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…


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:

and you can download the whole album here:

My photos are finally online, which you can view here:

and view some other random people’s Norberg Photos here:

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?!

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