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, as well as how he came to join and leave the U.K. Subs first time round!
Paul will also share various photos from his travels with the bands he plays with, which at the moment is Monica and The Explosion and The Flying Padovanis...
The first entry for this month is at the foot of the page, with the latest entry at the top!
KEEP CHECKING THIS PAGE...
Saturday 13th November - Örebro to Stockholm
I’d been to Stockholm once before, sometime back in the last century, when the Flying Padovanis played live on Måndagsbörsen, a Swedish arts program. There’s some shocking footage of the show on YouTube, where I look so thin you can see how much the Subs had wrecked my health.
The show ran from 1979 to 1984 and the list of bands that also appeared on the show included The Ramones, U2, Elvis Costello, and The Jam. Back then we travelled by ferry to Gothenburg, then overland to Stockholm. This time Monica and I were arriving by train.
As we pulled into Stockholm station this thought occurred to me…
What’s the one thing that makes every city look the same? Answer – Graffiti.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against graffiti that has some sort of wit or invention. What I object to is the mindless “tagging” that seems to be a curse on every place we visit. Stockholm was no different.
The journey from Örebro to Stockholm was only 2 hours, but it was made to seem longer by the fact we shared a carriage with a bunch of around 15 pissed up young Swedes, on their way to a booze cruise to Finland. They were alright really but they were certainly on a mission, and they’d brought with them a staggering amount of booze, passing around bottles of Jack Daniels and vodka as well as a seemingly never ending supply of beer.
In Sweden the government attempts to control the supply of alcohol through what’s known as “Systembolaget”, a chain of state run shops. These are the only shops that are allowed to sell alcohol. There are only 411 of these shops in the country and then you have to be 20 years old to buy alcohol.
To quote the government’s propaganda machine:
“Systembolaget, the Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly, exists for one reason: To minimize alcohol-related problems by selling alcohol in a responsible way, without profit motive.”
Yeah right… that works then!
I liked Sweden a lot and we had a great time there. The gig at the Sugar Bar in Stockholm was really enjoyable. We were playing on the same bill as Discipline, a band featuring Katarina, one of Monica’s cousins. Although very different from us, I enjoyed their set and they have some really good songs which I look forward to hearing again when the new album comes out.
As Monica was teaching on Monday morning we had a day off to do some sight-seeing, something touring doesn’t often allow…
- Below: Pauls' latest Blog pictures - click to enlarge
Friday 12th November (Part II) - Örebro Show
True to her word, Malin met us at the station.
The 4-hour train journey from Kalmar to Örebro involved two changes and a trip to the buffet carriage, where Monica introduced me to the delights of “negerbollar”. This is a popular Swedish chocolate confectionary that’s been around for ages, and which unbelievably goes by the name of nigger balls! OK, the packaging doesn’t actually say “nigger balls”, but that’s the colloquial term that most Swedes are familiar with.
What I don’t understand, apart from the fact that it’s a pretty offensive term, is why call them that when you’re supposed to pop one in your mouth and chew.
There is a white version available, they’re just smaller…
…of course ;-)
Malin took us straight to her apartment where we would be staying that night. It was pretty cold and there were piles of snow everywhere, but all the roads were clear. We had some time to kill so while I checked my bass and ran through a few songs, Monica and Malin did some catching up. They grew up together in Gagnef, Dalarna, and have remained friends ever since.
The sound check at the Cadillac Bar, in the city “centrum”, was a bit worrying. The young girl in charge of the sound seemed a little lost. What you don’t need after every blast of ear-shattering feedback is someone saying “I really don’t know why that’s happening - do you?” But she was doing her best - and it was a relatively new system they had in there.
Anyway, most of the problems seemed to be sorted and when we played the sound out front was apparently very good, although we struggled with what we had on stage.
We liked the Cadillac bar a lot and we went down well, especially with the manager and owner, who immediately invited us back. So that’s one date fixed for next year’s Scandinavian tour.
The next morning, whilst Monica went for her customary early morning run and Malin struggled with her hangover, I took myself off for a walk down to the city centre and the castle.
“The natural centre of the city is otherwise the magnificent Örebro Castle, situated on an islet in the Svartån, and dividing the town into a northern and a southern part. This castle was constructed during the stewardship of Birger Jarl during the early 13th century and then modified and enlarged during the reign of King Gustav Vasa in the 1560s.”
After lunch it was time to head to Stockholm and the Sugar Bar…
- Below: Pauls' latest Blog pictures - click to enlarge
Friday 12th November (Part I) - From Kalmar to Örebro
The hat is gone!
R.I.P the “Hat”.
Stolen, or should I say taken without permission. After all I wouldn’t want to spark off a diplomatic incident here. But for fucks sake, I’d only been in Sweden for less than 12 hours, and one of our national treasures had been nicked, straight after our first show. I fear this reflects very badly on the Swedes, and I feel our government must react very strongly to this latest outrage and issue a strongly worded statement condemning those involved, whilst at the same time urging the Swedish parliament to take the necessary steps towards seeking out, and apprehending those responsible for perpetrating this heinous crime.
Or maybe I’ll just buy another one…
Perhaps, this being Scandinavia, I can find a flat-pack version?
Nevertheless, the Kalmar gig at the Söderport was great fun. No doubt helped by partaking of the Swedish beer Spendrup’s. Lots of Monica’s old friends turned up, including David and Peppe, the bassist and drummer from the first Monica and The Explosion album, which they recorded back in 2007. Peppe now plays in a band called Pär -Olaz, and David in a group called Trond. Before we left the club, we jumped back on stage with Peppe and played ‘Shitty-Pretty’ and ‘Avenue’ from the first album.
Our train to Örebro wasn’t until 1pm, so Monica took me to see Kalmar Castle.
In the 12th century the first foundations of a castle were established, with the construction of a round tower for guard and lookout. The tower was continuously expanded on in the 13th century. In the 1540s, first King Gustav Vasa, and later his sons Erik XIV of Sweden and John III of Sweden would organise the rebuilding of the castle into the magnificent Renaissance version it is today.
In more recent times the castle has been used as a women’s prison, a distillery and also as a granary. Finally, in the mid-19th century, a newfound respect for history led to the castle’s renovation. Monica tells me the place is haunted…
- Below: Latest photos from the man without a hat...
Click images to enlarge.
The train journey to Örebro involved two changes, and as we headed north it wasn’t long before we saw the first signs of snow. As we sped, mile after mile through a landscape that didn’t seem to change much, I began to realise what a vast country Sweden is. With a population of about 9.3 million and a landmass approximately twice that of the UK and North Ireland combined, whose population is over 61.5 million, you can see there’s a lot of space in which to live here.
So, Nästa station Örebro (next station Örebro) where Malin Westling, another old friend of Monica’s would be waiting at the station for us.
- Below: Could this be the hat thief? Possibly not, but any sightings or any further information should be submitted to our grieving bassist. Time & Matter demands a FULL investigation, hereby calling upon Detectives Ola Haver and Ann Lindell, Inspector Christian Tell, Detective Inspector Wallander, Chief Inspector Erik Winter, Inspector Anders Knutas, Inspector Van Veeteren, Detective Inspector Ewert Grens, Detective Martin Beck, Inspector Huss, Chief Inspector Jensen and Sherlock Holmes at the very least! The Slacker's Hat must be returned!
Thursday 11th November - From East Sussex to Kalmar
I’m on the train from Copenhagen to Kalmar in Sweden. It’s a 3 and a half hour journey so what better way to spend the time than by blogging?
I took the 08.45 flight from Gatwick. That meant I had to get up at 5am, which on a cold November morning isn’t the easiest thing to do. Not trusting my alarm to do the job, Monica called me from Kalmar to make sure I was up in time. She’d been in Sweden since Sunday doing some teaching work to help pay the bills. There’s no way, at the moment, we could survive by gigging alone. So whilst she was there I was doing the day job once again.
On Saturday night we’d played at the Punk’s Alive all-dayer in Birmingham, where the U.K. Subs topped the bill. It was good to see them all again, even though we’d had to leave before their set, as Monica had to be at Gatwick early on Sunday morning. We’d been given a 40 minute slot which we then split with Hooligan. The boys were over from Ireland for a short tour and we were using their drummer JP once again.
We hadn’t played with a drummer since we supported the Subs at the Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes, and for that date we played with Rob Baylis, the drummer who’d played on the “Shut Up” album. After that show we’d set off around the UK playing as a two-piece. So it was a bit of a shock to play with a non-musician again (Hey just kidding! I love drummers and if I ever decide to pack up music I might become one).
Anyhow, considering we hadn’t played with JP since the last date of the Irish tour back on 20th September, and judging by the positive crowd reaction we got, I think we carried it off.
I love the energy Monica brings to the shows. I’m not sure what people think when they see a slim girl with an acoustic guitar step on stage, but what I do know is that they’re often surprised by the power and intensity she delivers. I just stand back and enjoy myself.
A quick mention to Ram and his band the Prairie Dugz whose set I really enjoyed. I even got a song dedicated to me when Ram saw me sneaking out (I was only going to get my beer I’d left in the dressing room – honest guv!)
Anyway, back to the present. We’ve got 3 gigs in Sweden starting tonight in Kalmar where Monica’s parents live. We’re back playing as a two-piece again which we both enjoy. I think my roll changes when it’s just the two of us, and I make adjustments to how and what I play. There’s a bit more pressure to deliver, but hell, challenging oneself is what it’s all about. Isn’t it?
OK time for a Plopp, and to sit back and observe...
OK. Yes there were some disagreements and verbal punch-ups, and it’s probably true to say that we were sick of the sight of each other.
Christ, even I was sick of me!
We’d been touring solidly for over 2 years, practically living in each others shoes. Even when we weren’t touring we were in the studio recording.
There really was no escaping each other, so personality clashes were bound to surface.
And remember at that time, we were all testosterone driven young men …
…well all except Charlie that is ;-)
So it’s true to say that cracks had begun to appear in the fabric of the band. The punishing tour schedule we’d set ourselves had begun to cause tension between the four of us.
But here’s the thing…
I guess it seems hypercritical now that I’m back playing, to say that I felt it went against the fundamental philosophy and DIY nature of the Punk movement that a band should go on and on, and hang around forever. New bands were springing up all the time and by the summer of 1980 I felt we’d had our moment, and now it was time for someone else to have a crack.
The punk movement had thrown up such musical diversity it felt like anything was possible. Change was such a fundamental part of the times, and change was what I needed.
In early 1980 I’d been seeing a lot of Honey Bane, someone who was pushing her own musical boundaries with her work with the anarcho-punk band Crass. At the same time I’d started writing songs with my brother Steve, and together with Honey we formed the Allies. This was all happening whilst I was still a U.K. Sub, no doubt leading to further tensions within the band. We recorded 6 demo tracks (sadly now lost) during the all too brief collaboration with Honey, as well as doing a couple of shows supporting the Subs. Al Gregg gives an insightful description of the Allies in his book “The Wrong Outfit”.
Alex Ogg’s history is quite wrong however, when he says that Pete Davies and I formed the Allies. And when Nicky says “Charlie and I felt the Subs were our baby”, I think you get to the heart of one of the problems.
Nicky* was pretty controlling back then. It was obvious that to progress, the band would have to change, but it was the direction of that change that was causing problems.
An example of this was the fact that “Warhead” was lucky to actually see the light of day, as both Nicky and Pete felt it was too slow, but somehow Charlie and I forced it through. I always felt you could have power and tension in a song, without it having to be played at a million miles an hour.
So there you have it… Personality clashes and musical differences, just about what every band quotes after a split.
There’s an interesting parallel to then and now. I really enjoyed coming back to play with the Subs on that “originals” tour in 2007, and all the subsequent work that I’ve done with them. But it was never going to be a full-time thing. Just like in 1980 I needed a change, and fortunately that change came in the form of Monica and The Explosion. This is challenging music, not one that’s easily pigeonholed. I wrote about how proud I was to be involved with the “Shut Up” album in an earlier blog, and this still remains the case. Since “Shut Up” was recorded we have worked with several drummers, as well as doing numerous shows up and down the country as a two-piece. Monica is very comfortable with the latter set-up. As a two-piece, the songs remain closest to how they were first conceived.
Ironically, I think Monica and The Explosion would have been more easily accepted back in 1980, a time that was truly open to new ideas. If that sounds a bit like a whinge then maybe it’s because I believe Punk has become a little too inward looking. The more interesting bands around today aren’t afraid to blend different types of music together, just like the Clash and the Slits were doing back in the day.
On the 2007 tour, I got on really well with Nicky, I guess we’ve both mellowed a bit over time, and probably have a greater respect for each other than we did all those years ago.
Editorial footnote: The Allies picture above features the second singer Maureen, who took over from Honey Bane after she left the band.
- NEW PAUL SLACK RECORDING TO PURCHASE:
Click the CD cover photo to purchase the 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!