I am writing in the delightfully adorned (fresh flowers, indeed) dressing room at our first venue here in Cologne. Ally and James are sitting by my side conducting an interview based upon a pack of Vintage Synthesiser Top Trumps cards. Shrieks of surprise and delight are emitted when the first two cards pulled from the pack are a Prophet 5 and a Juno 60. Four brand new tailored suits dangle enticingly from the coat hanger, waiting patiently until stage-time. The kettle is bubbling. In a country I had previously thought barren of proper tea and fresh milk, I ponder, where did they find those PG tips? Anyway.
Day one: Cologne. Upon arrival in Cologne last night we drop our bags and immediately take to wandering the balmy streets, the tarmac still exuding the day's heat. Glorious. Stopping at a pavement restaurant we sup at the first of what is to become a disgracefully long chain of Kolschs. We take up unofficial residence in a nearby bar and gradually the memories of the night fade to grey. Someone has the idea of a traditional Jaegermeister...
Day two: Cologne. Today, and we awake grimly to the sight of a hotel room that looks for all the world as if a student protest has passed through it. Hunger is all-pervading, and so a sort of Germanic version of a fry-up is duly russled up in the kitchen, using black forest ham in place of bacon and weird sweet bread for toast. Tea is rank, made as it is from weak (and brutally expensive) bags and UHT milk.
But if there's one sight to help prize open dreary hung-over eyes, it is that of Cologne's monstrous cathedral looming above the city streets, and the walk to the venue is invigorating for it.
The venue has a great feel. It is a cavernous brick room with a massive P.A and I can't wait for the gig. We are playing a few new songs tonight, so the nerves are jangling somewhat. I am especially looking forward to playing Secrets, as it is a long, heavy groove...
Well, Secrets is actually quite a heavy beast tonight, and we thoroughly enjoy playing it live for the first time. The crowd seemingly have a wunderbar time too, and the positive reactions festooned upon us after the show are flattering to say the least, so thank you Cologne for being such a great beginning to the tour.
Back at the hotel we watch Chris Morris' Four Lions, a grimly hilarious tale of four hapless would-be suicide bombers. It's great.
Day three: Berlin. Awake refreshed and reasonably early and quaff a brew and a drearily dry butter sandwich. As breakfasts go it is far from ideal, yet it plugs a gap until a service station offering the ubiquitous bockwurst und kartoffelsalat mit senf is descended upon. We buy a football and ally and I kick it about in the drizzle-soaked forecourt for a few minutes, before retreating back to the van, disgusted at the low level of skill displayed.
Six hours later the van pulls up at the lovely venue. Rather than unload the gear, immediately we order a jug of Pimm's, which we sip, reclined besuited in deck-chairs, contentedly in the beer garden. Ok. It is spitting, and we unload the gear quickly through a squalid area festooned with litter and the remains of of what appears to have once been garden furniture.
The venue's staff are once again fantastic, and come to our aid at on point by strapping our projector, balanced in a beer-crate, to the ceiling with metal chains. Unfortunately the projector's bulb then refuses to work, and so, as I write, the situation is uncertain.
All is quiet in the dressing room, save for the distant ring of an unanswered phone, and the muted flush of the nearby toilet. The bass throb of traffic rumbles from somewhere beyond the surrounding high-rise buildings. Ally and James are absent, gone as they are to a radio station to conduct a live to air interview. I would say that I am nervous for them, and hope that they do not embarrass themselves or shatter our carefully constructed image, but this is simply not the case. Maybe I am free from care, or maybe I am just supremely confident in them. Who knows? Not I.
A bag full of oriental take-away food arrives. It is delicious, but it is filling. Another interview ensues, and a photograph, before the time for playing starts to loom.
The crowd is nice and full, and we stride on stage to excitable cheers. I trip slightly on the stand of our new projector screen, but I think I get away with it. The introduction tape subsides, and the pulsing beginning of Fear Of Drowning is released. I stand at my my desk making some swirling reverb-soaked Moog noises until the tension builds and the beat kicks in. We have started the gig! It is very loud, and difficult to get my sonic bearings on stage, but I have a great time and am beginning to feel really good about our two new songs, Toe The Line and Secrets. They both sound massive.
Off-stage and ears ringing, we crack open some Berliner Pilsner and head over to the merch desk for a some pics and to meet some of the fine folk who have come down to see the gig.
We have all the intent in the world to head to nearby bar White Trash as it is something of a Berlin institution, but standing out on the drizzly balcony of our apartment with only a beer and the hum of traffic for company the feeling increases that this is where we want to be, and so we remain, long into the night.
See you in Hamburg.