I got signed to a major label at an early age. Too early to appreciate good advice. The MD of the label invited me to his house of an evening to play my songs to him on an acoustic guitar. He offered me a drink of whiskey. I played my songs and, on realizing that I wasn’t making much of an impression, I made the excuse that these tracks really need the band to sound any good. He said to think about how I would play these songs at a party. Anything great is going to sound great on an acoustic guitar. That’s good advice.
Around the same time the drummer in our band was complaining to our agent that he didn’t have any money because we didn’t have enough gigs. Agent told him to get a job. Top dollar advice.
When we first arrived in England we met, through a series of happy accidents, a producer called Pete Bellotte. Pete invented disco music and wrote the big Donna Summer hits, among others. His house was on a private estate in Surrey. At the end of a long and wide tree lined driveway stood this mansion the likes of which I had never seen. Tennis court. Apple orchard. Side building housing his own 24 track studio. These were pre Protools days, after all. Five cars: the sports car, the family Volvo, the kids’ cars and the silver Bentley onto which Pete was leaning while he gave this piece of good advice: always keep writing. When times are good, write songs. When times are bad, write songs.
I look around, thinking this guy knows what he’s on about.
On tour… doing the after show settlement in a 500 capacity venue that was sold out. Lots of money in small denominations piled on the table. Promoter produces this calculations on a piece of paper. This much for advertizing, this much for security and so on… here’s my cut and here’s yours. Promoter is a really good guy. You can feel he’s wanting to do the right thing. Tour manager asks if he can count the cash, just to make sure. Everyone in the room winces. It’s late and we want to leave. Unperturbed, this ex-Marine starts counting. Gets to the end and asks if he can count it again. Promoter shuffles his feet, looking around. Sure, go ahead. A little nervous. Tour manager counts again and winces at the end. Promoter asks if there’s anything wrong. Tour manager says “you’re a hunnerdandfifty shy”. Promote turns red with embarrassment and reaches into his pocket saying oh no sorry… my mistake here you go… At which point tour manager takes a hunnerdandfifty from his share and hands it over to the promoter saying “no, buddy, you’ve given us too much. Goodnight!”
On tour…. bassist from one of the local bands asks us for a tuner before going on. He gets one. Then he breaks a string. We replace it. They’re about to go on and he realizes he hasn’t got a strap. We lend him our spare strap. They go on stage. The band starts and suddenly stops. Bassist rushes back in a blind panic to ask us for a pick.
From then on whenever anyone asked us for a random piece of kit that should have been packed in every gig bag everywhere, we said that yeah you can have it but, hey, we’ve been on the road for a while and, you know, missing the other half… any chance I could fuck your girlfriend tonight?
First ever UK tour hits Glasgow King Tut’s. It’s pretty packed. After the second song the crowd lets out a decent cheer to welcome us. I thank and greet them saying that it’s great to be here on our first tour of England. The place falls deadly quiet. From the back somewhere a lone voice says “you’s in Scotland now”. In a nanosecond I let out a belly laugh saying that I’m just kidding… not sure if they bought it… we plough through the rest of the set admirably.
I swore I would never make that mistake again.
Cut ahead to another tour. We’re touring with Alkaline Trio. Glasgow Queen Something University. The Trio have American style plugs everywhere. I ask the local guy if he’s got any adapters… any English style plugs. He deadpans me. Says he’s got no English plugs. Before I get where this is going he continues “but I’ve got some Scottish ones”.
Scotland 2 – Finland 0.