The Berzerker headlined the Earache Christmas Party in 2002. True to form, we acted like dicks. Here’s what I remember.
We were at the end of our first UK tour, and we looked and smelled like homeless bums who had stolen a bunch of music equipment. The tour was closing out with a headline appearance at the annual Earache Christmas Party in their hometown of Nottingham. The venue for the party was Rock City. We were actually really excited about the gig for about ten minutes or so until someone told us that we weren’t actually playing on the main stage. We were to be playing in a small side-room instead.
There was one glorious feature of that tour: it was sponsored by Jagermeister. Countless cases of Jagermeister had been crammed into the back of the tour bus along with promotional Jagermeister t-shirts which we plundered in lieu of doing laundry. Every night started off with two ginormous bottles of Jagermeister that we were supposed share around with people. Naturally we shared it primarily amongst ourselves. This proved to be a wise investment on Jagermeister’s part because I’ve been addicted to the filthy stuff ever since, and they have more than made their money back from me alone. In true touring style venues would only give us a little water and no juice or soft drink so everyone ended up subsisting on the Jager. We had Earache’s previous PR chick Jo to thank for the hook-up, so I ensured that she was thanked. Then her replacement Sara came up to have a word with us.
Sara is a small alternative chick with short hair who wears a beanie most of the time. She took us aside to share some DO’s and DON’Ts with us. I only remember one of them, and that was because it seemed so completely ridiculous: basically, she told us not to terrorize Cult of Luna. They’re a Swedish alt-rock metal slow-song bunch of boys who were on before us that night. Apparently they were afraid of us. Well not so much us, the masks. Sara specifically forbade us from scaring them while we were wearing the masks. I thought she was joking. We’d just finished a US tour playing to thousands of people, none of whom seemed the least bit frightened. But she was dead-set finger-wagging serious. We nodded expressionlessly while I made a mental note to storm the stage wearing my mask during their set and try and bite as many of them as possible.
We had to get masked up early in the afternoon as it turned out. Metal Hammer had sent a photographer to take shots of us both as the band and individually. The shots were done in the main room of Rock City and took around an hour all up. I forget exactly how it happened, but we decided to remain masked-up and creep around Rock City with the photographer following us, getting some action shots of us ‘interacting with the environment’. The first thing we did was hunt down Sara. We found her in the small side-room that the gig was going to be in. She was standing up on a bench near the wall putting up posters. We swarmed her and lifted her above our rubbery fanged heads and ran around going GRAAAAAH. She screamed uncontrollably. We were pleased.
Our next target didn’t go so well. Luke and I spotted Digby Pearson in the foyer of the venue, and the cameraman suggested that we grab Dig and do the same thing to him. Dig had cameras and handheld videos hanging around his neck and in his coat pockets. There were a few people around. The Metal Hammer photographer got in position. For those not in the know, Digby (aka Dig) is the head of Earache Records and was putting the on the party at his own personal expense. Luke and I split up and started circling him, getting closer. I really don’t know what our plan was now I think of it. Maybe wrestle him, take him down, and whoever had the best position could try and fit the top half of his head in the mouth of their mask and make it look like we were eating his brains. Dig saw us circling him and kind of smiled and went “what’s going on here?” We lunged in. Luke went for the top half, I went for his legs. The photographer got in close and started snapping.
Dig fucking lost it. The first thing I realized was that he was not going down. He was fighting like his life depended on it. I became aware that he was quite a bit heavier than me and bucking wildly. Luke backed off and I felt some seriously heavy punches whistle past my face. When you can wear a few inches of latex around your head but still feel the proximity of fisticuffs, you know they’re not fucking around. I stepped back. Dig was red faced and furious and ready to kick some ass. Luke and the photographer went running off to the main room giggling like schoolboys and I raced after them.
We convened there. Dig ran in after us, came straight up to me, and got right in my face and started yelling.
“You think that’s fucking funny do you? You try that on me again you little cunt, and I’ll FUCKING KILL YOU”
I was concerned. For all intents and purposes, this guy was our boss – buying our flights, paying bills, and responsible for our career. I’m not sure what response we were expecting from our half-hearted mugging attempt, but this wasn’t it.
Dig raced after the photographer next. “Give me that fucking film!”
The photographer, who was a credit to his profession, replied “Who the fuck are you?”
“The guy paying your fucking bills!” Dig snapped.
At this point Luke stepped in and they all moved to the other side of the room for a chat. I watched the back and forth go for a while and couldn’t really make out what was going on. Whatever Luke said seemed to calm everything down a bit, cause after a few minutes there was the metal handshake and Dig walked away a bit calmer than he’d arrived. Once he was downstairs Luke turned to me and started pissing himself laughing.
“HAHAHAHAHAHA! Ahhhhahahaha wasn’t that the FUNNIEST thing you’ve ever seen? HAHAHAHAHAH”
I was like, I don’t know. We’d made a sport of hassling Dig and ripping on him ever since we’d started with the label…but this felt like we’d pushed it too far. Or had we?
“What just happened?” I said.
“Ah, he said he was worried because he had lots of expensive camera equipment on him and stuff, and he was thought it was going to get broken when we went after him. Or something like that.” Luke said dismissively. “He wanted those photos deleted as well, once they were gone he calmed down a bit.”
The photographer came over and smirked. “Didn’t get all of them, though”. He showed us a few snaps of us brawling with our record label manager on the floor.
The rest of the show got blurry. I started necking little minibar bottles of Jagermeister that were floating around, breaking my rule of no-preshow-drinks. At the insistence of Labrat’s Martin Ives, I watched Cult of Luna (maskless). He proclaimed their songs to be like “ten-minute long orgasms”, leading me to deduce that he had the libido of a Galapagos turtle on sedatives. That was back in the day where I had zero tolerance for any slow metal.
Luke absolutely loathed Cult of Luna. The label had organized cameramen to film our show for the upcoming ‘Principles and Practices of The Berzerker’ DVD, and the venue had some stupid British curfew rule where they’d ring the bell, turn the lights on, and kick everyone out. Bands had to be punctual. We didn’t want our live performance for the DVD to cut out halfway through with the lights getting turned on and some muppet ringing a bell. Cult of Luna not only played overtime – understandable, seeing as though they play at 20bpm – but did one of those rockstar endings where they make a great big wall of noise and feedback, put their instruments down while still plugged in, and walked off. Yes, bravo guys. We waited for them to come back and pack up, but they didn’t reappear. Luke stormed backstage to find them and tell them to get rid of their stuff so we could set up, but they’d vanished. Eventually he found them out the back of the venue and screamed at them to clear their shit off.
I remember nearly getting into a fistfight with some guy backstage, who thought it would be cute to grab at my mask pre-show and twist it around. That kind of thing happened a bit in the UK. I remember our first Leeds show, I was setting my equipment up pre-gig kneeling down at the front of the stage with my in-ear monitors dangling. I was trying to get everything ready as quick as possible with everyone in front of me yelling and trying to get my attention. One of the kids thought he’d do that by grabbing my in-ears and yanking them. The in-ears cost over $200 and I had one set to keep me going for the entire tour. I grabbed his hand, twisted it, and tried to break his fingers. He slipped his hand away quickly and stepped back with a smile that said, I know, I went too far.
We played our show, and it was the one that ended up on the DVD. I suckled on a full bottle of vodka for the entire gig, you can see that sucker just get drained on the recording. I was hammered. I remember walking on the bar playing my bass. I remember telling the cameraman to get out of the way before ‘Monogrind’, and kicking the security barrier into the front row as violently as I could. I can’t remember much else. That is the only time I’ve ever done a show drunk.
Afterwards, I found Dig and made my peace with him. We posed for a photo with him getting me in a headlock. I figured we were square. I had a chat with Rob or Dan from Earache, and they mentioned Mick Kenney from Anaal Nathrakh was at the party. I went squeeeee and demanded we be introduced. I had heard ‘The Codex Necro” a few months previously and thought “at last…..we have some competition!” Retrospect is hilarious, isn’t it? I had a chat with Mick where he talked about what necro really was.
I woke up the next day with a huge hangover. It was the end of tour and we had a month’s break before the next tour in the US. Matt, the guitarist, was asleep nearby. I woke him up to get my belt back off him (we were sharing one between us), then got the tour manager Baz to give me a lift to the airport. I missed my flight to Amsterdam and was 40 kg over the baggage limit. I threw a tantrum – a shamelessly rock-star huge ego shouty tantrum – and a lovely attendant booked me a cheap seat on the next flight and waived the excess as long as I could get it down to only 20kg over the limit. I dragged my bag over to a bin. I was travelling with a cricket bag at the time. I opened it up and threw away ten kilos worth of CDs and t-shirts that people had given me, dressed up in the rest and stuffed my pockets with everything that was heavy, then got on a plane out of there.
*postscript: Luke contacted me to chastise me for not going in harder against Cult of Luna. “I hate those little fucking Swedish bastards!” he cried. “What are they called again? Cunt of Luna? I want to smash their faces. You’re going soft in your old age.”