Uriah Heep Share Recording Studio and Tour Diary
The life of a rock star can appear pretty glamorous to outsiders, but what really goes on before and after a band sets foot onstage? Uriah Heep guitarist Mick Box shares some behind-the-scenes info in UCR's exclusive recording and tour diary. Below you'll find his unedited 2018 diary from the studio and on the road, as Uriah Heep record their upcoming album Living on the Dream at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, England, and begin their North American tour. Recounting the tale of recording snafus to being held up at the airport due to luggage and passport problems, Box pulls the curtain away on some exciting scenes -- as well as on some mundane ones.
IN THE STUDIO
Thursday 4TH January, Davey came over to my house in London and we loaded up my car to drive the 3 ½ – 4 hours to Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire. With all of my Guitars, Davey’s’ Bass Guitars, 3 Amplifiers, 2 suitcases, bags of pedals, we were full to the brim. Russ was picking up our Producer Jay Ruston from LGW Airport who flew in from Los Angeles, Phil travelled by train and Bernie joined us the following day as he had just arrived back from Canada full of Jet lag.
The first night was getting to know Jay while Brian and Scampi set up the equipment along with the resident studio engineers Sam and Pete. We ordered in a curry for dinner that night, as our catering did not start until the following day. After eating that we played a few games of pool and at one point it looked like the ‘Uriah Heep Youth Club’ was in full flight, and then we all retired for the night.
Friday: On Day 1 we have breakfast at 10am before going into the studio at 11am. This was a day for getting sounds. Always the drums are the first and this usually takes the longest to get just right, then we all get our headphone balances while jamming, so that we are set to start the recording process and get in the trenches and perform.
We break for a quick lunch at 1pm and then we do not stop until 6.30pm for dinner each day. After dinner we start again until approximately 11pm.
On Saturday we started recording the first track of the album. We do this by all playing live without a click track to make it sound as organic as possible, and the results are brilliant. After the backing track is finished, we tend to do all of the overdubs and solos on that track, so that it is ready for lead vocals.
Sunday, we started off with the lead vocals on yesterday’s track and it sounded great. Our producer Jay got the best vocal sound and performance out of Bernie I have heard in a long while, and the song even in that rough mix stage sounded fantastic. It was early days, but Jay is definitely the right choice of Producer as he has a brilliant studio demeanour, and a really chilled way of doing things that brings out best of everybody, and along with that all of the sounds are terrific, and I was super happy with my guitar sound.
After Bernie’s excellent vocal we started on another backing track. This was another rocker and once we had nailed the arrangement, and we were cool with our headphone balance, we recorded the song until we were happy with it. We never do more than 5 or 6 takes as we want it to all sound fresh.
All the time Jay is encouraging us and pointing out how we can improve our individual parts to get the best out of the song. In the end, we finish up with a rockin’ performance and the backing track is complete. After this I usually sit in the control room with Jay and play my overdub guitar parts and solos. Then it is all ready for Bernie to put his vocal on. Russell had a trapped nerve in his left shoulder, so he went to a physio nearby and had some treatment while I did the overdubs.
Monday, we tried to record another track which had Acoustic guitar on it. Well we recorded this in an unusual way. The song was written on Acoustic guitar, but we recorded most of the other parts first, and all that was left to do was for me to put on my Acoustic. Well we did this with me sitting in the main studio and playing the piece twice for a double track effect, but when Jay went to piece it all together he found that there was a click on the Acoustic take, that we could not readily identify, and the end result was that we would have to do it all over again. Rather than mess about with the Acoustic anymore we abandoned it for another day and moved on to a vocal on the previous track we had recorded. Well once again Bernie excelled himself and it was a rockin’ performance from him and the vocal sound Jay got was just brilliant, so we were all super delighted. Thus far the performances from everyone have been top notch and it is all beginning to sound quite special.
Tuesday was back to another backing track and once again a rockin’ one. When we heard it played back we made some improvements to the arrangement and then the song really began to take off. Once the backing track was complete, Phil and I set about writing a theme part and a solo and we came up with some terrific ideas. There are some big Heepy type harmonies in there also, so it was ready to lay down a lead vocal. Bernie did this, and the end result was brilliant. This one will be a great live track for sure.
Wednesday, it was time to record a much longer track, but we stayed faithful to the arrangement from our pre-production and it took shape really quickly. There are a lot more parts on this one, so it took a little more time than usual, but when we heard it back for the first time it sounded great, even without the vocals and overdubs on. We took the rest of the day working on this track with all of the various parts and overdubs, and as each piece of the jigsaw puzzle was added it sounded better and better.
When I was doing a guitar part in the main studio we kept hearing a crackling noise creep in on the part I played, so we changed leads and guitars, and we tried hard to find the stubborn gremlin. When Jay opened the studio door he identified that the noise was in fact Bernie in the kitchen using the blender to make Houmas. You could not make it up could you, and we had to laugh, but once Bernie was told to shut it off, the noise stopped, and we could finish the guitar track off successfully.
Everyone played so well on this track just proving that the band are on top of their game. As with most days we listen back to the days recorded work before relax time takes over and the usual popping of corks and playing competition pool in the what was now definitely referred to as ‘The Uriah Heep Youth Club,’ before all retiring to our beds. Some earlier than others I might add! Jay was proving to be a mean Pool player and was beating everybody.
Thursday, we carried on with the last track with organ solos etc. and I played some nice arpeggio guitar on the Carparelli Pledge guitar, which sounded really cool, and then it was ready for Bernie to do a vocal. The Pledge guitar is lovely, and I even sent Mike Carparelli a text saying that I want one of these guitars as it plays so well.
Today Russell went to the Physio again and he is definitely moving a lot better from his last visit which is great. Bernie started a vocal which sounded marvellous and at the end of the night we listened through to the fruits of our labour, before the drinking and pool competition started. It is good way to wind day after a full-on day.
On Friday Russ had a bit of a cold so we decided to play a ballad rather than a full-on rock track. The arrangement we kept the same as our pre-production, as it sounded really good. We started the recording process and with a few nips and tucks we had it. Bernie was not keen to be singing in the evening, so this time we recorded his vocals before dinner and after that Phil and I added our guitar and organ parts.
Saturday was a day of guitar and keyboards catch up which was good for Phil and me, and the others sat around and relaxed. Instead of putting more Acoustic on that earlier track, we put some 12 string Electric Guitar with it, and mixed together, it sounded great.
Bernie had his family up, so he was well occupied anyway. I did manage to see the Spurs V Everton football match on the television while Phil as overdubbing, and we won 4-1 which was great.
Sunday, we recorded another rock track and once we had the take, I recorded all of the guitar parts only to find that my Boss tuner had malfunctioned and was coming up slightly flat. It was not enough to notice until the organ part came in, and then it became a problem.
This meant that I had to re-record all of my guitar parts again using a T.C. Electronic Poly Tuner which was Brian’s. In all of my years playing I have never had a tuner go flat on me, but there is always a first for everything. I did manage while Phil was doing his keyboard overdubs to see the Liverpool v Manchester City football game with Davey, who was super delighted with the 4-3-win, breaking Man City’s epic run of wins this season.
Monday, it started with me re-doing all of the out of tune guitar parts with Jay. Luckily the tuner was on the blink only on the last couple of numbers, thank god. We then started the process of getting everything in the guitar department in tune. It did sound great in the end, so that is all that counts. Phil added some keyboard parts and then Bernie sang a vocal on Sunday’s rock track. In the evening, we had a film crew turn up to record some of the recording process the following day. They had driven from Ireland, so they were pretty knackered and went to bed quite early.
The next day we did some filming whilst recording a track and they were of course in the studio with us. This was all a bit alien having outsiders in the room with us I have to say, but we soon got used to it a little, even though it is something I personally don’t like, as it does take away your focus. They were with us the whole day and ended up with a lot on film, so that was cool! There were studio shots, relaxing shots, talking about our gear shots, as well as listen to the playback shots, so it was all pretty much full on.
Tuesday morning the film crew drove back to Ireland leaving at 6am to try and beat the bad weather coming in. It ended up being a guitar and keyboard overdub day, and then we moved into some vocal parts and at the end of that the Youth Club was opened, and the drinks flowed.
Wednesday, I did some basic track overdubs and then Bernie did a vocal which turned out great on that particular track. It was a long old day, but the results were amazing, so we were all very happy. Jay has produced for us some superb sounds and he has definitely got some great vocals out of Bernie. Then of course it was wind down time and some had an early night while others had a late one, or should I say an early morning one.
On Thursday we started recording another backing track which after hearing it back in the studio, we made some adjustments, and then we cracked on until we were all happy with it. As it was a busy track and we wanted to make sure a 100% that we were happy with it we decided to sleep on it.
Bernie had a massage booked for 1pm locally, so we did not see him until after that. Russ had one booked for 5pm and while he was there, Phil and I recorded our respective parts on other tracks that needed it.
Around 6pm we had a visit from Grammy winning metal producer Andy Sneap, who had just finished the latest Judas Priest album and by all accounts it sounds brilliant. He came by to say hi which was nice of him as he lived 2 hours away. It was good to see him, and I hadn’t seen Andy for a while and neither had Jay. He wanted me to sign a drum skin for one of his friends and I gave him some guitar picks that he wanted.
After dinner, I recorded another solo and with Andy sitting behind me in the control room and Jay in front of me, just for one second it did cross my mind ‘no pressure then,’ but it all turned out great, and once this was finished we called it a night and retired to the pool table for a few games and a few well-earned drinks. I think everyone took advantage of an early night to be honest.
Friday saw us start on Bass repairs on the backing track of the song we had slept on, as in the clear light of day the drum track sounded great. Then it was time for me to add some of my guitar parts. These all sounded great and I was very pleased with them.
Saturday, it was time for another backing track which took shape reasonable quickly. There was a passage that needed a guitar part, so I sat in the lounge area and quickly wrote one, that fit perfectly. Davey’s wife Corine came up for a visit. Then we put down our final track and then Davey finished his bass overdubs. As Russell’s parts were complete he went home that evening.
Sunday, was another backing track that did not take too long as we were well into our stride by then. Once again, a melody part was required, so Phil and I sat in the studio for 20 minutes and produced a great melodic line that was right in the pocket. Then, Davey tidied up his bass track and he was finished too, so he drove back to London with Corine. Phil and I continued with our respective keys and guitar parts, then Bernie sang some vocals, leaving the smallest vocal piece for the morning.
Come Monday morning I played my last guitar part and Bernie sang his last vocal and we were all done 3-4 days ahead of schedule. I was very happy about this as my wife Sheila had gone to hospital to have a foot operation, and she was coming home that evening, and I would be able to see her. A good friend Mike McHale had taken Sheila into the hospital while I was recording, and he was bringing her home too, which was fantastic of him. We were very grateful to Mike for doing this seeing as I was not there to do it, and it was wonderful to see Sheila and Romeo again, and of course my dog Iggy went mental when I opened the front door. Even our cat Biscuit was in need of a cuddle.
5 days later we were headlining the Giants of Rock festival in Minehead. This was on my son Romeo’s 17th Birthday, so in the morning I had my guitar on when he came down for breakfast and Sheila and I sang Happy Birthday to him. We then gave him a cake and his presents. After this I had to leave, as we had planned to meet up at Kings X station and we then drove the 4 ½ hours to Butlin’s Holiday camp, where the festival was held.
We arrived in time for a sound-check, and we even had time for some dinner, as we were on stage for 9.30pm. Our contract was for only one hour, so it was heads down and see you at the finish line. Well the venue was packed to the rafters, with another 200 people plus outside that could not come in for insurance reasons. We had a fantastic time and the response was terrific, and it was good to let loose on a live show after the constraints of the studio. The audience were singing so loudly on some of the songs it was just amazing. It sure was good to play England again after a reception like that.
The next morning, after breakfast we jumped back in the van and drove back to London. It was good to be home and relax which was the lull before the storm really, as we were leaving for Ottawa Canada for long 6-week long North American tour in a few days.
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR
Sunday the 4th of Feb we were back at LHR Airport Terminal 5 to fly on a British Airways flight to Toronto Canada. The flight was just under 8 hours, but we had to circle the airport which seemed like forever, while the runway was cleared of snow and ice by a number of snow ploughs. We eventually landed and went through the customs routine, but we had to laugh, as we all went through without a hitch, but Bernie was pulled aside to be checked, and he was the only Canadian in our party.
After this we collected our luggage and went outside to the freezing cold, where there was plenty of snow and ice piled up either side of the road, to catch a courtesy bus to the hotel, which was pretty close by. We stayed there the night, before catching another flight in the morning to Ottawa where the first gig of the North American Tour was taking place.
The first show at the uniquely named ‘Brass Monkey’ was originally on Thursday the 8th of Feb, but this sold out in minutes, so they put a second show on before that one, as we already had shows booked following the 8th. That is why we flew in earlier, so the second show is actually the first and the first show is the second if you follow me.
Well we arrived at the hotel and it was comfortable enough as we had suites given to us as an upgrade, and on arrival there was a welcome card and a basket full of local beer, which was very nice of them.
The rest of the day was free but there was not a lot to do as the city was 45 minutes to an hour away and we did not have any transport. Plus, there were banks of snow everywhere and it was freezing cold, which didn’t encourage you to go out anyway. So, we all stayed in waiting for jet lag to kick in, but they did have a great food menu and a well-stocked bar, so we were set.
That night Ace Trump one of our mangers flew in with his assistant Sean from Los Angeles, arriving at approximately 2am, so we did not see them until later the next day.
The following day was the gig day and the promoter was very happy with the ticket sales, seeing as it was a second show on sale, so much so that he could not sell any more tickets as there was a restriction by the fire regulations in place, so in essence it was a sell-out.
It was great meeting Ace and Sean and of course we caught up on a lot of exciting news that will be happening in the Heep camp over the coming year. It is always a plus to get the big picture as we have been immersed in the studio recording the new album, playing the Giants of Rock festival in Minehead England, sorting out everything on the home front before leaving for 6 weeks and flying out to Canada, so you could say our collective heads have been super busy in many directions.
The promoter picked us up to take us to the show and he was a lovely cheerful guy and he was telling us about all the bands that had passed through his venue. Our friends Nazareth and the wonderful Ritchie Kotzen to name but a few. Ritchie is in a band called the ‘Winery Dogs’ with Billy Sheenan on Bass and Mike Portnoy on Drums, and they are amazing. Ritchie is one hell of a guitar player and a fantastic singer, songwriter too. He would certainly be high on my list of favourite guitar players for sure. He is a total musician.
We arrived at the venue and lo and behold the two German Twins Andrea and Claudia Obergfell were there. How do they do it amazes me, as they were at the Minehead Giants of Rock show too, so it was hugs all round and we did the sound check.
This was over pretty quickly, and we went to the dressing room, which was small, and it had a sign on the wall ‘The Green Room.’ Well it was far from green and in fact there was no green colour in sight at all, but in truth quite a lot of Magnolia, so its rightful name should have been the Magnolia Room. However, to get through to the dressing room at the back of the venue, we had to walk through the pool table room which was cordoned off from the audience, so with some time to kill before dinner a few pool games were played.
We have some excellent merchandise on this tour and our merchandiser is a lady with the lovely name of Caitlin. My son Mike was going to do this, but his main computer job was upgrading him, and giving him more work, and he would not have been able to combine the two jobs. Well Caitlin looked like she knew what she as doing, and she had displayed everything very well. It was a shame as it would have been fantastic to have had my son Mike on the road with me and a dream come true to be honest, but as he lives in the USA I will see him at a few of the shows anyway.
We pre-ordered dinner from an Italian Restaurant at the sound-check which was virtually next door. The pre-order idea didn’t work out at all as we waited 1 hour and a half for our starters. This was all very frustrating, but what can you do. We were on the verge of walking out but just as we did, the first plates of food arrived, so we stayed.
Mike Carparelli who makes my guitars was meant to come up from Toronto to bring me some spare parts for my guitars and a soft guitar case, but the weather was treacherous, so he did not make it. He got in touch with one of his friends Chad Preseault, who met me over dinner saying that Mike had posted them, but they had not arrived yet. Luckily by doing two shows we had time for them to arrive for the second show, that is in fact the first show, but I won’t go into that again.
We were on stage at 9.30pm and the place was rockin’ from the first note. The band were on fire and we quickly hit our stride, and with the audience giving so much back to us, it created a great atmosphere. It was cold outside, but it was certainly hot and sweaty inside. It was a great night and the audience were super appreciative, so for a first night we were all very happy. Caitlin had a good night on the merchandise stand, so all in all it was a good way to kick off the North American tour.
We sat in the dressing room for a while and because the crew did not have to break down the equipment, leaving it there for our next show, they were backstage drinking and playing pool even before we had got changed.
There was a pickup truck ferrying people to and from the hotel, so I took one of the early ones with Russ and Bernie. The other guys commandeered a car ride back to the hotel. Our rooms were a walk away from the hotel reception in another building and the driver was kind enough to drop us outside our building as it was an icy, snowy path downhill. I was grateful for that, but then my key did not work, so I had to walk back up to reception in the snow and ice and get a new one. Then I had to walk back down to our building, so the dropping off outside, although it was very nice of the driver, in the end it was no good to me at all. D’oh!
The next day was a day off! A few of us just hung around the hotel and the crew braved it and got a Taxi into town. It did give us a chance to have another band meeting with Ace and Sean, and this time it was on our tour bus which I saw for the first time. It was very nice but very brown, and we will be seeing a lot of it on this run.
I had a chance to catch up on all of my emails and work and I got some writing done, so I was very happy to chill in my room. Those that did not go into the city, which was the band and Ace, all met in the bar for dinner at 7pm. Bernie was going stir crazy, so he wanted to go to another restaurant, so Ace went with him. The rest of us were quite happy to eat in the hotel restaurant as the food was excellent and there was a lovely waitress who kept bringing drinks to the table. We liked that didn’t we?
Eventually the crew arrived back from the city and Ace and Bernie came back from the restaurant, so it was hopping there for a bit. Bernie went straight to his room, then Russ disappeared, and then Phil and I, as we were still trying to get a handle on the jet lag.
The next day was what we can only really term as our second show, even though in reality it was the first, so the crew went down there at 2.30pm and we left the hotel at 4.30pm for a sound-check between 5pm and 6pm. There was a support band, so they had between 6pm and 7pm to set up their equipment before the doors opened at 7pm.
Well this time we pre-ordered from a menu at a Vietnamese Restaurant almost right next door to the venue. We ate there, and the food was passable, but not great. At least the wait for food was greatly reduced from the Italian we had previously eaten in.
Mike Carprelli’s friend came to the show with the spare parts I needed and he also amazingly copied the decal I have on my guitar adding my name. That was really cool of him and a very nice gesture indeed. My guitar tech Rich Bennett then set about updating my guitars with the new decals.
Well at show time the venue was mobbed, and once on the stage you could see and feel they were well up for it. It was a rockin’ show and they were super loud, and it was such a great atmosphere. Some people had come to the two nights and certainly word had got around how good the first concert was, which just added to the anticipation of the evenings performance. It was hot and sweaty inside and so much so, I renamed the city Hot-towa! A good night was had by all and we ended up with a few drinks while the Pizzas arrived and then we went back to the hotel. Oh yes, the pool tables were in full swing for a while.
Once the equipment was loaded into the trailer of the tour bus we said our goodbyes to Ace and Sean, and we stopped by the hotel for a few people to have a shower and collect their suitcases, before we travelled overnight to Quebec.
Once in Quebec at 3.30am the band checked into a hotel while the crew parked up outside the venue until it was time for the load in. I have to say it was nice to have a catch-up sleep in a non-moving bed.
I woke up in time for lunch, but I decided to stay in bed and skip a meal rather than get up. The others surfaced only to find the hotel had no restaurant, so they had to order food in.
Well when I did rise out of bed, it was the start of a trilogy of things that made me feel good. I checked my phone and there were a number of messages from all around the world from my family and friends informing me that my beloved football team Tottenham Hotspur had beaten arch rivals Arsenal in a derby match winning 1-0 with a Harry Kane goal. I was soooooo delighted!
Then just before I jumped into the shower I put the TV on for some company and lo and behold there was English Football on the screen with Manchester City beating Leicester City 5-1. I quickly had my shower and then they played the highlights of the days matches and I got to see the Tottenham Hotspur goal. Now how good is that!
By now I was feeling a little peckish and I was just about to eat one of the health bars I had bought from England, and I heard a text ping on my phone. It was Russ saying he had bought me a Chicken Salad and what room was I in and he came down to my room to give it to me. ‘Appy days!
As we had to check out the hotel at 3pm we caught a cab down to the venue which was the Palais Montcalm, and this was a lovely theatre. The bus then became our hotel due to travelling overnight to London Ontario.
We had some time to kill, so we all went for a walk except for Bernie. Outside the venue there was an Ice Rink with lots of people skating and loud music blaring out.
We found a very interesting shop on our wander about that was full of medieval clothes, suits of armour, swords, hats and the like. We of course tried on all of the hats and took pictures and both Phil and Davey bought shirts. Davey also bought a black leather Top Hat and with his long black coat and black trousers and boots, we had our very own ‘Uriah Heep.’ The owner of the shop was a big Heep fan and he was coming to the show that night.
Well it was soon time to go back to the venue for the sound check. This we did relatively quickly and then we had some dinner in a restaurant a short walk from the venue that was excellent. After this we walked back to the theatre to prepare for the show.
Unusually the backstage area was huge with lots of choices for dressing rooms. Bernie & Russ decided to have a room to themselves and Phil, Davey & I shared. Sitting in a room on my own would never appeal to me at all, as I would miss the banter which is an integral part of our warm up ritual.
The concert had only a couple of tickets left, and the promoter was asking if we had used all of our guest list, as he wanted to sell those too, as it was a total sell out.
This was all good news and when our intro tape went on the roar from the audience was immense. As we walked on to the stage it went up a level again, and there it stayed for the entire show. It was an amazing reaction and truly overwhelming in the best way possible. It was a fantastic show and we left the stage to everyone on their feet shouting for more. What an incredible night!
After the show we travelled overnight 9 hours to London Ontario. On arrival we checked into the hotel at 9.30am, but we could not have our rooms until 11am, so we had breakfast and Davey and I killed some time watching the live football on my iPad. The game was Manchester United v Newcastle. By all accounts United should have crushed Newcastle, but Newcastle ended up winning 1-0 which was fantastic. It was a very good game to watch especially as the underdogs won. Scampi our Tour Manager and Lighting Engineer who is an avid Manchester United fan, was distraught. He said he got out of his bunk on the bus to watch the match, and it was so bad he went back to bed.
When we could have our rooms, it was time in England for the Liverpool v Southampton football match, which both Davey and I watched in our respective rooms. Now Liverpool is Davey’s team as that is where he was born, and they won 2-0, so he was delighted.
We all met at 1pm except for Bernie, for a light lunch in the hotel restaurant, before retiring to our rooms for a few hours of chilling. I was reluctant to use that word with the icy, snowy, slushy, weather outside I have to say!
We left the hotel at 4.45pm for our sound-check in the London Music Hall, and after we had checked our sound, we had our first Pledge vocalist come up on the stage with us who wanted to sing ‘Easy Livin’’ with the band. His name was Rick LaBontée and he came up on to the stage and did a fine job with his girlfriend filming him on her iPhone. He was a cool guy and a super ‘Heep’ fan too.
Once we had finished the sound-check, we ordered in some Chinese Food, all except for Bernie who braved the cold and went to a restaurant. When Bernie has his mind set on a type of food to eat, nothing will stop him getting it. There are those that eat to live and those that love to eat, and you can see what category Bernie fits into. J
The venue was super rammed by the time we hit the stage and the roar as we walked on was incredible. What a fantastic night it was. The audience were mega appreciative, and the hall was full of smiling faces and fists in the air for the whole show.
The Pledge guy was down the front standing right in front of Bernie the whole night singing along. As we started the encore of ‘Easy Livin,’’ I nodded to him to get up on stage with us, which he did in a heartbeat, and with a big smile on his face. He just loved it, as he was truly in rock n’ roll heaven for a short while. He came with his girlfriend and a couple of friends backstage and we chatted for a while and had pictures taken.
The German twins Andrea and Claudia, were down the front too, and back in the dressing room they told me that they had a hellish day, as they were booked on a flight from Montreal to London Ontario and the flight was cancelled due to bad weather conditions. They were actually sitting on the plane when the flight was cancelled, so when they reunited themselves with their luggage, they hired a car and drove to London. It took us 9 hours overnight, and I know it would be quicker in a car rather than the tour bus, but still it was a long old journey. They just made the concert in time and took their place down the front as usual, once again earning themselves the title of ‘Uriah Heep super fans.’ Amazing!
The crew were sleeping on the tour bus that night, so the band went back to the hotel. Phil, Bernie and I went to our rooms as we had a reasonably early start the next day to drive to Toronto, but Davey and Russ found a bar to drink in close to the hotel with the Pledge guy. I am glad I made the choice I did though, as we have a long way to go on this tour, plus we do not see a hotel in Toronto until after the gig, as we are staying at the airport hotel to fly to Florida the next day.
We arrived in Toronto and parked the Bus outside the venue which was the Phoenix Concert Hall, and the driver Alan went to a hotel to sleep. It was his birthday, so before he left we gave him a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ sung by the band and crew.
Having the whole day to kill with no hotel, actually turned out quite good in the end, as I have been having a little trouble getting an acoustic sound that I am happy with on the ‘Wizard.’ My Hofner acoustic on ‘Lady in Black’ is fine, but not so the acoustic for the ‘Wizard.’
Davey had a friend called Dave Reamue who he phoned to see if he could help us. Dave has his own YouTube programme called ‘Dave’s fun stuff’ which our Dave watches. It is basically a programme about being a guitar Luthier recorded in the basement of his house, but with a lot of fun thrown in for good measure.
Well he was just great, and he drove over to the venue and took Dave and I to a shop called ‘The Twelfth Fret.’ It was just the ticket, as I came out with a lovely Taylor Acoustic that was just right for the job. It needed to be a hardy guitar to withstand all of the touring we do all over the world, and a lot of these high-end guitars do not handle that sort of punishment too well. I did ask Mike Carparelli if he could help as he lives in Toronto, but he is totally focused on Electric Guitars and I am glad he is, because my Carparelli S4’s, are fantastic.
While in the shop they had some really old equipment and guitars and I saw an amplifier that I used to own which was an old blue ‘Watkins Dominator.’ I hadn’t seen one of these for years as it was my very first amplifier combo. We used to plug my guitar and the microphone into it at the same time, and seeing it did bring back a lot of cool memories.
Well we made it back for the sound-check which went smoothly, and then I was hit with 3 interviews which were all good. I then had a shower and generally prepared for the show. I did manage to say hello to Mike Carparelli and his wife Keeks at the sound-check before being dragged off for the interviews. I really wanted to hang with Mike but Toronto being a big city we were run ragged. He did manage to drop off a bunch of Carparelli T Shirts for the band and crew which was very kind of him.
The support band that night was ‘Blurred Vision,’ who are from Toronto, and they supported us on a UK tour a while ago, so it was great to catch up with them.
When we hit the stage, the place was packed, and it was a really great atmosphere. Hot, sweaty and rockin’ as it should be. I had a little problem, as I usually have my Engl amps and speakers directly behind me, but because of the shape of the stage this night they were in another postcode. Still it was heads down and go for it and it was a great night. The audience were superb, and it was a good way to end the first part of our short Canadian tour, and overall it had been super successful which was a great feeling.
After the show we travelled to the Airport Hotel where we said goodbye to the bus and our merchandise Caitlin, which we will meet up with again in the USA at our first show in Bethlehem PA, as we were going to play a concert in Orlando before getting on the Rock Legends Rock Cruise, sailing from Fort Lauderdale Florida.
We had to get up early to catch 2 flights to Orlando via Charlotte Carolina. Well this was the start of a very interesting day as on the way to the airport on the courtesy bus, Bernie screamed out, “I can’t find my passport with the USA Visa in it.’ This started many panic calls and luckily, he still had his second passport, so he could get into the USA by buying an ESTA at the airport. The bus with his passport was long gone on the journey to America. He did the ESTA on a machine by the check-in desk, but it was fraught with problems, but eventually he got one, but at one point it was looking decidedly dodgy. This meant he could fly to the USA, but it was then all down to Passport Control if he would be allowed entry to be able to work.
At the check-in desk as our main equipment had gone to the USA by bus we were on our flying gear. This meant that each of us had 2 bags each. Each individual suitcase and one piece of equipment.
Well we went through the usual security and on to passport control. This is where it all went pear shape this time involving me too. I handed the Passport Officer my passport and he said loudly section 2 and I was marched off by another officer into a room a good walk away. On entering the room there was a desk at the far end with 5 airlines signs and a lady at each desk and as I was flying American Airlines, I was called over to her. She said how many bags do you have and I said two. Well she said there were three booked in my name. I said this was impossible and then she informed me that they would have to take the bags off the aeroplane and take a picture of them and these would be sent to her computer terminal for me to identify.
She then said I would not be able to leave that room until the bags were identified. Well I thought this would take a short time and all would be okay, but little did I know. They found my suitcase and sent the picture, but not the piece of equipment or the bogus third bag.
Well I was getting anxious at 15 minutes until take off as I was approximately 15 minutes away from the gate. Everyone else, so I thought were on the plane already. Scampi our tour manager however was trying hard to hold up the plane by not taking his seat.
Then suddenly the American Airlines lady just got up out of her seat and put on her coat and left. I was gobsmacked and nobody else came in to take her place. Well the phone rang behind the AA desk and I asked one of the other ladies from another airline to please help and take the call. She did, and she saved my life because she said look lets go to the Passport Officer and explain the situation as evidently on the phone they had given her only 2 baggage tag numbers and not three.
As you can imagine by now the plane should have left. The Passport Officer was compassionate and let me through. I thanked the lady and run like hell to get to the gate and I was never so pleased as to see Scampi’s face as he was still standing there holding everything up.
It was only then I found out what the actual problem was. The lady at the check in desk had put me down for 3 bags which was a mistake, so she phoned the baggage handlers who deleted one of the numbers and then the bright spark put the deleted sticker on my second case.
Well as I ran to the plane I could see my 2 cases sitting on a trolley beside the plane and then I saw them loaded on to the plane and it was a great sigh of relief to be reunited with my bags and more importantly being on the flight.
While all of this was going on I found out that Bernie was locked in a room being questioned about his passport, ESTA and Visa. He had evidently had only just taken his seat on the plane a few moments before me.
The funny thing was that while Bernie was locked in the room being questioned he had the presence of mind to phone Scampi to buy him a sandwich, which happened to be in the middle of the many of the urgent phone calls Scampi and I were having with my particular problem. How He could think of his stomach at that particular time when he was in grave danger of not getting on the flight, I will never know, but that’s Bernie, food dependent.
Once the flight took off I was so happy and relieved and just about every other feeling you can feel after a drama like that, while Bernie ate his sandwich. You couldn’t make it up could you.