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Us Tour Diary March 2020 [2020-03-26]

In early March this year, there was somewhat of a classic line-up walled-noise/ Harsh noise tour taking place in the US for a week or so- the tours line-up was Canadain HNW/ harsh noise legend The Rita, US notorious noise collective Black Leather Jesus, French king of crude walled noise Vomir, and noise bound nastiness from Stockholm JSH….with some special guests along the way.  Johan Strömvall Hammarstedt( of JSH, Rien, and Ominous Recordings) kindly agreed to chart this classy & important tour- and below is his tour diary with a good selection of pictures.

First of all, there'll be a lot of name droppings in this tour report. I guess it's unavoidable, because I've met so many people that I was looking forward to meeting, and people I wasn’t expecting to meet. Then, of course, there were a few I had sincerely had hoped to see that couldn't make it because the tour didn't come close enough for them to get to any of the gigs. And there are names that might have been forgotten, unwillingly, because I met so many. Sorry, I do feel like a dick for having forgotten your name. Well, here we go.

 
I usually don’t get travel nerves. It’s not like I’m a globe trotter or something, or have traveled extensively, but I’ve been around, and I toured twice with an old band back in 2008-2009. The second time we were out 21 days if I’m not mistaken. I can’t even remember how I was feeling before we left, but probably something similar. My travel and performance nerves kicked in about a week ago, so I’ve been a little tense, to say the least. Now I’m on the plane, about 6 hours from Chicago where I have a connecting flight to Pittsburgh.

 
Two years ago, when I met Richard and Sean at Les Instants Chavirés, I hadn’t really planned on this being the result of that meeting. I was overwhelmed by being asked to open for them back then, it was an amazing experience and a great trip. Before performing, we sat at the office and Richard asked me if I had been to the states. I hadn’t, but I told him I’d love to go, for several reasons. As a former student of History of Religions, with an interest in beliefs in the devil and demons in charismatic Christianity and Pentecostal groups, I’d love to travel the country and write about that. It’s a fascinating country and I would love to just be a tourist and see it, and it would be an amazing experience to tour the US. Richard then told me that he and Sean had planned on doing a tour with The Rita the year after, would I be interested in joining them?
I’m not sure how stupid I looked when he asked that question, I think I tried to remain my cool. I’m a pro, you know, or try to be at least. I said I’d love to go, and when asked if I could make it work, with my job and kids and all, I said I would make it work. There was no way in hell I would let something come in the way of that if it actually did happen. And now I’m on my way to Fairchance, Pennsylvania, where a jerry can is waiting for me to fill it with some scrap metal and then I’m gonna tour with Black Leather Jesus, The Rita and Vomir. It’s fucking insane.

I was picked up at the airport and we stopped for dinner
and picking up some craft beer from a shop that had me drooling. Being a craft beer enthusiast had me really excited about this trip as well, since American IPAs is a massive favorite kind of beer. I was wrecked from the trip, but still managed to stay awake for about 24 hours before feeling it’s time to actually get to bed.

Tuesday was spent at home with my hosts. We had two nice recording session, both a harsh noise one and a wall noise collab. It was truly amazing to record with two of my biggest noise favorites, and to experience such a relaxed and unpretentious session where we were just doing what we do, but as a group. Having been a fan of Richard since I was in my late teens, this was a dream come true. A physical collaboration between him and me, we were in the same room, making harsh noise. To see how he worked his equipment, that was truly inspirational.  I spent the bigger part of the day browsing through their distro stuff. I probably spent 4 hours looking through shelves and boxes of stuff before I had found enough to be ashamed of the amount of money I was gonna spend before the tour had even started. I did some amazing finds though.


Dayton, Ohio
After a little over 6 hours long drive, including a rental car change in Zainesville, we arrived at Skeleton Dust. We were greeted by Luke (Skeleton Dust/Heat Signature)
and met up with Domokos (also in Future Blondes) and Kevin Novak (T.E.F.) who were going to join BLJ on this tour. I also got to meet Sam (The Rita) for the first time. Since I’ve been a huge fan for years, this was quite of a big deal for me. It felt quite odd to perform in a record store, and despite its rumor, and I guess “cred” in performing there, I felt a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t want to break anything. I chose to set up on the floor right away to avoid flipping something over and destroying anything other than my own gear. The store was great though. It's an odd and wonderful feeling to be able to flip through boxes of noise in an actual store. I didn't flip enough though, because when I got back home I saw that Luke had several items I SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT. Now I'm looking at a shipping cost of 23$ for the stuff I want. Hurray.

Heat Signature
I was blown away by the recent album on White CentipedeNoise, and the reissue of the first cassette on Oxen. Live it was a massive wall of sound, thick crunch, crisp crunch, scrap metal, and buried vocals. It was a damn great set, and it set the bar quite high for opening acts. And I felt nervous. I was going on after them.

JSH
In hindsight, it was the right choice to set up on the floor. I figured that the only way to not be upstaged by the opening act on the first night was to keep it intense and violent. Well, it got intense pretty fast since the tape came off my jerry can and while trying to press the mic against it as I was still smashing it against the floor, I managed to break one of my contact mics on the first night of the tour. I also manage to cut my hands on something, so I was bleeding slightly on the floor and my equipment. I left a
mark at least. Well done, Johan...

Black Leather Jesus
I had half an idea of what to expect, since Richard and Sean was basically using what they had used on our recording session the day before. Richard on a big piece of sheet metal, Sean on two big rocks that he had contact mic’ed. Dom and Kevin on pedals.
Mind is blown, regardless, the sound was a massive a wall of noise with so many layers of sound and so much detail. Black Leather Jesus is one of our finest harsh noise acts. 30 years don’t mean shit in this case. They are not slowing down.

The Rita
Sam’s set could be described as a segmented performance.
Coming on like a piece divided into chapters, each one showcasing the different aspects of his project. Harsh, abrasive texture, samples about Shark attacks and Ballet feet exercises being distorted or kept clean, insanely well-textured crackles from a single contact mic run across a surface. It was my first ever experience of The Rita live and it was truly fantastic to finally see Sam perform. Working a minimal set up he still managed to make the room crumble. The sound was clear, minimal as a sound not buried, nothing was hidden under massive layers of other sounds. Each “chapter” could very well have continued for 30 minutes, but that would have made the performance a few
hours long.

After the gig, I got to meet Alex (Deathbed Tapes), which was pretty cool considering I just had my first release on his label, I also met Abi (Princsex) and Roman (Slit Throats). The sad part was that we left quite shortly after the gig, since we had a 5-hour long drive back to Richard's and Sean's house, so I didn't really get any chance to talk to Luke, which was shame, being a fan of his noise, label, and now store.

We got back to the house early Tuesday morning and
went to bed.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
In the current BLJ “hometown”, we were going to perform at 3577 Studio. On our way there we stopped for some drinks, and the girl in the store asked for my ID. I didn't have one on me since I left my passport back at the house. But come on, I'm 34, I doubt I look underage. I'm too old, too tired, too many grey hairs to not be of age. But no ID, no Dogfishhead 60 minute IPA. I had to ask Domokos to buy me beer. That was something. It's been about 17 years since someone else had to buy me a beer. I got them though, and they were good.

Sean dropped us off at the venue and then drove to the airport to pick up Romain. We started to set up merch and gear, while waiting for the sound tech, and Sean and Romain.

Opening acts for this evening were Ragk and Niku Daruma.
One of the quite strange but fantastic parts of this tour
- besides the obvious part of sharing the stage with some of those that
doubtless have shaped both my musical taste, my study of sound, and the sounds
I want to produce - was meeting a lot of people I've only had contact with through social media for years. And one of those people were doubtless Trinity (Ragk). I put out her first Ominous tape back in 2016 when she was only about
15-16, and following her development since then has been fantastic. I was so glad we managed to get her on the bill. And her set was great. Really great.
 
I also spoke some with Claire of Niku Daruma (who's set almost came off as performance art), met Jesse Bolash of Dagger and Putrescent Tapes, Jim Haras (Deterge and Fusty Cunt), Henry Mallard and then of course the locals who came out.

Tonight was the first Vomir set of the tour, and it was wonderful to be back in the grasp of Frenchies massive wall of sound. A lot of bags, more than in Paris
two years earlier, and the Duck.

It was a great night, a good turnout and possibly the biggest venue of the entire tour.

After the gig we went for some food and then headed back
to Richard and Sean again. Now the house was full. Richard and Sean in their room, Domokos and Kevin on couches, Sam on the floor in the fashion studio and I got to share the bed in the guest room with Romain. It was cosy.

Ithaca, New York
Another long ass drive, and now in a fully seated car. The car had 7 seats, but the ones in the back were quite narrow and we were forced to fit three grown ass men in there. Me, Romain and Sam were the ”smallest” of the group, so we squeezed ourselves in there. My ass was killing me, after about two hours it felt like I had been sitting on concrete for a week. And it took forever to get there, it seemed, it started to rain, and then snow.

We were to perform at the The Chanticleer Loft, a college bar, but since it was the straight edge collective Ithaca Underground who promoted the gig, it was an all-ages event, so no alcohol. I met Weston (Form Hunter) who was hosting us that night and Stefan (Kjostad, Form Hunter, New Forces). I dove down into the bar to have a Southern Tier IPA while Obscenity Law were performing and I got back up in time for Kjostad. Stefan did a really competent, well-composed and well executed set.
I, on the other hand, felt strange this night, on edge, a bit frustrated and it felt like this would be one of those performances were things would go wrong or break. And yes, it did. I broke the second contact mic. So, yeah, good job, idiot... I had ordered two, brand new, contact mics for this tour and I had broken both by the third gig.

It was a great turnout this night as well though, a lot of younger people, which was fun. And I got to meet Andy Czuba (Flesh Trade/Hoarding).

Back at Westons we met his girlfriend, whose name sadly escapes me now, I think it was Kate. And she was insanely nice, so now I feel like a total dick for not remembering her name for sure. But she writes the Noise Widow zine, and you should definitely check that out. Interviews, reviews, articles. GO CHECK IT OUT.
We all went to bed pretty early, again. I woke up too early as well, covered in cat hair. It looked like I had fur. White fur. The shirt I wore that night is still covered in hair even though I washed it when I got back home.


New York City, New York
We drove to the hotel where we were going after tonights gig, then we went into NYC to visit A Thousand of Dead Gods. I had imagined a store, but it was like a kiosk, but stacked with an insane amount of goodies. Hell, they even had some JSH and Rien tapes, that was fucking weird. In there we met Matt Boettke (Dead Gods / Scant) and
store/label his partner Justin, who hooked me up with a contact mic for the evening. Then we killed some time at a Mexican restaurant where I only had a fruit salad. The food on this trip was getting to me. I had stopped feeling
hungry, I ate out of necessity and habit, but the brick in my stomach was always there. The portions were huge, the buildings were huge, the cities were huge, everything was just huge, and being of a somewhat smaller size myself,
not eating that much or that heavy food, I needed something other than cooked food. Something fresh and light.

Apartment 202 was a storage/magazine/studio space two floors up, and they had built about 7 ”rooms” in there, where people lived. So we basically performed in their living room. It was nice and gritty, my kind of place. But I had no idea how they planned on fitting a lot of people in there because it felt small. The turnout was insane, however, and according to Boettke, we broke the record of most people attending. The sound was great, the sound tech was really nice, and guy at the bar was really cool.
Opening for us this evening were Jackson-Pratt and Form
Hunter. Both delivering competent harsh noise sets.
I have no idea how many people were there, but there was
a lot, and it got hot as hell in there. I met Jimmy Aly (Swollen Organs), Patrick Scott (Modern Tapes, Verhalten), some guy from Lubricated Goat, Bob Bellerue was there, and I heard some talent scout from Sacred Bones (guess I
wasnt scout material, haha).
After all, sets were done, Richard, Sam, and Romain offered
everyone a small treat. A Threesome Slitting set. It was so fucking great. To see the three of them using the same gear/set up as in their individual sets, and managing to create something wholly other, so thick, so textured... that
was amazing. (Word has it that it'll be a Threesome Slitting 7'' coming later
on.)

We drove back to the hotel, and I and Romain went to bed together again. Considering Sam had slept on the floor for a couple of nights, we figured he deserved a bed of his own for one night.


New Brunswick, New Jersey
We got up pretty early to be able to spend some time in the city before leaving for the next gig. I had been recommended to visit a shop called Control because they were carrying Crank Sturgeon mics, and I needed to get myself a new one since I had none at this point. Richard and Sean wanted to pick up some fragrances, and we all wanted to go record shopping. We visited Dover Street Market where I got see designer wear that cost a slight fortune. Like the downpayment of a 3-bedroom apartment
in Sweden. 27 000$??????
We went to Scent Bar and I think I broke my nose smelling a lot of strange but interesting stuff. Then we hit Material World and I scored a Harry Pussy 10'', an Iugula-Thor 7'' and the Styggelse compilation tape ”Det Totala Raggarkriget” with Alfarmania and Treriksröset.


We arrived a little later than planned to New Brunswick and unfortunately, we missed the Fistfuck X Dead Twin collab set, because it had been pushed forward and started earlier than planned. I set up my gear straight away, but then Mike Sidnam was gonna play before me.  This was the second ”House show” of the tour, and even more of a house show, since it was in a house, in the basement. Had I been 5-7
cm taller I would have been forced to tilt my head walking there, and it got really hot. The basement was packed. I met Dustin Fosnocht, and Paul Dever (Griz+zlor/Blood Eagle), it was really nice to finally meet Thomas (Fistfuck, Cursed Earth Tapes), who also performed as a part of BLJ this evening.
Boettke and his girlfriend also came out to that show, and the two of them, together with the promoter ended up at the same Mexican a restaurant like us afterward.

Sam did a collab set with C.U.M. (Pain Chain and her partner whos name/project escapes me) this evening, it's viewable on youtube.

We drove for about an hour, an hour and a half afterward to a hotel closer to Richmond, Virginia (our final stop) and spent the night. Once again we had the international room, (Sweden, France, and Canada), and once again me and
Romain shared the bed. When Sam exited the bathroom and walked past us in bed together he said we looked like an old married couple. That must have been quite the sight... It's shame he didn't snap a picture of us, that would have been a sweet cover pic.


Richmond, Virginia
We arrived at Discovery Zone late in the afternoon, another house show, another basement, our final stop for this tour, and it was bitter-sweet.  This basement was bigger, there was more air, but the sound guy told me I should use a table because I could get electrical shocks from the floor if it were to get wet. I tried out the tables and was not impressed, considering I tend to not only break my own gear, but also tables, or flip them over.

Opening for us this evening were local acts Noiro Zepol, Yohimbe + Skin Graft, ASD and also John Wiese. That was quite a shock, seeing his name pop up on the event before I left for the states. John's set was good, possibly a bit too cut-up for my taste, but seriously good.

My own experience of my last set was that it felt controlled, I was aware of everything, possibly my longest set of the entire tour, and I felt like I ended on top. It was a proper set. I went out with a bang, and really made sure my beloved jerry can felt it was all over now. (Back home I became aware that it was my absolute shortest
set of the entire trip, but it was still fucking good.)

When it was time for Vomir the bags we were out of bags. He had none left, the promoter hadn't bought any and it looked like we would have to experience everything bagless. But someone came to the rescue with a massive roll of bags and started handing them out.  But it was insane, audience and promoter alike were almost commanding people to put on their bags, it was funny as hell, everyone was going to wear it. Someone even shouted something like ”if I see your eyes, you're fucking dead, put the bag on”. It was very amusing and I hadn't seen that many bags on at any other gig of the entire tour. Success.

After the gig we packed up and left. We had a 5-6 hour long drive back to Fairchance, Pennsylvania and we were all pretty done. We got back around 5 am, and I spent my last night in bed with Frenchie. Another bitter-sweet moment, or something.

We said our goodbyes to Richard, Kevin and Domokos in the morning and Sean drove Team International to the airport. It was nice going home, even though I could have played a few more shows, and would have loved that. I wasn't really looking forward to coming back to work, and the ordinary life, but of course I looked forward to getting home to my family. But just another 3 gigs? Fuck yes.

 

At the airport, things turned a bit awful. My booking and my passport didn't match, because of my stupid middle name. The woman at the check-in counter told me she could only change the name of my domestic ticket and get me to Newark, but that would somehow invalidate my ticket from Newark to Stockholm. She told me to call the airline, so I did. I waited for 40 fucking minutes before the call came through (Corona and cancelled flights being the problem). They told me I shouldn't have been let on the plane back in Stockholm since the booking and my passport didn't match. I told them the guy at the airline counter in Stockholm said he would fix it since the passport number matched the booking, but they didn't want to hear it. I was put on hold again and waited another 20 minutes. Then I was told it would cost me 200$ to change the ticket from Newark to Stockholm, but I would have to sort out the ticket from Pittsburgh to Newark myself.
I paid for them and went back to the United desk again. The
woman told me all my bookings were cancelled, my airline had cancelled my ticket from Pittsburgh to Newark as well. What the fuck was I supposed to do now? I asked her what I should do, she told me I'd have to get a new ticket or call the airline again. I asked her to get me a new ticket, fuck
it, as long as I get to go home. She told me it was another 380$... FUCK!
I said alright, get me one. Then she told me I wouldn't
make the flight to Stockholm. Why? I asked. It's the same flights as I should have taken if I still had my initial booking. No, you won't make it. I don't understand, why won't I make it?
•       
Because you have two bookings now, honey. You have to collect your checked luggage and then check it in again, by yourself, no one will do that for you. And the bag has to be checked 2 hours before departure when it's an international flight.
•     FUCK!... sorry, I didn't mean that. Call your airlineagain and tell them about the problem. I went back and waited on the phone for another 15 minutes until she called me back to the counter. And then she just fixed it all. She fixed my booking on the domestic flight, changed the name, called Newark and made sure they would collect my bag, and then she handed me the two boarding cards. She saved my fucking day and saved me 380$, and I'm eternally grateful for that. That's fucking service. So I got home, although the money I got from the gigs went to a plane ticket.

I said goodbye to Romain and Sam and went to my gate. Tour was really over. Now I was by myself, on my way home. But happy as a fucking pig in shit.

In the van, we've brushed on topics as diverse as Star Wars
(I'm not interested), harsh noise purity, the Frankensteins monster that is HNW, Leaving Neverland, Brazilian kaviar movies, shitty Swedish porn, French Canadians, the Texas noise scene, Westside Gunn, NewYork hip-hop, cow shit-smelling perfumes, horror podcasts that are basically porncasts, and everything to a soundtrack of the fucking '80s. I've heard more 80's music during these 6 days in the car than I have heard in my entire life. I've been on a strict harsh noise diet since I got back home, trying to wash away that echo of reverbed drums and deep, moaning, male voices.

I had the best time I've ever had, doubtless. This tour was just completely amazing. And I can't wait to meet those guys again and hopefully do this in Europe next year.

Richard, Sean, thank you so much for inviting me on this tour. You are two of the best. Romain, it was so good seeing you again Sam, it was great to finally meet you. Domokos and Kevin, you guys were great and I'm so glad you two came along on this tour.

I should, of course, extend a massive thank you to all the promoters who booked us, those who hosted us, everyone who came out to the shows and those who supported us by buying merch (no more white t-shirts then, you picky little fuckers).

Pic credits- first in menu pic BLJ with Thomas (Fistfuck) in New Brunswick, NJ.  Vomir New Brunswick, New Jersey. Threesome Slitting set. JSH at Skeleton Dust taken by
Rusty Skelding, and used with kind permission.

Johan Strömvall Hammarstedt
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