Despite my adventures, I was the first one out of my band back onto the Four-Wheeled Portaloo. I crawled into my bunk which was floor height so I could get the stench of chemical toilet right in my face. I was starting to doze off when I heard Luke get on the bus with some guests and a few girls. I saw feet by my face. One of them had very pale delicate ankles. I reached out and grabbed it and heard a girl scream. I fastened on with the other hand and tried to drag her into the bunk but her friends grabbed her and after a brief tug-of-war they hoisted her out of my reach. They made their excuses and left.
First Show in Scotland
I love Scotland, always have. At first it was because of the grievous little adventures I got into there on tour with the cheerfully homicidal Scottish folk. Later on, when I moved to England and spent the first years in a fog of council-tax-TV-licence-chavs-Jeremy-Kyle-WTF, I loved their bloody-minded hatred of everything English. In my day-to-day life in Bournemouth everyone seemed completely OK with England’s homogenous grey drab concrete high-street mediocrity and to me, the Scottish loathing of England seemed evidence that I hadn’t yet gone insane. Yes, I realise what I just typed.
I worked for an American bank in England and most of my colleagues were Scottish so it was like this ménage a trois of hatred and bigotry. The English hated the Americans, the Scottish hated the English and Americans, I hated the English and Americans on behalf of Australia, and the Americans hated no-one because you need a soul to feel emotions. The Scottish guys were always floating the idea of taking a hacksaw to the length of Hadrian’s Wall and kicking England further away into the channel, an idea with some merit.
Some of my funniest times were on an IT helpdesk shift with an English guy called David and a Scottish guy called Robbie. We’d play three-player Tanks on a spare machine between taking IT calls whenever we were stuck on nightshift, and the sledging would get absolutely brutal. Robbie and I would start on David for being a degenerate imperialist cock from an abomination of a country. David would gently remind me of my criminal heritage. I would point out to David that he came from a country so incredibly venal that it needed to colonise a land mass a hundred times its size just to find a place to put all its scum. Robbie would be laughing at this point, so I’d speculate on his exotic appearance usually by inferring that one of his female ancestors had an unfortunate encounter with a Portuguese pirate. David would then explain to Robbie that his country didn’t actually exist and that ‘Scotland’ was merely a brand-name the English used to identify a tiresome acquisition. All of this back-and-forth was punctuated by us bombing each other into oblivion on the computer. We’d get Robbie to the point where he’d be spluttering with fury and then he’d get a call that would push him over the edge…some manager travelling in the countryside around Guangzhou who got the blue screen of death on their laptop, or a retard trader who was trying to work out how to log on remotely; an unfixable problem from someone who had no chance of understanding our instructions, which possibly wouldn’t help them even if they did. Robbie would sit there suffused with fury and Dave and I would laugh at him. I heard Robbie got a tumour on his lung a few years later and had to have his entire lung removed, and I like to think that the tumour was a physical manifestation of all the anger built up from working on shift with us.
I digress. Scotland, I’ve always liked. I’ve tried to explain why, but that didn’t quite work did it? So it might be a case of first love – the first time I went to Scotland was to play a show in Glasgow and Jesus Christ that night was rough and I loved it. Every time I played there I came away with another story.
Berzerker was on its first headline tour of the UK. We were touring with Labrat, Red Harvest, and Insision. The Red Harvest guys were Norwegian dudes. They were lovely, even their singer who has the most psychopathic hundred yard stare ever.
Insision are a bunch of Swedes. Their singer Carl is a total maniac. His face was constantly bright red from screaming at everyone, and he lost his voice halfway through the tour. Lastly, there were the Londoners Labrat. They were bad, bad, bad boys and agent provocateurs. Whichever direction your worst intent took you, there’d be one of the Labrat guys urging you along. We called them ‘La Brats’. They broke up not long after tour and their collective components spread across England’s metal industry like cholera. I hear they’ve reformed. Fortunately, I live in Australia now.
All the bands were travelling on a nice Skyliner bus except for us. We were on a small bus without heating during one of the coldest Decembers in recent history. Additionally the bus toilet was broken and leaking effluent into the carpet. Our tour manager Baz from Blah Blah Blah tours dealt with the problem by laying cardboard on the floor to soak it up. By the second day of tour even the cardboard was starting to get soggy and the smell was eye-watering. It took me until the second-last day of tour to wise up and steal a berth on the Skyliner instead.
We arrived in Glasgow in our Chariot of Piss to play a club called Strawberry Fields. We were there all of five minutes when we saw the posters in the men’s toilets. The posters were of three people murdered on three separate occasions out the back of the club over the last six months or so. The bottom of the poster carried a reminder not to venture out to the back alley alone – the very alley our bus was parked in. Hmmm. We managed to unload our gear and soundcheck without getting stabbed to death, and headed out for a few pre-show beers with La Brats. I wasn’t too concerned about the warning to be honest. We’d played Detroit already and the British Isles are all about knife crime. At least I had the option of outrunning potential assailants.
The pre-show beers didn’t last too long. We got kicked out of the pub. One of La Brats – possibly Nathan – went to the toilet with some Nutella, and came back with it smeared all over toilet paper. He ‘accidentally’ tripped over and got it over singer Martin’s face. This was followed by one of our mates doing a line of pepper off the table. That was enough for the publican. We didn’t really understand what he was saying but we got the message: Get out. You are lowering the tone of a pub in Glasgow.
I can’t remember too much from the show except it was a cracker. The crowd went apeshit from go to woah, and both Matt and myself stagedived at the end of the set. We were told to get out quickly as the place turned into a gaybar thirty minutes after the show ended. Our wonderful promoter Kelvin organised a night out for us at the Cathouse. The guys from Co-Exist came along, and I was introduced to the drink Buckfast by their drummer Quzzy. Buckfast “gets you fucked fast” according to the locals and is the most Scottish of drinks. It is as clear as present danger, as caustic as a billion amplified bagpipes, and as intoxicating as the image of a Scottish boot stepping onto an English face, forever. Quzzy looks like a dangerous thug and we slugged back shots of this potable paint-stripper together straight out the bottle all the way to the Cathouse. I’d say the day was getting better and better but honestly, I didn’t see daylight once the entire two weeks we were on tour so I’ll say the night got better instead.
We partied hard at the Cathouse. I can only start remembering stuff from when the night began drawing to a close, which is fortunate because that’s when things got weird. I had picked up some Scottish girl with a black eye, not because I was particularly into her but because she said she had some crack that I could smoke. This happened back in the early 2000’s so I’m hoping that the statute of limitations for behaving like a dickhead has passed. This black-eyed strumpet had some crack to smoke, I’d never had it before and I figured when in Glasgow drink Buckfast and smoke crack.
In retrospect, I think it was all just a cunning ruse to get me back to her flat and use me sexually. She had already gathered that I wasn’t that into her and her offering of crack was just a ploy. She had already asked if she could blow me and I’d responded only if I could wee in her mouth. We were about to leave the club to head for her place when two of La Brats turned up like God himself making a chess move, and asked her if she could recommend a prostitute for them.
Yes, she said. Her flatmate was a prostitute. Her place was a short walk away. They could come along with us and she’d hook them up. So we happy few walked down the stairs and across town, us band of brothers, me with this chick with a shiner who had by now consented to getting pissed on and would share crack with me, the fellas giddily looking forward to destroying some Glaswegian hooker. We exited the town centre, crossed a few streets, and entered the area known as The Gorbals.
Here are some choice excerpts from Wikipedia’s entry on The Gorbals:
The Gorbals has long had a reputation as a gritty and rough area of Glasgow. It became widely known as a dangerous slum and was subject to efforts at redevelopment, which contributed to more problems such as homeless people and diseases spreading. The name is remarkably similar to a Lowland Scots word gorbal/gorbel/garbal/garbel (unfledged bird), perhaps a reference to lepers who were allowed to beg for alms in public. Throughout the 1980s, the Gorbals was often referred to as the most dangerous place in the UK, as street gangs and casual violence were rife, particularly from the famous Glasgow razor gangs. Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer, was born at The Gorbals as Ian Duncan Stewart.
We skipped and tra-la-la’d into this place with the girl leading the way. It took me a good ten minutes before I sensed something was wrong. I was pretty drunk and had a mammoth ego that blinded me to even the vaguest flashes of reality, but I started getting a gut feeling. I realised that we were the only ones out on the street, and that no cars were driving down these roads. Indeed, the only car I could see had all its windows smashed and was burned out. There were buildings but their windows were boarded up. Even worse, our femme facilitator was now walking some distance ahead of us and had been saying “it’s just around the next corner” for about the last ten minutes. And every time she said it, it sounded like she was calling it out to someone else out of sight. This was not good. I was coming to conclusions at about the point that La Brats sidled casually over and whispered surreptitiously out of the corner of their mouths.
“Sam”, one said, “we’re in the Gorbals. This is the most violent place in the UK. I don’t think we’re going to get our prostitute.”
“I don’t think I’m going to get my crack” I glumly replied.
“There’s a main road back down the left”, said the other. “I reckon on the count of three, we make a run for it and jump in the first taxi we see. What do you think?”
It sounded like a good plan. Besides I was cold, starting to sober up, and had the feeling we were being watched. We whispered one, two, THREE then sprinted off down the street laughing our heads off. It didn’t register with any of us that we’d left this girl by herself. In my mind she was setting us up for something so she deserved it. We got to the main road and hailed an elderly cab driver who seemed astonished at the sight of two very alternative English and one giggling Australian sprinting out of the Gorbals waving at him. When we arrived back at the bus, Baz, the bus driver, and Kelvin the promoter nearly wept with relief. Someone had turned up at the club after we’d left and told them we were last seen walking into the Gorbals, and everyone was convinced that they wouldn’t even be able to find our bodies.
Years later when I told this story to my Scottish work colleagues, they’d piss themselves laughing. Then they’d tell me that it was amazing I wasn’t killed. Then they’d start debating amongst themselves; no, it was the English that would have been killed. They would have kept the Australian alive as a curiosity because of the accent, and I would have just been maimed a bit. Then they say that the Gorbals aren’t as bad anymore as they used to be. At least that’s what I think they say, because they all sound like this.