I’ve been in the US for the last few days. I have a performance to do on Thursday and, because it’s in a rowdy assed night club instead of a serene theatre type environment, I’ve decided to try something a little different. OK, I’ll still be on the stage trying to avoid the spotlight, shuffling about uncomfortably looking at my pedals, but I’ll be doing so in the company of two other musicians, namely Andrew Prinz from Mahogany who has kindly offered to play bass and Odell Nails on drums. This isn’t part of a grand plan, rather me taking a few risks and, in essence, trying to expand my horizons and learn a little at the same time. Although I’ve recently worked on Mahogany’s album Connectivity, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Andrew before yesterday and Odelll walked into my life with a large smile on his face only this morning. I find myself very impressed with these people, musically and, more importantly, on a personal level. I feel simultaneously thrilled and terrified at the prospect of sharing my music with two people that I’ve just met and don’t really know. However, their enthusiasm heals my fears. Just for today.
At moments when we play together it is delicious. At moments it makes me fearful that it may not work. I just don’t know. Right now I haven’t the faintest idea how this will turn out, but I have high hopes that it’ll be luscious and pant wetting. I suspect that whether or not it’s any good the whole experience will be pant wetting for me but that is another story. The plan is that after playing together today and, for a moment, tomorrow we try to figure out, I don’t know, lets say, four or five pieces of my music, and then present them on Thursday night in Brooklyn. It’s a long time since I played with others and, even then, not with my music so I’m curious to see what happens. I hope it doesn’t suck.
Now if you ask me the summer seems a strange time to choose to have winter but those happy folks down in South America seem OK with that idea and it suddenly struck me that an idea that I’ve lived with for forty five years on this planet, you know like Santa coming when it’s all snowy and July being a good month to hit the beach, are not in fact, universal. I mean, we could learn something from that, given that the shops aren’t nearly so busy in the summer than they are at Xmas. Several other ideas seem to differ slightly from my assumed knowledge, firstly that, over there one only has a ‘good chance’ of reaching ones destination alive when taking a cab and that guinea pigs are not, as we northern hemisphere types believe, cuddly little pets for our children rather tasty little appetisers for our lunch. That said, I’ve eaten weirder stuff in Japan and even survived a few Muscovite cab drivers, both in Moscow and New York, I hasten to add.
We we’re greeted by our hosts at the airport after a 14 hour flight from Paris and whisked off to our accommodation under an overcast sky along a typical airport highway and was assured that all the large piles of trash were were due to the trashmen being on strike. Shame on me, I was a little dubious but was pleasantly surprised a few days later when the accumulated piles of trash in the neighbourhood disappeared. The sun came out also revealing the majesty of the snow capped mountains which glisten in the sun in a way that beguiles and seems to overshadow most things, always reminding us how small and insignificant we actually are. It’s really difficult not to look at them, if you are there as a tourist, just as it is difficult not to look skywards whilst in Midtown Manhattan. Simply, I’m happy, I’m somewhere else. There’s lots to see on this planet and I’m running short of time. However I start to feel if I take a cab it may not exactly speed things up but terminate things forever.
With jetlag hitting myself, but not my seemingly tireless wife, Florence, we dropped our bags and headed into town for a quick look around. Just before I left home I’d bigged up on the whole Chilean deal with an article in one of my (stupidly expanding) collection of National Geographic Magazine but, in my usual untimely manner, it was from August 1973 and, I have to say, about as useless a document as my ‘concert contract document’ , more of which later.
So while I quickly updated myself on the, not exactly, breaking news of the military coup of September 1973, the repression of the people, the music of Víctor Jara , his persecution and all sorts of other fucked up shit which made Margaret Thatcher seem like, well, you know, still the worst thing that happen to the UK in the 20th century but just a bollock hair less evil. Despite the death of the dictator and ascendancy of democracy and the building of a large 80’s shaped cell phone building, built by, presumably, the cell phone company in the 80’s and such things, I couldn’t help but be compelled to take photos of a jackbooted military presence with an inordinately large number of armed ‘ninja turtle armoured militia’ presence. The event they were “protecting” was a protest by about 25 pre-school teachers about there not being enough red crayons to go around, or something of the like. The military presence seemed really threatening, even to someone who lives in France and goes out on a Saturday night. The best was seeing the armoured water cannon vehicle, I believe nicknamed ‘llamas’ as they spit when they are pissed off. I don’t want to paint a bad picture because it’s not at all like that, it was just unlucky to see that stuff before seeing anything else. Actually Santiago seems a very cool city and it’s not been spoiled by a certain chain of ridiculously over priced Pacific North Western coffee shops yet. You should go.
Happily I can report that in all my stay Chile I saw not another gun or shiny leather boot, even when I begged. However the whereabouts of some pre-school teachers remains unknown. I think they may have gone to MacDonalds.
After that, well, wander around downtown Santiago, trying to look like someone who doesn’t need to be shot just at that moment. Go for a coffee. Hey, y’all, this is a beautiful city. Fuck all your European shit, you can feel the struggle of those who walked before us as you walk the streets here. Those grand thoughts along with the more Guthrie-esque “hey I can afford coffee here without taking out a mortgage’ .. Happy.
Went to the Central Market.
Fish in mind
Those of you who know me personally will wonder how it took me so long to get there.
Didn’t buy a fish but saw this.
On the last day that we were there we spent the day near Valparaiso, a delightful and historic port city, just up the coast at a friends apartment, where we ate Ceviche and Chilean Sea Bass the size of a small child. I saw pelicans which, although are surely not the brightest birds in the animal kingdom, have such grace and beauty that it seems a shame to eat them.
just joking, they wouldn’t sell me one
I have been in the company of really nice people with very interesting things to say.
I’ve been introduced to so many familiar things in a new way.
I even saw my wife taken into police custody for being sober.
I cannot complain.
I Never did get to eat Centolla.
In all truth, I had imagined that it’s be fun to tell of my trip to Peru, somewhat in the same manner as a tintin adventure, with me, of course, dressed in a white suit and panama hat, wiping my brow with my banadana from time to time like Charles Laughton. As it turned out it wasn’t like that, in fact it was somewhat more bizarre, but to my credit, I chose not to wear white, which as I had discovered in Chile, had been a big mistake but for different reasons, mostly involving the fans of goth bands from the eighties.
Peru, without a guidebook, was as captivating as one could imagine. It started with the stereotypical hyper-bureaucracy at customs, something living in France had prepared me for, you know, like smuggling 20kg of crack cocaine inside and old antique clock but having spend three hours there, while they valued the clock, ending up paying $15 timepiece tax or whatever. Thankfully I hadn’t the need to smuggle drugs to Peru, apart from the obvious reason that i t w o u l d b e r e t a r d e d – I don’t do them anymore.
So, between the pointless French style red tape, mixed with the guns, shiny leather and sweat of the Spanish influenced Peruvian border police, whose paperwork has to be filled in, apparently not in duplicate nor even triplicate (heaven forbid, the mere suggestion may have you put up against a recently bloodied pole at the airport to be shot), so… no, forget quadruplicate, everything has to be filled in in quintiplicate This made me feel ever so grateful that Madame Guthrie was accompanying me on this trip and had recently had to deal with France Telecom on my behalf and therefore found this not challenging in the least.
So we meet or hosts, get whisked from the aeroporte to our hotel, while we innocently gaze out of the van window taking in the small part of Peru, probably the most representative part of the real Lima, given that most folks live without room service here and I, for one, find it captivating, sort of reminiscent of Naples except chaotic (which will only make those of you who have visited Naples smile). In short, it’s like the South America seems like in the movies. However, I see nothing which seems more fucked than Grangemouth, Scotland… Peckham, London… Belleville, Paris or MostPlacesWherePeopleDontDriveHummers, USA. In short, life seems vibrantly chaotic and truly worthwhile. Please excuse my naivety as I come here as a tourist but the point is, Ok, if you watch the TV here you can see the problems, the life in the shanty towns, all of the over tired clichés of South America. But, really I’m only here for a couple of days and I am being welcomed by the warmest, most welcoming people I’ve met since, er, well Chile.. (Wait a minute, you know what I mean. Nobody from our production tried to shoot me here, hell no, I had to go to Illinois for that) More importantly, I’m being exposed to something which will, without a doubt, enrichen my life, expand my horizons and continue to influence my thoughts for a long time to come.
Oh, and I met the future president of Peru, who, with his learned friends, taught me a few things.
It would appear that in the narrow corridors of the Elysée, my name has been passed from government agency to government agency after my recent insurgent behaviour as a disgruntled France Telecom customer. Well, hats of to them, m o t h e r f u c k e r s, they must have got some of their wires to work as they managed to pass my name to another branch of the, thinly disguised French regime, (thinly disguised as a first world democratic country that is), namely Air France.
When arriving back in Santiago, Chile after a few days in Peru, to take the direct flight to Paris, I was somewhat startled back into the reality of the ‘so called’ developed world by a, pretty, but altogether pretty retarded, check in person at the Air France desk who informed me, with that, oh so missed ‘fuck you’ attitude, that I hadn’t witnessed for the last 10 days, that if wanted to take my musical equipment home with me I’d have to pay $40/kg for the privilege. Now, I’m travelling with more than 40kg of musical equipment, so you do the math as if I do it again it’ll drive me to tears again.
No matter that the Air France luggage policy allowed me to bring the equipment from Paris CDG in the first place.
No matter that I’d just flown up to Lima and back to Santiago with little more than a smile and a ‘have a nice flight sir’.
No, that’s evidently not the way that the national flag carrier of France chooses to work.
This perhaps should help fanfare to the world quite a lot about the selfishness and greed of, well apparently, pretty much any organisation with the word France in the title.
France for example.
Had I been told in Paris that I couldn’t take two bags, I could have made a decision (for I am 45 and can make decisions myself, sometimes, you know… ) to leave some things, you know, a guitar, my effects pedals or my clothes or something. However, at my Paris check in I’d been greeted like just any other stupid France Telecom, oops I mean Air France, customer, welcomed on to their flight with all my baggage and I swallowed all of their bullshit like the naive piece of shit that they believe that I, as a customer, am.
So, as I’m sure regular readers don’t need to be told, in short, to get my equipment home cost me the most part of the money that I made playing in South America.
I, for once, have the last laugh.
you see, I gained about 3 kilos on this trip indulging myself on various tasty South American foods.
Didn’t tell them…
35 hours after leaving Lima I arrived home.
I didn’t smell too good.
I’ve just arrived home from Chile and Peru. I wrote some of the forthcoming words in the heat of the moment and some after some careful consideration. I promised myself I wouldn’t write anything negative in this journal as I feel very lucky to have had a really great adventure and moreso, for fear of upsetting people but, hey, fuck it, I need to write this in order to let it go, otherwise it’ll bounce around inside me and fuck me up. That’s just the way it is. Please take the time to also read my following entry “Dispatches from South America – The Personal Version” which I feel is essential to balance what I’ve written here about my work.
You see, quite simply, although in my recent years I’ve strived to be a patient man I have recently been subjected to events which would have Mother Theresa randomly shooting up a MacDonald’s. In short, I’ve been, once again, proving to myself that I am not able to cope with the indignities of the life I have chosen in music. I must preface this this by saying that I’ve just returned from South America where I’ve performed a few times and I wouldn’t want anyone to imagine that I’ve had a terrible time or been in the company of bad people, in fact quite the opposite is true. It’s just that, given my personality, I’m pathologically unable just to let go without sharing a few of my little calamities with y’all. Nothing super bad you understand, just things which could have been avoided but which were not.
You know, quite a few times recently in this weblog I’ve used the phrase “I have the best job in the world”. Well, I was talking bollocks, as frankly some of my experiences last week suggest otherwise. Sometimes it sucks to be me. I’ll elaborate. I’ve been playing a very simple instrumental set recently, very downtempo, a musical accompaniment to the animated film Lumière. I’ve played in front of, oh, dozens of people before… So, as is my habit I always send out an email to the event organisers with my modest requirements, you know, seated venue, as standing through a movie is fatiguing and, frankly, weird; a big assed screen to project the film on to; no bar in the room, as this often is very noisy and my show is meant to be quiet. I mean, I would say, all in all, my requirements are rather humble. I was once showed a thirty two page list of Morrisey’s backstage needs, not the technical requirements mind you, just the pampering requirements which proves that a/ he’s rather an arrogant old fuckwit and b/ he probably has no need to write a cathartic, but witty and amusing weblog about things as he always gets what he needs which, evidently, proves he’s obviously smarter than me.
Anyway, I never provide a ‘pampering requirements’ document (you know like in Spinal Tap, what shape the sandwiches backstage need to be, that kind of a thing) as I believe if someone invites me to perform that they will look after me, which, naive as it may seem, is what I am comfortable with.
Well I have to say that from the moment I arrived in Chile I was magnificently looked after, no complaints there. Wonderful hospitality. I was received warmly by my hosts who turned out to be fine people indeed.
So I’m in Santiago and unfortunately, for reasons perhaps beyond the control of the promoters, perhaps all of the planets have lined up into a big fuck you sign, perfectly aligned to the view from my dressing room, or perhaps because my Spanish is a little less than perfect, consisting of a few phrases which enable me to get adequate supplies of toilet paper in my hotel room, I was surprised indeed to find myself playing, not in a cozy little intimate theatre as I had been told, but in a big fucking disco at about 2am to a large, albeit very supportive crowd who, when talking after a few pisco sours, seemed to make more noise than a Metallica soundcheck.
James Brown fucked me up.
That’s obvious. That afternoon I’d been in the home of my friends Rodrigo and Ivonne when they said, as innocently as normal people say when their cats wander into the room, “this is our cat, James Brown, born the day James died… you’re not allergic are you”. I had sensed the presence of James before this announcement, being, how shall we put it, a little sensitive to the sadistic little evil motherfucking hairy assed bitches from hell since my mother brought me up with about 12 of the them. My eyes started to itch and my nose started to run. My nose started to itch and my eyes started to run. I started to wheeze. Truth is, I like cats but I have to avoid them. This one was cute. I fucked up. I went to the pharmacy. I bought an antihistamine…..
To me, at that point a little nap backstage was in order, for about, oh I don’t what seemed like four or five hours.
Well you know what they say about the drugs in South America. When it comes to drugs I’m about as much of a pussy as James Brown, the cat that is, not the dead guy.
So really, the cumulative effect of jet lag, some over the counter meds and the sudden depression when one is awakened at 1.57am to find himself, in the year 2007, in the dressing room of a fucking disco at 2.00am to see this…..
when one normally see’s this
is somewhat disturbing.
If I may digress a little I should write that I was enormously touched by the warmth of the audience. There were many people offering wonderful gifts and uncalled for hospitality which I wasn’t really prepared for, emotionally speaking.
Anyway back to my little histoire.
I don’t think I sucked but it wasn’t an easy show.
My first few pieces of music that I played were completely inaudible to me, indeed, I couldn’t even hear my little click thingy which is in my ears. Just as importantly I couldn’t see anything I was playing. Had it not been for the fact that I remembered that my feet were at the bottom of my legs I’d have been unable to press any foot pedals or any of that other stuff I do when I’m up there trying to do my thing.
But once I’ve started the show I can’t just stop playing if there’s a problem and there’s no point in trying to speak to them as I don’t happen to need any toilet paper at that particular moment, so I play on, try to do the best I can under the circumstance and try to be professional, because lots of people paid a lot to get in and they don’t need me to be throwing a sissy fit because I’ve had every single one of my requirements for the Lumière show ignored and would like to be somewhere else.
Now please, please understand I’m not in the slightest part disappointed with anyone except myself, as I really feel that by trying to present the Lumière performance in a disco was a mistake on my part. However, what could I do? Travel to the other side of the planet and then refuse to play?. No, I couldn’t do that, there were so many people there with so much enthusiasm, so I tried my best and endured my time on stage and tried to smile and be polite to everyone who wished me well, while embarrassment and frustration raged inside.
me thinking, omg, why didn’t I choose black?
Well at least the next show wasn’t in a disco so that had to be better, right?
I ask you…Where would be the fun in writing this if that were true?
Next night was also in Santiago in the ‘best music venue for my sort of show’.
Hmm, I should have guessed really, I mean there were telltale signs. It sort of looked like a big bar. In fact there was a big bar, no seats, lots of bottles and glasses everywhere. “Are you sure it’s not a bar?” I hopelessly whimper, knowing what the forthcoming evening will bring. Well I was assured otherwise but, to be frank, I’ve been in a few bars in my time and this certainly seemed familiar territory. Of course, never in my most stupefied haze would I have gone to a bar to watch a movie, but hey, that’s just me not being open minded, right?.. Apparently not. Oh well… I have a fundamental understanding that the people who have bought tickets to my show and have bought my records for the last twenty odd years are the people who have put shoes on the feet of my children and given me the privilege of this, sometimes extraordinary and sometimes very ordinary, life that I have, so I swallow the tiny amount of pride that I have left and play my show as best as I can, wondering all the time why the film looked like it was being projected onto a bedsheet, which it appears was the case, and although I was warmly received by the audience I felt I had let them down by presenting this show in such an inappropriate setting. Oh, and there’s one other thing… I sucked real bad. I had tech fuck ups, film fuck ups, finger fuck ups, looper fuck ups, pedal fuck ups, in short everything that could go wrong obligingly did so. I did check my flies were up before and after the set, which, had they been open as the folks of Aberdeen could bear witness, would have been the final indignity.
OK call me over responsible but it’s my ass up on that stage getting judged on every little imperfection, OK? and despite trying otherwise I kindly provided the audience with many imperfections that night.
Umm, after the show, more wonderful people being very complimentary, lots of photos for fans, sort of twenty years ago popstar stuff as opposed to the indifference that I have become more accustomed to, and indeed as I’ve come to realise, more comfortable with, these days.
Went to the seaside, to play in a small theatre in the University at Valparaiso, Chile.
Nice venue, seated, big assed screen, no disco balls, no bad surprises, nice show, nice people. More what the lumiere thing is all about.
Trouble is when it goes well I can’t think of anything to journal about it.
The sandwiches were even the correct shape in the dressing room.
My extended thanks to the photos that I stole from Cristian Soto L, Ronald Smith Arredondo and Jorge Matta Abad who are indeed very talented….