Johnny Foreigner set about promoting their debut album Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light with tour dates alongside the rather ace Dananananaykroyd, play festivals in Germany with Foo Fighters, and threaten to slice up baggage handlers at Luton airport. You, there, in the high-visibility vest top: you’ve had your warning. All words, as always, from frontman Alexei Berrow.
Previous diary installments:
So, this starts halfway thru our Fly-sponsored, album-promoting headline tour. Gin on the rider as standard.
The Faversham, Leeds. They cook us roast dinners and give us a selection of things that go with gin in cocktail jugs. Winner. Tubelord are joining us for a few dates. We're bare tight with these guises – Joe put on a couple of shows for us last year and we fell in love with them at an early demo stage. They have new songs since we saw them last, and each one had at least two jaw-drop moments as well as melodic bits that we'll spend the next month singing at each other in the van. We spend ten minutes standing on stage like dummies while the soundman blames us for our keyboard not working. Prove otherwise, then wait a further ten minutes while the soundman plugs things in and out. Still, roast dinner…
Drive to Glasgow for an Xfm session. Buy an awful sausage in a bun off sausage in a bun man. Unload van and walk gear across big concrete expanse to studio reception. Our engineer for the session sees our mess of amps and stuff._ "Come, look at the studio,"_ says he. Studio is slightly smaller than our van. "Someone should really have told you, there’s no room for drums and amps… maybe we should leave it?" No! We borrow the studio acoustic and relearn some songs superfast. While we're there, the engineer shows us the Xfm song database – it has like every session every band has ever done for them for the last few years. We make him search for Owls, but no joy. We than have to head to Edinburgh to play Cabaret Voltaire. Make it to soundcheck on time – yay us and errant Sat Nav. Dressing room has amazing maroon and gold wallpaper, cue much group photoage. We've started swapping posters for cool stuff – tonight we get a drawing of a monster and some cheap jewelry. After the gig, we get scared by a ghost tour then go off in search of curry. End up eating best Chinese of my life. The restaurant is so elegant and Shenmue-esque, I get determined to last the meal out on chopsticks. Failed tho.
Newcastle Cluny – beautiful setting but ruined by rain. Proper cooked food tho, bonus. Dananananaykroyd have joined us for a few days. As much as we’ve been internet lovers and shared beds, we’ve never watched them before now. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhloud and fun and danceable, everything you could want from a gig they are. We go on feeling outgunned but hyper. We get an encore and I puke in the wings of the stage.
Video: Johnny Foreigner @ T In The Park, July 13
At the Sumo in Leicester, on a five-band band bill. Soundcheck is a nightmare. Inept promoter stereotype no.2. Support bands use our stuff without asking. (Driver/tour manager) Lea goes and moan about it. Support bands use Danas stuff instead. Harsh. Lea goes moans some more and we get a big bowl of chili and three big baguettes, one for each band on tour. I get a £3 bottle of cheapy gin. Still better than no gin. Hang out next to our vans and BOND with Dana. (Bassist) Kelly flies my plane into a wall. Still works tho. Dana slay again. Stay in a Travelodge and I can't sleep so I sit downstairs eating ice cream at 4am, feeling slightly emo.
Proud Galleries, London. First we go to our label office and get more fun merchy stuffs. We get a few copies of the Fabtone (our Japanese label) pressing of our album. There’s a little booklet inside a little booklet with all our lyrics translated into Japanese and a little biography, it's pretty amazing. We get to the venue to find our labels hired us a soundman for the night, yayyyyyy. Ten minutes to kill, he says when we arrive, might as well smoke a spliff. Clearly he's been specially selected. From then on the night goes really really wrong. Without wanting to go into too many details (I rant in The Fly magazine this month, useless jag) all our bands get treated like an inconvenience. It’s, like, the coked-up soulless fashion-club night from Camden hell. It’s the last time we'll see Dana for a while but our goodbyes are fractured pats on the back whilst running round trying to find how to get paid.
Southampton Joiners, and every bad experience from the last two shows is forgotten. Get to soundcheck, soundman has marked our names on the channels, we sound huge like we do in our heads after half a song. Takes us ages to set the merch up ‘cause everyone wants autographs and pictures, like we're a real band. We get people shouting for encores but I'm fucked. Still feel bad about this; resolve to always at least attempt encores...
Bedford Esquires: last show of tour,_ sob sob_. The promoters are lovely; they take us to a cafe and cook for us. We go back and help Lea fit spotlights on top of the van. Because, y'know, we really need spotlights. There’s another group of people singing along to Tubelord, it feels pretty righteous that word's spreading. We play a bit sloppy-drunk but in good spirits. All three of Tubelord come play with us for the encore – I had this moment right at the end where I’m surrounded by this absolute maelstrom of noise and realise I'm not making any of it. We drag Tubelord to Redditch where Dom from Sunset Cinema Club is having a party in a studio. I see loads of old friends and quickly get too drunk to talk to any of them. Wake up at (drummer) Jun’s house and walk the three miles home to reality.
I can't afford to get a taxi to anywhere with a field so I try and fly my plane outside my house in the road. Fly into elderly neighbour’s car. Leaving comedy propeller shaped dent. Grab plane, hide…
Beach Break, Cornwall... our first proper outdoor festival! "It'll get rammed about seven," a security man enthuses to us. We're off at 6.30. We play to about 12 people on the barrier and a few groups of sunbathers. And it's beautiful, playing songs and looking out over the campsite and the fields. We have to wait for aaaaaages to get paid, but it’s not so bad; I stand on the back of the stage and watch the sunset while Kelly and Lea play badminton in the loading area. By the time we’re done all the food places in a 50 mile radius (yay, Sat-Nav) are shut. We find a Spar, buy shit chicken wings, and go to my friend’s flat in Exmouth. We interrupt their Michael Jackson concert marathon and spend the rest of the night humbled by jetpacks and dancing shoes.
Portsmouth University: the most surreal show (and best paid) ever. We're playing some super-massive hall for a fresher’s ball, supporting a Modern Chart Covers Band. Luckily we have our own soundman, a wonderful calm and experienced type called Martin. Everyone's ponced up in rent-a-suits and ill-fitting dresses. There’s a dance troupe rehearsing as we soundcheck. All their routines are in strict 4/4 and we throw them off horribly. When we get on stage a crowd of about 40 has congregated at the front; about a minute later they've all retreated back to the tables at the back. We play as fast as possible and disappear.
We’ve a The Guardian interview before playing New Slang, at The Works in Kingston. The interview is for their New and Relevant Podcast. We sort of shied from The Guardian a little, on principle of them stitching up LC! and us being a lot ruder and stitch-up-able. But it goes nice and smooth, the girl interviewing us talks about Meneguar and drone rock and is nowhere near as yoof presenter as we dreaded. (The resulting interview, we later hear, is cut up and co-hosted with some zany guy and generally a bit embarrassing for all.) We get lost in Kingston looking for the venue, walk into a record shop to ask for directions, and the record shop is playing our album. Leave feeling joyous but a bit stupid. Gig is pretty fun, DJ seems to play set comprised of bands we've toured with which is strangely thoughtful. Mega-huge rider, I hide gin on the merch stand. I quite like The Works, it looks like the set for The City of Lost Children and there’s big special lights that flash in time with the music. Dave Tubelord comes along, convinces me that there used to be a ball that rolled along the track that runs round the ceiling. Is this true?
I speak to Tim, a nice man we may have met before at some point who’s doing the video for our next single. My video idea: take loads of two-second clips and piece them together so quick they look like still pictures. Somehow, in the time between me losing my phone and getting a new one, this has morphed into: take loads of still pictures and piece them together so quick they look like video. It takes my ego-brain a whole day to admit this is a miles better idea.
Video: an interview we found on YouTube that's not by DiS
All-dayer at the Thelka, Bristol. A gig! On a boat! Awesome day, lovely people. There’s even gin. Munch Munch are amazing and Hot Club de Paris are as fun as ever. Excluding bands we’ve toured with, I’ve seen Hot Club more than any other band (even Idlewild), and Matt’s guitar playing still amazes me. We spend most of the day sitting outside the van in the carpark, defeating the boat novelty slightly.
We’ve a video shoot for ‘Salt, Pepa and Spinderella’, before an appearance on Huw Stephens’ show. As said above, the video’s not a video. Aha! No need to repeatedly listen to the song and pretend to rock out. Day of sitting round then exercising waaaaaaaaay too much. I don’t want to give anything away about it, but we’re dead proud of how it’s turned out. Me and Kelly have sore lips for days after, you'll see. Before Huw I have my first Nando’s! It was alright. Then we went to Radio 1. There's a little monitor in the studio that shows all the texts sent in to the show. Although sweary messages are filtered out, there’s still some bizarre stuff: “I'M goinG tO find and RUN YOU OVER tonight!” "Don't worry,"_ says Huw off mic, "that’s not meant for you." It goes pretty quick, we explain the correct pronunciation of "Haho" and tell people why Fight Like Apes > other bands and Huw lets us eat a record made of chocolate. Tastes like cheap advent calendar stuffs. We talk too much to play William but otherwise get all our songs played, yayer.
We fly to Germany. In Luton my bag gets taken apart and searched, a metal bone in my leg from a car crash ten years ago sets off the metal detector so I have to be led to a booth, and when we’re on the plane we watch the baggage handlers hurl our stuff into the plane like they get destruction bonuses. The novelty of travelling by air is really wearing off. Arrive in Germany, retrieve cracked and holed guitar case, make useless complaint, then spend a good hour wishing one of us knew German for "Excuse me, I know we've hired a six-seater people-carrier from you, but with us and all our stuff there's no room for one of the removable seats, so can we leave it here, please?" Finally negotiate efficient road systems, and arrive at lovely Playmobil hotel. We can hear the Hurricane Festival festival from our hotel porch, it's dead exciting.
Hurricane Festival, with Foo Fighters, Chemical Brothers and loads more. OMG, how ace is eurofestivals? Arrive, get free drinks, get free Converse, get free dinner, play show. From the stage you could see the whole festival, it was a bit special... no-one really knows who we are but there’s a crowd and people dancing and clapping, s'all good. I try and get right to the crowd at the end but the mic lead's too short. Meet Morgan from DIOYY? and he's, like, the nicest man in the world. Do some TV interview about what The Beatles mean to us (Hamburg, yeah). The interviewee before us is some faux Suicide Girl, and she spends most of her time making sure her cigarette smoke flows away from her face. "I don’t think she likes The Beatles," I whisper to the camera man. Honestly, we don’t exactly like The Beatles much either, so we big up Liverpool and make our escape. Driving 1,000mph between Playmobil towns to Tuttlingham and duelling with 911s and Mercedes coupes, we get pulled over by the police, who look like extras from The Detectives. Lucky for us, they speak a few of our words: "ENGLISH?" "BAND?" DRUGS!" Even luckier for us we've been too distracted so far to score weedage, so we let them sift thru our stuff and murmur relieved and rude English to each other. I get searched, natch, and we get let off with a stuttering lecture that translated as: “Only go fast when you can’t see speed limit signs”. Ooops. Tuttlingham is absolutely beautiful, our hotel rooms have balconies overlooking a quiet canal; it’s the polar opposite of festivalland. We go for dinner, go for drinks, go for more drinks in an Irish novelty theme bar, get a connection and retire to get stoned on our luxury balcony. I should give some honourable mention to Keith who donated some scuff to us. Scuff is a weirdy cross between resin and skunk, its sort of legendary in smoking circles (We Would Imagine). Keith is the sole stoner and Irishman in a village of 1,000 Germans. I could write about Keith all day but that would be well off topic. Just these: a) Keith's opening gambit is, “Would you like to come back to mine and listen to a bit of U2?”; b) Keith has a special pack of Rizla that contains papers thinner and longer in length, as if purposely created for spliff purposes, and he calls them ‘double-longs’; and c) when Keith poisons our label boss we decide it's time to go to bed.
Southside Festival, with Foo Fighters again, Chemical Brothers again, and loads more. We’re on first today so there’s way less of a crowd. Kelly falls into the drum kit, ooops, I get to the barrier with mic lead, yay. We go watch Operator Please and it makes us feel all nostalgic (we did our first yookay tour together). Amanda says loads of stuff in-between songs in fluent German. That’s so cheating. We spend the rest of the day backstage in the sun with an ever changing selection of fresh foods. We meet Dave Grohl (pictured). He's like the nicest man in the world, ahhhhhhhhhhh.
Fly home from Zurich. Zurich is like Amsterdam, only more serious and expensive. We spend about four hours traversing the airport checking in and stuffs, the lifts were designed by witches and zip from one floor to another other with no sense, order, or respect for the laws of physics. Put eight (!) fragile stickers on my battered guitar case. There’s a viewing gallery, me and Lea pay two euros and go sit in an ancient helicopter welded to the roof. Back in Luton we watch merciless Easyjet baggage cunts throw my guitar case onto wagon; I catch their attention and draw my finger across my throat gangster style, which gets a mini ovation from fellow passengers, but it’s too late. I get it back completely buckled and cracked. I don’t think I’ve ever hated anyone whose name I didn’t know more than that baggage guy.
Next month: we film Paul Kaye on the toilet, fly to Ibiza to support our heroes The Enemy, and play every field with a stage in it that we can get to. Apart from ZOO8, that’ll go wrong…
18 Suffolk Latitude Festival (sold out)
19 London Lovebox Festival
20 Oxfordshire Truck Festival (sold out)
24 Dublin Button Factory