Steveís Gig Diary: 1997, Part Two

The main event this year for RMI was the Klemdag concert in the Dutch town of Nijmegen near the German border. This well organised event had been in the offing for over a year, but still managed to creep up on us. This time the transport situation could not have been more different. We treated ourselves to a Mercedes sprinter with driver for the three day trip. Gary being the rock star in the band chose to fly from Manchester, guitar in hand...

Our entourage consisted myself and Duncan, Paul and Tim (Curious Yellow), Sahra D on photography duty, and driver John who turned out to be exactly the kind of guy you need on a trip like this. He had taken the Levellers to the very same venue and knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way. Great bloke.The luxury of having a proper touring van (complete with CD/Video) was appreciated to the full, particularly popular were the tinted windows which seemed to draw people into trying to peer in from outside. We headed across the flat landscapes of France, Belgium and the Netherlands to the sounds of some old indie bands, some new Portishead and some rather fine Bentley Rhythm Ace amomgst others. The one Oasis song on Timís compilation tape was, however, subject to a rare and immediate band veto (despite protests of "but itís the only one of theirs I like!"). We hit Nijmegen at about 7p.m. and spent that evening in the bar of the Belvoir Hotel in the company of the AirSculpture boys, Dave Law and a few of the RMI faithful, trying our best not to drink too much as soundcheck time was 8 a.m the next day.

Arriving at the Concert Hall promptly at 9:30 a.m the next day we load straight into the back of the venue and onto the stage. The place is a classic concert hall with red seats and flowers lining the stage , and reminds us a little of Newcastle City Hall where we had all seen our first live shows. We begin configuring the equipment and finally meet Frits the organiser for the first time. At this stage in the proceedings it always looks as if Gary and I are bone idle, as we wander about trying to look useful. The truth is that Duncan is the one who knows how it all fits together and that is all there is to it .Ours is not to question how or why but to do things like fend off the advances of the friendly photographer and try and explain why now would not be the best time to have a couple of group shots next to the Mellotron. Luckily there is ample soundcheck time and I was able to jump off stage and rejoice in those bass sequences bouncing round the empty hall, knowing that everything will be OK.
We are due to play at 2p.m.after N:Force and before an evening concert with Michael Stearns and Ash Ra (with their Tempel newly restored).In the meantime we are able to wander the building which also houses a huge foyer with plenty of buying and selling going on ,and try to find our stall and indeed Andy G who has made the journey from Dundee to man it for us. (Chuck van Zyl also demonstrates his good guy credentials by helping us in with some of the many boxes of CDs we have with us.)

Hanging around backstage, Gary chats to an extremely nervous Norman, who is the one man operation behind N:Force. "Itís alright for you guys you can help your nerves by talking to each other..Iím on my own". A few encouraging words later he hits the stage where it all goes according to plan. He has a good time and gets a great reception.

We are sitting in the dressing room wondering when to change into our stage gear: attempts to convince Gary to go for the full Jimmy Page look appear to have been successful, and Duncan plumps for the `Space Waiterí which is an outfit that could be single-handedly responsible for the advent of a fashion for 12- inch flared sleeves. I have gone for the Zebra jacket as the leopard is in the wash. We are wondering how late it is running and when we will be going onstage, when from the dressing room we hear Frits (also compere for the event) onstage chatting merrily to the audience (in Dutch of course). Then he suddenly switches to English and announces the name of the band.

There is an enthusiastic response and in that instant we realise that the old knock on the dressing room door and a "Five minutes and youíre on " must be a custom they donít use over here . It is exactly 2p.m. as planned . "Shit ! I think weíve started" I say to the boys.Some very long seconds at the start of the performance as the idiosyncracies of the Dutch electricity supply make themselves apparent for the first time. The sequencer wonít wake up. We look to Duncan for a glimmer of hope. Not unreasonably he says to me "play something!", and off I go with a slow series of sampled Mellotron chords. Duncan reaches for the trusty `yellow boxí a small self-built electronic noise device, and the sound that comes out is one like a raxed powerboat engine attempting to start up.There is something ironic about sitting on stage surrounded by thousands of pounds worth of gear listening to swooping sounds coming from a self-made box held in the palm of Duncanís hand. Rebooting the rest of the technology finally does the trick and we settle down into `Organ Harvestí. Hearing a large (1000 strong) audience applaud for the first time does wonders for the spirit and we launch into an improvised piece. Paul and Timís visuals on the large screen behind are looking great and the sound is good. We then play a slow atmospheric piece and itís great to feel the attentiveness of those in the auditorium. We launch into another full tilt sequencer piece, and Gary and I manage to swap a few solos in true rockíníroll style.There is a point in the penultimate `Plastered In Parisí where I am triggering samples of astronauts talking during the moon landings, Duncan leans across to me and indicates the screen. I look round and there is the lunar module descending towards the moon. Paul and Tim had not even been told about this piece of music, and we didnít know they were planning to use that footage. Their visuals are an improvised performance too, so itís a great moment.

I start to really enjoy it, knowing that weíve done the business, and am happy to get up and say a few words of thanks to the audience, before we finish with our `showstopperí `A Minuteís Silenceí. As usual my drum pad playing leaves a bit to be desired and the arse seems to have fallen out of Garyís guitar sound, but the overall effect is good. We finish to thunderous applause and retire triumphant, I wander over to the microphone and bid the audience "goodnight" before realising it is actually 3:20 in the afternoon . In an amazing feat of adrenalin all of the gear is loaded back into the van within half an hour of the last note . We wander up to Andy G and he suggests a signing session which he announces from the stage. We grab a lager and a cigarette and spend a full hour signing one CD after another, some fans clutching a copy of every one of our albums .We do a roaring trade and are particularly pleased to sell out of our private releases. We are even presented with copies of Diabolica and Burned & Frozen the covers of which we have never seen before. You know when youíve arrived when people start bootlegging your work!

After the signing fun is over we suddenly realise how hungry we are and retire with the Sculpture boys for a pizza and try to figure out how we are going to keep in touch with Englandís world cup qualifier against Italy. The Dutch national team are also playing that night so thereís little chance of seeing it. We return to the hotel and remarkably we can get Radio Five Live from the BBC on Sahraís little radio so we sit in the bar and listen to tales of chair hurling, baton usage and the odd kick of a football. We go back to the venue at 10:30 to catch a bit of Ashra, and to talk business with Andy G, and then the night begins in earnest.

Outside the venue in Nijmegen, L-R Steve ,Duncan and Gary (in van), Paul and Tim Curious, and John the driver and all round good guy. Photo by Sahra D.

A few drinks in the hotel and then on to a local bar with Dave Law on fine form. We proceed rapidly to an advanced state of refreshment as we contemplate the day thatís been. We also smoke a forest of fags in anticipation of our giving up programme when we return to England. When I eventually get to bed I hear some familiar voices outside in the street. Itís John and Pete Sculpture who have had the audacity to stay out later than us, and Adrian is still out! The next morning arrives like we feared it might. Gary is showering as Duncan is hoying up in the toilet next to him, and I am certainly at the `canít face the thought of breakfast Ď stage. We wisely stock up on rolls and cold meats for later and gingerly sort out the hotel bills and money. The journey back is a little more subdued, Duncan sits motionless leaning against the window looking like death that hasnít yet reached the warming up stage, and the rest of us arenít feeling too clever either. Excitement and fear intervene briefly as we are stopped for speeding by the mean-looking armed French border patrol. We had wisely smoked up the last of Timís hash before reaching Belgium and even more wisely put the roach ends out of the window. "Good move" I thought to myself as they rifled our cigarette packets and ashtrays. Despite all that we catch an early ferry and the sea-air seems to help our hangovers. Spirits have returned to normal by the time we hit London and we have a ceremonial last cigarette each before dropping Gary off at the train station.

Do Electric Sheep Dream Of Space Rock?

This hour long collage of Radio Massacre International material consists of previously unreleased material from various sessions between 2003-15, and might be seen as their version of `The Faust Tapes' in its construction. Endlessly fascinating, playing as a continuous suite, it is an unpredictable journey through many of the places RMI have found themselves in whilst working and improvising together.

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