Monthly Archives: November 2011

Tallinn and Helsinki 2005

Originally posted Sept 22 2005 on em411.com

At the end of February 2005 I played my first ever solo gig in ESTONIA of all places! There were no direct flights so the trip would be Glasgow > Amsterdam > Helsinki > Tallinn.

I went with my (then) girlfriend, after sorting the problem of stupidly putting my name of both sets of tickets – which usually incurs a change of name fee – KLM kindly waived this when they realised that it was a pretty dumb mistake by someone who doesn’t book flights often.

I had a half-day at work, taking my luggage in with me I left at 12 noon in a bit of a rush to catch the flight. I made my way to the train station where (my then) girlfriend phoned me to tell me the flight was delayed by 2 hours. I caught the next train into town anyway then caught the airport bus.

I was sitting at the front of the bus and the driver was tearing it down the motorway when his phone rang, he answered and the conversation went like this:
“Hullo”

“Aye, we got banned at tha’ weekend”

“We got caught goin’ in tae a cubicle tha’gether”

So I arrived at the airport and met up with my girlfriend and found out that the flight would be delayed by a few hours more. We passed the time by playing cards.

I was flying from Glasgow to Helsinki; changing at Amsterdam. We were told that we might not make the connecting flight and may have to spend the night in Amsterdam, and that’s what happened, when we arrived in Amsterdam the last flight to Helsinki had already left, so we booked ourselves on the first flight to Helsinki the following morning and were given half-board in one of the airport hotel’s for the night, unfortunately we couldn’t get near our luggage but we were given a toiletries bag each.

I phoned my friend Jorma in Helsinki, who I had planned to stay that night with, but he would be leaving for Tallinn before we arrived so we’d have to make our own way there, but he gave us instructions on how to find the port. The hotel room was incredibly hot and neither of us slept well.

The following morning we almost missed the bus back to the airport and almost got lost in Schipol airport is a big place! When we checked our tickets, it seemed that our seats were in business class! A mistake surely? Nope, as the airline had screwed up they upgraded us and it was the most enjoyable flight I’ve ever had, we had 1 hostess specifically attending to about 6 people, we had a 3 course meal with numerous free alcoholic drinks, while the rest of the plane got a sandwich.

We landed at Helsinki airport where it was snow-covered and freezing (– 15!)
We got a bus into town; on the way we spotted a KKK supermarket (no joke!) look here link
I saw signs for ‘Technopolis’ and a bus called the Trivia bus that made me chuckle.

Once in town we headed to the port but thanks to me reading a map wrongly we ended up at the wrong port but we found our way to the right one eventually, once there we followed the signs to the Tallinn terminal, where we found an empty locked building. Panic set in! We walked along to the busier looking Stockholm terminal, which was actually where we would board the Tallinn boat. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be leaving for some time, meaning the event I was playing at would have already started by the time I got there! To pass the time we played cards again and bought 2 standard beers and a large pack of peanuts, which cost 12 euros!
The boat was massive; it had 10 floors and took almost 3 ½ hours to reach Tallinn, traveling slowly over the dark ice-covered sea. I took a few photos of the icy waters, it was the first time I’d ever seen anything like it. I also booted up the laptop and attempted to put the finishing touches to my set.

We arrived in Tallinn around 10.00pm. I tried phoning Jorma to tell him we’d arrived but my dodgy phone was acting up (I’ve since replaced it)
We got a taxi to the hostel. On the website the hostel looked cute and picturesque, in the cold dark night it just looked creepy. We rang the bell.
It was a Russian couple that ran the hostel, and they didn’t speak much English. The woman showed us the breakfast area, which was right beside the reception desk, then she showed us our room, which was er, right beside the breakfast area, which was right beside the reception…basically she was right outside our door and in our room we could hear everyone talking in the reception, the man was always watching TV, so we got loud blasts of the Russian edition of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’
We asked for a double bed, we got 2 singles instead. We unpacked, I went to close the curtains and the curtain rail fell knocking over a vase full of twigs!? I dunno, it must’ve been some weird Estonia plant but to me it just looked like twigs in water. So anyway the curtains and curtain rail were now lying on the floor and the carpet was soaked. I got a towel to mop up the water. I returned the vase to its original position, which still had a small amount of water to keep the er, twigs, alive. So after much effort I put the curtain rail back up and attempted to close the curtains again, only for it to fall once more and knock over to the vase again. I was now in an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

Eventually I did manage to close the curtains and so we got ready to head into town. It was now almost 11pm. The event I was playing at started at10pm and was on till 3am. The address was No.1 Townhall square.
Now, with a name like No.1 Townhall square, wouldn’t you think it would be easy to find?
I asked the woman at the reception, who pulled out a map and studied it carefully…
“Townhall square, townhall square, townhall square…” she repeated, while her finger glided over the map.
The man came over and looked at the map too, she circled something and pointed at it, “niet” was the response…she made a few lines with her pen and circled something else “niet” again. They had a lengthy conversation together while I stood there watching. Eventually the man told me to follow him into one of the rooms here he pointed at a window “Townhall square, 10 minute straight! 10 minute straight!”
And so we headed off in that general direction…and got lost.
I tried phoning Jorma again but my phone switched off. I tried to make sense of the map, while my girlfriend stopped a few strangers and asked them for directions. It seems that no one had heard of this fabled “Townhall square”
Then we found a sign that pointed to “Raekoja Plats” Underneath was the English translation “Townhall square” We followed to the sign to a square of sorts, I assumed this must be it. No it wasn’t. It took us a while to realize there was another sign pointing North from here. Eventually we found the “Townhall square”
So you would think that now that we’ve found “Townhall square” finding “No.1 Townhall square” shouldn’t be too difficult right?
I could see no.3 and no.8 but no sign of No.1! The numbers were a bit random and didn’t make much sense. The place was called Saicang café but I could find no mention of it either. We wandered from one end of the square to another and down numerous back streets.
We asked a few people where the café was, no one knew, we even bumped into an English guy, he didn’t know either. There was a group of guys we’d wandered past a few times and so my girlfriend decided to ask them if they knew were it was. They did and took us right to the door; it was a small almost unmarked doorway through a lane just off the square. It was now around midnight. I played last. It seemed to go down well with the crowd. It turns out that the actual room were I played looked right onto the Townhall square, but from the outside the window was dark and unmarked. I met Taavi from the site afterwards. I considered going to a drum n bass club night, but really I was exhausted and so went back to the hostel for much needed sleep.

The following day we visited the market where I was cajoled into buying a pair of mittens. We then ate lunch at a medieval style restaurant, in a dark candle lit basement where the waiters dress liked musketeers! We also visited a pub just behind the Townhall. A cauldron sits outside, all the staff are in medieval dress and minstrels play music, the cinnamon, honey and herb beer’s they sell come in old clay jugs. Touristy yes, but far cheaper than any tourist area in any other European city I’ve been to.

Tallinn’s a really beautiful place, with a well-kept medieval old town; I recommend a visit, and although it looked beautiful in wintertime I suggest a summer visit as it was absolutely freezing!

My photos of Tallinn here:
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My photos of Helsinki here:
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And photos from the event (taken by Ivan) here:
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And I even had a track played on Estonian Radio!

Sweden 2005

Originally posted Sept 18 2005 on em411.com

So finally i’ve gotten around to blogging about my recent trip to Sweden (via Germany and the Netherlands)

Last year i attended the Norberg festival in the town of Norberg, about 200Km north west of Stockholm, this year i returned to the festival as a playing artist, but the gig didn’t quite go to plan…but more on that later as the journey begins at Glasgow’s Central Station…

For those who know me, you’ll know my time keeping isn’t the best so when i arrived at Central Station i was there 30 mins later than i had intended. I looked at the displays for the next train to Prestwick airport, found it, dragged my luggage on and sat down.

A man stuck his head in the train door and asked if the train went to Paisley Gilmour Street
I said i didn’t know, to which he exclaimed “you’re not sure!? what bloody use is that to me?!”
he then walked away mumbling…

Unfortunately this man forgot to take into account that there are BIG LCD DISPLAYS IN THE STATION WHICH TELL YOU WHERE EACH TRAIN GOES, THERE ARE ALSO MONITORS ON EACH PLATFORM TELLING YOU WHERE THE TRAINS ARE GOING…

But although i was certain i was on the right train that man had put doubts into my mind, so i asked the man behind me and he said i was on the Largs train…i used to go to Largs as a kid…it’s the end of the line and most definetly not the same line as Prestwick airport…I asked him if he was sure and he said “no” and suggested i ask the old woman sitting at the end of the carriage, so i did, she said she didn’t know where the train was going…WTF!?!

So…i got off the train and ran to the monitors at back of the train…and sure enough it was the Prestwick airport train AND Paisley Gilmour Street was the 1st stop. Phew. So i ran back on the train and told the guy who thought it was the Largs train that it was actually the Prestwick Airport train and what did he say???
take a guess…

he said, “Good, that’s where i’m going as well”
wanker. cheers for making me panic.

Hmmpff, so anyway i got to the airport in time, boarded the plane and looked for a window seat, of which i thought there were plenty, but no…the plane was just absolutely full of small kids! So no window seat for me this time, i ended up sitting next to someone who made ‘the sign of the cross’ on take off and then starting taking photos frantically once the plane was in the air. I flew to Dusseldorf Weeze airport (formerly known as Niederrhein military air base). The plane arrived 20 minutes early.

My friend Eric picked me up and took me to Beuningen, just outside Nijmegen, where i stayed at his house.

The following day we went back to the airport, this time heading for Stockholm.
Eric gave me a can of beer, which i placed in my laptop bag, maybe not the best place to put it and perhaps the reason why my bag was then searched, both my laptop power supply and beer were inspected. The plane arrived almost 45 minutes early! how is that even possible!?

Due to the early arrivial of the plane, it was clear when we got to the baggage reclaim area that our luggage wouldn’t be appearing any time soon so Eric suggested we crack open our beers. Now i know Sweden has draconian alcohol laws so i did wonder if we were just asking to be arrested.

As the stores in Sweden aren’t allowed to sell alcohol stronger than 3.5% i noticed that shops sell special 3.5% versions of popular brands, such as guiness and murphys but it isn’t making anyone less drunk, we went to a pub in Norberg town on the Saturday night was completely FULL of really drunken people! i was even chatted up by a mature Swedish lady who whispered “Tomintoul!” in my ear. Tomintoul is a town in northern Scotland, where whisky is made. I assume she’s either been there on holiday, sampled the whisky or was uttering a swedish chat up line that sounds uncannilly like a small highland town.

So back to the story, i stayed for 1 night in a town just outside Stockholm with 2 other friends, before meeting up with the final member of our party the day after in Stockholm. So 5 of us in total set off for Norberg where 3 of us would play.

We stayed at a hostel in the centre of town, the hostel was nice, but i’m still not totally sure about Swedish showers, i managed to soak the entire bathroom floor and didn’t realise it came equipped with a squeegee for such accidents.
In the room next to us was a guy called Daniel Araya, who we traded cds with. He also played directly after our sets at the festival.

So onto my set…
i experienced some technical difficulties, i’d been having problems with my ASIO sounddrivers for my indigo IO when using Ableton Live, So i thought i’d try the DirectX drivers instead and they worked absolutely fine in the hostel, but then when it came to the gig they failed…about 12-15 minutes in and the audio started cutting out, i thought it would pass but it gradually got worse and worse and so i had to stop, close down Live, take the indigo out, load ableton again, change the sound drivers, using the internal soundcard and start mid set…i had laid my set out in Live and it would run for 54 minutes but the combination of starting late and having probs meant that my set was running well into the next one…so i then had to edit on the fly.
I had a midi keyboard, which i intended to use but after having the problems i didn’t bother touching it…
being more prepared would’ve helped, as (typical of me) i was still working on my set 1 hour before i played!

So, the festival itself…
There were 2 stages less than last year, and still a lot of small acts playing that i’d never heard of, the rest probably thought the same of me.

Like last year the sound for a lot of the gigs in the main stage was too loud, resulting in distortion and dynamics being killed…loudness seems to be the top priority but many of the acts playing are what you would consider ‘ambient music’ so why the hell do they need to blast the music as if it’s a rock concert!?

The best act was probably EMS (institute for Electro-acoustic music). 4 artists played in this particular showcase, 2 girls, 2 guys. I bought a solo cd of one of the guys after the show.

I qualified for free food and drinks since i played, the food was alright but the drinks were better, as they were selling hoegaarden at the bar this year! mmm hoegaarden…but because of the alcohol laws you can’t take your alcoholic drinks with you to any of the stages and have to drink it inside the food tent.

Mira Calix headlined the festival and played last, i missed her set as i was tired and relaxing back at the hostel, but she sat opposite me at a table in the food tent and asked if she could borrow my festival program. I was gonna chat to her but couldn’t think of anything to say to her that wouldn’t make me sound like a twat, but it seemed clear that she wanted to be recognized. I saw her mingling with the crowd on a few occasions, she was the only artist i saw doing that.

There was definetly more girls at the festival this year, which is a good thing. A few cuties too, shame i only get chatted up by mature ladies, ho-hum…

So overall the festival was good fun but maybe not quite as much fun as last year.

After the festival i got to experience the ‘real’ Stockholm! Thanks to clarkq and kovakone, who took me to a few pubs in the cheaper parts of Stockholm and i even managed to get a knock back from one of them because i didn’t have ID!

So after Sweden i headed back to Holland. The plane was delayed this time and while waiting i had a chat with a Swedish pink floyd fan who was going over to Germany to go to some metal festival with his girlfriend.

On my return to the Netherlands i rode a bike for the first time in a year! I ate raw herring – the dutch way…i watching the fish being gutted before my eyes …yuk! The guy serving me asked where i was from, i said Glasgow. His next question was “Celtic or Rangers” Turns out one of his neighbours was a Rangers fan from Glasgow. He then told me that Celtic had been hammered 5-0 in the Champions League qualifiers.

In Nijmegen i also saw my first outdoor escalator, but i didn’t spot any outdoor urinals and i swear i witnessed 2 bees in the act of either fellatio or cunnilingus. I was gonna take a photo but i thought i might get stung for invading their private moment.

So on the flight home, one of the flight attendants came to my row and asked if anyone would like a magazine? The guy next to
me said “yes” and so did i, the attendant handed a magazine to the other guy then looked at me sternly and said “No! only 1 per row!” Pffft…

On returning home i started work on a track for a field recording based compilation using samples that were recorded whilst in Sweden. It took me a while but i finished a track eventually, you can hear it here if you haven’t already:
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and you can download the whole album here:
link

My photos are finally online, which you can view here:
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and view some other random people’s Norberg Photos here:
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Oh, one last thing…

I learned from my travels that a short walk to someone from the Netherlands is a 5 minute walk, a short walk to someone from the UK is a 10 minute walk, but a short walk to a swede seems to be a 30 minute walk!

I’m also wondering if i should go ahead and post blogs about my trips to Amsterdam and Tallinn, which i started, forgot about and never got around to posting, would it be a bit pointless to post them now?!