Tag Archives: punk

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
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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.

east side gallery

“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).

boat

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.

stasi museum

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 TOP…2 underdog rock n roll bands attempt to conquer Europe in 30 days

6 Oct
Freehand sketch by Sandra Vérine drawing LIVE at Montpellier Subsonic music festival, Montpellier, France

Freehand sketch by Sandra Vérine drawing LIVE at Montpellier Subsonic music festival, Montpellier, France

Hello Friends,

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.

Photo by Chris Almeida, Suspect Parts live at Cassiopea, Berlin. L to R, Andru Burbonski, Chris Bell, Justin Maurer, James

Suspect Parts live at Cassiopea, Berlin. Photo by Chris Almeida

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.”

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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

Pre-Tour Journal:

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.

Suspect Parts in Berlin. (Photo by Chris Almeida)

Suspect Parts in Berlin.
(Photo by Chris Almeida)

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.

Maniac in Berlin (Photo by Chris Almeida)

Maniac in Berlin
(Photo by Chris Almeida)

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.

30.08.15 TBA

31.08.15 TBA

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.”

Our East Berlin Lake Photo by Andrew Zappin

Our East Berlin Lake
Photo by Andrew Zappin

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.

Justin and Chris signing the wall at the Ramones Museum in Berlin

Justin and Chris signing the wall at the Ramones Museum in Berlin02.09.15

GER-Münster, Gleis 22

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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.

Posse in front of Gleis 22, Munster, Germany (Photo by Justin Maurer)

Posse in front of Gleis 22, Munster, Germany
(Photo by Justin Maurer)

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.

Tale of two schnitzels. One is Weiner Art and one is Jager art. A Dusseldorf Alt stands proudly in its glass.

Tale of two schnitzels. One is Weiner Art and one is Jager art. A Dusseldorf Alt stands proudly in its glass.

In Dusseldorf we met Vom, drummer in Die Toten Hosen and The Boys.

Dance party at Vom's! (Photo by CB Mangler)

Dance party at Vom’s!
(Photo by CB Mangler)

A super nice guy, he invited a bunch of us back to his house.  Here’s a portrait of the man by Andrew Zappin.

Vom Ritchie of Die Toten Hosen and The Boys in his place with his moose

Vom Ritchie of Die Toten Hosen and The Boys in his place with his moose “Frank.” (Photo 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

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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.

Maniac in Montpellier @ Subsonic Festival. Photo by Sue Rynski

Maniac in Montpellier @ Subsonic Festival.
Photo by Sue Rynski

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

Speed takes its toll

Photo by Ardavon Fatehi

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.

Photo by Ardavon Fatehi

Photo by Ardavon Fatehi

The markets had some of the finest jamon as sampled by Captain Zappin and yours truly. Ardy found this great graffiti in Terassa

La Policia Esnifa Cocaina. Our very own man about town Ardavon Fatehi. Photo by Andrew Zappin

La Policia Esnifa Cocaina. Our very own man about town Ardavon Fatehi.
Photo by Andrew Zappin

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:

ORI

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.

Basque hospitality in Bilbao

Basque hospitality in Bilbao

Justin and Sulli cleaning up in Bilbao. Ardy in background wearing a sweet beret

Justin and Sulli cleaning up in Bilbao. Ardy in background wearing a sweet beret

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

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.

Roadside bar in rural Spain (photo by Andrew Zappin)

Roadside bar in rural Spain (photo by Andrew Zappin)

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

Suspects on the beach. Costa Brava, Catalunya

Suspects on the beach. Costa Brava, Catalunya

Then since an armistice was officially declared we met up with Red Dons on the beach in neutral turf, Catalunya.

Suspects and Red Dons meet on the beach in Catalunya. Peace is declared!

Suspects and Red Dons meet on the beach in Catalunya. Peace is declared!

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!

Sophia, Michl, Herbie, Sulli, Justin in Munich

Sophia, Michl, Herbie, Sulli, Justin in Munich


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.

Sulli's van rendition of Suspect/Maniac members (James Sullivan)

Sulli’s van rendition of Suspect/Maniac members (James Sullivan) L to R – Chris, Zappin, Justin, Andru, James, Zache, Sulli

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)

MANIAC ROSTER:

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)

Van Life L to R Ardy, Zappin, Justin

Van Life
L to R Ardy, Zappin, Justin

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)

The crew in an official Down With Dons party meeting lead by our Minister of War

The crew in an official Down With Dons party meeting lead by our Minister of War. L to R – Zappin, Sulli, Zache, Andru

“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)

The crew in Trier, Germany (Photo by Justin Maurer)

The crew in Trier, Germany (Photo by Justin Maurer) L to R James, Zache, Sulli, Zappin, Chris, Andru

“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)

Roadside bar in rural Spain (photo by Andrew Zappin)

Roadside bar in rural Spain (photo by Andrew Zappin)

“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)

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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.

RIP DAVE BROCKIE AKA ODERUS URUNGUS OF GWAR

3 Apr

RIP-DaveBrockie-OderusUrungus

Cameron Pierce of Lazy Fascist Press in Portland, Oregon asked me to read with him at a tribute for the recently deceased Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus, controversial masked frontman for the intergalactic rock group GWAR.   I wasn’t sure what to say or what to read.  I dove into online research on Brockie and found a wealth of material. One particular thing I thoroughly enjoyed was discovering  Brockie’s autobiographical posts on RVA News (part 10 “Ian McKaye is a dick”  is especially entertaining).

Here’s what I read last night at his remembrance, a reading in Echo Park, Los Angeles at Stories Books with Jim Ruland,  Jeff Burk,
John Skipp, Marc Levinthal and Cameron Pierce.

Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus, the mastermind and frontman behind the force of nature known as GWAR will be remembered as fiercely intelligent, irreverent and charismatic.  He battled against censorship and the bible belt, challenging American puritanical mores with his elaborately costumed rock group GWAR: an alien army hellbent on destroying the human race.  Onstage their performances were like a monster truck rally meets a WWF free for all.  GWAR frequently sprayed the audience with fake blood, semen and other bodily fluids.  They decapitated and disgraced political figureheads, religious leaders and celebrities onstage.  They welcomed audience participation and this sometimes became confrontational or violent.

An excerpt from a Deadspin.com via Decibel Magazine article:

By the early ’90s, GWAR’s touring entourage-band, crew and Slaves-numbered 24 people. The stage shows were legendary. “About the time that we really went past the punk rock art-school kids who understood us to the crazy meathead crowd, we were playing 1,500- and 2,000-seaters, but we still didn’t have barricades,” says Gorman, who’s been a key Slave and GWAR’s resident historian since 1988. “And the whole GWAR show gets people so excited that there’s this suspension of disbelief, like, ‘They’re really killing people! This is awesome!’ So, people would get up there and fuck with us. By ’92, it turned into a wave of people getting onstage to try and steal props, to knock the guy in the dinosaur suit over, or whatever. Instead of us doing what normal people do-which is, you know, pay for barricades-we decided to fight ’em. But really, we didn’t even know there was a choice. We thought it was our job to stop people, when in reality we could have paid for security. So, it was ugly. It was fights, every night, all night long. We didn’t get barricades until ’94.”

“We punched a lot of people,” adds Don Drakulich, the 6’4″ special-effects artist who has played (GWAR’s manager) Sleazy P. Martini since 1986. “Everyone in this band has punched a lot of people.”

gwar

Despite GWAR claiming to have declared war on the human race, the real Dave Brockie was fervently anti-war.  He had ongoing anti-war posts on his Tumblr account. Two stood out to me:

“Welcome to death. Welcome to agonizing pain. Welcome to the most pointless, expensive, and horrific activity in human history. Welcome to the latest chapter in my continuing photographic series on war.

More Bodies of People Who Died in Agonizing Fucking Pain

These types of images were carefully controlled during the war and only in the last couple of decades have the floodgates really opened regarding the forensic photography from it. If we had such images of our “War on Terror”, perhaps people would be a little less apt to do this to each other.

I won’t deny I have a ghoulish interest in death, chaos, and destruction in all of its forms. But war is the biggest train wreck ever, and I can’t stop looking at it. This is the bold and bare evidence of the true cost of war. The only war worth fighting is the one against it. Welcome back to my continuing series of horrific war photos, inspired by the hope that if people knew how awful war really was they would be less likely to send their children off to them. WAR NO MORE.”     – Dave Brockie

Besides graphic photos of death on his blog intended to spread the word about the horrors of war, he also recently posted images of civil unrest in Venezuela, hoping to bring the plight of Venezuelans into public consciousness.

Towards the end, the lines between Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus began to blur a little.  This is how Oderus closed an interview on Soundwave TV while on tour in Brisbane, Australia recently:

“Solidarity to the people of Caracas, Venezuela, solidarity to the defenders of the Maiden in Kiev, we will throw these motherfuckers down, it’s just going to take a little while. But don’t be afraid, and don’t be fucking seduced by entertainment. To sit at home and watch your fucking TV , plug into social media and  tune the fuck out? No. We gotta go into the streets and we gotta fuck these motherfuckers up. And I’m down for life. Since I’ve never been able to kill myself, that’s forever. ”       – Oderus Urungus

The real Dave Brockie was humble and appreciative of being able to travel and tour. There are personal photos of GWAR’S most recent Japanese and Australian tours posted on his blog. One month ago, during GWAR’s Australian tour, Dave posted this:

Wow. What an amazing city. Sydney is maybe the best city I have ever seen…clean, beautiful, packed w/ happy people…spent the morning walking/ferry riding all over the place…can’t tell you guys how cool it is and how lucky I am to have this life…thank you 🙂

Photo credit: Dave Brockie (Riding a ferry in Sydney, Australia)

Photo credit: Dave Brockie (Riding a ferry in Sydney, Australia)

Now back to Dave’s alter ego Oderus Urungus: It’s hard to explain GWAR to folks who might not be familiar with them or their antics.  GWAR best represent themselves.  Here is their interview on Joan Rivers’ 1990s talk show.  Even Joan couldn’t escape their boundless charm and humor.

Joan Rivers: We are right in the middle of our 5 part series this week called rock on the wild side. And today we’re going to meet a band who had been described by their manager as cross between KISS, The Rocky Horror Picture show, the World Wrestling Foundation (sic) and the Simpsons. To me they look like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on LSD.   But their name is GWAR and wherever they perform thousands of kids flock to their concerts hoping to be dragged onstage and sprayed with blood, the whole thing, I don’t get it. Anyhow, they have a new videotape and an album out called Scumdogs of The Universe, thank God it’s out.   Will you please welcome GWAR…

(Oderus Urungus and Beefcake the mighty come onstage fully costumed.  Spikes protrude from shoulders, a massive helmet with stegosaurus spikes adorns Beefcake’s head.   Oderus raises his battleaxe in the air and Beefcake raises his sword.  Oderus gets on his hands and knees and bows to Joan Rivers showing his thonged buttcheeks.  They are barely able to sit down because of the bulk and girth of their GWAR alien outfits.  Oderus tells the crowd to “Stop, Stop right now” after they shower him with applause and raucous cheers. The talk show host has been laughing from the moment she introduced the band. Joan Rivers can barely contain herself.)

Oderus: Well miss Rivers,the first thing I would like to do as Oderus Urungus, lead singer of Gwar, here with my friend Beefcake the mighty. Would like to heap lavish praise upon you.  Let’s hear it for the star, hip hip hooray!  Hip Hip hooray.  Let’s give her a hand.  Here you go…

(Oderus hands Joan Rivers a severed hand)

Oderus: Don’t you like it?

Joan: I’m going to make it into a lamp.  Let me ask you. What is going on, you throw blood at the audience, dismembered limbs, this all goes on during your concerts. What is the philosophy behind all this?

Oderus:  Basically we view the human race as scum, we are indeed from another planet you know, and human beings we see as food. Dogs, so much as to be destroyed onstage en masse.  They do not dislike this, rather, they throw themselves gleefully into the jaws of death.

Beefcake: It is sort of a microcosm of the entire human condition if you will.

Joan Rivers: I don’t know what the hell you are talkin’ about

Oderus Urungus:  Everywhere  you look nowadays you look on TV you see people being run over by tanks, people being beaten by the police, people starving, new sexual diseases, obviously the human race is in love with self destruction. We are only satisfying a consumer need.

Beefcake: Supply and demand

Joan Rivers: and you are supplying a consumer need, you are so popular, suddenly becoming huge. But what about the children coming to your shows. You throw blood…not real blood I hope?

Oderus:  of course it is real blood what are you talking about?

Joan: Seriously?

Oderus:  Seriously. Everyone who comes to our show is ground up, and after the show they are dragged under the stage and tiny robotic arms take the fillings out of their teeth, and the rest of their bodies are ground into GWAR dog food, not a drop is wasted.

Joan: What is GWAR by the way, that is the planet where you come from?  Or the name of the group or both?

Oderus: Beefcake, what planet are you from again?

Beefcake: I’m from the planet cholesterol.

Oderus: I am from the planet Scum Doggia in the center of the universe far past Uranus.  We were banished to this insignificant mudball planet earth because we were eating too many chili cheese burritos and generally making a mess of things . We were banished here to serve eternal penance until the day we are recalled to the stars to do whatever happens then.

Beefcake: It’s not much of a prison because obviously on this planet we can defy gravity and we are having fun, you know.

Oderus: Yes we can blow on our tongues and grow to 300 feet in the air.

Joan: You’ve probably already done that on Sally Jesse

(Oderus and Beefcake love the quip from Joan and laugh deeply)

Oderus: That razor sharp wit of yours Joan

Joan:  Let me ask you, do you worry about music at all?

Beefcake: Why worry, we are wonderful

Oderus:   We don’t even play guitars actually telekinetically we manipulate the fretboards with our minds.

Beefcake: Mind music

Joan:   Who writes your music? Do you write your own music, do you have any involvement in that at all?

Oderus: Indeed we created the word music, the whole concept of music. After we destroyed the dinosaurs, we stretched their gizzards across the Grand Canyon. And Beefcake composed the first song ever. I believe “I write the songs,” Barry Manilow stole that from us.

Beefcake: Every piece of music written was robbed from GWAR.

Oderus: Indeed, yes.

Joan: What about sex in your act?

Oderus:  (seductively) What about sex?

Joan: They say there’s a lot of sexual things going on in the act.  And that takes it to a whole different area. It makes 2 Live Crew look sweet.

Oderus: 2 Live who? I don’t watch much television, except for your show, we watch your show 24 hours a day.  Oh, I know who you are talking about… 2 Live Spew, those guys who say the F word a lot.  Well I for one am really glad they got off, know what I mean?

Joan: Are there a lot of sexual innuendos in your act?

Oderus: There’s no innuendos at all.  There’s a 15 foot long growing penis that spews digestive fluid everywhere.

Joan: You have that on stage?

Oderus: Not all of the time. It haunts us, it follows us from gig to gig.

Beefcake: It’s a nightmare.

Oderus: We’ve had some problems you understand.

Joan:  Weren’t you arrested?

Beefcake: Joan you really shouldn’t have (Oderus feigns tears)

Oderus:  (holding back the tears) Strength, strength, as my friend Lawrence Olivier would tell me.  Indeed, it is true, in the human suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, (softly) thank you Beefcake for being here for me right now…  we have or, I use to have anyway, a growing object between my thighs we called the Cuttlefish of Cathulu. This aforementioned object was attached to my body you know.  The police, they came to the show and told me I was trying to simulate a human penis.   What an insult!

Joan: They arrested you?

Oderus:  Well they didn’t arrest me so much as bribe me, they took me back to the station and they said they wanted to do a bunch of confiscated crack with me, hey  I love to party you know…   Went back to the station house and the next thing I know I was totally unconscious, they had amputated the cuttlefish with a laser saw,  and buried it in a nuclear waste sludge pile.

Beefcake: Tragic

Oderus: The Charlotte police were holding the cuttlefish for some time , Tipper Gore was holding it for awhile but they made her give it back.

Beefcake:  She gave it up reluctantly

Joan: Let me ask, how far are you guys going to go?

Oderus:  Cleveland.

Joan:  Aren’t you worried that people don’t get that you’re very funny, that they are going to take you seriously.   Aren’t you frightened of the responsibility of that?

Oderus:  I think anyone who would think that is a very disturbed person to begin with.

Joan: I think you’re brilliant, I think you’re terrific but it worries me that someone would watch you guys and think, “OK this is what we should do.”

Oderus: Let them join the army or something, there’s plenty of outlets for them.

Beefcake: They can be policemen or something.

Joan: A pleasure talking to you, please come back anytime you’re in the neighborhood just drop in.

Oderus: We certainly will

Long live Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus, interplanetary creatures who found the mainstream insufferable. Forces of nature who declared war on censorship.  They used humor as their weapon. By being absurd themselves, they showed that the real world was much more frightening.  They were galactic beings who put on a damn good rock show.  Long live Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus.

John Stewart and Gibby Haynes of Butthole Surfers make mention of Oderus Urungus’ passing here

Fox News pays tribute to Oderus Urungus (a late night contributor) here:

 

 

 

 

Aberdeen Skins Never Say Die (Vol. 1 Brooklyn)

9 Oct

(View on Vol. 1 Brooklyn Here )

Aberdeen Skins Never Say Die

Photo by Dan Halligan, 1998

Photo by Dan Halligan, 1998

“Awww put your clothes back on, faggot!”

A handful of skinheads swirled around the pit, shielding their eyes from my nakedness. For some reason we were playing in Aberdeen, Washington. The promoter was a chubby kid with a floppy green Mohawk named Phil. Phil seemed to have mild Down’s syndrome and he spoke with a stutter.

“Ther…ther… ther…are no real skinheads in America. The… the only real skinheads are in England.”

The Aberdeen skinhead crew didn’t take kindly to Phil’s remark and piled on him throwing wild punches. A couple security guards pulled the cueballs off of Phil.  He rose and dusted himself off.

“You…you guys hit like a bunch of girls,” he smirked. A few of the skins charged again and the security guards chucked them out of the front door.

About half the skins were outside and half were still inside the hardwood floored community hall. I went up to Phil and asked him if he was okay.  The remaining skins began eying me and sizing me up. I was a teenage beanpole with a footlong green liberty spike Mohawk. For the occasion, I had donned my sleeveless denim punk vest, my mom’s old Gap jean jacket that I hacked the sleeves off of. My Grandma sewed on some patches of local punk bands like Bristle and The Rickets. All the kids from my town who were into cool music wore high top Chuck Taylor’s and mine were navy blue.

My high school punk band was playing with The River Rats, a greasy garage punk band from Seattle and The Turn Offs, a surfy-garage band from Eastern Washington.  Their reverb-soaked hit was called “Taking the Impala to Walla Walla.”

It was our turn to take the stage. We tuned up and I instantly tore into the skinheads. I taunted them from the mic.

“You guys are real tough jumping a guy 10 to 1. You’re real big men.”

Some middle fingers went in the air and like a mound of red ants they began to swirl around a little bit.

“Why don’t you guys come up front? If you don’t get up here, I’m gonna get naked.”

I don’t know why, but at the time my thing was stripping down to my boxer shorts or completely naked. I knew it would piss off the homophobic skinheads.

The skins weren’t into our music and I followed through with my threat, stripping down nude.

“Awww, fuckin’ faggot,” the skinheads yelled.

One of them threw a bottle and like a skilled English footballer I butted it with my head. The glass bottle shattered on the floor and the security guards threw the remaining skinheads out of the show.

Someone warned me that the skinheads were waiting for me outside.

“We’re gonna kill the naked guy,” was the apparent threat.

The older Seattle greaser punks told me, “We got your back Mo Cheeks.”

My nickname at the time was “Mo Cheeks,” a pseudonym I had borrowed from a 70s basketball player, Maurice Cheeks of the Philly 76ers who was a teammate of legendary star forward Dr. J. Along with the Doctor, I was a fan of classic basketball stars like Pistol Pete Maravich and Magic Johnson.  At the time the Seattle Supersonics reigned with their triple All Star lineup of Sean Kemp, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf. It wasn’t very punk to like basketball, so I kept my fanaticism for the Seattle Supersonics under wraps, at least around suave older punks.

As we loaded up I had leather jacketed, slicked-back-hair Fonzie lookalikes around me sporting cymbal stands and hard shell guitar cases as weapons. “Let’s roll, Mo Cheeks,” they said.

My heart pounded as we carried the gear down the stairs ready to fight. Waiting outside the hall was the skinheads, dressed identically in their uniforms of thin red suspenders, rolled up faded jeans and Doc Martens. There was about ten of us and twenty of them.

They didn’t seem to recognize me even though I had a foot long green liberty spike Mohawk. I heard them muttering about “the naked guy.” One of the greasers patted me on the back and chuckled.  We had outsmarted them without even trying.

It began to rain and we packed all of the gear haphazardly into the River Rats van.  My band climbed into our bassist’s beat-up baby blue ’66 Ford Mustang. Strewn on the ripped-up leather of the back seat were hamburger wrappers, cans of purple Aquanet Hairspray and a half rack of warm beer. We cracked some cans of Ranier in celebration. As the sun set and the rain pounded down on the roof of the Thunderbird we made our way to the house where we were all sleeping.

Between towering cedar trees was our Bates Motel. It was a dilapidated two-story house on a heavily forested rural side street.  We drank cans of Olympia Beer and the older boys teased each other about some girls they had slept with.  I was still a virgin at 15, but I laughed along as if I knew exactly what they were talking about. We staked out sleeping spots and threw sleeping bags into dark rooms.

And in walked three skinheads.