|A Life In Music # 4 by Lord Zion of SPiT LiKE THiS|
|Written by Lord Zion|
|Tuesday, 15 December 2009 14:12|
We've grown up a lot as a band since the very first Hard Rock Hell back in November 2007. Über Jöhnny asked if I would write a blog about how the Hard Rock Hells have been from our point of view, so this is going to be an interesting journey for me - hope you get something from it too. Hard Rock Hell has been important for us and has helped our career more than we probably realise...
...and it all started so unexpectedly. Our journey to Hard Rock Hell started on 21st April 2007. We didn't realise it at the time but a phone call made by Vikki on the way to our gig that night at the Bull & Gate was going to be instrumental in our future. Who knows where we would be now if she hadn't made it! The call was to Jon Vyner, promoter at The Underworld in London. He's a nice guy and Vikki invited him to our show that evening. He couldn't make it, but he did stop by on his way to work that night. At the time, our stage show included such delights as coffins and skeletons and, upon seeing this, he determined that we would be the ideal band to open for The Misfits at the Electric Ballroom later that year, a show he was promoting. He also mentioned a festival he had heard about called "Hard Rock Holocaust."
So, on the Monday following, I emailed him and got the info on "Hard Rock Holocaust" and we duly made contact. Fast-forward a couple of months and a name change to "Hard Rock Hell" and, hey presto (thanks in no small part to some great schmoozing by Cyndi), we were on the bill headlining the New Blood stage. Now, this is still a bit fuzzy to me but it seems that our relentless promotion of Hard Rock Hell got us promoted from the New Blood stage - which was essentially a showcase of unsigned talent - to the Main Stage on the Friday night. Basically, we were opening the whole thing in the main arena.
The first Hard Rock Hell was held at Butlins in Minehead on the 9th & 10th November that year. The comparison between Butlins in Minehead and Pontins in Prestatyn (where it has since been held) is an interesting one. I don't think anyone would deny that Butlins is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay nicer than Pontins. Oh, how we scoffed at the accommodation at Butlins, until we met the accommodation in Pontins! Butlins also had much nicer catering, was larger in general and had some bonkers rides scattered around. But the size of the place meant that the atmosphere was always that of a Butlins, rather than a rock festival. It was very odd that year wandering around seeing pissed up rockers slumped over kiddie rides! As Pontins is much smaller, it is much more easily transformed into something resembling a place that rockers can hang out in. It's weird on the Sunday morning after it has all finished, seeing the black curtains being removed to reveal a holiday camp underneath! In short, Pontins, although shabby without an ounce of chic, has a much better atmosphere.
We were pretty scared before hitting the stage that first night. The arena was massive - wide and deep - and we were very aware that the majority of people attending the festival had no idea who we were and why the hell we were on the main stage. At that point, all we had had out was a couple of EP's, a compilation CD and a small bit of press but, when the doors opened, we were very happy when several hundred people piled in to see what we were all about.
I don't remember too much from our performance that evening, other than there was a disaster almost straight away! Some problem with Vikki's bass meant that, rather than hitting the preferred two songs running that we like to open with, we had to stop after the first song and lose a LOT of momentum. That fucks with your head a bit at the time and you feel like you can't recover but excitement took over and, after the bass problem was fixed, we rocked on. Until Cyndi broke a string during the second song! So, it was all going tits up but, fuck it, this was a massive stage with awesome sound and we were there to enjoy ourselves!
We must have done something right as we spent the rest of the weekend being congratulated and even enjoyed some good press from it (most notably Italian mag Rock Hard who gave us an amazing review). Seeing as we were the only unsigned band to grace the main stage that weekend, we went from being virtual unknowns to, well, slightly-less unknowns! But the seeds had been planted...
A heavy campaign to have us back for the second year was started. By us. We are shameless self-promoters (as you have to be to get noticed in this game) and, essentially, we begged to come back Year Two. Fortunately for us, members of the Hard Rock Hell forum were also asking for us to come back. Make no bones about it, if we hadn't impressed those that run HRH in Year One, no amount of begging by us would have had us back for the second year! So, imagine how totally ecstatic we were to be the only band from the first Hard Rock Hell to be asked back for Hard Rock Hell II. It is an accolade that we are truly very proud of.
Doing the first Hard Rock Hell gave us a lot of confidence. Here we were, little old us, opening the same stage that Twisted Sister were later to play, and holding our own. OK, we cannot pretend it was a faultless performance, but we entertained, got people talking and got people interested. It was actually also the first step to us getting the record deal that we have right now, come to think of it! Crucified Barbara were playing at that first HRH and, shortly after returning home, I contacted their label GMR in Sweden who, consequently, wanted to sign us.
But I am digressing (again). Between HRH I & II, we did a lot of gigging and did exciting things that made us feel all special by the time December came around. After getting over the initial shock of our chalets and the Auschwitz vibe that Pontins first gives off, we set off on our mission to get as many people as possible along to our show which was happening at midday on the Saturday. Ouch! Not only that, but Tigertailz were playing a really late show on the main stage the night before, so we knew that encouraging tired, hungover people to get up early to rock out with us was going to require some bloody hard work! Fortunately, hard work is not something we shy away from so, armed with a couple of thousand flyers and about 100 posters, we plastered the venue from top to bottom to let anyone and everyone know exactly when we were on.
The charm offensive worked. But I'll get to that. First of all, I had to try and get to bed at a reasonable time myself (missing Tigertailz in the process) to get up at 8am for a 10am load-in/soundcheck. Now, let me explain to you that 8am is not a time of day that Vikki or I see very often. Not having regular jobs means that we work on SLT and smellyourmum.com until very late at night getting to bed usually at about 4am. So our body clocks are pretty much that of a pair of Vampires and the prospect of rocking out at, what for us, is early morning, was not one we relished. We're not complainers though so, at 8am, after barely any sleep, we arose, got ready and went to Arena 2 for load-in.
My voice doesn't like 10am. It doesn't really wake up until about 5pm - which, under usual gigging circumstances, is spot on. So, here I am, 11am running through my vocal warm-ups attempting to kick-start some life into my croaky tones. The voice is a funny instrument to own. You have to look after it and, unlike every other instrument, how you feel affects it instantly. It's quite troublesome being a singer sometimes and this was one of those days when it didn't feel quite as good as it should have.
Again, we enjoyed wandering around post-set to much acclaim and even had a packed signing session, which overran due to the numbers in attendance. It was a good weekend, which was capped off when we returned home to find out that we had been voted the 7th Best Band of the whole festival. In fact, the only bands that beat us were the major acts on the bill, like Black Label Society, Thin Lizzy and The Wildhearts. Considering what time we were on, the odds were against us but we're feisty buggers and we pulled it off!
Did I think we would be asked back a third year? Privately, I thought we might. Not out of any sense of ego or entitlement but because I felt that we had become a part of Hard Rock Hell and the Hard Rock Hell family. I appreciate that is probably only our interpretations of events but, please understand; Hard Rock Hell has been huge for us! However, I certainly didn't take it for granted or expect it and I was delighted when Jonni (Hard Rock Hell main man) said he had an idea and to give him a call...
So, we were asked to close the main stage on the Saturday night of HRHIII. We would be following WASP, Queensryche and the New York Dolls. We'd be the last band standing. Not a daunting challenge at all then (sarcasm), but a challenge we VERY happily accepted. We now also had the claim to fame of being the only band to be asked to play at every single Hard Rock Hell! I am sure that annoys some people but, it must be said, the majority seem to love it and, to our detractors, I can only say that we are extremely hard working so deserve it, if that is any consolation!
Arriving back on camp it felt like we had never been away. The year between suddenly disappeared into thin air and, here we were, wandering around like all conquering heroes once again. We had a LOT of time to think about our impending performance and, I will be honest, sitting in the main arena watching WASP perform on the same stage you are going to be playing on later is both exciting and daunting. Frankly, I have never been as nervous before a show as I was this time last week!
We spent the Saturday afternoon pimping our show with the obligatory flyers and posters. OK, we didn't have to get anyone out of bed this time, but we did have to try and stop them going to bed! Most people's body clocks are set to an 11pm shut-down and, here we were, asking them to stay up a bit later to enjoy the closing moments of this amazing festival with us.
Loading in to the rear of the main arena wasn't as glamorous as you might imagine. We did it whilst the New York Dolls were on stage, which was quite odd as there was, just a curtain dividing us from them. Once ensconced behind the curtain, there was virtually zero room. Lauren Harris and her crew occupied our dressing room at that time, so we had to wait and attempt to set up what we could behind this curtain. All the while having NYD playing just a few feet away! The second they had finished, roadies and stage hands were running around, removing their gear and moving in Lauren Harris's whilst we mooched around trying to stay out of everyone's way. We're quite an unassuming bunch, really - not ones to push our weight around as we are truly grateful to be in such a privileged position. So, we kept ourselves tucked away. Once LH was on stage doing her set, we had to get our shit together. I got tarted up, started limbering up, physically and vocally... and waited. Everything was running about ½ hour late meaning that our advertised 1:45am start was now more likely to be 2:15. Bummer. Would people stay around? That was a biiiiig room to fill!
Changeover was like lightning. It wouldn't have been quicker if we had blown up Lauren Harris's gear and piled our own on top of the ashes/corpses. We were ready before we knew it and got the friendly stagehand to hit Play on our intro CD.
Hearing our 'Pussy Lover' intro from 'From Dusk Till Dawn' reverberate around the cavernous building was enough to get me in the mood to rock. And rock we did! It was great seeing so many people stay up to see us - the room actually got busier as our set progressed - and it ended up being my all-time favourite show. OK, we fucked up every now and then, but we're a rock n' roll band and fuck ups are part of rock, no? If you want perfection, go see Britney Spears lip synch to something. I felt like all the waiting around had built up to some kind of explosive energy and, that night, for those 40 minutes, we owned that stage. I didn't see every band at Hard Rock Hell that weekend but I can say, with confidence, that we would have been one of the best. And that isn't ego talking because, when we are good, I KNOW we are good!
Coming down after a show like that at 3am is pretty tough. Fuck, we had to try and get some kind of rest before an exhausting 7 hour drive back the next day (no drivers for us, I do all our driving). We hung out in VIP for a bit but then hunger took the better of me so I headed back to the chalet for a 5am snack. Went to sleep maybe at 6 only to wake up at 11, still jittery from all the ProPlus I had the night before and prepared to get everyone home safely.
Rather fittingly, as we were leaving HRHIII, I spotted some giant swords sticking from the ground outside a now vacant chalet. I screeched the bus to a halt and duly claimed them as ours. They now have pride-of-place in our back garden as a permanent memorial to one of our finest moments, to date.
Our Hard Rock Hell story doesn't stop there though. On Wednesday we received the invitation - from Jonni himself - to play at the inaugural Hard Rock Hell Road Trip, to be held in Ibiza 2nd - 9th June 2010. Of course, we very gratefully accepted and we can only wonder at what sort of crazy week that will be. The 9th is my birthday as well. What a way to spend it! Check it out at www.hrhroadtrip.com
Until next time...
© 12th December 2009 Lord Zion