First of all, let me apologise - this post has been a long time coming. To tell the truth, I've been off the radar most of the year as I'm working on some extremely time-consuming non-music-related things at the moment and I'm also deep into planning a life-move to Austin TX with my wife Bailey and our two dogs. So there's a lot occupying my time. However, these stories won't tell themselves so I've settled down with a glass (or three) of wine to recount, as promised in my previous blog, some tales of the times evenings on tour went fantastically wrong.
In my previous blog I tried to convince you that we gentlemen in TesseracT are well-behaved, well-balanced individuals who take our careers seriously and rarely get up to anything mischievous. This is true for the most part. We do generally go to bed quite early and half of us don't drink more than a beer or whiskey a day. However, there are the occasional nights where things go really really well - at the time. Terrible the next morning though. In this blog, I'm going to recall a few of these evenings for you. So sit back, grab your beverage of choice and enjoy.
The Naked Ice Slide
The title says it all really.
I've been sitting on this particular story for 4 years now, waiting for an appropriate excuse to release the footage to the world. I've had to do some pretty serious censoring of the footage (skip to the end if you want to delve straight into the mess), but it was worth it to tell the tale in all it's shining beauty.
In 2015, Jagermeister asked TesseracT to fly out to Lapland to perform their annual 'Ice Cold Gig'. This was a ridiculous opportunity for us not only from a once-in-a-lifetime perspective but also, we knew the marketing around this would be massive and would help to push us to a new audience. The Jager' people are also very lovely people and we enjoy working with them.
We got to do and see some truly remarkable things, such as our chaperone using a chainsaw to cut huge chunks of ice out of a frozen lake beneath his feet, witness the northern lights, play on a drum riser 30ft in the air on top of the worlds largest igloo (this was my personal highlight) and a life changing moment for me, the final time I ate meat. It was Reindeer heart. I decided there and then that I'd had enough.
The whole experience wasn't quite what we'd expected. We knew there was a film crew and that they would be shooting footage pretty much all the time. What we didn't expect was to be required to act and replay moments of excitement. For example, if a camera operator wasn't in position to capture a genuine reaction from one of us, they'd ask us to do it again and 'pretend' to be dazzled by whatever was in front of us. I understand why they wanted to capture these moments but, not being actors, this was a very difficult thing to do on the spot and it sucked the enjoyment out of the experience a little.
Anyway, I'm not here to moan about a tiny aspect of this incredible experience. As a whole, it was unbelievable and something I'm hugely grateful for. Apart from the part where I was nearly decapitated by a massive camera drone which had temporarily lost connection with the controller and was inching toward me. I didn't really realise anything was wrong as I was playing drums, but I felt the wind blasting off the rotors and the cameraman later told me "If that happens again, you should bail"... they didn't ask to shoot that scene again!
The evening after our performance (beneath the northern lights and on top of the worlds largest igloo) we had the option of staying the night in the Ice hotel. Amos, Acle, Dan and our manager Adam all declined the offer as, to be fair, it was really cold. The ambient temperature inside the hotel was kept at a steady -5 celcius (23F), which isn't warm, but after our safety briefing, a fair few drinks in at this stage, we felt well-equipped to spend the night in the cold.
Myself, James, our sound engineer Aidan and lighting engineer Conor had consumed enough free Jagermeister to not worry about being cold anyway so we took up the offer to stay the night.
The drinking continued well into the night. We had free red wine and all the free Jager' we wanted. We were also the only people in the Ice hotel and were left completely unsupervised. So we went off exploring...
To paint some sort of a picture for you, the place is enormous and made entirely of ice which has been chainsaw-cut out of a nearby frozen lake. The sleeping rooms were arranged around the outside of the giant igloo and joined together with a labyrinth of ice tunnels, all illuminated by bright colourful blue, green and pink LEDs. It's quite surreal. There was an ice sculpture room, an ice restaurant, and ice bar and countless other rooms.
Quite drunk, we stumble into the ice slide room - which is for sure designed as an attraction for children. This was the best thing that could have ever happened. As the free wine and Jager' kept flowing, so did our creativity with ways in which we could descend the slide.
At first we were going for speed runs - how fast can you throw yourself down this thing without sustaining damage. This progressed onto couples sliding - two at a time. Backwards, on top of one another, holding wine etc.
Then, as if by magic, James found the ice wheelchair... perfect! We managed to haul this to the top of the slide and drunkenly discovered new and hazardous ways to ride it down. We didn't leave it in great condition... (we're bad people). We were assured that the skis on the bottom of the chair had been easily bent back into shape by staff the next morning...
The final stage of our slide journey seemed obvious. We had to go down this thing naked. I'm not ashamed to admit that this was my idea. I figured it was the one remaining hurdle, the icing on the cake, the single act that could immortalise the entire evening (as if it wasn't already) and perhaps in doing so, permanently scar our pride and possibly our buttocks.
All I can say is that no amount of alcohol could have prepared us for the icy cold pain shooting across our asses and balls as we slowly and dryly descended the slide, while trying and failing to hide our shame.
Fortunately, all of this was documented by me in wonderful technicolor so, enjoy:
Going Four Loko with Suicide Silence
If you live in America and have an appetite for the unnecessary or if you'd like to die from a heart attack in your 20's, you've probably heard of a drink called Four Loko. For those who aren't American and don't have a death wish - Four Loko is an energy drink that is served in a 23.5oz can and contains 12-14% alcohol. At the time we tried it, it was banned from sale in five States. Apparently, it's now available in 49 States... It shouldn't be. It's horrendous.
It's December 2010 and we're on our first tour of North America, supporting the Devin Townsend Project. The tour only really did dates up the West side of the US then across the East coast - so we had about ten days in the middle where we made our way across the States, playing very small shows, essentially for fuel money.
One of these shows was in the basement of a TesseracT fan - he paid us $150 to play a show in his basement to about 20 people. Another was in the corner of a dusty old room in St. Louis' Lemp Brewery - which claims to be the most haunted building in North America. We played a show at a bar somewhere just North of LA, to perhaps three people. These were the defining years where the experience of just being 'on tour' was a valuable life lesson.
After our show in St Louis we decided to give ourselves a day of rest. It just so happened that a band called Suicide Silence - who were signed to Century Media alongside us - were playing in town and a mutual friend had asked if we'd be interested in working the show as crew/loaders for $50 each. We certainly needed the cash so the majority of us took up the kind offer.
It was on this same day that our mutual friend had introduced us to a new drink. Four Loko. We went to the local gas station and each picked out our flavour of choice. I opted for fruit punch. I can't recall what the other guys chose - and after the ensuing night, I can't imagine they'd remember either.
So we stand at the back of the room and watch Suicide Silence do their thing. Before we realise it, our cans of Four Loko are finished - and in the case of one of our guitarists (who shall remain nameless but no prizes for guessing which one), two cans of Four Loko were consumed. We'd had a couple of beers beforehand to warm us up into drinking this fruity poison, and poison us it did. We were now very hammered and because of the caffeine content of these drinks, were ready to do ALL the loading. Or so we thought.
Myself and James attempted to lift a single 4x12 cab off the stage and roll it outside when we were stopped by one of the other, sober, staff. We were too drunk to handle this safely. So we head outside to see if we can help load the gear up the ramps. Nope - too drunk for that too.
"Guess we'll just watch then"
We stood around like drunk morons watching the professionals get to work. This seemed like an appropriate time to continue the fun by getting ourselves another drink. The only thing we had was a bottle of Jack Daniels back in the van outside, and as the venue bar had closed, we took the party to the van.
I don't remember the next part but I do remember waking up in that van with a very, very dry mouth, hugging that bottle of Jack Daniels as though it were my pillow. The van was parked in a suburban housing estate somewhere in St Louis and I was alone. Probably for the best.
Down and out down-under
It's 2014 and TesseracT are playing the second-to-last ever Soundwave festival in Australia. Soundwave was an amazing festival which, sadly, isn't a thing any more. It was put on across Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, the bands all stayed at the same hotels and share the same flights - we were in the same hotel as Deftones and sharing flights with Korn and Five Finger Death Punch, among others. I can't actually remember who else was around the breakfast buffet but it was a networking musicians dream come true.
The shows were incredible - some of the largest crowds we'd ever played to, and to our amazement, a decent number of people seemed to know our music. This was during the 'Altered State' album cycle.
Uninterestingly, most evenings were fairly tame and spent in the hotel or at a local restaurant. We had a particularly nice meal out one evening, sat with the guys from Living Colour. Other than that, it was typical TesseracT. Time for bed.
That is, until the final show in Perth. There's little known about this night as it was a solo mission by the man himself - Mr. James Monteith.
All we know is that the next morning, he was nowhere to be found. We had a scheduled flight back to London and we couldn't find him. He wasn't in his room, he wasn't in anyone else's room. Where is James?
An hour or two pass like this until at breakfast, Amos overhears a couple discussing the man passed out in their suite... Amos enquires "excuse me, is this person quite tall and British?"
"Yeah, he's passed out in the bed, do you know him?" the couple ask.
"Yes - ".
It turns out that James has befriended a friendly Aussie couple and they'd continued the party in their hotel suite.
Amos drew the short straw and went to wake James up.
"Dude, what the fuck are you doing?"
Hilariously, James had no idea where he was, or why he was in this couple's room. If I was a betting man, I'd say they offered him a beer at some point during the evening and that turned into many, many more. Good, reliable James.
The only evidence I really have of this evening is in a fairly disgusting video we made, documenting the journey of a piece of meat-fat across Australia. You may be wondering why the hell we'd do something like this, and rightly so. We were continuing a disgusting joke between James and our sound engineer Aidan. They'd each take turns trying to find more and more elaborate ways in which to hide meat or cheese in each others equipment or luggage... and seeing how long we could go before it was discovered. It culminated in a short documentary featuring a chunk of steak fat (from the dinner we'd enjoyed with Living Colour) which we took out drinking with us, and left on stage during our performances, and eventually hid in our sound engineers mic case (he was back in the UK at the time). His retaliation was to fill the back of James guitar with ham and cheese at a show in Norway, which James discovered a couple of weeks later after returning to the UK.
Anyway, I'm not sure it's cool to share that video as I did so previously and pissed off a number of non-meat eaters on YouTube. And myself being a vegetarian of five years, I don't particularly want to encourage meat-based pranks, so we'll leave this short story here.
James was drunk. PM me if you really want a link to 'meet the meat'
An idiot in India
This is a personal favourite of mine as it involves one of our first ever trips abroad with Tess', my very first time visiting India - which by the way is a stunning country, and a fairly surreal experience for us all at the time - as a relatively young band, playing just below Meshuggah and sharing breakfast with them. A few other things happened too...
It was early evening on 17th December 2010 and we'd just stepped off stage at the Palace Grounds in Pune after playing our first show in the country to an amazingly enthusiastic crowd. Our manager - at the time - was travelling with us and reminded us after our set that it isn't such a good idea for any of us to go out into the crowd as, for obvious reasons, we'll be quite recognisable. We were fine with this - until a few songs and a few beers into Meshuggah's set. We were stood side of stage, which you might imagine would be an amazing experience, and for a short while it was, but I wanted to actually hear the band. When you're stood behind the PA speakers, it sounds like shit.
So me and James decided to put up our hoods and venture into the crowd to enjoy Meshuggah properly. It was actually my first time seeing them live so I wanted the full experience.
Once we'd found our spot - facing the middle of the stage and quite close to the sound desk (the best sound is usually near the sound desk), we managed a couple of uninterrupted seconds of Meshuggah before being recognised by a fan. It was a different experience being recognised in the early days - and we weren't at all shy to take photos and accept beers from our kind Indian fans.
A few beers later, either myself or James let slip the name of the hotel we were staying at.
"Hey we're staying there too" says one of the people we're stood with.
"We should meet up for a beer after the concert" he suggests.
"Yeah sure, that sounds fun" we agreed.
Our manager shows up and drags us off to the minibus which would take us back to the hotel. Our new friends and future beer brothers follow us on their mopeds.
At the hotel, we dump our bags, freshen up - after all we have just played a gig and we're not animals - and proceed downstairs to the hotel bar to meet up with our new friends. A few more people had joined the group - the more the merrier.
I progressed from drinking lager to ordering Manhattan's at the hotel bar - this was my cocktail of choice at the time and something I'd practiced making many times at home. So I wasn't too pleased when it was served in a heavy, lumpy glass over ice. But whatever - I'm in India with my band and I'm out drinking with new people.
Some drinks later, one of the group suggests "Hey, I know this cool metal bar down the road, do you guys want to come?"
"Yes. Yes we do" we unanimously replied.
We didn't understand that 'down the road' literally meant 'you'll need to get on the back of my moped and hold on for dear life as I somewhat drunkenly weave in and out of traffic down these batshit crazy roads'. Fearlessly, me and James hop on the back of two mopeds, bearhug the driver and, once the adrenaline had kicked in, very much enjoyed the near death experience.
We arrive at the bar and are sat down at a large table while a couple of guys go up to order beers from the bar. They went all out - they returned with a pitcher-keg of beer which was placed in the centre of the table for us to devour.
A keg or two later...
"Let's take this back to the hotel" I suggested.
We each had our own room at the hotel, which was nicer than any hotel I'd ever stayed in. The bar was still open and in my room we had a minibar to raid. These people had been so kind to us that I felt an urge to return the kindness by attempting to offer a memorable night for all.
I. Was. Drunk. Really really out of my face drunk. What's the best thing to do when you're drunk? Get in the bath of course, fully clothed, and start the water flowing.
This is the last thing I remember.
I was woken up - in that bath - by our manager, rushing me to get my shit together as we had to leave the hotel to catch a flight to New Delhi for show number two. I was still drunk, until we got to the airport, at which time I could not deal with life.
I lay down on the cool floor of the airport at every possible moment to help me through the waves of nausea. In the end, Dan ended up pushing me through the airport in a wheelchair. I don't have a photo of that - sorry.
If there's one lesson we can all learn from this... always have fun and say yes to things. No regrets.
There's another story that I'm going to save for another time because, there's probably going to be another round of these stories if folks enjoy this blog.
Please let me know the type of thing you'd like to see me write about and I'll do my best to cover those topics.
For now - peace - any I hope you enjoyed this.