One of my very first memories is being in the belly of a ship with my Dad. He’d been in the Merchant Navy and on a trip to Belfast docks he’d taken me into a boat while he caught up with some of his old pals.The awe inspiring size of the machinery, the womb like throbbing, the clanging and creaking all caused sensory overload on a pre-school boy.
More, later, memories are attached to the City of Bristol. Infernal Love, Semi Detached, High Anxiety and Disquiet, all T? albums with a connection to a part of the west. Recording or rehearsing in Bristol, Bath or Box and having many nights out inbetween.
Stepping into a boat in Bristol for our first gig on the UK leg of the Infernal Love tour brings both sets of memories back. The Thekla, a boat/gig that we first played in in 1992 and have returned to many times since. This time we’re performing an album that for many years I personally hated because of the negative momentum it generated around the band at the time of its release in 1995. The press hated it but even worse a lot of our fan base (built up over six years hard work) walked after it was put out to the world. The backlash from fans was horrendous and the band as we knew it changed and never really recovered until the arrival of Neil Cooper in 2002.It knocked all confidence out of me and it would be three years until we released another record, 1998’s tentative Semi Detached.
Arriving into Bristol, not far from Real World studios in nearby Box where we recorded Infernal Love, I’m in a mixed mood. The location reminds me of the stress the band was under in ’95, and the gruelling grind of having to quickly whip up a follow up to our previous successful album to appease the record company. Back then I was an exhausted man whose love of music was beginning to fade under the reality of the business that surrounded it.Arriving at the Thekla my spirits lift. The last shows we’ve played here have been amazing and the womb-like atmosphere adds to the vibrating intimacy.To add more optimism The Membranes are on the bill. A huge fave of T? for many years we know their rumbling rock in opposition with entertain our fans and get us worked up and ready to impress.
Well Bristol, what more can I say? You turned out in numbers and sang every word back. Epilepsy was epic, Stories anthemic, Moment of Clarity momentous and even Bowels of Love ( the cause of much outrage among T? fans when the album was released) went ahead miles better than we ever thought. By the end of Thirty Seconds I think I began to believe that maybe there was something in this awkward old bugger of an album that got through to some people and perhaps some hope had one out of it after all. The kindness of the Bristol crowd had opened a door for the rest of the tour. Having a start like that helped the band to really look forward to the next eleven gigs.
Thank you so very much to the people of Bristol ( and Bath, Box and surrounding areas) for all you help and belief. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon.
Spend the morning listening to Breadfan by Budgie to get me in the mood for travelling the short trip from Bristol to Cardiff. We’ve always had a good time in Cardiff and look forward to going there. The Globe is one of our favourite venues, the stage is right up close to the audience and the small balcony at the back adds to the atmosphere.
During soundcheck a hero of mine turns up to rehearse a song with The Membranes. It’s Keith Levine of Public Image and original guitarist in the Clash. John Robb of the Membranes introduces me but I’m nervous, this guy played on the Metal Box album! He wants to borrow my amp which is an honour for me so I’m not going to say no. I watch the soundcheck and after finding the time and feel he wants starts to play these mysterious inverted chords and harmonics that are so instantly recognisable as his style ( listen to Poptones off Metal Box to get an idea of what I’m taking about). An unexpected treat to begin the rest of the day.The Membranes have a triumphant set later and get the crowd suitably in the mood with their twisted and quaking sound scrapes.
From the moment we take the stage the Cardiff crowd makes it know that they are up for it. Yelling, ranting, stamping and singing it’s a joy to be part of.Even during the Infernal Love set its a wave of energy that is totally infectious and makes the band play louder and harder. The second set sees them up their game so we have to do the same. By half way through the evening I’m so drenched in sweat that my shoes are squelching and my guitar strings are beginning to deaden ( and later rust!). After we leave the stage the noise of the crowd still goes on and we’re in the little room at the side of the stage talking about how lucky we are to have fans like this.
Afterwards we meet up with some friends and head to Womanby Street where we sample some local beer and a Welsh Whiskey or two.Thank you Cardiff, what a gig and what a City.Your hospitality is incredible, thank you for all your support over the years.
Over the years we’ve had some stunning gigs in Southampton. The Joiners Arms on the Babyteeth tour, The Guild Hall on the Troublegum and original Infernal Love tour and the University on the Suicide Pact….You First tour.In 2014 we played the Engine Rooms on the Troublegum 20th anniversary tour and it was good fun so we were expecting another good night.
Things didn’t start off to well. We had agreed to do the Infernal Love show in the Engine Rooms in their modified capacity venue. We knew we wouldn’t get as big a crowd for IL as for the TG show so we arranged with the venue that they would move bits and pieces so that the hall would be set up for a 400 capacity show and provide an intimate atmosphere for band and audience to enjoy the show in.On arriving at the venue we were told that they wouldn’t be facilitating the change as there was a club night on afterwards and they would have to change it all back. Even though it was in the contract…
To make things worse the venue was constantly reminding our crew all day that there was a club night on afterwards and they had to be out of the building as quickly as possible so they could get ready for their Soul and Funk night. As you can imagine the whole atmosphere backstage was somewhat strained, not the ideal vibes we wanted before a show.Show time came and we had to play the Infernal Love album in a hall too large for the event. It crushed the atmosphere and although we feel the audience there was amazing and we certainly put our all into it the gig would have been so much better in a closer, smaller more ambient space. No sooner had we come off stage than we had people in our dressing room asking us when we were getting out.
Believe me, we couldn’t get out of there quickly enough. I’m sorry for the promoters who had also been let down by the venue and the security who were helpful. We’ll not be back in the Engine Rooms. We don’t like its attitude. Don’t book bands if you’ll spend the whole gig reminding them and their crew that they’re only playing second fiddle to the disco later. More importantly, shame on you for letting down fans of the bands who deserve to see their band in the best possible surroundings.Thankfully the good people of Southampton were on great form during the gig even though you didn’t get the special show we intended. See you again, but not in that venue.
I love Sheffield but have had trouble in recent years as my favourite gigs were always in the Leadmill and we don’t seem to play there anymore. The last gig downstairs in the O2 I didn’t enjoy at all.
Ah…The Plug. What a venue, where have you been the past few tours! Lovely compact stage, vibey atmosphere and very helpful staff to start with and then a bunch of very loud Yorkshire folk who have come along on a cold night and made steam come off the walls. From the people baying and yelling down the front to the grinning collective at the sides and back of the room it was a gig to fill my heart with gladness. What an event, thank you Sheffield. The Membranes went down a storm too and were chuffed that you bought so much of their merch.
When I was sixteen I went to see The Human League at the Ulster Hall in Belfast on the very Sunday that their single, Don’t You Want Me, went to number in the UK charts. I remember the singer, Phil Oakey, overcome with emotion on stage and bursting into tears of joy. On nights like this the feeling is reciprocated. Sheffield you have been fantastic over the years and at the plug that joy was in the house.Thanks also to the lovely people at the radio station who brought the Norwegian Toffee cheese to the gig afterwards. Very much appreciated.
Sheffield, thank you, hope to see you all again very soon.
Arriving in a Glasgow bathed in sunshine is a glorious omen. We’ve a big love for the city and having played the beautiful Oran Mor venue before we’re all very excited. A gorgeous church with a fantastic basement venue and wonderful bar upstairs. This is the same bar where Alisdair Gray, author of Lanark can be seen drinking from the well stocked whisky collection. Last time we played here it was one of the gigs of the tour and tonight, unbelievably, it’s even better.
Infernal Love gets such a heartfelt reception and as far as I can see from the stage so many of you are singing all the words back at us which only makes us so glad we endeavoured to take this album on the road after all the dark baggage its collected over the years. Bowels of Love goes down like an old friend and 30 Seconds is a distorted blur of singing and noise. For the second half of the show the crowd shift up a gear and that inspires us too. We throw in an old Vaselines song ( Son of a Gun) famously covered by Nirvana and it further stokes the mayhem.
After the show we mingle in the cosy bar and a big thanks must go to the well wishers who came over to talk to us, thank you for all your support. It was lovely to see that as well as the fantastic Scots support there were also people from overseas at the gig too and an English and Irish contingent.
On a sour note, my long time school friend, Chris, left the venue with his 17 year old son for a break and couldn’t get back in. It’s a pity we didn’t get a chance to hang out but your fellow countrymen and women did Glasgow proud.
Another uplifting gig in one of the most unique cities in the world. Glasgow we salute you!
We wake up in Glasgow, grab some breakfast, and begin the scenic trek down to Newcastle.
It’s a nice journey and I manage to watch the Derby v Wolves football match on my phone. Technology… amazing! (We bloody lost 2-1 but let’s not dwell on that)
We arrive in Newcastle at the Northumbria University with plenty of time to head into town for a wander. I really enjoy this place. Not only is our record label based here but we’ve spent so much time in Newcastle over the last few years – recording Crooked Timber, A Brief Crack of Light and Disquiet.
The venue is great. We’ve not played here before and everyone is really cool and we’re treated extremely well. Sound check goes without a hitch and we have time to run through our cover for the evening. The gig is a screamer (Sat night in Newcastle would it be anything else?) we all have great fun and, as our nod to the north east, we drop in The Police’s ‘Message in a Bottle’.
We finish off the night with the lovely people from our label Amazing Records taking us to Trillions bar for post show beers. Perfect.
After a couple of days at home we all reconvene in Wolverhampton.The venue’s great with the dressing room being dominated by many pictures of Slade from back in the day. Some more flattering than others! During sound check we have time to have a quick run through Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’ which we plan on playing in Manchester. It’s a great tune to play and feels good immediately.
Before show time we have time for a quick wander using Stevie’s ‘real ale guide’ app to lead the way! It guides us to a nice friendly boozer – yet again, technology… amazing ha ha ha. I suppose we could’ve just asked someone!
The show was great fun. A wet Wednesday evening in Wolverhampton did not disappoint.Following the show, I realise the venue is surrounded by kebab houses. It would’ve been rude not to…
Newcastle and Wolverhampton – two great nights. Thank you.
Good to be back in Leeds, we’ve had a lot of killer shows here over the years and a load of good friends live here. As its National Book day I’m off into town to track down a copy of “LAST DAYS OF JACK SPARKS” which is the debut fiction of our friend Jason Arnopp. Sadly they don’t have it in stock so it’s going to have to be an Amazon purchase when I get home (apologies booksellers of the UK).
Back at the gig (which also boasts a nice restaurant) the gear is all set-up and sound check is looming. Diamond Dave pops in to say hello, he won’t be able to make the show due to a prior engagement but it’s always ace to see him and get a quick catch-up. Sound check goes great and we have a quick look at “Temple Of Love” which we’re hoping to throw into Potato Junkie should the mood be right come showtime.
Dinner upstairs is spectacular (gumbo!) and after a quick walk to get some fresh air we’re back at the show and getting ready to rock. A ‘care pack’ courtesy the good folks at Yorkshire Tea ensure we’re well catered for backstage btw! Many thanks!
The first half of the set is pretty much written in stone and the crowd reaction during this bit is normally a good way to gauge the madness of the second half. From the off the crowd are going mad, there’s no barrier and it’s a low stage so I’m amazed that no-one ends up with a broken leg. Lovely to see so many familiar faces down the front singing and rocking along
As the show draws to a close I stand upfront and lean into the crowd, people are grabbing my guitar and good-naturedly trying to pull me in. It’s a good feeling, thanks for all the love Leeds, you’re always ace.
Afterwards get packed up and have a quick chat with Paul HawkEyes who was down for the show, good to see him looking happy and well. After we drive hotel bound through a snow blizzard and get tucked up ready for some Manchester action tomorrow.
Once we negotiate the snow laden roads en route to Manchester and get checked into the hotel it’s down to the gig and start getting the gear loaded in. It’s another freezing cold day but as we can’t make any noise until 5pm, most of us brave the elements and head into town for hot food and some shopping. We’d floated the idea of The Membranes joining us onstage for a cover version and tonight it looks like it’s come to fruition. It’s a nice big roomy stage, good sound system and it seems rude not to pay tribute to one of the City and our fave bands. After we do our ‘regular’ sound check the lads join us for a couple of run throughs of Transmission by Joy Division. It’s sounding really good so we slot it into the set list and get together a quick plot of how to best present it live.
As it’s another early-ish show there’s no time to fit in hot food so we hang about in the (freezing) dressing room trying to keep warm and listening to a few tunes on the boom box. The Membranes are sounding particularly feisty tonight and it’s a great way to get us in the mood and focus on the gig. Soon enough its show time and from the off its excellent…mad crowd, well up for it and there’s a definite feeling of celebration in the air. Top work Manchester!
The cover of Transmission goes off great and the audience responds in kind. Phew! Afterwards a few drinks with friends in Big Hands before we slope off into the night ready to regroup and get back amongst it come next weekend.
Plane and a train over to Stoke on a beautiful sunny day, complete contrast to the past few shows. We’ve played the Sugarmill a couple of times before…last time was in 1999/2000 and before that way back in 1992! Always had a great reaction and a lot of very friendly, helpful people around so we’re all excited to be back. Once we’re sound checked it’s another quick walk around town to see if there’s anything exciting going on…not a lot by the looks of it but thankfully come the time The Membranes start the gig is packed.
It’s a great sounding and looking room so I get a nice spot up on the balcony to watch their set. Its ace sounding again and they are all really going for it, definitely gets me well psyched up for our own show. Start warming up for the gig (literally, its fucking freezing in the dressing room, one of the Membranes guests remarked that it was warmer outside than in our dressing room). My fingers are stiff as boards but a good 25 minutes of stretches and scales soon gets the blood flowing to my nether regions.
No fear of the show being cold though, it’s a hot, sweaty banger! Excellent, vibed up and into it crowd. There are weird ‘boxes’ onstage at the front which are built over the PA subs so it seems rude not to use them as ‘ego ramps’. Good fun and the set flies by…by this stage of the tour everything is dialled in sound wise and playing wise so we can just concentrate on putting across the most energetic and entertaining show we can.
In tribute to two of Stokes finest we drop in a bit of a Discharge song and a snippet of “Ace Of Spades”…both going down great. Soon enough we’re back up into the icy dressing room and as there’s a club on later, we don’t hang about but instead opt to shower, sign a few bits and bobs as requested and zip over to the hotel which is out near the football ground.
Its match day at Stoke City so the hotel is packed and vibey but at least we get a good breakfast before we head over to Nottingham. A short drive later and we’re checked in, down at the show and then down in town doing a bit of last minute shopping. As it’s the last show for a bit we’ve opted to do a ‘Secret Easter Bunny’ today so everyone gets an Easter egg for an unknown benefactor. Good times.
Spent a lot of time in Nottingham over the years so it’s good to see a few familiar faces at sound check…our old tour manager plus family, assorted spouses & kids and even Jim from The Beyond (Neil’s old band and the 1st band ever kind/crazy enough to offer us a support slot outside of NI/Ireland). Sound check is a bit of a battle as we’re basically playing very loudly in an empty concrete box of a room so we’re struggling to hear any vocals over the backline/PA. Get it tweaked as best we can and as the old cliché goes…”it’ll sound better with a crowd in”.
It’s another very early show so we hang in the dressing room and sort out a few bits and bobs for the return trip home tomorrow.The Membranes play another ace show and I will have to say I’ll miss them now that the tour is ending, great chaps, very easy to hang out with and brilliant players.
Soon enough we’re on and from the off the crowd are well into it and enjoying the album run through….
That is until the end of Loose when Andy draws our attention to a guy on the front barrier who’s been hit on the back of the head by a crowd surfer who rolled over the top. He seems to be in some distress so we stop the gig and get security and a medic to get a good look at him before we continue.There are a few fraught moments until we get word the chap is ok, he’s lucid, his arms and legs are moving and seems comfortable waiting for the ambulance.
To get him out the barrier needs to be moved back a couple of feet so the crowd very patiently and carefully move back to let the paramedics get him stretchered out. As we are on a tight curfew we’re pleased to hear the venue is putting it back so we can play the full set as planned. Fair play to everyone involved for their professionalism and patience, as we always say the audience safety is priority at any rock show.
Back on for a version of Diane, then 30 Seconds and we go straight into the 2nd set, figuring we’d spent enough time offstage tonight If anything the momentum is increased and the crowd get wilder and wilder as we hurtle towards the set finale. Its ace, I love every minute…truly cathartic. We fire in our cover of “Ace Of Spades” again, why not? And then round everything up with Screamager, Knives and Nowhere, fucking ace Nottingham, no better show to end the tour on.
NB>We get word the next day that the chap (Martin) hurt during the set got checked out in hospital, had a whiplash and was discharged so all good there folks.
As we’ve mentioned before, it was a bit of an experiment/risk to go all out and tour this particular album but it was amazing…every show was pretty much packed, sold-out or very close to being sold-out. Its means a lot to us that you all came out in force to help us celebrate and revisit the album and rest assured, there were a few demons washed away every night I can tell you! Next up the Tides ep, April 15th, Whitby Goth Weekend April 22nd and then the start of the summer festivals.