…And now in Spain, having the time of my life. I haven’t slept in two days, now, but my promoters have assured me that soon I will sleep, and dream the dream that the dreamers dream. Hopefully I will be in a bed when this happens.
So far, I have had an incredible time, I ate some seafood, many delicately fried morsels of delicious matter, and the best wine ever. And that’s just on the plane! Tomorrow I think the real work will begin. I will write more and keep you informed about my fantastic journey, which begins, of course, in Spain. A dream that nearly came true.
I hauled ass to get to the sound-check on time, and when I got there, the sound man was nowhere to be found. The guitar that I’m supposed to use (apparently once owned by Paul Collins) is there, and it’s a beauty. It is a ‘99 Epiphone with the original finish, and even plugs in with a cable. I’m lost in my music for some time, with some beer, and suddenly it’s late afternoon. Two guys named Pico and Mic show up, and they’re my tour managers. They work as a team, even though I suppose one person could handle the task. They suggest we “take” a beer. I said, I took three already from behind the bar. So we loaded up the car with iced cerveza, and they wanted to catch the last of the day at the beach. I was pretty tired, so I sat on the sand, playing guitar, watching these guys survey-sa the area.
Phil Collins, from Genesis, has a house in Benidorm, a couple hours up the coast. I’m playing there on Monday, with a day off on Tuesday. Phil knows this ex-manager guy David who also plays soccer with him, a bit convoluted, indeed, but he got a copy of Wood + Wire from the guy David, and liked it. Phil Collins doesn’t have email, he says, but has an internet connection to keep track of tides and stuff for his boat. So Phil is going to put me up at his place (or maybe on the boat, if I want), and is interested in sitting in on Monday’s gig! Amazing. I’ve dreamt of playing with him… (pictures to come, I don’t want to be weird about meeting him)
Of course, after every live gig, the disco dancing starts, so I stuck around and got a few shots.
I had my choice morning coffee, which is a café con leche. In fact, I’d had two and started to write this journal when Mic came storming down, all pissed off about something. Times like these, I’m glad I don’t speak Spanish. Pico is leaning back, bottle in hand, nodding, while Mic is flailing about, and the only words I can understand are “Pelo” (hair), and “cuarto” which means room, or whatever. Hair in the room, big problem. Maybe it was the wrong kind of hair, in the wrong place, in the room.
The drive to Benidorm was a blast. We filled the car with gas, which cost about $100 or something insane. I suggested we pack some roadie bombers, so two six-packs of cheap Cruzcampo beer, cold, with no ice, went in the back seat. Spain is a desert, man! We keep driving but it’s just desolate, the occasional bull sculpture by the roadside. I pop open beers, and already Pico is a ranting drunk. Oh, no. One of those guys, useless after two drinks. Maybe he’s had a bunch already, not sure, but I thought the Europeans were into moderation. We stop to pee about 50 times, right, and finally we get to Benidorm, even though Mic was driving 100 miles an hour.
So, yes, we drive straight to the gig, an outdoor bandshell structure, and the sound man hasn’t arrived yet. It’s a little strange, ‘cause we were about an hour late. They wanted to get the load-in out of the way so that the club guy could get on the road for a trip. I thought, “who’s gonna pay me, then?”
Pico negotiated the beer part of our contract immediately. He had another bottle going by the time my eyes adjusted to the indoors. I called Phil Collins, and he arranged to meet up in time to go to his studio before the show. He, like everyone else, has some half-baked home system they record on, so to avoid paying studio fees. So I went over there and checked that out, we arrived on maintenance day, so we couldn’t really get a groove on.
We left the studio, and went back to the bandshell, where the soundman had hooked everything up, got it tweaked, and left again! I whipped up a set list. I figured I’d do a few solo songs at the start, but Phil was keen on playing on everything, so I let him.
I think everyone’s been a little wigged out because of the heat. It was sweltering as it was, and then the car overheated. Mic used to be a car mechanic, so he got under the hood, opened the radiator cap, and a huge explosion followed. I used to be a mechanic too, so I stayed the hell away. They don’t have AAA in Spain, I don’t reckon, and figured we were just going to spend the night there. However, we made it to Valencia without boiling over, as long as we kept the cap loosened, and had the heat on full. Man, it was HOT in the car! Probably about 120, actually. But it was a dry, heat, you know?
Today is a day off, Tuesday isn’t a big gig day in Spain, unlike in America, where bands play Tuesday nights all the time! Pico and Mic actually live here, so I went to Pico’s for a rest up, cool down, and relaxation…or so I thought. Pico lives with his whole family, including his grandparents, parents, sister, her kids, and a rooster. The kids were a fucking terror! They tortured my tired ass, playing The Ketchup Song by Los Ketchup about 100 times. I tried to be nice, but it was impossible.
Tomorrow- meeting with the head of Criminal Records.
Three hours later I felt great, and got into some coffee, and felt the urge to speak English to everyone, especially those bratty kids. “Good morning, you lousy children!” I said, then asked them if they wanted a bag of nails as a treat. Or maybe I could do a two-for-one crucifixion.
So, I called my label boss. I called three times, emailed, and sent the Mañanagram, a second-rate telegram they use here a lot in Spain. It gets there pretty much instantly, if not, then the second day for sure. I figure something is wrong, but there’s nothing I can do, so we bail town. I’ve got about 50 CDs left of The Wild Horse, and those will have to get me by. At least the ad campaign is still on. The gig fell through because the label people never told me where it was!
We drove from about 6pm, through the night, stopping for drinks along way. Barcelona was a fairly easy drive, especially after Pico drove off with a full tank of gas in Castellon. I admit I wasn’t exactly asleep when I caught wind of the naughty trick my tour manager was pulling. I stayed low, giggling with my copy of the Spanish MOJO magazine, MOJITO, unable to read it, just looking at pictures of Tim Hardin on his Spanish tour, strangely enough.
I let Pico use my laptop, and we got one of those projectors that the yuppies use in their powerpoint meetings, souped up the bulb and mirror mechanism, and we had one hell of a multimedia presentation. It was nearly evil. I sat in a tent/studio out back of the venue, and performed half of the show from back there, while the fans watched on a screen. I’m like Peter Gabriel or something. I’ll never do a boring singer/songwriter straight gig again. There’s so much art to be created.
Tonight we are talking about going to the Festimad, but we’ll have to cancel the show. I’m thinking of asking the label if we can upgrade to a plane, now that we’re getting higher profile shows. Just a small plane, nothing too outrageous, and with the money we save by not carrying a band, I bet it’d work out. And we can go to Festimad!!
Word is that the Italians are catching on to our new production. The light show, I bet. This worries me, as Pico could just start working for someone else, and my whole gimmick would go down the drain. I don’t want to pay him more, honestly. He’s already overpaid as it is. Good thing he doesn’t know about my website, or read English.
We’re going to take it easy next week, we agreed, and go to some museums, do a bit of tourism.
5/17/03-6/16/03: (30 days in the hole)
Pico took a late boat to Tangier, to “meet up with some old friends” and basically got totally busted on drug smuggling on his way back. Worse yet, he implicated Mic and me. The cops searched our van and found the fireworks. Mic loves fireworks…a lot. He must have had about 200 lbs of fireworks in that van. Pico had been showing us how to use pyrotechnics. I tried to explain, in English, but they basically considered us potential terrorists by folks like the Minister for Justice, José María Michavila, who said, “Don’t forget that Spain is one of the ‘Good Guys’ in the war on terror.” So, we were held, not arrested, but kept incarcerated for a total of 30 days in a substandard facility near Barcelona. Pele was amazing. Pele got away, on my bicycle!
When we were processed, but mind you, never arrested, I tried taking a few pictures of some of the guys in their cells. A warden yelled at me to stop, so I defiantly snapped a picture of the lone bare light bulb, and then he really got mad. Mic said that they were talking about carrying me out of there, and I said, “What, in a body bag?” I had to erase the pictures in the camera, including some nice ones from our drive around old town Barcelona with The Donnas, who were playing a weekend of unannounced gigs. Donna F and I actually got engaged for about 12 hours, but I never spoke to her again after the bust. She was going to change her name to Donna V and everything. Well, at least that’s what she said. It doesn’t matter, because women on the outside eventually stop writing, no matter how much they loved you.
I can’t really talk about the way some of us were treated (OK, so Mic nearly got renamed Michelle), but it was really terrible. For one thing, I never got a bed, because I lost it in a deal I was making to trade Mic for a guitar. The dealbreaker was the bed, and I forfeited my bed, thinking I was only needing to bluff, since everyone had a bed. Deals are weird in jail, because if you renege on something, it’s OK. You just get even later. You’ve seen Bad Boys, right? Same thing, pretty much. Payback comes later in an exploding radio or sodacan stuffed in a sock, used as a weapon. Or the dreaded “Shiv in the night.”
The good news is that once the gigs started getting cancelled, people began to wonder where we were. A small article appeared on an email list about our bust. A sympathetic Christian group, The Sol Singers, decided to have a benefit show to pay off the jailman. They raised the money in a week while we languished in our miserable cells, covered in our own filth, and the filth of others. When we got out, Pico kinda apologized, really unconvincingly, then asked for a raise. Pico was in solitary confinement, actually. His cell was much nicer, because he was actually arrested and charged, and stuff.
It was good to get back to work, even though the music style was a bit of a stretch. So without any further explanation, here are the songs…
There are so many things to write, stories to get down, but that’s the basic outline for now. I think maybe my life has been changed forever. My spine has changed, for sure, sitting on a cement floor for a month. Mic and I got pretty close, and then had a falling out around June 1. We reconciled after a neighboring inmate, Chipo, threatened to kill us mańana if we didn’t stop arguing about whether ABBA is considered rock music or not. Things are weird in jail, let me just say that. Glad to be out!
When I got my computer back, I noticed a bunch of new files. I must have been used quite a bit by someone, and while he loved downloading dirty pictures, he was a sensitive, talented poet. He wrote something every day, regardless of whether it was good or an original thought. It reminded me that I need to get cracking on some new music.
A big Hallelujah to the Sol Singers from “me and the boys!”
Just playing catch up at this point. Many of the tour dates have been cancelled, and it appears that Spain has all but forgotten about me. Criminal Records, my label, apparently has disappeared now. A record retailer who is good friends with them revealed to me that they’ve revamped their whole business plan. The company is making software now, and their big flagship product is called NadaNova ®: a combo auction-tracking program that also keeps track of your finances. With this program, you can know in advance when it’s time to sell all that stuff you bought on eBay when you had more money to burn. It’s a really great idea, and I hope I can score a free copy that works on Windows 95. I used to have Windows 2000, but while we were incarcerated, the poet dude installed win95 so he could play an older version of Freecell solitaire that he preferred.
The great thing about the transition over at the Criminal Records label was that they transferred my contract. We’re now on Suspicious Records, labelmates with The Mockingbirds, Steve Wynn, Rick Buckner, and Red House Painters. The boss, Jilly Ranfred (and his assitant Tom Bead) said, when I asked about getting the master for the new album, “Oh, we have it. We’ve been putting out your records over here for years. Great stuff!” Bootlegging is a big problem here, but not for him. I asked him about a plane; he assured me that we would talk about it. I don’t even have any gigs right now, so it’s not a pressing issue.
Jilly took us out to his club, Jilly’s, and this is where I discovered I like my Chivas. No, not chiva, but Chivas Regal. Crappy whiskey in a nice bottle.
Pico and I patched things up a bit tonight. He explained that he has a wild side, and was trying to set some boundaries for himself. He also said that he still has 7 kilos of heroin that he wants to move, and Mic’s got a relative in the North that is interested in it. What is with these people? When is enough enough? But as Pico told his story, I realized that sometimes the telling of the story is better than the story itself. I didn’t want it to end, it was so entertaining and his life has had so many turns. After about an hour, I wondered if he was just making all this shit up just to keep me going. Pico said that as a child, he wandered around Spain, looking for any odd job that someone might have. I imagined it to be like those guys in the supermarket parking lot, looking to help you load the car, or help watch your car, feed the meter, while you shopped at the Carre Four, or Macy’s. Pico would often join a migrant work clan, and dig postholes for the Spanish highway. Handy with a saw, he also built several of those Toro bull statues you see along the road.
“Uhhmm…don’t you need to work for the state to build highways?” I challenged, faintly. He said no, no, not back in those days. Like ten years ago, I guess everything was different. And before that, when Franco was still around, things were even more different. I asked Pico how it was under Franco, and he just said, “It was sick, man. I did it all.” Pico used to be a professional gambler before he got into the music business. Before the Euro, he explained, the money was smaller, and gambling was easier because when you’d place a bet, the numbers sounded BIG to everyone at the table, so it was important to bet high, and preferably with odd amounts to add to the confusion. Even the dealers would get thrown off with all the zeros and millions of pesetas. Repeating integers was Pico’s trick. One time he placed (the equivalent of) a $180 bet, and it went down as $1800, and well, you can imagine the rest of the story. I didn’t believe a word of it. This guy landed my ass in jail. Sure, he’s my right hand man, but he’s a pathological liar!
This tour simply has to get back in order, or I’m going home. I just reminded myself that we could probably still play the parking lot gig at the Rolling Stones concert this weekend. That might be our ticket to normalcy, some kind of professional environment to raise the bar and get us whipped back into shape. We ran such a tight ship before Pico got strung out.
The other great news is that Suspicious is going ahead with the plane idea, as soon as we get some dates. They said they have a plane they use once in a while. Coincidentally, Mic’s relative, Kike, is backing Suspicious Records with some big bucks, and offered to fly the plane. The biggest expense in a plane tour is the pilot, because they make so much money. He was rather adamant that he gets to use the plane for a week or so for some of his own business before we took it on tour, very concerned for our safety. This is the guy who wanted to get into drug smuggling, but I guess he realized music is much better. Good for you Kike!
They had to make an emergency landing in the middle of town! Luckily, there was a shopping mall with a very big parking lot. The long and short of it is that the plane is toast, Kike and Khoi are basically OK, and Suspicious Records just lost $15,000 in the deductible on their insurance to cover the plane. We’re all probably going to get sued, or dropped from the label. I’ll ask if we can get another plane, but there are only a couple of gigs penciled in at this point.
The shopping mall parking lot is pretty much in the middle of things. When the plane finally caught fire, most everyone got out of the way, and the fire crew was on the scene. Ironically, the accident you see in the picture on the left was the result of rubbernecking drivers, watching the plane burn. Three cars were destroyed; they all caught fire. There was only one other minor injury, involving a dog named Prince, who twisted his neck trying to get away from the burning car. Clara, the vet assistant, took good care of him. She wants to come to the Stones show, and I haven’t told her we just have parking lot access, at this point.
When this all happened, Pico just stood around like a fool, didn’t get on the phone, nothing. He just kept reading his book. Mic was really concerned, and he needed a Xanax, which I got from Pico. The show will probably go on, I think if we just play songs Khoi knows well, we can get through. It’s just a parking lot gig, but it’s pretty important. We haven’t gigged in over a month. Pico said he’s thinking about what kind of light show to do. He asked if we had any fireworks left. He thinks he can get some extra stuff from the Stones crew. Fuego! Fuego! Fuego!
From the minute we walked in the door until I bailed on the party, it was a scene. Screaming women, waving hands, trays of food going down on the floor, birds squawking. They have a whole aviary there, which was frustrating for Khoi, not being able to see it. He had to identify the birds by chirps alone.
Things are bound to turn around.
Clara found me, and brought me some beer and snacks. She actually cooked a lot of food, thinking there’d be a small army to feed. I think maybe the words “Rolling Stones” gave her the wrong idea. Once she saw what I was doing, though, I think the simplicity rang true. So, after a few hours of walking around the lot, we bonded a bit. They say that girls that you meet on the road are just looking for one thing, but I’m suspending judgment. Clara’s a nice girl, I think.
I asked where Prince was, and she stopped me, wide-eyed, “Is Prince playing tonight too?” I had to remind her about the dog she treated, and of course she remembered. She sees a lot of dogs in a day over there, she said. Prince went back to his home, which is nowhere, for he is a stray. We decided that if I stay a little longer, I’d adopt the dog, little guy.
However, this tour basically is in a rut right now. I’m going back to the states for some gigs in California. The Wild Horse is coming out there, and I just need a short break from the insanity that is my current life! Clara is hinting at being invited to the US, but I don’t think it’s that easy, I said. I don’t even know if I can get back in, with all my trouble over here. I’m just going to poker-face it through customs like I always do. I mean, if I’m a marked man, they’ll know it long before I walk through the “nothing to declare” door.
Watch this space for my return to the Iberian Peninsula in August. Pico has a deal for his new Spanish television show. Shooting starts next week; it’s something I could be in, even though my Spanish is terrible. Of course, part of the deal is that his entire family is also going to be on the show. Apparently in Spain, these days, anyone can get a TV show. The whole clan is moving to Seville for this. They’re leaving all their friends and family behind in the quest for fame.
Thanks for your support,