After we'd made the only right but still difficult decision to cancel Sofia, Bulgaria we were left with two choices for the band and crew. Should we stick around in Munich, Germany for three days? Or try get on the soonest possible flight to Thessaloniki, Greece which we would anyway be playing next? The choice was pretty simple as everyone were longing for the good weather, delicous food and the nice atmosphere of Greece. Bye bye Germany, you were the best, my respect! Since we left the nightliner behind the other night we had to try strip down our luggage and gear to a minimum in order to avoid massive overwight on the upcoming flights, so we sent everything we could do without back home and went for individial backpacker style. Still, we ended up having to pay hundreds of dollars in overweight on this first flight, but it could have been a thousand if we hadn't found a cargo service that charges way less than the airlines do (they however usually ship the stuff onboard the same flight ironically enough!). A kind employee at the Lufthansa staff helped us out sorting the mess and we gave him a couple of tour shirts in return hoping he would become a metal fan if he wasn't already.
Reached Thessaloniki in the night and checked into our hotel that was located surprisingly close to the aiport, but we realized something was fishy when we were directed a level down from the reception (aren't receptions supposed to be on the ground floor?!?) Yes, we were literally booked into the basement! That wouldve been fine if only there wasn't mold everywhere and we even had water dripping from the roof in one of the rooms! In the corridor there was a sign that said wifi hot spot great, the laptops didn't even pick up the signal! When we woke up the next day everybody complained about having sore throats and this was being paid for!? Ronnie ended up running back and forth to the reception doing some mediterreanan style complaining and eventually we all got new rooms one level up - the 1 star basement hotel became a 3 star standard fresh hotel in 5 mins! The mood picked up! So what should have been a gig in Bulgaria turned into another day-off in Greece and therefor whole band + Ronnie decided to take a bus into the city to spend the remainder of the evening. Ronnie knew a girl in town, so we hooked up with her and a friend to show us around 'cuz there's nothing better than having your own guide in the gang! We ended up going to a fine greek restaurant where we ordered a round of beers and a big ass plate of various grilled meat, tzatziki and halloumi and ate til we were ready to burst! Then we walked by the beach over to a rock bar and drank beers and shots whole night long! Good times! Grabbed a late night dner, took a cab back to the hotel and crashed satisfied.
Woke up and realized it was a gig day. It felt like we hadn't played for a long time being already used to do a concert every night this past month. At the venue it was back to the normal routine, get-in, load-in, grab som catering, soundcheck and just wander about talking bullshit. The norwegian/spanish people in Sirenia showed up and so did the other greek support bands. We were then taken to a nice restuarant and had a total flashback of what we ate yesterday various grilled meat, tzatziki, sallads in large amounts. By the time the dessert was served people were so stuffed it wasn't funny anymore hah! Sodomizer even complained about feeling a pre-heartattack coming on although I find it hard to see Sodo's cause of death to be food. I wouldn't argue this was the best food on the tour so far!
The gig was good simply because the greek audience is fantastic! The way they devotedly sing along and show enthusiasm during the set is not often seen in other places. Talk about an exchange of energy! It was already late when we got off the stage and with the morning flight ahead of us we figured we'd get 3 hours of sleep if we were lucky, so we hastened back to the hotel and saw some people from the support bands walk downstairs Apparently the basement had some new guests
Took another grisflyg (one of our Swedish sayings for an unhealthy early morning flight) to Athens. Hungry and tired we just wanted to hit the hotel and restore the lack of sleep we never got last night. Got a power nap, but woke up too late for a shower and couldn't help but to think of a cartoon sticker that shows up here and there showing a little boy asking his mam hey mam! What's a dirty rocker?. Well here's one!
What a fantastic audience, even better than the night before and this time we didn't have the same monitor problems, it actually worked! What some of you probably don't realize or might even be totally unaware of is that everytime our monitors are fucked up it's close to impossible to get a magic feeling to perform. When you don't hear what the others are doing, or even worse, not even hearing what you're doing yourself, playing a gig is frustrating! We always have local monitor techs and sometimes they're great and take their position seriously and try to improve the sound the further the gig goes, but sometimes they're just bored locals having the I just wanna go smoke a fat one and get the hell outta here face, meaning they wont lift a finger to improve the situation nor have eye contact with us to communicate. One thing we learned is that no matter how pleased you were at the end of the soundcheck and no matter how good it sounded it will not sound the same and settings will not remain when the gig starts. To solve this, we're talking about investing in a digital monitor mixer and consider it one step closer to perfection by eliminating the human factor.
Learned there will be no sleep tonight either as the promoter has booked the first morning flight to Israel. Remember the word people? Yes, grisflyg! At least we get to enter the hotels breakfast room at 6am before the senior tourists are up and elbowing their way to the coffee machine, that has probably never happened before, unless we were still up late and drunk waiting for the breakfast to open and then off to bed.
Most of the Katatonia pack were nervous about entering Israel as everyone heard different anecdotes and rumours how intimidating it can be. Someone said they don't like people entering with laptops and can confiscate them if needed and that this is stated in a tourist guide. Much to our surprise, it went just as smooth as anywhere else, and after the standard security questions, we were standing in the arrival hall of Tel Aviv before we knew it. Our guide Maya came to pick us up and we went straight for the hotel. Really nice hotel and we're booked almost at the top of this very tall building. Oh what a view, you could see a lot of the city and the ocean and people swimming in it. We let the balcony door open as we welcomed a gentle breeze in. Time to check the wi-fi connection it's good! Browsed through the bookmarks and glansed through emails until Mr. Sandman paid a lovely visit. Showday isn't until tomorrow so why not take a walk downtown? We hit Mike's Place and had some juicy grilled food, delicious! As we sat there with the beer pints coming in one after another, it didn't take long until we entered ready for more mode, so myself, Daniel, Nille, Ronnie decided to move on with Maya checking out two other clubs. One of them was a really small metal bar and as we seated ourselves at the back it didn't take long until i heard Without God go off, funny! When we finally felt we had reached the stage where tomorrow's hangover would be doable instead of terrible, we decided to walk back to the hotel with a strong vacation feeling in the air, but we're here to work, so unless you've a business in the front, party in the back haircut you had to make your choice for now.
Hungover and fighting another cold that Ronnie had passed on to me, I decided to stay in bed until the clock showed load-in time. I went with the crew to the venue before the rest of the band. Tried to get an idea about the Marshall amps we're using tonight. Turned out we had to switch between 3 models before our setup worked, but neither Sodomizer or me is happy with the sound, twiddling that shit for hours it still sounds like old man's rock and not metal. I miss my Laboga amp!
The venue is kinda cool, charmingly torn with open holes in between the ceiling and brick walls which I guess is working as a substitute for a ventilation system. The mixing console is the dirtiest I've ever seen and the local foh/tech guy goes well together with that look! No support bands tonight, so all settings and everything on stage were left as they were when soundchecked finished. We joked about how much the sound and settings will have changed when we go back on again. When it's gig time, yes indeed, it has all changed. Daniel don't have any guitars, Jonas vocals are panned to the right, where's the click track? Guitars don't sound the same and yadda yadda. Swear to myself we have to get a digital monitor mixer sooner than later. Anyways, the gig was great and the crowd made us feel very welcome since it's the first time we're in Israel we ended the last hour at the venue doing a meet and greet. Everyone except Sodomizer and myself (who both feel that a good night's sleep would be a good remedy for the cold) decided to hit the bar we were at yesterday. I even heard our crew guys Jimmy and Soldier had beers in their hands, something I didn't witness a single time these past 5 weeks! Some were definately having their hairs cut party in the back tonight!
Went to the airport at noon, so nice to avoid the grisflyg! Managed to get off really easy on the overweigh too! Direct flight as well, not bad! When we eventually landed in Moscow I was amuzed to see people stood up and started opening the luggage compartments literally the same second the airplane wheels hit the ground all while the speaker voice were saying Please remain in your seat with your safety belts on. Actually what's up with all you people who must stand up even before you're allowed to leave the aircraft?! Is it really worth getting off quicker if you have to stand up cramped tighter than a can of worms for a good 10 minutes waiting? My faves are the silly people who are seated at the windows and thus cant get out in the busy isle so they have to bend their backs and necks over the seats for a very uncomfortable position when they have the oportunity to just sit the fuck down and chill (we've seen this so many times that we've named this one krok hype). The bottomline is your personal luggage doesn't come quicker than anyone elses, so you can bet your ass you still have to stand waiting at the luggage claim with everyone else even before the first piece comes in. Comedy!
So, the Russian promoter picked us up once we showed the passport control that we had valid working visas and we went straight for the hotel as usual. It didn't look like one on the grey outside, but it was nice and new on the inside! The first thing I noticed in the room was a sheet with a couple of guidelines saying don't take the subway on your own, don't walk the city at night, dont talk to strangers asking for help, beware of crooks pretending to be police etc. I also heard Soldier and Jimmy had been out for a smoke and someone had told them it's not recommended to go out smoking outside the hotel's driveway as it's a sketchy place and they should go back in Okaaaay Staying in the room and getting some sleep sounded like the safest plan.
Got picked up at the hotel in the morning and drove to the venue. We thought we were awake, but apparently still snoozing in a nightmare as the equipment supplied to us was a joke! I think we went through 4-5 different amps and not solely because we had a problem to get it working with our setup, now also because the elements and tubes and jacks were broken! The amps that worked sounded like shit. Sodomizer ended up with a little combo. Struggled for hours getting something reasonable out of any of this and I could see the excitement and energy in our crew melt away like butter in an wide open fridge. Speaking about which, the in-house dinner showed up and well lets just say that we ate the potatoes... Not even the sandwhiches could save the appetite, god knows how long they had been laying there in the open.
Gig was good, well the audience were, but I felt very little magic due to the shitty technical problems. I also dedicated a song in Pete Steele's memory as we learned he was found dead today. Maybe most people thought he was known for having a big dick, but what was really , really big was the impression Type O Negative left us with their 'October Rust' album. R.I.P Pete Steele.
When we packed up and were ready to go, I noticed the promoter wrap the old dead sandwhiches, it seemed he was cleaning up and taking out the trash.
Next gig would be St Petersburg and we wanted to fly between the cities, but we'd been talked into taking the night train which sounded almost as smooth as taking a nightliner ie you go to sleep and when you wake up you're already there. Little did we know that this particular night train was something straight out of world war II. Everything from the train itself, the clothes on the guards, the compartments, oh the compartments Instead of taking off your clothes, we actually had to keep the on clothes and then lay there dead-in-a-coffin style to not revel in the filth and rub the smell in. Time had been standing still in here and I couldn't help but imagining I was a prisoner (musican) on my way to some camp (venue).
In the morning the train pulled in at the central station of St Petersburg and the promoter showed up at our compartment's slide door asking if we were hungry? The plate of sandwhiches he was holding up were the sandwhiches from yesterday's gig in Moscow.
Cruised through heavy traffic towards the venue only to be rewarded with more of the same crap equipment like yesterday! Did someone do an attempt to totally mismatch our drumrider? If so, that person did a pretty good job! But the award goes to the people who didn't manage to bring in the foh mixing console to the venue until 30 mins before show time. Put 4 support bands on that. Hallelujah! Ended up sitting backstage trying to stay sane as we were struck with something way worse than shitty gear - a volcano on island had erupted and airports all over europe were gonna shut down. Our 7th week tour should have been completed tonight and now we wouldn't be able to get our asses back home? 8 Broken men in sat in disbelief and waited for the only thing that could cheer us up, we were promised to get pizzas today! A girl came with something that looked like pizzas, really small ones, but whatever Put our teeth into them and realized the dough was made out of sweet sugar cookie dough! Beside the tomato sauce, cheeze and mushrooms there were either ketchup or jelly on top, doesnt matter which 'cuz none of them is supposed to be on a pizza, dammit! May this be Russia's answer to the two-in-one products?! Like, get your dinner, but have your dessert already in it!? Asked for something else and they returned with same dish as yesterday, we ate the potatoes while we hid the pizzas under the couch they're probably still there!
Struggling to get the latest news of the ashcloud lockdown, we went with our gut feeling as we didn't want to take the risk of a cancelled flight the morning after and be left without help or plans at the airport, so we booked ourselves onto the ferry from Helsinki, Finland that would depart one day later and reach Stockholm the day after that, but this meant we had to get a ride to Finland from Russia. Trains were not ideal because of all the gear we carried with us and actually all of them were full booked, so were the buses. We had to get someone, to drive us with a shuttle. This was our only option, so we'd pay whatever it would cost! The desire to get home was strong, but another problem was way more urgent. Our visas would expire in one day and if we wouldn't have left the country by then we would be stuck at the border, not allowed to pass through and forced go back to the Swedish embassy probably located in Moscow filing for new visas just to be able to get out of the fucking country again! Talk about a scenario of irony in the first degree. It was not an option.
After the gig was pulled off to a nice audience oblivous to our mood and problems we finally got hold of someone willing to do the drive. It would be a 10 hour drive, so we had to leave already in the middle of the night.
After what felt more like a bad joke rather than a good night's sleep (these 3 hour per night seemed to become the sleeping norm) at The Shining-like hotel we headed down again to the lobby. Felt like i stood here just on my way up, deja fucking vu! Despite the very inhuman hour, an old Russian man with a perfectly speaking non-english was already there with a shuttle, I noticed he wore a tie with a mercedes logo on a little spark in the dark if you will!
So, we cruised onwards Finland for the next 10 hours with everyone ending up doing a Japan (trying to sleep while sitting straight and unable to lean back resulting in drooling open mouths) and pulling over for bunch of passport controls and it dawned on me for the hundred time how the border guards must be the most grumpy people in the world. A spectacular showcase of an arrogant powertrip boosted by boredom? It's pretty clear their uniform allow them to be someone, because one thing's for sure, once they're out of their uniforms they're back to nobodies!
Eventually, we reached and crossed the Finnish border and the Russian road signs dissapeared behind us. One step closer to home. The Mercedes tie (fighter) had done a good job!
When we hit the harbor where the ferry is docked there were still a couple of hours to kill. Thanks to a nice Finnish employee who walkitalk-ied a colleague on onboard that (quote) Yeah you know, it's fucking heavy rock n roll stuff and drums and rock and roll and shit refering to our luggage, we were allowed to go onboard to quickly drop all the gear so we didn't have to sit and guard it at the terminal. We then strolled back to the Helsinki centre by feet and ended up at McDonalds and I knew this would be the last fucking McDonalds on this tour. Up yours Ronald!
Back at the terminal we joined the long line of people waiting to get onboard the sold out ferry. Was reminded it's a saturday and probably half of the passengers were only only in it for the party trip, while the rest were just travellers seeking an alternative way back home caused by the ashcloud. As the ferry set the course across the nordic sea we ended up at the food garden or whatever it's called and tried to order russian pizzas, or maybe not! Got some tax-free candy and then walked back to the sanctuary known as your cabin, back into bed with the laptop. Might be hard to believe, but these ferries actually offer free wifi! For me it would be an early night, I've had it and the comfort of a bed and a movie (once the wifi dissapeared on the far out ocean) was something i couldn't have traded away right now. A couple of the other guys made their way around bla which is the big nightclub upstairs dressed in blue couches, carpets and walls etc (which would equal rda at the other cruise company Viking line). At around 8 am the classic wake up call with the notorious fin-swedish accent woke us up through the loudspeakers and that only meant one thing Welcome back to Stockholm, welcome home!
Finally off the boat mine and Jonas families were waiting for us. After a few we made it hugs the band and crew departed and everyone went their own ways. The new night over Europe had made it's full lapse. Thanks to all our fans who bought tickets and came out and rocked with us, thanks to promoters, local crew, support bands and everyone who supported us along the way. See you next time! Cheers!
- Anders Nihilistrm, Katatonia, 2010