Tag Archives: Corporation 187

Headline Berzerker European Tour 2003

I did my first – and last – headline tour of Europe with Berzerker in 2003.

This came at the end of six months or so of dragging our song-and-dance show around the world through numerous stressful incidents, crashes, death threats, and last-minute bandmate replacements. I therefore wasn’t able to enjoy the occasion as much as I might have. I was exhausted, I wanted to go home, and I had already decided to leave the band as a full-time occupation.

I considered the band to be my full-time job from joining in 1999 through to 2003. I guess you can say I went ‘part-time’ until 2008. Although I was working corporate jobs during that time, I’d quit them to go on tour and turn down various offers to go full-time. Music was my priority. I’ve got no regrets, but I certainly wonder what might have been if I’d followed a few of them up. I always thought we’d break through with Berzerker and turn it into the kind of big band we’d make a full-time living from, but by 2003 that illusion had vanished. I had seen enough to know it wasn’t going to happen.

Our label did not have the business nous to push us in the brave new digital age, and seemed to want to ignore us and their grind roots in favour of more indie bands. They no longer thought of themselves as a metal label. Any money made by the band went straight back into the band, there was almost no percentage finding its way back to our pockets.  We had ignored the rule of small business: pay yourself first, everyone else later. We were masked and anonymous, so we weren’t getting appreciation or fame or credit for our work. I remember Devin Townsend remarking what a good job Luke did writing the guitar for ‘Dissimulate’ and I was like, dude, Matt and I wrote almost all the riffs on that except for ‘Last Mistake’. Devin stared at me silently and his facial expressions said it all: they went from incomprehension, to disgust, then pity.

And lastly, we’d played with the big extreme bands who’d ‘made it’ and it looked like the shittest lifestyle ever to me. Everyone lived on fast food and beer. No-one was making much money. They were mostly miserable. Legends like Napalm Death were in share-houses and had day jobs to go back to when they were off tour. People weren’t heading off on ski-holidays or for degustation dinners between tours, they were heading back to their blue-collar job and saving money to do another tour. Sure, bands like Immolation had their shit together enough to make some decent paydays on national tours, but even they were back to work when the tour was done. And there was never a point where tours ran smoothly without the need for screaming at people, threatening others, and rolling with the various scams and fuckups that the industry would throw at you.

I clearly remember when Matt and I told Luke we were done touring. We were halfway through the US tour of 2003 and Luke asked if we were up for doing an Arch Enemy national support tour back in the US after the European tour was done. He’d been asking us repeatedly, and we’d put off answering. Eventually I bit the bullet and said, no, the european tour will be it for me. Matt broke off from one of his vast silent staring-at-nothing moments to add that he was finished as well. I half expected Luke to blow up but he took it pretty well.

So when it came time for the European headline tour, I knew it was probably going to be my last ever full overseas tour. The tour was organised by Earache Records to showcase us and two other Earache bands, Corporation 187 and December. At first this sounded like a good idea: cut out the lying cheating booking agents and tour managers, and run everything directly between the label and the bands. Naturally, the tour turned out to be a pile of shit. In what has to be the most stunningly trusting move in music industry history, the promoters for each venue were paid and provided promotional materials in advance. This resulted in absolutely no promotion being done and all the promotional materials getting binned. In one or two cases, the gigs were cancelled and the promoter tried their luck at holding onto the money. Additionally, the posters were done with the trendy new Earache logo and were fluorescent pink-orange in colour so they looked like they were advertising a happy-trance danceparty.

We arrived the day before tour and stayed with the Earache Press Chick from the time. I had been sunburned the day before in Miami and I was already starting to blister and peel and look fucking horrifying. I was actually looking forward to hiding away in the mask for once. I remember we chatted in the kitchen for a bit. Matt Zane and his band Society One had just done a show at Download where he was suspended via back piercings for the entire set, and I thought it was the maddest thing I’d ever seen.  I remember wondering why on earth Earache weren’t giving them a huge push and putting them upfront on the website and everything. They were obviously the best new prospect the label had going at the time. The band gave one more album to Earache and left the label just over a year later.

The Earache Press Chick asked us and the other bands to keep a tour diary, so the label could keep doing press updates with various diary excerpts during the tour. It sounded like a good idea. When it became apparent mid-tour that these diary pieces represented more promotional effort than the promoters themselves were making, we became less enthused. I kept writing it anyway as my bile needed to spill out somewhere, and just recently I found it on an old hard-drive that decided to start working again. Here it is below, with updates where I expand and digress on anything that needs expanding.

EUROPEAN TOUR W/ CORPORATION 187 and DECEMBER

(Original entries in italics)
* note: the original entries remain unchanged except for selective changing of ‘the Berzerker’ to Luke. We were anonymous in those days. Those entries have been updated to avoid confusion.

28 feb Rio, Bradford, UKwe were extremely nervous about this gig as it was Ryan’s first show drumming for us. He had only flown in earlier in the day, and we were unsure whether or not he would make it through customs seeing as though he didn’t have a visa like the rest of us. Hell, he only got his passport the day before…true Berzerker drummer style! (note – Gary, the usual drummer, left applying for his US visa so late back in Australia that I had to enter the US embassy after hours with the assistance of a friendly embassy staff member to pick up his passport…the day before catching our planes to the US). Fortunately, things went off without too many problems and we were able to relax and get in the groove of pounding out a show.

Rio, Bradford, UK is a fucking toilet. I remember looking at the parking lot outside the venue and reflecting that I’d seen cleaner garbage dumps. I also remember an overwhelming sense of relief due to Ryan not only making it into the UK but also us being able to play the set without a significant car-crash moment. We had to sneak him in separately to us and bring his sticks, kicks, and cymbals in ourselves as he didn’t have a visa. If he wasn’t allowed in the country, we had no backup plan.

01 mar Corporation, Sheffield, UK. – this place was always good for partying afterwards but kind of shonky for gigs as it doesn’t hold too many people. This show had all the usual hijinx – spraying water on the crowd, kicking bottles down the side staircase, balancing precariously on top of the PA, etc, followed by everyone running around the club getting ludicrously drunk afterwards.

The first time we played this venue we became pathetically excited by the masses of kids crowding outside the place. We thought everyone was here to see us kick ass and do our thing. No such luck. The venue is a big multi-story nightclub with a tiny music venue tacked onto the side of it and everyone was waiting for the club to open, not to see us. The venue fit about eighty people, tops.

Somebody kick Baby Jane out of the way and let’s get this gig started”

02 mar The Old Angel, Nottingham, UK. – I reckon this would be one of our most intense gigs. The venue was utterly tiny and only fit about 60 people, half of which were Earache staff and other bands. The other half of the crowd were total psychos. During the gig we had a hardcore snuff movie playing on a screen above the stage (I remember telling the person in charge of visuals to start the video at the part “where the pig is getting blowtorched”). The pit went nuts, and there was this large skinhead lunatic who was screaming for us to punch him in the face. I belted him a few times before the vocalist started kicking me to make me stop…which nearly led to an onstage melee, as my bloodlust was up a bit. I remember looking at Dig and the Earache staff standing up the back while all this was going on. The look on Dig’s face said “Only five more days now until they get out of my country…”

I’ve covered this gig before.

03 mar Cathouse, GlasgowWe always love playing Glasgow, cool promoters, bands and clubs. Only problem was this place had no lift and the stage was at the top of a staircase so we had to carry everything up which took the wind out of us a bit. Watched Co-Exist open up the night’s proceedings, and wondered how on earth no-one has signed them yet. They had a guy filling in for lead vocals tonight because the usual vocalist was in hospital, punctured lung I think. The start of the gig wasn’t too flash for me – the bass cut out halfway through the opening track (‘Principles’ I think). When the song finished I had to hold the bass up in the air and punch the back of it a few times, then it came good for the rest of the gig. The pick-up’s battery was a bit loose or something. Otherwise, a good gig. Usual crazy Glaswegian crowd.

This is the night where we nearly killed our friend Nails.

I always loved Glasgow. Kelvin, the promoter, was one of the few good guys out there who actually did his job. And it was such a pleasure to see Co-Exist in full force on their home turf. They had the kind of raw energy that reminded me of Australia’s Damaged, back in their glory days.

04 mar Bierkeller, Manchester, UK. – I think we were the first gig here since the place got renovated. Backstage was full of inflatable sex-sheep and pigs from the lederhosen oompah-night which happens here every Saturday. The hard-nut kids here were full-on fans, and wanted to talk so much I nearly ran out of voice before the gig started. It was a hard gig for me: my inear monitors were cutting in and out, I still had pickup battery problems, and I lost a knob and tuning peg from my bass. OK gig though. We had an inflatable sex-sheep sacrifice afterwards to bring fortune on the tour, and it was one of those rare nights we got a shower as well.

I’m not lying, there were actually sex-toy inflatable farm animals with orifices that you could fully Do It with lying in packets stacked in the backstage area. We drew a chalk pentagram in the middle of the dancefloor, inflated a sheep, said some incantations (stolen from Nocturnus lyrics), and then I plunged a knife into it. The bastard didn’t deflate easily however. It was built to withstand repeated jabbing from sharp objects.

We also tangled with a bootlegger selling cut-price shitty homemade Berzerker shirts out the front. I’ll expand on that incident in another post sometime. In a nutshell, we confiscated his merch and handed it out to everyone on tour. In lieu of laundry, we’d just grab a fresh bootleg shirt and put that on instead.

The only other incident was the promoter/venue owner’s chick seemed to be a bit keen on me. She was pretty cute but I was making sure nothing happened – despite being in full tour-pirate mode, burning a promoter in such a way seemed a bad move at the time. Anyway she followed me into the bus lounge at the end of the night, and Luke screamed at me thinking I had lured her onto there to drag into my bunk for some loving. Normally a correct assumption, but not that night.

05 mar Bierkeller, Bristol, UK. – A bloke around the corner of the venue managed to do what none of the roadies and techies on the Nile/Napalm Death tour could do: he fixed my monitors. Now I get foldback in both ears when I play and the world is sweet again. A couple of friends met me at the gig which was a really good surprise, but not as many people turned up to the show as when we first played here. It is becoming apparent there has been no promotion done at all for this tour. All I remember from the gig is my microphone repeatedly falling out of the stand, especially during ‘Burnt’ which is one of my favourite songs vocally.

One of the friends who turned up to meet me was the girl who became my girlfriend for a number of years. We had met the year before at the Bristol Bierkeller, so it was good to catch up at the same place again. Apparently I looked like hammered shit at the time and she nearly had second thoughts about having anything to do with me. I was peeling from my Miami sunburn, was covered in crappy mask makeup, and had strange zits growing on my face from the mask and microphones.

toxic

Everyone was already a little unsettled with the label by this point. They had a couple of guys running an Earache merchandise stall travelling with us for the length of the tour where they were selling Earache merch. They were also selling the CDs of the bands on tour, at prices that forced us to reduce ours. The bands weren’t happy about this at all.

06 mar The Garage, London, UK. – great gig at a top venue, run by an aussie chick who doesn’t take any shit from anyone. All bands were in top form. Mark (December’s) vocals sometimes sound like two people have been rolled into the same body. We caught up with the Labrat guys who created their usual ruckus. Sarah, the press rep from Earache, has instructed us all to keep a tour diary so they can put it on the Earache website. I think our enthusiasm towards that will reflect the enthusiasm promoters and Earache have shown in promoting this tour. The crowd was loud as hell when we got on tonight. I had some troubles with my mask; ever since I lost my head towel in the US on the last tour, my stand-in tea towel hasn’t been staying on my head properly which means my mask moves around and I can’t headbang as much. Did a stage-dive during the last song, was promptly ejected back up on stage by a freaked-out front row. Had a very drunken channel crossing this evening.

You read that correctly: I wrapped a towel around my head before each Berzerker performance in order to make my already-sizeable head large enough to keep the mask in place. Insert your own racial stereotype here…

…or Total Recall reference, I don’t mind

07 mar Bareog, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.small venue, not many people. My sister and her husband turned up to the show, so at last my family members get to see me do my thing. The show went alright except for some sort of mixer/drum problem which saw us take a 5 minute break midset. It’s always uncomfortable having to wander around up the front of stage while the guys wrestle with the machinery. I tried to kick a guy in the head later in the show but my heart wasn’t really in it. A couple of aussies came up to say hi afterwards which was cool.

This venue was a converted toilet block. The toilet theme continued that night, as the one on the bus was getting pretty full. When we lifted the lid to pee, you could see the piss-table floating just where the toilet exited into the tanks. There was a moratorium on flushing or having a shit on the bus. I noticed there was a foul odour in the air when I brought my sister and her husband onboard. I remember thinking how they were the cleanest nicest-smelling people I’d seen for days.

8 mar Lintfabriek, Kontich, Belgium. – this venue was great, it had beds, bunks, showers and awesome food, loads of pastries. I was tripped out by some parents attending the gig with their 11 year old DAUGHTER standing in front of me for the show. At the end of Pure Hatred I’ve been getting in the habit of grabbing the mike stand and taking it right down for the final ‘yaaaaaaaaahh’, and doing the Elvis into the front row. I did that this time and missed taking the girl’s eye out by about 10cm. Her folks were nice. Nearly fell on the drumkit when jumping off the PA.

What kind of parents take their eleven year old daughter to a Berzerker gig?! How can this kid rebel when she grows up? Actually, this is ten years ago, now she’d be twenty-one. I’d be interested to see if she’s either gone extreme-beyond-all-extreme, or is now into crochet and chamber music.

berzerker fan

Just chuck him right into the moshpit

09 mar 013, Tilburg, The Netherlands. – really nice town, this one. We all went sightseeing for a while which we haven’t really had the chance to do for a while. The venue was especially impressive, as was the backstage area. I haven’t been fed this well for months. Although we were playing the small room we got a decent turnout and the crowd were pretty nuts which is always fun to play for. The mask is giving my chin some sort of problem though, same as the previous tour. Wherever the mike touches my chin, huge pustules erupt making it look like I have oral VD. I have taken to sticking gaffa tape over my face to try and minimise microphone contact, and look pretty weird before shows with my head towel, face paint and gaffa tape plastered around my head. Luke lost his jacket and pocket organiser tonight, which is a medium-sized disaster. Turned the cargo hold of the bus upside down but it wasn’t in there.

I guess this is starting to show what a band’s true priorities are when they’re in full touring mode: good food, and a nice backstage with showers.

10 mar OFF – running amok in frankfurt. – Lovely town. We parked  smack-bang in the middle of a big city square right outside tomorrow’s venue, and it must have given everyone a rude shock when all us smelly, squinty-eyed metalheads poured out the side of the bus. The day ended with everyone shitfaced in the venue. December’s drummer came back from some adventure with his own crap dried on the leg of his jeans. Noticed that not one poster advertising the gig is up anywhere.

The tour toilet by now had sloshed over the rim a few times when taking hard corners.

11 mar Nachtleben, Frankfurt, GermanyWhat an anticlimax to the previous day’s partying. Twenty to thirty people showed up. I tried to put Corporation 187’s drummer off his gig by leaning into his line of sight in the backstage area and flashing moons. Our gig sucked as Ryan had misplaced the click/sample track discs that we use to do our show so we got about 3/4s of the way through before we stopped. I heard Luke yelling at him around the drums and wondered how many times I had witnessed that scene before. We managed to finish the tracks minus clicks, I remember Painless was one of them. Fortunately Ryan’s playing was fairly tight after all the practice with the click tracks. I hear rumour that Earache paid the promoters a promotional budget as well as sending them posters to put up. At almost every place the promotional budget seems to have disappeared and there are a big pile of untouched gig posters in the bandroom.

I clearly remember that happening with this place. We all turned up pre-gig, and dropped our stuff off onstage and in the bandroom. I think it was Corporation 187’s drummer who said “hey – check this out”. Underneath a table in the backstage was a big envelope with heaps of the gay fluoro gig posters still in it. We counted them, and only three or four had been removed: the ones stuck throughout the venue.
12 mar Marx, Hamburg, Germany. – a pretty depressing day. The venue was some ugly piece of shit place without a lift at the top of 10 flights of stairs, and it was too far away from the rest of town for us to do any real sightseeing before the show. I think about 10 people turned up. I remember looking at the gig listings on the venue’s board and posters, and even when I looked at this date I could barely see our gig advertised. Even worse, I think someone from Metal Hammer Germany came to see the show. We gave it our all but Christ, we just wish the promoters and label would do the same. Luke screamed at Ryan over his playing after the show which makes this tour an unhappier place to be. Even worse, the cranky old Northerner bus driver is now talking a load of shit and getting everyone who should know better to pressure Baz (tour manager) into finishing this tour early. The bus driver doesn’t want to do the drive from Copenhagen to Glachau, and suddenly decided to inform Baz that to do that drive we’d have to fly in another bus driver to share the driving with him, citing union regulations. Because Baz then took the precaution of checking with labels and bands, this fucking driver (in between eating all our food) is saying to each band that the tour is going to get worse, less and less people are going to come to our shows, we should cancel or our reputations will be stained, etc etc. I spent the evening going from person to person explaining how no-ones reputation will be ruined and trying to convince then to stay on the tour. Hey, I just want to go to Zurich is all! Anyway, the show at Glachau got cancelled and suddenly the bus driver’s overwhelming urge to make everyone mutiny disappeared. How strange. We went to the red light district later. Corporation 187 bought dildos and riding crops.

This seems to happen a lot in the music industry: you get ancillary staff like drivers or roadies who are so incredibly up themselves. They go on about how without them, the tour wouldn’t happen. Memo to any of you shmucks reading this: if Motorhead roll into town and the driver or roadie can’t do his job, THEY get replaced by some other mug who can. Motorhead cannot be replaced but you can certainly replace some muppet driver. Not to say that they’re not appreciated for the job that they do. But the poster says who everyone is paying to come and see and here’s the tip: it ain’t the prick driving the bus.

The incident with Luke and Ryan deserves a mention. Ryan was making more and more mistakes each night, he actually managed to defy the laws of touring by getting worse not better. Luke expected him to be able to do single-handed blasts by then. Ryan couldn’t. He wouldn’t try. Luke sat down at the kit, did a 300-something bpm blast while screaming at him, then threw all Ryan’s song notes all over the floor. This evening was about the closest these two came to blows.

Oh, and when we were in the redlight district we tried to pool the day’s PDs and draw straws to see who could get the money and treat themselves to a hooker. It was a good idea but all of December backed out and the money fell short of the objective. These girls wouldn’t haggle either and I’m reasonably sure when they saw the state of us they probably doubled their price.

13 mar Loppen, Copenhagen, Denmark. had a nice ferry trip across to Denmark, then I slept until we arrived in Copenhagen. The club is in an area of town known as Christiania, which is a lake and parkland which has been seized by hippies and has seceded from civilized society. I think they only have 10 laws for this area and two of them are no cops and no cameras. Ni-ice! I woke up while we were driving down the dirt roads leading into the place, and saw little kids running alongside the bus and for a moment I thought we were in Kingston Town. The club was a groovy big wooden venue and some champ had sketched the cover of ‘Dissimulate’ on a blackboard out the front. About 100 metres from the club were the hash markets selling the finest tar from around the globe. The show was OK but again not too many people – about seventy or so. Some dude headbanging up the front got a knock or something, and bled all over my set list. No, I didn’t do it. I didn’t want to leave Copenhagen.

It was so funny. I had no idea what Christiania was about. I was soundchecking when one of the roadies ran in breathlessly going “Sam! SAAAAAAAM! Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod, you’ve got to see this….”

He walked me 50 metres down the road and we turned a corner. I saw all the market tents. I walked up to the first one. It had a trestle table with bricks of hash on it and a set of scales. A customer was sizing up different hash blocks and pointed at one of them. The stall-owner took the brick, got a hammer and chisel, and freaking CHISELLED off a hunk of hash as big as my fist. He put it on the scales, adjusted the weights, and looked at the customer questioningly. The customer gave him the thumbs up.

The remaining diary notes probably represent the only remaining bits of this tour any of us can remember.

14 mar Alte Spinnerei, Glauchau, Germany.this show didn’t happen due to cancellation caused by ill bands, and the aforementioned 11th hour demand from fool busdrivers and touring companies that we foot the bill for flying busdrivers in. We went to Berlin instead. Most of the guys ended up going out clubbing, but I was absolutely exhausted and ended up going to bed early on the bus. My lower lip has broken out in mask related pustules again. The tourbus stinks of piss and is utterly filthy. My head hurts. I think I’ve run out of puff. I wish I was one of these musicians that plays moderate speed metal, and stays in the one spot for the entire gig and never headbangs. No I don’t.

By this day, I was officially broken.

15 mar East Club, Bischofswerda, Germany. – success! We got 80 people or so to this show! The club was this groovy, grim, dark place that was smack-bang in the middle of what I call ‘vampire country’. The merch guy Greg revealed a talent for Cartman impressions during the microphone soundcheck. Glory – this place has heaps of food, a tv room and rooms with beds for sleeping. That’s all I care about right now, food and sleep. I’m sure the gig went well, but screwed if I can remember any details from it. Ryan has started screwing up a couple of the songs, like playing ‘Disregard’ for too long. We all stop playing and moving, except for this American on the drums grinding away. I think he stopped caring somewhere around Hamburg. When the place closed up for the night, we found a couple of people hiding under the front desk. I think they missed their train back home and didn’t want to have to spend the night sitting on the platform at the train station in vampire country.

Bat country? That's for skirts

Bat country? That’s for pussies

16 mar Knaack-Klub, Berlin, Germany. – I understand now why Dillinger Escape Plan cut their European tour short. We keep hearing about how well we’re doing in Germany and then we do a gig like this in a place like Berlin and we get a crowd of 40 or so people…aw, screw it. I met a couple of guys from a local thrash band afterwards who had been watching me play closely for the entire evening. Their english wasn’t that flash but we still had a chat and they seemed impressed by the gig so I guess that’s something. I’d love to come back and visit Germany off-tour and check it out and catch up with people, go clubbing and hitting all the tourist spots. I think it might have been today that I walked into a newsagent and read every single metal magazine on the shelf. Not one of them had an ad for our tour, or anything about it. Needless to say, Earache aren’t getting sent tour diaries.

It’s funny. When people over the years heard I played in a metal band they were all like “dude, you REALLY need to play Germany! They love metal there! Metal bands do really well!”

No, actually they don’t. It’s the same random spread of successful bands as you get in other countries. And people would get confused looks on their faces when they realised my world touring actually MEANT world touring. These would be the same people who were like, you in a band? My neighbor used to manage some local band who did well in our little local town, maybe they can manage you! And we’d be like, dude, I don’t even know where to start explaining this to you.

17 mar Black Pes Club, Prague, Czech Republicwe got turned back at the border here. The promoter secured visas for everyone, except the Australians: us, in other words. I can’t believe it, they were even going to let the Americans in, just not us! That idiot promoter, that absolutely incompetent little third-world fool. I think he did it on purpose, when we suggested he fax through details to the nearest town with a consulate in it so we could have a fighting chance of making the gig he immediately insisted we cancel instead. Probably has his little promoter advance from the label and has decided to keep it as it probably means millions in whatever pathetic currency he’ll exchange it for. Fuck the music industry, there is shit like this everywhere and from the promoter and touring company side of things this has been just another ill-planned ill-promoted piece of shit tour. Our spirits are at an all time low. We have all heard how Prague is the pornstar capital of the world, and we have heard about their bars with cannabis infused vodka and absinthe and we were all looking heaps forward to going there. The Earache press broad has flown in especially for the gig just to find it ain’t happening. If she does her job correctly, then the body of the promoter won’t be found for at least another two months. All music industry maggot leech scum bastards want shooting. We drove to some remote shopping mall in Germany and went bowling.

I was pretty upset when I wrote this diary entry. We REALLY wanted to play in Prague. I notice I verge on outright xenophobia in this post, so my apologies to the Czechs and the Yanks. I had this exchange with the tour manager at the border:

“Can’t we sneak in? Can’t we beg the guards to let us through? Shit, doesn’t bribery work in this part of the world?”

“Sam, they’ve got machine guns”

18 mar New Backstage Club, Munchen, Germany.a great club area, but I just don’t care anymore. Neither did the tiny crowd by the look of them. They just stood around with their arms crossed looking teutonic and unsatisfied much to the annoyance of December. I grabbed posters during our gig and threw them at the crowd like scrunched up baseballs, just wish I had a cigarette lighter on me so I could put more of a scare in them. Dickhead bus driver sat backstage eating all the food, again, talking shit to everyone about how we have to stay in Germany on our day off because Switzerland is “so fookin’ expensive”. Some cool dude let me try mint-flavoured snortable tobacco. Earache sent an email through to all the bands trying to keep our spirits up which we all pinned to the drinks refrigerator and laughed at. A friend from back in Oz was supposed to catch up with me at this gig and she didn’t show. When I finally got onto her, she said she was tired from work and went to bed early that night – like it’s every day I come touring through Germany with my band. Whatever. We have talked Baz into taking us to Garmish-Partenkirchen tomorrow. The place is an awesome ski resort and there is still plenty of snow around. I’ll whip out the credit card and treat myself to a ski in Germany, something I have wanted to do all my life.

I guess by now that it was apparent that the inflatable sex-sheep sacrifice from Bristol wasn’t working.

19 mar OFFI was the first person to wake up, and the bus was moving : a bad sign. We were supposed to park at the lifts at the ski resort overnight so we could wake up and go skiing immediately. I went up front to the driver and asked him where he was going. He said we were going to Switzerland. I asked why we weren’t going to the ski resort, and he mumbled some bullshit about Baz not asking him in the correct manner, and that it would take too long to get up the mountain, and that he tried to wake Baz to discuss it with him, and all sorts of other lies. This useless git was swearing black and blue yesterday that there was no way he’d go to Switzerland today, all of a sudden we had to get there urgently and at top speed? He keeps saying that without him, the almighty bus driver, the tour wouldn’t happen. Oh well, tough shit, Luke woke up and immediately screamed at the top of his voice “WHERE’S THE FUCKING SNOW?!!!!!!” then ranted right in the bastard’s face for a full half hour. For once I was happy to see him scream at someone. Fuck this bussie, and fuck the touring company too…what are they called, Frontier Touring or something? Adam? Well screw the lot of them, these losers are off my Christmas card list. On the Swiss border we laid all the merchandise out on a grassy oval and took our pick of the goodies, just in case customs decided to charge us on potential profit. We were limited to 10 items each but I went way over my limit and stocked up on shirts, jeans, cds…all the things I won’t be able to afford for the next 8 months while I try and pay off the cost of touring. Baz retrieved this shocker of a day by getting the bus to park in a nice alpine town with an awesome water park. Luke, Jay (the drummer from December), and myself were the only ones to go to the park and we had a ball. I was nearly killed on one of the waterslides. I went down riding a rubber tube and went sideways over a drop then banged my head on a corner and fell off, bleeding from the nose. Jay from December came banging around the corner and cleaned me up, then Luke came flying right over the top of us. The last thing I saw was his feet going right over Jay and coming straight at my face.We got stern words from the Swiss attendant at the bottom of the slide. We had so much fun at this place, we were like giggling kids and all the stress of the past couple of weeks disappeared.

On a brutal death metal tour for the world-famous grind label Earache Records, our favourite bit was playing on the waterslides in Switzerland.

Picking the merch was a close second though. It felt like heavy-metal Christmas. By the time I loaded the merch back in my luggage – which was under the mattress of my bunk – there was almost no room for me to squeeze in. My bunk was like those ‘hug-boxes’ that they make for autistic children who can’t handle being touched. I hang a lot of shit on Earache but I’ll say this, they were super generous when it came to giving their bands free merch.

20 mar Dynamo Club, Zurich, Switzerland. – my last show with Berzerker. We were fed like kings and I squeezed some sightseeing in around Zurich which has to be the most beautiful town I have been to. There was a big anti-war protest march which I infiltrated with merchman Ben and filmed some interviews with the young peaceniks. When I got back someone had blown up my compressor and the venue was getting it fixed. It’s not a Berzerker show if some equipment doesn’t blow up or malfunction, and I guess it was the 8 track and drum trigger’s night off. I had a couple of friends I met in Amsterdam on my Christmas break turn up which was great, it’s just nice to hang with non-music industry people sometimes. When December played we turned the smoke machines around and blew fog into their brains, and we tried to tackle the guitarists of Corporation 187 while they were playing. Their singer used his remote mike to play pranks on us during our set, yodelling over the PA during Burnt. I went supernuts for the gig and when the set was finished Luke jumped onto the drum kit and we tried out another couple of tracks, I think February was one of them. It was a bit of a mess, but what the hey. I think I fell backwards over the foldback and off the stage on the last song. I still can’t work out how I didn’t get injured. Luke and I were shellshocked after the gig…all those shows…we were just sitting around going “That’s it. That’s it. It’s over”. I went out the front of the venue and had a drink by the river. I thought about jumping in it for a while. I have no idea what I’m going to do next.

When that show ended and my friends left, we sat in the bar part of the venue and started drinking. Luke and I shook hands, looked at each other and went “We made it. We did it”. I drank some more and thought about all the touring we’d done, the shows, the places we’d been to. Eventually I got up and went outside. The club was on a river. I walked a hundred meters down along the river or so until I was sure I was by myself, then burst into tears. We arrived home a week later.

It was not my last Berzerker tour.

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Killing Nails

This is Nails.

He’s a good friend of ours and we nearly killed him while on tour, somewhere on the M1 in the UK on a dark and stormy night.

We first met Nails on the evening of December 10th 2002 at The Underworld in Camden, London. We were there for some pre-tour partying and to meet up with Immolation as they were beginning a European tour. We had just finished a lap of the US with them, and it was a pleasant freakout for us to wave goodbye in Texas and then catch up a week later in the stank bowels of Camden.  We also wanted to size up the venue as we’d be playing there a few days later on our first Berzerker UK headline tour.

I forget at which point in the evening we met Nails but he established himself as an interesting character right off the bat. “Why are you called Nails?” He stuck a large nail a few inches into his nose and hammered it the rest of the way using the bottom of a pint glass. I was delighted at the trick. We ran around the Underworld that night as a double act where I’d help hammer it in, and then lick the nail when it came out. He helpfully introduced us to all sorts of metal celebs and media types. It turned out that apart from being the man about London he was also a large distributor of extremely sickening mail-order porn. The dude was heaven-sent. Everyone in the band was on a quest to wreck their sensibilities as much as possible, and this man was the fixer we needed.

He graduated from fun acquaintance to solid friend a couple of days later when we played London. We had no roadies, t-shirt guys, anything, and our gig was packed out. The queue for the merchandise desk ran all the way up the stairs and out of the venue. We normally worked the merch table ourselves but were getting stretched between both media commitments and the record label, not to mention having to abandon table to play our gig. Nails volunteered to look after the merch which was rather generous seeing as he’d come to the show to actually see us play, not to sell shirts. Normally we didn’t trust anyone with our merch or money….ANYONE. Even if they were a trusted friend it was just too easy to fuck up change, or lose track of money, or take your eyes off the CDs and then have them nicked.

Sounds paranoid? Fans walk off with stuff all the time. One time I caught some Mexican guy doing it with CDs in America. I leapt the table, ripped them off him, and jumped back over the table to make sure no-one else absconded with our shit. He spent the rest of the night saying “Fuck You” to me in a funny accent. I’d heard of Emperor starting a tour, and getting a box of their shirts walked in the first week. If you pay for merch it’s stressful, because you usually only hit your break-even point three or four shows from the end of a two week tour. If any stuff gets stolen then you have to hustle your heavy metal asses off just to ensure you don’t end the tour out of pocket to the merchandise manufacturers.

We shouldn’t have worried. Nails was safe. We finished the gig and got back to the table and he’d not only handled our merch, but all the other bands merch as well. He had all the money counted, all the product tallied, sweet as could be. It was also our busiest night ever; we sold thousands of pounds of stuff. Bootleggers certainly took notice. Each time we came back to England we’d end up terrorising and chasing pikey bastards who’d stand out the front of our shows selling five pound knock-off shirts.

We felt kind of bad that Nails had missed the show so we made it up to him by kidnapping him and bringing him along with us whenever we played England. This worked well for us because we got a merch guy, ‘entertainment engineer’, and cultural commissar all in one package. Self-interest was always one of our strengths. I imagine Nails was pretty happy with the deal as well, right up until when we almost-murdered him on the side of a motorway.

It was an Earache Records package tour starting late March 2003. We were on the road with Corporation 187 and December. December was a Californian emo/hardcore band who probably would have been the revered godfathers of all this deathcore non-sense if they’d stuck at it for a few more years. We were travelling not only with Nails but a new drummer called Ryan, who we’d found in Florida the week beforehand…literally, the week beforehand. He was Gary’s replacement after Gary broke his foot. I will at some point give up the story of how we found a replacement drummer in such a short space of time when remembering it doesn’t hurt my brain. All you need to know about Ryan in the meantime is that he was a big American dude who handled going on his first ever trip overseas about as well as you could expect: he was hopeless, inappropriate, couldn’t hold his alcohol, and upon bonding with Corporation 187 he’d punch things yelling out “I’m Swedish!” in his strong Florida Baptist-boy accent.

We had finished a show at the Cathouse in Glasgow and headed off to some massive club for a post-show party. Dudes were getting drunk and chasing girls, I was convincing a dude who wanted to be in a band that it was the worst thing that can happen to a person, and Ryan was bouncing up and down telling bemused onlookers that he was Swedish. After a few hours of this we headed back to the bus. We were travelling on a big Skyliner, one of those double-decker jobs with rear lounges. I hated that bus. I’m pretty sure the exhaust ran right through a pipe into the lower lounge. We tried to hang out down there one night and almost hallucinated on the fumes. We had a bunk each but there was no place to put your personal effects or luggage. Well, you could stash it in the hold of the bus but that meant you’d have to stop, open the luggage bay doors, and unpack the bags every time you wanted to brush your teeth or fetch a clean pair of socks. I emptied my luggage bag, put all my clothes under my bunk mattress, smoothed them out as best as possible and slept on top of my stuff. Luke just left his bag in the aisle.

So I was already at the bus when Luke arrived back. The moment he arrived, two girls sort of appeared out of nowhere. One was a chubby little Boadicea with braids, the other one was a cute number with blue hair. Luke walked up to Little Miss Blue-Hair, said a couple of words, and they started making out. I was amazed. It was definitely the quickest pick-up I’ve ever witnessed. I found out later that Luke had taken a fancy to ‘bluey’ working in a bar opposite to where we were parked, and told her to ditch her boyfriend and come with us. She asked for five minutes to get her friend and grab some stuff. He gave her two. It only took one more minute to convince both girls to come far away on a magical journey full of wonder and excitement: our smelly tourbus chock-a-block with drunken metal bands.

Everyone squeezed into the top lounge. It was these two girls and about fifteen threatening shitfaced dudes. The bus started the drive from Glasgow back down into England. The girls were flashing their boobs and everyone was taking photos. Someone put on some Iron Maiden, and Nails put on one of his horrifying porn videos. I overheard one of the Corporation 187 guys say “the Haunted tour was NOTHING like this!” The December bassist was smoking spliffs downstairs, and Ryan was punching the ceiling screaming that he was Swedish.

And I went to bed. I was over it.  There was nowhere to sit, I didn’t give a fig for boobs, I hate Iron Maiden, and I wanted to go to sleep and dream of someplace warm and clean. I think I told Ryan if he said the word ‘Swedish’ again, I was going to cut him. I was in the later stages of road-burn.

Be a Rock Star! Tour the World! Battle insanity and sleep deprivation!

I slept for about forty minutes, maybe an hour, and then I woke up. I don’t know why I woke up. Hell, I can’t even remember if I was really asleep or just staring at the ceiling of my bunk two centimetres from my nose. I had missed two events which I’ll point out before going further. The blue haired girl had popped downstairs and smoked some spliff with the December bassist, who kindly tried to talk her out of her career of flashing on tour buses. And Luke went downstairs to fetch her, and brought her back to his bunk. Her smoking the spliff may or may not have influenced what happened next.

The blue-haired girl was in Luke’s bunk when she freaked out. Did she freak out because of the spliff? Did Luke whisper in her ear that he was going to give her a Tokyo Sandblaster then flush her down the bus toilet? I don’t know. Don’t be getting the wrong idea about Luke. For sure he was an absolute menace. These days though, his facebook page is ninety percent models he has artistically photographed and ten percent pictures of cats. Our bunks were opposite and I just happened to be looking out of my curtain when blue-hair burst out of Luke’s bunk, pulling her top on. She charged down the corridor in the direction of the driver and headed for the stairs. Luke leaned out of his bunk, yelling “yeahhhh, tuck and roll bitch!” We said “tuck and roll” a few more times, high-fived, and laughed like goats.

*edit: I take back everything I said. Luke is a fucking monster. I always send friends these articles before sticking them on the blog if there’s a chance that they’ll object to how they’re portrayed. I was worried Luke might be concerned as to how this story makes him look. He called back to harangue me for not making this incident sound brutal enough and said, quote:  “I wish I choked her to death so you could write ‘Sam saw her lifeless arm dangling from the side of Luke’s bunk while he gripped her neck like a microphone in mid-gig rage. Then we tied her with some rope to the back of the bus and dragged her all the way to Nottingham, and when we got off there was no body left just some frayed rope like in National Lampoon’s Vacation. I hate women. HA HA! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

He is currently helping find the UFC Ring Girl for the Australian edition of The Ultimate Fighter.

Seconds later, the bus came to screeching shuddering stop. The fat roly-poly chick with the braids was thrown sideways out of a top bunk, fell a good six feet and landed in the aisle. She was in her underwear. A second later – and to his eternal shame – Nails peeked out from the same bunk to see what was going. Braids started bellowing for her friend in a deep, unnatural, Scottish voice. “Natasha! NATASHA!” She bounded down the aisle for the stairs, vomiting on herself and Luke’s bag. “And now she’s spewing all over my bag”, commentated Luke. “Yes, very good. Very fucking good. Excellent. Great.”

Photo included purely to link Nails’ face to the idea of people banging chubby man-voiced vomiting women

It turned out Natasha – the blue haired chick – had screamed at the bus driver to stop the bus immediately. Being an idiot, he did. She then leaped out the door and ran off into the night. It was raining heavily and we were in the middle of nowhere. Her braided friend bounced downstairs and was yelling at her to get back on the bus in her loud Crying-Game voice. She actually threatened to beat her to within an inch of her life if she didn’t return immediately. Scottish girls, eh? Nails went outside in his union jack boxer shorts to go searching for Natasha who by then had leaped a fence into a nearby field. Luke got out of his bunk and headed downstairs, ostensibly to boot the braided chick out of the door and tell the bus driver to keep driving. Baz, the tour manager, got up to see what all the fuss was about. The bus driver reversed the bus to get off the motorway and managed to back over Nails.

“He steps on the clutch, and then Nails goes CRUNCH, and he…”

Nails had worked his way towards the rear of the bus, and was looking for a gap in the fence when the bus got him. It was a barbed wire fence too. Luke by then was in the rear lower gas-chamber lounge, reaching out from the door and trying to drag Nails back in before he went under the wheels. I could hear Luke and Baz screaming at the bus driver to stop reversing, I could hear the driver screaming back at them. I could hear the braided chick screaming “NAH-TASH-AH! NAH-TASH-AHHH!” I think I may have been able to even hear Natasha screaming in the field, losing her mind. I sighed, lay back in my bunk, closed the curtains, and put my Walkman on.

Nails lived. He got squashed up against a barbed wire fence but they managed to stop the driver reversing long enough to drag him out. He broke some ribs and was shredded a bit. Luke managed to film the entire thing. Even though Nails was about to get crushed, Luke made sure he had the handycam running in one hand the entire time. The video shows an emotional Nails saying “You saved my life! LUKE KENNY SAVED MY LIFE!” 

“AND DON’T YOU FUCKING FORGET IT” snarled Luke.

The girls were dropped off at the nearest truck-stop rest-station and given enough money for a cab back to Glasgow. When it came down to it, the real victim was Baz the tour manager. The police fined the bus for parking beside the motorway or something, and the fine found its way back to Baz. He tried to get Earache to pay for it but they weren’t having that. He didn’t pay the fine, eventually went to court, and scored some jail time. We toured with him again afterwards but he was a different man, and not for the better either.

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