Flying to America.

My name is Neil Thomason and I am a member of Melbourne three-piece guitar rock band Ricaine. In March of

1997 we flew to America to play some shows and make a record. With us were our Rubber Records label mates Even,

Rubber head-honcho David Vodicka and audio engineer/all round nice guy Tim Cartin.

I stand six feet four inches tall in the old scale. It is my firm belief that Boeing 747 jet aircrafts have been designed

to carry people three feet tall and under. Easily the most uncomfortable eighteen hours of my life. With my bandmates

Brett and Tom either side of me and two “boisterous” (read “drunk”) Even members in front of me, I got no sleep. Not a

whisker. There were two good points to the flight, however. One was that I got to see the film “Shine”( I still don’t know

about Noah Taylor though - I just don’t know) , the other that they started serving American beer almost as soon as we

were in the air.

Yes sir, this Buds for you.

Los Angeles, California: Fri 7th - Wed 12th.

We arrived in LA around 10 am on a Friday morning, two hours before we left Melbourne on the same day - I didn’t

bother trying to figure it out, I just enjoyed the reverse aging process for what it was. We were concerned about going

through customs as no one had work visas (cost cutting) but no one got stopped despite a plethora of guitars (mostly

Even’s). From there we picked up hire cars and went our separate ways. Tim, David and Matt from Even had flown into

LA a couple of days earlier and were somewhere out there in this huge city. Ashley and Wally left in their car to find them,

leaving the three of us on own.

Let me just say if there’s anything in the world that will curtail one’s hoonish driving habits it’s being forced to drive

on the opposite side of the road. Despite assurance from David that it would be “a breeze” I was shatting myself as we

inched out of the Hertz parking lot on to the right hand side of the road . After rolling warily down a freeway (or four) we

ended up missing our exit and immediately got lost in what looked like a “bad” part of town (unlike Australia the hire car

companies do not supply a street directory with the vehicle). After a sweat-inducing half-hour-or-so cruising the streets of

God-knows which LA suburbs we eventually found the place we were going to be staying at. Located in downtown LA,

what is called the “wharehouse” district, basically a pretty run down, mainly industrial part of town. We stayed in a

converted wharehouse (complete with iron fire-escape) which was actually an excellant place and more comfotable than it

probably sounds. Our host, Rita, was an equally excellant source of information for three dumb-arse Australians who had

never been overseas before (not counting our sensational Winter ‘96 tour of Tasmania). At this point we had clocked up

around twenty four hours without sleep but this didn’t stop Rita taking us to the Museum Of Contemporary Art where we

stood, quite stupified, in front of many very large, very simple paintings.

Later that night we met up with everyone else at some crazy Mexican restaurant somewhere in LA. On the way there

Rita took us past the building used in the final scene of Blade Runner(Gotta love those cheap thrills - hey, This is LA ,

Baby). We had to wait an hour for a table and a huge security guard with a .44 magnum hand gun ( you know, “the most

powerful handgun in the world”) kept everybody in line. I couldn’t work out if he made me feel safer or more scared.

Despite still not having had any sleep, my spirits were buoyed by the ever amusing David Vodicka who, upon arriving at

the restaurant, managed to lock the keys in his hire car with the engine running. Hello?! This is the guy running our record

company -doh! At this point Sherry Rich, yet another Rubber Records artist, appeared mysteriously out of the chilly LA

night. Turns out she had recently finished recording her next record in Nashville and just happened to be in LA at the time.

When we finally got seated I looked around the table and couldn’t help thinking we had enough Rubber-related people to

start our own tyre-factory but that’s a bad joke and I’ll move on to something else now.

We played our first show the following night at a club called Spaceland in an area called Silverlake, somewhere in

LA. Even played first to basically no one and played quite well. We played last, to a fair-sized crowd and played quite

horrifically. Personally, I played like a inept, one legged mule blaming tiredness, strange equipment and the LA bands (all

of who were abysmal) who played in between Even and us for these problems. On the way home around 2 am we drove,

literally, through the middle of a movie shoot, just near Rita’s house (she says it happens all the time). Within metres of

these huge trucks and giant flood lights were cardboard boxes containing homeless people asleep for the night under a

bridge. It was very cold and more than a tad surreal.

Sunday we slept and ate, a pleasing Homer Simpson-esque combination that we were able to repeat a number of

times over the course of the trip. Late afternoon saw us head down near Santa Monica for a bbq at the place where Even

were staying, a friend of David’s called Doug Erb ( an excellent artist who drew the covers for the two American Pie CD’s

on Rubber). We ate, drank and generally had a good time watching Americans being American with Doug’s house-mate,

Brian the archetypal jock, a particular highlight (To everyone: “Dudes, I just got back from the snow, dude, it was

awesome!!!” To Ashley: ”So, dude, did you get out on the mountain bike, or what?” Ash: “Err, no. Sorry.” Brian:

“DUDE! What are you doing? It’s awesome on the bike, dude.”) And so it went well into the evening until David got a

posse together to go see a movie called “Waiting For Guffman” featuring Christopher Guest of Spinal Tap fame. This is

a very funny movie which will probably go straight to video in Australia but none the less gets three thumbs up from


Monday we cruised to the stinky and polluted Santa Monica beach where real-life “Baywatch” lifeguards in their

bright red trunks reigned supreme. After lunch we discovered a cool record store where the first of many buying sprees

began. Man, stuff is so cheap over there. Vinyl LP’s are about $9US and CD albums are about $13 and that’s new.

Second hand stuff, of which the range was pretty good in the right stores, even cheaper . Even after converting back to

Australian dollars it’s still a steal compared to what we pay here. Needless to say, over the course of the trip we bought

up big-time. Later we cruised Venice Beach in search of “Zeek” from the Blu-Blockers info-mercial, but to no avail. As

we walked around the cheesy beach market sleazy drug dealers would repeatedly brush past you obscurley muttering the

question “smoke?” in your ear. We wern’t buying but elsewhere Brett did purchase a rather sensational Duke’s Of Hazard

tee-shirt. La-la land indeed.

Monday night Even played at this tiny club called, rather appropriately, “Smalls”. I wish we could have played there,

it was excellent. All red velvet and sleazy booths, very Martin Scorsese, with just a vocal PA. Two of the guys from the

Dirty Three (the two older-looking guys who look like they could be your uncle) turned up and before you could say “I

come from a land down under” Even played an excellent set to an appreciative gathering.

We played again on Tuesday night at a place called The Alligator Lounge in Santa Monica. It was the reverse of the

previous Saturday night whereby we played first and Even played last, again with crap bands in between. I thought we

played really well and it was quite a relief after such a disappointing gig at Spaceland three days previous. All up,

contrary to what I had been told to expect from LA I quite enjoyed our stay there.

Austin, Texas: Wed 12 - Sun16

We flew down to Austin via Denver. The pilot from Denver to Austin was some kind of comedian-cum-Texas good ol’

boy who kept making bad jokes and saying things like ”...and for those of you who are flying home to Texas today, don’t

worry we’ll be back in heaven in just a coupla hours.....”. I would have preferred it if he had of concentrated more on

flying the damned aircraft. After the huge, polluted concrete mass that was LA, Austin was a welcome relief being much

smaller and far more pleasing to the eye (unlike LA, grass and trees abounded) with a brown river running through the

middle of it - no wonder it reminded me of Melbourne.

The initial idea for coming to America in the first place was to play at the South By South West (SXSW) festival here

in Austin. Basically in excess of 500 bands nobody has ever heard of (with a few exceptions eg. Archers of Loaf, Fear

Factory) get “invited” to play under the guise that the whole thing is some sort of record company feeding frenzy where

A&R people try to find the next Smashing Pumpkins. And can I just say right now that with a scant few exceptions I saw

plenty of vegetables up on stage (if you’ll excuse the analogy), and none of them too smashing. With no exaggerations I

can say the majority of bands we saw were pretty much below par and completely forgettable. Believe me, I’m not

simply sludging these bands for the sake of it, most of the ones we saw really were very average, the likes of which anyone

could see at any given Melbourne venue on any given week night. This was somewhat disappointing at the time but in

retrospect I guess it’s understandable given the sheer number of bands asked to play in the first place.

Having said this I did witness an extremely memorable set from a country out fit headed by a rather sensational

Texan singer named Wayne “the train” Hancock. Yes, I just put the words “country” and “memorable” in the same

sentence. Don’t be alarmed, I was as surrprised as you as I stood entranced, watching the diminutive , soft spoken, soft

strumming country crooner they call “the Train”. Backed by only a bass player and two nimble-fingered guitarists (one

sitting who doubled on lap-steel), Hancock and band proceeded to play a bunch of tunes inevitably involving wicked

women and whiskey, with “the Train” actually yodelling in most of the choruses. Sounds weird? Well, it kind of was but,

hell, sometimes times you find yourself enjoying the strangest bands and this was one of those occasions. The

axe-slingers, who looked like brothers, fired off lick-after-scorching-lick from either guitar or lap steel as Wayne called

out for solos after practically every verse he sang. If country music has a Dave Graney, Wayne Hancock is that man.

What he lacked in dance movements he made up for in teeth and hair, sporting a pair of pearly choppers the likes of which

I’ve not seen since Liberace and perfect slicked back hair that made Ray Martin look like a scruffy Gen-X-er just out of

bed. Add to this Wayne’s lilting, syrupy-southern drawl and it was a set to remember no matter how many Lone Star ales

you may have consumed.

Aside from Wayne and his buddies, I saw little else to raise an eye-brow of interest, let alone appreciation. The much

hyped Canadian band Sloan were, well, annoying in that “look at what crazy, goofy, nerdy rockers we are” way. Matthew

Sweet played to a huge crowd at an outdoor venue and sounded just like his records. I guess some people would think that

was a good thing. I tried to see the Archers Of Loaf but they were playing an hour before us on the other side of town.

That didn’t stop me walking there to try to see half their set anyway, only to find a que around the block and then some.

Doh. Definite highlight for the young Brett O’Riley was having his picture taken with Beastie Boy Mike-D at the Grand

Royal night, although this experience was tainted by having to tolerate a Ben Lee performance whilst waiting for the

Mike-ster. Double doh.

Speaking of Ricaine, we played on Saturday night, the last night of the festival. All the Australian bands invited to

SXSW (Even, Regurgitator, Glide (Syd) and The Dream Poppies (Bris)) played at the same venue on this same night at a

pub called Maggie Mays. My hopes were up for a good set as all the other bands that I saw were received enthusiastically

by the crowd. Playing last, we pretty much cleared the room in three songs as our blend of good time harmonies and

retro-influenced three-chord progressions met with disapproval from what was apparently a largely red-neck Texan

audience. Triple doh.

Well, if the bands themselves in Austin proved to be some what of a dissappointment the same can not be said about

the food. At least not about the bbq food. Well, at least not about the free bbq food, of which we managed to partake not

once, not twice, but for three consecutive evenings. If you think you know ribs - think again. If you think you know beans,

think again. And if you think you know barbeque sauce, once more my friends, I humbly ask you to reconsider. Whilst

Australia itself is some what well renown for it’s bbq culture, it’s an entirely different slice of the cow, to coin a phrase,

down Austin way. Allow me to explain;

Night 1. It’s Thursday night and David declares “I’ve been in Texas for twenty four hours and not yet eaten bbq. Let’s

rock.” He knows of some schmucky label who’s hosting a meet and great night at a place called Ironworks which just

happens to be a bbq restaurant (of which there are many in Austin). I politely enquire if any of us are actually invited to

the schmoozefest to which he replies ”Invited?! Of course not, but who cares? I’m hungry, let’s go.” We arrive to find a

que at the door and names being scrupuously marked off a list. It doesnt look good for the three starving Australians

(Dave, Tom and myself) with no ties what so-ever to which ever major lable has enough money to do this sort of shit, but

we’re hungry enough to give it a shot. Somehow Dave sneaks in ahead of us and leaves us for dead outside in the cold.

This is the cuntish action that bbq-depravation has driven him to. I try fast talking while Tom tries looking important and

suprisingly we manage to get our skinny white butts through the door where not only free food, but free beer AND desert

awaits us. Thanks for coming! Basically you take your plate and que. We eventually get to file past a smallish salad

section (I get the feeling you don’t come to Ironworks to eat salad) before you come to the carvery section. Oh my! Here

you are served your choice of ribs or off the bone beef, baked chicken and beans, all with the almost mandatory spicy bbq

sauce. From here we progress to the free beer section where a variety of beverages are on offer. But before you bolt with

your cache of bbq bonus, don’t forget desert! A tasty pecan pie no less. We find a table upstairs and chow down like

there’s no tomorrow. But there is tomorrow! Read on, my jealous friends. Night Two: Friday.

My stomach tells me it’s dinner time and David tells me it’s barbecue time for the second night running - mmmmmmm,

steaky. Back to Ironworks we go, except this time we have Even in tow - even the vegetarian members! How eight people,

none of whom were invited, managed to sneak into this bbq flesh-fest I simply don’t recall. It was all heat, light and flash

- I stole some major-label’s bbq and hit the road! If I remember correctly the evening was suppose to feature Carl

Wallinger (you remember, The Waterboys, and later World Party) but we were out of there before you could say “washed

up has been”. ‘Twas a smooth operation of the eat-and-run nature any red-blooded, meat eating Australian would be

proud of.

Night Three: Saturday.

After spending quite a few hours throughout the day at a record fair, and with tonight being the night we actually got to

play we definitely needed something chunky to line the stomach. Barbecue was that chunky something. A brave decision,

you say? An insane one, perhaps? One word for you here folks - ‘freebie’. Never underestimate the lure of the free feed

when it comes to musicians. Bare in mind also that David and I were sharing a queen size bed back at the hotel and let me

tell you the stench in that room come morning time was truly quite remarkable. Whilst after the LA lock-the-keys-in-the-

car incident I’m not able to vouch for the Dave’s brain-power, I can certainly state here and now his bowels are in A1

working order - more’s the pity for me. I must admit while I haven’t double checked our Rubber Records contract to make

sure, I’m fairly confident he doesn’t have the right to suffocate members of the rock group known as Ricaine at will!

Anyhoo, amazingly for the third night running Ironworks was the scene for flaming meat freebies - except this time we

were border-line legitimate invitees. The night was put on by some Australian hot-shot promoter who’s name escapes me

who was publicising his intention to hold a SXSW-like festival in Sydney next year. Tee-hee. This time it was just the

Ricaine members and David and by now the doorman greeted us all like old friends. Whilst we chowed down there was a

video presentation running telling everyone about hot new Aussie rock acts like Midnight Oil and INXS and how Sydney

is the hub of the Australian music scene. It was all pretty funny seeing how as far as I’m aware Sydney currently has a

mighty THREE live venues booking original music. As Mike Moore would put it ,“hmmmmmm..........”. None the less,

like moths to a flame the starving musicians would not be deprived of yet another free barbecue feed - INXS or no INXS.

Sunday was our last day in Austin with a 4.00pm flight booked for New York. Believe it or not, after three successive

nights of meat, meat and more meat, David Vodicka still had not had his fill of cooked cow. Yowza, that man’s gotta be

sprouting hoofs at this point, but no, the quest for bbq was not yet over. Yes folks, it was time for the Sunday bbq


Such is the reputation that Texas has for being bbq capital of the world there was a local newspaper feature which

David had discovered talking about the REAL bbq venues. By real I mean the out of the way, small town, been-open-

since-Adam-was-a-boy type bbq house. The article told of several such establishments most of which were a short drive

into the bland county-side surrounding Austin. For no particular reason we chose Black’s Barbecue in a tiny one-horse

town called Lockhart.

By now the bbq devotees were back to the original three-some of true-believers; David, Tom and myself. On a bleak

and rainy Sunday morn we cruised some anonymous highway through equally anonymous Texas waste-lands, passing the

occasional run-down farm house and a remarkable number of churches given the apparently sparse population out this

way. There was certainly no shortage of vehicles gathered around the multiple places of worship, but stop we did not; we

were on our own spiritual quest for a holy breakfast. The cattle were lowing indeed.

The rain had not let up as we rolled into town and though we knew not what awaited us at the establishment called

Black’s, we let our noses do the navigating and quickly found ourselves parked outside a dark and windowless old wooden

building with the simple sign “Black’s Barbecue - est. 1932” creaking as it swung in the icy breeze. As we stepped from

the car on to the wet, deserted street, I felt like a gun-fighter from the old west, come to town to do battle with the crooked

local gang. Yes Mr Cow - you’re goin’ down.

The restaurant (and I use that term loosely) had two doors going off the street, one marked ‘entry’ and the other ‘exit’.

It gave the impression we were entering some kind of eating process line where by you get in, chow down and get out

again; no socialising or casual chit-chat here, boys - the mission is meat. And let me tell you I wasn’t far wrong.

As we pushed open the swinging door my eyes took a second or two to adjust to the dark and smoky interior. For a

moment there I thought we had come to a church after all, such was the quiet and sombre atmosphere but, no, it was simply

the reverence those already dining had for their iron-rich breakfast that made speaking seem somewhat out of place. I

could sense a strange kind of a common bond, almost prayer-like in nature, had settled over the Sunday morning

carnivores gathered here at Black’s. Whilst some chose to worship God that morning in Texas, those gathered at Blacks

were quietly contemplating the sacrifice made by a different kind of martyr - the kind that goes “moo”.

Once again the token offering of salad preceded the actual carvery section and I selected a small portion of coleslaw to

help wash down the meaty goodness. Unlike Ironworks, at Black’s one orders his meat selections by the pound (or

increments there of). And so it was I boldly stepped forward and ordered the half-poundage of beef, a similar serving of

pork and some tasty chicken , mainly for variety’s sake. Mmmmm, meat - the corner stone of any nutritious breakfast.

Black’s are ‘barbecue’ more in name than nature and actually specialise in the smoking method of cooking. And as

those familiar with the style will know, it lends a distinctive woody fragrance not found in the more popular frying or

baking methods. Speaking as a major fan of the cooked breakfast even I was out of my league on this occasion and must

confess I was unable to finish my meal. Perhaps it was because it was barbecue for the fourth day running, or perhaps it

was the early hour, either way I hanged my head shamefully as we left the establishment with meat still on my plate. Ah

well, ‘twas none the less a dining experience I’m not likely to forget for many a meal.

But enough of barbecue (finally), for it’s onwards to New York City!

New York, New York: Monday 17th - Thursday 20th

We left Austin late Sunday afternoon and eventually got to New York (again via Denver) around midnight. I finally

had a window seat on the plane and the flight coming in was pretty surreal. After about forty minutes of seeing lots of

lights on the ground we bank sharply to the left and suddenly I find myself staring straight out the window at the Statue of

Liberty. After nearly clipping a baseball stadium we touch down at La Gaurdia airport, New York, where the pilot tells

us the temperature outside is below zero.

Our accommodation is a hotel in Manhatten and the taxi ride there is equally as surreal as the flight. Icicles hang from

overpasses while steam comes out of manhole covers in the middle of the road (yes, this really happens). It’s St. Patrick’s

day on Monday (today) and the taxi driver thinks we are Irish. When David tells him where we are actually from he’s

pretty stoked to get the chance to talk cricket with someone (I think he was Indian). David, sitting up front, holds up his

end of the conversation better than any of the Ricaine members could have.

The hotel is okay; near the corner of 5th ave and 31st street (practically next door to the Empire State Building)

although our room’s view of a brick wall ain’t so hot. It really is freezing outside and the streets are deserted, but this

doesn’t stop the eight of us retiring to an all night deli just around the corner for a 3 am hot-chocolate and snacks. Yowza,

somehow we’ve made it all the way to the middle of New York City.

When I arise later that morning at the more civilised time of around 11 am, David has already left for the day and I

leave Brett and Tom to their beauty sleep and hit the pavement of NYC. I head up 5th avenue past the Empire State

Building and come across three different guys playing Three Card Monty on card board boxes in the middle of the

footpath. For those unfamiliar this is the game where you have three different cards face down with the guy shuffling the

cards back and forth, occasionally showing you the card you have to pick. Eventually, for a twenty dollar stake you can

guess which is the right card. If you get it right you get twenty bucks - wrong and you lose your twenty. I actually saw a

guy win but I also saw a guy get suckered three times consecutively for a total of around eighty dollars. There’s one born

every minute, you know.

St. Patrick’s Day is a really big thing in the States and 5th avenue is blocked off just a couple of streets up from the

hotel. It’s still really cold outside but there are people everywhere, the footpaths are packed with crazy New Yorkers going

nuts. There is a massive street parade already happening - marching girls, marching firemen - everybody marching!

Welcome to New York. Some of the people are really getting crazy, yelling out stuff at the top of their voices, everyone is

clapping and cheering and I can see people up in their offices looking out the window at the spectacle below. After trying

to take it in for a while it all starts to freak me out a bit and with some difficulty I make my way through the throng back

to the hotel to see if anyone is up and to find some breakfast.

Later the three of us make it to the top of the Empire State Building (photos are taken, snow domes are purchased) after

which we cruise down Broadway and check out Times Square. Here we see people queuing outside the Ed Sullivan theatre

for a taping of The Late Show. I was keen to take in the David Letterman experience but unfortunately it was tickets only

(like-wise for the Ricky Lake Show which Young Brett O’Riley made phone enquires about the next day). Later that night

we saw the rather average Howard Stern flick Private Parts with David. The four of us then cabbed it down town to The

Village district where we dined a late night meal and thus completed our first day in what they call The Big Apple

(although I’m still none the wiser as to why they call it that.....).

Tuesday was gig day and sight seeing opportunities were limited though I did mange a stroll in Central Park. I liked the

squirrels. We played that night at a club called Coney Island High down in The Village, a cool little place that reminded

me of the down stairs section at The Club in Collingwood. We were on first and played to only about twenty people, as

did Even who played immediately after us. We played a good show but unfortunately later on Tom had his bag stolen

from the venue which bummed us out. We all went to dinner later and missed the other bands, though we did see the

headlining band soundcheck and that’s kind of why we went to dinner, if you get my drift.

We eventually got back to the hotel around two am where-upon the Even lads, Tim, Tom and myself retired to a small

bar called O’Rielly’s just down the street from where we were staying. Expertly drawn pints of Guiness formed a liquid

sound-track while Ashley waxed philosophical about pretty much anything well into another freezing New York morning.

Wednesday Tom, Wally and myself took on the subway and headed down to see the Statue of Liberty (cheesy I know,

but it had to be done). Thanks to Tom we caught the right train but got there only to see the last ferry for the day pull away

from the dock, leaving us to stare through the pay-per-view binoculars from the shore. Damn. Once again it was

absolutely freezing.

We hopped back on the subway and I got off somewhere down town and headed over to the Village area. My mission

was vinyl records and I was not disappointed. I also found an excellent T-shirt shop and finally scored a long sought-after

Polvo t-shirt. My only regret was not having enough cash to also purchase a black t-shirt which contained the phrase





in large white letters across the front. Ah, well.

By this point in the journey I was really keen to get to Chicago and start recording. As far as I was concerned this was

the main point of the whole trip. The new songs we had been playing in the set so far had been going pretty well and we

were all looking forward to checking out the scene in what is easily one of the most productive cities in terms of musical

output at this time.

Thursday was our last day in New York and we didn’t have time to do much more than pack and get out of town. We

bid farewell to Tim, David and the Even chaps, who were all remaining in New York for a few more days before heading

home, then hopped in our limo bound for the airport. That’s right, I said limo. As in limousine. As in streeeeetch

limousine. Yes, at the expense of all so-called indy credibility we actually caught a stretch white limo back to La Guardia

airport (you should see the photos). Actually, it’s no big deal. Limos are everywhere in NYC. You can hire one for a set

price of around $40, ours coming with a driver who bore a distinct resemblance in both appearance and speech to actor Joe

Pesci eg. “Yeah, of course you can smoke back there, go nuts! You want that girl over there on the sidewalk, huh? We’ll

get her too, no problem!”. This worked out cheaper than hiring two taxi’s which is what we would have had to do with all

our equipment. So here we were, loading bags, amps and guitars all inside this stretch limo, then us climbing in on top of

it all. With the Dern Rutlidge demo cranking in the cassette deck we cruised Manhatten for one last time before heading

for the Lincoln Tunnel and on to La Guardia for a four pm flight to Chicago. Truly another Gillette great moment in rock.

Chicago, Illinios: Thursday 20th - Friday 28th

We landed at O’Hare airport in Chicago, one of the world’s largest airports, where weary travellers

are welcomed with a bizarre display of coloured fluorescent lights and weird electronic music that defies description. We

were later told this ties in with the airport’s current ‘futuristic’ advertising campaign. If we weren’t freaked out enough by

this, trying to get a cab was a nightmare. By way of comparison, the scene outside O’Hare made Melbourne’s humble

Tullamarine look like parents picking kiddies from an after school program. It was madness here.

As in New York, we were trying to avoid the expense of hiring two cabs, so I rang a cab company and booked a station

wagon. Cool. I was given a cab number only to find when it arrived it was a sedan - hmmmmmm. When the female driver

found out where we were going she starts abusing me for booking her cab, as only certain cab companies are aloud into the

greater Chicago area - evidently her company was not one of those (even though I’d told the guy who took the booking

where we were going). All the while there are other cabs, buses, and limos flying around the place - it was freakin’ crazy!

Finally the cabbie calms down and agrees to try to take us any way, so we start trying to fit all our stuff into this sedan. Of

course it doesn’t fit and the cabbie takes off in a huff. I then go back into the airport and get back on the phone to find out

how much a limo costs in Chicago. It turns out that they’re way more expensive here so we resign ourselves to taking two

cabs. Dang!

After queuing at the taxi rank we finally have all our shit loaded into two cabs, with me in one and Brett and Tom in the

other. The driver of their cab suddenly cracks the sads and won’t take them on account of all the baggage (this is so

fucked, it’s not like he had to lift any of it), so they then unload it all again, wait for another cab and load it in again.


By now I’m on the freeway and it’s an absolute shambles. It’s around six-thirty pm now and even though we’re

heading into town the freeway is bumper to bumper. I’m watching the meter tick up and up, cringing as we sit in traffic

going nowhere. In addition to these problems I’m also concerned that the cabbie will try to rip me off so I’m trying to act

like I know all about Chicago and have some idea of where we’re going. Thankfully the guy turns out to be kind of a wild

man and starts heading down the emergency lane and pushing in all over the place - I like his style and happily tip the man

his due when we eventually arrive at our destination.

The destination in question was a studio called Electrical Audio Recording, the place where we would be mixing our

record and where we had agreed to meet Bob Weston, the guy who would be recording us. The other cab containing Brett

and Tom arrived soon after and we finally loaded all our stuff inside. I’d gathered from our fax correspondence with Bob

prior to this point that he was a good guy, and so it was in the flesh. This was a double bonus given that we were staying

on his floor for the next week.

Bob was completing the last day of mixing with a band called Delta ‘72 so later that night after taking all our stuff back

to Bob’s house we went out for Mexican with him and the Delta ‘72 band and a whole bunch of other people. We were

tired and damn hungry, but none the less excited to have finally made it to Chicago, home of the blues, home of the Bulls

and home of the sacrilicious Touch & Go record label.

After dinner we were all nearly dead on our feet but emerged from the restaurant to find the semi-famous Lounge Ax

club right across the street. We were due to play there next week and according to Bob a couple of the guys from Tortoise

were suppose to be playing there tonight. Tom and I are big Tortoise fans so naturally we decided to check it out. Indeed,

Tortoise members Johnny ‘machine’ Herndon and Dan Bitney formed part of a atmospheric jazz impro-type group who

sounded excellent. Unfortunately we only got to see about twenty minutes before they finished, but a great twenty minutes

it was.

We were scheduled to head in to Chicago Recording Company (CRC) to start the record late on Friday afternoon, so

we took the opportunity to take in some of down-town Chicago Friday morning. We caught the train in and Tom and I

made a b-line for the Sears tower, the second tallest building in the world, topped only by the Twin Towers of

Kualalumper (but as Bob put it ”The tallest building in the world you’ll ever see!”). And what a view it was.

When we got into CRC later in the day we only really had time to set up our equipment and get our sounds. Things

were sounding great and we were all looking forward to the next two days of recording the basic ten tracks for our record.

CRC is a very fancy studio and the only reason we could afford it was because Bob gets a discount rate on weekends. For

instance a couple of the mikes we needed weren’t available because the Smashing Pumpkins were using them! To our

surprise Chicago locals the Pumpkins were some-where else in the establishment doing some recording (I think there are

eight studios in total at CRC). Tom was keen to bump into Billy Corgan at the coffee machine and put in a pitch for the

drummer’s seat, but no dice. Further more, we even had an assistant engineer who I ended up dubbing ‘Burger Boy’

‘cause all there was for him to do was go get our food - nice guy though.

We finished up around midnight and headed back to Lounge Ax to see a brand new three piece called PW Long’s

Reelfoot containing the promising line-up of ex-Mule guitarist/vocalist P.W. Long, recently departed The Jesus Lizard

drummer Mac McNeily and a bass player whose origins I cannot vouch for. Naturally, they rocked! Some guy in the

audience kept yelling out for Jesus Lizard songs; “‘Mouth Breather’?” replied PW dryly, “isn’t that an Urge Overkill

song?” Great to see that crowd morons aren’t restricted to Australia..... Bob had been playing a cassette of a recording

they had just finished, so undoubtedly you’ll hear more about them soon.

Saturday turned out to be an extremely productive day in the studio. By the time we left we had about seven of the ten

songs recorded. We were pleased to be making such rapid progress, given the relative newness of most of the songs. By

way of comparison the majority of the tunes on the Regret album had been in our live set for quite some time. With this

record it was pretty much the opposite.

When we left the studio around midnight there was a lunar eclipse happening, something I couldn’t recall having seen

before. I figure it had to be some kind of sign regarding the outcome of the record - I just don’t know specifically what yet.

We checked out Lounge Ax again later but didn’t see anything spectacular - must have been something to do with the


Sunday was our final day at CRC and we finished recording the rest of the songs with enough time to make a start on

some vocals. Cool. By the time we loaded all our stuff out of CRC and back to Bob’s house it was around midnight, but

Bob was keen to check out Delta ‘72 who were playing at a place called The Fireside Bowl. This is an actual bowling alley

containing a stage set up in the corner where bands play most nights of the week (they stop the bowling when the bands are

playing). As is the norm in the ‘States there is a bar attached to the bowling alley which makes it the perfect venue - beer

and bowling and rock ‘n’ rolling!

The Fireside Bowl is literally around the corner from Bob’s house so we walked there in time to see about the last half

of the ‘72’s rockin’ set. We were going to be playing there on Tuesday night too, so it was cool to be able to check it out.

Monday to Thursday we were booked in to the aforementioned Electrical Audio Recording, a smaller, cheaper studio

where we would be finishing the vocal tracks and mixing the record. Thus Monday and Tuesday were passed uneventfully

until it came time to load up Bob’s van to take our gear to the Fireside Bowl for our show there that night. We were

supposed to play first on a bill also containing two bands on the Kill Rock Stars label, they being Long Hind Legs and The

Thrones. We had everything in the van only to find the transmission had chosen this particular moment to fall to bits.

Both parties (i.e. the band and the van’s owner) were fairly distressed at this outcome. None the less, in what was typical

of Bob’s ever-helpful nature he got straight on the phone and managed to talk a couple of his friends into coming over and

driving us to the venue. Bob’s friends turn out to be a couple of interesting fellows; John Upturch and Archer Prewitt,

both formerly of the now defunct Chicago band the Coctails. John is now the main man behind Fireproof Press (famous

for printing, amongst others, the Tortoise and Shellac album covers) while Archer now sings and plays guitar with Thrill

Jockey lounge-popsters The Sea and Cake - everybody’s somebody in Chicago, baby!

We finally got all our stuff down to the bowling alley but we were running so late the other bands had already started.

Thankfully the guy running the place was cool and let us play after the other bands had finished. Of course, most of the

crowd had left by then and we played yet another show to practically nobody. But we didn’t really care, we still had fun

playing. I mean, what are you going do?

When we finished we had no way of getting our gear back to Bob’s, even though he only lived around the corner. There

was a guy there who had been recording all the bands playing who I saw about to leave in this van. Thankfully he was a

good guy who ended up taking all our shit back to Bob’s. As for the Kill Rock Star bands, they were both crap.

We mixed all day again on Wednesday and again Bob organised some friends to take all our gear down to Lounge Ax

where we would be playing that night (again with the Kill Rock Star bands). We had a lot of fun playing this show even

though, once more, we were first on and played to a more or less empty room (are you seeing a pattern here yet?). But

what the hey, we were in Chicago playing Lounge Ax and almost finished our new record - who gives a fuck if anyone’s


Thursday we did finish the record and very pleased with it we were. We celebrated by going home to Bob’s, ordering

delivery Italian and watching TV. Each night when we came home Bob had forced us to watch multiple Simpson’s

episodes, which was no problem with us. That night we searched through about four tapes for the episode where the

Simpson’s go to Australia (a favourite of Bob’s) but to no avail.

Friday was our last day in town, our plane leaving around four pm bound for LA then onto Melbourne. We spent our

final morning going on one last record buying spree before Bob drove us to the airport where we checked in our shit-load

of baggage for the final time. Chicago had been a wicked experience, so many excellent people and places but none the

less we were all glad to be heading homeward.

I’ll spare readers the details of the flight home except to say it was better because we all got some sleep between LA

and New Zealand. On Easter Sunday morning I stood in the Auckland airport watching the sun inch up over the horizon

and contemplating the trip. We were only three hours from Melbourne now.

Picking up our baggage and getting through customs was an excellent feeling and it was good to be back. We’d only

been away about three and a half weeks but it felt like longer.

So there you have it, folks. A blow by blow account of our trip, albeit done retrospectively. It’s now July and it’s taken

me since we got back in April to finish this. It’s not so much that I’m a slow typer it’s just that I don’t own a computer so

I’ve been forced to either do this in small chunks each time I drop in at Rubber Records HQ or in even smaller chunks at

work. I sure hope someone gets a kick out of it all. Cheers, NT.