It was slightly different getting up in the morning only to transport myself from one side of town to another – from one situation to another. From the Metal God to a guitar-gig.
I was still in Kensington where I had spent most of my day at Sony Music’s office, listening to the new Judas Priest album and talking to “The Metal God” himself, Rob Halford. NOW, I was checking out from my fancy Kensington high street 4-star hotel, to take the tube over to Angel station (funny – the song “Angel” by Judas Priest was in my head the whole time…!)
It was pretty easy finding my new hotel. What I didn’t realize was that it was right down the street from the venue where the Marty/Gus-gig was taking place later that evening: O2 Academy Islington.
I always pick hotels that are as close to the venues as possible, but this had to be a record! It was literally maybe 20 steps from the back door of the venue…!
I found a familiar face, Andy, sitting outside in the sun just chilling. It was the calm before the storm. Chatted for a minute or two, then I left him to just enjoy the few minutes of peace he would have that day, and went over to my hotel to check in.
After an hour, I went back out again, thought I would find something to eat, but after a short stroll around the block, I couldn’t find anything that I was in the mood for, so I went back to the venue.
During the 30 minutes that followed, I managed to steal a few minutes from the busy crew guys and a few band members who had been out for a walk and were about to start load-in. :)
There were two fans outside the club with plastic bags full of records, and I was wondering if they were there for Marty or Gus. Turns out, neither. They were there for Mats. They had every single CD he’s ever sung on…! And there was……a LOT. :D
Jo came off the bus, looking slightly dazed. So, while the load-in was in progress, I went inside the O2 with Jo and Or. They went looking for the dressing room, while I decided to just find someplace to make myself invisible, stay out of the way and just be a “fly on the wall”. :D
During the hours in there, I watched two sound checks, by Marty Friedman and Gus G, a video shoot for Marty’s new video and a “lesson”/rehearsal thing with Herman Li from Dragonforce who was going to join the guys on stage later that evening.
[Marty shooting a video] I bumped into Marty out in the stairwell. He smiled: “Oh, hi! You take good pictures. I like your photos.” I figured he probably must have liked them, cause I’ve seen a few of his updates that included some of my pics. I’m glad he liked them. :)
It was crazy hot inside so I went outside and found Or (bassplayer for both bands) there too. When Jo came out he immediately went: “Let’s go get some food!”. Food was the keyword. I was starving! So off we went.
Found a Vietnamese restaurant nearby, the menu sounded good, prices reasonable. And best of all, free WiFi (was pretty much the first thing Jo asked for, haha!).
I don’t exactly remember what I ordered but it was spicy…! And then we couldn’t quite figure out the currency (three people from 3 different countries, with the wallets full of various mysterious currencies, not necessarily the kind that is accepted in that particular country…!).
When we got back to the venue, the doors had already opened and there were people standing at the barriers, so I took my place there too. Last gig, thought I’d get a few pics and vids.
The opening act, Primitai, was okay. Never heard of them before – but they were alright. I remember thinking they had a good drummer. He didn’t look like a “powerful drummer” but he hit pretty hard and I liked his style.
Next on stage – Gus G. It was the perfect ending to my Guitar Universe tour, cause if I compare the level of energy at the first show in Tampere, Finland, with this one in London, it was very clear how much the band had grown into a true unity and what they were able to deliver.
Jo Nunez, drummer extraordinaire, impressed me more than anyone on this tour, funny enough. He’s always been an impressive drummer, but now he’s a full-fledged showman and entertainer as well.
He’s up there killing his drums every night but he’s gone from being a quiet guy that was almost invisible on his first tour with Firewind, to this mohawk-adorned, cool madman that’s spinning drumsticks, throwing them up in the air, challenging the crowd to make more noise, standing up behind the drum set letting his presence be known… He’s probably one of the best acquirings Gus has made for his band. :)
All I can say is: Jo-sus Christ!
Same goes with the new aquaintance, the bass-master from Israel: Or Lubianiker. Make no mistake, maybe people will take him for a shy and quiet guy seeing him offstage, but once he’s up there, he’s definitely not making any excuses. Just like Jo, he was working double-shifts, playing for Gus and Marty on the whole tour, keeping a steady and reliable rythm section for both guitar heroes.
While I guess that most of the guys in the crowd were guitar-geeks, I’m sure that there were some pretty impressed bassists there as well, who were checking out Or’s dexterity and experiencing total bass Or-gasms… (yeah, pun intended. ;D).
Mats Levén is a given frontman, he certainy has the pedigree to prove it too. He’ll sing whatever you throw at him, and he will do it well.
And Gus G himself? What can I say- I’m running out of adjectives! He was in a good mood which led to a more intense communication with the crowd.
The ONLY thing I would want to see more of from Gus, is an Yngwie-style guitar-pick rain during his set, to “feed” the hungry guitarists in the front row.
Those dudes down there would kill their own mothers for one of his picks…! More of that, and I think the “guitar geeks ” would walk on pink clouds for DAYS.
Cause needless to say, there are mostly guys in the crowd. How do you get more girls to the shows? My suggestion, from a female point of view, would be simple: Bring the “hair-fan” next time, it’s gonna work (well, it’s always worked for Steve Vai)! ;)
Other than that, he plays like a god. Always. I liked the songs from his solo-album before the tour, but I’ve gotten new favorites as I’ve kept hearing them live over and over again. “Eyes wide open” for instance has been stuck in my head for days already!
Also, their rendition of Thin Lizzy‘s “Hollywood – (Down on your luck)” was really one of the best so far. There was a drive and an energy in the performance of that particular song in London, that was really contagious.
Then, after the change-over, Marty time! Like I’ve said before, he’s got a very natural stage personality and that combined with his material, which is a winning mix between melodic, heavy and “riffy” instrumentals, simply makes time FLY!
He and his “partner in crime”, Takayoshi Ohmura, are constantly interacting with the crowd, making sure every single person out there feels like a part of the show. It’s virtuosity in every sense of the word, but not in a boring, nerdy sort of way, it’s made accessible and enjoyable for all kinds of people (providing of course that you like music…).
Before I knew it, he was done and it was time for that one last song, that one last little surprise…. Which this time wasn’t only Gus as a special guest, but also Dragonforce’s Herman Li. Yet another fast shredder to add to the equation. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, here we go!
After the show, I remembered that I was wearing high heels (I usually go to these gigs in sneakers cause I always have to walk a lot, but this time with my hotel being so close, I chose the heels instead). Those things were KILLING me after so many hours or standing and walking, so I figured I’d just go and say bye to the guys and then get a bit of sleep.
Flashed my laminate to the security guy and went to the backstage area.
My original idea was to wait at least 20-30 minutes so the guys could just get a break before people started barging into their dressing room, but when two guys just walked right in, I just went right along with them. What the hell, if nobody else thinks in my unfashionable “considerate” terms, then I’ll just go along with the crowd, lol! :)
It was slightly crowded back there, all kinds of people. Glad to finally have met Sharon from the management as well. She was actually the first person I was in touch with before that Relentless garage-gig in London years ago, and then I’ve seen her name online many times, but never actually met her. So that was nice. :)
Gus was stuck in this tiny production office with people walking in and out. I could only see a bit of his black Converse snakers and hear him back there somewhere – otherwise he was pretty much invisible.
When a handful of guests had left the backstage area I just stuck my head in and asked if I needed to take a number or something. :) It was kind of like in a dentist’s office. “Neeeext!”
He was talking to the guy who’s made Firewind’s cover-artwork and also for the latest solo-album. So as it turned out, the Firewind-symbol silver-pendant that I was wearing, had in fact originally been designed by him.
Pretty cool, you rarely ever meet those people. As always after a show, people just scatter all over the place so I never got to say bye to any of the crew guys, Jo had left to take a shower but it took a while so I just decided to call it a night and leave the area.
It’s been different, but good and I hope there will be more touring soon.
Reflections on coming home: Welcome to Tour Twilight Zone
The much anticipated Guitar Universe tour 2014 with Gus G and Marty Friedman finally hit the roads of Europe, and so did I!
My journey started at Malmö central station where I took the train to Stockholm on the 30th of April. It’s one of the most relaxing ways to travel, especially in the spring where you can truly enjoy the scenery. When the train crossed a few little lakes, it felt like we were “walking on water”. Beautiful.
I arrived at a busy Stockholm central, and used my smartphone’s GPS to find Hard Rock Cafe where I was meeting up with a friend later that day. I enjoy walking, and it’s especially enjoyable to take a walk in the sun. :)
Hours went by, I spent some time in the Hard Rock Cafe bar playing drink inspector. I love colorful, sweet drinks…! My friend Tina finally showed up and we could catch up a little. Haven’t seen her in years.
It started getting darker and that was my cue to get going so I could find my airport hotel before it got dark. Airport transportation is usually pretty expensive, but by reading tips from other travellers online, I found a way to get there pretty cheap by rail and bus.
I fell asleep pretty early (for my standards) cause sleeping is luxury when you’re out on these gig-trips. You try to get as much sleep as you possible can.
When I woke up early next morning, around 5 AM, I could barely believe my eyes. May 1st in Sweden – and there was SNOW outside?! It was freezing cold, and I didn’t’ have winter clothes, cause when I left Malmo it was spring! Oh brother….this was going to be interesting.
[The first thing I saw when I looked out the window in Stockholm, May 1st, 2014!]
The airport transfer bus was jam-packed. Got to Arlanda airport, my next destination was Tampere, Finland.
There were maybe 10 people on that tiny little SAS-flight and I could only laugh and shake my head at the fact that the plane was 55 minutes late because it needed de-icing…in MAY!
The captain went: “Well, we’apologize for the delay, but the de-icing station is slightly understaffed. We usually don’t need their services this time of year...”. :)
[Flying into Tampere, Finland…]
Tampere airport was like a ghost airport. Very small and absolutely nothing to see or do. I took a cab to Omena hotel which I thought was going to be my temporary home in Tampere. But when I got there, it dawned on me what kind of “hotel” it was. No reception, no staff, no nothing.
You got a key-code to access the premises and your room. And that didn’t work. The code/key would be “activated” at 4 PM. So there I was, at 10 AM, freezing my ass off, still tired, hungry and just needing a place to put my bags, change and relax before heading off to find the venue.
A McDonald’s was right around the corner and as much shit as you can shove on McDonald’s for various reasons, it has been my saviour many times when I’ve been out on these trips. It provides cheap food, free WiFi and bathroom. It’s the small things that count when you’re out travelling on your own.
I tried to get in touch with the Omena staff by e-mail, explaining the situation, asking if there was any possibility to get the access code to work a bit EARLIER than 4 in the afternoon, that’s extremely LATE. Nothing. To this day they still haven’t replied in any way, shape or form.
So, I thought… fuck it. I looked up another hotel nearby on my booking.com app and just walked in, asking if they had anything available for 1 person, 1 night. That was Scandic Hotel Tampere Station. The best thing I could have done! Sometimes, shit happens so that it can turn into something good.
The guy at the reception was super nice, I got a good discount, he asked what kind if room I would like, tub or shower, explained the details and was just helpful without being “in your face”-nice. When I opened the door to my room, I almost heard angel choirs and harps…! Wow.
It was modern, cool, had everything you needed and then some! It’s, hands down, the second best hotel I’ve ever stayed at. The best is still hotel Avalon in Gothenburg. But this is a worthy competitor. Normally I would have praised this place in booking.com’s review section but since I just walked in off the street, I’ll just mention a few things here in case other travellers to Tampere are looking for a great place to stay. It wasn’t that expensive either.
Sound proof – I couldn’t hear a thing from the rails, the street or other guests. Wonderful silence…!
Warm floors. Even in bathroom.
Usually hotels are focused on male travellers but this one had thought about the female ones as well. There was plenty of space to put my makeup in the bathroom, a huge mirror and good lighting.
The soap was organic and smelled great.
Another thought-through detail was the “night light” in the bathroom – a small, tiny light that lit up the commode so you don’t have to turn the big, bright lights on when you get up in the morning and need to go to the bathroom. THAT was probably my favorite feature. Again, it’s the small things that count. :)
And the BED…! I could have slept there all day, so comfortable. I felt like a queen.
But the best thing of all: It was right across the street from the venue, Klubi!
I walked down there to check out the premises, looked like a typical rock club. No activity going on though, so I went to get some dinner.
When I came back, I heard drums – actually, you could hear those thundering, wild drums all the way up to the railway tracks…!
A guy who was obviously from the club, approached me and started talking Finnish, so I told him I didn’t understand a word he just said.
– Oooh, sorry. I’m looking for a woman, but I don’t know what she looks like, he said.
OK, well. Hard to help you there my friend. :) A bit later on, I was picked up by a kind and familiar face and brought into the nice and warm club. At that point I felt like an ice-lolly or something, man it was cold!
But when you’re out on these things, there’s really nothing better to do than hang around the venue – as crazy as it sounds. There’s only so much you can do at the hotel or a restaurant, and even that gets old. Anyway, I caught a few minutes of the sound check, which was great.
It was nice to see all the familiar people and hear a little bit of Marty’s stuff as well. Mats came down to say hi when they were done, and Jo kept me company for a little while, as always, before heading off to grab a bite somewhere before the show. It’s always great to see him, I was really glad he was announced as the drummer on this tour.
That’s what I enjoy the most I think, the super sweet guys in the band and crew. In a way I share a lot of their memories cause we’ve been to the same places, all over the planet, pretty much. :) Europe. the US, Australia…
Doors opened and people started coming in. I noticed a slightly different type of crowd than you would find at a Firewind gig. Many “geeky” guys who were clearly guitarists and were there mainly to check out the fretboard techniques of Gus and Marty…
And then it was finally time to kick off this tour with some brand new music from the young guitar virtuoso Gus G and his rock-tight band. It’s always a ballsy thing to do, to go on the road with a brand new album, presenting a brand new concept. I’d say that most of the crowd didn’t know the material yet, as “I Am The Fire” came out only about two months ago.
The crowd wasn’t the drunk Beavis & Butthead type of crowd, but I watched some of them, trying to “scan” the reactions of people, and noticed the approving nods and the very concentrated looks on their faces. If you were a mind-reader you would probably hear them go “damn, this guy is SICK…!“.
There are different ways to show appreciation and this crowd was most approving indeed, but in their own, silent kind of way (to start with at least, they got into it soon enough!)
As for me, seeing THIS constellation for the first time too, I’d say it was as tight as a frog’s ass. I was there when drummer Jo Nunez was brand new in Firewind and I’ve seen him grow with the band since then. He was brilliant back then as well, but now he’s a confident showman too and really fun to watch.
I received a message from a fan who had seen the videos from Tampere who said that he wouldn’t mind just watching a “Jo-cam” cause he’s entertaining. Thumbs up for that, it’s awesome.
Both Jo and bassist Or Lubianiker are working double shifts on this tour. Or, as Or put it on his Facebook-page: “Me and Jo (one hell of a drummer) held it down nice and tight for Marty, Gus and Takayoshi to pour some guitar awesomeness on top.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. :)
Mats is the born frontman, he is just a natural talent in every aspect. He looks and sounds the part – and he’s working his butt off. So is Gus, and he always delivers. I wouldn’t be out here for the third year in a row, if he didn’t.
It’s a shame though, that Gus tends to gets stuck in different “boxes” that limits the type of crowd he could and should be drawing.
His solo album is not a “guitar album” – you do get great guitar work if that’s what you’re looking for, but most of all, it contains a bunch of great, classic style hard rock songs.
So now, it’s a “guitar-crowd” when it should be a regular hard rock crowd as well. It’s definitely not an easy business to be in. :)
[For the guitar-enthusiasts:]
I’d say it was a good evening with a crowd that started out as slightly reserved but ended up rockin’ like a real metal crowd once they got a little loosened up! :)
I haven’t seen Marty Friedman since his days with Megadeth, so I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasently surprised. Eventhough I didn’t know the material and it was 100% instrumental, I found myself getting closer and closer to the stage cause he has an interesting way of mesmerising a crowd.
It’s not just his playing. there’s no point “reviewing” guys like Gus or Marty – anyone with ANY knowledge or music, knows what they can do and what level of musicianship they’re on.
But Marty exudes such joy, enthusiasm and pure passion on stage. You can see every single emotion that he goes through in any given moment, by just watching his face. He’s like an open book and I think that really appeals to people. You don’t have to be a guitar geek to be fascinated by this guy. Anything that is genuine will ALWAYS get the attention of people.
I heard a girl saying after his show in Stockholm, “I don’t really like this kind of music, but I stayed throughout the whole show, I didn’t want to leave”. I rest my case. :)
And then…. as icing on the cake – the evening was concluded with this. See the video footage below. I was right in the middle of the warmed up crowd and it was awesome. :)
I left straight after the show to get some sleep. Had an early wakeup call the next morning.
Next destination: Helsinki
[Watch for the next tour blog in a few hours…]
We’re a few days into 2014 already and I never really had time to do the usual look in the rearview mirror to summarize what 2013 was like for me.
Compared to the past 5 years, it was less eventful than usual, and a lot of it has to do with my father’s passing. I cancelled some gigs I had planned to go to and well, just wasn’t in the mood for anything really, but there were still a few highlights in 2013.
January started with Gothenburg Sound Festival where I met up with FIREWIND-drummer JO NUNEZ who was playing with NIGHTRAGE.
Shortly thereafter, I went to the US to see a few FIREWIND-shows and meet up with the new singer KELLY SUNDOWN CARPENTER for an interview at the Gramercy in NYC. Went to Atlanta and the Masquerade as well, pretty cool venue.
Got stuck in a blizzard the day I was supposed to fly home from JFK via Toronto, and made it home in the very last minute. Drama!
Swedish bands CRAZY LIXX & H.E.A.T played at KB, show got interrupted by the fire alarm and the club was evacuated.
Went to beautiful ICELAND with my friend Henny, that was a trip I won’t forget anytime soon – Iceland is a fairy tale country and I hope they never let the ways of the “outside world” change what they’ve accomplished. It’s amazing.
[This isn’t even Photoshopped – it actually looks like that!]
Gigs, there were a few. IRON MAIDEN played at Malmo Stadion, I spent all day in line to get a front row spot. Well worth it!
MEGADETH played at Vega in Copenhagen, they had just released Super Collider and played the title track from that album live for the first time. Dave Mustaine also brought a kid up on stage, not a usual sight at Megadeth shows. :)
STEVE HARRIS and his British Lion played at KB in Malmo, and although the attendance was low, to say the least, it was insanely cool to see a musician of his caliber that up close! I got dust from his sneakers in my face when he stomped on his monitor, he was THAT close. It wasn’t as bad as people say, the band had a good time and that’s what I remember the most.
Another memorable gig was PAUL GILBERT in Gothenburg, at Sticky Fingers. Been a fan since forever, Paul is amazing. There are some fantastic shredders in the world, but Paul is unique. I love his goofy style, his dry sense of humor, his playing, his way of interacting with the crowd… It was a great show.
After Apollo Papathanasio’s departure from Firewind, I decided to keep track of his other projects, so I went to Hamburg, Germany to visit my friend Su and see Apollo with SPIRITUAL BEGGARS. A few months later made a last minute decision to see the band in Thessaloniki, Greece as well.
Apollo also visited me in my home in Malmo for a video interview and a nice lunch. Awesome dude.
Of course, there were a bunch of FIREWIND shows this year as well. Rock in den Ruinen in Germany, SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL, and of course, the tour of AUSTRALIA. I opted out of all other shows because I needed the $$ for Australia.
SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL was a weird festival this year, it was only days after my father’s passing, but I had to go to fulfill my duties to Sweden Rock Magazine and also to my friend Su who was visiting from Germany, SRF was her bachelorette party.
Memorable interviews: DAVID COVERDALE (WHITESNAKE), love the man, he rocks!
[A short clip from that interview]
And finally meeting LITA FORD for the first time ever. She was great, I’m glad she didn’t turn out to be a bitch.
Also saw her shows in Gothenburg ad Sticky Fingers and Malmo, KB.
Went to the UK twice in May to see WHITESNAKE, Thunder and Journey. I could see Whitesnake a million times and it still never gets old. :)
GUS G came to Malmo for the SWEDISH METAL CONVENTION, had a great time with him and Andy R, thanks to Pontus for bringing him to the convention. Also met Tallee Savage and her sister Amanda, Jorn, Anders Johansson (YNGWIE, HAMMERFALL) and a bunch of other people.
(Anders Johansson (Hammerfall, Yngwie), Pekka and Gus in the VIP-room)
Gus G and Paul DiAnno:
Straight after that…business class with Emirates to Sydney via Dubai, went on a safari, met koalas, saw the first Firewind show of the Australian tour, continued to Brisbane, met up with Clint, flew to Adelaide and then finally Melbourne. Stayed there for a week after the band had left. Met a few more koalas and then some really nice people at his BBQ party.
The free BAR in business class at my Emirates-flight to Sydney. :) It didn’t suck. ;)
Came home, got another tattoo and saw BLACK SABBATH in Copenhagen.
An old friend, singer of the Swedish sleaze-band NASTY IDOLS, Andy Pierce, passed away at the age of 45, something that I still can’t quite grasp…
Finished my year in the US visiting friends and checking out two gigs that I wrote about in my previous blog, both Savatage-related.
That was it – in a nutshell. Less travel than usual 2013 but I’m already looking forward to the Steel Panther European tour in the spring and Gus G’s solo-debut! Welcome 2014!
This year has been pretty slow so far, travel-wise – by my standards. And the reason is that I wanted to do something DIFFERENT this time. Instead of travelling all over Europe and occasionally to the US, I figured that I want to go to AUSTRALIA. But as I’m not the “touristy” type, I was looking for a good excuse to go – and I got it! :-)
The band that gets me out there on the road most of the time (it’s a great band to follow if you’re into the whole travelling-thing, cause they’re out there most of the year, all over the place) – FIREWIND, is going on a short tour to Australia in October/November. And I’ve just bought my ticket to go see those gigs. Woo-hoo!
And this time, I’m really making it a trip to remember. I chose to travel with Emirates – voted Airline of The Year 2013. And I’m booked in business-class.
If I’m EVER going to spend money on travelling in business-class, it’s for a trip like this where you’ll be spending about 30 hours in a plane! You want to be comfortable for that.
So I booked that, and started reading about all the benefits, and it starts even BEFORE I board! I’ve been so excited all day about my forthcoming Aussie-trip!
Complimentary chauffeur that picks me up to drive me TO and FROM the airport! How nice to arrive somewhere and have someone waiting for you with your name on a sign! No standing in line fighting for taxis…..! HEAVEN!
You get access to the business-lounge at Copenhagen airport, Dubai airport….
You can breeze right through security in your own fast-track (same goes at check-in).
The seats can be turned into real, flat beds (and has built-in massage and all!). Your own large work-table, entertainment-system, Wi-Fi on board, complimentary champagne, drinks – a menu to choose from anytime you want…
I mean, the list goes on. If there is EVER a good reason to pay up for this kind of luxury, it’s when you’re travelling for more than 24 hours. :)
Take a look at this presentation of their lounge and business-class seats!!
I got my “local” Australia- flights sorted out as well – this is my route:
Sydney – Brisbane
Brisbane – Adelaide
Adelaide – Melbourne
4 gigs in 4 days, I have NO idea how I’m going to cope, cause I suspect that the jetlag is going to knock me out… I’ve never gone east before, so I will most likely be beat…. However, it’s just another adventure, but an Adventure DeLuxe!
I love all the planning, the hotels, the detective work to find addresses, the best ways to get from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the venue, from the venue to wherever… I mean, all that stuff is so much fun, I get such a kick doing the preparations!
I should be working with this full time, but it just never happened that way.
If there are any up and coming bands out there looking for someone to plan their tour – gimme a shout!
I know how to find the best options at the best prices, I’ve been doing it for myself for years already, this is definitely my turf. :)
Also looking forward to meeting my long-time online-friend Clint from Melbourne, this trip will absolutely, totally rock! :))