Aidan Moffat is away
Aidan Moffat's in Japan on holiday. Fortunately, he has left the tour diary from his last days with his band, Arab Strap, behind. It's a typical tour: old groupies, having all your stuff nicked, and putting your erection in a false vagina purchased in a German service station. He also got his friend Jenny Soep to give us some illustrations she did of the band.
Arab Strap Farewell Tour Diary 2006
by Aidan Moffat
I was searching round the back alleys of my hard drive when I came across an old tour diary. I mentioned my day job last week: I write and sing songs for a living, and for ten years – 1996 to 2006 – I did so in a band called Arab Strap. The band was really more of a duo pairing myself and Malcolm Middleton, a friend from my hometown of Falkirk. We wrote and recorded just about everything on our albums, but when we toured we enlisted the services of the talented musicians we’d come to know. We were a five-piece band on the Arab Strap Farewell Tour of 2006 and it was hard work, travelling in a small splitter van, driving, on average, about eight hours a day and staying in hotels of dramatically varying quality. It wasn’t glamorous is any way. In fact, touring seldom was. It was an exhausting, frustrating and often oddly lonely experience, and unless you have a gargantuan amount of cash to spend, it can be very uncomfortable. Arab Strap never really had much cash. I can say with every confidence that the majority of the listeners who bought our records and saw us play probably made more money than we did. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – being in a marginally successful band on an independent record label is a great job to have, but it’s not lucrative.
Anyway, the following diary extract seems to sum up the middle stages of the final Arab Strap tour quite well.
Friday 17 November, 2006
Were I a superstitious or religious man, I would no doubt think there was some sort of karmic inevitability to being robbed for the third time on our farewell tour. I forgot to pay for my bottle of Evian, you see, because it was in my pocket. It was in my pocket because my arm is sprained (and seems to be getting worse) and I couldn’t carry both it and the tray that my thoroughly foul dinner was on.
This time the thieving cunts took the video camera. I was rather stupid to leave it in the glove compartment, I suppose as there was a very ominous sign in the Ibis Hotel lobby that read “ATTENTION, TOURISTS: IT MAY BE DANGEROUS TO STAY HERE TONIGHT,” and I had no reason to disbelieve it as there was a bus-load of undesirables wandering around the car park when we arrived, resembling that scene in Halloween when we join Donald Pleasance on a trip to the asylum to find that the loons are loose and running free.
The first theft was in Brussels. In the middle of a lovely, sunny afternoon, right outside the venue, some scumbag smashed the driver’s window and made off with my bag. We found it later in the neighbouring park and obviously it had been rummaged through, with books and clothes scattered all over the bushes, but at least I can find some satisfaction in knowing that the thief would have been forced to sift through my dirty underpants, covered in skid marks. Still, he did take my passport and my new Swiss army knife. No doubt he’s already used the serrated blade to saw his way into some other traveller’s luggage, or perhaps slashed the throat of an innocent old lady for a few Euros. I wasn’t sure I would be allowed back into the UK without a passport, but for once the customs officials were on our side and the lady generously accepted my Cineworld Unlimited Cinema card as photographic ID. Terrorists, take note.
And then there was the sat-nav that was purloined from the bus as we loaded in. That was in Liverpool, which probably won’t come as much of a surprise, especially to Liverpudlians.
We are in Madrid tonight, after a disastrous show last night in Valencia. For some reason, our agent has booked all our Spanish dates on the last ever Farewell Tour as a support for the Violent Femmes. We’ve had to drop seven songs from the set and last night the crowd noise while we played the quiet numbers was more often than not louder than the band. Okay, these shows are actually part of the Wintercase Festival, so I suppose it’s not technically a support as both bands’ sets are the same length. But I’d bet at least a week’s per diems that they’re getting paid a shed-load more than we are. Either way, it was quite clear last night that the majority of the audience were eager Violent Femmes fanatics and it was without doubt the worst gig of the tour so far (and there’s been a few howlers). So should any Valencian Arab Strap fans through some unfathomable quirk of fate ever read this, please accept my apology. The truth is, a band is only ever as good as the audience, and when a great deal of the audience is massively indifferent then it tends to rub off on us. So: sorry. Fingers crossed for Madrid tonight, but I’m expecting disappointment.
So I have just indulged in the services of a Travel Pussy. This is not, as you may suspect, a poetic euphemism for an eager groupie but rather a plastic device that is widely available in the men’s rooms of German truck-stops. It’s little more than a plastic bag that you fill with warm – not hot (seriously, not hot) – water, then you lube your distended member with the gel provided and slip it in for a “realistic” vagina feel. [NB: Aidan has form for this kind of thing.] It was marginally distracting to begin with but I soon tired of it and resorted to the reliable method of masturbation, which I have trusted for over two decades. Admittedly, I did slip back in just prior to orgasm but this was more experimental than erotic in purpose, and by then it had cooled down quite considerably and felt nothing like the warm, inviting vulva I was promised. It’s not an experience that I intend to repeat, although I do have another two of them in my bag. Christmas presents, obviously.
Madrid was a vast improvement on Valencia and I was very happily surprised. I thought I saw the girl I had an extremely brief fling with (on the tour bus and in a restaurant toilet) a few years ago, but I didn’t want to look long enough to find out I was right. But then I thought I saw her again tonight in Bilbao (terrible show again, utter disinterest all round). She came from Bilbao but lived in Madrid, as I recall. I may have been right either night but, as a now very-happily-attached and monogamous cohabitant, I made sure I hid in the dressing room both tonight and last night so as to avoid any chance of excruciatingly painful embarrassment and awkwardness. What a fucking coward.
And so on to Barcelona. The Violent Femmes seem like affable guys, but their crew are being dicks. Michael has been granted permission to lose the plot at them after our final Spanish show tomorrow evening. They certainly like to think that they’re very important: one of the crew walked onstage as we were halfway through our set to get a pair of sticks so the drummer could practice on the table in the dressing room. I like to think that we’ve been very kind and friendly to our support acts over the years, if not necessarily sociable all the time, and I would never dream of invading their stage as they performed unless they expressly asked me to. Fucking wanker. Looking forward to tomorrow night now.
Sunday 19 November, 2006
Slept terribly last night thanks to a nightmare about our last ever show. It wasn’t in Glasgow at the ABC though – where it will be in fifteen days – but for some reason at Scotland’s premier festival, T in the Park. The band couldn’t remember the songs and I threw down my mic and stormed off in disgust. Then Malcolm said he’d been shagging my girlfriend just to wind me up, which is thankfully not something he would do in the waking world. I pointed out to him in the dream that this was ridiculous and that he was an extreme cunt, and thus the Arab Strap story ended. A learned doctor would no doubt suggest that the dream signified the anxiety I feel about disbanding the group after ten years and our upcoming farewell show in Glasgow. But I’m pretty sure that I’m not anxious at all. That’s the point of a subconscious, I suppose.
Was awoken at 2 AM by a text message alert and assumed it was another of the sporadic goodnights from home. But it turns out I had been correct about Bilbao - my old flame (or perhaps “old spark” is more appropriate) had been there right enough, and the message was from her: "Hey! I’ve been in the concert. I just wanted to say hello. Un beso!" Un beso is Spanish for “a kiss”. I waited until morning to reply, saying something to the effect that I had to leave sharpish and it was a shame that we missed each other. I didn’t mention that I was too scared, obviously.
So it’s Barcelona tonight and then it’s back to headlining our own shows, which will be a very welcome relief after these torturous slogs. And if that little twat invades our stage tonight, I expect he’ll he met with the extreme anger and threats of violence he deserves.
I will see my girlfriend again in eight days. I’m thinking about giving her this to read so she doesn’t need to overwhelm me with questions. The last thing I want to do when I get home from a tour is talk about it, but her thirst for knowledge and detail is unquenchable. Seems like a good idea – why bother writing something if no one’s going to read it?
Images courtesy of: www.jennysoep.blogspot.com
Exhibition at Mono until end of June featuring drawings done live of David Byrne, Edwyn Collins, Bjork, Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Jeff Lewis, The Phantom Band and lots more. Closing music/art event/experiment Sunday 21 June. For more details see blog or email firstname.lastname@example.org