Wednesday, January 9, 2013

interview #8 - tour swede

The Mr. Becos interview series continues with Mattias, also known as “Tourswede”, a European tour van driver and tour manager (as in bands, not tourists) and road drama logistics master based in Berlin. Highly recommended for your next tour of Europe.

Mr. Becos: To make sure I have my facts straight, you are a Swedish man living in Berlin who makes a living carting touring bands around the European continent? How many months a year do you spend in a band van?

Tour Swede: Correct!  I probably spend about three to five months of the year on the road . . .as an average. I am mainly involved with tour managing and driving.

 Mr. Becos: What do you do with the other half of the year?

Tour Swede: I spend most of the off-time biking around Berlin with a book looking for cafes to hang out in. Drinking coffee and buying/trading and playing records is a big hobby.

Mr. Becos:  Your job requires a lot of lifting. How do you keep your physique in optimum condition?

Tour Swede: I don't!  And one day it will all catch up with me! 

Mr. Becos:  You're also an outspoken advocate of daytime drinking (obviously when you’re not driving bands around and being the only responsible party for miles around). What are some of the benefits of getting intoxicated in the daylight?

Tour Swede: You usually have more energy and you are more awake.  And you are less likely to wake up with a hangover. 

 Mr. Becos: Sure, it gives you less morning hangovers, but don't you feel like shit after dinner?

Tour Swede: The trick is to avoid a big dinner . . . because that will for sure make you feel like garbage. You gotta snack your way through it. Cheesy toast, nuts... that kind of thing. 
Mr. Becos:  For better or worse, riding in a tour van is one of the most intensive ways of getting exposed to music. Can you recommend a couple of recent discoveries that our readers should either seek out and/or avoid?

 Tour Swede: The 2-3 minute songs can sometimes remind you of how long a journey can be. Drone, ambient or jazz can make it easier to forget time. And going against what I've just said . . . one of the best on-tour records for me is the Impulse album that John Coltrane recorded with Johnny Hartman. I recently got into Alice Coltrane's Lord of Lords which is a good travelling album. And OM is always good. For difficult and irritating days on tour my "go to" album is still always Entombed's Wolverine Blues. A recent discovery although not so new is the Jenny & Johnny (Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice) album I'm Having Fun Now. I had the pleasure of touring with them in Europe and I loved the music then. But the album keeps growing! I don't know how to describe it so best check it out.

Mr. Becos:  What is the worst country to tour in and why?

Tour Swede:  Italy can be weird because of the EVER-changing schedules and plans. 

Mr. Becos:  I had some friends whose gig got shut down by protesting Italian anarchists in Rome. Have you ever had to make a quick physical escape or physically fight off an Italian?

Tour Swede: Not Italians. But I did play in a band once upon a time and we had a show in Sweden where a bunch of "undesirables" turned up. Fights started happening and at one point, shortly after realizing there were undesirables there, we did a subtle escape down the emergency stairs round the back. It was one of the earliest tours and we were afraid the rented backline and mini van was gonna be stolen/smashed. And apart from us and the undesirables most of the punters were very young kids... so not an ideal place to take a stance for a fight... surrounded by expensive equipment. That night we decided not to stay in town so we drove on... getting stuck on the motorway in a terrible snow blizzard. We had to all sleep in the van, horn section and all, parked halfway down the road-side ditch. Ah . . .good times.

Mr. Becos:  Any other harrowing touring incidents worth discussing?

Tour Swede: Someone being very close to being electrocuted on stage due to faulty electrics. Could have been a real bad day on tour. Luckily a guitar string touched a certain metal part and when we saw the "fireworks display" we knew it was not all good. The local electrician found found it quite amusing for some reason. 

Mr. Becos: Is there anyone who you wouldn't mind slandering who you've been stuck in a van with who is an utter ass? If you do mind slandering/don't want to get beat up you can tell some bad stories and not use their real names.

Tour Swede: One band always spring to mind and they really were complete dick heads (most of them). I was surprised at how they managed to play shows considering how much they hated each other. Then I was not surprised they broke up shortly after the tour! Never heard a word about any of them ever playing in a band again. 

Mr. Becos:  I’ve heard you wax nostalgic about riding your bicycle in the freezing rain. I hate riding my bicycle in the freezing rain. Explain yourself.

Tour Swede: Remember there is no bad weather. Just bad clothing!

Mr. Becos:  What was your reaction when you found out that Rob Halford was a homosexual?

Tour Swede: I don't think anyone was surprised. We grew up in Sweden with a lot of rock/heavy rock and metal. And spending years watching your favorite bands dress in leather and tight pink spandex it was not something that raised that many eyebrows. 

Mr. Becos:  Do you have any time to make music yourself?

Tour Swede: Not any more. I noodle on the guitar when the girlfriend is away and that’s about it. 

Mr. Becos:  I like to ask every Northerner: why do you think that Scandinavians make such good metal?

Tour Swede: The environment. The mountains and desolate areas that surround us. The weather, the dark periods. The folklore of Scandinavia plays a part I think. A lot of the black and heavy metal that comes out of there is melodic and chimes closely with much of the pagan/folk heritage. And that music is in itself born out of the landscape, weather and old religions from that area. 

Mr. Becos:  You also have a good working knowledge of Turkish psychedelic music. Can you make some recommendations?

Tour Swede: I don't have that much knowledge actually... but Cecen Kizi is always a good starting point. Bosporus Bridges is a classic collection that everyone should own. 

Mr. Becos:  By now you would seem to know most of the techniques necessary for living through even the ugliest of tours. Shitty food, unsanitary conditions, nothing to eat or drink for days, sleeping on piles of garbage, etc. What advice would you give to young men and women striking out on tour for the first time?

Tour Swede: We work in bacteria hell and most places don't have soap... so always have a backup plan on how to clean your hands! And a clean pair of socks go a really long way... even on the real shitty days!!

Mr. Becos:  If people want you to be their Tour Swede how can they contact you?

Tour Swede: Well funny you should ask... I just completed my first website. Proper amateur-hour stuff but here it is . .