Two of my musical groups Suspect Parts and Maniac just careened across continental Europe for a month, playing about 30 shows in Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain. I did double duty and played 2 sets a night. Exhaustion and sensory overload only scratch the surface of how I’m feeling, but I’d like to share some memories before they fade away.
Being back in the US is a trip. After coming off tour, you feel a little bit of PTSD. You get used to living like a dog, sleeping on the floor, eating and drinking and pissing and shitting whenever and wherever you can. You’re existing in a state of perpetual motion, your only goal to get to the next town and play a 45 minute set. It involves driving, waiting around, carrying amps and drums and soundchecks and vegetarian dinners and drinking out of boredom and out of trying to get in balance with a steady stream of caffeine and booze because you know you won’t get any sleep. And maybe you’ll sleep on a filthy cot or on a bare mattress in a mold filled punk squat filled with graffiti and sharpie’d penises crudely drawn by other drunk punk bands who stayed there before you. You’re horny but you don’t jerk off in the shower out of respect for your band mate who is showering after you. You don’t have a towel so you use a dirty t-shirt instead. You sweat so much that your face begins to itch and your eyelids feel like scales on a reptile. But for some reason it’s an addiction and when you’re not doing it your skin crawls and you feel restless and you begin to plan the next tour. You’ll probably lose money but it doesn’t matter because when you’re up there playing that 45 minute set and it really works and you’re playing together like a well oiled machine, everything is out the window because what you’re doing is pure bliss. And the people you meet will be your friends for life. And the places you visit will continue to rub off on you and you will become a different person and you forget what you are doing and then it is over.
So here I am, in godforsaken Los Angeles, two days back at work, skin beginning to crawl, ready to do it all over again.
Justin Maurer, Little Armenia, Los Angeles 09/29/15
Before tour MANIAC shot this promo vid in the Los Angeles River where many a chase scene was filmed, from Repo Man to Grease to Terminator. The vid was shot by Ardavon Fatehi and edited by Andrew Zappin. It co-stars Lord Cezar Mora as the thief.
Revisiting our multimedia tour journal we had a lot of time sitting around, either in a van or in a pitch black dank German venue. We launched a friendly rivalry with our old friends Red Dons who were also on a European tour. We dubbed it “The Down With Dons Movement.”
Our lead guitarist in Maniac Andrew Zappin is a skilled filmmaker and photographer. “Captain” Zappin utilized the basic iMovie app on his iPhone to create a series of #downwithdons communiques as well as a travel webseries dubbed “Guten Morgen Deutschland” starring James “Sulli” Sullivan and yours truly. Captain Zappin transformed into our “Minister of War” and began our series of attaques on The Dons.
SUSPECT PARTS & MANIAC EURO TOUR JOURNAL 2015
Justin: We got in a few days early to rehearse. We practiced on a street called Pfarstrasse and it was, well, a little Pfar from where we were staying. My first couple of meals were so flavorful, I mean I could TASTE the butter, eggs, cheese, bread, falafel, tomatoes, etc. Coming from the land of Monsanto and excessive preservatives, whenever I go to Europe I immediately notice the food is more healthy with less chemicals. Berlin is great. Graffiti art everywhere, people riding their bikes, excellent falafel, young people walking around. The street vagabond dudes all wear camouflage pants, some of them shirtless, always drinking Sternberg beer. Suspect Parts did a photo shoot with Christina, Sulli’s wife.
We drank some Mexicaners at The Franken in Kreuzberg. Classic stuff. Suspects were staying at Mutti’s (Mother’s) band flat. I don’t think there is an equivalent in the US. You have a booker who books shows, has an apartment for touring bands to stay in, has a warehouse full of gear to rent bands, and just a well-organized, well thought out setup. Unfortunately someone from MANIAC hired another booking agent to do our tour but that’s another story!
28.08.15 GER-Berlin, Cassiopeia
Justin: The venue was next to this skate park and climbing wall. Ice Cube was at the skate park in the back a few days beforehand for the NWA “Straight Outta Compton” movie. It was very civilized behind the venue with a series of coffee shops and bars and people leisurely enjoying coffee and beer in the sunshine. The show went well, kicked em in the head.
29.08.15 GER-Hamburg, Get Lost Festival (Suspect Parts during the day // Maniac at night)
Hamburg is a port town full of surly old fishermen types and well, the world-famous red light district, the Reeperbahn. It’s in the district of St. Pauli who is the unofficial patron saint of Hamburg. The urban legend goes that Saint Pauli was a pirate who was captured by authorities. He was to be beheaded. He made a deal with them saying if once his head was cut off he was able to run across a line, his men were to be freed. The legend goes that the headless man made it across the line and his pirates were set free. He is the official mascot for the St. Pauli football team.
Some members of MANIAC were very excited to be near the red light district and began regaling other members in the van on past visits to the Reeperbahn. As members of MANIAC had heard these stories many times, they were mostly met with rolling of the eyes. When we rolled into town we saw our compatriots in RED DONS and we hugged and kissed them (and began to plant the seeds of the Down With Dons movement that would later prosper and flourish)
In Hamburg, the scene bosses are mostly Schwabish (that being, coming from the South Western part of Germany near Stuttgart). They are some of my favorite people in the world. They love good music, don’t give a fuck about anything and are real sweethearts. It was good to see these people again. Suspects played a day show in the back patio of this bar and there were people from around the world there.
The night-time show was nutso, in this two floor bar, jam packed full of people. MANIAC played upstairs and downstairs was the mighty DEAN DIRG, German garage punk superstars.
They were fantastic, people stage diving, cigarette smoke everywhere, people doing speed in the dressing room while drinking out of a giant bottle of Jagermeister. Real fun that was had by all. Apparently, whoever was running the MANIAC merch booth was asking every single person who came up to the merch table for drugs. Real Classy.
Because of our fantastic booking agent, we had 2 days off after Hamburg. We decided to go back to Berlin and try and record a split 7″ at our friends’ studio on the outskirts of Berlin. The recording was mostly a wash but we did get to go swimming in a lake that was an East German vacation hotspot. There were naked old men, naked women, geese, children and more. Suspect Parts German bassist Andru told us about Freikörperkultur or FKK, the “Free Body Culture” movement which was the world’s first nudist movement which began in Germany in the late 1800s.Andru also taught us the word for Fat German, “Dicker Deutscher.”
01.09.15 GER-Dresden, Chemiefabrik
It was raining in Dresden so we didn’t get a chance to see the beautiful historic part that they rebuilt after the bombing. We did get a chance however, to roam around Berlin in the morning, see loads of historic sites, the Spree River, bullet holes in the walls where there were serious gunfights during the war, Hitler’s bunker which has been turned into a Jewish Cultural Center, Brandenburg Gate, Soviet monuments and many more. We had a great tour given by Andru and Chris which concluded with a stop at the Ramones Museum. The Ramones museum is fantastic and well worth a visit. As far as the Dresden show goes, not much to report. We made the first “DOWN WITH DONS” video, that was fun.
GER-Münster, Gleis 22
Munster is a great college town near the Dutch border in Northwestern Germany. It was a long drive from Dresden to Munster, we had to cross pretty much all of Germany. Gleis 22 is a great venue, I have some fond memories from when Clorox Girls opened for Jay Reatard here in 2007. The booker Markus has been promoting concerts in Munster for about 20 years. He’s one of the nicest most knowledgeable German independent promoters out there. The morning after the show he took us around and showed us the Dome (the local cathedral) above the Dome is a steel cage. There was an uprising against the local Bishop about 500 years ago. The Bishop ordered the men in charge of the uprising killed. Their prostrate bodies were placed in this cage hung high above the cathedral to dissuade any future rebellion. The cage trick worked. We had a nice stroll in Munster, a great cup of coffee and a visit to Green Hell the local punk record store.
We also made the 2nd “Down WIth Dons” video, as always, directed by Minister of War Andrew Zappin.
03.09.15 GER-Kassel, Goldgrube
This perhaps was the most interesting night yet. The show was on a Thursday night but felt like a Monday night. Pretty uneventful. However we made not 1 but 3 Down With Dons videos after they took us to the “Best Bar in Kassel if not all of Germany.” At the bar we were given an open bar tab. After the first round of Mexicaners was poured, a local fell off of a barstool and shit himself. Captain Zappin helped the man up and this man’s excrement got onto Zappin’s shoe. The smell was so overwhelming that we couldn’t drink our drinks and had to leave to get some fresh air. We tried to get the bar staff to call the man an ambulance but they instead were arguing with us about us staying and not leaving. We told them we’d like to go to our sleeping spot, but they wouldn’t give us the address. They instead continued to argue with us about not leaving. Finally we convinced one of them to come with us and show us the way to the place where we were staying. I observed, “If that was the best bar in Kassel, imagine the worst bar in Kassel!”
The sleeping place seemed like it was an art student’s apartment and had themed rooms. James, Sulli and I were in the Jesus themed room. There was a crucifix across the ceiling. Elmo or another Muppet character was crucified to another cross in the corner of the room. Creepy turn of the century German portraits of Christ were across the room. An organ was in another corner and I composed the “Down With Dons” theme song.
There was also a hunting themed room where our Minister Of War Andrew Zappin starred in his first appearance in the Down WIth Dons Multimedia campaign:
04.09.15 GER-Düsseldorf, Tube
Well, in Cologne they drink Kolsch, in Dusseldorf they drink Alt. It’s a battle that has existed for centuries. Not caring for this battle, the meat eaters among us ate some meat food instead.
In Dusseldorf we met Vom, drummer in Die Toten Hosen and The Boys.
A super nice guy, he invited a bunch of us back to his house. Here’s a portrait of the man by Andrew Zappin.
Red Dons were in Finland and paid us these two tributes including this bizarre visit with Santa Claus
In Dusseldorf, our booking agent truly showed his prowess when in his hometown he could not convince the bar owner to pay up the previously agreed upon guarantee on paper. Luckily, we were headed to France and Spain which are out of the jurisdiction of he who will not be named’s territory. But first, 6 more German dates!
05.09.15 GER-Trier, Lucky’s Luke
Trier is next to a river and in the middle of wine country. At the show there were people but none of them knew who we are. Suspect Parts sung “Kumbayah” as the closer.
Zache from Maniac went to a “jack shack” where he purchased a thong earlier in the day and wore this thong as the closer for Maniac.
The bar stayed open until at least 7 in the morning and gave us free drinks all night. It was a pretty packed dance party. They played real god awful music and so most of us left to go to bed upstairs in the band flat. Someone brought a psycho girl upstairs who called herself “Nadine The Unbreakable.” She said she was an anarchist and was trying to beat everyone up. She actually punched me in the face at least twice. Some others got it even worse.
06.09.15 – Day off
Our skilled booking agent again failed to fill a day for us, so luckily we were able to stay in Trier in the same band flat. The place was pretty disgusting but it was free and it made a perfect setting for our Magnum Opus of all Down With Dons Videos. This was Director Andrew Zappin’s Citizen Kane.
Also around this time some Down With Dons copycat videos started making their way around the globe, like this one, starring Kenton McDonald in Portland, Oregon
We also had a nice time strolling around the old part of Trier, really gorgeous architecture, a cathedral, Roman walls, ruins of bath houses and more. We began our travel show “Guten Morgen Deutschland” here in Trier, sponsored by Lowenbrau, “Das Bier Fur Trier!”
On the way out of Trier, we drove through the tiny country of Luxembourg, where we shot another episode of “Guten Morgen Deutschland”
07.09.15 GER-Aachen, AZ @ Some Irish Pub
Ooh, this was a brutal one. Maybe the only good part was staying with our friend from the Komplications. He had Nazi knives and cool stuff at his place (Disclaimer, none of us are Nazis obviously). He let us raid his warehouse thrift shop in the morning. Super super super nice dude.
Here he is, singing in the Komplications. If you like The Screamers, you will dig Komplications. Keys, drums, vocals.
Also, we found a Red Dons fan outside the Irish Pub and shot the first “Up With Dons” video:
08.09.15 GER-Köln, Sonic Ballroom
Our old friend Roman is the booker at Sonic Ballroom. Played here many times, a classic Deutsche venue.
We shot another episode of our travel show “Guten Morgen Deutschland” here at the world famous Dome in Cologne:
Thanks to Frau Mony for shooting these vids:
09.09.15 GER-Karlsruhe, Alte Hackerei
On our way to Karlsruhe we shot this episode of “Guten Morgen Deutschland”
Karlsruhe is Badish which is right next to Schwabisch turf in SouthWestern Deutschland. One of the local specialties is spaetzle. My Schwabisch friends who now reside in Hamburg are always arguing about who cooks the best spaetzle among them. It’s good stuff. The one we had was near the small red light district of Karlsruhe and was sorta like a glorified mac and cheese, not the deliciousness I remembered. Anyhoo, when in Badish or Scwabisch turf, be sure to try the spaetzle. We got kinda unlucky in our spot. The beer was good though.
Alte Hackerei literally means “old hackery,” it used to be a slaughterhouse and now is a venue for punk and alternative music. The bar and back area were very nice and the fooseball table quite good. We played with Party Force from Oakland, California who were friendly fellas and we sampled the local schnapps at the bar. Not a bad time in Badish Deutschland.
10.09.15 GER-Tübingen, Hegelstraße 7
Ah Tubingen, an interesting night. We made friends with some Calgarians called Teledrome who were also playing.
They were an electro pop new wave kinda band which was really refreshing in the land of bad 90s punk. We danced pretty hard for them and they in turn danced pretty hard for us.
It was Chris’ friend Brandon Madrid’s birthday and we dedicated our wild breakdown to him:
Afterwards there was a baby crawling on the floor of a punk squat, some bad pink speed going around, drummer of Teledrome talking like Jeff Spicolli and more
11.09.15 SUI-Luzern, Sedel
It was a beautiful drive to Luzern, Switzerland even though Andru Bourbon called it “Country Of Freaks” and “City of Freaks.” Our other Andrew, Captain Zappin, Minister of War, had to piss pretty bad as we were stuck in traffic in the middle of Zurich City Center. He finally pissed in a bottle. The first bottle piss of tour.
We were playing this venue next to these cow pastures, right on the foot of the Alps. You could hear the cow bells jangling around the cows’ necks as we loaded in. The backstage spread was excellent, unparalleled. Literally the best tasting cheese you could imagine. The beer was great too. Beer made with glacial water from the Alps? Fantastic. They had 3 cooks backstage cooking us a beautiful homecooked meal. The Swiss treated us pretty well and it won’t be forgotten.
12.09.15 FRA-Montpellier, Subsonic Open Air
Again some genius booking on our agent’s part, we had to wake up at 5am to make it to 5pm loadin in Montpellier. We hauled ass with Chris behind the wheel and he didn’t accept my offer of Swiss Cheese. See him star in an Andrew Zappin film here (Music by La Femme)
After paying hundreds of Euros in tolls to the French, we made it to Montpellier. It was raining so they moved the Open Air Festival indoors.
We met the guys from Le Grys Grys and their girlfriends, all nice people
Some of our friends from Valencia were there and reminded us of Paella and Wau Y Los Arrghs!
Sylvie and her husband have been doing Subsonic for many years now. They put together a great little shindig and everybody had a great time. It was raining but Sulli, Bourbon and I along with the Valencians got an espresso and a pastis before playing. Perfect. That is some wake up juice. It was Sulli’s birthday at midnight and folks sang “Happy Birthday” in English, French and Spanish. Good stuff. We stayed up very late with Isidro from Valencia and the Grys Grys guys. It was fun. Ardy our roadie, photographer, raconteur, international man of mystery, got into town and showed up at 6:30am. The sleeping place was closed and he slept on the sidewalk. Welcome to tour Ardy. Next stop, carajillo country.
13.09.15 ESP-Barcelona, Freedonia
Crossing the border into Spain is a beautiful thing. CATALUNYA rather. The beer is colder, the food tastes better, the people friendlier, the sun sunnier. God damn we started having fun. Barcelona was a small little venue with a cocktail bar in the front. It was in Raval which is an immigrant neighborhood and can be one of the seediest ‘hoods in Barcelona, especially on weekend nights. We were there on a weekday and it was relatively peaceful excepting someone trying to steal a diner’s jacket while eating in broad daylight on the terrace of an Indian restaurant. After the show we went to a gay bar and had a fantastic time. The Gin and Tonics were huge, cold, cheap and delicious. Some of our party disappeared to do speed until 9 in the morning. The rest of our party slept.
14.09.15 ESP-Terrassa, Skorpions Bar
Had a nice walkabout all around Barcelona in the daytime, mostly the tourist stuff but it was a beautiful day. This gent played some accordion for us.
The markets had some of the finest jamon as sampled by Captain Zappin and yours truly. Ardy found this great graffiti in Terassa
Terassa is on the outskirts of Barcelona and this beautiful man put on our show. For a Monday night it was a fantastic turnout. It seemed like the whole village showed up. On the way back to Ori’s apartment he kept telling us he had this huge pitbull and that we had to be careful. He actually had some of us spooked. When we got to his house we met the “pitbull” this shy little guy:
15.09.15 ESP-Bilbao, Satélite T
Next stop was the Basque Country. Bilbao, home of Eskorbuto.
Unfortunately we weren’t playing in Donosti/San Sebastian, home of fine fine pintxos and a beautiful beach, but a beautiful time was had in Bilbao. They made us a fine dinner with wine.
16.09.15 ESP-Oviedo, Lata de Zinc
Next we were off to Asturias, home of Asturian leche and cidra.
Red Dons struck back by burning a fabricated Suspect Parts Setlist:
We stopped at the beach on the way where this epic Down With Dons video was shot
There was an insane staircase to load all of the gear into the basement where the stage was. They cooked us very good vegetarian food at the venue. Afterwards was a nutso local Catholic festival which in Spain means a lot of drinking and bars staying open as late as possible, some in this case 4am or 6am. We drank some local cider and went to a lot of bars. Cobblestone streets, people wandering around. A very social occasion, the festival of San Mateo. La Resaca was muy fuerte.
17.09.15 ESP-Alcala de Henares, Ego Live
Alcala de Henares is on the outskirts of Madrid. It is known as the birthplace of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. It was a quiet night but Spain beat France in the Euro basketball championships so people were happy. Sulli and I had an excellent carajillo next door. The promoter was a gentleman who paid us our guarantee even though he lost money on the show. Hotel was across the street and very comfortable.
18.09.15 ESP-Sevilla, Sala X
Sevilla was an amazing city, way down in Andalucía. It was impossible to park the van anywhere because the parking garages wouldn’t fit our German van. Narrow cobblestone streets, old people and children in public squares, bars and cafes everywhere. Beautiful city. No one at the show but we got our crazy guarantee of 500 Euros. The promoters of our show actually lived in Grenada but did no promotion in Sevilla. Very strange scenario. But our friends at Holy Cuervo in Madrid were taking care of everything so we got a hotel and the guarantee. Worth the trip to Sevilla just for the food and the sights and the smells. Wonderful to be in Andalucía.
19.09.15 ESP-Madrid, Wurlitzer Ballroom
Madrid, mi ciudad natal. Wonderful to see Gran Via again. Malasana. El Wurley. El Omni bar. Nacho took good care of us but again a parking nightmare. Chris had to head back to our hotel and put a chair in the road to save a parking space for our van. He sat in the chair and drank a bottle of wine and waited for the van and gear to return. Sulli , Chris and I were booked to do a DJ set at Weirdo Bar but Chris wasn’t able to make it . Andru had to drive the van so he couldn’t make it either. Ardy AKA DJ Madrid filled in as DJ while I loaded the gear in the van. DJ James Carman also jammed some hits. Captain Zappin and I stayed behind because he had to film a very special message for Red Dons. The Captain finally declared a temporary armistice. Peace between Suspects Maniac and Red Dons had finally been declared.
MANIAC went back to Los Angeles from Madrid and Suspect Parts continued the righteous quest back to Berlin. I will keep these last few brief.
*SUSPECT PARTS ONLY*
20.09.15 ESP- Valencia, Magazine Club
One word. Paella. They made us one. With conejo and costillas. Chris and Sulli are vegetarian but they pushed the meat aside to eat the rice. That should tell you how good it was.
21.09.15 ESP- Sant Feliu, Atzavara Club
Back up to Catalunya it was a beautiful drive along the Mediterranean coast. We went to the beach twice.
First on our own
Then since an armistice was officially declared we met up with Red Dons on the beach in neutral turf, Catalunya.
They treated us very well at Atzavara Club. Red wine, bbq and a great community organized volunteer-run club. It was Chris’ birthday and everyone sang him happy birthday in Catalan. Good stuff! He drank red wine and was a happy boy.
23.09.15 GER- Munich, Kiste
A long drive to Munich from Catalunya. We crossed France, Switzerland and Bavaria and finally made it to Munich at about 7am. We stayed with Chris and his wife Laura. Great bakeries in Munich. We visited Michl Krenner’s new record shop, Black Wave Records and made the necessary trip to the Augustiner Brauhaus. The show was in this weird techno bar, but went well and had a great time DJing with Michl afterwards. Viva Bayern!
24.09.15 GER- Berlin, Cortina Bob
Last Falafel, last Pfeffi, Last Jager, Last Espresso Machiatto, last Mexicaner. Thank you to our family in Berlin. You made it feel like home. Hell, it is home! We love you, XO Suspect Parts
Chris, drummer of Suspect Parts, kept a pretty detailed record of the most hilarious quotes on tour said in the van or out of the van. When he was driving, I kept track.
The personality of the person saying the quote is key, I will introduce them with hometown and instrument:
SUSPECT PARTS ROSTER:
Justin Maurer (vocals, guitar, current city: Los Angeles)
James “Sulli” Sullivan (vocals, guitar current city: Manchester, UK)
Chris Bell Brief (vocals, drums current city, Munich, Germany)
Andru Bourbon (Bass, current city, Berlin, Germany)
Zache Davis (vocals, bass, current city: Los Angeles)
Andrew Zappin (lead guitar, current city: Los Angeles)
James Carman (drums, vocals, hometown: Carson, California)
Justin Maurer (guitar, vocals, current city: LA)
Here are some of my favorites:
“You are really obsessed with your underwear” (Andru Bourbon to Chris Brief on his underwear air drying in the van after being hand washed)
“Give me a little bite of your sausage, James” (Justin to James on sharing his Spanish Sausage)
“I had a dream I was wearing shorts. When I woke up I had pants on and I was happy.” (Andrew Zappin on his van dream)
“Stupid Dream” (Andru Bourbon in response to Zappin’s dream)
“I like all food that comes out of a tube…really!” (Andru Bourbon on his vegan culinary preferences)
“I like to taste my olive,” (Chris Brief on Spanish olive tapas)
“Where do we keep getting all of these random fucking CDs from?” (Chris Brief)
“The dwarf gave them to me,” (Sulli clarifying the origin of the dozens of random CDs sliding around the van floor)
“2 dwarves in 1 place, that’s like lightning striking twice in the same place,” (Zappin on 2 dwarf attendees of a show, one of whom gifted us dozens of random punk CDs)
“No, there are plenty of dwarves all over Europe,” (Andru Bourbon)
“I haven’t touched my dong this entire trip” (Zappin, on masturbation)
“So what you’re saying is that you’d consider having an open relationship with Jane Fonda” (Justin to Sulli on Barbarella-era Jane Fonda)
“I shot my friend with a BB Gun once” (Chris Brief)
“Watch out for scorpions, don’t touch black widows…there were some serious wasps” (Chris Brief on growing up in New Mexico)
“I think the most dangerous thing where I grew up was feral dogs with rabies…or wild pigs” (Andru Bourbon on growing up in East Germany)
“When I was growing up we had a family of skunks living underneath the house” (Chris Brief on coming of age in New Mexico)
Zache Davis in conversation with Ardavon Fatehi, Maniac roadie and filmmaker:
Zache – Why, you have a girl there?
Ardy: I have girls everywhere
Zache: I used to be like you
Ardy: I’m nothing like you
“If I have any Hopi in me, it’s because someone in my family raped a Hopi Indian” (Chris Brief on his family’s claim that they have Hopi Indian blood in the family)
“I would slit all of your throats to wash her underwear” (Andrew Zappin, on an attractive female pedestrian in Sevilla, Spain)
“I don’t know who I am anymore…no, I do, I’m the Minister of War” (Andrew Zappin)
“I won’t be crying tonight but next week I might drop a tear…secretly” (Andru Bourbon, discussing emotion in an atypically German way, on the departure of Maniac in Madrid)
Soundtrack to the tour was dominated by two standouts. First off, the German 80s New Wave band TRIO (They are known primarily for their hit “Da Da Da” but the rest of their early catalog is criminally underrated.) Our favorites included “Sunday Need Love, Monday Be Alone,” “Drei Mann Im Doppel Bed,” “Anna,” “Hearts Are Trump,” and more.
The 2nd Van Hit was a new French New Wave band called LA FEMME . What excellent driving music.