SUMMER 2012 – GERMANY TO AUSTRIA
Guten Tag, Deutschland! The Billy Idol tour rolls into Stuttgart with casualties! My finger is still bleeding, McG and Jeremy have run out of clean clothes and need a laundry pronto, I am still sans cellphone… and the Lurpak butter I so dearly love has run out!! What are we gonna do!?!? We have a whole day to kill before tonight’s show in the Porsche Arena so I grab some supplies, hit the gym and eat Burger King. What?!? Yep – I succumbed to the Onion Rings. Those things are good! Anyway, before this turns into a food blog, let me explain the ‘Arena Show’ to you. Arenas vary in size but the concept is the same. Lots of seats around the edge, and a mass of people on the floor. Usually a sports location turned into a rock spot for the night, they offer both good and bad for the artist. It’s indoors, so the lights and production work. But sound is usually a little boomy and expansive. It looks visually great (especially at the Porsche – its packed and the place is noisy and enthusiastic) but they are all similar so the Arena shows tend to merge into one another, each one looking and feeling similar. Tonight is ok – the audience is great, but I suffer a few wireless problems and my fucking finger is killing me and bleeding all over the place. The ‘New Skin’ that I’ve poured all over it is not really doing much, and it’s on the first finger – the one a guitarist uses A LOT!! So there’s a few clams from me tonight – mainly due to me simply not being able to take the pain of that particular chord – D Major seems to be the offending culprit!! I get through the show and I think the rest of the guys have a good one. For me, I’m glad tomorrow is a day off and a chance to heal.
Hamburg. I love it. The retail is expansive (but not expensive!), the food is killer, and we have some friends visiting. It’s gonna be a great couple of days. The first day is a day off, and our friends Petra and Vic have driven in from Cologne… and it just so happens that Petra is a world class tattooist!! Well, it would be rude NOT to get some ink while she’s here, right? So in true rock star fashion, we take over a room in the hotel, order extra chairs and lamps (and a gallon of coffee), and set up a tattoo station right there. The look on the Bell guy’s faces as they come into the room with everything we asked for, and they see a semi-naked man, lying on the bed, getting drilled in the leg by Petra is hilarious!! At one point, Jeremy and I leave the room to go get a drink and smoke, and we find ourselves walking down the corridors, barefoot, with shorts on, with my leg all bleeding and cling-filmed up from my tattoo, and we realize it’s the ONLY way to get ink! Hotel, private tattooist, room service – excellent!! Jeremy and I both get Hannyas (Japanese masks) – mine is on my right lower leg/shin/calf and Jeremy’s is on his left knee. The results are stunning – Petra is an incredible artist and a wonderful friend. Thank you for coming all the way to see us, Petra. We had a great time and hope you did too. And we’ll see you next year!!
The next day is show day in Hamburg, and we have another special friend visiting us. This time, it’s someone that knew both Billy and I back in the day, in Bromley… we are talking 33 years ago!!! His name is Guy, and I haven’t seen him since the late 70’s and Billy hasn’t seen him since the early 80’s. I have given interviews in the past where I speak of someone that worked in Bonaparte Records in Bromley back in the day. He was kind to me (I was YOUNG!!) and introduced me to Punk’s lineage – Bowie, Iggy, Dolls etc. I remember vaguely that he was in a punk band, that he had a cool red Mohican haircut, and all the Seditionaries clothing. For me he was a ‘face’, someone ‘in on the scene’. Well, fuck ME if I don’t spy this dodgy looking geezer online when I’m looking for Sigue Sigue Sputnik tee shirts who reminds me of someone …. “um….are you Guy Jardine who used to work at Bonaparte Records in Bromley?…” After a day or so, he replies ”…yeah, are you Billy Morrison from Bromley?”….!!! He now lives in the Hamburg area and of COURSE we hook him up. And so the reunion of the Bromley posse takes place, backstage at some open air show in Germany!! It’s great to see him and his girl, and we put him side-of-stage and throw down a killer show. One of the new songs, ‘Kings And Queens’, which was written by Billy, Steve and myself, is ALL about Bromley and the punk scene and those golden years. Billy turns to the side of the stage where Guy is, and sings it. It’s a personal and poignant moment…. It’s very special. The gig is great, and we swap stories afterwards before heading out into the night on the bus.
As much as I love Berlin, I’ve been here a few times and done the whole ‘Brandenburg Gate/Checkpoint Charlie/Berlin Wall thing, so while I understand there’s much more to see here than just the relics of World War Two, I opt to stay in the hotel and enjoy the rich comforts of a high end hotel. And within half an hour I’ve discovered the ‘Cigar Lounge’ – a gorgeous private room that harks back to the 1930’s pre-war decadence of expensive smokes, piano bars and lounge singers. The moment I discover that I can order food and coffee in this room, I settle in with my laptop and I just don’t move all day! My own private sanctuary. Jeremy joins me for a few hours and we enjoy good coffee, some pasta and smoke ourselves into oblivion. At 5.00pm, it’s time to get our bags together and check out for the show. Today the gig is just on the outskirts of Berlin in Spandau. It’s an open-air gig and going onstage in bright daylight is always a little strange. But halfway through the show, it gets dark and the energy gets way more intense. Guy is at the show again and says that tonight’s energy was way bigger than last nights gig. We run short of time and have to cut Mony Mony, so we finish with White Wedding. Thank you Berlin – we came, we saw, we rocked your asses off!!
So here’s some bus logistics for you. Sometimes the drive to the hotel is about 4 hours, which means that we are arriving in the early hours of the morning. Do you sleep and wake up groggy, only to check in to a hotel and try and go back to sleep? Or do you try and stay awake until 4 or 5am and THEN check in and sleep? But then if you do that, you sleep until the afternoon and waste some of the next day. Obviously regular readers will know that for me, this is often irrelevant as I tend to only sleep about 4 hours a night anyway!! But you get my point. Thankfully, tonight we are driving to Munich again (as the next show is in Austria, not too far from Munich) and the drive is 9 hours. What this means for me is a decent nights rest – stay up until about 2.00am, and then fall asleep for a good 6 hours, waking up around 8.00am outside the hotel. Feeling pretty good, I shuffle inside, check in, and take a shower before heading out to explore the delights of Munich on my day off. It’s more of the same (Starbucks, lunch etc) and the evening provides a very nice curry in Trader Vic’s. The Americans on the tour have decided that they all need to start speaking Cockney Rhyming Slang (fuck knows why cos no one really uses that shit!!) and it’s hilarious. We now have Derek, in his best Burbank American accent, literally making anything up that rhymes……”oh that was a nice Ruby Yul”…..what?!?! He explains that he thought Yul could be ‘Yul Brynner = Curry Dinner’……um……we MAY be getting the concept a little confused here, folks!!
(UPDATE: Derek has shown huge potential and has studied hard, throwing many acceptable and usable phrases into everyday conversation. So much so that we have all decided he should be lifted into the annals of history with his OWN Cockney Rhyming Slang phrase…..from hereforth unto the end of time ….. or at least until the next tour diary…… we shall use his name in the following context: “Keep your Derek to yourself, mate”……..Derek Sherinian = Opinion!!!! Hahaha! Having a ‘Derek’ shall now mean having an opinion. Make it so!!)
Right then – Austria…. Let’s have a quick Yodel-up and get on with it! Land of the oldest known cake in the world (the Linz Torte), cows, beer and….um….nice views. The first show in Austria is the Castle Clam festival in Linz. A three hour drive from the hotel, which gives me plenty of time to play Max Payne 3 on the PS3 and write some of this diary. I like the daytime drives – time to chill, catch up on emails and a bit of work, and something to look at out of the windows. We pull up soon enough and I head on over to watch Therapy? kill it on the main stage. I love those guys and remember seeing them in the 90’s – they still know how to write a good song and pile-drive it into the senses of the audience. ‘Screamager’ is still a wonderful romp through angry riffs and poptastic harmonies. Our set is a nightmare for me, although by all accounts the sum of the whole rocks the Castle Clam audience. As the intro tape rolls, I turn my guitar on to check it and ….nothing. A crazy scramble through the wireless packs to find one that works and I find myself hitting the stage to Ready Steady Go with the wrong guitar on – this one has low output pick ups in it and I just can’t get the feel and tone needed for the first two (Ready and Dancing) so I am thrown already. Then for some reason I struggle with my mix the whole show. Unable to hear myself properly, I get more and more frustrated, and although I have a few ‘moments’ (Boss Sound, Blue Highway, Mony Mony) the bulk of my gig feels more like a battle than a show. But Austria responds loudly and the gig is behind me as I climb onto the bus for a quick getaway to Vienna…..
Um…..nope. Not happening. The simple way to say it is….THE BUS IS STUCK!! They are parked down a steep hill with a narrow road, and our bus is facing the wrong way. Meaning we have to reverse out. Meaning up a big narrow hill. Meaning no fucking chance whatsoever. After a few valiant attempts to reverse up this hill (and the run ups and speed get bigger and more desperate with each try), we eventually give up and call a tractor. To tow us out! I’ve never actually seen 15 grown men screaming at each other in German while a huge tour bus gets literally dragged up a ¼ mile hill, banging trees and fences and posts on it’s way up. Until tonight! Finally we get dragged to safety and the journey to Vienna can commence. The rhyming slang continues into the night and as I lay my head down to try and get an hour or two, the faint sounds of…..”Look at the bristols on that bird…..shame about the barnet…… you’re ‘avin a Steffi, you lemon….” followed by raucous laughter drift throughout the tour bus.
I said it the last time we played here, and I’m gonna say it again, because it’s so perfect….. in the immortal words of Midge Ure, “Oh, Vienna”. This place is an architectural masterpiece. Even the 7/11 looks old and full of history. And we are here for two days. Fantastic. We have some tattoos planned for tomorrow, but first we have a show to do. It’s a cool line up (Therapy?, The Ting Tings, Billy Idol and Incubus) in a great sounding natural amphitheater in the forest outside Vienna. It’s PISSING with rain, but the main audience part of the venue is covered, so people are crammed in and it looks good! I watch The Ting Ting’s with Billy and I have to say they were amazing! Grooves and beats, with a road crew that are as much of the performance as the two band members, grabbing guitars every second while they switch from keyboards, to drums, to bizarre looking sample triggers, and back to guitar again. One member of the road crew straps on a guitar at one point and plays some heavy riffs, and the beats and the melodies coming out of the PA are entrancing – I already went and bought their albums, and you should too. Our show was a good one, and I don’t suffer the same problems that I had the previous night. I play a good show, and Billy seems in great spirits, elaborating on some of the stories he tells onstage, throwing in a few hilarious one liners, and singing the shit outta everything. Steve Stevens does what he does every night – simply blows peoples minds. He could be sick, healthy, pre-occupied or focused, it doesn’t matter….when he walks onto the stage, all bets are off and he consistently pulls out riffs, solo’s and a performance that every person watching WISHES they could do. Jeremy is crazy to watch (and to listen to) – he has a tattoo of Animal from The Muppets on his leg, and its very apt, cos that guy flails, pounds and hits like his life depends on it. Plus I’m sure he has a metronome built into his head….unreal, consistant tempo!! Throw in ridiculous virtuosity and dexterity on the keys from one Mr Sherinian, and a low end from Hell, courtesy of McG, and I’m a happy man! Thank you Austria – it was a good night!!
There’s few people that would open their store and tattoo shop on a Sunday, call in extra artists, tell you to grab whatever tee shirts you want, take you for dinner afterwards, AND give you specially imported ‘Coffee Mate’ for your coffee….. but that’s what Coco Maynes (owner of Rattlesnake Tattoo in Vienna) did for Jeremy and I. Alongside Irish madman (and killer artist) Danny Bullman, Vienna artist, Stefan and top Serbian tattooist, Dusan, he opened his store, set up stations for the artists, and we got drilled. Again! They did this for us last time we were here in Europe and they continue to be the ultimate hosts. Nothing was too much trouble, and while Danny tattooed Jeremy, filling in a bunch of his left leg and foot, and Dusan balanced out my back with a black and grey rose (and the word ‘Hope’) opposite the Swallow that I got from Petra in 2010, Coco himself got ink as well from Stefan. The sound of tattoo guns buzzing, mixed with ACDC playing from the sound system filled the air….. lots of laughs, a visit from the Vienna H.A. (MUCH respect for the tee’s…..THANK YOU!!) and a lot of cigarettes and coffee later, and we were headed out the door for some dinner. It was the perfect ‘boys club’ afternoon and evening. Not the sort of shit you’d invite your Mom to (unless she’s tattooed, smokes and tells disgusting jokes!!) but a perfect way to spend some down time in Vienna. Thank you guys, for one of the most memorable days off we’ve had so far!! Next week – the final frontier…..Spain, Portugal, Motorcycles, Sunshine, Blue Skies and Rock N Roll. Tune in for the earth-shattering conclusion of…. (drum roll)…..Billy Idol Rocks Europe 2012!! Hahaha!