Welcome to the Subs bassist's 2010 tour blog, in which Paul will be detailing what daily life is like whilst touring.
In his blog you will find descriptions of venues, support bands, and of the various people that Paul meets along the way. Interwoven in all this is the fascinating story of Paul's comeback into music, after over two decades of being parted from his bass!
Paul will also share various photos from his travels with the bands he plays with, which at the moment are the Flying Padovanis and Monica and The Explosion...
The first entry for this month is at the foot of the page, with the latest entry at the top!
KEEP CHECKING THIS PAGE...
- NEW PAUL SLACK RECORDING TO PURCHASE:
Click the CD cover photo to purchase the brand new, totally fabulous Monica and The Explosion CD, with Paul Slack on bass. You will be taken to the secure Time & Matter Recordings Big Cartel site.
THIS IS THE ONLY U.K. OUTLET FOR THE CD, WITH A SMALL DONATION ALSO GOING TO CHARLIE'S CHARITABLE CAUSE.
Go on - you know it makes sense - give yourself a real new musical treat!
- Saturday 31 July - U.K. Subs at the 'Rock and Blues'
I was looking forward to hooking up with the Subs again as I hadn’t seen Charlie and the lads for awhile. We were playing the ‘Rock and Blues’, which is a bikers’ festival run by the Outlaws.
Monica and I drove up there on our own as we were about to do some shows in the week leading up to the Rebellion Festival. We arrived late, the Subs arrived late and in the event it was all a bit rushed. There really wasn’t much time to talk and catch up; anyway there’ll be plenty of time for that at Rebellion.
I’d framed one of Charlie’s paintings he was showing at the Rebellion punk art gallery, so I handed that over. I’d had the painting for months but had only managed to finish it the day before - life has been a little hectic of late!
There was nothing to eat at the festival, so we headed off quite soon after the show, not bothering to wait to see Marky Ramones band, so I have no idea what they were like, sorry.
- Below: Pictures of this gig by Monica Welander. Click to enlarge.
However, Monica got some great shots of the Subs show so I hope you enjoy them.
Especially when you also see our mode of transport below ;-)
For once, we set off in plenty of time. After all, we needed to arrive on time as the gig was going to be recorded by the Ronnie Lane Mobile studio, and hopefully will be released as a limited edition vinyl issue. So all the necessary line checks had to be completed by the time the first act was due on stage, around 12.30pm.
We got as far as Tunbridge Wells, about 30 minutes into the journey, when, in one of those rare moments of lucidity, I realised I’d left my amp and cabinet behind. I mean for fuck’s sake there wasn’t much to remember – guitar, leads, tuner, amp and cab. To forget two out of five takes some doing wouldn’t you say? I rang Mark St John from the LMS who offered to lend me one of his vintage amps, but I’m not really looking for a vintage sound. I know I can get what I’m looking for from my Mark Bass rig, and of course my trusted old Travis Bean, so there was no alternative - I had to go back.
Now we were running late, and therefore just missed our get-in time. Let me tell you, once you’ve done that, you’re fucked, because festival organisers have their rules and there’s no flexibility allowed. The gate where we were to unload our gear was locked and had to remain locked. I can feel one of those grumpy old men moments coming on – but let me tell you this: BANDS ARE TREATED LIKE SHIT IN BRITAIN.
Obviously there are promoters out there who do give a damn, but they tend to be smaller operators, hungry for success and not yet corrupted by big business.
Let’s compare the High Voltage Festival to the Tridays Festival we recently played in Austria. At the latter, we had our flights paid for, we were met at the airport and chauffeured to the event, our hotel was paid for and all food and drink was supplied free of charge for the whole weekend. On top of that, we received a good size fee for playing. At the High Voltage there was no fee, no travel cost allowance, no help with equipment and we weren’t even so much as offered a cup of fucking tea! How can there be such a disparity in the way a band is treated and thought of? Do you think the organisers of Tridays aren’t interested in money? No, it’s just simply in mainland Europe, musicians are generally treated with more respect – at least that’s my experience. Here we’ve somehow reached a point where bands are expected to pay to play… I just don’t get it.
Nevertheless, although feeling poorly treated by the organisers, we still put on a great show even if I say so myself, and hopefully something good will come out of the recording - despite the tape breaking at some point! Yes, the Ronnie Lane studio is fully analogue and has been lovingly restored by its current owners. (see above picture)
Thank you to Mark Wilsmore, Karl and all at the Ace Café who’s stage we played on.
And to Mark St. John and Paul Madden at the LMS.
As a footnote, Monica and I stopped at the Thai Square, in Aldwych on the way back - which receives an 8 out of 10. Well worth a visit, as recommended by the Welander/Slack Good Restaurant Guide (2010 edition).
- Monday 19 July - the journey home via
an unplanned detour to Tilburg.
OK, it was stupid, but nevertheless an easy mistake to make. Especially when you’ve probably passively smoked an eighth of hash!
We were heading back to England but wanted to stop for lunch on the way. So we looked at the map and decided to go for Gent. I reached for the Sat Nav and typed in Gent, but only found Gendt, which I then assumed was the Dutch spelling. It seemed the right distance as the projected time of arrival was 12.30. OK so let’s go.
Monica was driving and I was sort of dozing when I decided to look at the map to check our progress. The motorway signs said we were heading towards Arnhem.
Therefore we were travelling east and entirely in the wrong direction. Now how do you break the news to someone who’s been driving for a couple of hours that maybe we should turn around?
“Hey you know what? I think we should have lunch in Gent in Belgium and not Gendt in Holland - what do you say?”
I have to say that to her credit Monica took it very well. After all, she had been looking over my shoulder when I programmed the Sat Nav searching for Gent in Holland rather than Belgium, so now you can see how the mistake occurred ;-)
Anyway, we got the map out and decided to head to the nearest large town which happened to be Tilburg, and as it happened to be 19th July, we walked slap bang into this…
Pink Monday Tilburg 19 July
Tilburg’s village fair 2010: Runs Friday evening 16 July to Sunday evening 25 July, and has been framed up by a coloured village fair. Tilburg has also nice popular gay bars in the centre. The peak during these 10 day event is pink Monday (19 July), the largest gay-integration event in the Netherlands with more than 300,000 visitors. The village fair spreads over several locations in the downtown, with more than 300 large attractions. The nostalgic village fair with historical attractions in the town hall
to the Willemsplein is a fixed component. The kick off of Pink Monday is 13.00 in the beer hall, on the koningsplein with a show of LUV.
(The above 'Pink Monday' ad has been edited for reading! - Ed)
Fortunately we never found out what the "show of LUV" was...
Anyway it was a pleasant diversion but we soon headed off to catch the ferry. This time in the right direction – thank fuck!
One last thing. On the crossing back, there was a very strange sea mist, or perhaps an optical illusion as it never seemed to get closer?
- Above: Latest pictures by Paul, with captions - click images to enlarge
- Sunday 18 July - Back to Amsterdam and a wagonette...
We parted company with Henry, Chris, Ruby and the others at around 11.30am and headed our separate ways, knowing we would be meeting up again the following weekend to play at the High Voltage Festival in London.
Our destination was Camping Zeeburg, a site on the outskirts of Amsterdam where Monica and The Explosion were to perform later that evening. As we didn’t have to be in Amsterdam until around 6.30pm we gambled on the traffic not being quite as bad, and decided to hang around and have lunch in Chimay.
The Grand Café, in the centre of town next to the church, provided an excellent lunch and therefore receives a worthy 8 out of 10, even allowing for the fact the service was a bit slow. There were six restaurants all with outdoor sitting and the whole area had a great buzz to it.
Our trip back to Amsterdam was nowhere near as arduous, and we made it to the campsite in plenty of time. There were a lot of young people there and most of them seemed to be totally stoned out of their heads – it kinda reminded me a little of the film “Shawn of the Dead” – you know the shuffling zombie scenes ;-)
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against this kind of thing, but when you realise your prospective audience may not be able to form a coherent sentence you do start to worry. Mind you it’s never held the Subs back… hey just kidding!
Our accommodation proved unusual, a choice of wagonettes, better than a tent at least.
The gig was being promoted by Gwynn, who used to play in a punk band called NRA. He’d been asked by the campsite owners to provide bands on a regular basis as part of the weekend’s entertainment. We need more people like Gwynn, willing to take a chance and promote relatively unknown bands and not just seek an easier option.
- Below: Latest pictures by Paul, with captions - click images to enlarge
Well the gig was ok considering that fact that even if Bruce Springsteen had been playing some of the crowd may not have noticed, or at least not remembered the next day. But hey man who cares… Pass us that Camberwell carrot will you ;-)
Next up, the return journey to England, and the detour that took us to Tilburg.
- Saturday 17 July - the gig at the Motos Classiques, Chimay
We headed off to the festival at around 11am once we’d done the usual internet business – you really can’t afford to rest if you want to keep on top of things. The hardest job is finding gigs, so if any of you can help - we’re ready to listen. The day was sunny and hot with only a few passing clouds - and more importantly for the bike racers – no rain.
We were initially prevented from gaining access to the circuit because there was a sidecar race going on. Now if you want to see some insanity, a sidecar race is just the ticket. You have to be a particular sort of nutter to hang off the edge of a bike as it hurtles round corners at crazy speeds. Whilst we were waiting, we saw a couple of spectacular spills – luckily no-one seemed to be too badly hurt.
We’d played at Chimay last year at the “Milestones” event, but this was a much larger festival, with a much bigger crowd.
- Below: Paul's snaps from the day
Motorbikes can be beautiful, seductive things, and whenever I’ve played at one of these meetings I’ve always come away thinking a bike would be ideal for travelling around the quiet country lanes here in East Sussex. Maybe one day I’ll grow the necessary bollocks to have a go…
There was racing going on all day, but after you’ve watched a couple of races the novelty soon wears off. So after lunch, Monica and I decided to head into town and see what it had to offer. As I said I’d been to Chimay before but had never explored the town itself, so it was a real pleasure to discover what a nice place it was, and of course everywhere we went, you could find the famous Chimay beer.
The Chimay Brewery ("Bières de Chimay") is a Belgian brewery, founded inside Scourmont Abbey, in the Belgian municipality of Chimay in 1862. The brewery produces three widely distributed ales and a patersbier exclusively for the monks; they are known as Trappist beers because they are made in a Trappist monastery. The brewing plant was updated in 1988, and as of 2005 produced 120,000 hectolitres annually.
Since 1876, the monastery has also made cheese, and currently offers four cheeses.
Well... how about that?
All I can say is some of those monks must be fat fuckers on a diet of beer and cheese ;-)
We eventually sound checked around 7pm, approximately 3 hours later than planned (but that did allow us the opportunity to go out in the safety car for a lap - great fun!)
I can't remember the name of the support band, but they played a lot of rock and roll standards, which got the crowd going.
Then a lot of things started to go wrong. We got on stage to discover the amp they'd supplied Henry with, and the one that had worked perfectly well in the sound check, had mysteriously stopped working - luckily there was a replacement available. Whilst this was going on Chris found the hi-hat pedal was broken and required a hasty rebuild.
However, once this was all sorted, we tore into our set and were playing as well as we have done in awhile…
…when the power went off!
This happened 3 times during the set, but somehow we made it to the end and went down a storm, with a couple of encores as well.
So a big thank you to all at the Motos Classiques for a great day...
- Friday 16 July - Chimay with the Flying Padovanis
We decided that there was no need to rush off to Chimay as Henry and Chris weren’t arriving themselves until late afternoon/early evening. So we hung around in Amsterdam soaking up the atmosphere of this unique city.
If I ever felt the need to live in a city again, then maybe Amsterdam would be the one.
I’ve decided that whilst travelling with Monica and the Explosion I will include, in my Blog, a Paul and Monica good food guide to the highs and lows of eating out. You’ll see that reports will generally be about Asian and more specifically Thai restaurants, but also anywhere else of interest. Some of you may be thinking “What the fuck is he on about?” but who knows, one day you may find yourself following our footsteps and the guide may be useful. Oh and I promise that I’ll get back to some stories about the Subs and the early days – and why I had to walk away from it all back then.
Anyway, our lunch at the Thai restaurant Chao Phraya gets only a 6/10 ... that’s to say we wouldn’t rush back! Lunch over with; we headed off to Chimay in Belgium. We anticipated a straight forward 4-hour journey, mainly sticking to motorways. In the event, we didn’t allow for the holiday traffic, leaving not only Amsterdam, but Brussels and everywhere else on our route!
It seemed like the whole of Europe was on the move. Throw in some major road works and a couple of accidents, and suddenly our journey became an endurance test. Even allowing for the fact we were sharing the driving, this was tiring stuff. At one point we stopped and I drank 2 Redbulls, and approximately a gallon of coffee - none of which seemed to have any effect.
And so our 4-hour journey ended up taking nearly seven hours, and it was with extreme gratitude we rolled into Fourmies, a town approximately 20 minutes from Chimay, where the organisers had booked a hotel for us.
We found Chris, Henry and Ruby, Chris’ daughter in the bar along with a couple of Henry’s friends from Nancy. After a quick freshen up, we headed off to yet another crap French restaurant (Yes, Fourmies is in France not Belgium) where we had to listen to Henry sing the praises of French cuisine (bless him)… just before we were served a meal so lacking in imagination and quality you would be hard put to find anything as ordinary in England… unless you were on the Isle of Sheppy that is! ;-)
- Thursday 15 July - Amsterdam via Dunkerque
After what seemed like weeks of fine weather, the morning we set off for Dunkerque was blighted by gale force winds and driving rain! I don’t get seasick so that wasn’t a worry but I was more concerned that the ferry crossing might be cancelled. Luckily for us there was only a 40 minute delay, and although the sea was rough, I’ve been on much worse sailings.
The first real frustration of the day was to be the poor wi-fi signal on the ferry. The connection was so slow it proved unusable. Getting online whilst on the road is a constant problem as the internet is such an invaluable tool for us. Monica and I seem to spend half our lives on our laptops, contacting venues and promoters, booking hotels, searching for places to eat, Facebooking and blogging etc. So the 2 hour crossing seemed a bit of a lost opportunity to get on with things.
The second frustration of the day was trying to find a restaurant in Dunkerque that offered a vegetarian (“What no meat?”) option. There was a time when France led the way as far as eating well was concerned. Sadly, today, this is no longer is the case. We tried a Thai restaurant then an Indian one, and finally a Chinese restaurant but they were all closed for lunch! Closed for lunch for fuck’s sake!
Eventually we found somewhere that had pasta with a tomato sauce… but that was it.
Anyway we wasted so much time in Dunkerque that we arrived in Amsterdam later than we intended. It had been nearly five years since I was last there and I’d forgotten what a fantastic city it is.
We were playing at a sort of hippie squat called the Dokhuis Gallerie on the east side of the city. We were made welcome by Ewan who was running the show. We were given a meal and as many drinks as we liked, and also shown around the place, including the room we were staying in.
There was a small but enthusiastic crowd for the show, and we managed to sell some CDs afterwards. Ewan passed a hat around and raised some extra money for us. All in all we had a great time.
Ewan proved to be a great guy who couldn’t do enough to help us. So a big thank you to him and the other people we met there.
All that was left was a late night walk through Amsterdam. The perfect end to the day.
- Above pictures and captions by Paul...
- 10 July - The Red Lion, Stoke-on-Trent.
NO DRUMMER REQUIRED!
'Stoke' derives from the Old English stoc, a word that at first meant little more than a 'place', but which subsequently gained more specific – but divergent – connotations.
These variant meanings included 'dairy farm', 'secondary or dependent place or farm', 'summer pasture', 'crossing place', 'meeting place' and 'place of worship'.
It is not known which of these was intended here, and all are feasible. Hmmm…
…take your pick but my choice, in this instance, would be meeting place.
We got a call from Sian at Punky Galore Music Management Agency late on Friday afternoon, asking us if we'd be interested in playing at a Punk Picnic gig in Stoke-on-Trent the following day. Apparently the promoter, Lee Evans was being messed around by a couple of bands and needed someone to fill in. No money (when is there ever in this country?) just expenses! Well at least we wouldn't be losing money to play. Money definitely isn't the motivation to play... but everyone needs to eat.
Anyway, we didn't hesitate, and I got straight on the phone to Digger to see if he was up for it. Unfortunately he had a prior arrangement that he couldn't back out of. So I tried Wilco from the TPBR who we'd played with at the 12 Bar and Flower Pot, but he was going back home to Holland to cheer on the Dutch team in the World Cup Final.
All of which meant I had to ring Sian back and say we had no drummer.
"Fuck it!" she said, “just go and play without one”. Well why the hell not? Monica and I had already played a few open mic nights together as well as a full set at the Yardbird in Birmingham a few days before.
So we arrived in good time, met Lee and hung around until the sound check. When I plugged in, I hit one note, then silence! I was using my Mark Bass head and the club’s Laney cabs and couldn’t get anything to work, not even with the help of the sound engineer. So a Laney amp was brought in and we managed to get a sound of sorts, but with not much power. In the end we managed to get a workable sound but only just!
It was good to see the legendary Tosh from The Business and Section 5 (see photo). No doubt we’ll see him again at this year’s Rebellion.
The first group up were River Card who are a local hardcore band. They’re a tight unit with plenty of raw energy. Next was Senseless, another Stoke band who I enjoyed a lot. Good, well crafted songs with a lot of variety to their set.
Next up was Monica and me, and although we were the first non-local band on the bill, and lacking a drummer, we still had people on their feet dancing right the way through the set… no mean feat I think. I’m not sure what people expect from us but it’s always interesting to gauge their reactions. We came away feeling pretty pleased with the night though.
- Below: Pictures of this gig by Paul Slack (his picture titles as well!)
Click images to enlarge
Last up was a young Bristol band called Criminal Mind who seemed to be angry about something - although I’m not sure what… as their bass player hurled his bass to the floor at the end of their set, some bloke next to me said, “That’ll take some re-tuning”… and I guess he was right!
So, an impromptu 450 mile round trip to Stoke and back, to play in front of a half full pub. Was it worth it? Hell yeah! It's the only way to move forward.
- 3rd July - The Castle, Sheerness, with Monica and The Explosion
Monica and I drove down to Sheerness immediately after the Flying Padovanis gig at the Flower Pot in Kentish Town. We needed to be ready to put in as many hours rehearsal as possible as we were playing with yet another drummer - our fourth in five shows ;-)
This time it was Dave Marshall who is a top geezer, a local lad and genuine "swampy" as Sheppy islanders are known. Dave was also promoting the gig and had brought the Subs down to the Castle last year. Monica and I had taken on the gig when we met him at Charlie's party at the Gaff. As it turned out, none of the drummers we'd used before were available so I asked Dave, or Digger as his friends call him, if he'd sit in. "No problem mate" was his reply.
This is one of the great things I love about the "punk" community - this sense of we're all in it together and the willingness to help each other out. I'd prepped Digger by sending him a copy of the CD a couple of days before. Nevertheless, it's a tall order for anyone to learn an entire set at such short notice.
We'd rehearsed for the first time the day after Monica returned from the States when Dave had confessed to being incredibly nervous, but he soon relaxed, and we came away thinking it was gonna be alright!
Our second rehearsal was planned for the morning of the show, but five numbers in Dave's amp, the one he uses to power his home studio, broke down and with no replacement available we were forced to abandon the session. Instead, we arranged for the sound engineer to set up earlier than planned so we could run through the set in the sound check.
So to the gig itself and first up was Acoustic Ally, a local punk troubadour who played an entertaining set of originals and covers in which he got the crowd singing along.
Then it was our turn. The last time I'd been on this stage was when I’d played with the Subs and that night was totally insane. The place had been packed just a heaving mass of bodies…
This time there was a much smaller but still appreciative crowd, and that made us believe we'd won some new friends.
We even managed to sell some CDs which can't be bad...
Digger's band The Committed finished the evening off with a blistering set of punchy one minute 30 second punk anthems that got the crowd going.
A big thanks to Daz and the boys for making us feel so welcome.
We hope to be back before too long.