BLAINES' KOOKS TOUR JOURNAL
EUROPE/UK NOVEMBER 2009
Pulling into the car park of the small northern french town of Nantes, the sight of a small army of young french girls already grouped up around the front entrance to the venue takes me by suprise. I had an idea of the kooks popularity in europe, but the kind of mania that has surrounded them this whole tour was completely beyond what i had expected.
The crowd were prodominently young teenage girls, some with thier boyfriends, others came in groups accompanied by the odd sheepish looking guardian sipping a cold kronenbourg somewhere near the back of the room.
The reaction to our set was quite a suprise. The kids formed circle pits and crowdsurfed if we played anything with a pulse to it, and greeted us with a sea of glowing mobile phones (the 21 century's answer to the cigarette lighter) when we played flakes.
After the show we got off on a good foot with the kooks and hit a small bar in town where we ran up a massive bar bill.
Shorty before it was time to leave i realised i had no means of contributing my part to the tab, and concequently, any tab for the remainder of the tour as i had left my card behind the bar at the churchill arms in Notting Hill gate the afternoon before. Bummer.
So i went out side and decided i might as well break my first personal rule of the tour and take a puff on william's crudely-crafted roll up (i'd not touched one since september 11th ). Bad i dea. Got back to the bus, puked in my bunk, good times.
In toulouse, we hooked up with our friends the Dodoz, who have since recorded a very impressive cover version of veiled in grey. We originaly met these guys about a year ago at paris's top dancing spot, la fleche d'or. Jules, the taller of the band's two frontmen speaks the queens english and seems to have been blessed with her manners too. His bandmate however, Vincent, is undisputedly (though he will hate me for saying so) the spitting image of the popular actor Gael Garcia Bernal. Could be worse dude.
Generally speaking the german leg of the tour ran like clockwork. The german kids clap if you tell them to clap and keep thier mouths politely shut while you play. No kids being stretchered off site for raving too hard or having thier stomachs pumped by the local rescue workers as a concequence of dehydration , but i think we can all just about live with that.
The munich venue was insane. A vast airplane hanger, perhaps the size of the main hall at Alexandra palace. The roof was situated so high above the rafters it was invisible. As was the back wall of the room. I wanted to get some nostalgic looking shots on my lomo camera of us standing in the middle of the empty hall after the gig with everyones trash around us but the lighting wasnt sufficient.
In Dusseldorf, i decided to pay a visit to the zoo to try and dust away some tour fatigue and hopefully find some inspiration for the third record from some fellow marsupials. And i have to say, for future reference,if you could find anything more psychedelic than sitting before a pack of thirty blue-bottomed Baboons ravaging and shitting on each other for a whole hour and a half, i'd love to hear it. These guys were vicious little fuckers too. At one point a pair of chunky looking females (i didnt know bulldykes were prevalent social sterotypes in the monkey kingdom) sat down right in front of me and proceeded to pick all the scabs of thier bite marks, which they'd casually flick at the glass. But anytime i appeared to be showing too much interest, they would both lunge out in the direction of my face and let off an awful piercing shriek. Which, given the moral wrongness of zoos in general, i have no difficulty in understanding.
Most of these little guys have spent their entire monkey lives become experts at amusing horrid little child tourists.
I mean most clowns take american Express these days for fucks sake. These guys are still paid in bananas.
I was pleased with how our stage clothes took to the light this tour. I am proud to say that Sequin jackets have replaced the pastel suits. Not in the sense that we have created a box around ourselves as a way of giving people something easy and palatable to digest. But in the way that i now look at the clothes we wear as a sort of reflection on whats' going on in our heads. Which is really the only kind of statement (fashion or artistic) worth making.
With the pastel suits we were litrerally wearing our musical influences on our sleeves, but by the end we had pushed it to a point where i think it must have been obvious that some degree of irony was at work, as it was within the way we initially presented the record. With the sparkles, there is more than a nod to the disco era and its kitch glamour, for which credit must be given to william and his growing collection of italo records. There is also the iconic images of a young, glamed-up and androgenous Brian eno in the early Roxy press shots...
For a town we have played infinitely more times than any other city outside the Uk, paris has been somewhat discouragingly slow to find a place in its' heart for the mystery jets. When we first arrived, we thought it might be a key bonus that we spoke the language, and have concequently conducted all our press there in french, as we were told les rock dieux Placebo and Muse had done before us. And who could argue?
But three years on, France still has some catching up to do with Australia, where we'd not even played until last week!
However, the show at the Zenith was a convincing sign that things are picking up, and that there are perhaps indeed french school children out there, creating a small space in thier compact disc collections (and in thier hearts) between thier muses and thier nicklebacks for les mystery jets.
We played with White lies, and CSS as well as the kooks so there was a sort of festival feeling in the air, which no doubt contributed to the success of the show too. Of paticular note was how well a change of name and in style has worked for the White lies boys (we've known one another since the West london all-ages days). They look sharp as any of the other tools in the shed and 'unfinished buisiness' is a probably the best opener ive heard in donkeys' years too. Big thumbs up.
As any musician who has even had the most modest taste of the touring life will tell you, an amsterdam show is more often than not the high point of most european tours(excuse the pun). Its easy for friends to fly out for the weekend, narcotics (for those so inclined) are a phone call /5 minute walk away and more than anything, you couldnt find a more beautiful place to have a day off.
The gig kicked ass (if my memory serves me well) and the subsequent celebrations were pretty fun too. We have a friend called 'Handsome dan' who lives adjacent to one of the many canals, and who has never failed to show us a good time when weve been there for a gig.
Last time we were there it involved pedalos and pineapple express. Admittedly this time, it was more centered around watching videos of hungarian traditional guitar music on youtube and drawring all over our tour managers sleeping face, but first class fun no less.
There are few things in life queerer than the sight of a pale-fleshed twenty-something young woman squeezed into a dress made for someone half her size, walking home at three in the morning along the seafront in a coastal town (in four inch heels) on a sunday night in the middle of december.You got to love the brits.
The Regional shows over the next few days were a lot of fun, and the crowds were great, but in all honesty, it was no secret that everyone was really dying to get back to london and rest up before the last couple of big nights at Brixton.
Considering the acclaim it recieved from critics, we found the roundhouse a bit of a dissapointment. The accoustics are distractingly offset by the shape of the room, and due to the size of the stage (tiny) its hard to get into what poor musicians call 'the zone' in quite the same way. But really, Come on guys.
After the first night went a little by the wayside, we decided to invent a band-only term which, when uttered on stage, would act kind of like a pull-up-your-socks-boys button. Only to be used in extreme circumstances, so as to not weaken it's long term effect, the word is actually a calling sign taken from one of the band's favorite childhood disney cartoons. The name of which, i would be a fool to repeat. Guesses on the back of a postcard.
Inspired by the appoaching seasonal festivities and precious family time, everyone on board all three tourbuses was agreed that it was of utter importance that the Brixton shows were to be the best ones of the year, by a long shot. And looking back, i think they might very well have been.
'Secret santa' , for those of you not lucky enough to have ever played, is a tradition enjoyed by all walks of people. Office folk, primary school children and all kinds of other non-christian groups. However on this occasion, the rules came under ferocious scrutiny due to a certain member of mystery jets' (whos name i will refrain from mentioning) background spent in summer camps, where secret santa was a highlight of the recreational winter gathering.
Apparently, by some peoples' rules, the only secret part of the game is not not knowing what your going to recieve. But once you have openend your gift, it is that persons' right to announce them as your 'giftee'. However, unless im mistaken, the whole point of christmas is not knowing what your going to recieve (unless, like william, you buy yourself presents). The point of secret santa surely is that you never find out who picked your name from out of the hat.
Thus, when you discover you have effectively been 'skanked' (aka been bought something under the set price recomendation, like a singing AA battery operated black father christmas -mentioning no names kapil) you wont know who's door to go knocking on.
is where the heart is. There is nothing quite like the feeling of waking up on the morning of a big london show in your own bed. You actually feel inspired in a way quite unlike the experience of waking fully clothed in your bunk five minutes before soundcheck in a Morrison's carpark somewhere near Stockton. Simple things like brushing your teeth, and emptying your pockets of unfamiliar-looking currencies and phone numbers and facebook adresses become a joy. Getting on the tube and sharing those short fifteen minutes with the inhabitants of the real world with thier shiny shoes and winking blackrerries, theres just something about it.
Which reminds me of something i was thinking about earlier..
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to speak in italics?
X O Blaine