November 02, 2014

On October 5th we headed off to Europe once again (our first trip there was to play 3 dates in Spain in May) this time to play in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Our opening act for most of the tour was the Norwegian band Humbucker, who were also on our label, Perris Records.

We flew into Munich where we had rooms outside of town for a couple of days before the tour was to start. Also along with us was photographer Dave Carbosa, who was getting footage of the tour to put together for a future DVD. I rented a Ford something-or-other from a car rental agency at the airport to get around in, and so the first night in Germany we all took a trip into Munich to check out the local watering holes. Seeing as I don't drink, I became the designated driver.

It had been many years since we played in Germany, Switzerland, and Norway. The last time there was in 1989 on the Ian Gillan tour, so we didn't know what to expect. We started out with 4 dates straight: Munich, Uster (Switzerland), Lichenfels, and Nuremburg. We were traveling in a big tour bus that the Humbucker guys had rented. We were to find out very quickly that the bus would be a giant pain in the ass for several reasons. The first was that it was very difficult to maneuver because of it's size, the second was that, unless it was hooked up to power there were no lights, electricity, or heat, and the third that in Europe drivers are required by law to take breaks at pre-determined intervals, so a normal 5 hour trip suddenly became hours longer.

Initially the tour went from Nuremburg on the Sunday to Hamburg on the Wednesday to Sandviken, Sweden on the Friday. This left the Monday & Tuesday to get to Hamburg, and the Thursday to get to Sweden. So, on Monday, we headed off to Hamburg, getting there that evening. The club we were to play was right down by the Reaperbahm, which, for those of you who don't know, is the strip where they have all the prostitutes, sex shows, and drug dealers. We passed by the club and it was obvious there was no place to stop with our monster bus. Somehow we ended up on a little dinky side street where we couldn't make any turns and where we were barely missing the parked cars on either side of the road by inches. The day before in Nuremburg our bus driver had hit a steel post with the bus, leaving a foot long gash in the front quarter panel, so our antennae was up concerning doing more damage to our already damaged bus. We were traveling at about 5MPH, trying to avoid hitting anything, with drug dealers chasing the bus trying to sell us their wares. Finally we ran into a dead end and couldn't move, at which point we had to ge the cops to get us out. We ended up sitting in the parking lot of a gas station with no power or lights, our bus driver (Rolf) explaining that he couldn't drive any more that day.

I woke up the next morning so sick I couldn't talk. I had pneumonia or bronchitis, one of the two...After speaking to Geir from Humbucker (he acted as the road manager throughout this tour) we decided to cancel the Hamburg show and head for Sweden. This turned out to be a fortunate decision, because after driving for 12 hours we were only 1/3 of the way to our destination. We ended up parking that night in the middle of Nowhere, Denmark with no lights, heat, food, or SANITY. It was at this point where Geir and I decided not to leave the transportation planning up to our driver Rolf, so from there on we spent much more time planning when we were leaving, how long to get to the gig, where we were going to plug in the bus, when Rolf had to stop driving, etc.

At every gig would be fans who hadn't seen us in years, all loaded down with every CD, album, and picture of the band they could carry. That's one thing about European fans. When they are fans they have EVERYTHING. We met some fantastic people at every gig. We also had a lot of press out throughout the tour and without exception they gave us great write-ups.

After playing in Sandviken and Trolhattan we finished up our three day run of the second week in Helsingborg, where we played aboard the S.S. Harmony, a boat docked in the harbor. The promoter was a guy named Thomas, and I really hit it off well with him-a super guy. He told me he used to roadie for Black Sabbath. His wife made us one of the best meals we ate on the entire tour.

I still had my pneumonia (or whatever it was) and was just managing to get by every night, thanks to the penicillin that Daryl gave me. Thank God for all those years of vocal lessons and learning how to sing Bel Canto or I would never have been able to get through it all...By now everyone else was starting to get what I had as well. After all, we were in that germ incubator of a bus. Every morning we'd awake to the sound of coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and sickness coming from the bunks. Even so, spirits were high and everyone was in a good mood. The Humbucker guys were great! Never heard them bitch once and they were the best guys to chum around with. Geir and I became very close friends and I think this next summer he's going to come visit for a couple of weeks. Now that I'm back in Canada, I miss them all already...

Geir with the hat I gave him at the end of the tour.
Outside the rock shop in Helsinki.
At church in Helsinki with Vesa.
After Helisingborg and Das Boat, we had a 6 hour drive to Stockholm, where we flew out late Monday afternoon for Helsinki. We were met at the airport by our old friend Vesa Nuorula. A buddy of his from HONDA supplied the CRVs which picked us up at the airport. They also gave us all a free HONDA hoodie and Vesa presented us with hand made pottery cups personalized with HELIX and our names on every cup. The first night we went out to a fantastic Texas steak house around the corner from our hotel called Armadillos. Vesa's friend Alki (whom I called Alki-holic) phoned his brain surgeon wife who wrote me a stronger prescription for penicillin and he actually scooted out during the meal to pick it up at a pharmacy.

Tuesday morning Vesa came to the hotel and we went out sight-seeing around the city. First we went to an old church and then down to the harbor and the fish market. Helsinki is a beautiful city. I recommend everyone see it if they go to Europe. Finns are friendly and hospitable people as well. That night we played a rockin' show at On the Rocks to a fairly full house. In attendance were quite a few Russians who had taken the 4 hours bus ride to come see us. I sold out of merch after only a half an hour; wished I would have brought more with me! After the show we stayed and signed autographs and got pictures taken. All in all, a great night.

The next day (Wednesday) we flew back to Stockholm and played at a club called Harry B. James. My friends Danny and Malin Hynes came out to the show and I owe them a big thank you for hanging out for the night. The club was extremely small, but even so this was one of our best shows. This was also the gig where I think I was the sickest-but somehow I made it through. Luckily our "off" days were happening at opportune times and the next day we had off in Orebro before heading off to our final two shows in Jonkoping and Gjerdrum, Norway. In Gjerdrum the Humbucker guys had their girlfriends come out, who sold merchandise for us during the show. The girls were hot and the merchandise flew off the shelves-a good way to end off the tour.

I'd like to thank Jon Enders and Live Wire Booking for putting this tour together for us. Most of all I'd like to thank the Humbucker guys for their hospitality and just for the fact that they were such a great band to share the stage with. A special thanks to Geir for being my translator and helping me throughout the tour-especially helping me get to a dentist in Sandviken. I can't say enough about Humbucker-great live band, friendly guys, and rock and roll soldiers. What more could you ask for?