July - August 2002
Poets and Canadians...
2002 Tour Diary by Christopher Caffery
Hello once again. When I first found out that Al was not able to do the European tour I was really stressed out. Eh... Then we decided to call up Jeff Waters Eh and luckily he was able to join us for a month of serious gas and metal.
Annihilator is one of my favorite bands, Jeff is one of my favorite guitarists...so, when we found out he could do the tour I was very excited.
The 2 weeks before Jeff arrived in America were quite amusing Eh. He would e-mail me about 75 times a day and ask 100 questions about every little detail of the songs. Tunings, set lists, endings, medlies, everything Eh.
Most of the stuff I could answer, however a lot of it I could not. Jeff did not realize that Savatage never really rehearses and we don’t figure things out like set lists until the plane fight to Europe. I think I told you that we rehearsed 10 minutes for the Gutter tour. Not much has changed now Eh.
My life in New York City is pretty quiet Eh. I sit home and write, I have Igor to amuse me so I get plenty to laugh at. A visit here and there to the gym and the local bar, I am pretty much a homebody.
August 14th 2002 was the day that everyone started to arrive at the ‘Tage Majal. First cam the Muchmore’s. Gary our soundman and his daughter. I had told Gary it was ok for them to come up early. I did not know it was going to be the same day as the Canadian Eh and Oliva. Oliva was driving up from Florida, he needed a break from everything before the tour. He arrived in a good mood Eh and we went to the local bar to see Igor. Igor got off of work and we drove to the airport to get the jolly Canadian.
Unfortunately about an hour after the flight landed there was still no Waters Eh. Plus no bar. We had lost our buzz, Waters had lost his bag!!!
Once the familiar mohawk walked thru the doors of customs I knew he had no suitcase and I immediately wondered if he would be bad luck for us...Eh.
We brought him back to Astoria and we all went out to eat. Things were going to be just fine Eh, Waters is a very righteous dude.
The next 4 days were spent watching a paranoid Waters worry about every little detail of the songs. We reviewed everything and there was not a whole lot he did not figure out on his own. It was very refreshing Eh. He picked the solos he wanted to play, oddly enough they were a lot of mine on the CD’s. I decided to play Al on this tour. Things were very relaxed. We just ate a lot of Mexican food and gassed each other out of the living room. Canadians fart a lot. Luckily I have Gary to combat the Air Canada with the St. Petersburg Anal academy.
The air conditioner broke in Waters room, actually it is brand new and Igor confused the computer. No one knew how to fix it, we eventually bought a new in room A/c so the Canadian would not melt.
I turned Jeff onto my favorite Mexican restaurant... he would eat there almost every day till we left... quite possibly a big mistake!
On the 18th Johnny, Jeff and Drac arrived. We were ready to rehearse.
Of course that night we just hung out and talked. Jeff was in the basement apartment. John, my landlord’s brother, was in Greece and let us use it.
Johnny was with the Canadian in the bunker. I guess they got off on the right foot. By morning Middleton had re-named Waters "The Maple Spackler"
I guess you can imagine why.
I believe it was like this. Waters backfired and Johnny said something like "You just spackled the wall."
Waters being Canadian Johnny then said, "Maple Spackle." A name Mr. Waters will have forever.
Johnny did come up with Biff Ranger and Pad Boy also.
Me, Drac and Oliva were out that night making sure we were very fresh for the first rehearsal!!! I invented a new drink called "The Mother Pucker."
It had Apple and Watermellon Puckers with Vodka, Grenadine and soda water. An instant summer classic.
I really think that Jeff Waters expected something different with Savatage. He thought we were this serious metal band. Well, we are serious when we get down to business, but all of the other times we are a bunch of kids who love to have fun and hate rehearsal!!! We played about 5 songs and broke to get pizza. I took Jeff to Mariella’s on 8th Ave and 57th. It is our favorite place. I believe it is the best in the city. Criss Oliva swore by it. We returned to SIR and stumbled our way thru the rest of the set. We were out of there early and on our way back to Astoria.
Waters stopped to get Mexican food once again Eh... you know what they say about too many Jalapeno’s...
Saturday and Sunday were very similar to the first day. Every day it got tighter and tighter. It was so great to play this stuff with a guitarist that plays so similar to myself and C.O.. Johnny thought we had booked too much rehearsal!!! Probably, but Jeff needed to get the stuff programmed in his head.
As I have told you in an update, Jeff picked some solos he wanted to play. They wound up being mine! So, I let him do whatever he wanted to! I played Al’s solo in "Commissar," Jeff played mine. I played AL’s solo in DWD, Jeff played mine. By the time we were done he was doing harmony stuff all over, it sounded amazing. The solo in "Believe" was so cool in harmony!
Sunday night Jeff Plate and I went out with Andy Hilfiger, Tommy’s brother. Jeff has known him forever. I knew him and his brother Billy (RIP) for about 18 years. Billy passed away last year. Cancer, it is so sad, he was one of the nicest people on the planet. We started uptown and wound up downtown at a private party. I knew so many people there from the old days of NYCity night life. Lots of fun. Andy invited us to his office later in the week. He is partners with Jennifer Lopez and has the company J-Lo clothing. Very impressive people Andy and Tommy Hilfiger. It so cool to see what these upstate NY boys have accomplished. Jeff and I both left with our J-Lo bags full of clothes and headed for SIR.
I am hoping to wear a Tommy Hilfiger Tux onstage with TSO this year!!!!
Andy is actually a great bass player. He has even played with Kid Rock! Jeff and I are going to do some shows with him in the city. Mostly industry parties and stuff, but it should be a blast!
The rest of the rehearsals went amazing. The Parents... i.e. Management and Paul O’Neill..loved it.
The crew left on Monday afternoon, we had one more day and were going to fly out Wednesday Eh.
Waters loaded up on more Mexican. Jon, Drac and I more "M.P’s." We were ready to roll this sideshow to Europe!!!
Wednesday July 24th Delta Airlines to Spain!
Johnny, and the 2 Jeff’s had to finish laundry that morning Eh. I always drop mine off, I hate laundry! Igor was very sad to see us go. Not ‘cuz he was going to miss us, but because of the mess we left him to clean!!!
We all arrived at the airport and waited to check in. I personally love traveling without the crew or our gear. The gear shipped Saturday, the crew Monday!!! Things went smoothly and we headed to the gate to wait. A few short hours ‘til we were in Europe. Well, not short, but I had some Tylenol PM and it will seem very short!
Igor called from the house. Waters’ missing ESP guitar arrived when we left. Figures. By this time we were all speaking Canadian Eh. Every frickin word Eh ended with Eh. Oliva was in very good spirits by the time we got on the plane. Our bartender was an old Spanish guy. Pretty funny guy, barely spoke English Eh.
I stopped at the magazine stand. I bought 2 MAC magazines and one hunting magazine. About all I need to survive these days. We then stumbled to the plane.
I always get nervous when there are a lot of old people on the plane. No offense, but I figure maybe God will see they are close to their time and try to get a bunch out of the way at once!!! I am not really afraid of flying, kinda amazed by it actually. Still I can never forgive the cowardly acts of September 11th. I know our plane never would have made it into any building. You would have to get by the Mt. King and us first. Good luck. Eh.
After a few red wines I was almost ready for bed... The food then cameThere was actually an amazing steak on the plane. The best airplane food I ever had. Actually like a real steak! Another wine and... See ya in Spain!
July 25th Spain Travel Day off
We landed in Barcelona and had to take a Turbo Prop plane to Valencia. I love prop planes, everyone else hates them. I figure you at least have a chance to live if it crashes!!! Johnny and I had our Cerveca (Spanish Beer) for breakfast and boarded the TP. Aboard the prop plane I remember this terrible odor overtaking the plane. I looked up and saw the "Spackler" waving his hand Eh....the Mexican was still kickin! Wow Eh!
Of course our hotel was near nothing. This always happens. We checked in and slept for a bit. I wanted to go to the beach, it took me about an hour and a half to get everyone up and ready. I almost bailed out with the guys from Duff McKagan’s band, but I decided to wait for the troops. We took the train to the beach. Very crowded beach. Yup, Europe...topless Eh!!!! Funny how even the laziest of our crewmembers will walk for miles down a topless beach!
After a few hours the guys wanted to get back to the hotel. I wanted to go see Valencia. I was there before and I really liked it. Jeff Plate stuck behind with me and we began our 5 hour walk thru the city. We were both starving and stopped at an Irish Pub for food. NOT….there was no food Eh and we were forced to get a beer!!! ;) After a big beer and a kidney pump we headed back to the street. Seemed there was no food anywhere yet. Which may not be bad considering my experience last year in Spain. Our trusty map led us back towards the hotel. It was still far away. There was a castle we wanted to see. We found a nice Italian restaurant to eat at and sat outside. I forgot how late Spain opened. We sat at 9PM and no one showed up till 10. By 11 it was packed. I just ate some hot cheese bread and tomatoes. I was still too scared of the food in Spain. A couple more beers and we stumbled on our way. We managed to find a huge park. We heard music and followed. We saw a tour bus and asked some dude with a laminate what was up Eh.
He said the name of the band, we did not know it. He invited us to watch anyway. We had come a long way and could definitely use the break. We sat and watched this band. Almost like a Spanish TSO. Very cool show. A few more beers and we were really having fun. Some kids at the beer line recognized me and gave me some hashish. Funny right. I don’t smoke, but I knew I would be everyones best friend back at the hotel. After watching the band and the audience dance to it...we decided to head out. We finally found this castle we were looking for. Jeff took photos, I took some in ’97. We were still only half way to the hotel. We eventually got a cab back to the hotel. I found Oliva in the bar and he was upset because he could not find any hash...Surprise!!! Smiles everywhere!!! Of course it was only one o’clock and the hotel bar was closing. We were in the middle of no where and could not find a single bar open anywhere. It was funny seeing us and the guys from Duff’s band wandering the streets aimlessly in search of anything open. We failed and decided to get to bed. The next day was Rock Machina. Seemed like a good idea? Or was it?
July 26th - Monocofar - Spain - Rock Machina
I don’t know what convinced me to wake up at 9 that morning, but the bus was leaving early for the gig. Sometimes these shuttles to and from a festival are a living hell. I decided to check out my gear and leave with the bus. We arrived at the festival grounds at around 10:30 A.M. That would be fine if we were not playing 14 hours later!!!! Spain is late, I forgot! After checking out my amps and raiding the festival shops I managed to push the clock to about 2PM. I knew the beach was close by, I decided to find it. Most of the people I asked said I was nuts for wanting to walk. They said it was too far. They forget I live in New York City. All I do is walk! Major problem was I wore the sandals I had on the day before and my frickin feet hurt Eh. This beach, when I finally arrived, was very nice. It was quiet and mostly made of stones. The water was clear blue. I was very happy to be right where I was at the moment. I knew I had a press conference at the gig at 5 so I made sure I kept moving. I walked a few miles in either direction. I was collecting rocks and shells for my fish tank at Mom’s. I stopped to grab a horchata, my favorite rice drink in Spain. Lots of kids on the beach recognized me. Obviously there for the festival Eh. I walked out onto one fishing pier made of rocks. It was so relaxing. At the end there was this bright green seaweed growing around the rocks. Up against the clear blue sea it was incredible. I forget sometime just how lucky I am to be able to travel and see all the things that I do. My life is truly a dream at times. The pain in my feet was pretty bad at this point, I decided it was Cervesca time!!! Just one....besides we did not have to play for another 11 hours! I called my Mom to say hello, my cell phone worked better in Spain on the beach than it does in NY. Go figure Eh. Before I stayed there all night I got up and headed back to the festival. Of course things were running late. Even the press conference. I remember asking the promoter if he wanted us awake onstage. At around 6:30 our press conference began. This is where I said the now famous quote about the Spackler. People asked what happened to Frost. I said that he melted and we now had Waters!!! An affectionate joke. I spoke briefly about the release of Jack and the press conference continued. It was pretty funny, then again, anything with Oliva is funny Eh. OK, now there was only about 6 hours ‘til show time, I tried an unsuccessful nap. Too many kick drums thru the bus walls. I watched Duff’s band. He sang and played guitar. Cool rock band. I spoke to Duff for a while. I told him how much I loved the bass and drums on the "Appetite" CD. I told him he should be proud, he was a part of something very special. But you all know that. I ate a piece of bread this day, yum. The record company rounded me up to do more interviews and by the time I finished there was still 3 hours ‘til showtime. HELP!!! I should have slept in! I then decided to take another shower and wake up! I like Suicidal Tendencies, but there set seemed like 3 hours as we waited to go onstage. By 2:30 we were ready. The lights went out, the crowd of around 9,000 was ready to go. Well, what energy they had left was Eh!!!! Same with us. The intro for "Commissar" played we got ready to rock Eh and as soon as we hit the first chord the frickin lights blew out. Way to go Tazini. He fired everything at once and the generator blew out. We finished Commissar in the dark, just 2 follow spots. Could be that Canadian luck Eh!!! After the song Jon and I tried to talk to the crowd. I used some bizarre Spanglish. Then we played Temptation Revelation. As soon as we finished the lights came on and we started up again. Pretty bizarre Eh. The show kicked major tired ass. The Spackler was an instant hit. I think he was feeling the ill effects of the Mexican food, said the old leather pants were a bit uncomfortable in the seat Eh. We packed up, the site was a ghost town when we finished at 6 and we headed back to the hotel. Annihilator was playing the next day, so we were heading back to sit in the sun and watch the Spackler in action.
July 27th and 28th - Annihilator in Spain - Long ride to Germany
I love the people that bring us to these foreign countries. That is until we get tossed from our Hotel with 5 hours of sleep after a very long day. Seems no one thought to figure we would make it back so late. We had the normal noon check out. OUCH. I skipped breakfast and went to sleep in the bus. We arrived back at the festival and headed for the beach! Johnny, Jeff Plate, Drac, Papa Kyle and myself. Since we did not have a show for 2 days a little Calimoche would not kill us. Drac and I began to dive into our favorite Spanish drink of Coke and wine. Kinda the poor man’s equivalent of Whiskey and blow!!! The Canadian played at 6:15. So, we sat at the beach until 5:30 and headed back. We arrived just in time to hear Oliva introduce The Canadian Eh. Drac and I decided to watch from the front row. It took the Spackler a little while to notice us. We got the whole crowd chanting ...Eh. This was the first time I ever saw Annihilator. I love the band, they killed at this show. Now the Spackler was doing his second show in 16 hours. The sun was right in his face. I noticed him sweating a lot, but I did not realize just how drained he was. During the last song I crowd surfed to amuse Waters and the guys. I had a blast...until I found out that Jeff had a heat stroke onstage. I rushed backstage and found him on a stretcher and on his way inside an ambulance. We were all very worried, we just started to get used to the funny Canadian! Thankfully he was alright, just really dehydrated and exhausted. We left him in Spain and headed for Germany. He was to fly in the next day. Drac and I continued to stay awake in his honor. We spent the night experimenting with hair spray. We made this ridiculous video with our hair teased up like Britney Fox. We were speaking Canadian Eh. It was very funny to us at the time, it was not as funny sober on the bus the next day!!! It had its moments. I still decided not to eat anything but ice cream on the ride. This day on the bus was so boring, I just slept. Eventually we hit Germany and stopped at a truckstop. McDonald’s!!!! Food finally... Back to sleep. The Spackler was ok and on his way to Germany. Lucky guy did not have to take that bus ride! Next stop, Aff.
July 29th - Aschaffenburg, Germany
OK, Where am I? A lot of times when you wake up on the bus, you have no idea where you frickin are eh. This was one of them. There was no parking for the bus at the hotel, so we were across the street and no one was on the bus awake. I managed to find Gary and get to our day rooms to shower. I was still half asleep. I thought it was supposed to be cold in Germany, it was pretty nice Eh. Shortly after the bus rolled to the gig for load in. This was a very cute little town with lots to see and do. This is important when you have all day to do nothing. I was anxious to do some shopping. Johnny Lee needed a new power supply for his phone, so we ventured out to shop. We had trouble locating his power supply, seems it is already outdates for a phone less than one year old! Technology Eh. So... we found the mall!!! I forget the name of the electronics store, but it had everything we needed. Johnny found his power supply and I found 2 new games for the Playstation. I was tired of watching the guys play this boring-assed car chase game in Spanish Eh! It was our only TV on the bus. I bought a WWF Raw is War game and a Mountain Biking Game. Well, I tried to buy it, seems no one takes credit cards in this mall. So, Johnny and I had to back track and find an ATM. Imagine that America...spending what you have! We returned to the venue and The Spackler had arrived, alive and well!!! Cured to the bottom and in between Eh. Everyone was very happy at sound check and very excited for the first long show. If we only knew how frickin hot it would be Eh. We ate dinner and had a meet and greet with our German fan club. There were fans there from Japan and Greece too. Right on. It also marked the arrival of the Kings of Nomad. Clay and Frode. Two guys who would never miss this line-up live. Frode would of course give his honest opinion, as would Clay. I was not nervous this time. I knew we were going to make them happy. By show time it was about 120 degrees in the venue and we were about to sweat our asses off on stage. The crowd was amazing, the best I had seen in Germany at a headline show in years. Just an energy, hard to explain. Smiles everywhere. The Spackler Rocks Eh. Mt. King was stumbling all over the intro for Gutter, things were back to normal. I did not talk to Clay or Frode, but I got a serious positive smile and nod from both. I think everyone liked it. We loaded up and headed to Munich for our day off. Along the way I received some disturbing news from the States... nothing we need to discuss here, just amazes me how selfish people are. Times like that you see just how different your life is from others. Far away and unable to do anything but accept things and look forward to the next day. I was too angry to hang out with the guys and crashed. They were enjoying the new wrestling game.
July 30th - Munich
We checked into the hotel very early. I still needed some more sleep. So did the tired Canadian. The Spackler was my new roommate. Canadians sleep naked Eh. Kinda odd fellows. They fart a lot. Not that we don’t but they are more animated at it. I woke up at about 2 and decided to venture into Munich. It was about three miles from the hotel. There was a big park along the way, I wanted to run. On the way out I discovered Oliva, hammered lying on the floor in his room. He went to the Hoffbrau Haus at 11 AM to get stuff for his family. He returned with a huge buzz Eh. Hard to wrap that up as a gift. Criss Oliva and I loved this place. It is a band favorite. I remember my first tour of Europe. I won a beer chugging contest there. I chugged 4 of those things in an hour. I don’t remember much other than the fact that I was collecting rear view mirrors from Mercedes Benz’s. Sorry Eh. I was young. The park was nice, the grass was not maintained like Central Park, but everyone was naked so I guess it had its’ positive points. Germans are worse than Canadians with the naked thing Eh. I made it thru the park and with my trusty map I made it right to the Hoffbrau Haus. It was about 5 o’clock. I decided to sit down for a nice German meal and a local brew. I could vividly remember the first time I was there. It was Criss, Johnny, Dan Campbell our tech and Joe our drum tech. Seems like such a short time ago, hard to believe it was 12 and a half years ago. I phoned the hotel. Jeff Plate was going to join me soon. A few huge beers later Jeff arrived. I was very happy by then. There was a lot of Japanese people in the place. They were drinking more than me! He ate and we continued to down the local brew Eh. I think we left there around 8 or 9. Not sure. We ventured across the street to the Hard Rock Café’.
This is where things get a bit fuzzy. We met a U.S. GI, and some metal fans from Italy. I invited everyone to the show. The GI bought tequilla, so things got really fuzzy from there. I am not sure what time we got back to the hotel, I do know I was in the bar and the Spackler was buying me non-alcoholic beer. I must thank him for that. I definitely had enough. I eventually passed out. Lots of fun for all Eh.
August 1 - Munich
The spackler and I woke up at about 9 AM, how I have no idea. We went down for breakfast. The room was spinning. I immediately went back to sleep. I received my wake up call at 11 AM. There was no way I was getting up. The Spackler and I decided to call the front desk. We arranged a 5 PM checkout. I went right back to bed until 2. At that time, I almost felt human. I went down to the pool to get some sun. I was surrounded by more naked German people. I decided to get a massage and try to gather up brain cells. Before the massage I had to shower... more naked German ladies. Interesting concept this co-ed naked all the time thing. After an hour of a massage and another 15 minutes of a sauna I was ready to at least get out of the hotel. A positive. Jeff and I arrived at the gig in time for sound check. I know when I have had a funny night out when I walk in the room and everyone starts clapping. I guess I was in rare form. Everyone asked me how I felt, I said fine and apologized for my stupidity and got back to work. It was a day off Eh? Showtime was early so I ate a little and got ready to go. I wore my Hoffbrau Haus shirt in honor of the previous night of silliness. Another great show, actually the best crowd I had ever seen in Munich at a headline show. Munich is usually like the L.A. of Germany. This show was great. My contact lense decided to fog up and it was difficult to see, another very hot stage. Oliva made fun of my adventures on stage and managed to get even worse at the Gutter intro. After the show I ran into everyone I did not remember from the night before, I took it easy and talked to the fans til we left. The bus ride was again all about the WWF.
August 2nd - Bochum
We arrived in Bochum and it was gray and raining. This is the Germany I know and love. This was the first place Savatage played in Germany on the Dead Winter Dead tour. I remember being surprised at just how packed it was. That band with Zak and Al rocked. Those were great tours for us in Europe. This tour was turning out to be as good as any Eh. I was excited to play every night. I was wondering if my friend Franny was going to be in catering. She was one of the first people I became friends with in Europe. Our show was the first night she ever worked there in 1996. She was there, but not working. She took care of us as usual. She is probably the most Americanized of any people I know in Europe. Very nice person. Before the show Waters decided to do his special Canadian naked bread act. It was quite amusing. French bread, 2 hard rolls and a guitar. Use your imagination Eh. I hope noone ate the bread!!! The show was great once more, we were definitely ready for Wacken the next day. It was yet another very hot stage. This was highlighted by Tazz’s neverending wash of white lights on our backs. Thanks Taz! Yes, Gutter Ballet was even worse. I think Jon covered by having the crowd sing over his mistakes. Afterwards Franny brought Jon and I dinner in a private bar and we headed to the bus for some rest, the next day was a very important one.
August 3rd - Wacken
It was raining all night... Wacken was a swamp. I hate festivals in the rain. The crowd is tired and in a bad mood, the sound sucks. I prayed things would change. We pulled into our Hotel at around 8. There was no rooms, eventually everyone figured this dilemma. I got my key and went in. The room was a single, I informed Gary and locked the door, I needed some time to sleep. Of course my phone rang every 10 minutes Eh. Someone looking for his room, then the knocks at the door. Then it was maids. Then the front desk making sure I was me. I got about 10 minutes of sleep. I showered and left with the bus for the festival at 2. Our bus driver had gotten into an accident and we had to wait for the police. We usually have this one driver in Europe. His name is Vulker. He is an older German guy. He is like our European Dad. He was not available. So we had a few different drivers. Very long rides in Europe you take 2 drivers. This one driver was like a German Jerry Garcia. He drove exactly as he looked. Kinda sloppy and confused. We eventually got on our way. As soon as we pulled into the festival grounds the sun came out. I remember Dynamo in ’96. Sun came out for us then. That good ole’ Savatage spirit looking out for us once more. Jon and I were the only ones in the band there. Jeff Plate was, but he was working on his drums. So, Oliva and I had interviews and a signing session. We signed for a very long time,. I love our fans. They are so special. Makes every bit of silliness worth it always. I ran into the guys ibn Candlemass. I had not seen them since 1990. We did my first tour of Europe with them. King Diamond, Savatage and Candlemass. Messiah the singer told me that Candlemass always help their own against other bands. Until the Gutter abnd came along. He said we were the only band to ever upstage them and we did it every night. It was a special band. I was happy to see those guys, they would play the next night with us too. The show was kinda early that day so show time came by quickly. Before you knew it Commissar hit and we were ready to go. The crowd was amazing. Waters had some trouble with his guitar in the first song, luckily I know all the parts Eh!!! Seems someone forgot to turn the intro tape off. We played with the CD blasting the whole first verse or 2. Things settled down and we had a very special show. Everyone was on. Damond loves the big stage, he does not run into us then. He is a big nutty on the small ones, can be dangerous. Biker Lee Middleton was smiling next to me. I was really enjoying the crowd and the show. I like festival shows in the day. The crowd is awake and not too hammered! Nothing like starting Mountain King in front of 30,000 people. You should try it some day. A very powerful feeling. We took our bows and headed back to the dressing room very satisfied. I hope everyone else liked it. We soon found out they did. I welcomed the Canadian into the band because he finally had an onstage disaster in front of a large amount of people. I remember the last Wacken we played when I got the wrong tuned guitar for Sirens!!! This performance at Wacken was much better. We all ventured out to meet the press and fans. We had a bout 4 hours to relax and soon found the tropical drink tent. Oliva and I were having a lot of fun. Yes, we still have fun on the road, just none before we play. Everyone was raving about the show and the band with the Spackler. The quote "Savatage is Back" rang in my ears everywhere. The usual questions about my recent band personal changes quickly disappeared and we talked to old and new friends. We had a meet n greet with the Greek fan club. Great to see them there. I know the Italian fan club was there, I could not find them. I saw Matthias from Metalium and Mark Cross. The Vicious Rumors guys were there. A huge party. Led by The Mountain King himself. I personally had a great day. We were dragged onto the bus and left at around 2. Yet another long drive to Switzerland... Thanks Germany... YOU ROCK!!!
August 4th - Z7 Metal Days
We did not even have to load into this festival til 9 PM. So we took our time getting to Switzerland. We actually stopped at the same truck stop with the McDonald’s. I showered and grabbed a McRib. An everyday sandwich in Europe at McDonald’s. Lots of flies in the restaurants in Europe. Must not be too many law suits Eh. We arrived at our second home in Europe Z7. I think I have played this place more times than anywhere else in my career. Correction...I forgot Cleveland on the TSO tour! We saw all of our friends. The monitor guy, the bartenders, the cook. Great cook. He once again had horse meat for us. He got me to try it in January. I loved it. Yeah, I know...you have a horse...etc...whatever. I have chickens too and I had a Mc Nugget earlier. I have fish and....well you know what I feel about fish in Europe!!! We were on pretty late. I wandered around the campground. Cool little festival. 2 stages. A mini festival. The campground had power and showers. Very nice. Some fans recognized me and ran up to me. They handed me some green stuff in a plastic bag Eh. They said every time we play in Switzerland they give Oliva Pot. Too funny. It is legal there now so I brought it back to Jon. He was all smiles. However he had enough already! We had a signing session and watched Candlemass. I went onstage with them for old time sake. I used to every night on the Gutter tour. We all were a bit tired this day. The 4th night in a row, a lot of fun at Wacken. Luckily for us the crowd was tired too. It was a very relaxed and smooth show. This version of Savatage was definitely becoming very powerful. I never thought I would look at the other side of the stage and smile at Jeff Waters in a Mohawk! Pretty cool Eh. Took a lot of pressure off of me with him on guitar. It was a pleasure to play with him. We finished and talked to the Candlemass guys for a long time. They were very happy to see us and very happy to see me in the band. That made me feel good. They are so cool. We left at around 5 AM. We had a day off but a very long drive to Hungary.
August 5th - Drive Day
I woke up very early that day. I made sure I got some McDonald’s and chocolate at our first stop. Very essential for long boring rides. I think I woke up and went back to sleep about 6 times. WE stopped for dinner and again I was amazed at the amount of flies in the restaurant. Hunter Biff took out about 30. The customers were amused. When we arrived in Budapest our hotel was very nice. But it was in the middle of frickin nowhere Eh. We sent Taz and Damond to McDonald’s. Everything else was closed. I found my robe and slippers in the closet and proceeded to the pool and warm tub. I say warm cuz it was not too hot. So, it was midnight on a Sunday in Budapest. We sat around eating McDonald’s and sipping Cognac in a warm tub. Lifestyles of the rich and shameless!!! I retired once again to the sights and sounds of the Naked Canadian and his musical intestines. You envy this life Eh?
August 6th - Budapest
Since noone knew where this festival was they sent a guide to get the bus and lead us there. We all figured it was smarter to chck out and ride to the gig then. It took us about an hour to get to the site. Very nice old city Eh. Too bad we were not in it on our day off!!! The last time we played here it was on the Magellan tour. We played the E-Club here. Not the hugest gig, so we did not know what to expect headlining this Metal Hammer Stage at the Festival. The festival was on a big Island. Not tropical by any means. I guess there was at least a hundred thousand people there from all over Europe. It lasted 6 days I think. I lost my program. There were 40 stages with all kinds of music. An old friend of mine Agnes was assisting the promoter. She showed us around the festival. I ate lunch and watched some of the Gathering on the Pepsi stage. I hadn’t seen them in a while. Jeff Plate got to say hello. I had too many interviews to do with Jon. As I was walking I saw a lot of Savatage/Metal t-shirts. I had a good feeling about the show. Apparently there was no more than 2,000 people watching the metal stage all festival. I kinda suspected we would have a lot more. I had kids from all over stopping my to say hello. There were lots from Romania. Some were in tears when they met me and I did not even owe them any money. ;) There were so many different types of people at the festival. Which also had power and showers for the festival goers. Pretty cool. There was even an ATM. You know festivals have come a long way!!! Everyone was worried because there was no more than a few hundred people in the Stage area all day. It was a huge tent that held 7,000 people. I was not worried at all. Johnny told Taz not to videotape... DUH!!! We walked on stage to start the show and the whole tent was packed with about a thousand people looking in. This crowd was incredible. It was right up there with the best audiances I have ever seen. Greece is always the best. Followed by Brazil This was a very close third if not tied with Brazil for second. I was so happy to see the number of fans we have in Eastern Europe. Not matter how much we tour, it is always great to see your audiences grow. Especially after 20 years. Greece, Brazil, Spain, Hungary... we just keep gathering more to the Legion. I love this band and it’s fans. It is a privilege to be a part of this mess Eh. By now everyone knew the Spackler was in the band and there was a lot of Annihilator fans there supporting him too. Great combo. Biff and the Spackler. A demented children’s story. This crowd was so crazy from the first note til the last. Even when the PA blew out for part of Power of the Night! I must add, Oliva had his worst Gutter Ballet yet!!! Another extremely hot stage. But, with a show like this it could be a million degrees and I would not mind. We had a signing session after the show, the line went on forever. They played Wake of Magellan... the CD. I still can’t figure out what that CD is about Eh. We packed up and headed for Serbia.
August 7th - Belgrade
I love going to new places. Johnny was nervous as usual. I think he blew off a show in Turkey recently. I have no fear and no life so I will go just about anywhere to play. I could not imagine this country being in that much turmoil still. I was glad that my picture in my head was not even close to how nice it was. There were a few bombed out buildings from the war. But go to Newark or Orange New Jersey. There are areas that made this city look like Main Street Disney. The city was actually very beautiful. I woke up and checked into the hotel. Not the greatest hotel, but a 5 star for the city. I took a shower and headed back to the venue. Now, the venue was a university. Actully in the middle of a courtyard in the school. The actual conditions of the school were the most disturbing thing I saw. Very old and not maintained. Let’s not even talk about the bathrooms!!! We were taken across the street to a restaurant. On the way I noticed something quite surprising. This city had by far the most amazingly beautiful women I had ever seen. It made Brazil look ugly and that is very difficult. The guys all looked like Igor and his brother. Very odd. The restaurant was quiet, the food was amazing. The Spackler was having fun with Sausage sculptures. Those silly Canadians Eh. I had a few beers with Oliva and this guy named... Igor... Yes people I had met Igor’s Yugoslavian twin. I immediately called him Yugor. He decided to take me on a tour of the city. I think he had found his victim. There was only one or two other shows in the country all year. Motorhead and someone else. Lots of local cover bands and tribute bands. The country is just getting back into the touring circuit. I was glad to be there. Igor took me around the whole city. Churches, military museums, parks and just about every sidewalk café’ we could find. I truly had met Igor’s twin. He was also a bartender, DJ, and was helping the promoter with the show. We were having a bit too much fun. I decided to slow down around 5. I went shopping for my Mom and headed back to the venue. Just like our Igor this kid knew everyone in town. We even had to stop at the local ice factory to get the ice for the gig. Igor spent the ice money on beer and borrowed money from me. Just like my Igor at home!!! I took a nap and rested. I had a radio interview at 7. The interview went well. Funny thing was they would cut a song off right in the middle with no warning. The guy who did it was a legend of rock in the country. I forget his name right now. I think it was Lex. We returned to the venue and I decided I needed to shower again and wake up. I went back to the hotel, past the call girls in the lobby and showered. Different laws in this country for sure! The stage area was outdoors. We were supposed to play at 11 and it was raining. We also had a local support band. This would not be a problem if we did not have a flight to catch in Budapest in the morning. Igor made some nuclear coffee and I was awake and ready to play. Eventually we decided to put the local support band on after us. We hoped to get on at 11. Johnny Lee was playing regardless. He needed to get home, some business problems and was determined to play at 11. So, here we were standing by the stage in the rain, Waters farting and waiting to hopefully play. We decided to go on anyway. Rain or not. Right as soon as the intro started the rain stopped. The ole spirit once again. The fans were so happy to see us, we were happy to see them. The stage was tiny, but we made it work. Waters fly on his pants busted so he could not move his guitar or some Canadian Sausage would have beed waving around Eh. We had to cut a few things from the set because we had to leave. The show was a lot of fun and I am sure we will be back. I was all excited to play some DWD stuff in Yugoslavia, that was until the set lists were wrong and my guitar was not on and Jeff started 1990 and there was no sound but him and Oliva. Spinal Tage once again! I sat with the fans after the show, I was surprised at how well everyone spoke English. They were all very polite and I entertained them until we had to roll.. I gave Igor the rest of my Yugo-cash and thanked him for a very memorable day. I would love to spend some time in that country. I have a feeling I could get onto a lot of trouble there!!! Johnny had the bus roll as soon as we were loaded and we were on our way to the airport. We were hoping to make our flight!!! Next stop U.S.A. ... Maybe...
August 8th and 9th - Airport Hell Hungary/Paris/JFK
I woke up early to check where we were, we were running on time to get our flights. I went into a bathroom in a rest area in Hungary and immediately left. Wow was that disgusting!!! We arrived at the airport at 10. Our flight was supposed to leave at 1. Oliva went to the terminal and broke us the news. The flight was late. We had a connecting flight in Paris with a 40 minute layover. The people of Air France said get ready for a night in Paris. Our flight left 2 hours late and we indeed had a night in France ahead of us. We landed in Paris, I guess they only had one runway open. So, we saw that we definitely missed our flight to the U.S. and headed for the ticket counter. Imagine the look on the girl’s face when an irate Oliva and Muchmore showed up to ask what we were supposed to do. She told them to calm down and re-booked us on the morning flight to JFK. We also got our own rooms for the night so I was happy. A night to rest before going home!!! The hotel was an airport hotel. It was ok, not amazing. The dinner was a stranded passenger buffet. We were 40 minutes out of the city so we decided to stay in the hotel. Chuckie entertained everyone at the bar. I crashed at around 11. We checked out at 8:30 and left for the airport. We were already checked into our flight so we just had to go to the gate. The girl at Air France suggested we do things this way. Big mistake!!! You will see why. The flight was very full and really smelled. Not to stereotype or anything...BUT the Delta flight to NY originated in Bombay, India. I don’t think de-odorant has made it there yet. Johnny and Jeff Plate were surrounded. It was Curry fest 2002. The longest flight of our lives. I was lucky enough to have a Romanian exchange student next to me, she did not smell. I once again knocked myself out and woke up about an hour away from JFK. We landed, the plane applauded Eh. We were home. I had Drac and Waters with me for the next 2 nights, their flights home were screwed up. The other guys were flying to Florida or lived in NY. We got thru customs to baggage claim and here is why you should always be nice to people at the airport. The plane was overweight and conveniently at least one bag from each of us never left Paris. Not saying it is the reason, but we probably could have gotten priority on the baggage if we were nicer...Hint Oliva and Muchmore!!! We waited on-line at baggage services, I again blamed Canada Eh. We made it to Queens and saw that Oliva was there too. He decided to spend the night and wait for his luggage. We were home, tired, luggageless...but we kicked Europe’s ass and that is what matters! Thanks to you the fans. Thanks to the Spackler. I believe we will work together again!!! As I finish this it is a week later. It took 3 days for me to get my luggage, Waters left me with the flu, I am almost rid of that. I love my job Eh!!!! Oh Canada...
‘Til Next Adventure...