Just got back from touring in Germany and Czech Republic with Hipster Slayer. That was fun! And I learnt a lot – as usual, when traveling. I’ve been touring quite much lately, and I can tell there are both good and bad aspects about being on the road. As I told the other guys in the band, on the fourth day of touring you just let it go… you become a different person. At least that’s what happens to me. Your life won’t be the same for days, weeks; months in some cases. It becomes a parallel life. Unless you’re some kind of popular popstar, who can bring family (including pets) out on the road and stay in 5 stars hotels every night, somehow keeping a familiar routine, you just lose track of the days in the week; you need to remind yourself the reason why you’re in that particular town; where you will perform next; and also: is it a day off today? It’s a life filled with small adventures, like: does the hotel offer breakfast? Can I get laundry done here? Are you staying for one more beer? Are you going back to your room? Where can I buy a new power strip for my pedals? Will I manage to sleep for more than 4 hours tonight and make my body rest properly? Can I use the toilet now?
One of the things I’m aware of is that my stomach is very delicate. It’s a delicate flower. My stomach is a beautiful woman. I have to take care of her, especially when I’m on the road. It wasn’t always easy in countries like Germany and Czech Republic. I have allergies that prevent me to fully enjoy some food, especially food that I like. I have to be extra-careful when I’m away from home. I think I did well – to be honest, I wasn’t always feeling at the top of my game, but I managed to feel okay for most of the trip. It takes a lot of discipline and effort, though. What I couldn’t resist was to drink more than I usually do… beer (and life in general) is ridicously cheap in Czech Republic. Germany isn’t the most expensive place on earth, either. I like to indulge in drinking sometimes. What can I say, I’m still alive and writing this blog, so I guess everything’s fine.
Actually, I was disappointed at dumplings. I’m quoting Wikipedia here: Dumplings are a food that consists of small pieces of dough wrapped around a filling. They can be based on flour, potatoes or bread, and may include meat, fish, vegetables, or sweets. The ones I got weren’t filled with anything, and I thought they didn’t taste like anything in particular. They just seemed to be thick pieces of bread or potatoes, that would sit in my stomach for several hours – in a very unfriendly way. I’m sorry for all the dumplings supporters out there.
Good things about touring are: you get to see different cities, you learn more about the culture of foreign places., you play music for different audiences. Also, you have fun. You become silly and make jokes all the time. Sense of humour is an essential requirement. If the company is great, then life is easier. I was lucky to be touring with the guys of Hipster Slayer – they really are a great bunch of relaxed, friendly, talented people. I felt right at home with them. Seven Finnish dudes and one small Italian man on the road… sounds like the plot of a comedy movie, doesn’t it? Unfortunately for them, I’m an atypical Italian: quite silent, shy, and not the best cook around (I think they were expecting me to cook a delicious meal at some point… I publicly apologize for having disappointed you, guys). However, I was very much looking forward to play with Finnish musicians. Over the course of my modest musical career I’ve had the pleasure to work with Italian and American players (I’m speaking of live performances), so this was the first time I was out on tour with other Europeans. I have always been fascinated by Scandinavian music; I love their avant-garde/jazz/experimental scene… people like Arve Henriksen, Samuel Hällkvist, Nils Petter Molvaer, Morgan Ågren, Midaircondo, and singers Stina Nordenstam, Ane Brun, Anja Garbarek… well, too many to mention here. I’m officially a fan of Hipster Slayer now. Excellent musicianship and songwriting. It was a real pleasure seeing them perform night after night. After the first couple of gigs, I was singing along to their singer/guitarist/occasional keyboardist Tim Granbacka. Cool lyrics, catchy melodies. I think they could be huge, if only they’d be promoted the right way. They have the ‘hits’… I know, such an obsolete word these days!
I was also impressed with how well the tour was organized. As I’ve stated many times, nowadays’ musicians also need to be business men. Everything is low-budget. We book the gigs, we arrange logistics, book hotels, rent vans, we take care of promotion, update our websites and so on… it’s very much a DIY affair. And most of the time, money comes from our pockets, with no real (or very limited) profit. It seems to be the only way to get out there and play our music in front of people. When we do it, we feel good about it. It’s like a mission in our life. People approaching you after the show, willing to buy your CD, or simply telling you how much they liked your music, is probably the biggest reward. I guess this is why we do it…
Speaking of my own performances, I can look back at them and feel satisfied. It was the first time I was playing completely solo for more than one concert. I wanted to have some space for improvisation and change things a little bit every night. In the end, I felt comfortable with a bunch of songs and I ended up playing them at every gig, with a few occasional changes. After the first show I realized I should have focused more on the singer-songwriter material, rather than the experimental, sound-centered stuff I had prepared before leaving for the tour. I think it’s important to establish some kind of relationship with the audience; I got the feeling that, in order to succeed, I needed to find a better balance between the accessible and the ‘unpredictable’ sides of my music, and I’ve worked on that purpose gig after gig. Having a specific aim keeps things refreshing – I felt like I was playing very differently every time, even when playing the same set of songs at every show. This way, you get to the last date of the tour and wish it would continue for two more weeks.
Right now, I’m feeling inspired to keep discovering new sounds on the bass. I want to get better with performing solo, and use that approach when playing in a band with other people. When you get home after a tour and feel like you want to play, it’s definitely a good sign!
I want to thank Victor, Mats, Toni, Joel, Tim, driver/tour manager Tangen and sound-guy Fritjof once again for inviting me to be their opening act, and for the great memories and good times. You can read a detailed and funny blog about the tour on the Hipster Slayer website. Below, a photo of the happy gang after our last gig in Berlin.
I’m now off for more touring this week (rest? me? never) and local gigs as a session player. More updates soon.