Swim "Post Everything" European Tour ~ October 1998
It's Thursday it must be Villeurbanne. Where? You ask. - It's kind of in France (near Lyon to be exact) and we are reaching it at the end of a day (12 hours and counting) which has truly introduced tour virgins Ronnie & Clyde (Ron & Rob) to the dubious delights of "life on the road" and reacquainted Malka and I with these same pleasures after an absence of 10 years. It started very early. With all the provisions made to get everything looked after in our absence keeping us up till 1.00 the previous night/morning it was a very grumpy crew who exited "swim towers" on the "post-everything" European tour at 5.00 am, ably driven in our "functional" rather than luxurious tour van (which would become our true home for 2 weeks) by our tour manager Luke Wuurmli. We would be joined for the first two dates by Billy Campbell, DJ extraordinaire, the man responsible for the groundbreaking Assari club and the pre-eminence of the Beggars Banquet record shop both in Putney.
It had more or less sheeted down all day, the channel crossing offering little respite only some green faces. France was a blur even if the pay motorways are mercifully empty. So, the first gig sets the pattern for the tour. The night opens with some downtempo Djing from Billy (later Rob or Ron) after which Malka and I come on and play a set comprising of stuff from "My Pet Fish" with a few extra Newman/Spigel/Immersion things added. We play guitars and sing (although those familiar with the material will know that beats abound in plenty). Following on come Ronnie & Clyde live, a more uptempo set than their album would suggest, heading up to a breakbeat climax at the end. Then whoever is up for it to spin until local DJ relief is needed. In short a slow build through DJ and live. The locals seemed friendly and the club put on a top meal (well this was France) which got an especially good star rating from Ronnie & Clyde (it should be pointed out here that Rob & Ron's partners are both cooking professionals so good food is important, right!!!)
Friday, Bologna Italy. One of the most spectacular journeys of the tour. The normally taciturn Billy decides he wants to live in the Alps and the rest of us actually spend long periods windowgazing as opposed to battling with the tour book (Marlilyn Manson's biog, a good read which nonetheless won't make you like the music more!!) Still all good things must come to and end, and end they did in a traffic jam outside Parma. The motorway was at a standstill and we were very late for an interview, still what could we do? When we finally got to Bologna way after interview and soundcheck time we found the gig had been moved as the police had closed down the original venue the previous week. However this being Italy it all turned out well in the end with the gig being one of the best received over all, the combined crew having built and built from 9.00pm till when we vacated to let some of the local junglists grab the crowd at 2.30am. Sweet.
Saturday, Switzerland - Basel. Blimey 3 countries in 3 days this is getting surreal. Malka and Rob have developed a disorientation exercise (involving sunglasses and imagining there is no ceiling) as we cruise so many tunnels in our transalpine wandrerings. No drugs involved, honest!! Basel was good but anything after 800 Italians going mad would have been a let down. However the hotel was nice and I succeeded in driving Ronnie mad with my DJing (I guess dropping my track "May" with it's hugely long guitar intro into a g-man track is pretty mad but then they all started dancing like crazy as soon as the big break comes in. I rest my case) but fair play to him for keeping the kids dancing way after everyone else had dropped off the edge.
Sunday, Germany - Konstanz. Day off. Another country, more tunnels, more stunning alpine views. This is THE most scenic tour I have ever been on in fact I'm starting to be convinced that it's really a holiday with a few gigs added. This is compounded when we reach the ABC hotel in Konstanz, a great hotel by anyone's standards. We all get apartments. Cool.
Monday, Austria - Vienna. Come on this is getting absurd!! Our sixth country (if you count the UK) in 5 days. The day starts promisingly enough with a lake crossing from Konstanz (scenic or what!!) but blustery conditions on the motorway dampen our spirits and they are further depressed by the hotel (one of the worst ever) and weather (October in Italy means mild early autumn, October in Vienna seemed to be pretty much winter!) The canal side club, which boasts the best sound in Vienna, is nice though and interestingly a mere stone's throw from the site of the 1995 swim night on a boat.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Germany - Ulm/Konstanz/Augsberg. Phew, a country we've been to before. Ulm is solid little town in Southern Germany and a place where people like Bar Industries and Bernd Karner have been trying to establish a scene for a few years but it's hardly rock & roll central. Still the small audience really appreciated it so we must be doing something right. The following morning Luke who had started the tour with a mass of curls got himself a haircut at Rob's suggestion and much improved he looks too.
Tonight's gig is in Konstanz so there is a chance for a bit of shopping (In fact this is more of an outbreak than a mere passing incident as constant road has made us all desperate to spend money!!! ) Plus it's also back again to the ABC! The promoter at the University is our tour organiser Christoph Linder from Planet Rock. Nevertheless it's a bit of a soundclash as there's a dub soundsystem downstairs who are loud enough to shake the entire building. The audience is big though and Ronnie and Clyde seem to go down very well. The guys from Metrobreaks in Toronto with whom we are discussing doing something over in North America next year were raving about the whole night. The next day we are on the ferry again and off to Augsberg, not one of the tour highlights although special mention should be given to the local soundman.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday
A weekend in Berlin. Due to a promoter falling out with a club owner and the fact that Swim's distributor EFA have their promotional offices in Berlin we ended up having a weekend there. Friday was a mad drive up a sometimes blocked autobahn to make a radio interview in Potsdam (which we got to with seconds to spare) followed by a great gig to a small but enthusiastic audience. The next morning we set off for the short drive to Berlin but got waylaid in a market in where everyone got dazzled by the 15DM "g-shock" watches on sale. Not exactly accurate forgeries but the blue light offered hours of mindless fun!
Neither Malka or I have been to Berlin since 1988 and a lot has changed. The city always had it's "tough cool" but the demise of the wall has caused a softening, you could even call it romantic! We stay on the corner of Freidrichstrasse & Torstrasse so the nearby Irish bar gets some serious custom! Ronnie's girlfriend Merilees was over for the weekend and Julia and Suzie the two charming girls from the EFA promotion department took us out to a truly great Thai restaurant. It's kind of a relief not having to play but we are far from home and alcohol encourages a tad of whistfulness amongst some members of the party. Sunday, more sightseeing, the market by the canal and the Berlin Biennale. Monday, interviews and a gig. As it turned out this was the last and I must say it was one of the best for Malka and I. We'll definitely be back in Berlin.
The end of the tour was a bit anti-climactic. The gig in Koln got cancelled due to administrative error but we had to go there to pick up the fee. So we ended up going from Berlin to London via Koln in a 21 hour epic journey compounded by a very rough sea crossing which didn't allow us to dock for an hour. And then we were home, battered but wiser and somehow better people. Full English breakfast in the local cafe never tasted so good. We'll be back......
Text : Colin Newman
Images : Malka Spigel
LONDON - November/December 1998
Ronnie & Clyde played the Kitty_yo festival in Berlin on the weekend of 28/29 November along with Silo. There will be a new album from them in 1999. A "beautifully rendered" version of "The Newman's" live set is available on custom CDR direct by mail order only from swim swim@swim-hq.demon.co.uk
For Information on upcoming tours vist PLANET ROCK