Where did I stop? Ah, right, at the sleepless night on our way to Great Britain. We slept for about two hours until we had to go to the passport control. We were looking so happy that I seriously wonder why they let us pass the border. I guess we looked more like a bunch of robbers on their way to the next victim than musicians on their way to the next concert. Unfortunately, the situation didn’t improve: When we had just fallen asleep again, we arrived at the ferry. And due to the security terms on a ferry, we had to leave the bus and our bunks again. So we went on deck and tried to find a good place to rest. Temperature was cooled down to what seemed to be 10 degrees Celsius and we only found some benches as improvised beds. Which would have worked out if there didn’t hang a noisy TV in every corner… I desperately searched for a calm place and finally found it in the children’s playground. But after a while, the inevitable happened and some kids arrived and changed it to the noisiest place of the ship. In order to avoid a dead child, I went to Frank and Oded, who were doing some final corrections at our backings and tried to help with intelligent comments. Well, one shouldn’t expect intellectual highlights of me at 5 am in a deadly tired mood. When we finally arrived in Great-Britain, I straightly headed to my cabin and immediately fell asleep. Next thing I saw was the venue in Manchester.
We involuntary started with „morning sport“ (noon had already passed): the location was in second floor and there was no elevator. As a result, we had to carry everything up over the quirky, small stairs of the old building. The concert hall itself with its antique wallpapers and its quaint furniture seemed like a time machine to the past. Due to our long journey, we were behind the schedule. When we realized the British way of providing food was to give us some money for buying something on our own, we had to hurry even more. As the nearby pubs didn’t have fitting kitchen times to our soundcheck and concert schedule, we rushed to the next Subway and survived the day with Sandwiches. Frank almost ate the table because the amount of money wasn’t enough to fill his stomach.
After we enjoyed the cheerful and supporting British audience at our show, our departure was a nightmare. Directly after the show, there was a disco at the same place and our bus drivers had to stay for some more hours at their parking lot (which wasn’t next to the venue) to observe the resting rules. As a result, we had to carry all our stuff over narrow, even more quirky stairs to the backstage area. We tried to somehow grab some sleep there until we finally had to carry our stuff over all the stairs and through the party audience to the bus. I guess I don’t have to mention that we slept like mammoths until we arrived in London.
London – one of the metropoles where you immediately switch to tourist mode and you think about Big Ben, Madame Tussaud’s waxworks and so on. Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything despite the street of tonight’s venue. It was a beautiful, old church with a warm-hearted, unconventional priest and very friendly deaconesses. The only disadvantage of this place was the average temperature in October in a church in England and the not existing shower. Therefore I washed my hair shivering in a kitchen sink and wear a hood the rest of the day, hoping not to get a cold and to be completely dry again until the show. As we were already familiar with the strategy of “Chase your food on your own!” from Manchester, we got the crew and us fed with the food of the nearby kebab shop. We were all looking forward to the concert, because it was special: The tones of the classical instruments and the singing seemed to float on its own through the great acoustic of the church. We had prepared a special setlist with calmer songs for tonight’s show to take advantage of it. Therefore we briefly rehearsed backstage the songs we didn’t play on our tour until now. We fully enjoyed the concert and the audience carefully listened to each note. It was a great pleasure!
After the show, we realized that the good-humoured priest was selling beer at an improvised bar next to the church entry. He invited us to come back with our metal set. We’ll do so as soon as we find a good possibility to return to Great Britain again!
As we knew the next night would be a short one as well, we quickly packed and departed as soon as possible. We had to catch the ferry again. We just drifted off when the British border control entered the bus, keeping the formalities as low as possible. We were thankful, but all stood up as we knew the ferry was close now. An hour later, we got informed we had to wait for two more hours for the ship. So we entered our beds and stood up again. Once more, we tried to get some sleep in a noisy fridge. We knew we had to play two shows and it would be a very stressful next day, so we really looked grumpy. I wonder how I managed not to smash a TV.
Back in France, we deeply slept while we drove to Paris. I awoke when our bus driver somehow managed to manoeuvre us through much too narrow streets. As there was no parking space, he had to stop on a cross road and completely blocked it. Therefore we rushed to unload the bus as fast as possible. Due to the ferry and the early show, we were behind schedule again and somehow managed to squeeze the setup and soundcheck time to be ready for the show in the afternoon. I tried to reactivate my knowledge of the French language while running around and plugging cables. As a result, I mixed up two words in the first show: Instead of speaking about little fluffy chicks (poussins) I talked about whores (putains). I recognized my error immediately and corrected it after begging pardon to the crowd. They obviously felt more amused than offended. Anyway, they were in an incredibly great mood all the time.
In the short break between the shows, Idan, one of the Orphaned Land guitarists, spontaneously got a violin lesson from our girls. He did a great job! But soon it was showtime again. Afterwards I was good for nothing anymore, the mixture of a huge lack of sleep and two shows in a row left me in a totally exhausted condition. Once more, we had the problem that our bus driver had to stay some more hours on the far away parking lot to observe the rest rules and the venue was booked for another event afterwards, which meant that we were kicked out with all our equipment almost directly after the show. I was severely cold and deadly tired while we were standing on the sidewalk and waiting. After a while, we put all the equipment in some big taxis and went ourselves to the metro to go to a meeting point with our bus. With our last bits of strength, we loaded the stuff from the taxis into the trailer. Then we drove to the camping lot we would stay for the next two days and slept.
We left our bunks in the afternoon, realizing that we were in Paris and that we had time to explore the city! But Sandrine and I didn’t feel very adventurously. We were both weak and didn’t feel so well. We just went into the neighborhood to search for some food and to rest. Meanwhile Luisa left us for an involuntary tour break at her workplace. The next morning, we had one more chance: Sandrine stayed in her bunk, but I really wanted to go to the city. Well, I only made it to the metro station, then my ears were aching more and more and I had to change my plans. Lisa went alone to town while Frank escorted me to the doctor. Once more speaking French turned out to be very useful (otherwise I would have been totally lost in this situation). The doctor found a beginning inflammation of the middle ear and prescribed antibiotics and pain killers to me. The rest of the day, I returned to my bunk and simply suffered. I was really happy that the concert of this evening was canceled, I couldn’t imagine going on stage in this condition. In addition, Sandrine didn’t feel much better. The flue was already traveling with us for a while, but until now only members of the other bands got it. But after these sleepless nights, we were obviously weak enough to catch it as well.
Decimated and in really bad condition we continued our way to Aschaffenburg. Frank also started to snuffle more and more. We changed our setlist according to the situation: playable without Luisa and somehow singable while feeling so weak. We somehow survived the concert without disgracing ourselves although most of us were in zombie-mode and would fit better in a bed than on a stage. Luckily, the audience did its best to support us. Sandrine also started to get aching ears and we were suffering double thanks to the new opening band, which played full metal power as acoustic set – the worst thing ever for our damaged ears.
We continued our tour in Bochum, again in a church. After we unloaded the bus, I returned to my bunk while the other bands did their soundcheck. I woke up because I heard the sound of drops. I realized beforehand that it was a rainy day, but these drops didn’t sound like an outside noise. I had a closer look at my environment and found out that it was raining on the stairs inside the bus and in one of the bunks. Great. This was exactly what I needed now. Instead of my nap I went to the kitchen, took cans, buckets and cups, placed them at the critical positions and informed the others. As one of the bunks couldn’t be used anymore, I volunteered to move in the narrow bunk under the stairs. (We currently drove with only one of the two drivers and it was the second driver’s sleeping place.) This one had an advantage: One could not hear the others snoring because you had no direct neighbours. This helped me to get some rest the next days.
This evening, our constitution wasn’t much better. We did our best to play a good show, but it didn’t feel so perfect. The church somehow didn’t feel like a church as it was a modern one with a huge event stage. Our calm set somehow felt too calm there. But on the other hand, we didn’t have the power for a more energetic set.
Slightly depressed, we went on to Hamburg. While I was feeling better again and got more power day by day, Frank and Sandrine felt worse than ever. Lisa was the only healthy band member now – so she had to work double as the rest wasn’t able to do much. Hamburg was an improvised concert. At first, we should play at a church, but there were issues in the organization and the gig was canceled. Last minute, a new club was booked as a replacement. In addition, it simply didn’t stop raining. And the bus was getting more and more wet. And despite all my water-collection-supplies which got more and more add ons from the other musicians, the bus slowly transformed to a swimming pool. We URGENTLY had to do something. I desperately searched the bus driver in the venue and the club owner to beg for some materials to put at least some canvas covers on the bus. With all my efforts I also caught the attention of the nearby ship builder. So finally, the three men joined forces to seal up the roof.
I just wanted to take a seat for five minutes when my mobile rang – Luisa. She wanted to come by plane to join us at tonight’s show again. But unfortunately, her flight was late and in best case she would arrive the very last minute. We prepared everything backstage for her so she only had to pick up her violin and to run directly on stage. Sandrine played the soundcheck for her.
When we prepared ourselves backstage, we anxiously looked at my mobilephone and on the clock again and again. Would Luisa make it in time? We made sure not to start a minute earlier than necessary. But finally, we had to start without her. I found myself frequently looking to the backstage and the front door, searching for the well-known blond head of hair. And while we were playing the third song, she finally appeared! She just rushed on stage in her day clothes, stressed, but also relieved to be with us again. The happy sun beam in person helped us to ignore our bad condition and the lack of audience caused by the changed location. What an exciting day!
The roof problem seemed to be solved and after we dried several parts of the bus with the help of a hair-dryer, it felt much better inside. We proceeded to Munich. It was originally planned to play a show in Andernach the next evening, but due to the aforementioned organizational issues it was canceled as well. We reached the Camping lot of Dachau in the evening and walked to the only restaurant one could find in the area. The menu consisted of traditional Bavarian food. A paradise for vegetarians! If one did not want to eat just side dishes, one could choose exactly one meal. We were not so enthusiastic about it, but at least we got our stomach filled …
After we enjoyed the idyllic atmosphere of a camping lot in late autumn while freezing at the shower (we asked ourselves who stayed here by choice!) the next morning, we went to the venue. I felt quite well again and Frank was on the mend, but Lisa started to sniff now. We worried for Sandrine – she was almost deaf and took most of my pain killers. So we send her to the doctor. He cut her ears open to get the pus out of it and gave her antibiotics as well. As a result, she could at least hear a bit and was able to play the concert. While she was at the doctor, we already made worst case preparations: We prepared special backing tracks and Luisa prepared for some solo-parts of Sandrine. We were really relieved that all of this wasn’t necessary in the end and we were able to play the concert altogether.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere of the concert in Munich was kind of restrained. When I announced Number in a Cage, the room was suddenly filled with a deafening silence. With our restaurant-experience of the day before in mind, we guessed that animal rights were not the best topic in conservative Bavaria. In contrast, Berlin could only get better.
And it was indeed: The audience in Berlin cheerfully enjoyed the concert. Meanwhile communication in between us got complicated. Lisa almost completely lost her voice, she could only whisper. In addition, Sandrine heard much less than usual. Therefore they always needed someone to shout Lisa’s words at Sandrine. We felt like in an old people’s home. That’s presumably how our life will be like in 40-50 years …
The next day we had a day off. While Lisa und Luisa met some friends, Frank, Sandrine and I inspected the environment to find some food. At first, we went to the next supermarket coffee shop to get some hot chocolate. As the heating in the bus was turned off, we were all freezing. We wondered why one put colourful moving heads on the ceiling. What was this disco illumination good for? In daylight, the effect is close to zero. Afterwards, we looked for a good opportunity to fill our stomachs. We found a nice Indish restaurant and had a luxury dinner. We were not in the mood for a sightseeing trip: It was rainy and cold and we all already knew the city. The rest of the time, I experimented with updo technics, using the hair of my band mates (Frank looked totally enthusiastic about it).
During the night, we drove to Budapest. Once more, our concert should be on a ship. But in comparison to Lille, this one was about five times bigger. When we arrived, we were immediately welcomed by the cameras of a TV team. They filmed everything we did. At least they didn’t follow us into the shower. (Although we would have preferred to use them before facing a camera. But one cannot choose everything in life.)
Frank and I were asked for an interview and the rest took care of getting some food. We hurried to get something in the stomach before we entered the stage. And again, the cameras were with us. We finally got used to it. You can find the result of the filming here:
After the show we had some time to explore at least the nearby part of Budapest at night. What a beautiful city! We just got a first impression, but we were really amazed! In addition, a talented violinist who was playing beyond one of the bridges created the perfect atmosphere to enjoy the beauty.
Overnight, we continued our journey to Padova. As a result, we arrived at noon and explored the city to find a lunch. We were back in the sun and got in holiday mood again. The really beautiful historic centre was really inviting. By chance, we found a small ice cream parlor that sold ice with licorice flavor. We really had to try it! The last hour before the club opened its doors for us, we spend on a green meadow. I used the time to finish what I already started in the morning in my bunk: To arrange “Oh mio babbino caro” by Pucchini for strings and me. We wanted to surprise Orphaned Land singer Kobi with it as a farewell gift in the last show, as he revealed us some days before that he was a huge admirer of his music. I still had a piano and vocals-only score on my laptop from a solo performance in summer, so I just had to add the rest. While Orphaned Land was doing soundcheck, I organized a print for everyone and during their show, we rehearsed it backstage. When they finished, we quickly covered the tracks of our plan and went out to chat with the great audience. They had been so warm hearted and enthusiastic during our show!
It was time for the inevitable event now: The last stop on our journey, Rome, which also meant the last concert of the tour. The whole day, the atmosphere was somehow strange. On the one hand, there were always some musicians missing, as we were shuttled in small groups to an old city mansion to take showers. On the other hand, the farewell feeling started, when we for example counted the unsold merch. In addition, there was no real backstage room. So we were all hanging out in the space of the audience and felt a bit lost and melancholic.
Finally, it was showtime: an incredibly enthusiastic audience celebrated with us the end of the tour. For “Sternennacht”, we had a special guest on stage: Matan from Orphaned Land came with Shakers and Sticks on stage and took over the percussion for the song. The audience got crazy and also cheered as hell when we played our aria for Kobi. We couldn’t help but joining them to sing and to dance one last time to the oriental sounds of Orphaned Land at their concert. Some of the bands that were the opening acts on earlier parts of the tour were also there. So it was a welcome and a farewell at the same time. Tonight, none of us wanted to go to bed early. We took some souvenir photos and clinked glasses with sparkling wine and chocolate. We only returned to the bus when the club owners shut down the light. We went directly to the airport and said goodbye to the Israelis. Afterwards, the bus felt somehow abandoned.
To drive home was one of the longest rides of the tour. After we had some sleep, we chatted with the Stimmgewalt-girls and guys. They were the only ones left in the bus beside us. We divided the last supplies left in the bus (at least what we didn’t eat during the day) and arrived late in the evening at our rehearsal room. The least glorious part of the tour was now ours: To carry all the stuff back in the rehearsal room and to put the rest of the merch to my home so I could count it. I felt asleep with the great perspective to take care of five weeks of undone paper work in the office. It was great indeed, to have a room for myself and the space of a complete bed after all the time. Don’t understand me wrong, I really enjoyed being on the road for a month with all those crazy musicians. But sometimes it’s also time for a bit of privacy. You can imagine how I passed the next weeks: my laptop was my companion most of the time. And then there was the China-concert-trip with Haggard, a very special and ultra-exhausting experience. But that’s another story.
The Coda still was about to come: We arranged with Orphaned Land to play a concert together on December 21st in Nuremberg. Finally, it was time for the metal versions. Therefore we disappeared in the rehearsal room with our guys. On tour, we spoke with the Orphaned Land-guys to play the strings and piano live on their show instead of the playback the used. As a result, we decided to test it with their song “Brother” in Nuremberg on stage. This meant for us some more hours in the rehearsal room.
We headed to Nuremberg in a great mood: The last concert of the year before we would spread and reunite with our families for a week of Christmas holiday. About noon, the Orphaned Land guys welcomed us still a bit sleepy and we started the day in a relaxed way. It was great fun to play with distortion and metal drums again! In addition, the audience didn’t seem to be in contemplative Christmas mood, too. They cheered loudly. Yeah! Slightly nervous, we were awaiting our second time to enter stage for tonight’s show. And then, Kobi took a bit more time than usual to announce “Brother”, while we quickly brought our instruments back on stage and played the last tones together for this year. It was a great experience and we had a lot of fun, but one song is over so fast! That’s why we disappeared again to the backstage area to put everything in its cases. After we finally found the time to chat a bit with the fans and the Orphaned Land guys, we went back home.
The conclusion: This year was the time to fulfill some of our dreams. But we won’t rest now. In the contrary: We tasted blood and we want more! Although we didn’t find much time to take care of concerts in 2016 until now, we’ll work on it now with double effort. We are already looking forward to play concerts in as many different places in the world as possible and to see as many as possible of you again! Have a great year 2016, perhaps it’s the time to fulfill some more dreams. We’ll reach for the stars, let’s see if we catch one!