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 is Monica and The Explosion...
The first entry for this month is at the foot of the page, with the latest entry at the top!
- Sunday 26th - The Hydrant, Brighton (plus last Irish shows)
Back from Ireland where the last two shows had gone really well. The first was in Cork on the 19th September at a great venue called An Cruiscin, near the centre of town and the second at Captain America in Blanchardstown, on the outskirts of Dublin, on the 20th.
We’d really enjoyed the whole of our trip and we’re already planning to return to Ireland for an even longer tour in December. Everywhere we went we were greeted with great warmth and hospitality. We were told on numerous occasions that not many UK based bands bother to play in Ireland. This is a great shame.
Back in England, Monica and I were in Brighton with my two kids, Felix and Katie. We’d had lunch and were wandering around the lanes looking for something for Katie’s birthday which was coming up. I’d just bought her a “Ska Central” t-shirt, when Monica spotted a sign for The Punker Bunker, pointing downstairs in the shop we were in.
We’d heard from several people that if you wanted a gig in Brighton, a good place to start was at the Punker Bunker. So we went downstairs and introduced ourselves to Buz. After telling him we were looking for somewhere to play in Brighton he immediately asked us if we fancied playing that night at a venue called The Hydrant.
He was putting together an impromptu event for a band from Alabama called The Pine Hill Haints, who were in the middle of a UK and European tour. It was supposed to be their night off, but they decided they wanted to play instead. Monica and I had been doing a lot of gigs with just the two of us, the beauty of this is that when things like this pop up they’re easy to arrange.
Anyway, we too had a night off, and like the “Haints”, we preferred to play. So after collecting our guitars we headed back to Brighton.
The Pine Hill Haints are a four piece band - except when their tour manager and driver joins them on stage to take over duties on the washtub bass, while Matt Bakula picks up the banjo. The rest of the band consists of Jamie Barrier (vocals, guitar and fiddle), his wife Katie (washboard and mandolin) and Ben on snare-drum. This is great music and we’ve been playing the CD we swapped with them a lot, whilst we’ve been driving around. You’d be doing yourselves a great favour if you check them out.
Anyway, we got on well with them and generally had a fantastic night… and got invited to Alabama, maybe we’ll go. Why the hell not?
An old friend John Nangle turned up to see us, with a fantastic original poster from the tour The Flying Padovanis did with Stiff Little Fingers back in the early 1980s. I’ll get it photographed and posted on here soon. Thank you John.
- Saturday 18th - Trades Club and Leitrim Bar, Sligo
OK, time to be a little controversial.
Everyone had been telling me how beautiful Ireland was, but we saw little evidence of it as we drove from Dublin to Sligo. Of course, the fact that it was “pissing down all the fucking way”, as Monica so aptly put it (she really does have a marvellous grasp of the English vernacular) didn’t help. And yes, admittedly, I did have a slight whiskey hangover, courtesy of Beano, but the countryside through which we drove was mainly flat and uninteresting. And before the complaints start pouring in from disgruntled Irishmen, a lot of Ireland is really beautiful. All I’m saying is, “Not the bit we saw today.”
Interesting word “disgruntled”, as it surely implies one can be “gruntled”…
Oh and here’s something that I forgot to mention about Dublin, and that is it has the most fucked up system of one-way roads I’ve ever had the misfortune to deal with. In fact, the same applies to most of the other places in Ireland we visited.
The one in Dublin seems to me to have been designed by someone a little too fond of the “black stuff”. Either that or one of his kids drew it up will he was sleeping. My sat nav couldn’t cope with it. I understand the need for bus lanes (I think), but it can’t be right that a bridge is open only for buses, and a 15 minute detour is required to cross the river. How the fuck can that help pollution levels? One last thing. Why the fuck are cabs allowed to use bus lanes? Just so people with too much money can get where they’re going a bit quicker. Fuck off.
OK where was I? Oh yeah – Sligo…
We went straight to the venue, which was the Trades Club, where we were playing an all-ages afternoon gig. We met Jasper the promoter who promptly offered us a bag of seaweed!
“It thins the blood”, says Jasper, “I bought it off a bloke outside for 5 euro.”
It was so salty that the first thing I wanted was a beer (to help further thin the blood of course), but because it was an all-ages gig there was no alcohol. So I thought I’d better stay off the kelp until the later show.
Below is one song from the matinee gig. The spirit of ’77 is alive and well, at least within the youth in Sligo:
The Leitrim bar gig later that evening was notable for the performance of Setting Off Sirens, who I thought were the best young band I’d seen in a long while. Fiery and energetic, the band powered through a blistering set of well crafted punk songs, and in Kevin McHugh they have a great frontman. Nice one lads.
The other notable point of the evening was that someone punched Jasper in the head – I guess not everyone likes seaweed…
Next up Cork - and the An Cruiscin bar.
- Monica has her say...
"The afternoon show at the Trades club was maybe the best of the whole tour. All the bands were really good and the kids were really into it. Music means so much when you are young; it is part of your identity and can shape your life. It feels really good when you can be part of that."
- Friday 17th - Fibber Magees, Dublin
A proper rock and roll venue is Fibber Magees – one of Dublin’s finest.
Scruffy and as rough as fuck, just how we like it.
I’ve been in some odd dressing rooms over the years but this one was special, it was stuffed full of house plants of every description, with polite notices everywhere asking us not to break any of them. Unfortunately none of them were worth smoking so we just left them alone.
It was good to see Beano Heenan, the last time I saw him was in August at Rebellion, when he was stage managing the Empress Ballroom where the Subs played.
This evening, just before we were about to go on, he appeared with two of the largest whiskeys I’ve ever seen, thrusting one into Monica’s hand, the other into mine. Now Monica’s no whiskey drinker, “Never mind” says your man Beano, “You can have hers Paul” as he tipped the glass into mine… “In one mate!”
I try to be a bit more professional about playing these days, so I only drank half a pint of the stuff and took the rest on stage with me…
Deklan Dachau from Paranoid Visions was also there, we had a good old chinwag and agreed to try and do some dates together the next time we were in Ireland. Deklan is a top geezer and a Chelsea supporter too… and he bought one of our CDs, even though we would probably have given him one, he still insisted on paying.
Anyway, the gig went well with all the bands doing a great job…
Next stop Sligo and 2 shows in one day.
- Monica has her say…
"I love Dublin, I get a kick out of that city.
I have been touring in Ireland every year since I released my first album, always having a good time, but this is the first time with a band and headline shows. And I’m really enjoying it; playing venues like Fibber’s with punk atmosphere, a sticky floor and drunken bastards."
- Thursday 16th - Balcony TV & Dublin South fm
No gig today but plenty to do nonetheless. There’s always something to be getting on with and things have been hotting up recently. Offers of gigs have started to come in on a regular basis. We’re very privileged to have a growing network of wonderful friends, all doing their best to help us. So we spent the morning replying to emails, confirming gigs and chasing down new opportunities to play. This is all very time consuming, and a morning can pass in what seems like the blink of an eye.
So after lunch at the Siam Thai restaurant on Andrew Street (8/10), we went back to the hotel to run through the numbers we were going to perform later. First on Balcony TV, an internet only broadcast that features artists performing on different balconies around the world, then later, a live performance and interview on the “On the Verge” show on Dublin South fm presented by the poet Brendan Hickey.
We chose “Shut Up” for the TV show and “I Wanna Be Your Doll” and “Go (I Gotta Go)” for the radio. After we were happy with these, we ran through some of the new songs Monica has been writing recently. I love these times, hearing something new emerge is always a rewarding experience. And I still haven’t come up with a bassline yet where Monica has had to say “What the fuck are you doing?” so that can’t be bad can it?
One of the reasons we chose to drive to Dublin rather than fly was it enabled us to bring Monica’s Mark Bass acoustic amp with us, which I can play my bass through so we can both hear what I’m up to. Easily transportable, it’s a brilliant bit of kit. (Cheque in the post please!)
Balcony TV overlooks Dame Street, which runs through the heart of Dublin. The entrance is via Crane Lane up what seemed like 20 flights of fucking stairs which left a wheezy old fucker like me… Well frankly, wheezy. We emerged from the stairwell into what can only be described as the scruffiest offices I’ve ever seen. Tripping over empty beer cans and bottles of wine we finally made it to the balcony.
If only one of those beers cans had been full - I might have more easily regained my composure ;-) So if I seem a little flushed when the clip is finally released, then you’ll understand why. To date we haven’t seen the video but I’m happy to report (despite beads of sweat stinging my eyes and a heart threatening to burst through my chest) we played pretty flawlessly.
After a short break and more exploring of the city we headed off the find Dublin South fm, situated in a shopping mall on the outskirts of town. When we got there, Monica in the most casual of ways mentioned that the studio was on the top floor.
For fuck’s sake! Luckily, this time there were lifts and escalators to aid my progress, although we did go to the top floor of the wrong part of the building first, and had to descend and go back up again. Monica won’t thank me for this, but she has the world’s worst sense of direction.
We met JP at the studio. He was going to accompany us by playing a chair – I kid you not! Anyway you can judge the results for yourself by CLICKING HERE
I thought it worked brilliantly. Bass guitar and chair - what a rhythm section.
Brendan Hickey, the show’s presenter, is a fine fellow, full of easy Irish charm. It turns out that in all probability we would have bumped into each other back in the day, when he used to hang out at Dingwalls, one of mine and Charlie’s favourite watering holes. It’s a small world…
- Below: Pictures and captions by Paul - click to enlarge
Next – another Dublin show - this time at Fibber Magees.
- Wednesday 15th - Whelan's, Dublin
Right, it was time to explore Dublin. Luckily our hotel, the Portobello, was within easy walking distance of the city centre. So after depositing about half a million euro into a parking meter, we strolled into town. The first thing you notice is just how small the city centre is, everything is within walking distance, and there are bars and restaurants everywhere. The other thing I noticed was the variety of different languages being spoken. Not really surprising I guess, Dublin being a major tourist destination. In our hotel alone there were Italian, French, German, Swedish (lots) and Danish guests.
On every corner there were beggars, mainly Eastern European, but also Irish it seemed. I would have, of course, gladly dropped a coin into every deserving cup, but the Irish government had already fleeced me of all the small and large change I had when they kindly allowed me to park the car.
Dublin is a monument to rampant consumerism and very expensive. Like I said previously, a small bottle of beer in an average bar would set you back nearly 5 euro, which means I’d need about 15 euro to get pissed ;-) Some of my friends, naming no names of course, would need to carry a suitcase of cash around with them if they wanted to enjoy the same level of inebriation. By the way - do you still read my blog Charlie?
Whinge over, I really like Dublin, there’s a real vibrancy to the place and everywhere there’s music and the sound of people having a good time. Monica had been to Dublin several times previously so was able to give me a guided tour, pointing out as we walked around, all the places she’d played in whilst touring her solo show.
Soon it was time to head to Whelan’s for the sound check and to meet up with the rest of Hooligan, with whom we would be touring. We were going to be seeing a lot of each other over the coming days so it’s good to report that Dave and Roger, along with JP are seriously nice guys with whom we instantly struck up an easy friendship. Collectively, as Hooligan, they’re a band well worth checking out. They’ll be coming to England at the beginning of November, so if they’re playing near you I recommend you go see them. Here are their UK tour dates:
1st of Nov - Coventry, Kasbah
3rd of Nov - Gateshead, 3 Tuns
4th of Nov - Manchester, Night and Day
5th of Nov - London, the Gaff (with The Business)
6th of Nov - Leicester, Soundhouse
We really enjoyed playing at Whelan’s. It’s a well established music venue that has seen many great bands play there over the years, and we hope to return there before too long…
Tomorrow - Balcony TV and Dublin South fm.
- Up to Wednesday 15th - Dublin
We arrived in Dublin via Hinckley, Manchester and Liverpool. Taking the ferry from Holyhead, the seas were described as moderate, but we were staggering around like two drunken bastards every time we got to our feet.
I wanted to use the internet during the crossing but at 8 euros an hour, which is what Irish Ferries wanted to charge me, they could fuck right off. But it was a little indicator of how expensive things are in Ireland – more grumpy old man stories on that later… I mean over 4 quid for a poxy little bottle of Heineken I ask you, how the fuck do they work that out?
Anyway, we arrived in the rush hour; it took us so long to get to our hotel we barely had time to check-in before heading straight to rehearsals at Muzzle Music Studios, where we were meeting JP the “Hooligan” drummer who had agreed to play with us on the tour.
This really was a leap of faith for us, as neither of us had heard JP play and knew very little about him other than he was French. So it came as an enormous relief to discover he was an absolutely first rate drummer, who had obviously done his homework and knew most of the songs we wanted to play. The speed with which he learnt the others was truly impressive, no doubt his work as a session musician helped in this respect. So after we ran through the set a couple of times, we felt really confident that here was someone we would be comfortable working with.
Now we could look forward to the shows.
All that was left was to partake in a pint or two of the black stuff.
- Below: A selection of pictures from Paul's camera - click to enlarge.
As I have said, we’d arrived in Dublin via Hinckley, Manchester and Liverpool. In Hinckley we played at Karn’s Café Bar. The owner Steve Alridge is a top geezer who is doing a great job in providing an excellent venue in which both established and relatively unknown acts get a chance to play. So a big thanks to Steve and his staff for keeping it real - and for giving us the opportunity to play.
In Manchester we turned up at a place called the Thirsty Scholar, basically to have a drink and to check the place out. We got talking to the promoter Aislinn and ended up getting added to the bill for that evening. We went down so well with the crowd that we got offered a headline gig of our own by no less than three different promoters… funny how things work out.
In Liverpool we played an open mic night at a bar called Hannah’s, hosted by a sort of acid jazz band, so the crowd was very different from the usual type we get to play to and yet we were well received so that was well worth the effort too.
Whelan's in Dublin is our first gig on Irish soil so let's hope it's a good one…
- 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!