My last show in London was with Berzerker in 2008 and it was another merry-go-round of stress, violence, bouncers, blah blabbity blah blah. Seriously, it’s like all my stories start off with a combination of those words. I’ll keep this one short as I’m just recounting the before-and-after of a certain YouTube clip.
We were in London for the last show of a complete arse of a UK tour. The day started off crap and became increasingly stressful. We had to return a motorhome to Essex and we were in Nuneaton. I love the filthy mental image that springs up whenever I think of Nuneaton, it’s kinda reminiscent of that Cradle of Filth t-shirt for some reason. We had to get the motorhome back by a certain hour and cleaned perfectly otherwise we’d be charged another day’s rental. This would be stretching my credit card, as I had to give my details for the motorhome to be released to us in the first place. Nice pre-tour surprise, that. Also the motorhome rental guy was a gym owner and a total fucking hulk. I didn’t want to see him mad.
Everyone was late waking up in Nuneaton, then dragged their feet so we were slow getting on the road. We had to drop off one of the guys in Kettering so he could travel with guest and producer legend Russ Russell down to the show. I think it was Martin who we chose to go, our insane and short-lived Swedish guitarist. This would give me enough space in my car to drive the other guys and our equipment from Essex to London. I had parked my car at the rental place where we picked the motorhome up at the start of tour. We got to Kettering and when Martin got out Luke decided he’d get out too and travel with them to London, leaving me and Todd to deliver the now-late motorhome to the roid-monster in Essex by ourselves.
I was pissed. It’s times like that you really need a manager, or tour manager, or someone else to take care of that shit. The absolute last thing I was thinking about was playing a show. Todd and I drove the remaining 100 miles to Essex stressing every inch of the way. When we arrived I apologised, begged, scraped, and talked the gym owner dude into waiving the extra day’s rental he’d been threatening us with. Somehow, we got away with it. I think when he saw us climb into the motorhome on the first day – Todd and Martin with dreadlocks, Luke with mohawk – he was convinced it would be returned full of human faeces and animal sacrifice. When he saw that we returned it in top nick it I guess it surprised him enough to drop the extra charges.
As soon as we were in my car and away, part two of the mission began: we had to get to the M25 and head into London before peak hour began and the roads stopped moving. The speed limit on the motorways is apparently 70 although the English treat it more as a guideline. If you’re caught driving at 100 miles an hour though you automatically lose your licence . I drove at an average of 99 mph and managed to make the turnoff from the M25 into London just as peak hour began.
Todd by now had gone quiet. He was crammed in amongst all sorts of equipment, and the stress of the day plus being jammed into my car wasn’t treating him well. I heard the occasional groan from him. I had to drive to Camden right in the guts of London where everything is a no-standing zone with double-decker buses screaming towards you down a one-way street. I didn’t have GPS or anything, I had written directions that I’d glance at feverishly whenever the traffic stopped. Which was a lot of the time.
After an hour of traffic-battle we got to Camden. I parked outside of The Underworld in the parking bay with the least amount of threatening parking signs and Todd and I ripped all the equipment out of the car. I sprinted into the venue to find one of the guys and get them to come up and help Todd while I found a place to park overnight. I found someone, ran back to the car and there was a parking officer writing me a ticket. I had only been away thirty seconds. I nearly burst into tears at that point until a passing Londoner told me that they can’t give you a ticket if you leave before they finish writing it. I threw myself into the car and sped off into traffic. There was a big overnight car park ten minutes walk down the road, and I ditched the car there. Never got that fine, either.
So that was the warm-up. Later that night we got up on stage and pounded out our set. I remember there was some girl sitting on the edge of stage with her back to us, so I rested my foot on the back of her head like she was foldback monitor. We were halfway through the gig and playing ‘All About You’ when Luke jumped into the crowd. Not to smash anyone, just to sing with people and get amongst it. He had a wireless mic. Near the end of the song he exited the side of the pit and took the sidestage walkway back to stage. He had to pass a bouncer to get from the sidestage to the main stage. Something happened. I didn’t see what. Luke got back to stage, we finished the song, and I saw him motion with his hand out to Todd: WAIT. DON’T START THE NEXT SONG. He looked angry. Here we go, I thought, I wonder what tech problems we’ve got this time. As soon as Luke saw that Todd had paused the click track, he turned around and said this. I insist you click on that link. It is vital to this story. Make sure it’s in an environment where people aren’t offended by some balls-out swearing though.
Don’t have access to YouTube? That’s a shame. Let me transcribe for you what happened here…..but brace yourself for some severely NSFW language:
LUKE: Thankyou very much.
<crowd cheers, Luke double-checks Todd is still waiting, then continues>
LUKE: And for my troubles, on the way back to the stage I was kicked in the arse by this motherfucking bouncer and punched in the stomach <points at the bouncer>
You think it’s fucking TOUGH? <inaudible> CUNT.
<people in the crowd start shouting ‘Fuck You’ at the bouncer>
LUKE: <pointing at bouncer to punctuate> That was fucking WEAK-AS-PISS. You’re here to look after cunts. You’re paid to make sure nothing happens, not to cause SHIT.
<crowd cheers lustily>
LUKE: <inaudible> SCUMBAG CUNT! Do you UNDER-FUCKING-STAND? Fuckin’ kick me, you CUNT? <shakes his head> Unbelievable, unFUCKINbelievable, I travel all the way from Australia to play for these fucking people and I have to deal with <points at bouncer, splutters with fury, and is lost for words briefly>
<someone in the crowd screams out ‘KILL HIM’>
LUKE: I wouldn’t give you the time of day, honestly that’s bullshit <goes back, gives the nod to Todd>
LUKE: This next song I can send straight out to this cunt <points at bouncer>. It’s simply entitled ‘Pure Hatred’. That’s how I feel. That’s how I fuckin’ feel……DIEEEEE!
We launched straight into the track and the crowd fucking EXPLODED. There was no pit; the entire floor was a pit. People lost their fucking minds. It was like that the rest of the gig. I looked up after ‘Pure Hatred’ and the bouncers had left the room. The rest of the night was a free-for-all.
Afterwards kind of sucked though. The bouncers turned up swinging chains once everyone was out of the venue and gave us five minutes to get all our shit out. As soon as we were outside, they barred all the doors and locked up for the night. I guess I should be thankful they didn’t chain-whip us but the main street of Camden is probably a bit busy for highjinx like that. Luke tried following up the incident in the weeks and months afterwards, he wanted to sue the bouncer for assault but he couldn’t even get the guy’s name from the venue. The booking agents couldn’t or wouldn’t do shit, as usual. The venue wouldn’t release the bouncer’s name and as far as everyone else was concerned, that was fucking that. Recourse for musicians who get beaten up by bouncers during their own gigs? It doesn’t exist, unless you’re Pearl Jam or someone that size.
That was my last show in London, and my final one with Berzerker in England. I was 33 years old.
postscript: Naturally, I asked Luke if he wanted to add anything to this story. He wrote “As I was returning to the stage I was kicked from behind. I turned around to see who what the fuck happened. With no warning a bouncer punched me in the stomach. I shat blood for the next 3 days.”
postscript no.2: I was in England during the London Riots. That was the week where the country’s oiks decided to express how pathetic they are by looting every sportswear and electronics store in the city and burning down everything else. I was sickened and saddened by this, but heard a happy rumour: that the World’s End pub and the Underworld club in Camden had both burned down. I immediately made a special trip up to London to see it. I planned to get a souvenir coal and post it to Luke, with a photo of me taking a piss on the ashes of the Underworld. Unfortunately both venues were still standing and unharmed when I got there. Then it started raining. I haven’t been back to London since, not counting the day I flew from Heathrow and left the country for good.