GAMMA RAY Tourdiary, Mexico CIty, Salon 21
Friday, May 26th 2000
In order to head off into the first Gamma Ray Mexico adventure, we all gather at Hamburg airport at 07:00 a. m. Unfortunately not all of us, because Dirk is still having problems after his knee injury and has not been dismissed from the hospital yet. Last week, shortly before the band left for Greece, he had twisted his knee and was sent straight to the hospital, where he was taken under the knife on Tuesday morning. And now there has been a small inflammation, which is why the doctors advised him to stay in bed another day. The die is that is coming to Mexico on a different flight tomorrow. Of course Henjo hasnt arrived yet either, but in the end he turns up in time only with the typical thirty minute delay. The rest of the team is made up by Kai, Daniel, Piesel and tour manager Jorg Zaske.
From Hamburg we have a flight to Frankfurt first. Here we meet our bavarian colleagues: sound board wizard Ernst Seider, lighting technician Chris Graf and last but not least Andreas Shower from Hammer Magazine. It always amazes to me to see Ernst and Chris starting to babble like mad at the earliesr times in the day. For myself being from the north, this is far from being any understandable. Anyway, with the team complete now we walk to the counter of Continental Airlines together. As we have to filled out a number of papers, the extremely unfriendly lady tells us that the flight is overbooked and that only 6 persons out of the 9 we are can go on the flight. Our complete disagreement to this collides with more rude acting by the lovely madam who now bitches at us that it was our own problem that we turned up so late. Well, we were there some 90 minutes before the departure, but that doesnt seem to interest her at all. She only changes her mind as Jorg tells her that we are breaking a contract and have to pay a huge penalty fee if we just dont turn up in Mexico, and askes her whether her flight company was willing to pay this money for us. So she leads us to the plane at last, where the next step follows. They now ask us kindly who of us was willing to take the next flight if he was payed a considerably high amount of money (DM 1000 as I think) to make up for the unplanned change. And indeed, we manage to sort out two pairs who decide to take only tomorrows flight, and so Piesel and myself cant go back to Hamburg as we had already been phantasiizing, and so cant witness the triumpf of our local St. Pauli football team, who manage to stay in the league thanks to a lucky goal in the 93rd minute!
So we smoke the last cigarette before it goes on the seven hour non smoking flight. Once were on board of the plane, the never ending friendlines of the flight staff is being continued. Out souls that have been spolied by real friendly faces on several Lufthanse flights are now being tortured by the look of merciless american faces that seem to express as many emotions a piece of rock does. The fact that we are allowed to have only one alcoholic drink each on the flight is just bearable (a rare thing on any Gamma Ray trip), but empty beer cans made of plastic that are being thrown at you from the seat rows fruther behind plus trouble with the vegetarian food that we had ordered weeks in advance and that now nobody is knowing anything about, missing forks and knifes as well as a few other frienldy gestures do not really contribute to letting this airline become our favourite. This is particularly sad, because other than that, the plane itself, a nice 777, is very nicely equipped, and everybody has got his own TV screen. In the end we make it to Newark airport, which is located just outside New York City.
We are now having a hasty stopover, smoke a couple of cigarettes and then it is further on to Mexico City, where we arrive at nine oclock local time after another five hours flight. Here everything goes very quickly. We are led through the customs quickly and few minutes later we arrive at the hotel. Since this has been a twenty four odysee by now, we all drop straight into our beds.
Saturday, May 27th 2000
My room telephone rings one hour earlier than expected. Joerg Zaske: "Big crisis discussion over breakfest at 10:00 a. m." I can imagine what the reason for this is: "Dirk is not coming, right ?". And Joerg again: "Exactly !". "Shit ! But dont worry, I already have an idea." "So do I !".
Right then, Im off for breakfest. Kai comes round and gives me a slap on my shoulder, and says "I have heard you are the new guy ?" "Urrggs !" Dirks knee has gotten a bit worse apparently. After his dismissal from the hospital on Friday afternoon, a lot of liqour was formed inside the knee, and so two doctores seriously advised him to stay in bed and not to take the flight. What sahll we do now ? The idea is quickly there, and it is all too obvious that either Piesel or myself will have to take over Dirks part. Considering the length of the set, we quickly gree that it would be best if we shared the job and played one half of the show each. Now we only have to discuss who is playing which part. We both obviously would prefer to play the first half of the set, which consists of the older and slower songs. The second half of the set is not exactly easy to play. Kai helps us with the decision in the end as he asks Piesel to to tune his guitar programs during the first few numbers, until he gets used to the stage situation. Thank you Kai, I love you ! For the rest of the day my perception is pretmmy much switched off, and I take notice of what is happening only with my subconsciousness. At 11:00 a. m. I am sitting there with Dirks bass on my lap and with Henjo sitting next to me, in front of my portable CD player and my mini speakers, which I fortunately have taken with me, trying to learn the songs. We write various sheets of paper, Henjo explains me a number of song structures. In the meantime, Piesel is sitting in Kais hotel room, being taught the other songs. If Basti and Kralle hadnt gone back to the hotel last week in Greece in order to get Dirks Steinberger bass guitar back which we had forgotten there and sent it to Piesels home adress, we would be in serious trouble now. Well, lets say it would have been even more serious than it is now anyway. The learning of the songs is not that difficult though, because we have been used to them for years and know most of them pretty much by heart. We are arble to hum along to every break and every variation, it is only that we now have to find the right notes. In order to make sure that things will go fine, we decide to concentrate on a more basic version that Dirk usually plays. The main thing is that the basis is correct.
Like a mircale, we find ourselves at the venue at 02:30 p. m. then, a nicely big hall in which Jorg, Chris and Ernst have already done most of the work for us. The backline has been set up, now we only have to plug in the cables and then we already start rehearsing with the band. "Lust For Life", "Heaven Can Wait" and also "Tribute To The Past" pass me by completely. Oh good god in heaven, Im playing so badly ! I have enough confidence to play "Heading" withour a rehearsal, but we havent had time for a run through "Dream Healer" yet. So I rush into the backstage room and sit down in fron of Piesels rehearsal stereo set which is far more comfortable than my mini set. He has got the Tone Works Pandora Box 2 by Korg, which you can build a CD player in and then play along to the songs. I write all the papers again in a clearer form, play myself through everything another time and am just trying to go into "Dream Healer", as Piesel rushes in the room, shrieks "Go away there, Im so awfully bad", and then Im left there and dont know what to do now. There is a massive noise everyhwere, and it is impossible to find a quiet place where I can reherase with the bass plugged out. I slowly start to panic. All of a sudden the message comes that the band are driving back to the hotel again. "Help; I have to follow them !". So I stuff everything into my bag, while my formely soft guitarist fingers are already bleeding, and jump on the shuttle bus. At the hotel, I pull Henjo into my room and have him explain me "Dream Healer" at last now. I play the song two times, and then I already to have to take the elevator down to the reception again as were leaving - and as usual, noone from the band has turned up yet, and so I end up waiting. Not that I could have rehearsed for another 15 minutes ...
Back at Salon 21 again, there is just enough time left for a line check (during this, some fans even recognize Piesel from the show he played here with Lacrimosa last year, and welcome him with a loud cheer) and to tune Henjos guitar, and then I already find myself standing there with the bass over my shoulder, and the intro tape starts rolling.
Because the idea had been that Dirk would be playing the gig sitting on a chair, we havent taken the wireless system with us, and so I have to get on stage first. While I felt like throwing up all day, the nervosity has surprisnigly completely gone now. Hard to believe, but true ! Daniel counts the rhythm and off it is with "Lust For Life". And what a lust it is, it is great fun playing ! The stage is much bigger than those I have played so far with my own band Megace. The fans cheer and jump about, and Im enjoying myself to the full. Kai, Henjo and Daniel are grinning widely all the time and I feel that they are enjoying it too despite the unusual emergency situation. Cool stuff!
"Heading For Tomorrow" is a real moment to relax for me then despite ist length and ist many different parts, and only now I find the time to have a look around and look at whats actually happening there. But then, oh my dear, during "Changes" I get totally lost after the first verse and as bad luck has it, Im just standing on Henjos side that moment. So I run back to the other side of the stage quickly, have a desparate look at my papers, play some "dumm bumm bumm" and all of a sudden I find my way back into the song. During the mid part of "Dream Healer", Im playing alone with Daniel, and even that works very well. Then the song that frightens me most, "Tribute To The Past", during which I totally failed at the sound check. But for some unknown reason, it works without a problem this time, in fact it works even better than most of the other songs, and bang, there it is over again. Now I dont even want to leave the stage anymore, but as I know, I would be very likely to fail completely during the next songs. So I thank the band and the audience and leave the stage. Piesel is trying to say something to me, but then only nodds his head and walks off. I now walk into the backstage room and get myself a cold beer to calm down a bit. Back at the side of the stage, Kai comes in my direction quickly, and I notice that I should actually check the tuning of his second guitar which he had handed over to Piesel as I left the stage. And now I see what Piesel was trying to tell me: the D-string is missing. Uiuiui, that could have easily led to some embarrassement, so lets do it quickly !
So now Im standing at the side of the stage and it is Piesels turn to sweat. The crowd is in a great mood, the atmosphere is fantatsic. During "Somewhere Out In Space" I pull over the green alien mask and jump on stage to arse around a bit. Andreas Schowe is breaking out in sweat down in the photo bit, because his film is just full that moment. Jorg Zaske is standing next to him is laughing his ass off. During "Ride The Sky" - which Piesel hadnt rehearsed at all, because he used to play the song before in Japan while Kai was just singing - Piesy all of a sudden starts pulling grimaces. In fact, he used to play on the first half of the song, until Kai took over the guiar again. And now he has no idea how the song goes on ! This is really funny to watch, and noone took notice anyway ! And then it is all over. For the final farewell the band are getting me back on stage to salute the audience and we finish the most peculiar Gamma Ray show of all time with a big grin on our faces. At the side of the Stage, Kai hugs Piesel and me and thanks us overwhelmingly. Youre weclome ! Very welcome !!!
Out bavarian boys are already awaiting us in the backstage room, and of course start bitching immediately: "You goddamn posers, putting your foot up on the monitor box !" etc, but they also praise our performance. "Hey Chris, where was my follow spot light ?"
The expected drunken night blows out in the end, as we are all much too tired after the really long and exhausting day. And also, after all the tortillas we have had, there would have been no room left in our stomaches for any beer ! So were off back to the hotel, and to bed.
Sunday, May 28th 2000
After breakfest this morning we drive to a record store where the band are holding an instore. Piesel and myself make sure that we stand in the background, back some fans still recognize us and so we are asked to sign a number of autographs as well. After that, we go out for a long walk across the huge market square , visit a temple and end up in another mexican restaurant again we gorge ourselves with the tasty tortillas. Today also the long overdue drinking session takes place at the hotel, where my mini stereo set supplies the musical entertainment.
Monday, May 29th 2000
Ui, Im really far from feeling good, but the flight back home will serve enough time to sober up. We dont even meet Kai, Henjo and Daniel anymore as they are staying in Mexico for another week for a holiday. As we get to Newark, we are already in good condition again. We have even enough time to invade Manhattan for about two hours. A site definitely worth a visit !
Tuesday, May 30th 2000
Because of the different time zones, it is already afternoon as we arrive in Hamburg. I switch on my mobile, and have a message from Mister Schlachter. He is asking me to bring him his little Steinberger bass guitar to the hospital because he is bored to death there ! And as the Barmbek Hospital is right on my way home, I drive there directly and tell him the full tale immediately. He obviously had no idea and thought Gamma Ray had just played without him. His reaction was a bit strange as I told him that he was fired now and had to start looking for a new band :-) ...
He also tells me that the doctors had been looking well after him and had taken first 130 and then again 110 ml of wound liquor out of his knee, and that he had to stay in hospital for another three or four days. By now, our Slaughter is back at good health again though, and has already played a number of shows again. In September, he will have to go back to the hospital again for the final amputation of his knee !
Jörg "Schrörg" Schrör
(thanx to Volkmar Udri for the translation)
Mail to: Joerg@megace.de
Copyright © 2000 Jörg Schrör