Salaryman Europe Tour
So we don't have our plane tickets yet. My old adage "I'll believe we're going to Europe when I have plane tickets in my hand" still stands. We're up in Chicago now because we're supposed to leave from Midway Airport in Chicago. You don't know how hard it is to pack for a trip you don't believe you're going on, especially one in a different country. I don't have any kind of traveller's checks or anything; basically I'm going over there with a VISA card and a bunch of clothes and about US$40. What more will I need? We're supposed to get per diems. And we have a Tour Manager, for our own little band, someone none of us have met. She's called Alyson, and she's going on tour with the Sea And Cake after she finishes us.
We have an itinerary, which I printed out, folded up and stuck in my bag, without glancing at it once. I really don't have any idea of where we're going or what we're doing. All I know is we're leaving Chicago tomorrow at 5:40pm, flying to Detroit, hopefully catching the flight to London, and then after around 8 hours or so (I'm guessing) we'll be in London. And it will be morning. That is, if our plane tickets arrive tomorrow morning.
I hope nothing goes wrong. I just want to see my keyboard, on the other side of the ocean. Come to think of it, I want to see the FEDex man tomorrow. With a package.
Editor's Note: We got our plane tickets.
Screaming Baby Map Problem
Hypothesis: It is impossible on any plane (airplane, haha) to find yourself more than 6 seats away from a Screaming Baby. This has not been proven yet, but perhaps the computer science dept at University of Illinois who so deftly proved the 4-Color Map Problem can prove my 6-Seat Screaming Baby Problem.
The 2 kids who sat next to me who looked like any suburban teenagers from the States were from Malta. Their English had just a slight accent. "Do you know where Malta is?" they asked, and I said, "of Course." Then I sort of got paranoid that I wasn't sure (it's southwest of Italy) and pretended to thumb through the Northwest Airlines Traveller Guide in the seat in front of me checking my geography. I don't know why I knew where Malta was. It was just luck. Stupid Americans!
Driving In London
Imagine driving through any huge city, like New York or Chicago, but driving on side-streets through the whole city. That's how you get places in London, because there is NO MAIN EXPRESSWAY! Anytime you drive from one place to another in London, you pretty much have to allocate about 2 hours to drive stop and go through stoplights and sidestreets that sometimes look like alleys!
howie checking out his new drums
Today is our first show. We picked up the equipment we'll be using in a Warehouse that had also stacks of equipment sitting next to ours (ours was marked "Salaryman") for Oasis, the Eels, and some other bands we hadn't heard of. Last night we met with Wyndham, our English CitySlang (that's the label Salaryman is on in Europe) correspondant. City Slang is the label that paid for us to come over here and is taking care of us - it's a Proper Indie Rock tour! It's very different from the last couple of times we came over here! We have people from the label taking care of us, hanging out with us, complimenting us and telling us how well our record is doing over here! We have interviews, press, photo sessions, radio shows, and we have a John Peel session which is pretty neat. That is a recording session I guess, for the John Peel show, which is a good radio show here in England.
Our Tour Manager/driver/person in charge is called Alyson, and she has lived all over the world. She lives in Chicago now, but has been living in Berlin for years! It turns out that she is originally from North Carolina. She is really nice and smiles a lot and seems very intelligent, and also at the same time really young. She also has a really great way of talking where she doesn't sound British but also doesn't sound American. It's not an accent as much as a sort of melodic way of talking. I'm envious of that, because even though last night Wyndham told me we don't seem overtly American, today I walked into a Donor Kebab stand and after the guy behind the counter said, "Open Or Closed?" too quietly for me to hear, I said, "Whaaah??", and he said, "You can't understand me, can you! Americano!" I was back in the 'wishing I had a Canadian Flag sewn on my backpack' mode. (Reference: American students when going to Europe are told to sew Canadian Flags on their backpacks so people aren't mean to them.)
Wyndham last night told us that he likes to work with American bands because they seem so laid back and have a good attitude. He said some bands with Indie Rock status even complain sometimes when they have to double-up on hotel rooms and don't get their own room! Sheesh, can you believe that? Decadence. But seriously, imagine complaining when you know how much all this stuff costs, to ship a band overseas and rent equipment and everything.
Anyway, here we find ourselves on a beach composed of small orange quartzish rocks, staring at an amusement park built on a pier off in the distance, in Brighton, which is south of London, on the coast. Man, that's a lot of prepositional phrases. I have never been on a beach that is made of rocks. We are waiting for our load-in time at The Freebutt Club, where we're playing tonight. There are castles around here as well, and every corner pub is named "The something & something-else."
The show was fantastic! I guess the promoter was afraid that people would leave before we played so he padded us with 2 local bands, but ended up giving us our headlining slot (which we were supposed to have) at the last minute because of all our gear. The promoter was really worried that we'd clear the place out I guess, when we played, and wanted to make sure he'd still get his beer sales, but as it turned out, people stayed outside during the openers, and came in during our show. On top of it there were phone calls asking when Salaryman was playing - the phone was ringing a lot at the little pub. So the promoter seemed impressed. He really liked the show. The audience seemed to enjoy it as well. It was a really, really small club.
After the show we stopped at a convenient mart/gas station to get a snack salad, and looked closely at the foods there. I hadn't ever really had a chance to check out the names of English snack foods. There were Luxury Oat Slices, Digestive Biscuits (I was going to buy some of them; they were crackers with chocolate on them but then I noticed the word "Digestive" on them and thought maybe they were laxatives), drinking yoghurt, among other things. I wonder what "Pepsi MAX" is.
Friday Aug 8- London, England
Our Tour Van
Today we had a photo shoot for a magazine called "Dazed and Confused." The photographer wanted to scout out a location for a shoot so we suggested that we try out the big inflatable Bubble we saw down the street from us. It looked like a one of those huge things that they inflate for kids and kids jump around inside, except it was bigger than a house. What it turned out to be was an incredible art project, meant for kids and adults to walk around inside. The inside was like being in a dream, completely indescribable. It was like being on the inside of a tomato - or maybe a bunch of different colored peppers connected together. The different colors of each plastic room were so vibrant that they caused your eyes to do weird overcompensating things, and Rick said he could feel each color affecting him differently; you know, like when you put a prisoner in a pink room he calms down. Rick said that when he spent a bit of time in a red area of the Bubble, he felt like wringing someone's neck after a while. I only felt really, really hot, because it was about 125 degrees inside the Bubble. It was about 90 degrees outside.
Pink Floyd-esque music oozed from hidden speakers inside. The only problem was that the Caretakers of the Bubble didn't want to let us in at first because they had a photo shoot for ELLE magazine just a while ago and the models ripped part of the Bubble with their high heels. They didn't want the artist to be taken advantage of; the Bubble used just for other artist's and photographer's backdrops. I totally understood, but I'm glad they let us in.
We had so many interviews this day I can't even remember them. The standard questions (how did the band form, where did the TVs come from) are getting easy to answer. Then we went to our venue which was in the Basement of a club - sorry, pub - called Hope & Anchor. The venue was called The Sausage Machine. It was small, and at 9:30 it was already packed. We were the only band playing. All our equipment was set up and we had a bunch of TVs set up on the stage - it looked like Man or Astroman was playing. A guy called up and asked if Poster Children were playing, much to the amusement of the soundguy. People were staring at the TVs, an hour before the show. By 10pm I noticed people leaving (we were standing outside because it was hotter than the Bubble in the club) and I went downstairs to find out why and saw a small "Sold Out" sign above the entrance. Talk about Hype. Salaryman's first London show was Sold Out!
I guess the show went well, because people really complimented us afterwards. One guy said "That was the most beautiful music I've ever heard." Wyndham, our English City Slang Rep was really, really happy with us - said we did everything he could have asked for, and said that he didn't have to feel like a fool for hyping us to everyone. It was really warm in the club. I think we were all pretty much out of our minds by the time the set was over. Rick spent half of one song wiping off the puddles of sweat from his keyboard. The TV spoke a bit too softly, I'm told, but at least we did get some reception. I suppose the show went well!
City Slang owns this van and lends it to their bands to travel
Alyson on the small spiral staircase we had to load equipment down for our show today.
I am really tired today so I won't write too much. We had to wake up early to drive to Covent Garden to the Rough Trade Record store and play an instore. And we couldn't bring all of our equipment down the teeny spiral staircase so we had to do Salaryman LITE, which in my opinion wasn't that great. People seemed to like it but I'm just not used to doing anything halfway I guess. Jim couldn't bring his piano-sized midi-controller keyboard down the staircase because it would take up half the room, and my bass cabinet was heavier than the staircase, so that couldn't go down. I just don't know how we sounded today. Then we had a shitload of interviews, and we collapsed from Jet Lag halfway through the day, on our hotel beds, me wearing a t-shirt soaked in cold water so I could sleep in the heat. It's really, really hot out here.
Wyndham's dad is a Knight.
Tonight Wyndham cooked a beef stew for us and we spent a couple of hours in a pub playing pool, then went back to Wyndham's where he introduced us to the hottest new British sitcoms, to study our reactions. We didn't like "Men Behaving Badly" as much as "Father Ted," a crazy Irish sitcom about 3 priests living on an island in the middle of nowhere, and as far as I can tell, none of them are very pious. It reminded me of the old show "Fridays" for some reason. Humor with a moral.
I find it really, really interesting to compare the cultures that we run into overseas; especially English because we all still speak the same language, so the differences are much less obvious and teach you something about your own culture. These differences are so less obvious, in fact, that I really can't come up with any after just hanging out with Wyndham for a day. His roomates don't like Pop Tarts. That's all I know. They like Seinfeld and The Simpsons. But the other stuff on British TV is very different than what we have. The one thing I noticed: everyone I talked to about what was on TV said it was all garbage. (The word "Flotsam" was used in one case.) That's the same as in the US.
I am ready to go home. I am worried about my plants. I hope they have enough water to last the 2 weeks. I miss throwing my body around at shows. I can't really move around at all in Salaryman shows. There are so many people interviewing us as Salaryman, and I am hearing our show reviews are going to be awesome. We are going to be way bigger here than Poster Children, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I almost miss our other band. I hope this doesn't offend any new Salaryman fans, but you have to realize, we have spent 10 years on our first child, Poster Children, we've put so much effort and love into it, we've been indie and major label and have controlled every aspect of it, and now this new youngster comes along and it's hard for me to neglect Pkids in order to be with S-man. Now I like Salaryman a lot, but it's just so different and strange. Thank god there was a Poster Children fan at the Rough Trade show - a guy from Australia who saw us a couple of months ago in San Francisco. He was so happy he got to see us perform again - even if it was Salaryman. I am glad Poster Children is touring in the fall. (By the way, the ideas and opinions expressed here are ONLY my own and not those of Rick, Jim, or Howie. If they read this, they'll probably think I'm nuts.)
Today is our Peel Session
We are now at the BBC studios in London, setting up equipment for our Peel Session! The studio we are in is pretty nice; definitely not the nicest we've ever been in. There is some kind of BBC orchestra practicing down the hall from us! There is an engineer here and basically we have the whole day to record about 4 songs. We are probably one of the smallest bands who has ever done a Peel session. This is a great honor for us. The show with us will be broadcast in 3 weeks I guess. We will get ONE cassette from this; not even a DAT. We are told NOT TO LOSE the cassette.
We finally broke down and ate McDonald's today. And I finally had to try a Pepsi MAX - do you know what it is? "Pepsi - with MAXIMUM TASTE and NO SUGAR" --- ICK!!!!!!
So we're somewhere in the middle of our recording session. I have the computer underneath my keyboard so I can play with it while people are screwing with their equipment. I keep feeling weird recording in a real studio with this band, keyboards and all. I feel like a novice at playing but like somewhere in a past life I was a recording musician. We have to record 4 songs; we're recording everything all together in the same room. We have done about 3 or 4 tries on each song, so it's not taking us too long. We're recording 20 minutes of material and it's going to take us 12 hours; 2 hours to set up, about 5 hours to record, and 5 hours to mix it down. Then we get our cassette tape. I tried to tell them we didn't have a cassette player; that all we had were DAT players, but they wouldn't fall for it.
Around my 3rd day in London I noticed that I had to make a concious effort to say things "American." It's really weird; you feel stupid saying certain things in your own accent, just subliminally stupid. So you start talking quieter and a using phrases like "as well" instead of "also" and "sorry" instead of "excuse me." And then you start worrying that you're speaking with a poseur British accent so you start talking with a southern drawl just to compensate. And then you really feel dumb!
bye Hotel Dalmacia!!