# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Flatmates - Part 10

  by Martin Whitehead

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Flatmates - Part 10


Chapter 21: I thought you had the leads bag? At Stuttgart we managed to leave all our leads behind in the club. "Iz a problem". Not just the guitar leads, but all the connectors for the effects ped

Chapter 21: I thought you had the leads bag? At Stuttgart we managed to leave all our leads behind in the club. "Iz a problem". Not just the guitar leads, but all the connectors for the effects pedals and foot switches. The following night in Hannover we borrowed as much as we could from the heavy metal band we shared the bill with. The day after we headed down to the Bavarian town of Gamelsdorf, just outside Munich. On the way we made a detour to Stuttgart to pick up our leads. It was mid afternoon and we banged on the club door for ages before it got answered by an African cleaner, who seemed to speak only rudimentary German. We fortunately also spoke rudimentary German but alas it was different kind of rudimentary German from that spoken by the cleaner. Iz definitely a problem. Through a combination of sign language and force of numbers we finally gained entrance to the club and miraculously found the bag of leads. Perhaps he spoke perfect English but I don’t think we ever bothered asking. To fill the long hours spent cruising the same stretch of Autobahn time and time again we invented a gameshow that featured a touring indie band who would get stuck at customs, lose their leads, not speak the language etc. etc. which we called "Iz a Problem!" If it ever gets made it’ll just be an excuse for sadistic maltreatment of some band, but it should make for satisfying viewing. Gamelsdorf was all pointy roofs with little railings to stop the snow falling off. On the rider was a bottle of tequila and the barman showed us how to make tequila slammers. We were totally off our arses by the time we came to play, but in the way that tequila makes you high, rather than just being pissed. The stage had a little catwalk protruding from each side. Both Tim and myself would run around a lot on stage and frequently collide with and jostle each other. This went one further at Gamelsdorf which ended up with me walking up and down the catwalk with Tim sitting on my shoulders, both of us playing guitar. After the show two executives from Polygram introduced themselves. They’d been flown by Polygram from London to Munich to see us play. They told us how much they loved the show and helped themselves to the Southern Comfort that had appeared on the after show rider. (The tequila evidently being the before show rider). They came out to dinner with us, made a point of sitting with the girls and kept their receipts for expenses. They seemed to enjoy themselves and it would have been nice to have heard from them again. Still, it must be hard work jetting off to gigs, drinking riders and forcing the last drop from your expense account. The night before in Hanover we had gone drinking after the show and on leaving the bar Tim and myself spotted a chip van. Chips in hand we wandered back across the street that was criss-crossed by tram lines. Tim had already been wandering about the bar with no shoes on and at one point phoned his girlfriend and proposed marriage to her. I reached the other pavement and turned around to see Tim falling over the tram lines and like a true pro holding his chips aloft and not dropping a single one. What he hadn’t noticed was the tram bearing down on him. Like a true superhero I leapt into the road and grabbed Tim by the scruff of the neck and dragged him off the tram lines. Only 30 seconds or so later the tram rattled past the spot where barely half a minute earlier Tim had been lying. We shuddered to think of the consequences had I not acted with lightning reflexes. Chapter 22: Going punky in Freiburg When we woke the following morning it was April 1st. As was usual, I was the first one up and on opening my hotel room door discovered two small baskets, full of chocolate eggs. We later discovered that the April bunny had been our tour manager, Martina, who had somehow secretly acquired these baskets of eggs, and had got up early to make her deliveries to all our doors. It was a nice surprise to feel included in a country’s traditions when you felt so distanced from home. That night we played in Freiburg in the Black Forest in south west Germany. Try as we might we could find no chocolate gateaux with cherries on. During the soundcheck a couple of familiar faces walk into the club. Paul Roberts and friend had decided that travelling to Hull was no distance at all for a night out and so had caught a train to Freiburg to see us play. On the journey over they had found a condom vending machine that sold "Mates" condoms. They’d removed the stickers from the front of the vending machines and with a marker pen inserted "Flat" before the "Mates" and added the word "Crew" beneath. They weren’t exactly tour laminates but they fooled the doorman at the Jazzhaus in Freiburg. On the drive back to the hotel a minibus pulled up next to us with half a dozen or so spikey topped headcases in it. Each one wore a studded leather jacket, bondage or combat trousers and hair shaved into a vicious mohican. Any studs left over from their jackets were used to pierce ears, noses and miscellaneous spare bits of flesh. Southern Germany had a reputation for being politically right wing, though this reputation is gained through the conservative middle class rather than gangs of neo nazi thugs. The passengers of the minibus were staring intently at us and when we drove off they followed us. Despite taking detours round the block several times we couldn’t shake them. When we arrived at our hotel they pulled up behind us and all jumped out and ran over to our minibus. I wasn’t sure whether to pick up my guitar and run, or just run. The biggest one bounded up to Deb "Owright, you’s the Flatmates?" "Er…yeh…?" "We’s just seen you’s , you’s great you is!" Our new friends turned out to be the Brummie hardcore punk band ‘GBH’, a.k.a. ‘Charged GBH’. They’d had a night off of their German tour and had come along to see us playing at the venue that they were due to appear in the following night. They’d loved the show and had wanted to tell us they were fans. We hung out with our crusty pals, and by coincidence the following night was the only night off in our tour schedule. We spent the following day seeing the sights of Freiburg. Although as a touring musician you get to see motorways, service stations and the inside of clubs, you rarely get to see the towns you visit up close and in the flesh. We found the German equivalent of Woolworths who had a shirt sale on. They had racks of lurid coloured short sleeved shirts for about £1 - 2 each. Myself, Joel, Tim, Mark and Andrew all bought a couple. That evening we wore our shirts on the town as GBH had put us on their guestlist and we all went back to the Jazzhaus to hang out in the moshpit with the German punks. Most of the Flatmates entourage had heard the name GBH, but I think I was the only one who had heard any of their songs. ‘City Baby Attacked By Rats’ had been a favourite of one of my younger sister’s punky friends. "How does it go?" asked the others. "City baby city baby city baby - ‘TACKED BY RATS!" The following night we hung out at the gig and every other song we shouted for our favourite GBH title, which they played and we sang along to. Tim discovered that if he hung around the bar being particularly English he could convince the bar staff that he was with the band, and taking advantage of the European hospitality towards visiting artists had his glass refilled all evening. The rest of us headed for bed in the early hours of the morning, but discovered the next morning that Tim had walked back to the hotel which included several laps of Freiburg town centre and a dip in one of Freiburg’s fine municipal fountains. It was in Freiburg that Tim and Paul discovered a shared hobby. One of the reasons why Paul was able to pop up all over the country on a British Telecom storeman’s wages was that he had spent years practising the art of bunking free rides on Britain’s rail network. I know they had a specialist name for the hobby but not being a train spotter myself I couldn’t tell you. This hobby is practised by the more radical and dangerous fringe elements of the train spotting fraternity. One’s success is measured in miles travelled, stations passed and destinations reached. Paul’s mileage had passed into 6 figures years previously and he had by then achieved the equivalent of several orbits of the planet without paying for it. Tim’s interest in the hobby was somewhat lapsed but he would apparently regularly jump on a train after school and notch up the odd hundred miles before going home for tea. From Freiburg we headed up to Mannheim. One thing you noticed when travelling up and down Germany in the late 1980’s is the English army’s presence in the north, American army in the south. The centre of Mannheim was totally flattened in the second world war. Ironically for Mannheim it was the north that bore the brunt of the allies advance at the end of the war. Much of the south, including the pointy roofs of Gamelsdorf is old and picturesque, but in the northern part of Germany it’s rare to see a building that predates the war. Mannheim had been rebuilt on the New York style grid system. Unlike New York’s north-south Avenues and east-west Streets, Mannheim has letters going one way and numbers going the other. If a location is on map reference D6, chances are that’s its street address as well. At one of our gigs a group of G.I.s turned up. They had German girlfriends. German girlfriends who spoke with New York, Californian or Texan accents. The centre of Mannheim was a depressing and characterless place. Most of the people we saw in the town centre after nightfall were Turkish immigrants, or "guest workers". Guests in the sense that they paid taxes to the German state but had no electoral voice. We were 3 gigs from the end of the tour and getting tired and looking forward to going home. The venue was in a dingy cellar and the sound was pretty poor. After the gig a German punter made some comment to Tim, something crass like being worse than Talulah Gosh. Tim in turn carried out a clumsy shoulder barge on him. There were raised voices but nothing more. Before it all descended into arguments along the lines of "We’re harder than Talulah Gosh we are" it all fizzled out. Sometimes, to paraphrase Kurt Cobain, being in a touring indie band isn’t 100% fun.

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