A World Full Of Sheep

It´s really unusually cold in London at the moment and of course everyone complains, while the BBC weather people cheerfully exaggerate.

I don´t really care too much personally (although I do sympathise … a bit) because my reason for being here is a very happy one!

But I am already getting ahead of myself …

Speaking of cold, January was the coldest winter month we have experienced in our little corner of Spain in all of the 10 + years we have lived there. The cold Siberian air that blasted the north found its way to us by way of the winds that blow through our valley every winter. Tough on the baby chickens, many of whom didn´t make it … sadly.

So … what does this have to do with sheep? Nothing ….. yet!

Now I am in a gigantic, shiny, upscale (if the prices are anything to go by) shopping mall. Only this one is not a bit like any shopping mall that you and I would normally use for window shopping …. No, this one has an airport attached to it!

Navigating the complusory route through duty-free, I thought I had escaped when there I was, surrounded by shops with names that seem to entitle them to inflate their already excessive prices … or so they think.

I see these places a lot but I rarely see anyone buying anything!

Actually I was in Barcelona, where I had arrived from Alicante and from where I would continue on to Vienna to begin this 16 day concert tour. And I was (and still am) looking forward to it. I began in Brno, Slovakia but had arrived in Vienna because it was nearer to my residence in Nitra where my second concert would be.

Both gigs were sold out. Raymond and I got on really well and we will do more shows in the future …. the audiences seem to be enjoying this more and I think I am getting better at it. Interesting hotel! Beautiful and horrible at the same time … it was an old-fashioned 5-star hotel that had been renovated as a ¨spa¨ hotel which of course meant no smoking! Except on the balcony where it was minus 12 degrees celsius … wonderful!

This place attracted people from all over the world for its treatments and honestly, most of them seemed very old, infirm and frail. They had also clung to a lot of old-fashioned hotel traditions like dress codes in the main restaurant which, in this day and age is plain silly. But I ate there anyway!

The first venue was ideal, the translation was great and the meet & greet lasted as long as the show itself. I was happy.

The second venue was more like a tunnel which made it harder to connect with the audience, who were very happy anyway. My translator seemed to go AWOL every now and then which meant more ¨dead¨ time than I am comfortable with and which made it a little more ….. ¨work¨.

I don´t like to work, I like to sing and play and have fun! Nevertheless, it was a success and everyone was happy and smiling.

Not so the girl in the brown tights who seemed to be obsessed with applying lip gloss and checking for dandruff. She need not have bothered. Any self-respecting male-denominated lecher would have voiced his approval in a second, assuming she could take enough time out from applying her addiction.

Then, it seemed, I was standing directly behind a guy wearing his Grandmother´s antique fur coat, something I remember doing when I was a younger boy. Looks can be deceptive though …. When I finally got a good a good look at him, it wasn´t him … it was actually his Grandmother! With these little observations in mind, I finally left Alicante and headed for the shopping mall in Barcelona.

After Slovakia, I became a parcel.

Raymond and I drove and (very enjoyably) talked our way to Brno in the Czech Republic where we were met by Ozzy the intrepid promoter and Katka (I think that´s how you write it) who had benefitted from a lifetime of practise in the art of unprovoked giggling.

Could have been nerves ….

The singing parcel was transferred from one car to another and the last 300 kilometers of this journey began. The snow was everywhere and the cold was relentless …. This Michelin man needed a coffee and a bathroom break. Please don´t tell anyone but I had to have a Big Mac! I only do this twice a year and the guilt somehow always tastes better then the food.

We got to Pilsen and I checked into my motel. I needed a nap and I pretended to have one but caved into a longish shower and a bop to sound check. This was a cool venue for a medium, semi-successful rock band and I had to work to make it work. For me, the distance to the audience from the stage should not be so big and when it is I have to juggle my stage set-up to compensate.

I liked this show. Hanna did a great translation. Karel Kopic showed up and they had a room in back with wi-fi. Sometimes, encounters in life make no sense at the time and I had one of those on the morning of my departure to Budapest. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it but it did leave me a little baffled ….

I like Bogdan very much and he did a good job. I got to the hotel, moved into my familiar room and tried to relax. No show tonight and I wanted to capitalise on the opportunity to rest.

A good breakfast, another nap. Time to catch up on some work and, once again, prepare for the show. I love playing with Live Fire but I am also enjoying these solo evenings more and more. They are always different and even when they are not, they are!

The pub was funky and full. The connection with the audience was especially good and the room was overflowing with warm and genuinely positive vibes, for want of a better word (and I do wish I had one!). The meet and greet was long but happy and then it was time for some food and to hang out with the sponsors, Takler, who just happened to be one of the finest winemakers in Eastern Europe. They are not shy and they will confirm what I just said.

The frivolity was cut short however when a heavy door on a very strong spring closed on me and removed half of my right thumb nail! It hurt a lot and it was bleeding but the lady in the nice brown coat came to the rescue. She and Bogdan helped to clean it and dress it then Bogdan stayed while she went off with her white horse. She was nice.

Up at 3 a.m and out to the aiport for my Wizzair flight to London. Yes, I am not making this up, the airline was called Wizzair and it was the only flight I could get that would get me to London in time to get to Metropolis for the mastering session of Love & Other Mysteries.

Ferihegy terminal 1 in Budapest is a nightmare to be avoided wherever and whenever possible …. as is Wizzair! The terminal has no luggage trolleys and I had two bags and two guitars to carry … must have looked pretty funny to the other ten thousand people trying to get on one of these flights.

I slept most of the way to Luton airport. Yes, Luton airport, not London as it is advertised. All of these low-budget, cheap, worthless airlines advertise their flights as if they use major city destinations but, in actual fact, they don´t …. so be warned!

From the airport, to the bus, to the train, the singing parcel was on the move again!

I finally arrived at St. Pancras station in London and took a taxi to the studio which is on Chiswick High Road in west London. I enjoyed tea and a snack until John was ready for me and we got to work. It is marvellous to me what great engineers can do. Given an appreciation for music in general, they seems able to tune into a song and give it just what it needs to be complete. Not too little and never too much … that´s why I really like to work with John.

In amongst all of this I was trying to change money, an area where the rules (and the exchange rates!) change all the time. I won´t bore you with the details but it should and could be much easier that it was.

Then I had to do an interview with Dave Ling from Classic Rock magazine. I like Dave but this was no fun. It was presented to me as a retrospective on the glory days of Heep but it turned out to be just another nauseating, thinly-veiled quest for dirt, rumour, gossip … whatever.

Dave …. you know (and you are) better than this.

FINALLY!! … to Victoria station, where I caught the Gatwick Express train to my hotel at the airport.

We didn´t actually ¨express¨ to be honest. This journey normally takes around 20 minutes but today, and with no explanation, we just kind of drifted slowly to our destination and in London this could be for any number of reasons, none of which would make sense so it´s best to just deal with it. This is harder to do when you are extremely tired, hungry and ….. running on empty!

A lousy meal and an average bed, but at least I have somewhere to lay my head!

Today (Friday, February 10th, 2012) is an exciting and historic day in my life and it begins with breakfast in my room and a long shower. I am going to west London to sign a recording contract. Now, maybe that doesn´t sound so exciting and historic to you but it is to me and for quite a few reasons.

Steve Weltman is my manager and it is my express wish that you could all meet this man someday. He and I became friends almost 3 years ago and since then we have done some amazing things together …. This deal is one of them.

I am humbled and thankful. Love & Other Mysteries will be released by Cherry Red Records on their Esoteric label on May 28th this year. And they will release a CD of my live solo shows later this year or in 2013.

Praise The Lord and thank you Steve.

My brother Trevor met me and we celebrated this momentous occasion with lunch at Metropolis and a cab ride to Victoria where he dropped me off and went on to Kings Cross to go home.

The songs would come later ….. and far away.

The sheep are everywhere.

As you probably know, we have sheep on the farm in Spain and when one of them gets excited about …. whatever it is that sheep get excited about, they all get excited and all run in the same direction …. blindly!

Hence the expression, whatever it is. I just don´t understand this absolute ¨conformity¨ among humans at all. We have an enormous capacity to think and create and yet we get dragged along by fashion in so many areas of our lives.

I could give you thousands of examples in many different walks of life but I will only say this …. what´s so wrong with being different? Nothing! This is the only way we can make a difference in this world and this world is in desperate need of people that can make a positive difference …. You maybe?

Steve has the flu so I will fly to Oslo alone today. But that´s okay because Thor will be there to meet me! In Norwegian mythology Thor was some kind of god of some kind of thing like war or thunder or maybe both, but my Thor was a an artist and a videographer and he met me as I left the baggage claim. He accompanied me as the train took me to the centre of Oslo and on to the club where we (Live Fire) will play tonight.

My flight was a bit late so I didn´t get a real sound check … knowing this band, nothing to worry about.

Back to the hotel for a nap and a shower and I took a cab to the venue because it was really, really cold and I didn´t want to get sick! But the gig was great, the guys were great and we had every reason to celebrate. And we did!

Sunday was the day of the so-called ¨hangover party¨ at Stopp Pressen, but hardly any musicians showed up and not too many fans either so maybe they all really did have hangovers.

Anyway, I did my thing and enjoyed having Trevor with me. Trev and me wandered around a bit today but not too far because it was still very cold and I didn´t want to get sick.

We had lunch at Mona Lisa went back to the hotel and then to the club for sound check. Old and new friends drifted in and we were set for what would be a very special evening. I was so happy to have Trevor with me and he did a great job. The small audience seemed to really warm to the occasion and the fact that my brother and I had never played live together before made it all the more fascinating …. for me at least.

But Finn had a cold! Finn is my friend …. He wouldn´t give me a cold would he?

Tuesday came. Trev and I had lunch with Mona Lisa again, before he headed back to Gardemoen and his flight home.

I love my brother. We have had our ups and downs but we both seem capable of genuinely putting the past behind us and enjoying the present. Of course I also love my other brothers and my sister!!

Tuesday evening was less inspiring. Sure, the faithful few were there and I am thankful for that, but its does seem that we are here too soon after the last shows at Stopp Pressen. On top of that, I had developed a case of the sniffles that is usually the pre-cursor to a cold … thanks Finn! But I remained optimistic and after an evening of good fun, good spirits and good singing, at least on the part of the audience, I took my weary self back to the hotel and prayed.

But it was too late! I woke up this morning with a real cold, mainly in my head, but enough to know that this day would be shot. I got together with Steve for breakfast and we agreed that we would have to cancel everything today in favour of me trying to rest up and recover enough for the journey to Hamburg and the Live Fire show on Friday.

It´s always a bummer to have to do this but it was the right things to do.

Skip to Thursday and Steve and I flew to Hamburg via Copenhagen, arrived on time and checked into the airport Mercure where I continued with my recovery program. The idea being to conserve my energy and guard my health enough to be fit for the show tomorrow night. And it worked! The guys arrived from Oslo and we all left for the gig and sound check.

I love the Downtown Blues Club and I like working with Uwe and his team and even though sound check was challenging (as it often is in an empty room), I at least knew that I had enough energy and enough of a voice to give it everything tonight.

The atmosphere was great and we cut loose from the very start. The energy on stage and within the audience was electrifying and we just went from strength to strength throughout the night. It is so very satisfying to have a night like this and I am very thankful. By the end I was simply empty, utterly exhausted and, by now, looking forward to a precious few days at home.

As I struggled to the airport I knew I was in for a tough time with this cold but I always try to stay positive … I would be going to Durban, South Africa where it is Summer, a good place to recover I think.

God bless,