‘Appy Days: The Mick Box Column (No. 13)
This week Mick meets Rammstein, runs out of English tea bags, drinks 60 litres of Jack Daniel’s and 720 bottles/cans of beer (although not in one session), gets friendly with a blow-up doll (!) and reaches the end of Uriah Heep’s tour…
SUNDAY December 13, 2009 City: Hamburg. Venue: Fabrik-Stiftung
We left the hotel at 11am as it was only 120km (75miles) to Hamburg from Celle. On the bus journey the crew sat in the upstairs lounge and we sat with Martin (manager) and Daniel (catalogue and multi media specialist) in the downstairs lounge, and had a meeting. It was all positive, and there are many things to look forward to, on all fronts next year, which is exciting.
I have a meeting with Martin, Daniel and Ulrich Poser a German lawyer at 4pm in the hotel, and then we leave for the sound check at 5.30pm. We are staying down at the venue, as the record company (Edel) are turning up, and there are a reported six lengthy in-depth interviews to do, plus dinner is there. The interviews went very well, and they were split amongst us all. Ulrich brought a couple of friends in the dressing room with guitars for me to sign. One was a Gibson Flying V electric guitar and an Ovation acoustic. They both left very happy.
The concert was fantastic, and they were hanging from the rafters. There were people in front of us, and then up on the balcony to the front and either side, plus behind us in the balcony, and it looked like every nook and cranny was filled. It was rammed. It was good to see Philipp, Anna and Anja from Edel, and Michael Durrschmidt our promoter even came up from Munich.
Rammstein are playing in Hamburg tomorrow night and the drummer Christoph Schneider and guitarist Richard Kruspe came down to the show. As we have a day off tomorrow, we have been invited to their show to meet them backstage, so that will be great. We have all seen their fantastic DVDs many times on the tour bus, so it will be good to experience it first hand, as it is spectacular. They gave us a wonderful Hamburg-like reception, and a good hot sweaty time was had by all. Afterwards we did a really good signing at the merchandising, before going back to the dressing room to start the party. This then transferred to the hotel bar into the small wee hours. Luckily it is a day off tomorrow.
MONDAY December 14, 2009 City: Hamburg. Day Off
It has been a slow day today for everyone. There was a bad showing at breakfast, with many of us not making it. I have to go to our lawyers in town to day, to take care of some paperwork on behalf of the band, and Trevor Bolder is coming with me. We have all agreed to meet up at 6pm as there is an American restaurant opposite the hotel, and then ‘Scampi’ (our English tour manager) can tell us the arrangements for the rest of the evening. I think the majority of us will not venture far from their rooms until then. Well, the American restaurant was the first dodgy restaurant of this tour. The food was below average to be kind. After dinner we jumped into taxis to go to the 12,000 capacity Hamburg Color Arena to see Rammstein. We picked up our tickets and after show passes, and then found a position to get a good view.
The show was fantastic and really spectacular. Everyone of us were very impressed. After the show, we went back to the hospitality room and met the two guitarists Paul Landers and Richard Kruspe, who were really cool. Richard was telling us how much he enjoyed our show, and he really liked the energy of the band. We could not wait around any longer after that, so we jumped in some taxis back to the hotel, as we have a reasonably early start in the morning.
When we were leaving we were talking to one of their production guys, and he told us that Rammstein have 21 trucks, nine buses, plus two other buses carrying merchandising and the support band Combichrist. Quite a production, and they transport their own generators for each show that have enough power to supply electricity to a small city. On the drink stands they charge you for the drink, but it can only be served in a Rammstein plastic beaker with their artwork on it, so that adds another two euros to the price. You get to keep the beaker though as a souvenir, or you can return it and get your money back. I gave my two beakers to Peter Weber as he is a huge fan of theirs, and he even saw their very first gig.
TUESDAY December 15, 2009 City: Berlin. Venue: Postbanhof
Up at 8am and a quick breakfast before we hit the road on a 280km (174 mile) drive. There was a really good review of our Hamburg show in the Hamburg Morgenpost this morning, so we were very pleased about that. It was half a page, complete with photograph and all positive. On the bus most people have gone to their bunks, but as we have a busy day today coupled with an overnighter to Nurenburg straight after the show tonight, I thought I should take this opportunity to bring this diary up to date. When we arrive in Berlin, the band have one hour in the hotel, and then we are going for a photo shoot and video interview with MoreMetal.com. Then from there, we will go to the sound check, where we have been told there are a lot more interviews ranging from Germany to Bolivia.
One of the journalists, from the Berlin newspaper, Berliner Abendblatt, gave me a promo sheet from Cargo Records DE that is advertising a band of theirs called Armitage Shanks. Their new CD is titled Urinal Heap. They are an English punk band that have been going since 1991. They have other such wonderous CD titles as 25 Golden Showers and Takin’ The Piss which might be just what they are doing on this latest rendering.
Well my HTC mobile telephone is kaput today, so I have had to buy a cheap Nokia mobile telephone to put my sim card in and be able to send and receive calls and messages. To be honest, I cannot make up my mind whether being incommunicado has been awful or pleasurable. The show in Berlin was fabulous and we had a great time. The audience as far as you could see, right to the back, were well into it. There was a cute girl in the audience holding up a sign saying Micky’s Girl which was nice, and generally there was a good vibe to the show.
Some of us decided that we should stay in the hotel tonight, and have a few hours sleep in a non-moving bed. This meant going to bed around 1pm, and getting up at 5.30am to jump on the bus and drive the 430km (267 miles) journey. I have to say that this was not something that I agreed with, but there is always compromise to be made, and I went with the flow.
WEDNESDAY December 16, 2009 City: Nuernburg. Venue: Hirsch
As we checked out of the hotel at the ungodly hour of 6am with only four-and-a-half hours’ sleep, the hotel kindly gave us some breakfast bags with a sandwich, fruit and chocolate in them. We loaded up the bus with the suitcases, and there was the first showing of snow that had settled. Needless to say everyone went straight to their bunks.
When the driver had to stop for his 45-minute break around 10.30am, a few of us got off the bus and had a little breakfast, while the others stayed in their bunks. All we can see now is snow out of every window in the bus, so winter has truly arrived. Well at least it has over here in Germany. We are a little off schedule as there was a big accident in the middle of the night that held us up for ages. We arrived at the venue and had a quick lunch, and then the band caught taxis to the hotel. An hour-and-a half later it was back to the venue for the sound check.
Graham and his lady Regina from Hofner, kindly brought along some of the same type acoustic guitars I have been using, as well as a different type of acoustic to try, and I spent some time going through them all with Christos and Pete on the monitors, to find the best ones. We settled on the two we thought would suit the songs and the band, and we were very happy. Graham also bought along a classic Hofner Galaxy re-issue electric guitar to try, and it was only much later that I realised that this was my very first serious electric guitar that I bought in the 60s. Mine was a bright pillar box red, but this one was white. Now that is going full circle. Amazing!
The show was a good one, and there were some good responses to individual songs, especially Love In Silence, Sunrise and Free & Easy. That was really cool! Dave White, our webmaster from the USA, had flown in from Cleveland, and it was great to see him. Pete Wharton had flown in from the UK too, and they were both staying with Richard Wagner who lives in Nuremburg, We have known Richard for ages, and he has become a friend of the band. I found out that Spurs had beaten Manchester City football team 3-0, so I was delighted. Charlotte, our front of house sound engineer, and Ian, our bus driver, are Spurs supporters, so it was high fives all round.
We had an early start the next day, so we did not hang around too long, and the backstage area to be honest was non-existent. I did manage to say hello to the excellent Hofner luthier Hubert Kaa and his wife Karola, which was nice, before we were taken back to the hotel in a Polizei Van. The driver, Frank, was a fan, and worked with us ages ago. He is now a policeman, hence the ride in the van. The look on the hotel reception staffs faces, when we arrived in the van was priceless.
THURSDAY December 17, 2009 City: Kempten, Germany. Venue: BIGBOX
A quiet bus today, and not everyone made breakfast. The journey from Nuremburg to Kempten is 270k (168 miles). Tonight we are playing with Manfred Mann and Sweet, and as we are on last, we have to sound check first at 3pm today. This is why we had to leave at an ungodly hour. The hotel and venue are only three kilometres away from each other, so that will make things easier for all concerned. We have run out of English tea bags on the bus, the alarm bells are ringing for replacements and panic has set in. The word desperation comes to mind, so hopefully we will be able to pick some up at the next venue.
On the subject of tea, if you ask for black tea (or Schwartz tea as they say in Germany) in hotels or restaurants, you invariably end up with Earl Grey. Now this is not tea in my book, but cheap warm perfume. I tell you what, I would love to meet the salesman that apparently convinced the whole of Germany that Earl Grey is the tea to have, because I would love him to sell our CDs and merchandising, then we would be rich beyond our wildest dreams.
While I am in rant mode, there are a few things I dislike about hotels. One little niggle is that they package wrap the soap in the bathroom so tightly, that you have to use your teeth to get it out, thereby tasting the soap in the process. This is very annoying. The other thing that bugs me, is when you put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door, and the room maid usually in the morning still insists on coming in. Now sleep on the road is a precious thing, so a little trick I use to some effect, is to have a shoe by the bed, and when you hear the door being opened, throw it with some gusto towards the door, and they soon get the message. No maid has been hurt thus far I hasten to add, as even if I say so myself, I am a cracking aim.
Another complaint would be curtains you pull across the windows which are so thin, they still let the light in, and make absolutely no difference open or closed. Plus pillows that collapse when you put your head on them, and appear to be filled with air, with not a duck feather in sight. Now that is another salesman I would like to meet. Most of all, though, would be, telephones that are positioned nowhere near the bedside table, and you have to get out of bed, and dive across the room to answer it. Usually in a half-baked stupour, stubbing your toe on your suitcase or anything else in the way, as you scramble around in the dark trying to find the phone.
On arrival, we checked into the hotel, and the crew went down to the venue. It was a 3pm sound check and all went well. Then Bernie Shaw, Trevor and I went for a walk and grabbed a bite to eat in an Italian restaurant. There are posters of the concert all over town so the promoter looks like he has done his job. We are on late tonight as it is first Sweet, then Manfred Mann and then us. I hope the audience will not be worn out by the time we come on. The show went very well, and this audience more than any other on this tour, listened intently to every song. In the song Rain you could hear a pin drop, but after the song finished they went ballistic. It was a bit like that for the whole show, and you had the feeling they were hanging on every note.
We played Lady In Black as the encore, and you could see the joy in everyone’s faces, as they sang at the top of their voices. Back in the dressing room, we met Bert who was in the rock band Still Crazy Project; they supported us in 1989. His daughter Tanya, contacted ‘Scampi’ requesting the meet, as it was her father’s birthday, and she wanted to surprise him. We had pictures taken with him, and autographed his ticket, and everybody was happy. After that, it was a quick glass of wine, a bite of pizza and back to hotel.
FRIDAY December 18. City: Regensburg, Germany. Venue: Kulturspeicher am Hafen
Today we have a 10am bus call and a 250K (155 mile) journey. It is all relatively quiet on the bus, and there is a feeling that we can now see the finishing line, with only two shows to go. Bernie is watching yet another movie, this time on his lap top, so the rest of us can talk, instead of trying to shout over machine-gun fire or something equally annoying.
We had more time than we needed at the hotel, as the sound check was delayed, due to the local crews arriving late with setting up the PA, monitor and lighting system. Tonight we did not sound check until 6.45pm. Still all went well, but it is one of those venues that you need the audience in to soak up some of the frequencies. No worries there then, as it is sold out so ‘appy days!
We went down to the show and ‘Scampi’ said that we must be doing something right as the venue is rammed. So much so that Christos could not even get to the stage to get me a guitar to the dressing room, for my warm up. Well the show was brilliant, and Dave White, the webmaster who flew in from the USA, said he walked around the venue when we were on, and that the sound everywhere was great. It was a hot, sweaty, but good night.
Back in the dressing room I signed a guitar for Anton Seutte, who kindly gave me a bottle of red wine to celebrate our 40th Anniversary. Anton runs The House Of The Rock, which is a music training centre here in Regensburg. Anton said that I was the inspiration for him to start playing guitar and form the school, and that felt really good to hear. Inspiring people to play is probably one of the best parts of what we do as musicians.
On stage we were also presented with a 40th Anniversary cake from some fans, which was brilliant and very nice of them. It was presented just before the encore of Lady In Black. So a good night was had by all, and after a few glasses of wine and the obligatory nightly pizza, it was back to the hotel, bath and bed.
SATURDAY December 19, 2009 City: Salzburg, Austria. Venue: Gusswerk
Today will be a long day! Firstly, we have to travel 190k (118 miles) to what will be our last show of the tour in Salzburg. We will play the show, and then we have the long overnight drive to Calais, then the boat trip to Dover England, followed by the journey back to Leighton Buzzard, where we will be dropped off, and pick up our cars and drive home.
We left at 10.30am today, straight after breakfast, and started the journey that will eventually lead us to home, and our families. Then we can take off our rock star hats, and put on our husband and father hats. I am really looking forward to having some quality time with my family over Xmas and the New Year, and I know that my son Romeo is aching to have his daddy home. His mummy will be ever so happy too.
Tonight the first band on is Mickey Monroe, who I have never heard of, and then we take the middle slot, with Manfred Mann on last. This suits us just fine, as we can get away promptly after our set. Well we had a late sound check and stayed down the gig for dinner. As there were three bands on, we had to cut our set by three songs, which is always a difficult call. Still, with that done, we hit the stage, and the intro tape started, but the keyboards had broken down just as the intro tape began, so we could not start the show. A quick explanation to the audience telling them there was a technical hitch, and they were really good about it.
It was then I noticed that there was a blonde blow-up doll strapped to a bar stool in the pit right in front of me, with I Love Mick written on its chest. I pulled it on to the stage, and of course the photographers down the front in the pit had a field day. I bet that’s the picture above all others taken tonight, that they will use in the newspapers. I should have known, because when Christos came to get us in the dressing room for stage, he said you have a right darling in front of you tonight. This was a last night prank from the crew, and as I am sitting here typing this, the doll is sitting opposite me. The crew, namely Christos, strapped it into one of the chairs on the bus.
Anyway once the keys were fixed we started with the song Wake The Sleeper and we were off. It was a fantastic show, and a great way to end the tour, as the audience went ballistic. They were screaming for more at the end, and they sang Lady In Black so loud it was brilliant. The equipment was packed up quickly, then we all went to the hotel for a shower, and jumped on the bus to start the long journey home.
The funny thing is that Dave White, who was flying back to Cleveland, Ohio, will probably get home before we will. It will take us the best part of 22 hours before I walk through my front door, and that is if there are no hold-ups or problems with the ferry. That is nearly the time it takes to fly to Australia. It has been a fantastic tour, and our thanks go to our crew, who helped us make it to the finishing line. They went the extra mile when it was required, and in doing so, made it a relatively trouble free tour. The roll call is as follows:
Christos Kodjamanis: Guitar Technician & Stage Manger
Charlotte Evans: Front of House
Ian ‘Scampi’ Bintliff: Lighting Engineer & Tour Manager
Peter Weber: Drum technician
Peter Foulkes: Monitor Engineer
Brian West: Keyboards and Bass Guitar
Bernie Zylka: German Tour Manager
Ian: Bus Driver
I have made a list of everything that made this tour happen, and it makes for an interesting read, which I think you will agree:
TRAVEL: 12,000 km
DIESEL: 4,000 litres
HOTEL ROOMS: 494 rooms
DRESSING ROOM RIDER: 180 Pizzas, 60 Tuna Salads, 60 litres Jack Daniel’s, 60 litres Vodka, 30 litres Brandy, 30 Bottles Champagne, 720 bottles/cans beer, 90 bottles Red Wine, 90 bottles White Wine, 800 bottles Mineral Water.
SOUND CHECKS: 29
PLECTRUMS/ GUITAR PICKS GIVEN AWAY: 400
REGAL TIP DRUM STICKS GIVEN AWAY: 90
REMO DRUM SKINS: 15
WYRES ELECTRIC GUITAR STRINGS: 60 SETS
WYRES ACOUSTIC GUITAR STRINGS: 45 SETS
GAFFA TAPE: 8 ROLLS (425 METRES)
SHURE HEADPHONE MICROPHONES: FOUR
SHURE KSM9 MICROPHONES: TWO
HOFNER ACOUSTICS: 7 (TO FIND THE TWO REQUIRED BY MICK)
GUITAR CASES: TWO (DAMAGED)
TRIPS IN A LIMOUSINE: ONE
TRIPS IN POLIZEI VAN: ONE
LATEX LINDA BLOW UP DOLL: ONE
AND ALL FOR 50 HOURS OF MUSIC…!
That is it for now, and I hope you have enjoyed the read! Rock’n'roll!
N.B. In case you were wondering about the dressing room rider and the consumption thereof, the bus is now a travelling off licence/liquor store.