2018 in Review

1 Jan

Hello Friends,

I watched a couple 2018 year in review videos and both brought me to tears.  The first was from Associated Press:

The second was from Vox (which had a bit more of a positive slant):

 

It’s important to reflect on what happened, what we learned, and how we can move forward. Many of us now share personal best of lists or share our accomplishments. As I feel like I’ve been clubbed over the head, I actually have to take a look at my calendar to remind myself what happened. 

My favorite book of 2018 was probably “The Sarah Book” by Scott McClanahan. I read it just as I was going through a breakup/divorce and it really hit home for me. I also loved “Just Kids” by Patti Smith.

JUSTIN’S 2018 IN REVIEW  (warning, there’s some kissing and telling)

In January of 2018 I was still dental sales soldiering. I flew to Boston where they had accidentally booked one bed in the hotel room for me and my female colleague. We both had a sense of humor about it and ended up sharing the bed (as friends) for 3 nights. This was not the only time this happened.  The year before they made the same mistake with me and a male colleague, a Trump-supporting tech support guy. We shared the same bed in San Francisco for 3 nights. In Boston I ate some great seafood and had some dramatic internet conversation with my band SUSPECT PARTS. We were arguing about booking strategies for our upcoming European tour.

In February I began working 4 days a week as an American Sign Language interpreter. I took on more freelance agencies and expanded my possibility of becoming a full time interpreter.  My band MANIAC played Awesome Fest San Diego and I went on a 4 day bender.  Thankfully my Canadian friends in Needles/Pins took care of me.  I also purchased a guitar amp. I had been borrowing our drummer James Carman’s amp for years as I couldn’t previously afford my own.  On San Diego Craigslist found a great deal and threw that thing in the trunk of my Honda Civic.  It was some kind of specialty taco festival in San Diego and the Canadians and I enjoyed some fantastic tacos.  The end of February I worked the Chicago Dental Convention. Had some drinks with old friends and enjoyed some great Chicago food.

In March I began sign language interpreting for a live drawing class, which is basically college students sketching a nude model. My fellow interpreter and I had fun, made some jokes, but remained professional. My friend Cezar and I enjoyed some marlin tacos and tacos governador at Los Eduardos in North Long Beach.  My ex Marina and I had dinner at Papa Cristo’s Greek Restaurant.  I realized I wasn’t over her. Much of the year would have me in an emotional rollercoaster about the breakup and divorce. MANIAC played the Alhambra Room in San Pedro with Scott Yoder from Seattle. It was a wild wild night.  Imagine 2 cross dressing punk rock bands unexpectedly playing a redneck birthday party in Alabama in 1983. That’s what it was like. We all managed to get along great with the crowd. It was a miracle.

In April my co-worker Law convinced me to join Gold’s Gym and to try Spin classes and  Bodypump classes with him. The Bodypump instructor was an Australian with a big neck who shouted in everyone’s faces.  I didn’t die. The 1 hour workout burns 500 calories.  I did it for a few weeks then tore the meniscus in my left knee playing basketball.  My friends Jakes and Lexy got married and had their party at Taix in Echo Park, one of my favorite bars.  Saw lots of old friends from Bainbridge Island and Seattle. It was wonderful.  I met a really cute girl with brown hair and tattoos and we went out for sushi a couple of weeks later. For some reason we didn’t mesh and it never worked out.  I asked her on a 2nd date and she said “I don’t feel there’s a romantic connection between us.”  I really appreciated her honesty but it still hurt a little.   

MANIAC shot a music video for our song “City Lights” it was shot and directed by our very own Andrew Zappin.  The plot, written by Andrew:  Zache is in a bathtub relaxing and gets violently kidnapped by a girl gang.  They torture him with a dildo and shave off his mustache.  They put him in makeup and short shorts and push him out of their van in an industrial part of downtown LA.  James and I are cruising and cat call him then kidnap him into our car.  END

In May a friend introduces me to a crazy girl and we hit it off and start sleeping together.  Her apartment is very messy, dishes stacked to the ceiling, dog and cat hair, bong water, dirty laundry everywhere. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. It’s like the characters from the film “Animal House” had a massive party and just left.  The girl insists on taking her dog everywhere and frequently drinks and drives with her dog in the car. We have one really great date where we go bowling.  I invite her over to my place but she says she has to go home and check up on her dog. We don’t sleep together after the date and we never sleep together again.

I sign language interpret a weekend of festivities in Grand Park including a well-written theatrical play about police shooting black people.  The characters all talk over each other and the subject matter is extremely frank and intense.  The other interpreter and I struggle the first night but really kill it the second night. Unfortunately there were no deaf people in the audience the second night.

In June my left knee is really killing me. My friend Irwing and I bartended an all-night warehouse party until 6 in the morning.  I could barely walk for the next week.  I am icing it on a daily basis but it doesn’t seem to be getting better.  MANIAC release our second album “Dead Dance Club” and tour the west coast all the way up to Vancouver, Canada and back.  They miraculously let our singer Zache into Canada (they denied him previously).  Despite the condition of my knee, I ice it in the van and manage to play great.  We kick ass and take names all the way up the coast.  I touch base with a really wonderful female friend and spend a couple of nights with her. My heart aches and I wish she lived in L.A.   Thanks to “Punks Around” Microcosm Press in Portland releases a chapbook of my short stories.  I read an amusing tale from the book to a humorless audience in Portland.

After the tour I drive up to Mendocino County for my friend Devon’s Wedding.  The road to Caspar takes me through a redwood grove and along a river, the river empties into the Pacific Ocean and the road winds onto a cliffside. The view is one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen in my life.  I play a set of music on my acoustic guitar for their wedding reception afterwards all of these people whip out instruments, guitars, mandolins, violins, washboards.  We have an amazing jam session around the fire and everyone sings.  It’s an incredible night under the stars in Mendocino County.

Back down in Oakland I meet up with some old friends and we go see Giuda and The Damned on the last day of the Burger Boogaloo Festival.  The Damned absolutely kill it.  Afterwards Jello Biafra DJs some 60s tunes in a little bar.  We all dance and have a blast.

In July I work like crazy sign language interpreting . I’m now freelancing more and more.  An old friend Richie introduces me to LAFC, the new soccer team in downtown LA.  The game is an absolute riot. Most of the chants are in Spanish. The superfans bang drums, play horns, set off smoke bombs when a goal is scored.  Most of the fans seem to be from East LA. Everyone are together chanting in Spanish for the team.  It’s great fun and feels dangerous.  A fist fight breaks out on the stairs. The capos break it up.  The guy is tossed from the game and the chanting resumes.

My 35th birthday is on July 31st.  I take myself to WiSpa in Koreatown and get a full body scrubbing from a bath master.  I leave the place a clean man.

In August I sign my divorce papers.  The place is randomly located upstairs in a parking lot stripmall in Hollywood.  It takes about 5 minutes. The Armenian lady says I’m done.  In the car I begin violently sobbing. I’m glad my ex can’t see me.

I get an MRI on my knee which is still bothering me. They tell me my meniscus is torn in 2 places and my ACL is severely bruised. I ask the doctor if I should cancel my upcoming trip to Europe. The doctor says to do the trip and get surgery when I come back.

In September I grab a cheap flight to Warsaw to tour with SUSPECT PARTS.  I arrive early and see all of the sights in Berlin. Some friends of mine with a car take me all around town.  SUSPECT PARTS rehearse, we sound great.  We tour and then record a new 3 song single with Smail Shock in Berlin.  The last 2 shows in Berlin really go off. It’s an absolute blast.  After the tour I have a 24 hour layover in Warsaw and wander all around the city.  I learn about the Warsaw Uprising.  I eat pierogies and drink wodkie and beer.  I love Poland.

In October I am a full time freelance sign language interpreter. I am kicking ass and taking names all over town. I work 6 days a week as I have surgery coming up and I know I can’t afford the surgery or taking time off work.  Maniac plays up in Oakland and there’s a shooting outside of our show. No one was killed but multiple people are rushed to the hospital and the street closed by hordes of police.  We can’t load out our gear because the sidewalk outside the venue is a crime scene.  The show itself went really well and it was a beautiful night that ended when some guys from Vallejo pulled out guns and started shooting at each other.

In November I get surgery on my left knee. The procedure is very expensive and I have to miss work for a minimum of 2 weeks while my knee heals. I set up a GoFundMe and manage to raise all of the funds for my surgery due to very kind small donations from my friends all over the world. I’m truly blessed.   I spend a few weeks in bed then visit my mom for Thanksgiving.  My Dental job asks me if I will work the New York Convention. I ask for some money upfront. They tell me no.  I tell them no.  To this day we have not spoken with each other.  My dental soldiering days have luckily been replaced by sign language interpreting.  The two people who most notably do not donate even 1 cent to my GoFundMe Campaign are my brother and sister.  Besides my breakup/divorce, this was perhaps the singular most hurtful pang of my 2018.

James, drummer of MANIAC and long time friend quits the band over a group text message. We are all heartbroken and crushed.  We ask around and audition Patrick Vasquez AKA Patrick Butterworth.  He’s a great drummer, really enthusiastic person and somehow fit in perfectly.   James left a hole in our hearts, but luckily we’re able to keep going with Patrick behind the skins.

In December I’m attending physical therapy twice a week and I’m back at work. I’m able to walk without crutches.  I kick ass and take names as well as set up a business for my independent sign language interpreting to help out with 1099 taxes and all of that fun stuff.   I’m approved for a business credit card which is phenomenal.  When I broke up with Marina I got turned down from multiple apartment applications because of my credit.  It was a scary time and I was almost unable to find a new place to live.  Luckily things worked out OK for me.

Andru and Saskia visited from Berlin and I played LA tourguide and drove them up to the Central California coast to visit Rich Jones AKA “the original Dead Boy”.    We see elephant seals, pristine coastline, eat some great tacos, and stop by Buck Owens Crystal Palace on the way back.  It’s a great trip.

I’m very blessed and I love you all.

Happy New Year!

xx

Justin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Suspect Parts Tour Diary 2018

15 Sep

 

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Suspect Parts in Kreuzberg Photo by Imke Wagener

SUSPECT PARTS released our debut album in 2017 on Oops Baby Records in the USA and Taken By Surprise Records in Germany. In August/September of 2018 we returned to Berlin to embark on another tour and to record a new single with Dr. Smail Shock at his analog recording studio Smail Shock Produktion Studio B .  In PART ONE I discussed my arrival a few days early in Berlin and my 3 day tour of the city. I enjoyed visiting the Stasi Museum, the Treptower Park Soviet Monument, Bernauer Strasse, Teufelsberg and more. You can read about my 3 day Berlin adventure in PART ONE

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With Andru and Saskia’s flat in Friedrichshain as our home base. I decided to jump the gun and shoot a solo episode as the debut for Season 2 of our travel show Guten Morgen Deutschland much to the chagrin of my co-host Sulli.

German Vocab. 1:

Rampensau – “Ramp Sow” (Someone who is comfortable with strutting their stuff on stage)

Lass Die Sau Raus – “Let Your Sow Out” (Be comfortable with yourself onstage)

Du Giele Sau – “The horny pig?”  “The cool pig?”

Menschen schlange – “People Snake” (a long line, “eine lange schlange”)

Geizig – Frugal, stingy

Spiesse – someone who is boring, a jobsworth

Speck Gurtel – a bacon girdle, a bacon belt – the area around a city – the suburbs

Du machst dich breit – you take up too much space

Sulli shot back with his own solo episode of Guten Morgen Deutschland 

Chris finally showed up and Suspect Parts were back in town!

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The Boys Are Back In Town Photo by Sulli

We rehearsed like crazy for 3 days. We even did some “trudging” a la Black Flag for a 2nd day of practice for 8 hours.  We practiced 3 new songs to record with Dr. Smail as well as rehearsing our hits like “Run For Your Life”

Practicing for 8 hours is rough on the back so it’s important to stretch.

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While practicing for 8 hours it’s also very important to take an ice cream break.

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Thanks to Berlin Blackouts for letting us use their practice room!

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Suspect Parts and Berlin Blackouts

Perhaps most importantly, we had to get our fashion together.  Andru decided to go with polk-a-dots this time around. Our band lampshade “Lampo” is wearing a blue vintage cowboy shirt with a “Timmy Whitey” sport coat.

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Handsome Devil Andru Bourbon Photo by Saskia

We hit up some army surplus stores and I found 2 jackets that I liked. The jacket on the left was sorta like Inspector Gadget meets Gestapo and the jacket on the right reminded me of something Stephan Remmler from Trio would wear, so I got that one. It was affectionately referred to as “Remmler,” for the rest of the trip.

If you’re unfamiliar with the genius of Stephan Remmler and Trio, besides their hit “Da Da Da” you should also check out their other material. A personal favorite of mine is this one:

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My friend Tim Muller gifted me this white jacket which was affectionately referred to as Timmy Whitey” for the rest of our trip

While practicing for 8 hours it’s also important to take a beer break.

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Justin wearing “Timmy Whitey” enjoys a beer outside of the Ramones Museum. Photo credit: Sulli

As Suspect Parts are an egalitarian band with no designated leadership, we wanted Chris and Andru to sing at least one song each. We decided on a couple of covers. Chris decided to sing  “IOU” by The Replacements and Andru “Hundsgemein” by Ideal. If you don’t know Berlin 80s new wave/punk band Ideal, you should definitely check em out!

HAMBURG @ KOMET

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The Interior of Komet, Hamburg. What a great place to hang out!

Our favorite Schwebish guys Jens and Michael run Wild Wax promotions in Hamburg and also work with our favorite Italian, Franz of Otis Tours.  They put together an annual festival in Hamburg right off of the beautiful Reeperbahn called “Get Lost Fest.”  Jens was kind enough to ask us to play the pre-party at Komet Bar on Thursday night.

We jumped in the van with Tine our driver and tour manager, and arrived right on time to enjoy Jens’ chili (it gets better every time) and to enjoy Jens and Franz banter and argue. They are like a comedy duo – Schwebish and Northern Italian, you think it wouldn’t work well together, but it seriously does.

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In the parking lot of an Aldi en route to Hamburg

We loaded in and sound checked in the Komet’s keller and got ready for a big night!  The opening band were from Catalunya and had no gear with them so they had to borrow our drums, amps, and even guitar.  They managed to break a string on our backup guitar and had to borrow my trusty ESP Viper afterwards.  I didn’t mind too much but also noticed they had placed beers precariously on top of the amp. My anger began to run a little deep as I imagined the beer tipping over and spilling on top of my borrowed tube amp on the first night of tour before we played.  Luckily no beer was spilt. Why cry over unspilt milk?

We managed to play for folks all over Deutschland and Europe.  It was a fabulous 1st show. The crowd seemed to love “Alright With Me” and “Flowers of Evil”.  Someone named Angie Action filmed us playing one of our new tunes “You Know I Can’t Say No”

Upstairs at Komet they were DJing fantastic music.  Komet is one of my favorite bars I have set foot in. Upstairs they had these airplane chairs, great old movie posters, fantastic music, great Gin and Tonics.  When “You’re Gonna Miss Me” came on, I had to cut a rug. I grabbed a beautiful fraulien and we burned some serious midnight oil on the dance floor.

Even Andru complimented me on my dance moves. My own band mate saying something nice and not making fun of me? What a great start to tour!

German Vocab 2:

Durchschnittstyp – average guy

Ich bin kein durchschnittstyp – I am not an average guy

Wir sind Dauergaste in den Hitlisten – we have a permanent slot on the hit list

Elefant im porzelan laden – Elefant in a china shop

Teufelskreis – Devils Circle (Vicious Circle)

Der rote affen arsch – Red ape ass

Der rote pavian arsch – red baboon ass

FRANKFURT @ Dreikönigskeller

We had a long drive from Hamburg to Frankfurt so we sat in the back enjoying ourselves, making bloody mary’s from our van bar, telling stories, making sandwiches, and inventing our own society, culture, and language.

If there’s one thing Suspect Parts excel in it’s supermarket shopping for our van kitchen and bar. Andru, our Minister of Mustard is excellent at picking out the best van food and drink. As it was incredibly hot, popsicles AKA “iced lollies” were a part of this list as well as various items for the van bar.

“Can I request a quick supermarket stop to get water? Water aka beer”
  • Andru, in the van

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“I think if I was sucking my lolly, everyone would like to see that.”
  • Andru, outside Aldi
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In a non-air conditioned van on a long drive it is important to stay cool. I recommend putting your head out of the window.

Pavianistan is the nation of Suspect Parts who speak a patois dialect of Pavianisch (a blend of German and English).  Pavianistan is an egalitarian society with no designated leadership although appointed ministers do exist in this banana republic such as:

Minister of Mustard: Andru Bourbon

Minister of Media and Gherkin Handler: James Sullivan

Minister of Moving Schiesse: Chris Part

Minister of Maneuvering and Merchandising: Tine Ones

Minister of Müll and Miscellaneous Bag – Justin Maurer

The Pavianistani National Slogan is:

AFFENZEIT
AFFEMACHT
AFFENSTARK

Wo erdnusflips sind ist party

(Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Strong. Erdnusflips are party)

We also managed to shoot an episode of Guten Morgen Deutschland and were rudely interrupted by frigging wasps!

German Vocab 3:

Schiess die Wandan – “shit on the walls” (an expression used for general discontent)

Arsche Krampe – “pain in the ass” or literally “ass cramp”

Feierabend Bier – “beer that you would have at the end of your shift or when finishing a job”

Arsch Geige – “Anus Violin” (someone who is a pain in the ass)

Du bist eine echte arsch geige – “you are a major anus violin”

Da wird der hund in der pfanne verruckt – “There become the dogs in the pan crazy”

Schliessmuskel Sphincter

On that note, we pulled into Frankfurt and Tine and I saw a very suspicious middle-aged couple driving a convertible BMW. We thought they might steal the equipment in our van.  We also thought that their license plate said “FKK” (Freikörperkultur, the East German nudist and open body culture that was prevalent in the GDR and still exists throughout German culture).

Our hosts Dennis and Mieke made us a lovely dinner and offered us the local apfel wine and some apfel schnapps as well as some coffee. They had hosted friends of ours Red Dons, Piss Test, Macho Boys, and the Chemicals all from Portland, Oregon! (Germany is a bit obsessed with Portland, Oregon for some reason. They absolutely love The Wipers, Dead Moon, Poison Idea, and Exploding Hearts. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just interesting! Especially interesting to me ’cause my old band Clorox Girls also lived in PDX.)

After a great dinner, we headed down to the venue, Dreikönigskeller (3 Kings Cellar). We were warned that the bar owner Nico was a little bit strange and that he didn’t like it when people ordered multiple drinks at once. Apparently the secret was to order one at a time.

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Justin and Andru in Frankfurt Photo Credit: Sulli

When we arrived the bar, Andru ordered 1 beer from Nico and it took about half an hour to get it.  Nico was the only person working there and moved incredibly slow.  We were told they (by they, I mean Nico) wanted us to soundcheck on the tiny stage, and we agreed. It took us all of 10 minutes to set up and we were ready to go. Nico was working at his own snail pace. It seemed like there might be a method to his madness, but then again, maybe not. He was shuffling behind the bar, not really getting anyone a drink, but just moving things around.  The audience was already in the bar and we hadn’t sound checked yet. The DJ’s were there and had all of their gear set up.  I told the DJs they should just go on. People started smoking in the cellar and I was worried it would fuck up me and Sulli’s voices (people smoke indoors at all shows in Germany. Most of these shows are in little windowless concrete basement venues. The audience especially loves to light up right in front of my microphone).

Nico told the DJs that they couldn’t start until soundcheck was done. He then looked towards the stage and said that we had to give the Veltins plastic beer crates that Sulli had stacked his amp on back to him.  Sulli lifted his amp and I gave Nico back his beloved Veltins crates. Nico seemed pleased.  We sound checked for about 30 seconds doing the “Na Na Na” part in “Land of 1000 Dances”

Nico finally allowed the DJs to start and the place filled with music and cigarette smoke. I wanted a fucking beer.  Somehow Andru convinced Nico to give us 4 beers at once (Minister of Mustard strikes again).

We played our set, people seemed to like it.  Afterwards DJ Dirk Klotzbach played some hits including “Food Fight” by Village People and “Big Time” by Rudi.  Tine ran onto the dance floor to boogie to “Big Time” and I joined her.

A guy wearing a Harrington jacket was hanging out by our merch table.  A few folks went out to the shop to buy us some traditional Apfel Schnapps (or was it peach schnapps?) and gave us the drink with the fruit soaked in it.  We drank it.  The schnapps itself was pretty harsh, but the fruit combination thing was decent. The Harrington jacket guy asked me why I was wearing a white denim jacket. I told him that Chris had a black one, Sulli light blue, Andru dark blue, and that we couldn’t all wear the same color. He said, “Maybe you are a loser since you are the one who wears white.

Ah, sometimes I love Germany.

A woman from Frankfurt hung out by our van and told us her stories about going to Berghain, a notoriously debaucherous night club in Berlin.  She said the first time she went there, her gay friend went into the pitch-black orgy room to get it on with some guys. She was on the dance floor and said that everyone whipped out their pimmels and proceeded to abspritz onto a slip-n-slide type thing then everyone slid around in the abspritz. This story got me laughing out loud. It was the best conversation in Frankfurt.

Dennis tried to buy a bottle of apfel schnapps from Nico at the bar and Nico said no. He would only sell him a bottle of Jim Beam. Is there a method to Nico’s madness? No one knows.

Someone from the techno/hip hop dance club next door partially blocked the driveway and we couldn’t get our van out. A motley crew of “helpers” from our show got in and out of the van all giving conflicting directions. Suddenly there were like 20 people in our van.  This completely hammered Italian guy with dreadlocks kept opening the sliding door and stepping out, finally going to the drivers side and claiming he could do a better job at backing up.  He tried to get back into the van and we wouldn’t let him in. The rest of the folks in the van got out and decided to get cabs instead.  Luckily there was a very friendly Bavarian guy who rode with us to show us the way back to where we were staying.

In the morning, Dennis and Mieke made a fantastic breakfast out in our back garden and our very own Chris made some homemade hummus.  It was a lovely and civilized breakfast and we enjoyed it immensely.

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Suspect Parts and Dennis outside Tine’s “The Ones In Charge” van in Frankfurt

FREIBURG @ KIEZ 52

“How many minutes until we’re there?”
“11”
Andru begins immediately rooting around Mobicool Maxi for a beer to crack
  • Exchange between Andru and Sulli on the outskirts of Freiburg
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Sulli’s mug on the Freiburg show poster

Freiburg is a wealthy town in the Badish region of south western Germany near the borders of France and Switzerland. We were told that the show would have to end pünktlich (on time) at 10pm. While a Saturday night show ending at 10pm seemed quite preposterous to those of us living in Berlin, London, and Los Angeles, we didn’t complain, it would give us more time to drink after our show.  Tine our driver and tour manager pulled us in and we loaded our stuff quite early.  We noticed a very beautiful girl on a bicycle who parked her bike and sashayed into the building next to the venue. I called her “Inge.”  We hoped she would come to our show, but of course she didn’t.

Andru tried to decide which outfit to wear that would best compliment his handbag:

After loading in, changing into our stage clothes and shaving, Sulli and I had a beer outside hoping that Inge would come out, see how handsome we were, and come to our performance that ends pünktlich at 10pm which would give her plenty of time for any other evening plans she might have.  We noticed this sign and I just had to break at least one rule in Freiburg.

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Our show was written up in the cultural section in Freiburg’s local paper which brought out some norms to the show which was a completely welcome surprise. The little place was packed and people even danced!  Dancing in Deutschland? Verboten!

We had a great time playing and finished pünktlich at precisely 9:58 pm.  We were pleased with the exact calculation of our set (we’re turning a little more Deutsch every day) when one of the show organizers asked me where our driver Tine was. I told him that she was selling some records and t-shirts to some happy customers. He told me that she had to move our van immediately so that we could load our equipment out.  The staff then began running around like mental patients hauling tables and chairs and trying to reset the bar interior while our equipment and the other band’s equipment was still in there.  We heard a loud crash.  The unsettling noise was clearly the sound of an amp falling down hard.  Sulli and Andru went to investigate.  Phew, it was only the 1st bands amp.  Someone had knocked it over while rushing around carrying a table.  Nice one.  I’m sure rushing around to reset the bar is worth injuring someone or breaking a 1000 Euro amp.

I went with Tine to grab our van as the atmosphere in the place was a little intense and we parked in front of the venue.  Someone immediately came out and said we had to re-park the van.  As instructed, we began to load out our equipment, and someone else told us that we couldn’t block the bike lane that was on the sidewalk.  I’m not sure how to load heavy objects from a door to a van without setting some of these heavy objects down on the sidewalk (which would temporarily block the bike lane), but some of the folks began to grab our equipment and move it out of the bike lane onto the street or the other part of the sidewalk.  We all thought this was mental.

I began to sing “Life In The Bike Lane” to the tune of “Life In the Fast Lane” and danced at oncoming Freiburg bikers as to disrupt their right of way.  Needless to say, they loved it.

The music in the bar was a bit erratic. They’d play 2-3 great tunes then 2-3 bad ones. We asked one of the promoters if there were any more rock n roll bars in Freiburg. He said not really. He then asked us why we would want to go anywhere else when we could drink there for free. We thought this was a very good point.

The bar was long but ordering happened at the far corner which blocked the stairway to the bathroom. This made it extremely awkward to wait in line for a beer. I wondered why no one was ordering from the other side of the bar which would clear the pathway for people going up and down the stairs to the bathroom. Oh well, when in Freiburg do as the Freiburgians do.

We played some fooseball (Do not set beers on the Fooseball table!)  and I even won a game before getting unspeakably crushed by some locals.

We were staying in the apartment of a band called “Enraged Minority” I noticed that the guys in the band were 4 white guys from Freiburg. The irony of their name must have been lost somewhere.  Their apartment had 4 rooms with a massive outdoor balcony. It was one of the nicest band flats I have ever seen. One of the rooms had thousands of Euros worth of fine single malt scotch bottles and even multiple bottles of designer cologne.  The decorations in the place were posters of Karl Marx, Lenin, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and even an AK-47 hung on the wall.  Next to the single malted scotch and the designer cologne was a piggy bank of Karl Marx’s head.  Apparently the irony of this must have been lost somewhere.  We found a children’s book and decided to read the story of Pippi Longstocking before going to bed.

In the morning one of the band members from Enraged Minority came to make us breakfast with his small daughter.  The breakfast was lovely. As always, we appreciate hospitality and it was very nice of the guys to let us stay in their apartment and cook us breakfast.  After returning to Los Angeles, I received a message from one of the guys saying that their Pippi Longstocking book was missing. The message was insinuating that it was stolen.  For the record, Guten Morgen Deutschland never steals any props for our television program.  For the record, we are an egalitarian movement with no designated leadership, we are not communists, but we are theoretical comrades in your struggle to free the working proletariat of his capitalist chains.

DRESDEN @ CHEMIFABRIK

We had a very long drive to Dresden and drank some bloody mary’s from our van bar

Flash, a competent, sensible, and reasonable sound-man was our engineer in Dresden. Flash patiently worked with us during sound check while saying encouraging words along the way. He had our various levels on perfectly logical settings that fit the caliber of Chemifabrik, the concrete former chemical factory that we were playing. No one was deafened or frustrated. Multiple members of the audience complimented the professional sound quality of our performance.

They gave us some watermelon before the show which was a welcome surprise.

watermelon in dresden

In the morning we met Bodie Johnson, an HB Surfer lost in Dresden:

The last time we were in Dresden, I almost pissed myself not being able to find the bathroom in the middle of the night in the pitch-black band flat.  Tine told us a story about previously driving a band and one of the guys, drunk, pissed in a corner in the middle of the night.  In her words:

“It would have been so great if he’d pissed on the promoter”
“I like your sense of humor”
  • Tine then Andru, describing the potential for confusion when searching for bathrooms in the middle of the night
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Suspect Parts and Bodie Johnson with tour manager and driver Tine

BERLIN: RECORDING WITH DR. SMAIL

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RIDING THE S-BAHN WITH DR. SMAIL

Wir steh’n in der M 10 …

MATCHING SP TATTOOS IN BERLIN 

 

SHOOTING A MUSIC VIDEO IN BERLIN

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Taking the S Bahn to shoot our music video. Saskia video producer and Lampo our most important prop in tow!

BERLIN @ FRANKEN

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Suspect Parts in the basement of The Franken, Kreuzberg. Photo by Imke Wagener.

We had to load an entire PA, speakers, mixing board, and more in and out of a van and set up everything ourselves. Special thanks to Mutti, Andru, Tine, and Hugo for setting up the PA.  We moved all of the tables around at the direction of Franken owner, Alice, and finished moving schiesse. Imke Wagener took some photos of us after we finished setting up everything and checking sound.

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Sulli and Chris have a quick rest outside of Franken with the staff of Mutti’s booking Buro and Alice, owner of the Franken. Mutti’s dog also there, but forget dog’s name. Sorry hund!

The show went really well and loads of friends came out. Franken was filled to capacity. Thanks Alice and thanks Berliner Freunden!

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Sulli prepares for the Franken show. Photo by Imke Wagener

BERLIN @ TRICKSTER

Trickster is near the Ramones Museum so we joined our friends there for a coffee and some gin and tonics before the show.

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Justin enjoys cake and a coffee at the Ramones Museum

 

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Sulli and Andru enjoy some cake and coffee at Ramones Museum

At Trickster we played with Love Lanes. The place was packed and we played what was our best show of the entire tour.  Everyone was singing along and clapping and dancing. It was a fantastic atmosphere. Thanks very much to Oihane and Laura and everyone at Trickster. We even did a “Down With Dons” photo shoot! We love you Berlin!

Tour Journal Outtakes and More German Vocabulary:

“Döner macht schöne – aber nur mit Soße” (Andru’s favorite Doner shop slogan)
Breznak beer = gut
“I was hoping for more of a Willy Wonka vibe rather than this Auschwitz vibe”
  • Sulli, outside the Berliner Luft factory
“That’s damn good Luft”
  • Sulli, after drinking a Luft
“Guten Morgen Deutschland is gonna get me laid”
  • Justin, considering his fraulein situation
Verzweifelt – desperate
Bumshöhle – fuck cave
Klöten – balls
“Nothing funnier than this”
  • Chris, on the death of Udo
“I like guzzing”
  • Justin, after guzzing a hund
“Man cannot live on erdnuss flips alone”
  • Chris, while eating erdnuss flips alone
Fusspils – road beer
Santa cantina

Posh teckel

Sommersprossen – freckles
Ukw
Bummeltriene – the last person to do something in general
Reudig – scruffy
Bun bo hue
Nickerchen – nap
Weichblase – weak bladder
Du miststück – you son of a gun (someone mischievous or slightly naughty)
Knecht ruprecht – Santa’s little helper
ii

Part I: 3 Days in Berlin

14 Sep
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Suspect Parts in the basement of The Franken, Kreuzberg. Photo by Imke Wagener.

Disclaimer: Berlin’s vibrant and frequently turbulent history includes two world wars, war atrocities, surveillance, torture, rape, murder, and of course an incredibly positive transformation into one of the world’s most culturally vibrant cities.  I will discuss all of these subjects as they struck a nerve as I dug into Berlin’s stimulating history. 

My Brief Background:

In 2008 I was living in Madrid teaching English, singing in the band Mano De Mono, and working as a DJ on weekends. My American rock n roll band Clorox Girls had broken up, and my heart was aching to write and play some new music. My friend Chris Bell from Seattle punk band The Briefs had been living in Berlin in-between touring, and he suggested that we start a side-project. I recorded some of my new songs on a cassette tape and mailed it to Berlin. A few months later we recorded the Suspect Parts debut single in the cold of a bitter Berlin winter. Behind the dials in the engineer booth of a small analog studio was Smail from legendary Berlin punk band The Shocks.  After the single was released, we recruited James “Sulli” Sullivan from UK teen heart throbs Ripchord on lead guitar and Smail on bass. After a couple of tours and a couple more singles, Smail was replaced by the affable and ever-capable Andru Bourbon from Berlin kamikazis Radio Dead Ones on bass. Our band was complete.  Since then Berlin has been Suspect Parts’ home base and we meet up once a year to rehearse, record, and tour.

Even though I have been spending time in Berlin over the last 10 years, it is usually a whirlwind trip with most of our limited time spent in rehearsal rooms, the recording studio, in the tour van, and at night getting drunk with old friends in Kreuzberg. I was ashamed to say that I had not seen many of the sights in Berlin and had not had a chance to really dig deep into Berlin’s complicated history.

Here we go!

My cheap flight from Los Angeles was on Polish Lot Air with a change over in Warsaw. I originally planned on staying in Warsaw and taking a train south to Krakow. I planned to have a 1 week mini-vacation in Poland before I had to get to Berlin to rehearse with the guys.  Sadly, I tore the meniscus in my left knee in 2 places, so I cancelled my trip to Poland and decided instead to rest up at my bass player Andru’s flat in Friedrichshain and see some of  Berlin’s historical sights for the first time.

Andru greeted me at Tegel airport with a bottle of Berliner Luft. Pfeffi, a peppermint schnapps of East German origin is the official band schnapps in Suspect Parts, but Berliner Luft often fills in. Andru also brought a couple of bottles of ice cold Berliner Kindl stored in Mobi Cool mini, our band’s official cooler. What a good man.

DAY 1 – BERLIN

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Oberbaum Bridge Photo Credit: Liz Weselby

Andru and his girlfriend Saskia both had work in the morning, and after having coffee with Andru, I decided to see the East Side Gallery and take a boat trip down the River Spree as a way to both see some sights and rest my torn meniscus knee.  Before I left Los Angeles, I decided not to purchase phone service in Germany and instead to rely on my Wifi. This was definitely a mistake. While I pride myself on my sense of direction and my old school navigation capabilities, obviously a smartphone is such a useful tool especially when trying to navigate unfamiliar streets and Berlin’s daunting map of their S Bahn, U Bahn, bus, and tram system.

I wandered down to the river Spree. The East Side Gallery is a fantastic 1.3 kilometer-long collection of art that covers the former Berlin Wall. Most parts of the wall were dismantled after 1989, but the 1.3 km East Side Wall remains as a symbol of freedom (Hasselhoff “Looking For Freedom” anyone?). The graffiti art displays political messages, artistic visions and messages of hope after the fall of the Berlin wall.

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“Mortal Kiss” by Dimitri Vrubel, showing Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev in a lip lock

To rest my knee, I bought a ticket on the first 2.5 hour boat ride down the River Spree at 10:30am and had a coffee and a sandwich while I waited.  I foolishly turned down the 3 Euro English translation, and on a boat full of German tourists, sat on the top deck in the sweltering summer heat while the monotone pre-recorded tour played in German for 3 hours. (I caught that Adolf Hitler did something off to the right of the boat, the German tourists stood and took photos. I really wanted to know what happened).

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The boat trip was gorgeous. We did a loop on the Spree through the heart of the city. Berlin’s summer has been unusually hot and atypically long, so there were plenty of shirtless rotund German men sunbathing in Berlin’s many parks alongside the river.  Through the canal we went through Kreuzberg, past the Technology Museum (Deutsches Technikmuseum) and up through Zoologischer Garten and Tiergarten before passing Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with a beautiful view of the Berlin Dome.

On the boat they served Beer, coffee, and food. After a coffee I had 2 beers during the course of the 3 hour tour.  While Germans are strict rule takers and rule givers, they are extremely relaxed about drinking and smoking. The staff of the boat lit up cigarettes on the top deck around the small children and old people. The smoke even seemed to bother some of the older women, but they didn’t say anything. If it’s not against the rules, why bother complaining?

The boat captain smoked cigarettes and drank a Red Bull. He told some jokes in German in between the pre-recorded tour and the mostly older German tourists laughed at his jokes and gave him a hearty round of applause at the end of the tour.  As Berlin is a capitol of culture as well as counter culture, the stereotype is that everyone in Berlin has dyed hair, piercings and tattoos. The boat conductor and the two men working on the boat all had prominent tattoos and piercings,  so maybe the stereotype exists for a reason.

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The Stasi Museum, in the former Stasi Headquarters, Lichtenberg, Berlin. Photo Credit: Gordon Haws

After the boat ride, I decided to check out the Stasi Museum. The Stasi Museum is located in the headquarters of The Ministry for State Security (MFS) AKA The Stasi. Three floors of exhibits take you through the offices of the Stasi showing their various surveillance devices, their infiltration of all parts of East German society, their brutal methods of blackmail and extortion, and the intact office of Erich Mielke, the last GDR Minister for State Security, which is preserved in its original condition.  It was an extremely powerful and interesting museum, with an unforgiving presentation.

There’s something uniquely creepy about walking through this building, through these offices, seeing the faces and the names of the Stasi and their official duties. It was a frightening time. In Berlin they seem to excel at presenting these vicious facts in a unvarnished way.  It’s a way of respecting the victims of oppression while holding those responsible to naked accountability.

The museum presentation is direct and brutal – just like the perpetrators of these inhumane offenses were. I would highly recommend visiting the Stasi Museum to fans of the 2006 film The Lives of Others (original German title: Das Leben der Anderen). When I get back home, I’m going to watch the movie again for a fresh perspective after being inside of Erich Mielke’s office. (Edit: After nursing my travel exhaustion at home, I re-watched the film and loved it even more. If you haven’t seen it, please do watch The Lives of Others. It’s available to rent on YouTube in the States for $3)

Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi, and his office in The Stasi Museum. Photo Credit: Alamy

What particularly stood out to me about Mielke’s office was seeing his extremely rigid breakfast demands. He provided a crudely drawn but insanely specific diagram for his secretaries. Mielke demanded that his breakfast be served in a strictly particular way. The bread, eggs, and other breakfast foods had to be placed on a specific part of his plate (or else).  The secretaries kept his hand-drawn breakfast paper for any new hires to learn how to present this megalomaniac with his breakfast and not be subject to his certain ruthless castigation. His child-like drawing is displayed just outside of his office.

The heat was even more intense in the Stasi’s old HQ and after 3 floors of this stifling environ, I was ready for a beer.

I bought 4 trips on the S-Bahn (Stadtschnellbahn – city rapid railway) ) and U-Bahn (Untergrund-bahn  underground railway) which was given to me on four separate tickets.  A ticket has to be punched to validate it before boarding the train and they love to inspect the trains and give stiff fines to anyone who doesn’t validate their ticket.  I thought that my ticket just had to be punched once in the morning, but I was incorrect and a fare enforcement official forced me to depart the train while he printed me out a 60 Euro fine. A ticket has to be punched every 2 hours (unless a day pass is purchased) which I did not know. This 2 hour rule was not clear on the ticket machine or the ticket, and as I’m not fluent in German, I did not know this.  The ticket guy was very friendly, however and chatted with me as he printed out my fine paperwork. (I didn’t pay the 60 Euro fine. We’ll see if they mail it to me)

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In my familiar stomping ground of Kreuzberg, I strolled over to Coretex Record Shop where Andru my friend and bass player works, and he had already left for the day. I went down Wiener Strasse to visit my old friend Oihane at Wowsville Record Store and Bar, turned on Ohlauer Str. and had a very lovely couple of beers there. If you love old rock and roll, then you will love Wowsville. (I have yet to try Wowsville Pizza across the street although everyone tells me that it is great)

In the evening, my old friends Tim and Imke invited me to a BBQ on the rooftop terrace of their flat in Kreuzberg. Their whole apartment building seemed to have the same idea, and there were four separate groups of friends and family all enjoying Berlin’s extended summer. The rooftop had a great view and Tim’s BBQ sausages were excellent. We drank Sekt, German sparkling wine, and some white wine, then had a Campari and Soda after dinner while enjoying their rooftop view of Kreuzberg. Excellent stuff. A fantastic close to my first day in Berlin.

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Me and the neighbors enjoying the rooftop sun. Photo Credit: Imke Wagener

BERLIN DAY 2

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Soldier, statue, and banner at the Soviet War memorial in Treptower Park. Berlin. Photo Credit: JoeP

On the recommendation of a few German friends, I went to Treptower Park to see the largest Soviet monument outside of Russia.  Soviet Troops experienced the highest number of casualties out of all the Allies during WWII, 8.7 million. 20,000 Red Army troops were killed in 1945 during the final month of fighting in Berlin.  In Treptower Park, the Soviets built the monument to honor their fallen troops during the war, and 7000 were buried there. Stark, patriotic, and massive, the monument is truly something to see.  I had conflicting feelings on the monument after reading about the brutal rape of German women at the hands of Soviet troops. From Wikipedia:

Estimates of the numbers of German women raped by Soviet soldiers have ranged up to 2 million. According to historian William Hitchcock, in many cases women were the victims of repeated rapes, some as many as 60 to 70 times. At least 100,000 women are believed to have been raped in Berlin, based on surging abortion rates in the following months and contemporary hospital reports, with an estimated 10,000 women dying in the aftermath. Female deaths in connection with the rapes in Germany, overall, are estimated at 240,000.Antony Beevor describes it as the “greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history”, and has concluded that at least 1.4 million women were raped in East PrussiaPomerania and Silesia alone. According to Natalya Gesse, Soviet soldiers raped German females from eight to eighty years old. Soviet and Polish women were not spared either. When General Tsygankov, head of the political department of the First Ukrainian Front, reported to Moscow the mass rape of Soviet women deported to East Germany for forced labour, he recommended that the Soviet women be prevented from describing their ordeal on their return to Russia.

When Yugoslav politician Milovan Djilas complained about rapes in Yugoslavia, Stalin reportedly stated that he should “understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle.” On another occasion, when told that Red Army soldiers sexually maltreated German refugees, he reportedly said: “We lecture our soldiers too much; let them have their initiative.”

Obviously, heinous war crimes were committed by Nazi soldiers and many atrocities were experienced by scores of civilians during both world wars, but it seems that the rape of 2 million German women, 100,000 in Berlin alone, by Red Army troops, hasn’t been adequately addressed.

That said, its important to keep in mind that out of the nearly 9 million Russian troops killed during the war, and the 20,000 who died during the final days of fighting in Berlin, many of them were undoubtedly good people. They were mostly young men who were conscripted into war without a choice, and they had to kill or be killed. War has the capability of turning good men into monsters, animals, devoid of any sense of morality. 

We truly need to learn from the past in order to ensure that these types of atrocities won’t happen again. Unfortunately when one looks with a clear perspective into Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine, it doesn’t look like we are doing too well learning from our ancestors’ horrendous mistakes. War should be avoided at all cost.

Sorry to be so heavy here, but its a heavy subject. Does anyone need a beer yet?

DAY 2 BERLIN (Continued)

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Museumsinsel (Museum Island. The Fernsehturm Berlin – Berlin’s TV tower in the background. This East German TV tower was used to transmit signals to GDR East Berlin and beyond. It remains the tallest structure in Germany.) Photo Credit: Thomas Wolf

In the afternoon I went to the DDR Museum near Museumsinsel. There was a line and it was packed full of tourists. While the hands-on exhibits are presented in an interesting way, somehow the museum didn’t hit me as hard as the Stasi Museum did.  While the DDR Museum tries to present what life was like in East Germany from the 50s to present I don’t think it adequately showed the fear, the stress, the hopelessness of many who lived in the DDR although there were quite a few people who were perfectly happy in the DDR and some even preferred the more simple way of life after the fall of the Berlin wall brought capitalism to the formerly socialist state. I bought a couple of tacky presents in the gift shop and continued my wandering.

I walked over to Museum Island, Museumsinsel to take a rest inside of the Berliner Dome, a beautiful cathedral, constructed between 1894–1905 under the supervision of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The roof was destroyed by a fire bomb during the 1940s and it took many years to repair. The crypt below the church has the bodies of some important folks including various Kaisers, a young princess, and some prominent former members of the church. It was beautiful inside and very quiet which was a nice respite from the extremely frantic tourist activity going on outside.

After resting in Berliner Dome and exploring the crypt below, I headed over to the Neus Museum on the recommendation of my friends Imke and Tim.  The Egyptian exhibit was phenomenal.  The sarcophogi and the presentation on the Egyptians concept of their underworld was fascinating and mysterious. I perused hundreds, maybe thousands of ancient Egyptian artifacts excavated by German archaeologists in the 1800s and 1900s. 

However, the bust of Nefertiti had the most impact on me. Upon seeing her face, I felt like I knew her, it hit me emotionally. It hit me hard. I had seen the image many times before, but standing there, looking at her face, my eyes teared up as if I was looking into the face of an old friend, an old lover, someone I held dear.  It was an incredible feeling.

The Bust Of Queen Nefertiti in the Neus Museum, Berlin. Photo Credit: Getty

In the evening I took a quick rest back home in Friedrichshain then headed to a punk bar called K19 to see local band Berlin Blackouts play with Rotten from the Basque Country. I enjoyed the show and the 2 Euro beers. The Basque punks who had taken over the bar quickly drank all of the cold beer, and when there was only warm beer left, I headed home. Both bands were enjoyable and the crowd reaction to their Basque compatriots was truly wild and rowdy. For a moment I felt like I was in an ocupa in a pueblo in the Pais Basquo, drinking Pacharan with my rat-tailed, mulleted, fanny pack wearing friends.

Here’s Rotten Amairu. This song rules pretty hard…

The word Amairu seems to have been taken from a movement in the 1960s and 70s in the Basque Country to re-establish Basque culture. I have toured the Basque Country a few times and my stepdad Pedro is from Bilbao, the biggest city in Pais Basquo. One of the small town Basque punks at K19 educated me on the 300 Basque political prisoners still held by Spain. While I disagree with any kind of violence including the tactics of ETA (who are/were what the IRA was to Ireland), I can understand the raw emotion behind ETA’s tactics.  The Spanish dictator Franco cut the tongues of people who spoke their own language like Catalan, Basque, or Gallego. People were frequently imprisoned and tortured by the fascists for speaking their own language or practicing their own culture. I understand the raw emotion behind Basque separatism and Catalan separatism, but I don’t think separating from Spain is the answer.

I don’t think that Rotten Amairu realize that their Fred Perry polo shirts from England, their Adidas shoes from Germany, their Epiphone guitars from the US, and their Marshall amps from England are not manufactured in the Basque country, and that separation, like Brexit, could increase the cost of imports double or triple the cost of what they paid for their Oi!/punk gear. Just a practical observation of an incredibly emotional and volatile subject.

Between 1968 and 2002 about 800 people were killed in Spain as a result of ETA attacks, about 2,000 injured. 343 of the 829 people killed were civilians.  I understand the anger towards Fascist Franco Spain, but disagree with killing and maiming innocent people because of separatist politics and also disagree with punk bands who may sympathize with ETA. I cant speak for the punk band Rotten Amairu from Larraga -Tafalla, Basque Country, but I am assuming that they sympathize with ETA. Maybe I am wrong. Please correct me if I am wrong.

That said, the Rotten Amairu song I posted above is pretty damn good. Please check it out. I do have a soft spot for the Basque Holy Trinity of pacharan, pintxos, and brutalll punk rock after all.

DAY 3 BERLIN

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Abhörstation on Teufelsberg. An abandoned Cold War-era NSA listening station.

I’ve been everywhere, man…

ON DAY 3 IN BERLIN, my friends Tim and Imke took me everywhere.  Tim temporarily had a rental car because of one of his jobs being located quite far away. They kindly took this as a chance to jetset me around Berlin.  As Tim told me during the high-speed breakneck tour, as Berlin was separated into East and West, Berlin often has 2 pairs: two Zoos, 2 Opera Houses, 2 sets of government buildings, 2 TV towers, and so on.  We were to see many of these pairs today.

I don’t remember the order of Timke’s grand tour de Berlin, but I do remember the key stops:

Kongresshalle Berlin AKA:  Die schwangere Auster: The Pregnant Oyster

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Imke in front of Kongresshalle Berlin AKA “Shwangerer Auster” (the pregnant oyster) PhotoCredit: Justin Maurer

Abhör Station on top of Teufelsberg – massive American NSA listening station from the cold war.

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Imke and Tim at Teufelsberg. Photo Credit: Justin Maurer

Kaiser Wilhelm Church: bombed out, bullet riddled and the incredible rebuilt chapel next to it. The pastor in the 1930s and 40s was jailed multiple times for speaking out against the Nazis. The church was heavily damaged in an air raid as well as damaged by scores of bullets and shells during heavy fighting during the final days of the war. The interior of the new church next door is  absolutely breathtaking. It has 21,292 stained glass inlays which were imported from France. The glass, designed by Gabriel Loire, was inspired by the colors of the glass in Chartres Cathedral. As Berliners love to give their buildings nicknames, Kaiser Wilhelm Church is nicknamed “der hohle Zahn”, “the hollow tooth” and the new church is nicknamed “Lippenstift und Puderdose”, “the lipstick and the powder box”.

One fond memory is looking down on the monkeys from the mall next to Zoologischer Garten (rot arsch pavian)

Bernauer Strasse – Berlin Wall Memorial, honors all who died trying to escape with their individual photographs. They also have a simulated view of the death strip with a self-manned automatic machine gun. Seeing the original wall at Bernauer Str. was very powerful.

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Imke at Bernauer Str. Berlin Wall Memorial. Photo Credit: Justin Maurer

The Holocaust Memorial

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas) is also known as the Holocaust Memorial (Holocaust-Mahnmal).

This memorial to Jewish Holocaust victims consists of 2,711 concrete slabs placed on a sloping field. Walking through the concrete maze gives one the feeling of claustrophobia, or feeling trapped, lost. The slabs are organized in rows, 54 of them north–south, and 87 heading east–west at right angles but set slightly askew to contribute to the feeling of confusion, perhaps hopelessness as one wanders through the maze.  An attached underground “Place of Information” (Ort der Information) holds the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims.

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Imke at the Holocaust Memorial. Photo Credit: Justin Maurer

Across the street from the Holocaust memorial is the bluntly-titled Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism (Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus verfolgten Homosexuellen)

Through a concrete slab, there is a video on replay that shows same-sex couples kissing. It is a simple– yet touching monument.

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Imke and Tim looking at the same-sex couples kissing video displayed in the obtusely titled “Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism”

Brandenburger Tor

Brandenburger Tor, Berlin

Brandenburger Tor AKA The Brandenburg Gate

Reischtag

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The Reichstag (Reichstagsgebäude or Deutscher Bundestag – Plenarbereich Reichstagsgebäude) – The house of German Parliament

Das Bundeskanzleramt AKA The German Chancellery serves the executive office of the Chancellor of Germany, currently Angela Merkel.

Das Bundeskanzleramt

Das Bundeskanzleramt (Angela Merkel’s place)

 

 

In between we took a break for Beer and sausages at a Beer Garden in Tiergarten Park: Schleusenkrug. (The red sausages were amazing, I’m still dreaming about them)

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And we closed our day with a beer at Beer Hall in Prenzlauer Berg Prater Garten

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Prater Garten historic Beer Hall in Prenzlauerberg

Many thanks to my old friends Imke and Tim for the best tour of Berlin.

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Imke, Justin, and Tim Photo by Imke Wagener.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I had so much on my mind about Berlin. All that I could do was let it sink in. Berlin is far from undiscovered territory as English-speaking tourists and trust fund kids of all stripes flood into Germany’s capital. Like most major cities across the world, Berlin is experiencing gentrification, housing-shortages, and major rent increases. Google has even sunk its claws into counter-culture stronghold Kreuzberg, opening up shop on Ohlauer Strasse (much to the chagrin and anger of locals).

That said, a beer in the supermarket is about 50 cents and a beer at the “Speti” is about 1.50. You can still find falafel for 3 or 4 Euros. There’s amazing international food everywhere including Turkish, Sudanese, Vietnamese, and more. The city is walkable, bikeable, and the public transportation while it can be erratic and confusing, for the most part works. The winter is brutal but the spring and summer are gorgeous. Parks and green spaces are everywhere.

At times Berlin can feel like a trendy cesspool full of the worst kind of faux-bohemians. Below this veneer is the real Berlin: full of history, full of culture, full of multi-lingual, well-traveled, well-educated people who care. It can still be a magical place at times. Just don’t be one of those Americans who moves to Berlin and never learns German.  When I was digging around a little looking at other blogs, it was astounding to find people who describe themselves as “Berlin bloggers and freelance yoga instructors.”  Maybe I shouldn’t have a bias against trust fund kids, but sorry, I do. (Kudos to those lucky few who can actually pay their rent in Berlin by blogging and freelance yoga instructing, but seriously, please give me a break!)

I am lucky enough to play in a few rock and roll bands and it still gives me the opportunity to travel sometimes. I’m very blessed. I’m even luckier to have dear friends in Berlin who always make me feel at home. It’s truly incredible to have a city full of friends on the other side of the world.  Thank you, Berlin.

PARTS II AND III Coming Soon! 

PART II: WARSAW and PART III: SUSPECT PARTS DEUTSCH TOUR JOURNAL as well as the complete Season 2 of your favorite travel show, GUTEN MORGEN DEUTSCHLAND! 

Keep your eyes peeled.

Your Pal,

Justin

 

 

 

“Song For Sadie”

6 Jul

At my old friend Devon Sampson’s wedding in Mendocino County, I met an amazing violinist, Elizabeth Dequine. We played a few songs around the campfire and I was blown away with her playing. The next day I asked if she wouldn’t mind shooting a quick video for an original song I had written for The Wayward Chapel (country version) and Suspect Parts (power pop version). Elizabeth is 8 months pregnant, and had her other little one running around, who appears in the beginning of the video. Mil gracias a Jake Fernandez for shooting this on his iPhone. We had no rehearsal, she just listened to the chords and joined in. One take. We’re sitting on the front porch of an 1870s Victorian Farmhouse on Jug Handle Farm in Caspar, California. Here’s “Song For Sadie” Enjoy!

 

“It’s A Long Way To The Bottom”

26 Jun
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Photo by Zach McCaffree

In 2012 I joined a power-pop/punk group called MANIAC in Los Angeles, California. We recently released our 2nd album “Dead Dance Club” on independent labels Dirt Cult Records and Hovercraft Records .With months of planning, we embarked on a tour of the West Coast of the United States to promote our new album. The tour promotion included shooting a music video for our hit single “City Lights”

Day 1 – Los Angeles, CA @ HiHat with Dark/Light, Fiends, and Cheap Tissue

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As I had a knee injury from playing basketball, I was on crutches. Captain Zappin poked fun when I was at the ATM and imagined a potential newspaper headline, “Gimp overdraws bank account for drugs.”

 

The HiHat is located in Highland Park on York, the recently gentrified area of a traditionally Latino hood in NorthEast L.A. There’s been loads of heartbreaking stories about grandmothers and small businesses being recently evicted including this article in LA Taco noting Highland Park independent businesses’ rents rising 250%.

However, MANIAC were not in NE LA to gentrify, we were there to launch our white-hot sophomore album “Dead Dance Club” into the hemisphere.  With my bum left knee I wasn’t quite ready to launch anything, but Captain Zappin and his better-half Tamara Eunice helped me carry a bag of ice and a bottle of tequila from the liquor store and up the stairs to the HiHat’s green room where I happily iced my knee and guzzled some tequila. Fiends, Dark/Light, and Cheap Tissue warmed up the crowd, then we had the soundman blare our come-out song “The Ecstasy of Gold” by Ennio Morricone.  In a plume of smoke, I crutched out, we plugged in, and we exploded like a truck-full of Chinese fireworks. (Photos below by Tamara Eunice and Tillie Lams)

 

 

Day 2 – San Francisco, CA @ Light Rail Studios w/ Harold Ray & East Side Dynamite & DJ Shannon Shaw

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As MANIAC live in 3 corners of Los Angeles it was a cacophony of text messages, Lyft cars, equipment loading, and then we finally made it to our buddies AVR, Airport Van Rentals at LAX to pick up our steed who someone later dubbed “The Great White Hope” (ya know, after Larry Bird).  From LAX we flew to Carson, home of our virtuoso drummer, Young James Carman.  It only took about 4 hours to get out of LA, then we had a 5 hour drive north to San Francisco.  Trader Joe’s provided some excellent van snacks, including but not limited to turkey jerky, beef jerky, salmon jerky, nuts, trail mix, dried prunes, dried figs, quinoa chips, rose, beer, tequila, and vodka.  Icing my knee while driving was an excellent reason to always have our cooler full of ice cold beer. Fantastic.

After a quick stop at Harris Ranch for an extremely overpriced steak sandwich and some iced tea, we jetted north to Light Rail Studios, in an industrial part of San Francisco sort of near the baseball stadium.  Crossing the Bay Bridge while being at an 11/10 on the piss scale is always pleasant. Squirming in your seat and enjoying the view of Alcatraz while nearly wetting yourself was how this van driver rolled across I-80 to the 101.

After a sprint into some SF bushes, we found the venue, a very interesting place, recording studio, rehearsal studios, film studio, and bar. It was the boss man Parker’s birthday party, and he was savvy enough to have it be sponsored by a vodka brand, so entrance to the show was free, and the bands and DJ had their own signature vodka drinks being made. I ordered a MANIAC and regretfully it was watered down and weak. Good thing we came prepared with a well-stocked van bar.

DJ Shannon Shaw of Shannon & The Clams and her soon-to-be-illustrious solo career DJ’d some killer tunes warming up for Harold Ray & East Side Dynamite, who ripped it up with old school rhythm and blues with a horn section and all. Jason Morgan AKA Harold Ray is like a white James Brown.

MANIAC did our thing and people seemed to like it. We received some heart-felt compliments including one from Allyson Baker who fronts one of our favorite SF outfits Dirty Ghosts.

Our entire bass-heavy SF set is here c/o Pressure Drop TV if you care to hear a few flat vocal notes and if you want to see what Young James is wearing.

Day 3 – Corvallis, Oregon @ Cloud & Kelly’s Public House w/ Wups and Kawaii Busters

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It was a 9 hour drive to Corvallis all the way up I-5 North. Our wonderful host Niki woke up early and made us some bacon and eggs. We were up late the night before penning a new hit, “Dwarves In Love”

We found out the Mayor of Corvallis is named Biff Traber. We enjoyed this name very much. When we arrived the venue, an Irish pub, there were families and children enjoying dinner. I made a bee-line to the bathroom to shave. Captain Zappin didn’t feel comfortable shaving in a bathroom where surely fathers and their kids were apt to burst in and interrupt our “me time.”  I just brashly began behaving like a man who lives in a van and lathered up and began to shave. A father and his kids came into the bathroom and I said, “Don’t mind me, I’m just in one of the bands playing tonight, we just drove 9 hours from San Francisco.”   The man said, “No problem, you guys should have a pretty good crowd tonight, it’s the big college graduation ceremony tomorrow, so all of the kids parents are in town.”  This was said while little boys were peeing and while I was shaving. Only slightly awkward.

The opening band had ponytails, backpacks, and canteens. Someone mentioned that they looked like a bunch of school shooters. They most definitely had similar taste in men’s fashion as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.   They played thrashy, screamy music. We came out with napalm in our hearts and there was even an all-girl mosh pit going for a song or two.  Portland/Corvallis celebrity Chris Crusher gave us the lowdown on Corvallis and told us about the new book he is writing about his travels in Eastern Europe. Captain Zappin and I looked for some late-night cuisine and found a kebab truck as the only available option. The kebab was lackluster, but we sucked it down and our new friends took us to what they told us was the diviest bar in Corvallis “China Delight” AKA “China D’s”.  

“What goes on that is so sketchy there?”

“Dude, they pour the drinks directly in your mouth! One time, Mike from Defiance got stabbed in there.”

“Sounds great to us!”

No one got stabbed or drinks poured directly into their mouths by the bartender, but we did enjoy a few extremely fair priced drinks ($3 beer, $5 well, no tax). Our drummer Jimmy got some frozen Chinese food heated up in a microwave. (photos below by Chris Crusher excluding the photo of Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber)

 

 

Day 4 – Portland, OR @ Green Noise Records AND Lay Low Tavern

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One of our label bosses, Chris Mason of Dirt Cult, set us up with an in-store at Green Noise Records new location on NE Killingsworth as well as a late show at Lay Low Tavern in deep South East Portland.

On the way we stopped by to visit our friends Jonny Cat, Cecilia Meneau, and Ben Corman at their stall at a classic car show at Portland Meadows. As the show was winding down, Jonny Cat invited us to an impromptu BBQ at his place. With the help of Alaskan Fisherman and Portland Cab Driver Kenton McDonald, we purchased some provisions for the BBQ.  Present at the BBQ were members of Portland punk royalty, including but not limited to Ryan from The Rickets, Tina from the Trashwomen, Ben from the Cormans, and more.

We shotgunned some beers and ate too much and that sort of got us ready for our in-store at Green Noise Records.  Opening the show was me, reading a story from my new chapbook of short stories “Mutant Maniac”. I had to promise the owner of Green Noise that there wasn’t anything too bad in the story as it’s a safe space for POC, women, etc. I agree fully with the principles.  I read the story “Aberdeen Skins Never Say Die”. 

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Opening the show was Muscle Dungeon and Ad-Noids. There were a lot of little kids in attendance wearing ear protection. It felt like being in an episode of Portlandia.

The PA kept overloading when we sang backing vocals, but we played a buncha songs and people seemed to enjoy it. Green Noise is the distribution hub for Dirt Cult Records and we really appreciate the support.

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Later that night we were at Lay Low Tavern, and it was a free show. We were to get 10% of the bar take. The Bloodtypes and Public Eye opened up this one. Both bands put on a great show. We were exhausted from the show earlier but had food, coffee, and alcohol and tried to get enough gusto to kick ass. We did indeed. Thank you very much to Doug and Courtney Burns who enlivened me with tequila and encouragement. Later that night was a blur. Very blurry.

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Maniac label bosses Chris Mason (L) and Tim Janchar (R) of Dirt Cult and Hovercraft

Day 5 – Tacoma, WA @ The Valley

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We passed through Vancouver, the hometown of Richie Stitch from Red Dons who managed to miss all 3 of MANIAC’s Portland shows and headed north to Tacoma, WA, home of the mighty Sonics and the Wailers.  Our soundtrack on this drive was highlighted by Sir Mix A Lot’s 90s hit, “Bremelo.”

We ate some seafood on the water at a place called Duke’s. The food was overpriced and wasn’t too good and it pissed off Captain Zappin. He was on fire with quotes such as “All of the chowder tastes exactly the same, they are just a different color. It was probably brought in frozen from Omaha, Nebraska.” There was a man behind us who didn’t much care for our laughing and carrying-on.

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We did have some nice dirty gin martinis though! And we met a very nice middle-aged lady who used to play Al’s Bar in LA in the 80s. She ended up coming to our show which was pretty cool!

It was a Sunday and this was a pretty quiet night. We played our little hearts out. The promoter Logan was a very sweet guy. Nothing much to report.  The absolutely stunning Rachel Barrett from Rare Forms came out and it was  great to see her as always.

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MANIAC enjoy some dirty gin martinis at Duke’s in Tacoma.

 

Day 6 – Bellingham, WA @ Boscoe’s Tavern

The boys partied with Kicks from The Briefs in Seattle and I caught up with an old friend. We met up in Seattle’s International District and once we made it through the Seattle-Everett traffic snare it was a beautiful drive up I-5 through Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties.

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Jimmy at Kicks’ pad in Seattle. Photo by Andrew Zappin

I saw the band Girl Trouble in Bellingham years ago, and for some reason I still think of them every time Bellingham is mentioned.

We arrived at Boscoe’s 3 hours early, and so we had some time to walk around. We snapped some fotos at the boat yard. Jimmy spotted a crab in the water.

The opening bands were all very friendly and many of them donated to the tip jar. The lovely promoter Sean made sure we got 10% of the bar in addition to tips and it ended up turning out very well for a Monday night.  We decided to cross the border that night and James gave Sean his ganja joints to hold onto until we crossed back.

MANIAC has had missed results crossing the US/Canada border. The first time they let us across without any problems and we played the Biltmore. The 2nd time, two years ago, we were denied due to Zache’s DUI 9 years ago and our friend Cezar’s equally ancient DUI.  This time we had all of our paperwork in order but there was one SNAFU. Zache applied with the Canadians for an entry VISA, sending all documents showing that his 9 year old DUI was since resolved, he’s been granted his license back, etc.  However, the Canadians informed him that it would be 9 months to process.  We decided to try and cross the border anyhow.  After hours of waiting and multiple rounds of questioning (think Hillary Clinton’s 11 hour Benghazi hearing), the border guard convinced Zache the correct pronunciation of “Biltmore” was “Bitmore” and told him if he paid $200 Canadian, he could be granted a 48 hour temporary VISA into Canada.  We paid and also had to declare merch at customs which was a few buildings over in some Indiana Jones warehouse building.  We fucking made it!  We celebrated with some cocktails from the van bar and a cold wrap at Tim Horton’s.

Our very kind host Josh from Fashionism and Chain Whip stayed awake til 3:30 in the morning to greet us with a 6 pack of Pilsner. He told us to watch out for his Pitbull and his Bearded Dragon.  In the morning, Josh made coffee and croissants for us before he had to head to work. Tops Tops host!

Day 7 – Vancouver, British Columbia @ The Astoria

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We spent the morning wandering alongside the water in Stanley Park. There were a lot of fit people walking and jogging and biking. I was limping along like Quasimodo. Medicated with a little Trader Joe’s rose and that helped a little.  We saw otters and cranes, boats, and bridges. We even got sunburned! Captain Zappin and I spotted a filmic moment straight out of “7 year Itch” which was truly glorious, and especially fitting, being that we all were experiencing 7 days of tour itch.

Marilyn Monroe In 'The Seven Year Itch'

After a wonderful MANIAC band meal at a lunch special sushi place in Gastown ($25 Canadian for a 45 piece party platter of sushi), we went to visit our friend Jeff from AUTOGRAMM.  He has a gorgeous backyard with a skate ramp and we watched him skate for awhile while drinking some ice cold frosty dogs.

It was a perfect afternoon hang. We headed to The Astoria on Hastings.  We loaded in and sound checked, then I had a casual dinner with an old flame, the lovely Sadie Olchewski. It was wonderful to catch up with her (secret fact: Pretty much every song on all 3 Clorox Girls albums is about her).   The other MANIAC guys ended up accidentally eating in the same restaurant with CC from Autogramm which was a hilarious coincidence. On tour, privacy and personal space are quick and fleeting privileges.

You’re in a band now/you’re not behind a plow/you’ll never get rich/you’ll never get rich/you’re in a band now

Opening up the night were Corner Boys who is Patrick from Hosehead Records and Joel Butler from Nervous Talk. They played great catchy late 70s style punk/pop reminiscent of Northern Ireland’s Good Vibrations Records.  They asked me to sing The Simpletones “TV Love” with them and Patrick asked me if I knew the lyrics. I lied and said “Yes.” I know the song, but definitely don’t know the lyrics by heart.  Luckily Patrick backed me up. I spilled some beer on stage and had a serious banana peel moment when I tried to do a high kick and fell directly onto my ass. Luckily the move looked like it was previously planned. Again, another injury nearly avoided!

Fashionism were up next! They are Bobby Beefy, Robin, Jeff from the Tranzmitors and Josh (our wonderful host who I mentioned earlier) newer band. They recently returned from a successful tour of Finland and North Eastern European former Soviet-Bloc countries.

MANIAC did our thing and were followed by some more of our pals Needles//Pins. We most recently hung out with Tony, Macey, Jesse, and Adam at San Diego’s Awesome Fest. It was very nice to see them!

All of our pals from THE BALLANTYNES showed up (Jarrod, Vanessa, Jennifer Wilks  Corey, Max, and Mick).  Jarrod had been rammed by a police car while on his bicycle and had his arm dislocated in the scuffle that ensued. Poor fella! Hope that he heals up soon! MANIAC hearts the Ballantynes.

Jimmy and I grabbed our cooler on wheels and burned the midnight oil over at Macey’s under-construction penthouse apartment with a cast of characters from Sore Points, Needles//Pins, Corner Boys, and Ballantynes.  Macey made these great gin cocktails with freshly cut fruit. Our cooler was emptied, cigarettes were smoked, every drop drank.  Young James and I traveled by cab back to Vanessa’s place where she kindly put us up on her couches.

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J Mau & Joel Butler Photo Credit: Andrew Zappin

In the morning we had a lovely breakfast with CC, Jeff, and Macey, and we took this lovely photo afterwards.

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On the US border side, we were stopped, had to go inside to immigration/customs, and had to pay $13.52 for the merchandise that we sold in Canada. This made absolutely no sense, but we did it anyway. The border guard looked like Egon from Ghostbusters.

Day 8 – Seattle, WA @ Funhouse

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We stopped in Bellingham to pick up Jimmy’s ganja joints from Sean who promoted our show at Boscoe’s.  We also found our smoke machine inside of Boscoe’s. Double luck!

We had a short visit with my Uncle John who taught me how to play my first few chords on guitar in 1994. He was smoking weed in his car parked in an Olive Garden parking lot. He was also dressed like a pirate. Here he is making out with my neck for no apparent reason.

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Underneath the freeway underpass near El Corazon/The Funhouse was a tent city where the folks underneath were doing all kinds of unsavory things including but not limited to drinking malt liquor, smoking crack, and shooting heroin.  We saw evidence of all 3.  The venue wouldn’t let us load in because security wasn’t there yet, but we had a very nice hang with the Brain Drain and Donzis folks out front of the venue and invited Will Donzi into our van bar. I went to high school on Bainbridge Island with Jeremy and Andy from Brain Drain. It’s a small world after all.

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The tattooed doorman at Funhouse was extremely rude and uncooperative. A few police cars pulled up and began questioning him about something. We overheard something about a gun, a scuffle, something strange being afoot at the circle K.  The tattooed doorman soon left with what seemed like were a bunch of office supplies in a box, as if he was just fired from his office job and another door guy took over who seemed like he didn’t know what was going on. He was slightly friendlier than the first one.

Donzis opened up the show and absolutely ripped it up!

Brain Drain were next. They’ve recently released an excellent album.

The sound woman was in a rush and she said that we had already eaten 6 minutes into our setup time. I told her we’d play 6 minutes less.  Lars from Bread and Butter bought me a shot of well tequila and I found myself in the bathroom dry heaving before our set. Nothing was coming out, just a steady and slightly painful heave.  Nick from Downtown was in the bathroom and I asked him how he mustered enough energy to play without drinking.  He told me it was all nerves and nervous energy.  I ran back out and we jumped on stage and brought the fire to Seattle.

I tried a stupid jump off of a raised part of the stage and fell, also knocking my guitar into disrepair.  I also knocked over a microphone much to the disdain of my fellow Maniacs. Somehow I was able to turn up and make it work for the rest of the set, but my guitar’s input jack was hammerschlocked and kaput.

Nearly all of our friends from Seattle were there, it was probably the best energy of any show the whole tour. Everyone was all smiles and very supportive. We fed off of the energy and brought the hammer down.

Afterwards we parked the van and then things got real blurry.  A lot of beautiful people were out with us that night including but not limited to Conor St. Kiley, Ursula, Chris Costalupes, Rachel Barrett, Will Donzi, Miles and Emi, and many more.  The blur blends and it is a positive blur.  We ate some tortas and the mole torta gave me epic heartburn, the clutching your chest and almost crashing the car kind of heartburn.

Day 9 – Portland, OR @ Black Water Bar

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On the way down Jonny Cat convinced us to stop by his place for another impromptu BBQ.

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The Jonster, Kicking cancer’s ass one day at a time with his self-designed “cock sucking dick” t-shirt

Zache and Andrew had dinner with Zache’s mom who lives just outside of Portland.

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Seve from Autistic Youth and Public Eye came out as well as Alaskan Boat Skipper Kenton McDonald.  It was very enjoyable.

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At Black Water we bumped into Dark/Light and the Stops and had pleasant conversations with them.  Zache and I were nearly losing our voices, and Candy from Dark/Light gave us a bunch of lozenges and other remedies.  Doug from Red Dons, Clay from Clorox Girls, Zach and Samantha from Piss Test, and loads more were out and about.   STOPS and DARK/LIGHT were great.   MANIAC brought the fire again and torched the place as best we could.  It was a quiet night and everyone slowly dispersed.  The kind gents from MUSCLE DUNGEON put us up in their place. We had a very nice walkabout and had some pizza and a last drink before bed.  We slept on floor and couch and army cot.

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Our hosts from Muscle Dungeon in PDX

Day 10 – Eureka, CA @ Siren’s Song Tavern

It was a 7 hour drive to Eureka from Portland, and we stopped at Guitar Center in Eugene to have them repair my guitar and restring Zache’s bass.  After we cut over from Grant’s Pass it was a gorgeous drive, winding alongside a river and through the forest. Past Crescent City was a grove of Redwood Trees and an impossibly picturesque cliff side forest along the coast. Words can’t begin to describe how beautiful it was and how amazing the untamed northern California coast can truly be.

I had been in Eureka over 10 years ago and I recall it being full of tweakers, meth, and speed.  This Eureka we pulled into was completely different. Farmers markets, nice shops, clean and bright-eyed people.  We had some pozole at a Mexican restaurant and shared the stage with Nico Bones from Long Beach and Material from Vancouver, Canada.   The bathroom was clean and perfect for shaving.

Nico Bones was recently a contestant on American Idol with this hilarious audition:

MATERIAL from Vancouver had Skidge on drums, a fella who had promoted some basement shows in Vancouver for some of my bands 10 years ago. Their singer Laura had seen Clorox Girls play in her hometown of Calgary when she was “a little kid” in 2007.  I was 24 years old in 2007 and this made me feel old. She asked me why Clorox Girls stopped playing and I told her about 3 guys living off of a ziplock bag full of change in London, thousands of dollars in debt, multiple van breakdowns, record release snafus and all that other stuff that leads to bands breaking up 🙂

Our host and promoter Nick brought us to his beachside shack that was straight out of the pages of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.  He had this little kitten that was absolutely adorable and we all fell asleep peacefully after chowing down on chile verde burrito leftovers and fucking up our voices with more cigarette smoking.

In the morning we walked over the hill to the beach in Manila (are Manila clams from Manila, California?)  I realized that my high school punk band Maurice’s Little Bastards had played the Manila Community Center there in the late 90s or early 2000s.

Day 11 – Oakland, CA @ Golden Bull Tavern

Our last show of tour was in Oakland.  It was another gorgeous drive through the Redwood Forest and the Avenue of the Giants.  The soundtrack for this drive was this JAM:

Niki shot us pre-show at Mike Dirnt from Green Day’s Rudy Can’t Fail Cafe in Downtown Oakland.

Italian Cherry is Jason Patrone from FM Knives new outfit. I LOVED FM Knives. If you dig the Buzzcocks and The Boys, you’ll dig FM Knives… here’s their 1st album

The woman working the door was extremely unfriendly and uncooperative. She seemed annoyed that we existed and answered our questions with a heavy sigh, roll of the eyes, and even glares.  MANIAC take pride in our degree of politeness, we always say please and thank you and make eye contact.  She took the cake for the most rude and unpleasant door person of the whole tour.   Before we played she thrust $22 into Captain Zappin’s palm and told him that was our pay. She then rushed out the door and took off into the night.  $22 was the most pitiful pay that we have possibly ever received on tour.  The other 2 bands felt bad and gave us their $22 and the sound man gave us $20 out of his $100 pay.  I wonder what the door lady’s pay was?  Out of an $8 door 3 bands receive $66 pay on a Saturday night in Oakland?  It really made us appreciate our Sunday night in Tacoma and our Monday night in Bellingham.    MANIAC will not be playing the Golden Bull again. Dulcinea and Camylle from Midnight Snaxx had some great compliments for us and it meant a lot.   Local celebrity Morgan Stickrod made it out and our Bay Area photographer Niki Pretti snapped some shots of us.

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It was the last night of tour!  We went back to Niki’s place in Albany with Drew from Personal and the Pizzas in tow and we burned some serious midnight oil. It’s probably best that it ends like this.  Comment below if I forgot anything.  Love you all.

Best,

Justin and MANIAC

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Photo Credit: Niki Pretti

 

Photos below by Niki Pretti:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suspect Parts Euro Tour Diary 2017

7 Nov

Suspect Parts, An Introduction

Apocalypse Pop…waiting for the Apocalypse to…drop.”

– Suspect Parts biography.

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Suspect Parts in Berlin

About 10 years ago my band Clorox Girls fell apart and I moved to Madrid after an 8 week Euro tour that involved 3 van breakdowns, blood, sweat, tears, and debt (Sex, drugs, and alcohol are a given. Exhaustion beyond belief a more accurate description. I’m working on a book called “Clorox Boy” about it. I’ve also been to therapy.)

Another American expat Chris Bell, from Seattle band The Briefs, was living in Berlin and he suggested that we start a side project and record a 7″ single. That winter we found ourselves rehearsing in sub-zero concrete Berlin. Smail from The Shocks recorded our debut single. Gangly and dapper Englishman , James “Sulli” Sullivan from Ripchord, was recruited on lead guitar. The stylish and punctual German Smail Shock agreed to play bass. Our Apocalypse Pop super-group was formed. We semi-promptly released 4 singles and toured Europe.

2 years ago, Smail dropped out of the group to focus on his analog recording studio. Andru Bourbon from Berlin punk band Radio Dead Ones was enlisted on bass.  We toured Germany, France, and Spain with L.A. punk band Maniac and recorded our debut album in the biting chill of another Berlin winter in Smail’s analog studio.

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Suspect Parts soundcheck, Gleis 22, Munster, Germany

October 2017 found the release of Suspect Parts debut album on independent labels Taken By Surprise Records (Germany) and Oops Baby Records (USA). I procured a $550 round-trip ticket from L.A. to Berlin and we hit the autobahn once again.

Stream or order Suspect Parts new self titled LP in North America here

Stream or order Suspect Parts new self-titled LP in Europe here

Leaving Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic.”

– Norman Mailer

I found a new roommate to help me cover rent while away on tour and had a bunch of pre-tour chores including renting a U-Haul, hauling furniture to a storage space, doing laundry, packing and picking up merch. I criss-crossed Los Angeles, completed most of my list, and grabbed a Lyft to LAX.

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My cheap flight was on Air Lingus, an Irish airline that I hadn’t flown before. The merch suitcase was overweight by a few kilos and they wanted to charge me $100 to check my backup guitar. I stashed a few things in my guitar cases and told Air Dingus that I was going to the parking lot to put my backup guitar in the trunk of my car. I checked my free bag and clandestinely boarded the plane with 2 guitars and my carry-on suitcase.

Surprisingly, security at LAX overlooked the half-full bottle of Jimador tequila in my guitar case from a recent Maniac  show in Long Beach.  Jimador and Sprite went down a treat.

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During my layover in Dublin, I stopped by the Guinness gift-shop where the Irish kid working the bar informed me of oblivious American tourists ordering “Irish Car Bombs” not realizing the harrowing bloody history with the IRA (embarrassingly enough, in my early 20s I made this same mistake in London and a massive fellow who was in the army ripped my copy of Don Quixote in half while saying repeatedly, “I had mates killed by the IRA.”). Moral of the story, while abroad, if you want to drop a shot of Jameson topped with Kahlua or Irish cream into a Guinness,  call it a “Baby Guinness,” not an “Irish Car Bomb.”  Or just a Guinness will do.

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Days 1 & 2 Berlin, Germany

You are crazy, my child. You must go to Berlin.”

– Franz von Suppe

 

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Snacking on some carrots in the rehearsal room in Berlin. Photo by Daniel Distraction.

Sulli came in from London Heathrow and Andru and Chris grabbed us from Tegel in Berlin. Of course Andru Bourbon brought some beers and a bottle of pfeffy to greet us. What a gent.

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Pre-flight Sulli before British Airways lost his duffel bag

In Berlin, we spent most of our first 2 days rehearsing. We also found some familiar sights, excellent Turkish and Syrian falafel, classic Berlin graffiti, and some quintessential Kreuzberg rock n roll bars like the Franken, Wild At Heart, and Rock N Roll Herberge.  Daniel Distraction stopped by our rehearsal room and made a video of us practicing “Alright With Me.”

Andru our bassist is vegan, and always has excellent vegan spreads on-hand.  We had breakfast most days at his house, but splurged on the last day on a band favorite, the “Bon Scott Breakfast” at Rock N Roll Herberge which costs about 4 Euros.

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Story time with Falcon at Rock N Roll Herberge, Berlin

British Airways lost Sulli’s bag and so he had to borrow my clothes for a few days. Luckily, the bag was delivered to Cortex Records right before we left. I also had some severe tuning problems with my guitar and we stopped by our friend Martin’s flat for repairs.

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Martin repairs Justin’s guitar in Berlin

It was good to see our old friend Ricky as well as our new album for sale at Cortex Records.

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Suspect Parts new LP for sale at Cortex Records, Berlin

 

After 2 long days of rehearsal and a long night partying with old friends, both Sulli and I were on the verge of losing our voices, but we hit the autobahn, hoping for the best.

suspect parts euro tour poster FINAL

Day 3: Dresden, Deutschland @ Chemiefabrik

There was a big number over the door of the building. The number was five. Before the Americans could go inside, their only English-speaking guard told them to memorize their simple address, in case they got lost in the big city. Their address was this: ‘Schlacthof-funf.’ Schlacthof means slaughterhouse. Funf was good old five.”

– Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Slaughterhouse-Five

Chemiefabrik-Dresden

Our first show was in Dresden at Chemiefabrik where we founded the Down With Dons Movement 2 years earlier. Our friends Red Dons were simultaneously on a European tour playing many of the same clubs, so we started a Blur-Oasis online rivalry which was a lot of fun.  The Down with Dons Magnum opus was our Citizen Kane, shot and directed by our Minister of War, Andrew Zappin. Check out #downwithdons if you want to witness the havoc we wreaked on our old friends during the wartime of fall 2015.

Chemiefabrik was exactly as we remembered it, a shack on the outskirts of the city, not unlike a militia compound. On the inside is a bar and a few Foosball tables as well as a ton of band graffiti and posters.  The sound-man called himself “Flash” and proceeded to mike everything. The tiny concrete room was LOUD.  We sound-checked, had our dinner which was a vegan pasta (Andru opted for the spicy pasta sauce option which I opted out as I was already suffering from diarrhea).

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British Airways lost Sulli’s bag and he had to borrow Justin’s clothes for the first few days. Here’s Justin and Sulli in Fat White Family t-shirts pre-schlaff.

The first band were called Tanning Bats from Berlin and had really interesting time-signatures and cool changes in their songs.  Usually opening bands in Germany are quite unimaginative, so Tanning Bats were a pleasant surprise.

Our set in Dresden went down really well and the crowd especially knew the familiar tunes towards the end of the set, “Run For Your Life,” “Change Your Mind,” “17 Television,” and “Flowers Of Evil.”

We played some Foosball, chatted to a few Frauleins, and slept in the band flat which was walking distance from the club. In Europe, many of the clubs have an apartment just for touring bands to spend the night in. If only the US and UK could follow Europe’s example.   The crowd seemed to really love our show and we sold a bunch of records and shirts which always helps out on the road.

The DJs were fantastic and played mostly Canadian hits including The Modernettes, Teenage Head, The Tranzmitors, and the non-Canadian standout was the Village People’s punk tune “Food Fight.”

At the band flat, I slept on the top bunk and in the middle of the night couldn’t find the bathroom, it was pitch black.  I managed to find the room where Tanning Bats were sleeping and was having a true middle-of-the-night-midlife crisis.  With luck, I finally found the bathroom and the crisis was mostly averted.

Day 4 Brno, Czech Republic @ Kabinet Muz

Opakování matka moudrosti.
Repetition is the mother of wisdom.

– Czech Proverb

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On a typical Suspect Parts morning, we hit a supermarket and/or a bakery to stock up Mobicool Maxi which is our cooler filled full of vegan and vegetarian supplies. Sulli and I opened up a kitchen in the back seat where we learned to excel in the art of sandwich making.

There was some serious traffic so we took a detour through magnificent Prague, one of Europe’s finest cities. Prague is located in what was formerly known as Bohemia, and the general feeling of the place is for lack of a better word… Bohemian.  They appreciate art, culture, music, fashion, and sex perhaps better than anyone else. The architecture is breathtaking, the women are beautiful, and the men sure know how to wear a scarf.   As Kafka said, “Prague never lets you go…this dear mother has claws.”

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Storybook Prague

On the Czech highway we noticed that the billboards every few feet had nothing but Czech flags.  Later we found that the Czech government banned roadside advertising. The Czech mafia was upset about this and in retaliation, installed Czech flags to replace them, as it is illegal to take down any Czech symbols (no doubt a reaction to the heavy hand of Soviet rule).

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Brno is the 2nd largest city in Czech after Prague, and we found our venue Kabinet Muz  to be a very civilized cafe/beer bar.  The local beer was creamy and delicious.  We sound-checked and checked out dinner backstage which was an interesting vegan goulash. It had something similar to falafel balls in it. Not bad at all.  The opening band was called Wasted Whatever, an early 80s style energetic punk band. They hung out in the dressing room smoking and drinking white wine out of plastic bottles with their friends. Nice kids.   Sulli and I shaved in the venue bathroom.  We have come up with a few pre-show routines to survive the grueling tour schedule.

Pre-Show Routine #1: “The Triangle”

The triangle consists of 3 things in this order:  food, coffee, alcohol.  To realize its full effect, the triangle must be completed in the correct order and ideally at least 2 hours before playing. If whiskey or cognac or schnapps is placed inside of coffee, this can reduce the triangle to 2 steps. Caffeine must be consumed at least 1 hour before playing, followed by beer or liquor. Beer will make you sleepy, so liquor is ideal.

Routine #2: “Triple S” (Shave, Shiesse, Schnapps)  Sulli and I found that to feel fully awake and look our best, we shave after eating as well as change our shirts and shoes.   This is followed by evacuating the bowels (which is harder than you might think in a crowded club that often has only 1 bathroom),  some vocal warm-ups, some stretching, some high kicks, and some schnapps.

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Pre-sound check back stretches

The men’s bathroom sink was right next to the urinals where folks kept coming in and it made it nearly impossible to shave, so Sulli and I shaved in the hallway next to the women’s bathroom which lead to some people laughing at us.  No big deal, our mission was accomplished and we successfully completed all of our pre-show rituals.

Martin the promoter filmed us through a triangle-shaped hole in the backstage curtain.

The Czech kids danced and only knocked over the microphones a couple of times. We drank some more delicious creamy beers at the club then went to the promoter Martin Slovak’s flat to sleep. I stayed up all night with Martin listening to 60s Czech ye ye which was fantastic, but not great when I discovered staying up til 8am made me nearly completely lose my voice.

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Justin and Chris loading the van in Brno before discovering Andru’s cell phone was stolen from the front seat. Photo by Martin Slovak

The best part about staying up all night was listening to Marta Kubisova. She was a Czech singer who was perceived as being anti-authoritarian and anti-imperialist and is still an inspiration in the Czech Republic. Her music is absolutely beautiful. Her song “Prayer for Marta” became a symbol of national resistance against the occupation of Warsaw Pact troops in ’68. During the Prague Spring, she recorded over 200 SP records and one LP which was immediately banned from stores. In 1970, the government falsely accused her of making pornographic photographs leading to a ban from performing in the country until 1989. (Disclaimer: I plagiarized much of this from Wikipedia)

Martin told us a story about the first time he went into Germany with his parents in the 1990s. He said that the Germans had made signs along the way that said “Czechs, don’t steal,” and “Czechs don’t stop here to clean your teeth.”

In the morning, I started drinking immediately to help the hangover. Martin joined me. Unfortunately, Andru’s cell phone was stolen from the driver’s side door which was unlocked when we were loading our gear out from the venue. Ox-strong Andru took it in stride and didn’t have a phone on the rest of the tour.

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Justin and Martin, the morning after the night before. Brno, Czech Republic

Day 5 Vienna, Austria @ Rhiz

Vienna is a handsome, lively city, and pleases me exceedingly.

-Frederic Chopin

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Austria was home to many famous folks including Sigmund Freud, Arnold Swartzenegger, Falco (“Rock Me Amadeus”) and some bad ones who we won’t mention.

Rhiz is a very civilized little cafe underneath a railroad bridge. Members of the opening band “Bad Weed,” were present and served us a civilized Viennese coffee before soundcheck.  When the train went by overhead, the sound in the club made this wacky little buzzing. The sound-man had worked there for 20 years or so, and wore one of the best sweaters I have ever seen. Wish I had a photo of the man and his sweater.

We were reminded of the derogatory term that the Germans call the Austrians, Schlucten Shiesse, which means “valley shitter.” Remember the Austrian Alps.

I have neglected to mention how cold Deutschland and Austria were. Being used to California weather, the central European October cold chilled me to my bones and made me feel like I had a constant cold or flu. Paired with the jet-lag and my new mandatory vegan diet, I felt like I was constantly being sat on by a large Germanic man.  Thankfully we had our pre-show routines to save us, as the show must go on.  In the bathrooms, a few African men were coming and going. They locked themselves into bathroom stalls presumably to organize some drugs that they were selling. I’m not trying to racially profile Austrian drug dealers, but this touring rock and roll musician knows a drug dealer when he sees one.

The shaving situation in the bathroom was again a tough one. A bespectacled middle-aged man in a brand new 500 Euro leather jacket commented, “Shaving, that isn’t very punkrock.”

On the contrary,  shaving in a cracked bathroom sink in the venue bathroom shortly before playing your set may in fact actually be “punk rock,” but that’s another argument for another time.

Arno, the drummer for opening band Bad Weed was formerly a promoter in a small town called Klagenfurt where Clorox Girls and The Feelers played in 2007. It was nice to see him again. Also bumped into Tom Jirsa and some other familiar faces.

Afterwards, there was a unmistakable tension in the club for the free DJ night when a few sketchy characters piled into the tiny smoke-filled bar. The tension was so intense it was almost physical, like you could reach out and touch it. It seemed like a fistfight was inevitable. A grade-school mating ritual unfolded where men wearing camouflage pants, hair gel, and cologne would dance uncomfortably close to a woman they were attracted to. If the woman danced with him, it was on, if she didn’t, most of the time the man didn’t seem to get the idea and kept coming back again and again to harass her. Most of the women seemed to go to the bar in groups, and so usually it was up to her female friends to shoo the humping greasy harasser away.

The other guys went to bed and I went to an 80s night with some folks and danced to songs like “Ghostbusters.” I danced with a school teacher who unironically had tickets to David Hasselhoff the following week.

At the 80s night I met some nice folks from Antwerp where we were soon headed to, and then stumbled through the freezing Alpine rain and finally jumped in a taxi when I couldn’t find our sleeping place.  Luckily, Andru woke up to the sound of the buzzer, and let me in at 4am as there wasn’t any wifi and I didn’t have any cell service. It would have been a bad night to sleep on the sidewalk in Vienna.

Day 6 Munich, Deutchland @ Kafe Kult

Of one thing there is no doubt: if Paris makes demands of the heart, then Munich makes demands of the stomach.

-Rachel Johnson

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Our Euro record label Taken By Surprise Records is located in Munich. Our drummer Chris has his screen printing shop Flatland  in the same building as Black Wave Records which is located near the Augustiner Brau Haus. We picked up some merchandise from the record store and screen-printing shop and headed over to the venue Kafe Kult, which is an old WWII military hospital. The caretaker’s name is Herbie, and he is a wild-eyed hippie who fishes Nazi memorabilia out of the river. His collection is pretty insane, if you ever stop by Kafe Kult it is well-worth it to take a look.

 

The Kafe Kult backstage is full of black-markered penis drawings and band-tags, as many of our friends’ touring bands have played here in the past.  Suspect Parts played one of our first shows in 2008 here.

 

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Andru warming up on bass in the Kafe Kult band room

Dinner was a vegan “almost burrito,” which actually wasn’t too bad. Europe has improved on the availability of spicy food these days. A particular bottle of spicy sauce at Kafe Kult almost killed Andru and I.

Kafe Kult’s bathroom is nearly impossible to shave in. The mirrors are covered with band stickers. We used my cell phone as a mirror. I held it for Sulli as he shaved, he did the same for me. Yes, yet another low pressure cold water shave for the ‘Parts. The bathrooms also have a permanent shiesse smell which proves that the place reeks of authenticity.

The openers were a grunge band from Vienna called Baits.  They were extremely friendly folks. They had to drive the 3 hours back to Vienna after the show and then go straight to work the next morning. The drummer even had to get on a bus to Zagreb, Croatia afterwards to play another show. That is dedication.  Baits sound reminded me of growing up in the 90s in Seattle.

One of the bartenders was a foxy girl with bangs named Veronica who plays in a noise-art kinda band called Friends Of Gas. She hadn’t heard of the Archie comics, and I told her about them. (Maybe it has something to do with my days living in Portland.  I’m a sucker for a dark-haired girl with bangs.)

At the beginning of our set my guitar amp stopped working which led us to scramble around, find a backup, and hastily commence our set. Sulli and I had almost completely lost our voices and were really pushing it as the vocal monitors were barely audible. We tried our best to play well, and sold a bunch of merchandise but my band mates told me afterwards that we played the worst set of the tour so far. Our Euro label boss Michl Krenner seemed to like the show (or he was lying to make us feel better). I gave him a kiss.

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Justin smooches Michl

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Suspect Parts with Taken By Surprise label boss Michl Krenner at Kafe Kult in Munich

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Andru’s art in the Kafe Kult guestbook in Munich

My crush, the bewitching beauty Veronica, left without saying goodbye much to my chagrin and we slept in the band room which was dirty, dusty, dark, and cold.  With all of the lights turned out, Herbie the caretaker’s handmade creations seemed to creep up the walls. A trip to the bathroom was like a barefoot walk in some filthy post-apocalyptic construction site. Luckily there was a space heater and it finally started to work as we drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn and contemplated what was going wrong with my life. A few hours later, I accidentally took one of the Kafe Kult volunteer’s sleeping bags which wasn’t the one that Michl loaned me. It apparently was a 200 Euro thermal sleeping bag for Alpine camping. Whoops. Luckily Chris lives in Munich and was able to bring it back after the tour.  The shower was grubby, located in a storage room full of Herbie’s ongoing projects and various broken appliances. It was covered in black muck. Andru was brave enough to take a shower, but Sulli and I opted out. The friendly volunteer who slept in the band room with us made us breakfast which we ate in sub-zero temperatures and we packed up the van and headed out to pick up Chris and his wife Laura at their place.

Touring is hard on the body.

Day 7 Cologne, Deutschland @ Sonic Ballroom

In Köln, a town of monks and bones, And pavement fang’d with murderous stones, And rags and hags, and hideous wenches, I counted two-and-seventy stenches, All well defined, and several stinks! Ye nymphs that reign o’er sewers and sinks, The River Rhine, it is well known, Doth wash your city of Cologne; But tell me, nymphs! what power divine Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?

– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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This was only the 4th date of tour and our 6th day in Europe but it felt like we had been on the road for ages.  Me and Sulli’s voices were nearly gone and I felt like I had a constant flu. This was the longest drive of tour – 6 hours (which is a relatively short distance compared to US Tours), and I took the opportunity to try and sleep in the back and get my voice back.  Our van kitchen was fully powered and Sulli had become a sandwich making gourmand. Our vegan spreads and veggies and cheeses were truly delectable.

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At most Deutschland gas stations, they have paid bathrooms with attendants – which usually ensures that they are cleaned on a regular basis.  I was out of change and tried to sneak into a bathroom by ducking and rolling through the child-sized free entrance and was promptly caught by the bathroom attendant. She was not impressed.

The last time we were in Cologne, we filmed a short episode of our web-series “Guten Morgen Deutschland” at the Dome as we had filmmaker and Minister Of War Andrew Zappin in tow.

Sonic Ballroom is another classic Deutschland venue.  Small, great little bar, band flat upstairs and it has it’s own kitchen and bathroom. Roman has been the promoter there for many years and a strong supporter of ours since 2008. It was his birthday and so he was off somewhere enjoying it. Happy Belated Birthday, Roman!

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Our favorite band names and DJ name from the tour: “Fuck It Head,” “DJ Tobias Sheisse,” and last but certainly not least, “Ape Shifter.”

Sonic Ballroom’s staff made us a nice vegan lasagna in the oven, soundcheck went smoothly, and we continued with our pre-show routines.  In Cologne the local beer is called Kolsch and this is ordered as opposed to Alt which is the rival beer from nearby rivals in Dusseldorf. Our kuhlshrank was filled with Kolsch.  The local cheap schnapps is called kettenfett which is like a black licorice shot. Not too bad. One of our biggest local supporters Frau Mony filmed a few of our songs.

Another local supporter, a 60 year old woman from Greece, knocked my microphone over a few times when she was dancing too hard. She apologized afterwards by kissing me on the neck and face. Suspect Parts’ German groupies are primarily women and men between the ages of 50 and 70.

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Sonic Ballroom Cologne, photo by Frau Mony.

The audience under 60 didn’t dance much but seemed to enjoy our tunes. We had some more kettenfett and Kolsch and went to bed in the bunks upstairs. The promoter told us that our first single “Seventeen Television” was a local dance floor hit. The DJs that night had a set that went on until about 5am. Their set included The Shocks “More Kicks”and Red Dons “Auslander”

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Sweaty Suspect Parts post-show at Sonic Ballroom in Cologne. Photo by Frau Mony.

Day 8 Antwerp, Belgium @ Venue 219

“It’s absurd to see an enchanted princess in every girl who walks by. What do you think you are, a troubadour?” 
― Roberto BolañoAntwerp

If you open the door of a bar in Brooklyn, you know exactly who is the mobster, who is the nice guy, who is the drunk, who’s the waitress, who’s the lonely heart. If you push open the door to a bar in Antwerp, people will talk five different languages. You don’t know who’s who. You don’t know if that guy is a banker or a mobster.”

– Thomas Bidegain

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We pulled into Antwerp and it felt a bit like France with its narrow streets and cafes. Antwerp is in the Flemish part of Belgium which historically has a rivalry dated back to medieval times with the French part of Belgium.  Flemish is similar to Dutch but they also have a rivalry with the Dutch. You can drive across the entire country of Belgium in about 3 hours but its a complicated place with an intricate history.

As the venue was closed and locked, we stopped into an extremely civilized local bar and tried the local beer.

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Sulli and Andru sample some Belgian beer. Justin’s personal favorite: De Koninck. Smooth and creamy with a consistency similar to Guinness.

The show was a Halloween party and most of the folks there seemed to be there for the dance party, not our band, which was fine. The local band were these kids who left their gear on stage for way too long and it annoyed all of us into playing a seriously blistering set.

The owner of the bar had a box full of Halloween supplies that he let us dip into. We did alright!

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Suspect Parts’ makeshift Halloween costumes in Antwerp.

That night was another 80s music dance party. The place was packed. The guys went to bed at a reasonable hour and I foolishly stayed out and went to another after-hours party. I was playing roulette with the devil as far as my singing voice went.

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Justin and Andru enjoy Halloween in Antwerp

Parking the van Halloween night in Antwerp proved to be extremely challenging and only Andru was up to the daunting task. We circled the city and finally found parking down by the river. Andru felt that the van might be at risk for a break-in so he slept in the van. It was freezing cold and only Ox-Strong Andru would take on this noble cause.

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Ox-strong Andru Bourbon

The next morning we only had a 1 hour drive to Kortrijk, so we had one of our only touristic days to walk around the city and see the sights. Our hosts Joris and Ann made us a lovely home-made breakfast in their flat and gave us an absolutely enjoyable walking tour with their dog, Clipper. Antwerp is exquisite. Here’s some of the highlights of our tourist day in photos:

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L to Right Joris, Andru, Sulli, Ann and Clipper enjoy a civilized coffee at a cafe in Antwerp

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Belgian fries with mayo of course!

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Andru enjoys a Jupiter on the 2nd best day of his life.

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Day 9 Kortrijk, Belgium @ The Pits

I’m half-Irish, half-Dutch, and I was born in Belgium. If I was a dog, I’d be in a hell of a mess!

– Audrey Hepburn

Chris and Andru finally trusted me enough to drive our rental Mercedes Sprinter Van and I successfully drove 1 hour through Belgium without incident. There was some backseat driving, but not too bad. The Pits is a legendary 20 year old garage punk venue that has hosted bands  like The Mummies, Supercharger, Dead Moon, The Spits, King Khan & BBQ, Black Lips, Alex White, Clorox Girls, Briefs, The Feelers, The Chemicals, and many more.

We were told that there was another show going on that night in Lille, France and that 11 of their regulars were headed to that show.  The Pit’s (sic) is tiny and can be filled to the absolute brim with about 40 people.  Tonight we had about 15 in the crowd so it was only about half-full. The staff was nice and dinner was tasty.  Again we had some issues with our pre-show shave as there was no bathroom mirror or even a sink to shave in.

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The Pits urinals and toilet across from the merch table. Note: no sink or soap to wash hands with. Who needs soap to enjoy primitive beer-soaked garage punk?

 

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The Pits DJ played some great stuff including The Kids from Antwerp.

The Pits staff told us that we could park the van overnight at the venue and then walk to the sleeping place. Our host was named Stoppe. He kinda looked like Andre The Giant. Stoppe was totally wasted and insisted that we drive to his flat. All of us had been drinking and since we were told that we could park at the venue, we all had enjoyed a few Belgian beers. As I was feeling sick, I didn’t really drink after the show and had been sober for a few hours.  I drove our van to Stoppe’s house and parallel parked half on the Belgian side walk.

Inside his flat, Stoppe had a fish and shrimp curry that he had made for a girlfriend of his.  I ate some despite Chris’ reasonable concern that I would get food poisoning from the shellfish that had been sitting out.  Stoppe’s friend had some home-grown weed and they brought out some fancy Belgian beer for us that was very tasty.  Stoppe put on a jazz record on 78 speed and proceeded to dance to it which brought most of us to tears laughing at his antics.  In between eating, drinking, and dancing, Stoppe cooked some samosas and brought out some more beer.

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Justin and Stoppe

My favorite record that he played was this Belgian female singer from the 60s which I wish I could remember.  The record he put on 78 speed was Ottone Pesante.

My all-time favorite tune is Lio’s “Le Banana Split.” Despite Lio hailing from the French side of Belgium, everyone should know this tune.

Stoppe told us that Facebook had blocked him from using his name “Stop Stop Stop” and he was trying to resolve it as it was his only way of communicating with many of his friends. Good luck, Stoppe!

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Our drawings for Stoppe’s guestbook

Day 10 Munster, Germany @ Gleis 22

In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.”

– John Carpenter

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Promoter Markus Schmauck has been booking concerts in Munster for nearly 20 years. The opening band was called Conta. It was their 4th show. Their pre-show schnapps was also Berliner Luft which caused us to immediately bond with them.

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Sulli and Markus

There are also some scenes from our music video for “Run For Your Life” filmed at Gleis 22.

A local amp shop called Rare Guitars fixed my broken guitar amp which was fantastic. We had dinner, shiesse’d and schnapps’d and then had even more schnapps with Conta backstage.  It was their 4th show and they were real nervous.

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Conta at Gleis 22, Munster. Photo courtesy of diegoldenehor.de

 

Gleis 22 was pretty packed, Conta killed it and we killed it in turn.  We all went to a bar called Boheme something and enjoyed some kettenfett, jagermeister, and beers until they closed.  Markus is a local legend and for good reason. Munster should appreciate Markus bringing hundreds of touring bands to their student city over the years.

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We stayed in this flat that some local hippies lived in. One of them introduced himself to us and said that he was a digital nomad. I guess that we are analog nomads.  The handle on the bathroom door kept falling off and the shower was dirty but the water was hot.  Hot and dirty.

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Sulli at Gleis 22, Munster Photo courtesy of diegoldenehor.de

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Andru at Gleis 22, Munster Photo courtesy of diegoldenehor.de

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Sulli, Justin, and Chris at Gleis 22. Photo courtesy of diegoldenehor.de

Day 11 Hamburg, Germany @ Molotow

You’re not getting any sleep tonight.

– Graffiti seen on the Reeperbahn, Hamburg

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I’ve known local promoters Jens Keller and Michael for over 10 years. Their old promotion company Wildwax previously booked shows in the now defunct Beatclub. Jens and Michael in their younger years would take shots of hot candle wax and force the touring bands to do the same. Wildwax hosted loads of touring bands like The Spits, Black Lips, King Khan & BBQ, Jay Reatard, and more. The last couple of times I was in Hamburg I was sick and would sleep in Jens’ bunk bed (often he would not sleep). We may have shared the bed a few times. One particular night with Holy Ghost Revival, Jens convinced them to buy a pigeon to throw into my face while I was sleeping.   They bought the pigeon at the Fisherman’s Market at 7am or so, and John let the pigeon free. Jens was pissed off at John for years (and probably still is).  Another time Jens convinced me to try to give Colin from Clorox Girls a roman soldier, which is one of the worst things I have done to any band mate. Colin, I’m sorry.

In the morning in Munster I had some schinken (ham) with breakfast. I hadn’t eaten any meat on the whole tour as all of the venue-provided food was vegan and vegetarian.  The ham tasted very strong and didn’t agree with me at all.  My stomach was a wreck during the whole drive to Hamburg and I felt like I had food poisoning. If any of you have had food poisoning before, you know what it feels like – a flu with your head, body and stomach all in volcanic disorder.  Our van was subjected to a melee of bad smells coming out of my body during the drive to Hamburg.  I honestly didn’t know if I could play.  I slept in the back of the van with a scarf on and rode it out.

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Justin dying in the van

At Jens’ place in Hamburg we met his new son, Sixten. Jens made us a delicious chili. When serving a heaping serving of chili,  a plate suddenly shattered above his son’s head. Uncle Justin grabbed the baby and the rest of the ‘Parts cleaned up all of the spilled chili and broken plate.

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Sulli and Sixten in Hamburg

After the near disaster, we enjoyed Jens’ chili paired with a glass of Schwabish red wine.  I was feeling a little bit better from my run-in with the schinken earlier but still pretty rough, sweaty and sore all over.  I took a shower and shaved then we headed out to soundcheck at Molotow. We were playing with 2 bands that night, 1 that sounded like The Strokes and another one that had crazy mohawks, bondage and whatnot. It was their last show, they streamed a backdrop banner across the rear of the stage, and sound-checked for a very long time.

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39 Euro Sex on the Reeperbahn, Hamburg

The Molotow is a proper indie venue and has a downstairs, upstairs, and outside stages.  It’s located right on the Reeperbahn which is in the heart of Hamburg’s red-light district. If you haven’t been there it’s like Las Vegas but sleazier, shadier, with legal prostitution mixed with kebab shops, dance clubs, strip clubs, bars, restaurants, music venues, and some American chain restaurants like Burger King and Hooters.  The Beatles also kick-started their career here.  A description of the Beatles early days in Hamburg:

McCartney later said, “We lived backstage in the Bambi Kino, next to the toilets, and you could always smell them. The room had been an old storeroom, and there were just concrete walls and nothing else. No heat, no wallpaper, not a lick of paint; and two sets of bunk beds, with not very much covers—Union Jack flags—we were frozen.” Lennon remembered: “We were put in this pigsty. We were living in a toilet, like right next to the ladies’ toilet. We’d go to bed late and be woken up next day by the sound of the cinema show and old German fraus [women] pissing next door.” After having been awoken in this fashion, the group were then obliged to use cold water from the urinals for washing and shaving. They were paid £2.50 each a day, seven days a week, playing from 8:30-9:30, 10 until 11, 11:30-12:30, and finishing the evening playing from one until two o’clock in the morning. German customers found the group’s name comical, as “Beatles” sounded like “Peedles”, which meant a small boy’s penis. (From The Beatles in Hamburg )

Luckily Suspect Parts seemed to have it slightly better than the Beatles in their early days, and at Molotow, had our own private dressing room upstairs where we could sit quietly away from the cigarette smoke and eat some erdnuss flips (the best German snack).

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We were at least 2 hours early for the show, so I had time to take a 30 minute power nap in the dressing room.  Sulli went to the train station to pick his wife Chris up. Here’s Chris modeling a Suspect Parts shirt.

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The Strokes band sounded a lot like the Strokes. To paraphrase Pablo Picasso, “Bad art is imitation, great art is theft.”

The crazy mohawk band sounded better onstage than their soundcheck. I was really worried about my voice and my energy level but I managed to get up to “adult chimp strong.”  As I may have mentioned earlier, in the German language, the strongest animal is an ape. “Affenstark,” or “Ape-Strong” is the strongest that one can get in Germany as well as in Suspect Parts land.  On my worst times of day I was a newborn baby deer, one that could barely walk.  On the Munster to Hamburg drive I was a newborn salamander, a slimy creature that could be easily crushed.  Onstage in Hamburg, I made it to adult chimp strong, which is almost as strong as “Ape Strong” but not quite.  Andru Bourbon was steadily “Ox Strong” throughout the tour except one time when he apparently passed out behind our merch table.

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At the end of our set in Hamburg I thought I would die, but ran to the merch table to sling some records, buttons, and shirts to folks.  We did pretty good.  Hamburg didn’t kill us. I had to go to bed early to attempt to get Ape Strong before our last show in Berlin, and we went back home where Jens’ wife Julika played us some of her favorite Plimsouls tunes.

Sulli’s wife Chris took this photo of us the next morning next to the river.

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Suspect Parts in Hamburg. Photo by Chris Almeida.

Day 12 Berlin, Germany @ Kastaniankeller

I still keep a suitcase in Berlin.”

– Marlene Deitrich

 

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Suspect Parts have played Berlin 6 or 7 times between 2008 and present, so it’s the closest we have to a hometown. We knew that we would have a lot of friends there but were literally gobsmacked by the amount of friends that came down to support us.

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L to R Jakob, Daniel, Andru, and Smail. Kastaniankeller, Berlin

Slime The Boogie and Gang Zero opened up the show and were both fantastic. There were these hilarious bearded guys in Harley Davidson jackets who kept chest bumping each other and “moshing.”  They were half amusing, half annoying.  It was packed in the place and a Suspect Part couldn’t go 3 steps without bumping into someone who wanted to say hello or offer food, drink, or drugs, so we had a hard time getting Ape Strong for this one.  We had to give it our all though. The monitors onstage literally had static coming out of them, but we sang our hearts out and tried our best to kick some ass and take some names.  One of the big bearded fellows was grabbing at my leg and hugging me during our first few songs. The beards finally got bored and left, which was great because it opened up the front row for about 10 girls to dance.  Finally, dancing in Deutchland!   Success! We blasted through our set and closed out with Chris singing “Do It Clean” by Echo and the Bunnymen. We had some “Animal House” -reminiscent call and response and brought down the house.  Thank you Berlin, our last show was easily our best show, and couldn’t have gone down better. Ich leibe dich Berlin.

Stream or order Suspect Parts new self titled LP in North America here

Stream or order Suspect Parts new self-titled LP in Europe here

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Sulli retires his Chuck Taylor’s in Berlin

Post Script, German Vocabulary

I’ve been to Deutschland a few times and always try and pick up some new insults and vocabulary words. Here’s the list from this trip:

Schwips – buzzed, Ich Habe einen schwips or Ich bin beschwipst (“I am buzzed”)

Motorat – Motorcycle

Kinderwagen – stroller

Ampel – Traffic Light

Ampel menschen – traffic light men

Hamsterer – a hoarder

Rucksichtslos – regardless

Festgennomen – Arrested

Keks – Cookies

Dar ist ein hund in einer tasche – there is a dog in a bag

Schlucten Shiesse – Valley Shitter (what the Germans call the Austrians)

Spaten – Idiot  (literally means shovel, but if you call a person this it means idiot)

Laberbacke – someone who talks too much

Best quotes of this tour go to Andru Bourbon:

Chris: “You have to step into the modern world, Bourbon.”

Andru: “Sometimes I do.”

Chris: “She has the right to cut you off, she’s driving a Porsche.”

Andru: “Do I have the right to kill her?”

You can stream or order Suspect Parts new self titled LP in North America here

You can stream or order Suspect Parts new self-titled LP in Europe here

Suspect Parts on Facebook

Suspect Parts on Instagram: @SuspectParts

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Suspect Parts in Antwerp

 

And some wonderful extras for those of you who stuck around this long:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Essay “White Light”

16 Dec

Hello All,

Just had a new essay, “White Light” published by Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Read on Vol. 1 Brooklyn site here

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White Light

by Justin Maurer

White light, white light goin’ messin’ up my mind
White light, and don’t you know its gonna make me go blind
White heat, aww white heat it tickle me down to my toes
White light, ooo have mercy white light have it goodness knows
-Velvet Underground, “White Light/White Heat”

Most people like ghost stories, but I don’t. They scare me. I don’t like to think about ghosts or demons because I know they are real. Sometimes even watching a TV program about them, I think that I’d better stop watching because a portal to hell could open and the demons that plagued me in the past could come back and harass me. I have been unable to write this story for 15 years, but now I think I am strong enough to write this and strong enough to keep them at bay.

When I was 18 years old I played in a punk rock band. We did stupid things like getting drunk and getting naked. As a frequently wild and unbridled lead singer, onstage I was the most naked of all. After we graduated high school we pooled our money and bought a van. We split our podunk small town and hit the open road. We drank vodka out of the bottle, slept on top of our van, and shook scorpions out of our shoes. By the end of our U.S. tour we felt invincible, and our live set involved quite a bit of provocation, nudity, and screeching guitar feedback from our guitarist Devon’s off-brand pawn shop guitar (aka “Framus”).

The last date of our tour was an all ages venue on the wealthy and uptight Eastside of Seattle, near Microsoft headquarters. Our chaotic set didn’t go down well with the team of big-necked security guards. There were a few adult chaperones in the audience. One particularly uneasy mother of a 14-year-old concert attendee called the cops on us. The 14-year-old girl’s mom pressed charges (indecent exposure) and I was summoned to court for a felony charge.

I didn’t take the court summons seriously and helped my mom, a school teacher, move to New York City where she had received a small scholarship towards her Master’s degree. We drove across the country, and I loved it every time “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band came on the radio–about 3 or 4 times a day. My brother and I drove the U-Haul and my mom and sister drove in my mom’s Jeep. The Jeep would often swerve violently as my mother and sister vehemently argued in sign language, hands off the wheel, and my sister would pull the car over, throw the door open and kick the dirt. My brother and I laughed and were glad we weren’t in the other car.

I was having a hard time landing a job in New York and was handing out resumes across the city. Some guy at the 121st Street and Broadway subway station told me not to take the train downtown. He told me to go home and turn on the TV. The burning buildings were on every channel. The whole world was changing.

New York became a dead city. Everything stopped, including the U.S. Mail. One month later I received a warrant for my arrest that was forwarded from our address in Washington State. I had missed my court date for the naked thing. I got a job waiting tables at a restaurant on 110th Street and Broadway and the owners ripped me off. They paid me $80 cash for working full time for a week. They kept my tips and didn’t call me in for any other shifts.

I decided to head back to Seattle to face up to the felony charge. I went back to Bainbridge Island where I had gone to high school. All of my friends had gone to college or moved away. There were a few younger kids I was friends with including two twin sisters named Cora and Penny. I had dated Cora briefly in high school. Something clicked and I started dating Penny. She had wild hair, wild eyes and a wonderful laugh, the kind where she would throw back her head and roar. I found Penny to be quite a rambunctious creature and I liked her very much.

One day my friend Devon and I stopped by their house. They lived with their single mom who was an interior designer and always let us eat their food and hang out and play guitars. The twins would often choreograph dance moves to “Crimson and Clover.”

We knocked on the door, and Penny answered looking very surprised. She held her finger to her lips and beckoned for us to follow her inside. In their living room a man lay reclined on a couch. A woman sat above him. He spoke in voices. The voices coming out of his mouth were not his own. A gaggle of new age ladies with crystal necklaces and hippie dresses sat cross legged on the floor and hung onto every word. When Devon and I came into the room a strange voice spoke through his mouth.

“Do you have any questions for us?”

The new age women smiled and encouraged me to ask some questions. The voices went through every detail of my life. They described my personality, my trials, and my tribulations in disconcerting detail. Their answers to my questions were spot on, as if these spirits knew who I was and as if they knew the internal turmoil that I was going through.

After my questions, the woman counted back from 10 and with every number the man convulsed as if spirits were leaving his body. After the number 1, the man sat up and rubbed his eyes, speaking in his own voice.

“Ah, some newcomers! How y’all doin?”

He spoke simply like a man born in the country. He sounded nothing like the spirits that were using his body to channel their energy and spoke in stilted yet articulate voices.

After I came home from my experience with the channel, I started seeing apparitions. The black beasts swam above me like underwater sea creatures. These sinister eels writhed through midair with their tails. They had no faces. They would fly by my car, my bed, they would stop and stare directly into my soul, chilling me to my bones.

One day Penny and I were driving my red 1982 Chevy on a dark winter night. One of these demonic salamanders floated in front of my windshield and stared at us menacingly before continuing along its way.

“Did you see that,” I asked Penny.

“Oh yeah, we see them all the time.”

Living in the house where a new age cult was paying this man to channel these demons posing as angels, Penny and her sister Cora lived with these apparitions. To them, it was normal.

Soon they were everywhere. They scurried on the floor, they watched me as I showered, they hovered over my bed and I couldn’t sleep. I contemplated suicide to get away from them.

To keep them at bay I would sing and play Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins songs.

“GYPSY WOMAN TOLD MY MOTHER/BEFORE I WAS BORN/YOU GOT A BOY CHILD COMIN’/GONNA BE A SON OF A GUN…”

I would scream these songs and they wouldn’t bother me as I sang them. Otherwise, they were always there watching me, following me, torturing me.

I found out that the man posing as a channel for these demonic spirits had left town. It made me feel a little better.I stopped by the twins’ house to play some guitar and goof around. I sat on their couch playing their acoustic guitar and one of them said,

“Oh my God! Mom! Come here… Mom!”

Their mother came in the room and said, “Oh my God. Justin, sit up for a second.”

I stood up and one of the twins reached underneath the couch cushion where I was sitting. She handed me a folded up piece of notebook paper and asked me to read it.

“Request a date of your new channel: October 13th.

Request a time your new channel will appear: 2:30pm.

On this date and time your new channel will sit here. May white light be with you.”

It was discussed that I should travel to Ashland, Oregon where their old channel was living in a hotel room. They told me that if I was the new channel I could earn lots of money as there were plenty of people who wanted to ask these spirits questions. They told me that their mom had a religious group called White Light and they were working on a book that would lead the people of the world to a new truth and a lasting peace. Their old channel had left town and the book wasn’t finished and they needed me to learn how to channel the spirits so that they could finish their book.

This was a lot for me to hear. Around this time, the haunting from the apparitions rose to manic proportions. The little demon creatures would crawl all over me and I was being suffocated by them. One night I heard a boom like a thunder clap. I sat up in my bed and there was a blinding light coming from the bedroom door, it looked like a portal to heaven.

A deep commanding voice spoke, like the voice of God and he said, “Choose a door!”

To the left was a simple wooden door, the kind you would find on a log cabin in the forest. To the right was a bright sparkly door like one you would see on a game show.

“The door on the right is if you become a channel. The door on the left is if you decide not to. Choose wisely”

The bright lights left the room. I thought about Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and remembered that the right choice was the simple wooden cup. The other choice meant instant painful death.

I drove to Ashland, Oregon with the twin sisters and their mom. We went up a flight of stairs and met the channel and his wife in their motel room. He told us that on the morning of 9/11 the spirits woke him up and told him that this country’s false economy would fall.

He went into his trance led by his wife who counted down from 10. When she got to 1, the stilted yet articulate voices of the demon spirits spoke through the man.

“Do you have any questions for us,” they said.

“Should I become the new channel,” I said.

“If you open that door, it shall never be closed again,” they said.

At that point I knew I didn’t want to be the channel.

We drove from Ashland, Oregon back up to Bainbridge Island, Washington. I told the twins and their mother that I wasn’t going to be the channel. I got a letter in the mail that asked if I wanted to move to San Francisco to play in a punk rock band. I wrote back yes.

My nudity trial took some strange turns, my pregnant public defender didn’t show up most of the time, and so the case was often delayed and extended. Then it was finally over. I was guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor charge. After community service hours were served and a fine paid, I moved from town to town: Oakland, Portland, Madrid, London, L.A. Every once in a while I wake from sleep and find myself staring into the shadows of my bedroom and I start to see a slithery creature writhing across the floor. So I look away.