run over your allotted time, demand special treatment, backstab the other bands on tour, etc, then you get tagged as rockstars. Again, tour managers and headliners pick on bands they think are behaving like rockstars and ruin the tour for them – they become unhelpful, cause problems, pull shows on you, and talk rubbish about you to every other band, promoter, and agent they come across. They can be utterly unfair and arbitrary sometimes how they tag you: Luke got tagged a rockstar because he needed an urgent doctor visit and didn’t want to disclose to the tour manager what it was for, we got tagged rockstars because we complained when a tour manager didn’t honour our contract to use the headline band’s gear and forced us to pay to use the opening band’s equipment. Our mistakes on these occasions were to respond by going “stuff ‘em” when we heard anyone branding us rockstars. In retrospect, if we had taken the time to talk with them and clear the air we may have saved ourselves some bigger problems on tour. Then again, maybe not.

Almost everyone on tour smokes weed. It is around everywhere, all the time. In fact it seems to be the reason why a lot of the bands tour – so they can get away from their girlfriends and jobs for a month and smoke every day, all day.

I recommend you don’t smoke in the motorhome. Apart from Luke’s allergy to smoke, if you’re in a nice motorhome it will quickly be infested by every smoker on tour and your privacy will be gone for the rest of the month. Additionally, if you are crossing over the border into Canada or Mexico your van or motorhome may be subjected to an extremely vigorous search. If they find any trace of weed such as a lost bud, seed, etc then you will not make it into the country and may be refused entry in the future. And if the aforementioned police find any in your vehicle, whether it’s yours or not, game over. You will be arrested, deported, etc, even for tiny amounts. Australian police are chill when it comes to smoke misdemeanours, US police definitely are not. Additionally your vehicle insurance is null and void if there is any evidence of drugs or drug use on the vehicle, so if you have a bad stack and they find even traces of weed you may be liable for some large amounts of money.

I also recommend you don’t fall into the habit of smoking daily while on tour. You will need every bit of physical and mental energy you have, and need to be awake and helpful for long periods of time. It’s the heavy smokers who crumble into depression and break when the horrible, dire emergencies of touring the US happen – AND THEY WILL HAPPEN.

Too many bandmates on previous tours have fallen in with the daily smoker crowd on tour, and become distant from the rest of the band. Gary had been like that for most of the tour when he got his leg broken by bouncers. The reason he got his leg broke was because he so dopey from daily smoking…I cannot conceive anyone in their right mind would challenge skinhead bouncers with nazi tattoos in a NY club when asked to stop smoking dope in the lighting booth. And he had been so distant, moody, and unhelpful during tour that I was ready to break his legs myself.

One of the best experiences on tour was <yeah, better redact this bit>. So the message I’m giving isn’t abstain. But definitely be smart about it and be careful. You are over in the US to climb back on the top of the extreme metal pile, drop jaws, make contacts and hopefully make some money from music, NOT to sit around for a month solid getting wasted.

Generally though, the other bands are the coolest people you’ll meet in the US. Troublemakers are the exception not the rule, and most bands (even if they’re not on tour) will go out of their way to help you out when you’re on the road. The idea of ‘metal brotherhood’ is very much alive and well in the States.

  1. people in general

Here are a couple of facets about the general population of the US you’ll encounter while on tour that I found a challenge at first:

There are a LOT of dudes over there that drop names like no-one’s business. Aussies don’t really do it much and only the obvious freaks really indulge in it in the UK. But they’re everywhere in the US. I tend to take people at their word so I spent the first few tours over there thinking I had made some amazingly well-connected contacts. On tours you get people who are all talk, but the States take it to another level. So prepare yourself to get some incredibly desperate dudes wanting to cordon you off and tell you all about all the bands they know and tour with. Take it with plenty of salt until they give up photos and email addresses.

Something which took a lot of getting used to for me in the US was you get a lot of people who’d do you a favour seemingly out of kindness, and then later on they’d ask for payment and if you said that you were low on money, then they’d start asking for CDs and t-shirts. I even remember some guys who auditioned for the drummer part when we were stranded in Florida, and after their utterly inept unsuccessful audition they hassled us for petrol money. If you find yourself being offered a favour from someone non-tour/non-established band then it’s best to mention upfront apologetically that you don’t have any money and see if the favour still stands. And no offering merchandise for favours unless it’s cleared by Luke, naturally.

Off the back of that, remember that the US is a tipping culture. Luke’s approach, which you might be interested in adopting, is not to tip anyone. Which is cool – but be prepared to put up with yanks getting all bent out of shape when they don’t get their tip.

People in the US are on average larger than anywhere else. None of you guys are pipsqueaks, but you’ll be surprised at how many human buffalo are wandering around. Prepare to get dwarfed.

Racists are everywhere and unapologetic. Aussie bigots tend to keep quiet and are apologetic if they state their beliefs. Not so in the US! We had dudes tell us we could stay at their house and that it was in the good part of town because it had “no n-ggers”. I was in a hot tub in Arizona with a cute, smart girl who started talking about how good it would be to go back in time and “buy and sell n-ggers”. Matt had some black dude call him a “fucking cracker” in New York when he wouldn’t give him some money. They’re screwy about race in a lot of parts over there in ways we don’t even come close to. Just thought I’d give you a heads-up.

Let me state the obvious: people carry guns. LOTS of people carry guns. There are signs above the entrances to some clubs: “no cameras, drugs, or firearms allowed”. You can walk into pawn shops and the walls will be filled with artillery. And lots of yanks have a chip on their shoulder as well, so put these two factors together and be sensible. Do not give any raving idiots an excuse to use their guns.

I cannot think of  many happy experience with American girls where they didn’t end up being utterly unbalanced and psycho. I’m not sure if we were unlucky or anything, but all of the broads we tangled with ended up being big-time trouble. There were girls posting allegations of rape on our messageboard after happily hooking up with us, girls we hooked up with who had gun-toting fiancés they neglected to tell us about, Gary hooking up with a stripper who had blown our tour manager earlier in the day, etc etc. Trouble, every single one of them. So feel free to go for it, but you’ve been warned!

Another feature of people that you’ll meet on tour is that quite a few have done time. It’s neither here nor there, but I found it surprising just how many people over there have been banged up before.

Having said that all that though, we met some of the coolest, most helpful dudes ever in the States. The Skinless guys are a laugh a minute. The Dying Fetus dudes were humble. The Immolation guys were the very model of multicultural enlightment. Heaps of guys helped us out at venues, gave us places to stay at, or came on tour to work merch for a week just out of a love of helping out. There is a huge metal culture in the States where it actually means something to be into the music and other people will help you out just for being into metal as well. So don’t go expecting everyone to be a freak. However don’t go expecting them to be the same as the Aussies and Poms either. Aussies and Poms are practically indistinguishable when you compare them against the yanks.

  1. the country, general

The first tour we did, the Alarum guys requested a rider with “raw vegetables, raw fruit, mung beans, filtered and purified spring water”.

In some areas of the US the most filtered and purified water you can get is ‘decaffeinated’.

Australia is a first-world country apart from the few aboriginal settlements which are tucked a gazillion miles away from anywhere. The US will range anywhere between first-world and third-world, and you’ll often be shocked how ghetto and primitive some parts of it are. For example, you can find a post-office in most towns in Australia. Don’t count on that in the US. You can drive through towns which are breeze-blocks. The metal festival at Asbury Park, New Jersey is basically in an abandoned development on the seafront. It truly looks like the apocalypse hit. Australia is young, brand-new, and sparkling. A lot of the US looks like it has needed a spring-clean for the last two hundred years.

In Australia you get some dodgy suburbs but they do not compare to some of the places in the States. There are definitely the Wrong Parts of Town over there. Illinois especially is dodgy. First time we played Detroit the club owners guaranteed that our van would be robbed unless we parked it on the sidewalk outside of the club under a streetlight with a passenger in it at all times. We walked down the street later looking for food and every store was barred with bullet-proof glass. When the locals back at the club later found out we had walked down the street by ourselves, unarmed, they freaked. The next day some of the guys watched an armed robbery take place at the service station across the road by some dude with a shotgun.

In Baltimore, there was a place near the venue called The Block. It was called that not only because it was a block of stripclubs and shops selling porn and weapons, but because it was cordoned off at both ends by a police roadblock so as to contain the mayhem. Or maybe it was just a lucky night, I don’t know. The singer of Dying Fetus nearly got hit by a joyrider in a stolen car getting chased by police on the way back to the club. One of the barstaff girls got into an argument with some gangstas in a car out the front of the club. He pulled a gun on her. She told him words to the effect that he should shove the gun up his ass. We couldn’t believe the sass she gave the guy. The bar-staff chanted “Welcome to Baltimore: duck motherfucker!” when we left.

Interesting fact: the yanks can’t tell the difference between the English and Australian accents. I’m sure Todd will be able to play that one up. You’ll come across the occasional person who will ask you what country you’re from, and when you tell them you’re from Australia they’ll complement you on how good your English is. You’ll also occasionally get people yelling “Go Home Aussie” at shows. They’re yours, Damo.

I found club owners and promoters to be mostly obnoxious and rude with only a couple of shining exceptions (Laura from the Key Club, for example). There were a number of occasions where we were screwed over on food or pay. Some of the venues are very fly-by-night outfits. We played a place called the Thunderdome in Florida. It was like a small classroom, 1 foot high stage, with the room lit by a fluorescent bulb. I’ve already mentioned the club in Poughkeepsie NY where the bouncers were all Nazis. We played a venue in Georgia where there was no stage, and it all went down on a concrete floor. We have been banned from playing Jaxx in Virginia. We were late to our show there in 2002 and even though the tour ran ahead of time and everyone agreed for us to go on until curfew, the owner of the club threatened to cut the electricity if we went on. The promoter at Peabodies in Cleveland didn’t pay us, and Immolation slipped us some money to keep us going until the next gig. We played at a rundown bowling alley in Chicago which had water leaking out of the roof. These are just a few of the many experiences we had. Expect the worst from each place, and you will be pleased by the occasional venues and people that are grateful for your presence and provide everything that has been agreed to.

  1. the other bands on your tour

This is what I know about them:

Obituary – are rednecks. Picture yourself going on tour with a drunken bunch of rednecks from Gympie, change the accent a bit, and you’re there. John Tardy especially drinks hard.

Krisiun – brazilian trio. These guys are absolute demons on their instruments ESPECIALLY the drummer. By all reports, they will spend the entire tour ripped as. They are also apparently extremely nice guys. They’re kind of the old school ‘metal warrior’ type of dudes.

Goatwhore – New Orleans dudes. We’ve met Sammy a couple of times before, and the guy is an absolute legend who you’ll all get along with. I met Ben the singer briefly and he was cool. Be warned though – the last time I saw Goatwhore live they blew EVERYONE off the stage and Ben is one of the best frontmen I’ve seen. If you see “nocturnal holocaust” or “satan’s millennium” on their setlist then get your A-game gig ready.

I don’t know anything about Warbringer.

For more tour information, get the book “Tour: Smart” by Martin Atkins. It has EVERYTHING you need to know about touring the US and is extremely practical. Every problem encountered in touring has an answer in this book.

Lastly, good luck! – Aussie metal musicians who have toured the US are rare. You are about to enter an exclusive club, dudes. And good or bad, you are going to have memories from this US tour for life.

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Template Letter For Booking Festivals

Just realised I had a template letter or two lying around on my laptop from when we were on the Great Festival Booking Spree.

Guys in the UK asked me how to get on the European festivals. Do you get a booking agent and pay them a percentage, or book yourself? Getting a booking agent isn’t straightforward…like labels, they’re still in the service model where they choose who they work for.

I reckon the best approach is to book yourself and use the scattergun approach…there’s a good thirty or forty metal festivals in Europe at least. The idea is to apply to all of them, and also hit them with a follow-up letter. Once you’ve cracked your first few festivals and put them on your band CV it starts getting easier to get on bills.  Be aware that festivals usually book anywhere up to 10 months ahead.

If you know the promoter or festival organiser, tailor a mail straight to them or speak to them. Otherwise use the below templates. Just replace the <tags> with the relevant information:

“Hello <bookers name>

<my band> would like to perform at <the festival you’re approaching> this year:

<band> is a <nationality> <genre> band, <name record labels here/who distributes>, with <number> releases. We played <biggest fests or tours you’ve done>, and want to hit more festivals this year. We’d love to play the main stage for <the festival> but would honestly be happy being part of the festival any way we can!

I’ve also attached our PR sheet which has links to the bandsite, facebook page, myspace, and online mp3s, photos and press resources. I have pasted additional links to the bottom of the mail directly for youtube festival footage and our myspace page so you can get an immediate taste of what we’re about.

facebook: <facebook link>
myspace: <myspace>

Footage :

<music videos and best live footage>

Let me know if there’s any other information you require, or questions that you have.

warmest regards,
<name>
<bands and associations>”

That’s the first mail. If you’re lucky, you get a couple of responses. For the rest, don’t worry – you’re just buttering them up:

A big problem festivals have is bands pulling out at the last minute. That causes all sorts of headaches for the organiser. So once you’re a few weeks out from one of the festivals you’ve applied for (you are keeping a spreadsheet with the festivals in date order, yes?) then send a follow up mail. It’s a repeat of the first one, with a change at the end.

“Hello <bookers name>

<my band> would like to perform at <the festival you’re approaching> this year:

<band> is a <nationality> <genre> band, <name record labels here/who distributes>, with <number> releases. We played <biggest fests or tours you’ve done>, and want to hit more festivals this year. We’d love to play the main stage for <the festival> but would honestly be happy being part of the festival any way we can!

I understand that we may have missed the application window for <the festival> but feel free to keep us in mind if you have any bands pull out on you. We’d be more than happy to fill in!

Let me know if there’s any other information you require, or questions that you have.

In the meantime, warmest regards and good luck with this year’s festival!

<your name>
<your bands or organisation>”
That heightens your chances of getting on a line-up, and helps out festivals no-end. You all need to be ready to drop what you’re doing and go, though! No use finally getting that slot and then having to drop it because someone has to walk the dog that day.

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Thanks list from “In the Realm of the Senseless”

I was just cleaning up my old website today which contains the thankyou list from the first album. I thought I’d better sling it in here, so there’s a record of it somewhere in the universe. Also it’s kinda funny to see the names that crop up, and how sometimes things have changed in the last five years. I’ll be doing another thankyou list for ‘The Floating World’. It will be much shorter.

 

I have decided to part with tradition and not have the usual massive death-metal thankyou list in the liner notes of my CD. This is for all sorts of reasons. I don’t want a booklet in the CD, just a cover insert with the bare goods in there – should save on printing costs. Besides, I ran out of money buying photos for the artwork. And I’ve always found the whole thanks list thing a bit awkward, like dudes were parading how many names they can drop. I know that’s not the case! – it’s just how it feels sometimes. There’s only one way I reckon I could justify it in my case and that is if I actually explained WHY people are on my thanks list…and by god, mine are there for a bloody good reason!
So, decision’s made – instead of a booklet thanks list, there’s a link pointing to this page. Everyone on the list’s role in the production of this CD is outlined, and you may gather some insight into why bands have so many names to thank in their liner notes. Did they bring beer to the recording? Loan money? Write music? Here’s where you find out.
In no particular order:

Luke Kenny – aka Berzerker… Apart from producing and mixing this, he actually encouraged me to get off my arse and record the CD and push it to the public. People ask if Luke is pissed with me for recording my own CD instead of keeping all my effort to Berzerker. Are you kidding? If I went into all the ways Luke helped me record this stuff, we’d have an essay here. It could all be summed up with a chef metaphor – if Luke’s Gordon Ramsay, then I’m Marcus Wareing. I think only Tony from madman will get that, but anyway.

Marcus Hankey/Grant Cummin – when these flatmates told me years ago “why do you sit around here all day playing guitar? Why don’t you join a band?” they probably had the ulterior motive of getting me to grind elsewhere. In any case, those words were all it took to put me on the long road to here

Russ Russell – the realest man in metal…., Russ mastered the CD. By rights, one would ordinarily have to swim through a sea of caviar, champagne, and minders to even speak to the likes of him. He’s recorded Napalm Death and Dimmu, for god’s sake. On the contrary, when I bumped into him on tour he not only happily agreed to master the CD for me, he invited me around for the mastering and treated me to dinner at the table with him and his awesome family. A gem of a dude.

Manami Shima – it is traditional to thank your girlfriend in the liner notes of the CD. “This CD is called Death By Blood by the Graveshitters, I would like to thank my sweetie pie for her love and support”. But Manami’s contribution is a bit more concrete than that. I never had a name for this project, and when Anticulture offered to licence it, I suddenly needed one. I had no idea what to call it. Manami came up with the name The Senseless, so thank her. Plus she did a top job of keeping my sanity in check leading up to the recording, no small task. Cheers, babe.

Craig – I don’t even know his last name. All I know is I borrowed a guitar off him two years ago which I used for practice for the rerecording and he hasn’t asked for it back yet. I suck

Ol Drake from EVILE – he did the last solo in Promise…the one that actually sounds like a real solo, instead of my unco widdling. I bullied him into it by relentlessly pursuing him online and over the phone, and finally managed to extract the needed solo out of him two days before my plane left for the recording in Australia.

Matt Wilcock – my fellow Berzerkerer. He helped me with the recording of the rhythm guitar tracks back in 2004 by working the desk and offered much helpful advice (“That sounds gay. Learn to solo. There is no place for acoustic parts in metal. You suck” etc). He also performed a tapping part on Crippled Trash when he lost patience with my primitive and feeble efforts at playing the part myself. When it comes to recording, Matt knows the deal. He didn’t even blink when Luke and I called him from Melbourne in a mild panic on the 2nd or 3rd day of recording as he was waking up in London, trying to find out if he still had said rhythm guitar tracks two years later on a hard drive at his parent’s house in Australia. He did, lucky us.

Charles Provost of Anticulture Europe Office and HIM Media  – this is the dude directly responsible for signing the project. I was trying to send some CDs through to french band Happy Face who he managed, and one of them was the demo for this project. Charles got his hands on it, liked it, and before I knew what was happening had Anticulture records offering me a licencing deal. Without Charles it’s a sure thing this recording would not have been released and without his promo push I’d have nowhere near the coverage in Europe I have now

Steev Anticulture – took a chance where all other labels feared to take a chance. A one man powerhouse.

Conor – worked for Earache. He asked me at a show about the project when it had only been available online, and encouraged me to send it through to them. Earache knocked it back but that was enough encouragement for me to keeping sending the demo to all and sundry. I bumped into him online only but a week or two ago and it now seems he is working for Plastichead distribution, so he’ll be looking after all the electronic distribution for the Senseless CD. I’ve offered to set myself on fire if it will help his sales. He’s currently considering the offer.

Leon Macey of Mithras, Zero Tolerance magazine – provided me with a little bit of sample assistance, and much industry and legal advice. For a bloke who runs his own magazine, plays for a famed band, shreds guitar like Azagthoth, and drums over 300bpm, he sure is humble and helpful. And when I was stuck for someone to master a demo so it could make an appearance on a magazine cover last year, Leon came through and ripped me up a mastering job in a matter of days. Legend.

Gareth Holmes – when I left Australia, I left my computer with my buddy Gareth and barely took any backups of the music I’d made with me. Suddenly when I was required to rerecord the album, the shit hit the fan. I trawled through all my backups and found half the drum tracks, half the solos, and half the samples. Gareth has lost count of the amount of times I called or sent a panicked email asking if he could run a full computer search for some random .fla file. He came through with the goods, and even managed to change a few of the file formats to suit my ever-changing purposes. Come to think of it, I pulled him off a holiday to do this, twice.

William McCulloch – so, the recording of the album had nearly finished except for the final track ‘After Happy Ever’. I had got kick samples mailed from Luke. Gareth had found me my missing drum tracks. Now all I had to do was pull a hundred samples off a CD for the cubase song which I had created years back. Only problem, the CD was fucked and there was no way my computer was reading it. Matt Wilcock’s solution would have been, well, the song’s fucking gay anyway, leave it off the CD. My solution was to take the CD to Willy McCulloch for some data recovery. The CD seriously couldn’t have been any more screwed than if I had skatedboarded down the road on top of it. When Willy saw the CD, he winced and went ‘jesus, Sam’, like I’d brought him a jar of herpes. He managed to recover every single file except one.

Rob and Mike from Woodslap – have lent me basses and amps respectively

Jamie Hooper – from Fingercuff productions. He shot and edited the filmclip for Vacation and pulled off our multimillion dollar effects on a £0 budget. He also suffered the indignity of having me reject the first edit of the video, then worked through a bout of tonsilitis to finish it on deadline to my ever shifting satisfaction.

Tom Cordery – my double for the video, a buddy from work. When he heard I was recording a video he was immediately like “Oooh! Can I be in it? Pick me! Pick me!”. I don’t think he seriously thought I would until I called him the day before shooting, demanding that he drive across town to be my body double. As things turned out, couldn’t have done it without him.

Simon – loaned me a red BC rich Warlock guitar for the filmclip. It is occurring to me about now that perhaps I should buy some musical instruments of my own

Caroline Jones – I’d never owned a PC before and one day she just gave me one. Just like that! There is no way any of this stuff would have even made it to demo form if that had never happened. It was a pentium 3 with about 100mb of memory spare, but it was enough to write and record ‘After Happy Ever’ and a bunch of other songs on. I had no interest in computers or plans to buy a PC. Talk about a gift from the gods.

Ryan – drummer for the european Berzerker tour. I was going to buy one of those dumb boss 8 track things with a built-in drum machine cause I was desperate to somehow record my own stuff. Ryan was like, “why don’t you just buy a PC? You can record on those, and do much more than you could ever do with a 8 track”. Quite a seed you planted there, Ryan.

James DaCosta – this guy writes better than almost everyone I know. In year 8 at high school, he spontaneously wrote some piece on my folder. It was the adolescent angst thing done except in a knowing cynical adult voice with more brilliant lines per paragraph than anything I’ve seen anywhere else. I reminded him about it when coming up with lyrics for the album. He said “What?” I quoted a few lines for him and he rewrote a decent version of it for the song ‘Promise’.

Kevin – took all the promo shots, indoors and outdoors, and did a damn fine job. I owe you either money or a website dude, contact me.

Rabi – from Fluidzone. He was the first link in my epic expedition trying to get the covershot for the CD. I had a copy of Riptide magazine from the early 90s with the most brutal wipeout ever on the cover, and I wanted that shot. I didn’t care what it took, and thank god for that cause it took a lot. I didn’t have any contacts for Riptide so I found Rabi’s details online. He looked like someone who knew shit in the Australian bodyboarding industry. I asked him if he had contact details for Riptide. He did and immediately passed them on, no fuss, helpful as could be.

Nick, editor for Riptide magazine – next on my mission to find the photographer. I swarmed him with emails asking for details for Who Shot That Wipeout Picture, and didn’t get a response for months. One month before the artwork deadline (when I was contemplating running down to Bournemouth Beach and taking a photo myself), he replied – and was more helpful than I ever could have hoped. Not only was he able to give me all the details for the photographer who had shot that cover, but he said he had another photographer who had shot a near-identical snap and he gave me those details too. That ended up saving my skin.

John Bilderback – John was the first photographer I chased, and the one who had provided the Riptide cover. Although I didn’t end up using his photo, his correspondence was full of a gracious aloha spirit that – considering he’s a top world-travelling surf photographer – was totally humbling. I couldn’t go with his picture because…

Ted Grambeau – was the alternative photographer Nick Riptide suggested and the one I ended up using. Ted took a while getting back to me, and when I saw the sample of the shot Nick had told me about, my jaw dropped. It was the same surfer, from the same wave, on the same day John had taken HIS photo. Same angle and everything. I analysed the wave – foam was the same on it, little jutting bits of wave were poking out the same. Only the lighting, framing, and the angle of the doomed surfer differ. It must have been snapped like .03 of a second after John took his shot. This is from a day’s surf somewhere in the early 1990’s. I have no idea as to the odds, but they’d be pretty ridiculous.  Ted’s price was lower than John’s so I ended up running with him. The licence for the pic ‘frogman’ just arrived today, and there’s some substance smeared on the envelope. It looks a little like blood. Ted is another travel-the-world surf-photographer-pirate like John, and it was an honour to correspond with both.

Brock Lewin – a mate of mine from Oz who took the peaceful pier shot from the back of the CD. Fortunately this photo did not entail anywhere near the amount of drama getting the covershot did.

James Caygill – well, y’know, I’ve got my design degree, I could have done all the artwork myself. Except I didn’t have the time. That, and James is like a thousand times more talented than myself. He did the layouts for the CD and ran with my images to do up the awesome business cards, stickers, and merch for the project. Dude, the business cards look AWESOME.

Rich – got me my first copies of fruity loops and cubase, tools which I still use to this day

Bill Hicks – this isn’t the bit of the thanks list where I start naming every influence under the sun. I reference the great comedian because I used quotes of his in two sets of the lyrics, You Are Nothing (I quote a couple of lines from his ‘marketing’ speech) and No Bomb Is Big Enough (the ‘freebird’ show where he starts screaming at the audience). Anyone who has ever performed for an audience will relate to some of the things he said to his.

Tony Robbins – while listening to powertalk it suddenly struck me how insane Tony would sound completely taken out of context. I recorded myself screaming a line of his “Nooo! NOOO! EXPRESS HOW YOU REALLY FEEL! LET IT OUT THERE! YEAH, YEAH YEAH!!” and with some studio trickery managed to get it sounding like the giant himself.

Jim Cardiac Arrest and Jesse – two buddies who have been fully supportive of the senseless right from the get-go. If these two dudes were my only audience that would be enough to do another three CDs.

John Flower – my buddy who taught me how to play guitar. Everything you hear on the CD is a reflection of the sense of timing, melody, and rhythm he imparted to me. It’s one of the great injustices of the world that he doesn’t have a CD of his own

Troy’s House of Music, Melbourne – these guys set up both my bass and guitar in A standard tuning and did a brilliant job of it. I didn’t realise what a great job they did until I tried using other people. When technicians hear what I want them to do with my guitar these days they usually look at me like I’ve dragged a dead body into their shop.

Adam Sagir – five years ago we fled the Gorbals in Glasgow, denied both prostitutes and crack. Now you pimp my hot metal to the UK, my English promotions Superfly. Cheers.

Machinochrist – cheers for the brilliant mashup which features on the e-card and website. I can’t believe you did something that awesome in less than three days

That’s it for the thanks. There may be additions to this list.

 

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The Senseless ‘The Floating World’ lyrics

I am an optimist. It does not seem to be much use being anything else.”
Sir Winston Churchill, 1874-1965

Caveat

This
Is a wake-up call
A call to arms
Get on the floor

Caveat Emptor
(We’re) going where no band
Has gone before

 

In Our Hearts

“You know the thing about chaos? It’s fair.”
The Joker

Try
To move me
All I need is a kick in the ass
And my tongue and my teeth are
Sharpened
To my whims

Hold fire
I propose
A sum of equals greater than our parts
If we’re gone tomorrow
I swear I’ll leave us something
In our hearts

 

Amazing Pain

You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it”
Robin Williams

Amazing pain
How sweet the grind
Destroy a wretch like me
I’ve lost
Everything I ever found
And crawl back to the sea

I have no home anymore
I’ve lost sight of the shore
I do this for me
I do this for me
Brothers, I ask
what will I do for me?

Just another weak man
Trying to learn to be strong
No rhyme or reason
Not in this song
Senseless thoughts
I can’t be right, won’t be wrong
And brothers I ask what I will do for me

Floating on a mile of quiddity
Hands on deck
Carelessly
If I’m washed ashore
I have but one wish
Make it somewhere I ain’t been before

I’m going too fast
Too many voices
I do this for me
Not you
Have I ever
Told you

 

Death to Metal

Discontent is the first necessity of progress”
Thomas Edison

Let’s kill this party we started
Shrieking as real as a chick in cheap porn
Sweden and Florida should have your fucking royalties
Give them death

Death to metal

Two hundred riffs do not a song make
Watching these stoners live the cliché
I’m praying you dickholes ignore my band
We still blow you pricks away

Death to metal
Scum
There’s nothing you can do
There’s nothing you can say
I refuse
These silly games
Broken children
Stupid names

Don’t tell me about your pain
Entertain me, or fuck off
I’d kill and eat our heroes
But I like my meat fresh

Tin roof rusty!

you made the best songs ever
pulled giants from thin air
the underground hurdled by
zeitgeist with mascara and a haircut

these accolades should be yours
the fakes have passed off as their own
the great revolution that never was
now obscurity calls, stigma, and shame
Victim

 Walk

Walk! Not bloody likely, I am going in a taxi”
George Bernard Shaw

Burning
Were you there when the world caught fire?
Burning
When the smoke and the ash
covered everything we owned

Glorious
The sky bright red, and the sun bled
Danger
With the shirt on my back
And a stereo in my hand
I walked

In a burning rain,
in the ash and pain
I was sure I’d lost everything
Three hours later
with the fire put out and the smoke cleared
Three hours
of freedom like I’d never known
With the shirt on my back
And my feet bare
I walked

Magnificent

Be yourself
Searing, honest
Leading a singular life
We have
Evolved
Past the mere need to survive
Be bold
Innocent
Hand in hand with divinity
Laughter, ecstasy
The undraping of mystery

Only seven to go
Dance you Jezebel you
Let them fall

it was love, if love was sin
ten thousand lions scream their praise
I burn with hallelujahs
unto to my absolute last,
magnificence

Hallelujah

 

A Good Old Fashioned Head-Kicking

In violence we forget who we are”
Mary McCarthy

 
Seeking the violence
the fire in my gut is persistent
Seeking the violence
my face gives to fists a resistance

Scrub my eyes, strike me blind, whisper anything in my ear
Turn me off like a broken toy
Take my mind, take my soul, drop my body down a hole
Get me out of here

I’m the piece of the puzzle that ain’t right and I’m aiming for the front door
I need to get in a fight and I’m not coming back
Until I
Get my
Ass kicked

He said we’re going to hell
I said it’s the journey not the destination
The only light we see
Is behind the eyes when we get hit
I plan to bash my head against this wall until I see god
I’d feel panic if I could
But I can’t
Guess I’ll settle for manic

I need my ass kicked
I need a lobotomy
I need a hug
But really I need my fucking head kicked

 White Flag

Exit, pursued by a bear”
William Shakespeare (stage direction in “the winter’s tale”)


When the siren sounds
And the doors are closed
Worked into the ground
And its time to go

With a golden watch
With a farewell show
I surrender
Heal my soul

When the siren sounds
And the curtains draw closed
And you know that you’ve travelled
As far as you can go

Sweep away the mandala
Put the bass back in the bag
Embrace the tabula rasa
And raise a white flag

When I’ve finally reached the end
a new horizon
my future shining black is all I see
I will raise the flag of surrender
and rejoice in my victory

Blow me away
my existence
No consolation
You’ll understand
One day to be erased
By god’s hand

all I make
is standing with my back to the sun,
tracing my shadow in the sand

to embrace tomorrow
you got to say goodbye to today
listen closely to the sea
it says the same things I would say
know your reasons
they’re singing inside the back of your head
let them free

All I make
Is standing with my back to the sun
Tracing my shadow in the sand
One day to be erased
By god’s hand

 

Far From Over

My centre gives way
My right is pushed back
Surrounded by enemies, so I attack
We’re far from over
We’re taking what’s ours
I’m taking the eyes of the first one to blink
I’m taking us all way over the brink
We’re taking over and won’t be
The first ones to fall

The news of my death is exaggerated
You and me are now going nowhere cause
We’re far from over
Forever I’ll be your very own curse
I’m reaching up high to drag you back down
If you think you’re safe I’ll still be around
We’re on a path from which we
Will never return

 

Let Me Sleep

 “I’m not asleep… but that doesn’t mean I’m awake”
~Author Unknown

I’m tired
I stopped caring years ago
Even rocks look like pillows
Operating on broken code
A screen of alerts
Eyes too dead to read
When I stare in the abyss
I see my alarm clock
Staring back at me

I tried so hard
To swing the fates my way
Cruel morpheus denies me
We got things in common, you might say
Nothing matters
Let me dive beyond my depth
And in the dark, disappear
I’m tired
Let me sleep

I’m tired
I’m so tired
All I need
Is air to breathe

Time
I know that I could
Reach for the stars, and I would
Try, but for some rest
It’s all I need
Time and time and time (and time) again
my peace shattered

my brain
is off the hook
Like a great doctor
I too had a dream
then I woke up
and remembered
I was late for work

This new day’s dawning now
It’s someone else’s day
I’m yawning , I’ve had enough
I’m tired, so tired
Let me sleep

Let me sleep

No more games….no more walking…boring….No fun – for anybody…You are getting greedy. Act your old age. Relax – this won’t hurt

 

The Floating World

“The best thing in the world is to live above it”
H.G.Bohn

Hey
I was thinking about you the other day
Tired
I had worked another night, seen another dawn
And I
wanted to say we had some good times
we had some fun
And we thought
these days would last forever

Flavour bursts inside my mouth
I remember the sunny day
the beer was cold, the sun was gold,
the sky was filled with temples
I still remember everything
how I tried so hard to say
even though we had places to go
these days would last forever
The people I’ve met
The places I’ve been
The stuff I’ve done
The things I’ve seen

If time’s one great loop
Not linear, like our senses
then I feel it’s safe to say
these days will last forever

We float here
When you’re here
You’ll float too

Crazy though it seems
I have a peculiar notion
We float above the world
Rotating slow motion
If you hold it in your hand
Will you drop it?
Put down your fist
Come on in, the water’s warm
I’m telling you
We won’t be missed

 

references: I quote directly or indirectly from the following sources –

B52’s “Love Shack”
The Gorillaz book
Tom Robbins “Skinny Legs and All”
Shantaram
Ferdinand Foch
Mark Twain
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Paul Beatty “The White Boy Shuffle”
Hunter S.Thompson “Football Season Is Over”
Stephen King “IT”

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How Not To Start A Tour

This is from a tour back in 2002. It was the first day of quite a few months travelling around the world touring. This piece was one of a few written for a book of death metal road-stories that never materialised. I’ve done a tiny little wee bit of censoring, nothing that detectives out there can’t undo  🙂

Everyone remembers their worst ever hangover. Normally you get to enjoy it in the comfort of your home, where you have your room, your bin, and your nice comfy bed to make it endurable. The less fortunate may have theirs at a friend’s place, or in a hotel room.

I had mine in New York on the first day of five months’ of touring with Berzerker and I had to work through the resulting hangover on an RV. It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, and by far the most drunk I have ever been. This story stands as testament for how not to go about beginning a tour, or any travels for that matter, and is not your average “I got drunk and threw up” hangover tale. If only it was that straightforward.

We went to New York to start our second US tour, supporting Immolation and Vader. New York is the home of the record label’s US office and they’d got us a cheap hotel down the road from them smack-bang in the middle of town. We dropped all our gear off, visited the office where all the staff were wrapping up for the day, and they announced they were going to take us out drinking.

Now I knew they were planning to get us drunk. They were infamous for taking their bands out when in town and getting them shit-faced so I had been preparing. For the three months beforehand I had been going out in my hometown of Melbourne with my most degenerate friends and making a point of pushing my drinking and partying to its limits. I wanted to make sure my liver was bulletproof. The label manager is an Aussie; I didn’t want to let the country down. I wanted to represent.

When they were telling stories about how they took Decapitated out drinking, and one of them went missing and was found passed out in a snowdrift I should have known what we were in for. I mean, the Polish can fucking drink. If they ended up passed out then it didn’t bode well for us, especially me. I was no big drinker despite my so-called ‘training’. I was younger and out to crush the world with my band and didn’t analyse the situation correctly. The following is how it went down:

We started at an Irish bar for beers and burgers. After a few beers we tried a drink called the “Irish Carbomb”. It’s a pint of Guinness with a shot of Bailey’s liqueur dropped in, and you slug it down in one foul go. The bitter Guinness gives way to the creamy sweet Bailey’s and it’s an intriguing taste experience, albeit a humongously alcoholic one. We had a few of these and went to the next bar.

I think we were about two or three bars in and had just done a couple of rounds of Sambucca shots when I went to the toilet. I remember swaying in front of the mirror, trying to make sense of the connection between myself and my reflection. My last remaining sensible memory was the realisation I was very, very drunk – far more drunk than I had been on any of my training runs back home. I wandered vaguely if I should purge, or wee, or drink water. Then I had a series of blackout memory gaps where the night became very disjointed, and this is the best of it I can remember.

I remember running down the middle of the road in New York. It was raining and I had no idea where anyone else was, or where I was. I was laughing hysterically.

Blackout.

I came to standing outside a club. I knew a few things, and in a very Jason Bourne-like way I had no idea how I came across the knowledge. I knew that there was VIP party in the club for an R&B band who had just released a CD. I knew that the rest of the band and the record label was in there and I had to get inside too. There was a woman at the entrance with a clipboard asking me something and I was too spasticated to understand a word she was saying.

Blackout.

I was inside the club. I was standing at a bar. I knew, mysteriously, that it was an open bar. A girl behind the bar was asking me what I wanted to drink. I asked for three beers, feeling like I was being a bit cheeky. I looked down the end of the bar and happened to see our drummer trying to pick up what looked to be at least ten beers. He was as fucked as I was. He gave up trying to grab them and ended up trying to wrap his arms around them in a big hug, like he could hug them off the bar and transport them somewhere where he could murder them in private.

Blackout.

I was backstage somewhere in the VIP club with the guys from the R&B band. Someone was smoking a hash pipe. It took me at least two minutes to realise that it was me. The drummer was there. The band was nice.

Blackout.

I was sitting at a table in what appeared to a bar of dubious legality. The label manager was suggesting more drinks, strip clubs, misbehaviour. I suddenly realised with horrifying clarity that I had only a few minutes to go before the worst hangover of my life was to begin. I’m a spewer. If I get a hangover, it’s not a matter of getting some panadol. My stomach was starting to roll and I had a mouth full of saliva. The bouncers in this place carried Uzi’s. The drummer was trying to pick a fight with one of them. For my own selfish drunken survival, I explained to  the label manager that we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow – we’d have to pick up our RV, drive to Virginia, first show, blah blah blah, we really should be getting to bed. He looked mildly disappointed but agreed with the logic. I told him to gather the troops and I’d be outside “looking for a taxi”. I walked outside as casually as I could, and once I was out the door started searching frantically for dark corner I could spew in. Unfortunately the label manager is an efficient bugger because he had the rest of the guys out before I could find one. We all bundled into a taxi and because the rest of my band are sadistic bastards, I was put in the middle of the back seat.

I survived a couple of blocks before I leaned over Matt, our guitarist, and started violently spewing out the window of the cab. Luke naturally got the whole thing on film and included it on the Berzerker DVD. When we arrived at our hotel a couple were out the front trying to hail cabs. The guy was well dressed and opened the taxi door. I bumbled drunkenly past him and heard him go “oh fucking CHRIST”. I looked back. My vomit was down the cab door and in his rush to open the door he’d placed his hand square in the middle of it.

 

The drummer and I struggled up the stairs to our rooms. Again, footage made it onto the DVD. We look wrecked and are obviously struggling with the stairs. I was sharing a room with Matt. I stripped down to my boxers, placed a bin next to the bed to shoot random nocturnal voms into, and prayed for sleep. I had drunk some water and was hoping that my ‘training’ would let me pass out and wake up in the morning only mildly dented. I actually managed to sleep for a few minutes then the worst thing ever happened: I woke up, and spewed so hard that I shit my boxer shorts.

This was an even greater issue than it normally would be because this hotel had communal bathrooms. I staggered to my feet clutching at the bottom of my boxers trying not to drip my own shit everywhere. I got to the bathroom, opened the door, and couldn’t see a bin, so I ripped off my shitty shorts and chucked them in a bin in the hallway. The shower had a bath so I climbed into it, turned the cold shower tap on, and fell asleep in the bathtub.

Luke woke me in the morning, knocking on the door, asking if I was alright. I certainly wasn’t. I felt so wretched, cold, and nauseous that I was severely displeased I hadn’t died in my sleep. When I opened the bathroom door the entire floor stunk of my soiled boxer shorts. We had a list of things to do in town before leaving, like picking up equipment and so on. Luke took one look at me and instructed me to wait on the pavement outside for our lift to the RV company to arrive. He knew there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to walk around and interact with people.

I lay on the pavement, occasionally crawling over to a pile of trash to vomit. Hard-bitten New Yorkers who’d be used to stepping over dead bums on the way to work were looking at me with disgust. A few of the record label staff members came along. They had a bag of doughnuts and offered me some. I couldn’t even look at them, and the slight smell of them had me heaving. I declined. One of the guys had a cut on his cheek. I asked about it. I was pretty dazed and confused at the time but I’m pretty sure the conversation went something like this:

You mean you don’t remember?” he said.

Remember what?” I replied. “I don’t remember anything from last night. I can barely think now. I want to die.”

So you don’t remember chasing me down the street? And you were laughing, and you tackled me? Then you pulled that light-bulb out of the shop front and smashed it on my head?”

……..I’m sorry?”

He seemed cool about it. I honestly have no idea if I did that, or if he was just winding me up.

The next incident of note was when we got our lift to the RV hire company. It was right outside town in some industrial park or something. The guys went in to do business. It looked like the windows of the place were blacked out and there was a nice bush below them where I bunkered down for some passing out interspersed with retching. Ten minutes later Luke came out, and had this to say:

Mate we need you in here. They won’t release the RV unless someone provides them with credit card details, and you’re the only one of us who has one. And, uh, you might want to stop spewing in that bush, those windows are one-way glass”.

I’m still amazed they signed the RV over to us.

Anyway, we got it and did the eight hour drive to Virginia to play a club called Jaxx. We were running late so we organised with Immolation to go on after them, do an abbreviated set, and use their gear. The drummer and I shared a bin-bag, vomiting in it all the way. We were actually sick for another two days afterwards. We got to the show, set up our gear, had a preparatory chuck in the toilets, went onstage and were about to hit the first note when our fuckhead tour manager Woody came over and informed us that the club manager would cut the electricity to the venue if we played, and that the tour manager would throw us off the tour if that happened. We asked why. He shrugged, said something about us messing with the integrity of the lineup. All the fans in the front row looked puzzled when we put our instruments away and left the stage.

When we came back the following year on the Nile tour, Jaxx wouldn’t let us play again. We were on-time, hadn’t caused any shit or anything, weren’t even hungover and vomiting, and they arbitrarily told the tour that they’d pull the show if we played. We weren’t even allowed to enter the parking lot where we could have at least sold some merch. Fuck Jaxx, and fuck the people that ran it. Fuck them if they’re still there. If that place burned down today, the party would be at my place tomorrow.

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Making Money In Music: an email to a friend

Got asked a question around 2008/2009 about whether money can be made doing a band. I sent an email to the dude, he translated it and posted it on a message board in some frostbitten nordic country, and it became briefly popular. It’s a bit of a historical piece, there’s sections about how to go about selling CDs. It’s funny reading back on it, I had some things to say about the future of a few bands…was I correct, or flat-out dead wrong?  Here it is unedited:

******

No, there ain’t much to make for most bands, especially extreme metal.
But I’ve worked out how to do it.

1. Your band must be different.

If I walk into a room with my eyes closed while you’re playing, I have to know it’s your band and no-one else. If you are copying someone else 9/10 times your career is short-lived and you’ll be living off the crumbs of whoever invented the style you play. Yeah, Attack Attack are playing Vans Tour and Suicide Silence are touring the world. Their labels are probably funding it which means they’re living off debt to their labels. Let’s see where they are in another 3 years…which brings me to…

2. You need to put in at least 2-5 years of work before you start seeing results.

The exceptions to this are few. But a band – like most businesses – will tend not to make profit during its first few years. If your band can’t stick at playing for this long then you don’t get to starting reaping rewards. Doing a band is like running a long PR marketing campaign, and the longer your campaign runs the more customers/fans you have and the larger your income becomes

3. You either need to get a business mindset and learn the money side of the band, or employ someone you TRUST 100,000% to take care of it for you…and then make them explain everything they do

Labels like nothing better than hearing a band say “we just want to play for the music, man”. Money will be made, but if a band says that then the label and promoters will be happy to take that money off your hands. The more money you have and less financial hardships you encounter the better you can follow step 2. You need to learn about publishing, tax, applying for grants (even metallers can get arts grants! – Coroner and Psycroptic are two that spring to mind) and so on. Never sign a contract – EVER – unless someone super-experienced is reading and advising, or a professional. By super-experienced, I mean someone like my buddy Leon in Mithras who runs a magazine/label/successful band, not some friend who has done a few gigs.

Now I’ve got the mindset out of the way, here’s the practical steps…

4. Tour, tour, tour, tour, tour.

It is still the best way of promotion. Getting a headline show or headline small festival slot puts you on the path to doing a headline tour or headline big festival, where the decent appearance fees lie! And you improve sales of merchandise whenever you play (Berzerker sold 1700 pounds worth of merch at Damnation last year, a band like Cradle of Filth or Carcass do a LOT more). You also shift CDs when on the road, and a large CD sales figure is still the best way to open doors to bigger promotions, appearances, awards, and opportunities. Met with a lot of the big bands at Brutal Assault and they tour 6-18 months straight. That is what you need to do if you want to get to the size

4. when starting off, money comes from merchandise. At the next step, money also starts coming in from decent show fees. And when you get even bigger, THEN you see money from CDs.

Merchandise is important for getting off the first step. Pay SUPER CAREFUL ATTENTION to your merchandise. You want a great design on your shirts. You want a range of goods with a range of prices so not everyone is excluded – cigarette lighters, badges, patches, shirts, hoodies. You want to have a great merch display at every gig so people are attracted to your stand and WANT to buy stuff, and have all of you helping out during peak times so that anyone wanting to buy stuff can. Get hot girls to work your stand, make all your displays colorful and interesting, hang your shirts where everyone can see them, and make sure they’re well lit. Berzerker often outsold all other bands on tour, just because we paid attention to our merch. Skinless had a great tactic of setting up a tv at their stand with a dvd player showing their own DVD, or porn. People would swarm their desk like it was a human buglight and they sold heaps.

CDs are an essential product and the object of being a musician. Be aware though it is a complimentary income stream. Don’t expect an income off them, unless you’re on the road…and even then it will be a smaller income than selling shirts.

5. money from CDs

the only real money you get from CDs when you’re with a label is to own your own publishing and have the rights to ‘mechanicals’ (mechanicals are when a label pays you for every CD of yours printed). If you sign over your publishing and mechanicals when you’re with a label you will not get any money from your CDs, ever. Simple as that. Even when a label owes you money you will have to fight and scream at them for it. You will only make money from actual CD sales when there are shitloads of them and you are either brutal and savvy enough to extract the money from the label, or if you have a GOOD manager. An example of a good manager is Gunter Ford (Morbid Angel, Nile) who loves going into random record stores then calling Earache and screeching at them if his artists aren’t stocked there.

However please be aware that it’s a new world we’re in, what with online sales and so on. It is entirely possible to sell all your CDs yourself. A label can give you good promotion and advance your career extremely quickly…but at the cost of an income. Doing it yourself can give you a steady transparent income with no obligations, but will take longer. It is entirely possible that younger people and bands will adapt to the new playing field and work out more effective ways of getting an income from music than through a label.

Also be aware that publishing is the key. Music can be used on TV, in movies, and especially in GAMES. If you tap that, then there is a great income.

The way I’m doing it now with my bands is to play just a few times a year and not commit to tours. I’m lucky to be part of known bands. That way, I can do my normal job for an income but get a few extra grand doing my other band projects. I could make a fair bit more, probably enough to live on if I did them full time – but I don’t enjoy touring enough for that to be an option and you need to enjoy touring if you want to make a living.

Tagged ,

Destroying Haters

One of the things I struggled with when Berzerker started getting big was haters.

I didn’t get it. People would rain hate on you basically for being known. You’d get emails telling you to die, guestbook entries instructing you to fuck off, and just all sorts of horrible bitchy chat. Even people who hadn’t heard us would stomp us in forums, basically because they saw a picture of us in a magazine somewhere wearing masks. We’d get called fags a hundred times a day. Local bands would bitch about how we weren’t deserving of an overseas tour, not realising that these things work on effort not merit. Hell, I even remember someone putting it out there that they knew who we were (we were anonymous at the time), and that we had rich parents who paid for us to go on tour. I read that after working two jobs and living in a squeezy share household and saving a year for tour. Mold grew on the ceiling in the loungeroom.

It drove me nuts at first. It really got to me. I was new to the world of online posting as well, where communication is a hundred times more raw than the real world. Reading some of the stuff made me feel sick, or got me so angry I’d nearly gnaw my own tongue off. I had trouble dealing with it.

I fortunately received some advice which changed how I felt pretty quick. I think I mentioned it to someone from a more experienced band, and he said words to the following effect:

“Treasure the haters. They’re the first sign that you’re becoming successful. If you don’t have a bunch of strangers who have never heard you spending their time defaming you online, then you’re nothing.”

So I learned a new equation: the more hate you attracted, the more successful you were. That made sense, and even if it didn’t made sense it made me feel better getting all these missives speculating on my sexuality or heritage. Once I started feeling better about it, then I could deal with it, and after a year or two I relished getting hate. It was like someone giving you carte blanche to kick them in the nuts.

The best hate to receive was via email. You’ve sent me an email? From your personal account? Oh goody good good good. Now I can drag out your name, find every site you’ve joined, and mock you in a spectacularly public way. Out of all the idiots to email us – from their personal email address! THEIR PERSONAL ADDRESS! – one stood out above the rest. A young moron called Jonathon Coonrod, budding artist on deviantart, decided to email Luke Berzerker one day to share his opinion on our music. The exchange went like this:

******

LUKE TO SAM :
Hahahahahahah check this
hahahahaha

“Forwarded mail:
From: removed
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 23:00:08 -0600
To: info@theberzerker.com
Subject: Techno Horror

To whom it may concern (hopefully all death metal fans),

You should be ashamed of yourselves and anybody that helps publish your music.
Please don’t bind death metal with techno, it’s embarrassing, especially if your remixing songs from Morbid Angel. For shame.

Best Regards,
Jonathan Coonrod”

SAM TO LUKE:
hah
is it a mate of yours?
Let me know if I can fuck with him some

LUKE:
Not a mate of mine. Feel free!

SAM TO HATER:
G’day Coonrod,

Thank you for your encouragement.
Based on your mail, we have decided to release our version of Morbid Angel’s ‘chapel of ghouls’ on the next CD.
 
By the way, I put your email on the morbid angel board (link out of date)
You don’t mind, do you?
  -sam, berzerker bass.vox

HATER TO SAM:
Aw, your mean

******

Now I wasn’t kidding. I did actually post his email up on the Morbid Angel bulletin board. It seemed like a good way to promote our cover song on the next CD as well as messing with the dude. The post quickly became a popular object of scorn, especially once all his personal details were uncovered by the board, and his last name was widely remarked upon. Someone found his deviantart account and we spent a merry few days critiquing his art. It was kinda fun. I came to understand why people rip on other people’s work.  Two days later, he came back with this:

******

HATER TO SAM:
After reading the posts in the morbid website thats really not cool what you
decided to do. Why do you have to get all personal? Of course everybody’s going
to back you up because not all death metal fans will agree with my opinions. And
I can’t even register to the webpage to defend myself whats with that. Well if
you want to get personal let’s do that. Come to Phoenix, we can meet up at a
park in Ocotillo. You got a band, you got money, come aussie.

SAM TO HATER:
Thank god! For a horrible moment there I thought I hadn’t pissed you off at all.
 
You’re right, everyone has a right to their opinions. For example, I am of the opinion that emailing a band to tell them to stop making music is possibly the most  homolicious thing a person can do. But that’s just my opinion.
 
Come to Phoenix? To a park? To meet you? Pffft.

Should I spend my rockstar megabucks flying across the world to take on some sappy child who cannot draw, or stay here in the UK, soak up some more adoration from metal fans, and buy cocaine by the bucketful?

Wow, hard choice.
Happy scrawling, picasso
-sam bass.vox

HATER TO SAM:
Alright let’s say I’m a sappy homolicious child. So your just going to talk shit
to a little kid and not come to face him when he’s giving you a challenge? Your
a pussy by my book, I’d say by a lot of other people’s too

SAM TO HATER:
Whatever you say, Monet.
 
Because when I’m not working, travelling, hanging with my friends and girlfriend, touring, recording – and making AWESOME morbid angel crossover tracks – I like to spend $1000 on a plane and two days of travelling to kick the ass of children. Just like everyone else in the world.

Best for you if we don’t fight. If you punch like you draw, you’ll only hurt yourself. Has anyone told you that you have the aesthetic sensibilities of Helen Keller?

Can I tell you how wonderful it is to insult someone with a dumber last name than me? I can?
Thank you.
 
-sam bass.vox

******

All these email exchanges in the meantime were going straight up onto the bulletin board, onto the Berzerker forum, and getting broadcast from Myspace to an appreciative audience of thousands.

******

HATER TO SAM:
Go ahead and keep talking shit, your not gonna back it up. You don’t even know
how I look. Hey, what if I came to you? Will you tour in US soon? Will you still
try and talk your way out if I confronted you there?

SAM TO HATER:
Of course I know what you look like.
You’re the doughboy with “own3d by beandork” all over his ass.

As for touring the US, how about never? Is never good for you? Sure as fuck works for me.
God it must frustrate the fuck out of you that I can piss you off, and there’s nothing you can do about it except amuse me with your crippling illiteracy.
 
Now go fingerpaint a bowl of fruit while I do a gabba mix of ‘Domination’.

HATER TO SAM:
But your not taking action, maybe it’s because your foreign? You see, the stance
your taking is kind of like saying your going to jump in the boxing ring and win
the fight, but you never jump in. If your not going to meet then quit talking fool.

SAM TO HATER:
My god, you’re still there?
Haven’t I stripped you of your dignity enough?
 
Can a foreigner help you with the english language? The abbreviation of “you are” is “you’re”. So your sentence “maybe it’s because your foreign” is an ungrammatical example of what passes for the squalid uneducated miasma that you call your brain. You seem to have got the hang of “it’s”, maybe there is hope for you yet.
 
Perhaps this will help?
(extinct link to a gif showing an apostrophe landing in the word ‘your’)

Pardon me if I don’t drop everything to fly to the other side of the planet to fight some random wanker. Us foreigners are kind of funny like that.

I’m not going to quit talking shit to you, and it looks like you can’t stop me. What do you think of that, oh stony broke phoenix boy with bitch tits?
-sam
 
ps: the morbid angel board is LOVING your correspondence, and encourage you to sign up.
 pps: and why not fly to the UK to meet me? You seem to have the big hard on to fight. You go book that plane. I’ll wait here.

******

And there you have it. That pretty much did it for the bulk of our correspondence.  The funny thing is, Berzerker did another tour of the US after this…but I wasn’t on it. I was replaced by Damo, a hardcore surfer and even more hardcore kickboxer. Although I relished the idea that Jonathon Coonrod would mistake Damo for me and turn up and start something, he never appeared.
Most disappointing.

Why a blog?

I’m a death metal guy who isn’t metal. I do death metal albums for fun. I’ve spent the last twelve or so years touring around blasting people with brutal music. I yell at them in a demonic growl, and occasionally smack them in the face to get our point across. I’ve got a website and a facebook page, and I blurt out all my innermost abstract thoughts on emotions on recordings. What do I want with a blog? Aren’t all those other outlets enough?

Nope. I thought long and hard about doing a blog alongside my latest release (The Senseless  ‘The Floating World’), and have some pretty specific reasons for doing this.

The band website is like a sales portal, with plenty of yummy retail window-dressing like pictures and mp3s. The facebook page is for direct interaction with the people who are into my mental music. The recordings are me searching heaven and earth for ways to get people off on sounds they haven’t heard before. In between all of this and my experience lie a bunch of yummy stories and wacked-out thoughts that I share with friends at the time. I’ve been reading back over them, and they’re pretty ridiculous. It seems a bit selfish to keep them hidden on my drives and emails, so I’ll chuck ’em out here.

Last time I released a Senseless album all sorts of bizarre music industry stuff happened. I reckon this blog – one step removed from the ‘professional’ face of the band – is a good place to document it. I’m no longer behoven to a label or distributor, or have any media figures to keep onside, so I can let my mouth run free. It may prove illuminating! – but honestly, it’ll probably better serve as a destination for some hot rants that I will feel mildly embarrassed about later. The music industry has always been a bus shelter jammed with rotters and it will be fun to recount some candid experiences instead of gnawing on my tongue.

And lastly, I get asked a bit by other bands and musicians for advice. God knows why, they probably want to ask Lamb of God or Cannibal Corpse, or someone who actually makes a living from their music instead of doing it as a hobby. However I do have the odd recommendation that isn’t completely retarded. My experiences in music have been an exercise in making a lot happen with very little time and next to no money. This has forced us to focus on what is efficient and effective, and to think clearly about how to achieve your goals in a band as quickly as possible. Plus I’ve had the luck to work alongside some geniuses and have nicked their working methods. I may ask for the odd guest to offer a few gems of wisdom. Again, a blog seems the best place to share.

Anyways, enough faff. Time to get stuff up.