On my way to the airport but a short one… It was pure Beatlemania at the O2 just about one-two hours ago, when Paul McCartney announced a guest… and then another guest… Those being Rolling Stones-guitarist Ronnie Wood and then – fellow Beatle Ringo Starr!
The crowd went absolutely nuts, the roar tore down the roof!
Gotta run but this is all you need to know – enjoy it!!
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 Guitar Universe Tour 2014, with Marty Friedman and Gus G ended in Nuneaton two days ago. My last destination on that tour was London, the day before.
It hasn’t even been as intense for me this time as it was two years ago when I did one date after another for two weeks in a row. This time, I chose to pick a few shows here and there. But now that it’s over – there’s an empty feeling.
It’s ALWAYS like that. It sounds strange, I’m sure, cause this is something that you hear from the musicians usually. That it’s a weird feeling coming home after being out for weeks. But it’s the same for me.
The only difference is that I choose other ways of transportation and I’m on the OTHER side of the stage (as opposed to being ON it) but other than that, I’d say that my reality is pretty similar to theirs.
And I often feel that my life is divided in different realities. A total Twilight Zone.
There is what I think of as my REAL life – which is the music. Just all the situations where I’m in an environment where there are musicians, fans, crews….Simply people who share a passion for music. THAT is my home and my true reality, the place where I belong.
Then, there’s that other reality, the life we all have to live, surrounded by people who don’t understand this at all. And I suddenly feel like a stranger.
When I came back to Copenhagen and Malmo after the London “Metal God trip”, people asked me who I went to see. And I was still like an enthusiastic teenager wanting to share that amazing feeling of having met Rob Halford again (doesn’t matter it’s been many times, EVERY time is special to me).
But that enthusiasm just dies instantly when somebody goes: “Oh okay. Well, I don’t know who that IS but I’m sure you had a good time.” It’s not their fault, they want to hear about my trip and they are genuinely curious, but it always reminds me that there are places where I feel right at home, and there are places where I feel like an alien sometimes.
When I come back from a tour, my head is spinning, it’s filled with memories, I’m processing all the faces, places, feelings, experiences… It just makes me feel so alive…!
And it’s not even necessarily the musicians that I remember the most, it can be anything or anyone. I remember specific faces/people that left an impression, maybe at the front desk in some hotel, or maybe a cool cab driver, or someone I met outside the venue or whatever…. So many different people, different countries, yet so similar.
It just makes me more aware of my own place in this world. It gives me the right perspective on life.
Music is what’s running through my veins, I couldn’t live without it. So, for me, staying at home is like taking away my oxygen.
A friend of mine asked me a while ago, how I could even keep up with the constant travelling and then going straight back to work after landing at the airport, only to go work late and go back to being “a slave to the grind”. Don’t you get tired?
The thing is, I would get tired if I WASN’T doing this. :) This is my energy, my passion, my love in life. I would be extremely unhappy if my life was spent in front of a TV watching other people live their lives. I want to live my OWN – my way. And this is it.
Next up is Sweden Rock Festival – my second home. It even helped me getting through the shock and the grief after losing my father last year. As weird as it was at first, to be there so soon after his passing, it was the only right place to be, and it really gave me the comfort I needed.
After that, Rob Zombie in Rome, Italy. I had been looking forward to seeing Megadeth as well, as those two bands were touring together but they just cancelled all their June-dates so I don’t know who’s filling in.
Either way, I can’t wait.
Being back from a tour is good for five minutes, cause I get to catch up on my sleep and with my friends. But it also feels empty somehow. I’m not into being “static”. I hope that some band or artist that I like, announces a tour soon so I can start planning. Life is just way too short to be doing nothing…!
New post coming up, from the Guitar Universe gig in London!
I arrived at my hotel fairly early. Luckily, those “nicer”, more expensive hotels are more likely to have a room available even if you show up early, so I kept my fingers crossed. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything, but we got all the paperwork done and they asked me to come back around noon. That was still 3 hours earlier than regular check-in time, so I call that flexibility and good service. :)
I went to the little cafe in the back behind the elevators, to grab a croissant and a cup of tea and thought I’d be able to hang online for a while – but since the room wasn’t ready, I wasn’t “officially” checked-in, which in turn meant that I had no room to charge it to. So, I went back to the reception. One of the girls took a quick look around and whispered: “If you don’t tell anyone, I’ll give you this for free“. It was a £10 worth Internet code for 24 hours. :)
I’m lucky on this tour with the free internet. It was the same in Hannover, the hotel charged 1 euro per hour and the older lady gave me a 1 hour code. That didn’t last long – so I went back to the front desk and this time there was a young girl there. I told her that 1 hour was nothing for me, I was online like…ALL the TIME. She smiled, looked around and said the same as this lady today: “Here. It’s a 48 hour code, for free. Shhh….“.
I must look like someone who REALLY needs it, haha! But I appreciate it so much. Those kind ladies deserve a hug and a medal! :D WiFi when you’re out travelling is a lifesaver in so many ways – as an information source and as a way of killing time and getting in touch with people. It SHOULD be for free for travellers…! Always!
Anyway, my room wasn’t ready at noon but the same girl who gave me the free internet code, helped me once again. “I have a different type of room available if you don’t mind being on the 4th floor instead of ground floor?” I took it.
I had very little time to throw more “representative” clothes on and run off to find Sony Music’s London office. It was right on Kensington, and quite an impressive office I must say.
The talks about the music industry walking on their knees financially wasn’t evident there at ALL. On the contrary. The ladies at the reception had me sign in and I got my visitor-ID. “Please sit down and someone will come for you”.
There were lots of screens up in the ceiling, showing music videos, it was VERY spacious, had modern, leather couches, red designer swivel armchairs and wooden floors.
I was given a guest WiFi code so I could kill some time. Nice touch. :)
Eventually, a young lady with an orange file that contained a bunch of papers showed up and asked the guys next to me if they were there for the Judas Priest album-listening. There were 7 of us, some guys from Finland, one from Metal Hammer Germany, a radio station from somewhere… I don’t remember now but I recognized all those names/publications.
“Follow me”, she said.
And like a line of ducks, we followed her through the Sony offices, like through a maze. She stopped a few times to make sure everybody was still following.
We eventually reached a room with a huge, sliding door that she slid open, and it looked pretty heavy.
I walked in, and it was a big room, very modern and very expensive looking. Three leather couches, placed like an “U” around the table, looked like brand new, a big beige thick rug and a low black sofa table.
On one wall, there was this huge flat-TV (a Sony, of course) and speakers. When she turned up the volume, those things almost blew my ears out…! Not that I complained…! :D
We all took our pens out to make notes when she turned the new Judas Priest album on and left the room. After a few minutes she came back with the track-listing, but the paper also said that we weren’t allowed to take it with us. I wonder what the point of that was, as the tracks have already been revealed on Blabbermouth??
It was just a weird thing to experience a brand new Priest-album in the company of strangers and like THAT. I’ve always made sure that my “first
time” hearing a Priest-album was in a relaxed environment (=my home or my car) but this was…different.
Some songs sounded like they were off Painkiller. Some were so-so and some were absolutely killer. My verdict, all in all, is that I will love this album.
I wasn’t a super fan of Angel of retribution and I definitely wasn’t a huge fan of Nostradamus either. But THIS I do like! Rob’s voice is still great and because he can’t sing those high pitch songs anymore, he’s found a different way to sing and THAT makes it new and interesting! He does some “clean” singing on one or two songs, and he’s got such a beautiful, soulful yet powerful voice on those. It was such a pleasure to hear that. I must have smiled there in my left corner of the couch.
I quickly got a favorite song, which I can’t WAIT to get so I can blast it on repeat: Secrets of the dead. LOVED it!!
A few seconds before the last song had finished playing, our hostess sneaked into the room again (if there’s one thing label people are good at – it’s keeping track of TIME…!) :D
Some had interviews scheduled for later, some didn’t. I think that out of the 7 of us that listened to the album, 4 had actual interviews. The guy from Metal Hammer had a chat with Rob, Ian and Richie at the same time (personally I prefer one person, eye-to-eye). Another one said he was talking to Ian and Richie. So I’m guessing I was the only one who “got” the Metal God himself- Rob Halford – only…..
After the listening-thing, I asked if there was somewhere I could work (wanted to polish my interview a little) and she took me through the whole office once again (I think I would need a compas to find my way around there…!) and to the lunch room.
And when I say “lunch room” I don’t mean a tiny room with five tables. It was HUGE! Like an art gallery/industrial building type of huge, very bright with a ceiling that I wasn’t sure if it was actual daylight or “fake” light, but it was bright… Video screens playing music videos everywhere – a big billboard Elvis-sign in one corner, a slate that people “doodled” on… People having meetings in glass offices when I looked up and around… A very dynamic and cool workplace, I would have loved to work in a place like that.
I finished writing down a few more questions, when I looked around the lunch room and saw some blonde, long-haired dude. I thought it was Richie but wasn’t sure. Then I saw Ian Hill, elegantly dressed, getting himself a Fanta.
And a few seconds later – there’s Rob Halford as well. You can’t miss him anywhere. :) A tattooed bald guy with tats on his head and arms, and sunglasses. It was the Metal God alright.
And there I was, trying to look casual and cool. Oh,I don’t care, it’s just some BAND…. Yeah, right…!
I honestly didn’t know where to look. My gosh.
When they finished their lunch, they left – and I sat there for another 2 hours before it was my turn. The Metal Hammer guy kept me company for a while, talked a bit about festivals and the Priest album and stuff. I told him I was also going to the Gus/Marty show and he said he had no idea they were playing. He also happens to be writing for a German guitar magazine. I told him to go check out the Symptom of the universe cover from Tampere that I had on Youtube, if he wanted to know how those two guys sounded together and he seemed like he actually really wanted to see and hear that so… I think that if he hadn’t had his ticket back paid already, he would have gone to the Guitar Universe thing as well.
And THEN……..the girl came to pick me up and “take me to a room”. She showed me to a tiny room that had a TV, DVD, a conference call phone, two leather couches but no windows. Then she left with the words: “I’ll go get Rob for you”. And there I was, alone. It’s like waiting for a doctor. You’re in there getting nervous as f**k…!
I couldn’t sit, I walked back and forth getting more and more jumpy, getting a stomach-ache and the whole deal. Why, I don’t know. I’ve met Rob so many times, I’m a jaded rock journalist (pah…! I SHOULD be by now!) yet I get this way every damn time when it comes to any Priest-member…! ESPECIALLY Rob! I guess it has to do with the huge impact they’ve had on my life. No other bands have that kind of importance.
The door opened and there he was! He entered the room with the words: “Hi, it’s nice to see you again!” And all the nervousness just went away. He has a very calming effect (believe it or not) because he’s just so easygoing, so easy to talk to, no rockstar bullshit at all, no “are you an idiot or what?”-vibes. You can ask him anything, so far I’ve never seen him as much as frown, and it’s been 25 years since the first time I met him for an interview.
He spotted a chair and said he prefers that, for his back. And we went straight to business as to not waste any time. The interview will be published eventually, so I’ll just skip what the conversation was about. But I will say, that this man really makes me happy in so many ways. With the music he has brought to my life since I was a teenager, with his voice, his performances and the inspiration that he is as a person. I so enjoy talking to him, and I would love to just be able to sit there for hours and just talk.
You just feel very relaxed and comfortable with the man, and he has an interesting way of looking at things. Sometimes he says things here and there that just makes me smile. I mean, his attitude to stardom, life and whatever, is inspiring and sometimes while he’s sitting there talking, he says something that just makes me want to hug him! :)
Needless to say, it felt like we only just BEGUN when a label-guy knocked at the door and said: “Last question!”. My first thought was: “What?? We only just got STARTED!”
Even Rob was slightly annoyed, rolled his eyes and sighed “oh my god, aaah – never mind, ask me another question…!” But at that point I just felt like I had a million things to ask and I was nowhere NEAR being finished, which meant that I had no idea which question was the most “important” one. I just took whatever was right under my nose, about one of the songs I had heard three hours before. Suddenly it wasn’t a relaxed conversation anymore, it was stresssssful.
But I guess, looking back – Rob deserves a break. He had been talking for a few hours himself so if he had to be stuck with enthusiasts like me all day long, he would never get a breather…! :)
We took a few photos with a CD that was released through Sweden Rock Magazine, that included an obscure, unreleased Priest-song. He was happy to pose and help getting the best picture. Once again, no sign of stress – everything cool, just take your time… Did I mention that I love the man?? :D
He asked where I was going next, I said I was going back to Sweden, but first I was going to see the Gus G/Marty Friedman gig here in London. “Gus G? Give him my love. I love his style!” Those were the last words he uttered before he left the room.
The label guy once again entered and asked me to wait outside so I could be escorted to through the building (thank god, I had no idea where I was).
It still annoys me a bit – it’s such a privilege to talk to Rob Halford. I think that even if I hadn’t been a fan (which is hard to even imagine) I would have loved the conversations with him. I was just so glad that I got a good interview – for as long as it lasted, that I went back to the hotel to relax – and smile. :)
Today, I’m switching hotels and looking forward to the last Gus/Marty show of this tour (well, they’re finishing tomorrow but I chose London as my final destination).
There will be more stories to tell. :)