22 February, 2018

Day Six – Brno, Czech – Dawn Of Shattered Silence Tour

Our return to Slovakia for the first time in ten years is wonderful but brief, as we make our way back to Czech Republic to play in Brno.

Today's events...

07:00 – I awaken beneath the raging stampede of Polish stoner-doom metallers, eager to make their escape. They’re playing Budapest tonight, or somewhere like that so need to bugger off quickly.

At least, that’s the story we’re fed. It could be that they just can’t stand the site/sound/smell of us any more and are desperate to escape. I wouldn’t blame them, since we do smell like a prosthetic scrotum factory that has succumbed to dilapidation (having failed to make effective progress in the budget-price-range demographic) and ridden with damp, is now occupied by one of those kid-gangs you saw in movies during the 80s (cheap sneakers).

Either reason they give seems plausible, we share our goodbyes.

I fall back to sleep.

08:00 – Wake up again, feeling fresh – possibly because it’s bloody freezing.

I didn’t get chance to really appreciate the view when we arrived here last night, probably on account of it being pitch black.

The snow-covered hills which appear to roll infinitely into the great, foggy abyss before us truly are quite something to behold.

That strange sort of bleak majesty I mention every time I discuss Eastern Europe’s natural beauty is no less evident here and despite the foreboding cold, it feels quite the treat for us to awaken to.

08:45 – There’s a weird painting on the wall of what appears to be a religious lesbian couple holding an ugly baby version of Alex as an old man.

It’s like the creators of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button pitched their story the studio, but were then told to meet a load of arbitrary diversity targets and only given a budget of $50 for the whole thing – then ended up getting ripped off by some gobshite fine-art student in the process.

One of the women looks like E.T. in an upside down bib. I feel compelled to take a photograph, but then consider I genuinely don’t want this thing following me around. Plus it’d be a bit rude.

Their eyes follow me as I leave the room.

They remain upon me as I re-enter.

Awful ginger baby.

Kill it with fire.

09:00 – I play Doom, convinced I’m going to beat the arena that has been giving me grief for the duration of the tour so far.

09:30 – I fail, so give up and play Dying Light instead.

09:35 – I have totally forgotten how the hell this game works, so give up again.

Fortunately, Alex has discovered that a bounty of Eastern European delectables are awaiting for us downstairs, so I conclude that my utter lack of gameplay skill is the natural consequence of being hungry, rather than just shit at games.

09:45 – Pancakes await, an entire two bands’ worth, no less! Alex and I tuck in, lightly dressing these warm, flat, thick goodies in a layer of white a sugar… only to then be informed by Petra, that these are not pancakes as we seem to be expecting. Rather, these are potato and garlic based, so sugar probably isn’t the best addition.

I disagree and persevere, adamant that I knew these were salt-based snacks all along and the addition of sugar is both purposeful and wise; evidence of my eclectic, innovative culinary vision.

The face I pull upon the first bite immediately exposes my bluff. Insisting on blind fortitude in the face of facts which overwhelm my position has burned me on several occasions on this tour already, but I remain steadfast in my belief that the wrong way of doing things is always preferable to the correct way, if it’s funnier.

I swallow several gallons of black coffee and feel my soul ascend to realities unknown.

The food is great (as always) once I figure out how to eat it properly.

10:00 – Last night’s promoter is on his way to talk trading and potential collaboration on future releases with Alex.

I take this opportunity to play Doom again and re-plaster my fingers, which are starting to resemble a mine field straight from the imagination of Clive Barker, minus the kinky hedonism. Which would frankly, be a little more worth the effort than making a din every night.

I seriously need to work on my technique, my hand hasn’t looked like this since I first discovered… nevermind.

11:30 – We thank our hosts and promoter for the food, beds and support before making our way back in the direction of Czech Republic. We are treated to some beautiful scenery, which I make a concerted effort to remain conscious for.

An effort I fail at within seconds.

14:00 – We arrive in Brno, at the venue for tonight’s show – Bajkazyl. It’s a really cool spot, with three large rooms comprising a bar, chilled out area and room dedicated to sound pollution.

The toilets have these mad, rather large saloon style doors which seem to have been attached to the wall by the most needlessly aggressive, spring-powered hinges known to man.

Alex nearly takes a shot to the face as they swing violently behind me as I depart.

I don’t apologise.

14:30 – Site seeing time! As with all Czech cities, Brno is sprawling and littered with beautiful architecture. We go inside a church, nearly get hit by a tram, all the usual tourist cliches.

15:30 – Arriving at a vegan bar, we order lunch.

Riley, Matt and myself order fried Edam cheese burgers with fries. None of us are entirely sure whether Edam is actually vegan, assuming it must because the bar itself is vegan? I don’t really know why any of us care either: Matt’s vegetarian, I’m pescetarian and Riley eats meat.

Seems we’re each more concerned with social etiquette than we’d ever have anticipated.

Except Matt, who in fairness does make a general effort not to be a dick. Myself and Riley are still learning this trade.

Slowly.

16:00 – The food is taking forever to arrive, we’re getting irritable – this stuff better be worth the wait.

16:15 – The food is totally, totally worth the wait and we collectively deride one another for having expressed any doubt that would be the case.

Every bite is succulent with dairy goodness and self-hatred in equal measure. I know full well the weight with which this is going to sit upon my internal organs when we come to play later, feeling I should beat myself with every bite I take.

Bollocks to it, it’s not every day you get to eat a burger comprising entirely of fried cheese. If it kills me – it’ll be worth it.

18:00 – We return to the venue, setup the gear and as we wait for the bands to play, I proceed to answer Dani’s questions about mine and Anna’s worth in South Africa.

I do enjoy talking about the place and the work we do, but am always loathe to do so without it being instigated by someone else – because why the hell assume anyone gives two shits about what you do?

I don’t take it for granted that people have any sort of interest in the animals and place as much as we do and certainly don’t assume anyone wants to hear me droaning on and on about my feelings on wildlife conservation – because they typically conclude with the belief than an effective, commercially-minded participation in the free market has more long term viability than sob stories and bickering at dis-interested governments to protect species 99% of the populate have no immediate need to care about.

Most folks look at me like I’m a dick when I express this perspective, arguing it as being cynical.

I’d argue there’s more promise in such an approach because it depends on the skills and motivation of the people who understand their wildlife best, but that’s a rant for another time.

Either way – she seems genuinely interested in our experiences, as am I in hers, broad as they are from her years travelling across the UK and the USA. I love, love, love hearing people’s perspective on life when it’s informed by actual actions and events they’ve experienced, rather than just another copy-and-paste opinion floating around Facebook.

Even if people’s experiences bare little (if any) resembelence to your own, the fact that they’ve endured them first hand is something you can always relate and offer some degree of empathy to. There is a solidarity in people who’ve carved their own path, regardless of how they’ve done it or the distance to which they’ve proceeded.

Since we haven’t really spoken much to date (I like to sleep… a lot), it’s a welcome change of pace to our day to day proceedings and I am given some reassurance than I am indeed capable of communicating with other human beings on a one to one level.

Hmmm, things are getting a bit too mature for my liking, time to address this.

19:00 – The first two bands play very short, brutal grindcore sets, reminiscent of very early Napalm Death. Nice guys who thank us for playing and ask me questions about my drumming technique.

I prefixed my demonstrations with a very clear disclaimer, that whatever I say – they endeavour to do the exact opposite – lest they want hand palms that look like they were suspected by the American Government as containing vast quantities of oil.

Oh yes ladies and gentlemen, I am provocative.

21:00 – Before we even start to play, Alex slips on the floor. It absolutely makes my day, but when I fell over on the mountain he kept his tirade of abuse uncharacteristically minimal, so I feel it’s only reasonable that I extend the same level of respect.

The rest of the show… goes okay.

The sound seems good and the crowd is digging it, but this is probably the joint second-worst I’ve played after the Stoke gig (Leiden was equally terrible).

It’s just one of those nights where my brain isn’t present, almost literally.

During Communion Of Total Manipulation, I don’t just forget where I am in the song – I forget where I am completely. There was a moment of internal white light which flashed through my brain and when I came out the other side, I genuinely had no idea what was going on, what the hell I was doing here or why my fingers felt like they were soaked in acid.

Thankfully, Riley is a consummate professional, recognises I’m totally out of sync and we jump into the chorus. Matt and Alex are likewise seamless, so all things considered – it could’ve been much worse.

I hate, hate, hate, hate playing shit at gigs. Feels like you’ve wasted your own time and other people’s money.

When we finish, more people than I would’ve expected come to tell me how much they enjoyed the show.

If I can play this poorly and still get a welcome reaction out of folks, then that’s something.

21:45 – Sheeva Yoga play – power-violence at its absolutely finest. We’ve been good friends with their bass player (Skulda) since we first visited Czech Republic in 2008 and he played bass for Krupskaya on the South East Asia tour in 2009.

The band is great, the show is great, the people are great – happy days.

22:30 – Socialising commences.

00:00 – Petra asks if we want to stay here, or we can go to stay at her friend’s house. I do not give a single, solitary shite where we stay. She looks exhausted, as does Dani who has been none-stop driving for the past few days now, so my preference is for whatever suits these two.

All the rest of us need, is a floor.

Debate over the preferable option continues well into the ngiht.

02:00 – We finally agree that we’re going to stay at Petra’s friend’s house. I’ve no idea why it’s taken this long to make a decision. No-one seems to struggle to reach an agreement when the question is “Should we get Ed to play double bass drums through the entirety of this segment of the song?”, after all.

02:15 – We arrive at the tower block. Petra tries to unlock the door to the flat, but to no avail.

She tries three different keys – to no avail.

She seems to conclude that she’s not jamming the lock hard enough, so revises the amount of strength she is inflicting and tries again – to no avail.

Turns out, we’re trying to enter the wrong flat.

Bloody hell.

02:30 – We find the right flat and no-one has been shot or arrested.

Two rooms are available to sleep in. Matt, Riley and I opt for the kitchen given the readily available plug socket, Alex and Petra choose the larger room wherein her friend is already fast asleep.

I mock Riley for looking like a tragic failure in his child sized sleeping bag. Seconds later he is asleep and snoring to wall-shaking decibels. While I regret taunting him so, feeling I may have somehow bought this utter din upon myself in the process, it doesn’t feel like a remotely fair comeuppance.

Matt looks at me across the room in hopeless dismay, as we share a glance which concludes there’s nothing that can be done about the situation, so we must endure it in solidarity.

Seconds later, Matt’s snoring like an absolute bastard too.

Petra pleads with me to save myself and move to the other room, but I’m already quite comfortable and given how familiar I am with Alex’s snoring too, can’t imagine I’ll endure much better even if I did make the effort to move.

Furthermore, given she almost had us attempting a breaking and entering (albeit, accidentaly) I regretfully inform her than my confidence in her judgment is lower than that which I have in my own alchohol tolerance levels.

I will stay here.

I will endure.

03:00 – Matt has evolved from snoring to talking. Nothing discernible, just some bullshit about the cupboards.

I honestly want to throttle these people to death.

03:15 – Riley honestly sounds like he’s choking.

I do nothing, he bought this upon himself.

He survives, evidently choosing to celebrate with an even louder chorus of snoring.

03:30 – They’re still – bloody– snoring.

I could just go into the other room, but I don’t trust there to be no din in there either.

Plus, I’m very comfy.

04:00 – Urge to kill, rising… rising.

Kids – don’t do bands.

Thank you Brno!!

22 February, 2018