Thursday 24th August 2001- Day One
Get up at 6.30am, cab to Paul Caff, our label manager’s flat to pick up the gear. Load everything into the transit van with the help of Dave a guitarist/friend who’s offered to roadie. Sebastien, our shiny new French bass player is wearing a rather fetching pair of orange psychedelic print trousers, matching top, espadrilles and wrap-around shades. Personally, I rather like the new direction to our image, but I’ve a feeling Des, our manager, might want to have words. Luckily for Seb, Des is already up in Glasgow, sorting out business and generally shouting at people. Raife has decided to splash out on a plane ticket and goes up separately to avoid scuffing his shoes.
Typical transit van journey where I manage to catch around twenty five minutes of sleep spread out evenly over about eight and a half hours in between being completely ripped off at various Granada’s and Welcome Breaks. Eventually arrive at our hotel in a small town just outside Glasgow. We crawl out the back of the van rubbing our eyes (the light was broken) unpack and survey the scenery, trees, hills etc. Dave starts coughing.
Go to venue (the Vale Bar just opposite the railway station in Glasgow City Centre). We discover the Glasgow Herald has done a nice piece on us, based on an interview I did over the phone a couple of days earlier. Raife has decided to make a brief guest appearance and even carries a guitar case up the flight of stairs. He apparently had a lovely plane ride that took almost an hour.
Do soundcheck. We’re on a high stage about fifteen feet above the audience who start trailing in while we’re still trying to get a sound. Its a bit of a strange gig all in all, the audience were seated and the place wasn’t that full due to the guys who were meant to be putting our posters all over town being too fucking lazy to get off their arses for the last couple of weeks and apart from that, I wasn’t very happy with my performance, love.
Its funny what a crazy rollercoaster ride this rock and roll lark is. A couple of days before we’d sold out the L’il Backyard Club in Great Portland St (London) and people were left outside unable to get in. Two days later we’re playing to a two thirds full room of people who look about as excited as if they were watching a pub band. We still had a bunch of people coming up afterwards saying it was great and stuff, but I tend to take all that with a pinch of salt, and if they aren’t just being polite I usually put it down to the strength of the songs and arrangements rather than the actual performance. The worst part was knowing that ultimately the blame rested at my feet. I wasn’t enough of an artist/showman or whatever to turn it around. Still you often learn more from the bad nights than the good ones and it left me feeling determined not to let that happen again.
We load up the van and wave goodbye, Raife stays drinking with a friend of his who happens to have a suite at the Hilton and he and Dave end up crashing there for the night. Seb, Paul and I get back to our hotel and as is always the case after gigs we’re completely wired, so after catching last orders at the hotel bar we decide to cross the road and check out the town’s one and only nightclub where drinks are £1 all night.
This turns out to be quite an experience. Its generally not a good idea being rude about a town or city or whatever if you’re in the public eye in any way, because you might end up having to return one day to find a million people who want to kill you, so I’ll just say what a lovely place it was, full of incredibly charming and peace loving individuals and slim, beautiful women. Not a bit like Royston Vasey.
Friday 25th August 2001- Day Two.
Paul and Seb decide to drive down to the sea, while Raife and Dave (who got a lift over) and I decide to stick around at the hotel. A few minutes after they leave, Raife gets a call from our manager saying he’s got three passes for the Glasgow on the Green gig where we’re opening up the New Bands Stage the following day. We get a lift in to the Gorbals where its being held. Having been in the back of the van going in and out of Glasgow the day before, I hadn’t actually seen what the city looked like or got any sense of the place. The first thing I see as we drive in is some bloke punching some kid in the face.
In case you don’t know, Glasgow on the Green is the Scottish version of the Reading and Leeds festivals that goes on simultaneously with the main acts playing different nights at each of the three venues.
We wander into the site just in time to catch Elastica on the main stage. I really like them for about four songs and there were a few moments after that, but I felt it was summed up when Justine asked the audience “what do you want to hear?” and someone behind us shouted “Beck”.
I’d never seen Beck live before. Although I quite like his records, I’ve never actually bought any of them, but I have to say the gig was truly great, and the best thing I’ve seen in a while. He was a star and the band were fantastic. It reminded me of Bob Dylan backed by the Family Stone. The ending was particularly memorable, a couple of the band were running around with these huge baseball pads with American star and stripes all over them, while another was sweeping the stage with a broom and the guitarist and bass player were attached to hospital drips, while Beck (wearing a yellow overall with “incident” written on it and a plastic mask) was going round sealing off the whole stage area with the tape they use when there’s been a road accident or some kind of toxic spill. At least you can’t say anyone’s done that before. The music was good too.
I don’t know who had to follow him, as we had to go, but I wouldn’t have envied them. We got a lift back to the hotel with the guy who was looking after us, just in time to catch Big Brother followed by a brief discussion about how Craig completely blew his cool the moment Clare came in and started waving her tits around.
Later there’s some party/disco thing at the hotel so we all hang out there. Dave and I have given up drinking, but the others were going for it and at the end of the evening after a night of pure Robbie Williams/M People hell, the DJ put on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and suddenly Seb decided he had to dance. In its own understated way this almost rivalled Beck’s performance as one of the trip’s most surreal visual moments. It wasn’t so much the floor-clearing windmill arm movements that were so stunning as the way he chose to sit down at a table during the slow bits, not even attempting to dance. Later, he saw that someone had thrown a condom packet at him, but he didn’t seem particularly offended.
Saturday 26th August 2001- Day Three.
Get to to the site about midday and do a quick soundcheck. We have to use the festivals amps and drumkit, so it takes a bit of getting used to, but we’re lucky to get a soundcheck at all, all the other bands have to plug in for the first time in front of the audience and hope for the best, but as we’re on first we at least get a chance to mess around with levels a bit.
Des gives each of us a pre-gig talk. He’s been with us about four months now and I’d say his style of management comes somewhere between Andrew Loog Oldham and a boxing trainer. “Okay, you’ve got to show these fuckers what you’re all about, none of this snivelling apologetic fag shit, if anything goes wrong, you go out of tune or whatever, don’t apologise, just take your time and do your thing. I want a good beginning, a good middle and a good end. Remember you’re Tim Briffa from My Drug Hell, you’re a fucking rock god.” I like the way Des works, somewhere deep down he’s got a heart of gold, but he’s a borderline psychopath the majority of the time. When he first started working with us and there was a fuck-up at the pressing plant so instead of ‘Maybe We Could Fly’ we ended up 500 copies of monks chanting with My Drug Hell written on the front, he punched each of us on the legs as punishment and told us if we complained he’d punch us in the stomachs next, followed by our throats and then the back of our heads, (he said he’d spare our faces just in case we had to do photos). The thing is he believes in us as much as I do, if not more and I sincerely believe he’s going to go down in history as one of the all-time legendary rock managers.
The gig was really good in the end. I find the best ones are hard to describe as you’re in the moment and don’t tend to remember much except for an overall feeling. I actually broke two strings and the sound fucked up a few times, but thanks to my feelings after the Vale Bar as well as Des’ pep talk, it didn’t really get to me at all even though I had to finish the gig on my spare guitar. Des was really happy afterwards and said even if he’d had the chance to change anything he would have kept the string breaks in. Apparently a bunch of industry and radio people came to check us out and we got the largest crowd of any band on that stage for the whole weekend.
Afterwards we headed to the backstage area where we chatted about the gig and ended up getting into a long discussion with Dave and a guy called Nick about Top Ten three pieces of all time. We soon realised (rather worryingly), that there aren’t actually that many successful three pieces and certainly not many good ones. After My Drug Hell, obviously, we came up with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Nirvana, Supergrass, the Jam, and the Police, before hitting a brick wall. We’d decided not to count groups with three musicians and a separate singer i.e. the Doors, the Who, Led Zep etc and also vocal groups i.e. the Supremes, Ronnettes, Bananarama etc. In the end we’d drawn up a shortlist of Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Crosby Stills and Nash, the Thompson Twins, the Walker Brothers, Tom Robinson Band, Peter Paul and Mary, the Buddy Holly trio, and Aha. About ten minutes after we’d finally ground to a halt and were chatting about something completely different a girl called Claire who’d been sitting with us and had said nothing for the entire half hour or so that we’d been trying to come up with names, suddenly shouted “Hanson” which had us in hysterics for the next few minutes.
In true spoilt rock star fashion, we barely left the backstage area all day, but we did check out the Foo Fighters, who I thought were okay and later Oasis, who are not one of my all time faves I have to admit. I’d never seen them before so I thought I’d check them out, especially as it felt like there was a fair chance they might never play again after the weekend what with all their internal feuds etc. In the end they were almost exactly as I expected them to be. They seem to personify the cocaine high; everything seems to go on too long, there’s all this passion, but they’ve got nothing to say. The problem I’ve had with them since the beginning was not so much that they were complete rubbish, just that they weren’t nearly as good as they (and the critics) seemed to think they were, and I think a lot of that’s down to pure laziness. There’s a number of songs (‘Wonderwall’, ‘Live Forever’ particularly) that to my mind contain all the elements to be great songs, and I think Liam has potentialy a great voice, but in the end there’s not one record by them that is fully satisfying from start to finish, that doesn’t eventually get on my nerves either because the lyrics mean absolutely nothing or the solos go nowhere or the vocal has the same overdone Johnny Rotten/Lennon-in-full-sneer mode throughout.
We left just as they were encoring with “Helter Skelter” which none of us could quite stomach and drove back to the Hotel for a late drink and ended up playing pool into the small hours. One by one everyone crashes out until its just myself, Seb, Grant the chef, and his girlfriend deep in a conversation about Jordan’s silicone implants when at around five in the morning, the manager who had barely been able to speak for the past hour finally signals that he is no longer capable of serving and closes down the bar.
Sunday 27th August 2001- Day Four.
Wake up at about 11 and have a quick coffee at the hotel bar (Grant who was fucked the night before is already on his second pint) before jumping in the back of the van. Realised we haven’t eaten since about 3pm the previous day, so we drop into a service station to get fleeced. I can’t sleep and eventually end up talking to Dave about life without alcohol, following on from an earlier conversation about the Scottish attitude to drinking (i.e. that its good for you). I find this quite an interesting subject, even if no one else does, as I’m experimenting with abstinence at the moment and so far I haven’t had a drink or taken a drug since 1st Jan 2000 ( I’m even drinking de-caffeinated coffee).
One of the worst things about drink or drugs for me is that even when I’m not on them, I’m often thinking about them. I could be watching some magnificent sunset fall behind the Taj Mahal and I’d still probably be thinking “I can’t wait till I get in so I can roll up a massive doobie” so I’d rarely be enjoying the moment I was in unless I was completely out of it and even then not always. When you give up, you start to realise that the moment you’re in right now is pretty much as good as it going to get. If like me, you’re used to being fucked out of your head a lot of the time and you still want that kind of intense experience you start having to try and get as much as you can out of everyday stuff, whether its listening to music or going for a walk. It sounds really boring, and at first it was, but after a while I started to feel a bit like when I was a kid when I’d get off on doing things just for their own sake, and now I can honestly say I’m enjoying life at least as much as before and probably more so. I’m finding my dreams are starting to get more lucid and I’m getting more and more interested in yoga and mystical stuff. Saturday nights are probably not as much fun as they used to be, but Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays are definitely a lot better. Being straight also motivates you to do stuff sober that you used to have to get drunk to do like talking to strange women and stuff which can be an interesting challenge plus you tend to spend a lot less time sitting in watching crap TV. I still don’t like the way reformed drugtakers and drinkers go on about how terrible drugs are and how brilliant everything is the moment you gave up. As far as I’m concerned drink and drugs can lead to really interesting experiences, but they can also get pretty boring themselves after a while and mentally and physically you can end up paying a heavy price.
We got in at about nine at night, unloaded and Seb and I shared a cab home. Raife rang me when he got in a little after me. He’d stayed a bit longer to watch Celtic beat their arch rivals Rangers 6-2 which was a completely unexpected result apparently and he said the atmosphere was electric, like watching 60,000 Des’s (who is also Scottish) going mad simultaneously. All in all it was a quite a productive trip, and we intend to go back there soon.