The Dead Men Walking tour continues, a new Alarm album is mastered and future plans are made.
Thursday 13th October-Colchester
Long drive down to Colchester today so I whiled away the hours watching 'No Direction Home', the Bob Dylan film put together by Martin Scorsese. What an amazing piece of work.
We checked into one of the oldest hotels in the U.K. and went for a late lunch with Liam. I must admit that I am feeling decidedly under the weather today. I have a ferocious cold and am scared that I might pass it on to the other guys. I must make sure I sing on my own microphone tonight. No soundcheck, so had a long soak in a very hot bath: always good for combating cold.
Got to the gig early and was chatting with Vince and Craig. Captain's friend Martin, the poet, came back stage to say hello. We hit the stage hard and the crowd are really up for it tonight. From a technical point of view I would say we played one of the best shows of the tour so far.
There were a couple of very young boys in attendance, with their father stood just behind them. Kirk and I got them to come up on stage during 'I Fought the Law' to sing backing vocals. They were great and got right into the spirit of the song. They knew all the words. Their Dad looked on with a very proud look on his face.
Back on for an encore and Captain told a story about being on tour with Marc Bolan and T-Rex just before Bolan was killed in a car accident in 1977. This inspired us to perform a totally unrehearsed version of 'Get It On' (or for you American readers 'Bang a Gong'). After the show I put my coat on and walked back to the hotel with the fans although no one recognised me as I had my hood up tight.
Friday 14th October-Colchester to Dublin
9:45 a.m. I am sitting in the dining room about to enjoy a nice cooked veggie breakfast in the hotel in Colchester. We are due to fly to Dublin, Ireland at midday from Stanstead airport in the south of England 20 miles away. We are leaving the hotel at 10 a.m.
9:46 a.m. Oh No! I have just realised that I have not brought my passport with me. I have no form of photo ID and they won't let me fly without a passport anyway.
Liam wants me to go in the tour bus to my home in Wales and catch a ferry. I realise that I'll never make it by road as I am miles away from Wales. I call the train line and they tell me that if I'm quick I can catch the 10:03 to London and then a train to North Wales. Instinct tells me to go for it. I'll have to use my mobile to make further arrangements as soon as I get on the train. TAXI!!!!!
I make the station with two minutes to spare but have to jump straight onto the train and buy a ticket aboard. I call Jules who is just about to leave home to catch the ferry crossing to Dublin. Jules gets onto the Internet and finds a flight from Manchester to Dublin that will get me there in time for the show (what a star!). She has also arranged for a local taxi cab firm to meet me (with my passport) at Chester station (as long as I catch the connection to North Wales in London). The cab will then drive me to Manchester Airport to make the flight to Dublin. Jules gets me the last ticket on the plane.
By now I have arrived in London and have to catch a tube across town from Liverpool Street to London Euston station. After a frantic scramble out of the tube station I make the train to North Wales by seconds. In fact, the guard is drawing the gate across the entrance as I approach and I have to sprint to make it through. Now I can relax. Everything goes to plan from here on in... the taxi is waiting for me and I make it to the airport on time to catch the flight.
Upon arrival in Dublin, I get a very chatty taxi driver who takes me to the Voodoo Lounge. He's chatting so much that he gets lost and has to make phone calls to find his way back to the venue. After all this, I still make it in time for the soundcheck. Jules is waiting for me and together with our friends Karl and Nicola (who have accompanied Jules on the trip over), we head into the Temple Bar district for a meal before the show.
The show is it's usual mix of chaos and humour although tonight there is an extra edge in the crowd. There's a lot of rockabillies and punks in. The second song in is the Stray Cats' 'Rock This Town' -- after I sing the opening line "My baby and me went out last Saturday night," Slim Jim shouts down the microphone "Got your passport with you Mikey?" -- I can hardly sing the next line for laughing!
A rockabilly couple are up on the stage dancing. Not to be out done, and as soon as we roar into '45 R.P.M.,' the punks are doing there own version of dancing -- pogoing and stage diving -- it's quite hilarious seeing the various factions in the crowd trying to out do each other. By the end all the barriers are down and punks, teds, rockabillies and mods are all grooving under the sway of the Dead Men Walking.
After the show the dressing room is packed with friends who have made the trip over for the concert including Kirk Brandon's sister who has come to see her big brother... My brother-in-law Andy had also made the trip (in secret) to surprise me and his sister Jules... We all went back to the hotel bar for a pint or two... What a day and what a night!!!
Saturday 15th October-Morecambe
Early start as Jules is heading back to Wales on the ferry and I am flying with the rest of the band to Blackpool airport to meet the tour bus and then drive to Morecambe for tonight's show at the Platform.
Bumped into Lilly Elsayed at the airport. Lilly is a long time friend/supporter of the Alarm who has come all the way from the USA to catch the Dead Men Walking. Got stopped for autographs on the way out of the airport by a fan/airport worker who is coming to the show this evening.
There is no hotel tonight as we have a 450 mile trip to Newquay to negotiate tomorrow and the thinking is to get a couple of hundred miles in the bag tonight and grab a hotel en route. Spent the afternoon wandering around town and managed to purchase a few DVD's from the market ('American Beauty' and 'Deep Water'). Managed to listen the radio commentary of Fulham v Man Utd in the tour bus (good result for UTD who won 3-2).
The Captain is in his element in this venue as it used to be an old railway station and he loves all things 'trains.' We are on stage early, so we should be on the road by 11 o'clock which is a big help.
Fantastic crowd in tonight and they really roar us on into each song. It really does make a difference when the crowd are up for it. They bring things out in us that we wouldn't normally do. We started swapping the set around on stage because of the way the gig was going. Everyone in the band really enjoyed themselves and came of off the stage totally buoyed up. Thanks Morecambe!
11 p.m. and we are on the road south!
Sunday 16th October-Newquay
On the road again. Actually the trip wasn't too painstaking. Watched a film on my laptop and had a listen through the Alarm album as tomorrow I am going to Abbey Road studios in London to master the new record which is coming out on EMI next year on February 20th.
Arrived at the Barracuda, a fantastic venue in Newquay, Cornwall. The venue is on a cliff top looking down on the ocean. There are a couple of surfers out on the waves. No hotel for me tonight as myself and Liam will be setting off after the show to Exeter where we will be catching the early train to London in the morning. Who said "Rock and Roll is a glamorous life?"
Hung out in the dressing room before the show and we hit the stage at 10 p.m. The gig was wild with lots of movement in the audience. When we got to the end of the show, a closing sequence of 'Westworld,' '45 R.P.M.,' 'Smash It Up' and 'Runaway Boys' brought the best out of the band and the audience. Encores were demanded and given before everyone disappeared into the rainy night.
The band are staying in Newquay for the day off, but Liam and I find ourselves in a taxi for the one hundred mile trip to Exeter.
Monday 17th October-Exeter to London
2 a.m. and I'm still in the taxi en route to Exeter. Check into the hotel at 3 a.m. The 'alarm' goes off (sorry!!!) at 6:15 a.m. and at 6:55 we are on a train bound for London Paddington station. 9:15 a.m. and a taxi takes us to Abbey Road.
The session isn't due to start until 10 a.m. so we grab some breakfast in the cafe which is already full of classical musicians who are in for a recording session in Studio 1. 10 a.m. and we are in the mastering suite with Sean Magee who is going to work on the final sound of our new Alarm album.
'Mastering' is the final piece in the art of making records. It is here that all the levels of the tracks are balanced so that they all sound as loud as each other in the final sequence. A lot can still be done to a record at this stage as EQ and compression can make a big difference to a recorded song's dynamics. Present are myself, James Stevenson, Steve Grantley and Liam Feekery.
There are still a few decisions to be made at this point. Sometimes when a record is being mixed there are a few things that you cannot commit to at that point. Sometimes, something is added to a track late on and you need time to live with it, like extra backing vocals or an extra bit of guitar. Today two of the tracks have things in them that we have to make a decision on. Both 'My Town' and 'Without A Fight' have backing vocals that we are not sure whether to include or leave out. We have mixes of the tracks both with and without. After some deliberation it is decided to go with the mixes without backing vocals. Hearing the tracks with EQ and compression makes them sound really exciting and there is no need for these extra vocal parts.
Tougher to decide on is which is the best mix of 'My Town'; the mix done at the Doghouse by George Williams during the recording sessions or the mix commissioned by Pete Walsh. Both mixes are really good but in the event the Doghouse mix wins out as it works best in the context of the final album. The Pete Walsh mix sounds great on its own and will be used elsewhere in the promotion of the album.
By 6 p.m. we are all satisfied with the finished record, having decided on the final sequence and also deciding to use all 13 recorded tracks (There had been some debate about a finished album of only 11 tracks but the final sequence makes all 13 tracks work together really well). Sean Magee does some final work on the volume of the record while we have a pint in the studio bar. At 7.00 p.m. I am on my way to Euston station with a (white label) finished copy of the album.
The train to North Wales leaves on time and I can sit back and listen to the album on my headphones. I listen through to it twice in succession and it sounds great to me. This will probably be the last time I ever listen to this album in full. For me, this is the point where work begins on the next one. It's over to you listeners now. By 10:10 p.m. I am in the car and heading for home.
Tuesday 18th October-Wales
Got up early with my son Dylan, and took him to Cylch. Spent the morning singing Welsh songs such as 'Dyma Thomas y Tank' (Here is Thomas the Tank) and 'Clap Clap 1-2-3'. Great fun!
By mid afternoon I am on the road to Shakespeare country -- Stratford-Upon-Avon. I arrive just in time for the show which is starting earlier than expected. The venue -- Cox's Yard -- is the smallest we have played on this tour and it is packed. It is also freezing cold! We can't help but make references to Shakespeare during the set. We found it incredibly funny although I'm sure the audience have heard it all before.
Good gig though, even if the temperature was dropping as the show went on. I'm sure someone opened a door half way through as an icy blast blew across the stage. The guitar strings were freezing and I broke a string. I got Vince to keep me going with hot honey and lemon as I thought my voice was not going to make it. We got off stage and we all felt the same. We were all sweating like mad but feeling very cold -- strange.
Back at the hotel, I had an extremely hot bath and that made me feel a lot better.
Wednesday 19th October-Aldershot
Slim Jim and I had a stroll through Stratford-Upon-Avon in the morning. Jim bought Captain Sensible a book called 'Crap Towns of Britain.' Jim and Captain both share a love of British self deprecating humour and are both avid 'Viz' readers.
A fair old journey down to Aldershot on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. We have decided to travel back to Birmingham tonight, so we are quite pleased that it is to be an early show. In fact we are due on stage at 7:45 p.m. One thing about this tour is that we have decided not to have our own sound engineer and entrust our 'sound' to the house engineers. It's a source of amusement when tonight's sound engineer tells me that he is only 'learning' how to do rock sound and is used to doing 'pantomime!' I reassure him that this should qualify him perfectly for the Dead Men Walking!
Get a new song going on the soundcheck which shows promise. We all retire to a local restaurant for a bite to eat and to discuss future plans etc. (We are planning some more dates for December and a recording session to cut a Dead Men Walking album of original material).
The gig at the Princes Hall goes really well. Despite the sound limitations, it comes across really well. The audience is seated throughout the show but the Captain gets them all standing down the front for the encore by offering them a choice of Strawberry Bon Bon or Pontefract Cake from the bag of sweets he purchased that afternoon! Great gig again. 10:30 p.m. and we are back in the bus heading north for the Midlands.
Read Mike's previous entry.