Monday, December 7, 2009

Biel to Neuchatal, Switzerland


No trouble at the border. But there's some huge football match going on so there's a bunch of drunken hooligans milling around.
As we drove in we came up into the mountains. There were low, white clouds reaching up from the trees into the sky. Very ethereal and weird. We all watched them for awhile without speaking. After getting lost a few times, we found the 007 Club on the corner in the center of town. Our GPS has now been personified as a female. As in, “Why the fuck would you take a left there?”. “Because she fucking told me to!”
Biel-Bienne is very green and sits between Lake Biel and the densely wooded Jura Mountains. Its absolutely beautiful. The 007 seemed like a strip joint, but wasn't. And the show was in the basement, decorated in sort of a Halloween, tiki design with a large, dark green room behind the stage. A real sweet girl named Lillian brought us upstairs to our apt. after the soundcheck, and cooked us a Thai dinner that was outtasite. Matthias, the promoter, came up with some hash and some dudes. So I went into the bedroom and passed out for awhile. Matthias is an incredibly jovial and enthusiastic kinda guy, laughing at everything even if he doesnt understand what the fuck youre rambling on about; which is kinda nice, actually, at this point.He and Lillian really took care of us. This treatment seems so alien to me. Does anyone else remember the first time they toured Europe? It was fucking weird, huh?
So Harlan was drunk before the show started. Nick was stoned on hash and got stuck in a hash-hole creating elaborate setlists.
Eventually, when the crowd seemed greased up, we put on our hats and went out a started playing what was to be a perfect show. There were actually girls in the crowd in Biel, which helped the vibe. The guys in the crowd like watching the girls dance, and in turn, they start dancing and having a good time. It was the first show this tour with that kind of crowd, minus Berlin perhaps. Right around Recovery, though, Harlan broke the E string on his bass and had to rethink the rest of the set. Regardless, the show was killer. Afterwards the deejays played a bunch of soul tunes, R&B, garage, etc. Enough to make everyone dance, anyway. Lillian came up and talked to me after the set and said she lives “a cowboy lifestyle.” Im not sure what she really understood that to be. But she seemed convinced and earnest enough about it. She had visited the American Southwest in the spring and also ran through Southern California. She even knew where Riverside was. Nice girl.
Danced just a little, watched Harlan go crazy, had a lot o fun. The place was packed with crazy Swiss people dancing and smoking hash and freaking out. Eventually I went upstairs where we watched a bizarre musical on Swiss television. It was about singing gangsters and this fat, German geisha girl stood in a window and sang out to an ugly guy sitting at a desk with a red shoe on it. Then some gangsters wearing suits sang and shot at each other. But they would perform elaborate dance moves, including the worm, to elude the bullets. Finally the hero gets shot in the back while riding his motorcycle by a guy who looks like Orson Welles. He falls on his back and dies singing some stupid song.
We woke up to more crazy television. A 90s movie this time about a black rollerskating crew in the 70s, dubbed in German. Really stupid and really funny. Even made Harlan laugh. I watched a scene where these white rollerskaters diss on the black kids. And as they skate away they all point at them, twice, in unison and they skate away in formation like this:
We packed up our shit and drove over to Matthias apartment, which was real nice, even cheap he said, and had a gorgeous view of the mountain that overlooked the town and the Rolex factory that sat on the side of it.
I met Philip, who is a swiss watch maker working for Omega. We talked watches for awhile. When Nick met Philip and his buddy Alain in the states, he asked them, “What do you do?”. And Alain said, “Im a banker,” and Philip said, “Im a watch maker.” Natch . . .
Switzerland is just like youd expect it to be, only better. We had French jelly, St. Dalfour, this Vegeline paste in a tube, bread and rolls, yogurt, smoked fish and thinly sliced jambon, coffee, juice and grappe. Radishes and radish greens with oil and wine dressing. I opened the large container of yogurt and took a spoonful. Nick looked at me and says, “that's not just one serving you know.” And I said, “I know.” And Matthias turns around and says, “No, it's American size” and started laughing hysterically.
I also found on Matthias' fridge, one of those post-cards where you turn it and see two different pictures of this nakes Annie Oakley pin-up chick with an image of her in the tub, too. I used to wack-off to this same post-card years ago.
We finished breakfast, stopped by a dub/reggae record store with a decent vinyl section, bought some records, a Joe Gibbs single and some other stuff; went by a guitar shop and grabbed some bass strings for Harlan, and got stared at a lot. The Swiss people have been the coolest so far, but Europeans in general are weird and uptight.
In the van nerd discussion – Best tremelo guitar sounds. “That would either be the dude from Mission of Burma or Os Mutantes.” My buddy Wade in Iowa actually had a super-old Brazilian music magazine that had an article about Baptista's brother, who would make all his guitar pedals for him out of found stuff. And what he found was a sewing machine. So he jerry-rigged the motor to run the volume oscillation of the tremelo and that's why it sounds so awesome.
The drive to Neuchatal was short, only 30km away. The show was in a large industrial building on this enormous lake, built on the side of a mountain on these narrow, winding streets, next to a waterfall. No shit. We unloaded our gear and took a look around. There was some important football match going on so there was lots of crazy people running around like fucking mental patients, yelling and screaming. The building itself had several levels, ours had a medium sized room, enough for 200 people or so, with a bar underneath a balcony where the soundboard sat. Even tho the digs seemed nice and pro, our sound check took for-fucking-ever because of faulty equipment and an incompetant soundman (Isis t-shirt, shaved head with 3 dreads coming out back). We must have sound-checked for 2 hours, no kidding. After that I looked around the place a bit more. There was a giant Euro-Rave going on next door and down a level and there was a gang of European wiggers running around and aggravating the shit out of me. People are always running around here. Me and Nick got our pictures taken with what seemed like the Swiss Army Marching Band that was coming down the backroad and up the mountain. Then we went up to the green room to eat dinner and nap. The food was good and hot, although they never really offer too much in terms of non-dairy stuff for Jeff.
To our chagrin, these wigger deejays and their buddies kept coming up to our green room, which was set up like an apartment with a main room, a kitchen, a bathroom and shower and 3 bedrooms. One guy came into one of the bedrooms and was looking at Harlan's stuff, lifting up his jacket, etc. And Nick walked in on him and told him to get lost. This kind of bullshit was to go on for the rest of the night, pretty much. I was ready to go “crazy American” on them at anytime, tho. Because, 1. I hate electrodisco Eurotrash, 2. I hate them being in my green room & 3. I hate wiggers of any nationality in any green room in any principality of Europe. Nick tipped me off on the “crazy American” vibe that they had learned will accommodate any situation you might find yourself in when some greasy foreigner tries to front on you. An incredibly versatile persona, the “crazy American” can be conformed to your tastes as long as you adhere to two basic credos: that you are crazy, and that you are American.
Matthias band, who had followed us from Biel, was “cute.” Lotsa synth, guitarist was a nice guy and looked like a TransAm extract, except that his guitar was way too quiet, instead of way too loud. The music was like a non-weird Throbbing Gristle playing popular tunes. I dunno really what it was. Im sure theres some band Im not aware of that they sounded like since I have such a narrow-minded opinion about music. As dark and gothic as Swiss synth-pop can get, I guess. They had a lot of sound problems due to the shabby soundguy (who later said we were like an American redneck rockandroll band, which confused us until we realized what our union suits must have looked like to the Europeans) and Monica, their singer, stood on the stage with her chest out, singing at the top of her lungs. That was earnest and cool and brave at the time. Good drummer and keyboardist too. I think they had a Nord Lead of some type, a Juno 106, and a Micro-Korg, which I saw played right for the first time ever. God I hate those little fuggers.
Jeff and I, and maybe Nick, too, drank a gallon of Absinthe before the show. The girl tending bar called me aside and told me that it was made in her village. She was very proud of that and smiled very sweetly about the whole thing. I told her that we were fucking blasted.
After Audio Quattro got done, we went back up to the green room and put on our red union suits. We were all completely stoned on Absinthe and hash. Jeff stuffed his suit with pillows, which was hysterically funny. We were running around like madmen. When we finally went onstage, the room was PACKED with people. Lots of girls dancing, dudes yelling. During a break. I took two feathers out of the headdress I was wearing and gave them to the two girls standing in front of me. A tall blonde dressed in black, wearing gold heels that sparkled. And a short blonde with a white t-shirt and no bra. They were both very very young and reminded me of American girls. Before the show, Harlan bet me 10 Euro who could get a hard-on first while playing onstage. The Union suits were so revealing, I just didnt want to be embarrassed by looking like I had a tiny little mosquito dick. Just put yourself in my shoes: Yer tryin to concentrate on what youre doing, the soundman sucks, you cant fucking hear yourself and you have 2 keyboards, 8 pedals, a guitar and lyrics to contend with. Youve drank a bathtub full of Swiss moonshine, essentially, and smoked a bale of what someone told you was hash. Now you have to pull a fucking strong-dong onstage or you lose 10 Euro. And what's that in Yankee dollars? Like 50 bucks!! Boy, I fucking TRIED. And, MAYBE I could have gotten the fire started a couple times, but as soon as I would have to think about what I was doing, all that bullshit disappeared. I stared at the one girls sparkly gold heels for awhile, which almost worked. But, alas, nothing. Fortunately, neither one of us won the bet, since Harlan is a limp-dick motherfucker anyway. Heh heh.
But ANYWAY, back to the feathers. After the show, Daniel, the mustachiod Trans Am fluffer from Audio Q, tells me there's some weird “how you say” sect of kooks around these Swiss mountains somewhere that has this bizarre ritual thing. There's a shaman wizard leader or something and if he gives one of the girls in the cult a white feather, that means she is his sex slave and can only have sex with him for one year. And the different color feather mean different things. Like a red feather means she's gotta copulate during her cycle, a pink feather would be for a virg, and a brown feather would mean whatever brown feathers mean. I dont know if this dude was pulling my leg or not, but I decided that I needed to get the feathers back from those girls pronto. I even tried to pawn the job off to Monica, but she said, “Oh, no! You dug your grave, now you have to lie in it!”
Creem Dreem Blues and Sgt. Chowder are going off very well. The crowds scream and scream after those songs. They are getting easier to play with the band, too. I was originally too attached to my 4track versions to want to play them with VLADRM. But, they are working out okay.
Anyway, the show went well. The set is becoming tighter,.But, after the last coupla nights, its becoming somewhat boring, Harlan and I have decided. The costumes definitely helped, tho. After J'ai Mal Aux Dents, another one of my 4track recordings (a loose Faust nod) we continued to sing while Harlan stood on top of his amp, playing the riff on the guitar. And Nick, Jeff and I marched out into the audience, singing at the top of our lungs, then out the back door. We could hear the crowd screaming bloody murder inside, so we went back out and did a couple more. And after the very last song the whole act turned into this surreal travelling medicine show with Harlan as the carnival barker and Jeff playing the floor tom with his mallets. Our first customer came onstage, a rather annoying, tall, shaggy blonde-haired ape who I had run into earlier. And Harlan greets him and announces to the crowd, “Our first customer, ladies & gentlemen! But where's his money?” The crowd screamed. Positioned at the rear of the stage, I snuck up behind the guy in the commotion and fished his wallet out of his back pocket while Harlan had his arm around the guys shoulders. I held up the wallet on the other side of Harlan for the crowd to see and they roared. We made a lot of money that night selling records. Some deejays played R&B/garage/soul records again and everybody danced and drank. I knew I must have looked stupid, wearing a red union suit, thick brown ROMCOs, and Indian headdress and a suit jacket. But I didnt care. I just felt like dancing. The Swiss girls are funny, too. Theyll sort of sneak up on you, dancing, without getting too close. Then theyll either stare at you or smile and wait for you to do something. Or theyll act completely bored and nonplussed, desperately waiting for you to make a move. I spent most of the night making these girls wait. Too bad for them I wasnt planning on doing anything anyway. I was too stoned and enjoying my own self. Except for this one girl who had pinched my nipples TWICE when I was onstage. She was harshing my ride. I was constantly trying to get away from this psycho. Later I saw her trying to make out with a girl who wasnt as drunk as she was, and the girl was getting ANGRY.
I hung with Monica for a bit, talking and dancing, laughing at all these weird, Brooklyn-ish Swiss chicks. They were definitely taking notes from something. Big Mama Thorton's Hound Dog came on and I told Monica I was from Memphis. I watched her think for a second and then a sly grin creeps upon her face and she says, “SO WHAT!” and turns her nose up on me. This chick was pretty hilarious. I think she was flirting pretty hard with me, Nick and Jeff. She asked me if I was wearing underwear under my union suit. I was explaining to her unusual english phrases when Nick walked up, and I took that opportunity to split and go back upstairs. Jeff and Matthias were smoking hash and talking about Rothschild, Rockefeller and the Federal Reserve. This was more my speed. I jumped in the shower and then got in bed. Pretty soon the whole band came back into the bedroom to sleep. It was after 5am, I think. The pink sky was opening up outside and a mist was coming down the mountain and disapating into the lake. Old Swiss couples were circling in rowboats and rocking violently as the occasional crazed water-skier flew by. It was going to be a beautiful summer day. We all laid there in the dark for a moment and all of a sudden it dawned on me, “You know what guys? You know what sound cats love? 'Chirp, chirp, chirp.'”
The nexy day we packed our gear and hit the road. Into France, thru what I guessed were the Pyrenees. I left my map at home. The mountains are beautiful, unbelievably. And the weather is mild, partly cloudy where they roll by very low and fast, dipping and rising out of the mountains.