I toured with Skinless in 2001, and had never heard of them before until we ended up on the road with them. It was a unique experience in many ways.
It demonstrated to us the width and breadth of America as a music scene. We didn’t know who Skinless were but they were universally popular and well-known throughout the country. Everyone seemed to have a shirt or CD of theirs. How the hell hadn’t we heard of them before? We found out later that they had spent some years in a van criss-crossing the country and were hardcore road-dogs. We’d turned up after years of touring gave them a contract with Relapse, and bigger tours.
They taught us many things about getting by touring. I think the most important skills they trained us in were the ability to entertain yourself anywhere, the ability to sleep anywhere, and how to run a merch stand. Their merch stand was the best at every show. They brought retail cases and stands for their CDs. They had made a VHS tape about one of their tours, and they were selling that. They had lights, disco balls, soft toys suspended from the ceiling. They had a TV playing either the Skinless VHS tape, or some mad Hentai shit like ‘Professor Pain’. No, don’t look that up.
A TV on the merch stand was like a buglight at a gig. People just honed in on it (“what are they DOING to that girl?”) and before they knew what was going on they’d be standing right at the merch table. Akim, Skinless’s charismatic New York dogsbody, would yell some cheesy sales line at them and that would be that. “Only two girls shirts left!” he’d holler, despite a full box of them being at his feet. “Last chance for romance!”
Speaking of merch stands I should also note that Skinless were all wrestling fiends, and they powerbombed each other through Mayhem’s merch stand at the Asbury Park metalfest and got kicked out of the festival. You know Mayhem? A band full of death? Singer shot himself, band made bracelets out of his skull fragments? The drunken malevolent norwegians from that infamous Wacken interview: “Who are these people? Fuck them! We are the greatest metal band in the world! Fuck you!”? Yeah them. The poor bastards could only sit there as the Skinless guys launched each other straight through the flimsy trestle table housing all their CDs and smashed the lot all over the floor. They were banned from that festival, the second-last one in the entire country they hadn’t already been blacklisted from playing. They managed a full sweep by the end of the tour when they were banned from playing Massachussets Metalfest due to a massive stagedive by singer Sherwood.
This story happened just before they got banned from Asbury Park. We had all been having one of those typical touring band conversations around the question, what’s something you’d like to do on stage that you’ve never done? Most guys answer the same thing: get a blowjob, get naked, set someone on fire, piss on the front row, etc etc etc. My answer was that I’d like to do the rock’n’roll thing where you stage dive on a crowd while playing your guitar. Y’know, except I wanted to be playing at 300bpm, not rocking out. You sometimes see dudes do that stagedive, they surf around the crowd on their back while still playing and get passed around the audience. I always thought it looked cool.
Anyway, fast forward a couple of days to the Asbury Park metalfest. I was onstage with Berzerker, all masked up and we were playing to around two thousand people. We were about halfway through our set and had just started ‘Cannibal Rites’. I was playing guitar and yelling into a microphone and quite enjoying myself when Sherwood and Joe from Skinless walked up and grabbed one of my legs each. I had a really optimistic two or three seconds where I thought they were merely going to elevate me and walk me around. Instead they walked me to the front of stage, and on a count of three I could only hear dimly through my mask, they threw me over the security barrier and into the front row.
It didn’t work very well. There were a couple of metres gap between the stage and the barrier and I didn’t make the full distance. I landed half on the barrier and went guitar-first into the front row. I think my guitar plowed someone’s face. My mic leads were tangled up with me so the microphone got dragged briskly into the crowd and there was a loud THONK over the PA as it cracked someone else in the head. Security lost their shit. I couldn’t see anything as someone had grabbed my mask and was trying to pull it off and the eyeholes were now around the back of my head, and I could hear the bouncers screaming “jesus CHRIST!” In the light it probably looked like someone was pulling my face off. I think a couple of them grabbed me and managed to place me back on stage. I’m not sure how I made it through the rest of the song, or set for that matter.
Sherwood was waiting for me on the side of stage after the show. When I walked up to him he did a who-me shrug and said “Hey! You DID tell us that you wanted to stagedive while playing guitar!”
Be careful what you wish for.