In the Summer 2002, Marcel Coenen, guitarist from the Dutch prog-metal band Sun Caged, asked me to play a music festival he was organizing in The Netherlands. The guys in his band offered themselves on drums, bass, and keyboards. All was agreed, and Patrice Vigier set up 4 additional guitar clinics for the remaining week. Here's how it went...
My trip to Holland
On August 29th 2002 I went to Holland. I made sure I shaved my
face really really well before flying, because when I have scruff on my face, I
get "randomly" pulled out of line and have my shoes checked, sometimes
as much as 3 times before allowing me on a plane. This time I only got
checked 1 time. The flight was ok. Took off on-time at 10pm. I
never sleep on a flight, but this time I did. Only to be awakened
immediately by some dick that wouldn't shut the fuck up while everybody was
trying to sleep.
AUGUST 30th - arrived in Amsterdam around 11 in the morning. At the airport I was greeted by Dennis, drummer of Sun Caged and keyboardist Joost. Joost's name is pronounced like "Yost" (sounds like "toast") but I made a point the entire trip wherever we were onstage or off to mispronounce his name "JOOST" (sounds like "juiced") By the end of the trip we were all pronouncing his name "JUICED." We got my foot guitar and 1 suitcase. I travel light on tour - CDs and merch, a change of socks and undertrouserpants for every day I'm there, and a few shirts and overtrouserpants to wear repeatedly. I can usually get 3 wearings out of one article of clothing - then they no longer pass the "smell test" and I scrub the crotch in the sink of the hotel room with a bar of soap, and by morning they're dry and don't smell like ripe ass anymore.
From there we had to pick up a Line6 Vetta amp for me to use that week, from the music shop where the 2nd gig is gonna be. We get there, and we're told that UPS sent one box to Holland and the other to Scotland. Nothing had arrived yet, so me Dennis and Joost (pronounced like "juiced") get some eats. Come back, still nothing, couldn't wait anymore (had to start rehearsin') so the store was cool enough to let us borrow a temporary amp to rehearse with. Cool. They have me try out the amp, and I play an out-of-tune rendition of Stairway To Heaven (with vocals) for 10 minutes. The store owners look at eachother with concern and whisper to eachother in Dutch things like "Oh God, this show is going to be horrible... This guy can't play...!"
We hit the rehearsal room to start hashing out songs and getting a feel for stuff. Nice rehearsal room. At this point I've made two remarkable discoveries about the Netherlands: first, there are alot of spiral staircases in the Netherlands, secondly, jetlag doesn't help with balance. Every time I tour something stupid happens (poisonous spider bites, etc...) so I was being real careful on the stairs while my equilibrium was undecided if it was going with 10am Dutch time or 4am NYC time. But I managed to last the entire 10 days without falling down a flight of spiral stairs. Rob the bassist couldn't make rehearsal today but would be here tomorrow - not a prob. Ron Huisen, the Line6 rep for Benelux, drives for hours across the whole country and brings his personal Vetta amp to the rehearsal room for me to use, until we can get the one that was shipped. Mr. Huisen, if you ever read this - THANK YOU! You are the fuckin' MAN! We contact Jan, the Vigier guitar distributor to see about getting a fretless guitar to use (every time I travel to do shows and clinics, I bring my own personal foot guitar and Vigier lends me a fretless to use.) He tells us he doesn't have any Vigier guitars. No prob, I'll do the first show without a fretless, and when Patrice Vigier arrives in the Netherlands for the second show, I'll do some fretless stuff too.
Dennis and Joost were amazing - they played incredibly and were totally cool people. We went through 25 songs and we had almost everything nailed. That night we went back to Dennis's house and had some more eats, and checked email, and out of nowhere I fell asleep in mid-conversation. Fucking jetlag. Next thing I know, I wake up and Dennis took this lovely snapshot of me and posted it on his website.
That's fucked up.
AUGUST 31st - full rehearsal with Rob the bassist. Great bassist - played a 7-string bass, Chapman stick, was cool just like Dennis and Joost. We got everything down, made a setlist of the best sounding stuff: Hands, Fly In The Batter, What I Knew, Shrunk, T-Jonez, Intro / Go, Hang-up, Pimpwagon, Chairass, Steakhouse, R2, Vomit, Swatting Flies, My World Is You, Guitars Suck, Ronaldís Coming Back Now, Canít Play The Blues, Canít Take My Eyes Off Of You. It was so euphoric, playing some of these songs live for the first time. Sun Caged's guitarist Marcel Coenen came down to hang out - jammed to some Iron Maiden songs - very cool.
All the restaurants out here have chicken sate (grilled chicken with peanut sauce) - love that shit - ate it every day.
SEPTEMBER 1st - "SHREDFEST" FESTIVAL IN ROTTERDAM. Guitar-oriented all-day all-night concert with a dozen bands and clinics and stuff, organized by Marcel. Dennis took care of business big time - he rented a van for the week, made sure hotels were booked - he really knows what the fuck he's doing. We loaded the van, got to the place, started loading in. I saw half-a-dozen people I hadn't seen in years - very cool. The show was a great time - most fun I ever had playing with a band. I realized that this was the first time I played with a band where everybody knew how to tune their instruments and there were no spoiled brats and egos. We had more chemistry after two days than my old band had in two years. I felt like a bandmember, instead of a babysitter, for the first time. Love it.
SEPTEMBER 2nd - day off. We go to the beach with our friends Edo and Hugo, eat sate, drink Lipton Ice Tea... oh yeah, another thing about the Netherlands. They got this cool version of Ice Tea with really tiny bubbles - different from the stuff in the States - most refreshing shit I ever had. We all go to the movies and watch Man In Black 2 - funny shit. Had a great day.
ROB, JOOST, BBF, DENNIS
SEPTEMBER 3rd - gig at "Soundshop" in Amstelveen. OK, now these next 4 shows were supposed to be "clinics" - that means I stand alone on stage playing to a CD of backing music, feeling like a total dick while talking about the technical aspects of Vigier guitars and playing technique... I FUCKING HATE doing clinics, I'm not a clinician, salesman, demonstrator, it's just not me. Since I had a band here where the guys are totally cool and busted their ass to learn all the songs, I couldn't see doing these shows without them - it would be so much cooler to do an in-store gig instead of a clinic. And what better way to show how a fretless guitar is used than showing its actual use playing songs with a band - I totally appreciate Vigier setting these in-stores up for me and wanna do the best thing. Got to the store, loaded in the equipment, and returned Mr. Huisen's amp to him and started using the one that UPS shipped. It didn't sound right - something was fucked up, the band agreed. This whole clinic atmosphere was very awkward, even with the band - took getting used to. And the amp was sounding funny as if a speaker was broken, Dennis couldn't hear anything unless I totally turned up the amp and it sounded awful when I did, and I didn't get to warm up so it started off real weak. By the 4th song it got cool and was feelin' good. And Patrice Vigier had a fretless for me to use, very cool. After the show, Mr. Huisen did a MIDI dump of all the info from his good sounding amp into the UPS shipped one, and everything sounded good with the new amp from that point on. He really knows his shit about the Vetta amp. Taught me a new trick where you can use the volume pedal to fade one amp sound into a totally different one - very cool. The store gives me a kazoo - I use it for all the gigs, scatting on the kazoo along with guitar solos...
BBF, DENNIS ROB
SEPTEMBER 4th - "Conijn Muziek" in Eindhoven. Marcel hangs with us today - cool :) Get to the store - cool place - big stage. Each show just keeps getting better and better. At this point I gotta bitch about a few things though. The guy Jan, who distributes Vigier guitars in the Netherlands, asked us weeks before if the band needs anything special. Dennis has an agreement with TAMA drums - the only thing we asked is that if stores set up a drumset for us, that it be a TAMA set. Every time a drumset was set up for us, it was never a TAMA set, and we had to spend twice the time taking the old set down, and putting up Dennis's TAMA kit. Also... before arriving in Europe, Dennis was taking care of arrangements and needed to confirm a few things with Jan but Jan wouldn't contact him - I had to contact Jan to ask him to please return Dennis's calls and emails because Dennis is working hard on arranging everything. Jan's answer was "I'm not a band promoter, I don't want to pay for extra hotel rooms..." I repeatedly explained that the band is paying its own expenses and we're making *less* work for him by taking care of everything ourselves and that all he needs to do is talk to Dennis one time. We had dinner with Jan and the people from the store - someone asks me if a lot of people smoke in NYC, Jan says "they don't need to," saying that NYC is a dirty place. Nice way to treat a guest - insult his homeland. What a douche. Jan booked the hotel for us that night - we got there and the hotel was closed - no one answering the door or the phone. We spent the next 3 hours traveling through four towns looking for hotels and the few we found all said they had no vacancies. We had to drive all the way to Joost's school and sleep in the living room of the dorm.
SEPTEMBER 5th - "Muziekhuis Westerhaven" in Groningen. Jan told us ahead of time that there was no way we could have the full band for this show, and I had to play to a CD alone onstage. This was gonna suck. And because we had to drive nearly to Germany to sleep at Joost's, it took us five hours to get to Groningen, and we couldn't pick up Rob who wanted to come hang out at the clinic. Gas is 4x as expensive here as it is in the States, and we just spent a shitload of money on gas that could have been avoided if the hotel situation wasn't all fucked up. Jan told us that if we don't arrive by 6pm we'll miss dinner (as if it was our fault we had to drive cross-country today...) - we got there at 6:30 and missed out on getting our dinners. We walk in the store and the place is huge, with a nice stage. We ask the people there "How come we couldn't have the whole band play?" They said "Of course you could have had your band play - we *wanted* your band to play - we never said you couldn't... Who said you couldn't??" At that point I got really fucking pissed. I fucking hate it when everything is simple and works well, but one dumb fuck has to create a succession of problems because they don't know how to communicate, or are concerned that they might have to give an extra 2 minutes of effort. So we set up a drumset for Dennis and we both jammed to stuff on the backing CD and it turned out fine. I felt like the vibe sucked. Then again, I think all clinics are boring and suck. But other people said it was a good clinic. Cool. The store was kind enough to get us dinner at the end of the night.
SEPTEMBER 6th - day off - we meet up with Rob and Joost. Good to see them - I feel bonded with all these guys. We go to AMSTERDAM. They wanna show me the "red light district". So we're walking around, and every 2 blocks some drug-dealer is whispering "Cocaine, Xstacy, cocaine..." as we'd walk by. I had to fuck with them. I told the band how if you start twitching, people won't wanna approach you. I demonstrated - anytime it looked like someone was gonna come up to us and offer us drugs, I'd start twitching and they'd turn away. Pretty funny. Started pushing it - one guy started saying "Cocai..." and I threw my arm behind my head and did a little breakdance leg move and the guy pulled back. Funny. Then I added some sound to it all - "Cocaine, Xsta..." and I held my face and made this loud growling "grrrrrreeeeeeeoooooollllllllnnnnnmmmmmooooeeeeeeaaaaa" sound for about 10 seconds. People on the street were laughing. I kept pushing the limit. We walked past another and he says "Cocaine, Xstacy, cocaine..." So I say real loud for the whole neighborhood (and cops) to hear in a stiff voice as if I was reading it "NO - SIR - I - WOULD - NOT - LIKE - ANY - DRUGS" He blurts out a quick panicky "Fook Yoo!" I think it's fucking hysterical, but I shouldn't be putting everyone in a funky situation. I promise to behave myself.
"NO - SIR - I - WOULD - NOT - LIKE - ANY - DRUGS" Hahahaha...
SEPTEMBER 7th - "Muziek Wessing" in 's Hertogenboschthe - last show. Nice store - me and Joost jam for about an hour to crazy jazz shit until it's time to play. Band plays, it's the best show yet. The store owner gives me a ukelele as a gift - very kind of them. I do an interview and photo shoot for Gitaar Plus magazine (Netherlands) - the interviewer looks exactly like my father-in-law. My wife's parents came up to NJ to visit this week, but I didn't get to see them because I was here in the Netherlands - felt like I got to see my dad-in-law lookin' at this guy. I tell him. He thinks it's an insult, but it wasn't.
JOOST, BBF, ROB, DENNIS
Joost leaves - gonna miss him. Edo & Patrice join us for dinner - Indian restaurant - we hang out and play ukelele. Patrice heads back to France and takes the foot guitar with him to do some maintenance on. We head back to the hotel, hang out and have more Lipton Ice Tea. Rob, Dennis and Joost (pronounced "juiced") made this a great experience. I gave them all the money made from CDs and merch sales as pay. They didn't want money, I insisted.
SEPTEMBER 8th - Rob and Dennis take me back to the airport. Hard to say goodbye. They give me a going-away card. When I got home, I open the card and they gave me the money back, saying they did the shows because they loved doing it and don't even want money for it. Incredible.