Happily Lost In Translation (Japan Day 1)

7th October 2009 | Ginger

The breaks between visits to Japan always seem longer than in reality. Actually, this kind of warp in time makes sense when faced with the futuristic setting that Tokyo continues to impress upon returning gai-jin (foreigners). Apart from New York City there isn’t a place in the world I miss more than Japan.

Take the food, for example. The mysterious, multi textured, multi-shaped, multi-coloured smörgåsbord that is a Bento Box can repel and delight in equal measure, depending on who is savouring its hidden treasures. A table/box full of assorted tastes and visual treats is my idea of heaven. The thought of putting something unknown into my mouth on the recommendation of Japanese hosts fills me with a joy that Xmas used to, about 30 years ago. And it is always, without exception, a culinary masterpiece jam packed with exotic flavour.

And the drinks? Last night I was drinking sho-chu (a strong wine made of wheat) mixed with vinegar and plum, and was made to feel like I’d just discovered alcohol again. Scott has got himself an addiction to sho-chu and oolong tea. And who could blame him? Without the bloated feeling of beer or the potentially hair trigger drunk that liquor can spring this stuff takes a while to get you there and is thoroughly delicious every step of the way. And all without the tiredness that drinking red wine can sometimes have on an evening out with friends.

Then there are the streets. A smoker’s dream. Nowhere else in the world are there so many people puffing on cigarettes. Indoors, outdoors. Young and old. Everyone is smoking tabs. And not to look hard.

People are also dressed in amazing clothing. Some merely stylish to the max and others kitted out in the kind of get up that American movies tell us people will wear 100 years in the future. And why the Hell not? Every store in Tokyo, no matter what they’re selling, from shoes to garden equipment, sells it with cute cartoons the likes of which are only seen by Western eyes on kids telly.

Society is structured on traditional values steeped in Buddhism therefore everyone takes pride in making the whole work effectively by governing themselves in a proper and respectful manner. Crime, while existing, is an organised and honourable vocation that the criminally minded can aspire to. There’s never been an ASBO written for a young thug here, the perks are just too great.

And then, of course, there are the fans. Loyal, respectful and diligent, they follow with patient tenacity, biding their time, determined to get a photo or autograph or presenting gifts laced with imagination and origami packaging.

And when collected in a venue, the cleanliness of which is completely alien to someone whose apprenticeship was served treading the beer and puke sodden boards of shit pits that make up most of the UK touring circuit, the noise they make is an ode to joy itself. Shrill and completely testosterone free the Japanese crowd makes a whistling squeal that sounds like a thousand kettles collectively and positively thrilled to make tea. Orgasmic and life affirming. This sound is one of the many reasons why The Wildhearts have stayed together for so long.

After a kick ass show at the Tokyo Liquid Rooms I’m startled to hear music business types charting out a three year plan of how the style of music will follow the current recession, based on previous recessions and the resulting shifts in style. The Japanese, it’s fair to say, aren’t a race of moaners.

Our hosts, the lovely Kaoru and the wonderful Coach, of Vinyl Junkie, follow us everywhere to make sure that we are looked after and the shows go off without a single hitch. Not many managing directors of record labels have this much of a relationship with the musicians they work with, maybe that’s part of the reason why the music industry over here is in such great shape?

In summary, I love this place. Fucking love it.

And it would appear, after 15 years of being invited back, that the feeling is entirely mutual.

Argita Gozai Mas, Banzai, Yopporai, let’s get high.

Gx

Pictures From The Twelfth Day

30th September 2009 | Ginger

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At Rock Radio, Manchester for an acoustic rendition of The Only One.

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Same Old Newcastle (Day 11)

29th September 2009 | Ginger

Family present? Tick.

Friends all lined up to see you stand or fall? Tick.

Audience about to stand in almost respectful silence? Tick.

Funny thing about playing Newcastle is that it still feels like you’re paying your dues.

Songs are met, initially, with a stillness of quiet approval before a loud cheer of authentication as each song ends. It is, at once, both off-putting and comforting. Nowhere is like Newcastle, and that’s just as it should be.

For me Newcastle is my own microcosmic version of the UK, and in this version crime is met with indifference by authorities almost annoyed by its inconvenience. It’s hard to get jail time in Newcastle. My oldest friend, Panda, meets me during the day for a catch up. He looks very normal. It’s only recently that he’s gotten the use of his right eye back after a severe beating from three teenage strangers who jumped him from behind, knocked him unconscious and proceeded to stamp on his head as he lay. Doctors have reconstructed his eye socket and quite a lot of his face, his eyeball has been taken out twice for surgery and right now only his sense of positivity is getting him through the day. It’s a miracle he’s walking. Or even alive.

The criminals were caught and arrested (having beaten someone up on CCTV only minutes before attacking Panda) and let off with two cautions and one easy sentence. He will be out after a year or two with good behaviour.

They’d have had to kill him to get a more fitting punishment.

This is my England.

More and more people I know are being attacked, or telling stories of people attacked, by random thugs born of a society that provides no release of boredom and a government that offers no deterrent.

When the UK issues the ‘three strikes and out’ law (three offences and you’re in jail, buddy) then I’ll bring my family back here to live.

The band played amazingly well. The audience eventually thawed and lost their cool. It was great to see friends and family again. The bus eventually pulled away to the sound of drunken people arguing by the big market. No doubt someone will end up a bloody mess in A&E somewhere and the public will glibly pay for the doctors’ bills with their monthly taxes. Bills that will continue to mount.

If these people are going to cost us money then wouldn’t one taxable expenditure of a jail sentence for repeat violent offenders be a far cheaper and much safer option?

Don’t we get a say?

Gx

Leeds And Glasgow (Day 9 & 10)

28th September 2009 | Ginger

Wow, what a couple of days. Leeds Cockpit was, quite possibly, the best show of the tour. The audience were incredible and the band played a stormer. The resulting high followed everyone back to the bus where we proceeded to party like we were the Rolling Stones or something.

Come morning I woke up with the kind of hangover that more resembles still being drunk.

Hot Steve met me on the stairs armed with with an ice cold bottle of Magners he was enjoying. One sip made me want one myself, but on closer inspection the closest thing to cider in the fridge was champagne, presented to me by No Americana a few days ago. I don’t usually drink the stuff but one glass went down so well that it was followed by first another, and soon the whole bottle was gone. It’s not even midday and I was drunk beyond belief.

No problem, I’ll sleep it off.

On being awoke, around 7pm I realised that I was still drunk. So drunk, in fact, that I accepted the offer of a few drags of a spliff. I’m no smoker and have an incredibly low tolerance to the stuff. Already disorientated and spinning the pot hit me like a well aimed upper cut.

Once I eventually found the dressing room I realised that my bag was back on the bus, so, on leaving by the side entrance I heard the door slam shut behind me. Banging on the door proved useless due to the level of volume inside the venue.

It is now 8:25 and I’m due onstage in five minutes.

The phone, typically, died as I continued leaving messages on everyone’s answer phones due to the zero reception within the venue.

Now I’m stoned, drunk, confused, and my paranoia is growing due to the amount of Wildhearts fans outside having a cigarette.

Fuck it, I’m just going to have to slope in undercover of the fans. I manage to squeeze myself into the packed Garage where a security guard recognises me and allows me access to the dressing room.

Fortunately we are running late, gear problems forcing a late start to the set. Just enough time to get my stage clothes on.

It takes me a full song to realise that I’m not wearing an ear plug and the band are so deafeningly loud that I can’t pitch. I eventually righted myself and began the longest gig of my life.

I will never play a show stoned again in my life. It was the most terrifying thing imaginable. What really struck me, through the hazy paranoia, was how fucking good this band are. How dynamic Ritch plays the drums. How amazing our sound man is. How great our crew is. And how incredible our audience is.

Glasgow, thank God it was to you that I played the scariest show I’ve ever played. You made me feel like I was home. You calmed me down and allowed me to, occasionally, enjoy the thrilling spectacle of a rammed Glasgow show with the best band I could possibly experience it with.

Gx

Stoke Memoirs And 3D Spex (Day 8)

26th September 2009 | Ginger

Who knows why some gigs you absolutely love and some you just can’t get into?

The band all loved the show in Stoke, the audience were amazing, the hecklers heckled in good spirits (albeit during an announcement that our friend Tim Smith has severe health problems- I guess bad manners don’t wait for appropriate moments to spring forth, huh? Nice one mate. Your girlfriend will be so proud, if you ever get one, ha ha), the guys in the band all played like a well oiled machine and the songs flowed like easy conversation. Me? I just couldn’t get into it. By the end of the second set the onstage sound had reached such muddied proportions that I could feel myself shouting to hear my vocals, so in an attempt to keep my voice for tomorrow’s show (and the rest of the tour) I let the crowd sing the final song 29 x The Pain. It was a curious moment with Hot Steve handing the microphone to seemingly everyone in the audience that doesn’t know the lyrics. Still, it has to be said that in another venue an SM57 would have been stripped from its cable and never seen again. A fine testament to the sheer decency of the Stoke crowd.


And while on the subject of hecklers and people not realising that we were going to be playing the new album in its entirety, I would like to make certain that my intentions in highlighting the heckling was not to incite further violence or have anyone threaten to ‘sort them out’. I don’t want to see ANY violence at our shows, okay?

I understand that some people will feel short changed by the decision to play the album and this is something I’d like to clarify. This decision was made during a fraught time where we couldn’t make our minds up as to what to play: old, new, rare, popular, etc etc etc. We put the vote to the fans on the forum and you unanimously voted for us to play the album. We take your responses very seriously indeed, and so we made a last minute decision to honour the popular voice, and deal with the disapproval of the minority, in this case. We can only offer, as consolation for anyone who might be disappointed with the decision, the fact that we have a band playing at the very top of their game (playing some songs that will never be played live again), one of the worlds very best sound-men, an awesome bill and a very competitive ticket price.

It looks like we will continue to support our albums by playing them in their entirety, in the future, if we are to continue to make albums. There are tons of bands just trotting out the best of set and releasing no new music, this is fine and supporting this is also great, but that isn’t The Wildhearts. Not at all. We want to the future to be an exciting place with musical innovation as well as a nod to the past, hence the two sets, both of approx equal length.

I hope you will continue to join us on our musical journey, and for anyone who only wants to see the ‘best of’ set I hope you have enjoyed the past 15/20 years and leave with fond memories. It’s been a great ride, hasn’t it?


After the show we were invited to a private screening of Final Destination 3D, which the band and crew later decided against, favouring, instead, another night drinking on the bus. Doing the same thing every night drives me a little stir crazy so Gav and I decided to round up some friends and make the screening anyway. Walking into a huge cinema that is completely empty is a thrill that no-one should pass up if ever given the chance. We selected our seats and watched as the 3D format threw chisels at us, as well as various body parts, in spectacular fashion. A great bit of gory fun with some very inventive kills, all sadly marred by the worst ending since The Happening.

Still, the gorgeous Krista Allen appeared in the movie, which was a bit of a treat.

Back on the bus we watched Step Brothers together and took ill laughing so hard at the drum kit/bollock interface scene.

Driving through Stoke as the clubs had long closed yet the scattered, drunken debris still roamed the street looking for a final fight or a fuck, but will probably settle for a kebab, I couldn’t feel more alien.

It’s a feeling I get every now and again and one that gives me great comfort.

Sometimes I just really feel different than everyone else.

Gx

Birmingham, My Birmingham (Day 7)

25th September 2009 | Ginger

We’ve always enjoyed good times in the Midlands and tonight was no exception.

Apparently there’s some kind of divide between Wolverhampton and Birmingham that forbids people from the former going to see bands playing the latter. We have sold precisely half the amount of tickets that we usually sell when we play Wolves Civic, adding weight to this theory. Still, come showtime the modest little room in the O2 Academy is literally jam packed.

The monitors on this tiny stage are so powerful that one would need to stand about 4 or 5 feet away from it to actually hear it. There is no 4 or 5 feet ‘back’ on this tiny stage, therefore no one can hear a thing onstage.

The show was the hottest gig I’ve played in a very long time. No air onstage made the experience hellish, especially for me and Ritch. Come You Took The Sunshine From New York I came so close to blacking out that I failed to notice singing the first verse in an entirely different key. No monitors and no oxygen will do that to a person.

Anyway, if the crowd noticed (which I’m sure they did) they quickly forgave me and proceeded to supply severely voluminous vocal support throughout. Their stamina was inspirational and kept the band motivated to keep rocking when there was no life left in us at all.

At one point in the final song I moved to CJ’s side of the stage in order to stop myself slipping on the swimming pool of my sweat in the middle of the stage. His side? Dry as a bone. That guy is way too cool.

All in all, possibly the best show of the tour. At least on a par with Nottingham.

Later we all ate at the Koh-i-Noor, a superb Indian restaurant that plays 80’s rock ballads at the behest of their manager. You won’t find a more surreal soundtrack to an extra spicy King Prawn Ceylon. It’s directly opposite the front of the venue. Check it out next time you’re at a gig.

Birmingham, we love you. Still and always.

Gx

Etiquette Exeter Style (Day 6)

23rd September 2009 | Ginger

After a wonderful walk around Exeter we remarked how chilled out this place is and how few arseholes there seems to be in Exeter.

Sure enough, come showtime, they all crawled from beneath their rocks to attend our gig.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a LOT of awesome people there too, presumably, also, having their evening ruined by meat heads.

What do I have to do to get rid of these people from our audience? Answers in the comment section below, please.

What kind of person pays to attend a show only to talk over the singer every time he tries to introduce a song? I will never live long enough to understand this logic. I mean, fair play if you have something funny or constructive to shout but these people aren’t even hecklers in the classic sense of the word. These are folk who consider any crap whatsoever to enter their brain to be of cultural importance. And will rudely cut off a public speaker in order to address their point of view. Manners, it has to be said, have not been taught to some people, unfortunate, then, that the least mannered appear to be the loudest mouthed.

They spoil your evening, they spoil ours and no-one wants them around. They wouldn’t be missed if they disappeared. So please, if you know anyone who enjoys shouting random insults when a hard working band are trying to introduce the next song they’ve spent ages rehearsing, if you know anyone who enjoys shouting over the singer because they get so little attention in their normal, dull lives, could you please ask them nicely to stop coming to our shows? We don’t want their money and we definitely don’t want their company.

I’m so sorry for the idiots of Exeter spoiling what should have been an amazing, warm, funny, informative night. We will play places on this tour, full of people who want to listen to us, and this desire goes so deep that they will actually shut their mouths at the appropriate times in which to do so. Unfortunately you have had your one evening spoiled slightly.

Having said that the band played a faultless set and Ritch split two snare heads due to excessive battering. No one else on this tour got that, so all was not lost.

Exeter, lovely place. Not as keen to play there again, though, as I am to come back for a visit.

Day off today. Get to see my family and chill out for an entire 24 hours. Tomorrow we play Birmingham. I love playing Birmingham. Bring it on.

Gx

Portsmouth Is Love (Day 5)

22nd September 2009 | Ginger

Who’d have thunk it? The best show of the tour, so far, I think, took place in Portsmouth, last night.

The audience were welcoming, warm and responsive, the band played a faultless set, the Black Spiders rocked big time (and later joined us on the bus for drinks) and me ‘n Gav decided to keep growing our beards until the end of the tour. They’re itching like hell but a deal is a deal.

After walking around Portsmouth, or Pompey or Southsea or whatever else they call this place, checking out the awesome shops of Albert Road it’s a treat to see such a myriad of eye watering expenditure dens peppering the street. Culturally valid accessory shops rub shoulders with semi-antique bric-a-brac stores in a bid to tempt visiting consumers into coughing up readies for essential items that they will ultimately lose interest in on leaving Portsmouth.

We have the smallest and most stifling dressing room in the western world, so in an attempt to rid myself of the claustrophobia based migraine steadily gnawing at my sense of well being I go and eat a fish by the seaside, approx 1km away. There’s nothing quite like a walk along an English beach to fill a person with equal feelings of happiness and sadness. I mean any walk along the sea can make a fellow feel a little insignificant, but something about the English seaside makes me think of the people on the other side of the water, baking in the sunshine, bronzed, naked and not think of the people on the other side of the water wrapped in multi layered protection to ward off the freezing gales of the North sea.

Anyway, the fish was lovely and the mushy peas burnt the living fuck out of the inside of my mouth.

All in all a lovely day. Lovely place. I love Portsmouth, and I didn’t even know it.

Gx

Pictures From The Fifth Day

21st September 2009 | Ginger

Our monitor man for this evening, Deano.

Our monitor man for this evening, Deano.

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Norwich, Nice Place, Next! (Day 4)

21st September 2009 | Ginger

Sunday night and all is seemingly well in the sleepy hamlet of Norwich, paddling ground for the mighty Nicholas Parsons. We take the stage to rapturous applause and sizeable grins. They like it. Great.

Uh oh, we appear to have a few people who cannot, and dammit will not, grab hold of the concept of this being a performance of our last album, and continue to shout Suckerpunch, throughout the set. For you, my friend, we will not play Suckerpunch at all, even in the second set, where it stands third song in.

Why?

I’ll tell you why. Imagine the scenario. You’re talking and someone appears to have something more important to say, and they loudly interrupt. You accept that you aren’t the most interesting person alive and so graciously concede to the interrupter. Except the interrupter, hiding within the darkness of a crowd, decides not to continue their line in ignorance and clams up when asked what it is they want. Leaving, in place of a mildly interesting monologue of varying importance an awkward silence that serves no purpose other than to wind up the person talking and leave them pondering the vast level of ignorance and bad manners of someone who’d stop you talking in favour of saying nothing themselves.

I can’t get back into the gig for wishing that people like this would stop coming to our shows. There must be a thousand other bands you can follow? Look on the internet. Although there is a strong likelihood that you can’t operate a computer. Suffice it to say that you bring nothing to the event and you spoil the atmosphere for people who are genuinely enjoying themselves. Your absence will be welcomed.

All in all a stunning performance by the band. Probably the best we’ve played the entire tour. I’m very glad that those who actually wanted to listen in Norwich heard a band at the absolutely peak of their ability. I don’t know why the ignorance of others winds me up to such a point that I find myself losing my own balance and wanting to exact my rising anger. This is my problem. Balance is work in progress, a road with quite a few road blocks and falling rocks, a mode of transport rather than a destination.

Hope Portsmouth has fewer idiots in attendance and I pray that the people that didn’t enjoy it last night never come again.

Over and out of patience.

Gx