After a busy few weeks rehearsing and playing shows in Italy and Norway with Anekdoten I am finally reunited with my amazing wife Olivia in Cologne. I have been meaning to write about all these recent adventures (especially the incredible city of Rome) but alas I am going to Berlin tomorrow, seeing Jeff Beck at the Tempodrom next Tuesday and then off to Hamburg for 3 days before returning to the Cologne/Bonn area where I can hopefully settle down to some writing regarding recent events, adding the latest news from the In Deep headquarters including musical plans and upcoming projects before the next adventure blurs out the last. Now on the way to sit by the Rhine and watch the barges and contemplate the hazardous current to the chorus of 1000 blackbirds.
Leaving Stockholm today for Milan, Rome and finally Bergen, Norway, where I’ll be playing with Anekdoten. I won’t be in England again till next year, it feels like a new phase with the Anekdoten shows, the latest Noctorum album and other happenings in the coming months that I will get into as they approach. But all this and with the death of a musician you have played with despite not being in touch recently, the future seems to be blurring out the past at a tremendous rate. The past rather than lingering, forces you to move on, pushes you into the future – or else. You can’t change anything, it’s too late.
Just coming to Italy is a thrill, we were here last year playing at a festival in Veruno north of Milan and arriving today in 30 degrees and crazy traffic confirmed the allure of the Italian way. On the plane I turned to Pete, our drummer, and said: “That’s what I’m going to listen to, Colloseum, of course, I’ll be there in Rome, visiting the place.” Then, I got here and our bassist Jan Erik said: “Jon Hiseman, the drummer from Colloseum, died”. The present takes swipes at you at the oddest times.
In truth, speeding down the highway from the airport, it could have been anywhere and even coming into the city it was just another city in Europe – apart from the Bosco Verticale (vertical forest). Some other buildings stood out and the driving was special but otherwise like most places these days, before you get into the detail, whether it be Yerevan or Mexico City, Buenos Aires or Philadelphia, the world no longer makes another westernized city more intriguing than the next. Everyone is on their phone or sitting in traffic or listening to terrible songs on the radio, the details elude you initially.
English, unlike in Sweden, is not a given in Italy and our driver struggled to find the words as I spoke to him in English, Italian and Spanish, me struggling, too, but succeeding between the two of us to make sense of the universe. A quick trip to the hotel to drop off our bags before dinner and sorting out that double bed and finding a room for guitarist Nicklas and I to share with a touch more convenience and soon we were treated to dinner outdoors, a DJ, a waiter from the Phillipines (who did speak English) and eventually shaking hands with DJ 2, a lady/Italian language rapper and then a photo op with the restaurant’s owner and their various girl friends. Nice people, not sure about the music.
Then to the venue we were playing, lots of bands on tonight, meeting some of them and seeing some of them play, Elysium, Desert Wizard, one whose name escapes me and Jumbo and last but not least The Trip. The Trip began in London in 1966, some kind of Anglo/Italian brainstorm that once boasted Ritchie Blackmore as their guitarist before he joined Deep Purple. All these bands were different kinds of crazy progressive complexity but at the same time they managed a lighthearted atmosphere despite what must have been gruelling rehearsals.
And that was it. Nothing particularly Italian happened tonight, nothing that made here stand out from there. So why am I writing this? Mainly it’s to remind myself that the future is now and tomorrow is a new day and I’m in Italy playing with a great band and I feel lucky to be alive – the details, well, they will reveal themselves in the coming days.
January 1st 2018 in Yucca Valley, California, and the American melting pot gurgles and spits. Leaving Patti and Mike’s house on the edge of the desert for the cultural experience of Denny’s 24 hour breakfast, oatmeal with brown sugar, decaf with half and half, wheat toast and avocado, no butter. Our waitress (server as they seem to want to call her) is a lovely, friendly Mexican lady and as we order, another Mexican family arrives for lunch – their lunch is our breakfast. So close to the Mexican border one hears Spanish everywhere, that quick fire language that concertinas out of the mouth, cascades down like a waterfall, speeds like a bullet. I love Spanish, I speak it a bit, speak more than I understand as it fires back at me with different accents depending on where you are in the world, expelling at a 1000 mph. But I love some of the words and it’s wonderful to be able to communicate at a certain level and put these words into a sentence with native speakers. Mariposa – butterfly, mantequilla – butter, mosca – fly. Just to be able to say “There’s a fly and a butterfly in the butter” in another language makes me happy.
At this precise moment I’m listening to Going To California from Led Zep IV, earlier I listened to The Last Resort, suggested by Rod in Vancouver as he sits in a massive freeze out that has disabled his Skype, cancelling a planned talk today. It seemed appropriate listening to a track from Hotel California in California. One thing led to another and I moved on to Don Henley and listened to The Heart Of The Matter, The End Of The Innocence and The Boys Of Summer and realised he had a lot of songs with ‘The’ in the title which made me feel a lyrical affinity with this much maligmend mega-star as a few of my songs have ‘The’ in the title: The Striker, The Muse, The Guessing Game, The Lantern, The Folly, The Devil’s Dance, The Road Map To My Soul and then there’s that cover of The House Of Love song I did with Norwegian singer Marte Heggelund, The Beatles And The Stones. But on the subject of poor old Don Henley, dismissed by the edgy and loved by the breezy souls in this state and across America – if it wasn’t for him, The Church might not have made Starfish, there would be no Milky Way hit and that doorway that opened up might have remained closed for ever.
It was after Heyday that the band was signed to Arista records and the discussion about who should produce the album came up. Scott Litt, REM’s guy, Tim Palmer, Bowie, U2 etc etc there were a few contenders, Arista must have suggested Greg Ladanyi. We had remembered Henley’s hit from 1984, The Boys Of Summer, co-written with Mike Campbell, Tom Petty’s long time guitarist and collaborator, it was a multi-faceted Pop masterpiece that incorporated Henley’s rather wonderful voice, a moodiness and a drum machine, a modern production. These contrasting elements with an evocative lyric that took you to California, that had Deadheads and Cadillacs, sunglasses, sun and lost love made for an intriguing choice. Greg Ladanyi produced the song (with Henley and Danny Kortchmar) and that disparate mix of him and us might have been the secret to that short lived commercial success we achieved. Coupled with Ladanyi’s recent work with other Arista artists, Jeff Healy and Cruzados, his reputation as a trustworthy hit maker that understood an artistic temperament with Henley, Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne, made Arista jump for joy when we agreed to work with him. Waddy Wachtel might have been added to the equation as somebody realized that Ladanyi’s hopeless bedside manner might need a bridge between band and apparent project leader. This mess of personalities put the band on the map in America. Sadly Ladanyi died in a freak accident in Greece where he was watching an artist he had produced (Anna Vissi) from the side of stage where he fell onto a concrete floor just 13 feet below, never recovering from the head trauma.
Meanwhile as we move to the more expensive decaf and better wifi at Starbucks, the light starts to fade on the brown hills and the unhappy cacti, craving their summer’s baking heat and blooming flowers, we prepare to leave this desolate place for the buzz of LA and the gracious hospitality of our friend Marc before another road trip that takes us back to Texas via a night in Tucson and another in El Paso, landing in Houston – from desert to desert in the Wild West that spans California east to our next destination later in the week, Jackson, Mississippi.
A break in the clouds reveals a cold sun that for all its power fails to penetrate the thick blasts that push struggling people into railings, fighting to keep their balance as they climb all shapes against bitter biting whirlpool swirls that leave the cheeks raw.
A cat cowers in a doorway unable to see a path to home, the fur rug, the crackling fire, the sound of the rattling box of dried morsels and the comforting caress of human fingers under the chin.
The rain slants like mathematical weapons analyzing the angles to find the vulnerable doorways into your coat – through the loose button holes, between the collar and neck and up the sleeves at the cuff.
Finally the glowing light of your window gives you hope as you drop your guard for just one moment in relief for the site of home, as you step into the largest puddle of your journey soaking your sock through your shoe, water pouring in through the eyeholes of your laces. You curse, remove a glove and plunge your hand into your pocket for your keys.
The relief as the flat metal turns in the lock, the door opens, the cat sees the opportunity and runs bedraggled through your legs into the hallway as you stumble over the mat into warm peace.
I see a queue, as long as eternity, shuffling feet slowly moving forwards towards the precipice of the unknown. Mostly anonymous but here and there a glimpse of recognition as you watch the line tumble into a bottomless pit of final days. One by one they fall, leaving behind loved ones, relatives and followers, and it’s the living who suffer as the darkness descends as it inevitably will.
The last breath of a stranger that you knew, a body shattered, a face lined with sickness that penetrated your very existence and shaped your own soul, guided you towards a light switched on inside your head, that small sharp click that opened up the whole universe and its possibilities, suddenly gone. Left in an empty hall, crying on the dance floor, spilling your emotions like a broken dam. The shock, the silence beforehand, that left you unprepared and the silence afterwards, that leaves you speechless.
The music, an avalanche of inspiration and the lyrics inventing worlds in another universe away from the drab garb of the ordinary, conjuring the imaginable, dressed in the fantastic. Rivers of colour power into pools of impossible truths, the freezing clasp of art as it chills your blood and the dark kiss of alien lips that torture your heart into submission. The black warmth of loud guitars and the silent whisper of drums. The possibility to see visions in words and to slide them like futuristic interlocking silver clasps into the baffling traumas of life. To find answers in sentences that slip you clues.
Epic washes of sound collapsing down like a crumbling mountain from heaven. A soundscape so dense that a forest can appear or the Berlin wall or the ravages of Dystopia under blackened roses. Trembling magnificent overtures from lost manuscripts sewn into the hem of a sparkling dress, waves and dreams in locks of hair and beauty in a shattered mirror. Arcs in the curves of dancing angels in the theatre of ambiguity. The timbre of a voice that commands you not to obey.
David Bowie is dead.
(Originally posted on the In Deep Music Archive – READ HERE.)