OHNE / RM74 / TOCHNIT ALEPH EMPIRE
T O U R D I A R Y
(written by dave)
on april 4th 2002 ohne, formerly virtual, became flesh. during the following 10 days, we get ready.
11.4. - 14.4. paris
christoph fringeli joins us in basel, bringing a nicely chaotic component into our journey; he's playing in paris the same weekend. our ride through france is accompagnied by stickers constantly turning up on signposts along the road - the "front nationale" has a strong following round here, the bastards. in paris at about 21.00, we get nicely received by julien and radha.
friday; les voutes" is what used to be a wine-cellar. ohne is nervous and overcareful. our performance contains some nice moves in the right directions but all in all we perceive it as quite bad; well, a good lesson. luckily there's sudden infant, master at work, and evil moisture, pure genius, along with aleph who offers a truly ripping set, saving the evening.
next day we make our way ever so slowly, traffic moving 10 cenitmetres per minute, streets blocked by a demonstration, all the one-way-streets not making it any easier. finally we get out of the car and walk the last kilometre or so into the public, close to the centre georges pompidou, a bare gallery-space with banging acoustics, and get started at 6, two hours behind schedule. a good crowd of maybe 40 to 50 has gathered. the ohne set is a definate improvement, sudden infant marvels with a splendid performance, rm74 tickles everyones fancy and eva revox ends off the afternoon with a whirlwind of a set. everyone is very jolly! during the course of the rest of the long night we end up in a lot of fancy and funny different places and situations.
we have another 9 days back in aarau, getting even more ready. on the evening before our departure we receive our finished cd!
23.4. aarau/ch - berlin
early early morning, christoph gaechter and corinne studer join us, the tour-crew thus complete. we leave aarau before 9 a.m. and are initiated into the ritual of the formalities involved with the equipment-list we carry, documents that have to be stamped entering and exiting every country. a pain in the arse, to say the least. 10 hours later we arrive at the tochnit aleph headquarters in berlin, for a night's kip.
24.4. berlin - augustinow/pl
we're up and gone ridiculously early again; cross into poland, thick forests and bumpy roads, pretty countryside, storks in their nests in trees and electrical posts, brilliant sunshine. on our first food-stop we test my bankcard (the tour-account), and then some polish beers. poland goes on and on, night sets, we drive and drive, through transylvania-type landscape with fog and lakes and winding roads. at 1.30 a.m. in augustov, still in bloody poland, we decide to stop for the night and book into a (ridiculously cheap) hotel.
25.4. augustinow/pl - liepaja/lv
we get going before 10 a.m. and reach the lithuanian border about an hour later. the polish customs-lady is a grumpy old bag, but on the other side lithuanian officials are cracking jokes and laughing during the list-procedure, which lasts a good hour. lithuania is flat, barren land with scarce human habitat as if dropped by mistake. lots of horses and carriages. I've miscalculated the journey from aarau to liepaja by nearly a whole day!! aarau to berlin, about 900 kilometres, took as long as expected, but the bit from berlin to liepaja, about 1000 km, took nearly twice as long. this might also say something about the road conditions. as we enter liepaja big dark clouds push over an otherwise spotless blue burn, fog enwraps the city. as we finally reach the K@2 we are heartily greeted by karl and kristina, who offer their outstanding hospitality, starting with a delicious vegan meal. we are told the meal is part of an exam that cooks took who applied for a job in the summer-café that K@2 are preparing. the part of town we're in, liepaja-karosta, is cut off by a river from liepaja-centre, and housed russian marines and their families, making it some kind of forbidden zone - until 1991, when nearly all the russians left, leaving behind a ghost-town. the k@2 is a culture-centre located in an immense admiral's house with maybe 30 rooms suiting all kinds of activities and purposes. a group of curious kids hang around the venue while we're sound-checking a bit later in the sugar-club, an ex-sugar refinery. a team from the local tv-station turns up and does an interview. we start with an audience of maybe 40 to 50 and please everyone, us included. we are thrilled and excited about everything, being in this place, the people touched and touching, our performances; there's an excellent vibe. a group of sweet teen-girls ask for autographs.
26.4. liepaja/lv - ventspils/lv
we are spoiled with more great food, this time prepared by kristina. then we have a walk to the baltic sea which, just three minutes down the road. we breathe and take in, overwhelmed. later on we're off into the centre part of liepaja, where we visit an old russian with sovjet-memorabilia. back at the k@2 for a another yum meal, then we're off to ventspils with sasha as our guide. we drive through beautiful baltic nature. the cops stop us for speeding, but we are left off with a warning. ventspils city is a completely different story compared to liepaja, the place looks well off, tidy, kinda posh. our venue is a sort of community hall, the event a party on two floors. we play in a long side room on the second floor and share the bill with some techno-dj's, the floor below hosts a bunch of hip-hop & drum&bass turntablists. victor and sophie from sweden turn up and do an interview for victor's fanzine. we get taken to a posh restaurant in the centre of town for dinner, mtv blaring n all. once back the kids start piling in and by 9 o'clock 300 bodies crowd the two floors. the place is pumping and sweating when we go on, and a good atmosphere hits home immediately, we go apeshite, the sound is nicely messy and energy hot, increased feedbacks are used to our advantage. smiles and baffled expressions turn into a roaring applause as we end our set, what joy! we make space for the next acts and move our equipment to the hotel which is just round the corner, then return to enjoy the rest of the night. a whole bunch of people came from liepaja to see us, valia, julia, irena, tanja, karina, spinners, fillers, they hand us sweet notes and we have many laughs and long talks together.
27.4. ventspils/lv - riga/lv
we get 5 lats for breakfast as a couple of clouds collect above and strong winds blow. off to riga! thanx to elmy's instructions the night before we find the "ma1z3" easily, a small shop/space selling local fashion and art/books on the first floor and vinyl in the basement, run by our hosts una and simona. since we're a bit early we have a walk around riga, a disappointingly western-looking place. it rains. before returning to the ma1z3 we get food at the krishna-restaurant just round the corner. we start set-up at eight, downstairs, with the gig scheduled for 9. things take longer than they should, elmy the soundman has difficulties piecing together the small p.a., but at about 10 finally we start - with about 5 attending! only 10 minutes later though about 25 to 30 spectators have arrived and the space is nicely filled. we perform quietly and intimately. daniel plays water on the chair. we feel very fine as we fall asleep, some hours later, on cushions spread over the floor of the ma1z3.
28.4. riga/lv - kaunas/lt - vilnius/lt
up early; long confusing wander at the border: the lithuanian officials won't stamp our equipment-list - it's too long a daft story, seriously, those officials are pretty stupid. since this all takes too bloody long we rush and rush cause we think we're late, the gig's supposed to start at 15.00 h, and we're additionally confused by a timezone-switch (on a straight north-south-line). at what we think is 15.30 we get to kaunas, which is fully engulfed by its annual jazz-festival, with stages and people everywhere. beautiful daiva, artteritorija's gallery-directrice, welcomes us with a slightly estranged "you?", but warms up quickly and nicely. we are playing on the 4th day of the opening of her gallery, a space 12 metres wide, 4 high and 30 long, with two rows of pillars - and free entrance! we've hardly set up when people start pouring in, go for a quick line-check, then start the drops. by the time we begin, about 15 mintues later, an audience of about 250 has gathered! ohne play well, we feel great doing what we're doing. with projections onto the huge white wall behind him, rm74 pours into his set and the audience pours in with him. aleph builds a colossal crescendo of a set, halfway through which suddenly - the speakers go off, a moment of confusion, "It seems that I might have blown the speakers" daniel says in all his sweetness, we turn things off, then on again - phew, the speakers are back, and so is the aleph! overwhelming applauses, big-eyed smiles and appreciative looks all over confirm our feelings. jolly goodness!! this afternoon was perfect!! after a long line of good talks and once the gallery-space has emptied, we pack up, then go for a meal with the lovely people involved in artteritorija. after sweet bye-byes we continue 120 km down the road onto vilnius, which we reach by about 23.00. we call david bluvstein, the good man arranged and coordinated our 5 baltic dates, and half an hour later there he was! we're led to where we're acoomodated and david informs us of all the what where and when stuff. totally happy but exhausted we drop to bed.
it seems to take forever and a half until everyone has got their shit sorted today. dave is off with corinne and david to the vilnius customs office, sent by those idiots at the border who wouldn't stamp the equipment-list - no success. we don't get a "in" stamp - we don't do an "out" stamp - easy. the guy at the swiss chamber of commerce had told me that some countries might not acknowledge the forms. well, what wasted time, fuck you bureaucrats! we try to get our dat-recorder fixed, it has not made a single move since day one! the repair-man is amazing, stuck in a little room in a block of flats amongst loads of blocks of flats he is fully equipped with every conceivable tool for electrical and electronic work. but he can't help either. we head back to the zaltvyxle, a restaurant in vilnius' rather tacky old town/pedestrian area, below which down opposite flights of stairs lie two cellars where concerts, apparently a lot of country-gigs, take place. it's a cosy enough room, woody, dimly lit, a fat central pillar/block giving the room an unusual shape and nice feel. and there's a piano. the stage is cute, a tiny, symbolic something more than anything else. an audience of about 35 is seated around tables and enjoys intimate performances. aleph leads the audience to multiple outbursts of unburdened childish joy.
daniel is ill, feverish and weak, the poor fella has to stay in bed. the rest meet at zaltvyksle at 14.00, daumantis & nomeda take us for a walk round town, up a viewpoint-hill, to the zappa-monument (a strange affair, frank's head on a 3 metre-pillar in the yard of some school, zappa having no connection nor ever been to lithuania). after another meal at zalvtyxle (chips and steamed vegetables again) we move on to the galera, a sweet spot down by the river surrounded by tall trees, a rundown one-room-shack stuffed with objects of local artists serving as meeting place for cultural exchange. we spend a wonderful night talking with a lot of different people, a lot we saw at our gig the night before, playing some of our sounds, exchanging, getting invited to numerous shots of local vodka.
we get up early - we're off to belarus today! down we go to pack the car and uaaarrgh - one of the van's windows is smashed, the radio gone. shit. shit, shit, shit!!! we get in touch with david, he phones around trying his contacts for help but calls back soon - it's the 1st of may, everything's closed we decide to leave anyway, tape cardboard and a blanket over the broken window, and head off towards the belarus border. after a dozen or so kilometres, daniel notices a strange smell, something like burning rubber or plastic, as soon as we see the first whiff of smoke it's clear we have to stop the car. we get out - and see smoke and fire shooting out of the front wheels!! luckily reto is swift with the fire-extuingisher, and prevents further damage. we stand around bedazzled, shocked and confused. again we're on the phone to the ever so helpful david, shortly after which he tows us back into vilnius. after another round of checking his contacts, david tells us there's nothing he or we can do, we'll have to wait until tomorrow to get things fixed. bugger! we've got a radio-show tonight in minsk!! well, at least the sun is out, and how, the warmest day so far. at a very decent vegetarian restaurant we have a marvellous lunch, drink beers and let the sun shine on us. accomodation is sorted out, luckily the people at the appartement we were staying at are so friendly to offer us another night in their place. we then head up to the zaltvyxle where we are supposed to wait for a car-mechanic-mate of david's. another free meal is offered as well, and david fills us in on how to deal with belarussian police and customs officials. in the end the car-mechanic doesn't turn up. on the phone dmitri (our host in belarus) tells us that the radio-show planned for today could be postponed to tomorrow. we go for an early night's sleep.
2.5. vilnius/lt - minsk/by
we crawl out of bed at 7.30 to get the fucking car fixed, the bastard, and are greeted by yet another scorching day. david leads us to a garage on the outskirts of vilnius, they check the van thoroughly and reckon the katalyzer is massively clogged, which is why the whole motor overheats. a fakie (apparently as good as a proper katalyzer) is installed in its stead. at another garage the broken window is replaced with plexiglas which will do fine, just, you can't roll it down. anyways, we're anxious to hit the border so finally we're off! bye bye david, you've been a tremendeous help, thank you very much!! after about 30 km we reach the border and drive past the first queue just as dmitri had instructed. we move from checkpoint to checkpoint quite smoothly. the last checkpoint, number 5, is where most difficulties can be expected, it's the customs-inspection. helped by a friendly customs-officer i fill out a form, there's a list of questions as to what is brought into the country, asking about the likes of poison, arms, explosives and such stuff, also asking about electronic equipment. I tell the official that we have quite a few electronic tools, but he advises me to mark the "no"-box of the appropriate question on the form - and he doesn't even have a look inside the car! our belarussian host dmitri had managed to somehow get in touch with an official at the border, who would help make our entry into belarus easier, but that was for yesterday's planned border-crossing!? we are amazed - the border took us less than an hour!! we are thrilled on - finally!! - entering the republic of belarus!! we drive slowly, way below the speed-limit, and soon see why we got told to do so, speeding cars are stopped left right and centre. oops, we get stopped too, for doing 72 km instead of the 70 allowed, but we get left off with a warning. we drive through a beautiful (very flat) landscape, nothing but forests and fields, but alas, no petrol-stations either. and we're well low on gas too! with enough petrol for another 12 km we get off the mainroad and follow a sign that says "benzin 3 km". but there's two of those signs on the same spot, and each points into another direction! we first follow the wrong direction of course, the petrol-counter constantly counting downwards, until we turn around and go the other way, to finally, finally hit the gas-station, our counter indicating that we have petrol for only one more kilometre left! but, what kind of a gas-station is this? a few cars and their drivers are waiting around. we go to the cashier, but she just signals "wait". so we wait. after about 15 minutes the loudspeakers crackle into life, and the voice of the cashier-woman booms across the station. all move to the counter, so we do alike. we suss that we have to ask for the amount of petrol we want and pay for it before actually fillling it into the tank. i then see the sign that says this station is open daily from 14.00 to 14.30 h, and from 18.30 to 19.00 h. what luck we have?! and then, off we go! but, we're far too late for the radio-session (that already was postponed once), oh bleeding double-bugger. we hit minsk before 22.00, and outside of the mcdonalds (of all places) on pushkin-square we finally meet a very happy and excited dmitri, our dear belarussian host, who at this point has already put SO much effort into our coming. dmitri is ultra-chuffed to see us, and is all excited to announce that just today final arrangements have been made for our minsk-appearance, which shall happen tomorrow! after getting some drinks at an overpriced 24-hour supermarket, we head to dima's home, where dmitri's sweet wife katarina has prepared some yummy grub for us. dmitri initiates us into the russian style of vodka-drinking, and we down two shots before even having a first bite of food, when the first shots start kicking in we've already had six more, and another six shots later we're all rather jolly. together we listen to dmitri's weekly radio-show, the fourth or fifth broadcast dedicated to ohne appearing in belarus. we feel very much at home and have a wonderful time.
more brilliant sunshine greets us as we crawl out of bed (or off the floor) with slightly heavy heads, and we go for a walk around minsk. every visitor to belarus is required to register within 3 days of arrival, so we want to get this bureaucratic poop out of the way first thing. the registration-office is rather kafkaesque, with corridors and doors galore and greasy officials rushing about. dmitri knocks on 3 doors before even knowing where to queue. after around half an hour of waiting he finds out that we need personal health-insurances in order to be able to register, these insurances are to be obtained at another office in another building.. after short counselling it becomes apparent that none of us fancy hanging around in offices for hours on end, so we drop the registration altogether, risking in the (hopefully) worst case a fine - fuck it! what waste of time! we have a nice walk around minsk instead, go for some lush food and take in the unique character of this lovely city, the amazing layout, the vast space, the amount of green. after a couple of hours we slowly make our way back in order to be at the venue at 20.00 h. the "buddha-bar" is a newly opened indian restaurant/club located on the outskirts of minsk, we are told. we drive through endless rows of battery-human-buildings, and our feeling starts to sink. this looks total ghetto style, very grim, rough, grey, hard, and we're imagining some bad scenarios, like hordes of right wing scum turning up. when we finally find the place we enter another world! from the grey and oppressive into the colourful and flashy space of the buddha-bar, neon lights all over, a tacky but atmospheric restaurant, an adjoining club-room, all rather posh and cheap at the same time. the owner is very friendly, says something like "you play very strange music" but seems to dig it nontheless. obviously he also seeks some attention for his new place, since he's invited the belarussian equivalent of mtv to do an interview with us. this turns out to be a total freak show, what a laugh! the sound-system is not very good, but we still rock hard and get a very enthusiastic response! some great remarks after the concert gives us the feeling that we're really onto something special here, people are deeply touched by what we do. unfortunately daniel can't play cause there are no record-players, still we end up talking, laughing and drinking until 5 a.m., what a fantastic night! the only downer is, on the way home our van's front wheelcaps are still burning hot again. the bastards!
4.5. minsk/by - gomel/by
so we go to yet another damn garage. the mechanics have a thorough look, take wheels off and brakes apart and find some o-ring inside the brakes that is totally worn out - but they have no spares. corinne films the mechanic's detailed explanations so we can show the next group of mechanics, in moscow, what is wrong (thus hopefully saving us more time and cash spent in garages. accompanied by dmitri we leave for gomel at around 17.00, a 300 km drive through more picturesque but bare countryside. we stop for beers and a little photo-session that dmitri proposes. later on we pass something very colourful - what was that? what a sight, a lone woman in the middle of nowhere selling her very bright self-made fluffy toys. dmitri discusses a possible belarussian ohne-release. we're all rather jolly and excited. at the city border of gomel the local promoters await us in a car which we then follow to the club, getting there at around 21.00. there's something uncomforting about the 'Nemo Club', one of four establishments/clubs/venues in gomel (700'000 inhabitants) where (mostly dance-)music is played out to an audience. pavel/pasha, one of the gomel-group of people who helped make this evening possible, welcomes us. on walking into the nemo we immediately sense dislike by the managers and the body of security-people, the lot of them crew-cut fridges in suits. some local mtv-type station projects pop-videos, there's an inside-balcony with more tables, 5 or 6 waitresses, all young, slim, long-legged and -haired and uniformly dressed buzz about, the floor a 60's like chess-pattern twisting out of frame, draped by out of tune brightly coloured curtains. unreal, odd, scary, funny. we plug in and make some noise, the senses densify, we get a bit more comfortable while the nemo-staff get a little more uncomfortable, but not for long. we're sat on a long sofa-circle in a badly lit corner when ugly billy-types with fashionably dressed ladies start piling in, loud housy charts-stuff starts playing, discolights flash. clearly not a place for the not-so-well-off, which is vigorously displayed. we manage to order drinks and food but everything takes forever and a half. our unease returns. we're on at midnight. dmitri breaks the dancefloor-crowd with his announcement, an audience of about 150 cheer as we're introduced. our sound is nicely messy and rough, the p.a. obviously not made for live-music, halfway through the ohne-set a bottle comes flying, luckily plastic. undetectable little commotions go on in the corners of our eyes, but we continue. another plastic bottle comes flying a short while later, hitting dave on the head. yells and shouts directed at us increase, but it's hard to make out whether they are supportive or disapproving of our performance. we play wickedly and let loose, albeit rather nervously, a strange feel is in the air, as if things could suddenly go off. when ohne a finish we are bathed in a nice roar of appreciative yells, screams and applause; we are nicely surprised. but there, dmitri rushes towards us, all panicky he says "you have to pack up and leave immediately! the managers say your point has been made, but now get the fuck out!!" we don't protest, dmitri is obviously in distress. dance-music kicks and shaking bodies fill the floor while we pack up. on our way out of the club a group of uniformed militarymen try to stare us down, but we smile. we pack the gear into the van, then start talking to a group of people that have gathered outside the club. we get to hear a lot of very appreciateve comments. we meet kostuffei, victor, genia/chicago, all involved in our gomel appearance. tom starts snogging a gomel honey, she in return is slapped in the face by some geezer. dave gives him a good verbal, which goes over into a lengthy discussion. more people have gathered and everyone is talking. there's a very friendly but also very uneasy feel in the air, rather special. some time later we wrap it up, with kostuffei leading the way to his parents' home, an appartement in the outskirts of gomel, on the 9th floor of one of about 15 tower-blocks in the closer vicinity that all look alike. the real thing! the 6 of us spread on sofas and the floor of the living-room. lights out.
after a good nights' sleep we take our time to get up and ready, indulging in extended shits, showers and shaves. kostuffei and victor take us into town to a pizza-place for some food with a bunch of other faces we saw yesterday and now get to know. after that a convoy of 3 cars moves through town getting supplies, then heads off out of town through some woods to the banks of a river. more people gather, a fire is started, local brews are tasted, the environment is taken in, mutant insects are spotted - a marvellous time is had. apparently a larger part of the fallout from the chernobyl-catastrophy ended up in this area. we are told that one month down here is equivalent to the radiation received when having an x-ray done. some hours later on our way home, we stop at a supermarket - a supermarket? a tube-like length of a collection of doorless rooms with maybe 30 to 40 different counters, each with an own array of goods on offer, an own till and an own saleswoman - you had to ask for (or in our case point at) what you wanted. everything took forever and three quarters, not just for us...
on the following day the friendly gomel group take us sightseeing - we wander around in a huge abandoned industrial area and climb a mountain of waste from a chemical factory. this "waste" that looks like chalk is piled on an area of maybe 4 square kilometres, some of the hilly peaks are as high as 200 metres off the ground. there are strange colourings where the "chalk" gets in touch with water, but we are told this is not toxic stuff. a nicely strange place, the scenery enhanced by the sun setting. to round off this gorgeous day we're taken to vitali burikin's place, a gomel painter excluded from the belarussian arts academy, who invites us into his charming little home stacked with surrealist canvases.
7.5. gomel/by - moscow/ru
we're up early to leave for moscow. we had 3 truly fantastic days in gomel, a very special time, well looked after by a lovely bunch of really wonderful people. thank you all ever so much!!! kostuffei & chicago take us to the border, about an hour away. leaving belarus we bribe an official with 10 dollars for road-tax that would otherwise cost 20 dollars (makes sense?). on the russian side of the border we have no problems, they don't search us either, but a there's a lot of arse-bureaucracy: we have to buy a car-insurance (nothing unusual) for which we have to fill out some forms, all in bloody kyrillic off course, but a friendly woman assists us, in fact fills out the form for us. still, a painstaking amount of time is spent waiting around in different "offices"/shacks, this bit of paper and that stamp. in the customs-official's office, presenting the equipment-list, we're just stared and shouted at, a hand waving us away - the russian bureaucratic nightmare-scenario-clichees come true! what a laugh! totally arbitrary east-european handling, teehee. it takes us about one and a half hours - but we're in russia!!! the roads are real bumpy and we get stopped by police loads, usually just checking documents though. once we're halted for something ("njet akkurat" is what we understand), but we get no fine, most of the cops are easy going and like a laugh. the 4th or 5th one asks us for "produkti reklamicaye", he grabs the cd we show him, with a smile he says "danke schoen". a short spell of rain interrupts the sunshine as we ride along a scenic route. we reach mockba at about midnight, coming down endless long 4-track-lanes into a centre that looks like a cross between disneyland and christmas. at first we get lost a bit, but through a magical detour we end up getting to where we wanted to go, the statue of lenin at the metro-station oktoberskaja. hello dennis and lena! in order to make registration easy we book into a cheap hotel on one of the busy and touristy main streets. big rooms! dead-tired but psyched by being in moscow, and hungry too, we go for a stroll and find a mongolian restaurant, with tofu! enormously chuffed and absolutely whacked we hit the sacks at 4 a.m.
we sleep until noon, at least, yet still manage to get our free breakfast at 13.00 (the coupon says open till 11.00 h). dennis comes round at about 2, then he, daniel, tom and dave are off to the car-garage to get them bloody brakes fixed, them bastards. the marvellous video we made of the mechanics in minsk explaining the problem couldn't be found, christoph having difficulties labelling the film-tapes properly (actually labelling them at all). our first encounter with the totally insane traffic manners on the inner circular roads of moscow is gracefully dealt with by tom's driving skills (he drives as horribly as they do). losing time by missing turn-offs makes us late for our appointment at the garage, so we have to wait another bloody hour until it's our turn! we wander around and have some brews. by the time the car is repaired we're decently pished, except poor tom of course who wasn't allowed a drop, the good fella. the damn van-repairs cost us 250 dollars, the bastards! on the way back into town we pick up the key to the appartement that is soon gonna be our home in moscow. starving we go to the mongolian again for another midnight-nosh of yummy spicy things and tofu.
9.5. moscow/ru - yaroslavl/ru
to check out of the hotel in time we get up early. after breakfast and with all our gear in the van, dennis joins us - it's victory day! the weather is splendid, thousands of people and flags march, we march along, have a laugh, follow the procession to its end, listen to speeches and anthems, dig it. all sorts have gathered, leninists, stalinists, bolsheviks, tzarists, orthodox later on we move on to dennis' place, check emails and have tea, then leave for yaroslavl. with dennis and lena we're 8 in the van! outside of moscow we stop at this new massive hypermarket, all starving we buy 6 bags of food and happily munch away as we roll on. it's dark by the time we reach yaroslavl, about 22.00. hey, this place is not on our map of europe! there's a massive thud as we poop into a pothole the size of birmingham. oooh arse. we are welcomed by alex alexeev, a constantly smiling masami akita- look-alike. he knows only a handful of english and german words but we get along just fine, sense a kin-spiritedness. his shack at the end of a dirt-track is a chaming low-ceilinged unusually structured four-room piece, no floor or wall is straight or even, it could have been a barn earlier. we feel at home immediately, get involved in talks and music, vodka-shots russki style an absolutely marvellously jolly evening!
we sleep in and wake up with no headaches whatsoever, oh yeah! tom cooks one of his onion-garlic-olives-spicy-pasta classics, after which we're off to the museum of modern arts in the centre of yaroslavl, right next to the wolga river, " europe's longest river" as we are told. we set up amidst expensive pop-art hanging around in a room on the third floor of a large old building with many other rooms, soundcheck, then chill a bit outside having drinks and chats. we start at 18.30 (is today sunday?) to an audience of about 40, most of them seated. we pull at their chairs, spit applemunch into the air whilst crawling on the floor, creak with chairs, have a good time! the crowd loves it, the curator-lady at first sceptical is well chuffed, and as often before we have lots of nice post-show-talks. starving we go for some food at a restaurant, they chuck us out just as we're finished though. strange, they were closing, yes, but they made an extra effort to get us out before the making other guests leave. what the heck, off we go to alex's place. we listen to the recordings and alex talks about a possible release. totally ratarsed after many voddies we go out to the supermarket for more supplies - wow, what an experience! there's about 80 vodkas to choose from. the shop's system is, you check the goods behind the counter, then go to the cashier telling him what you want and how much it costs (the cashier seems to have no idea of the prices), he then gives you a receipt with which you go to the counter again, the lady behind which takes your receipt and gets your goods an unnecessary long and confusing process with lots of questions and delays, so it seems to us anyway - but in our states it's nothing but a grand laugh! we have yet another bloody good night! thank you kindly alex, ever so much!!!
11.5. yaroslavl/ru - moscow/ru
some of us feel VERY rough today. a slow start back to moscow. we notice some serious dents in one tire, no, not another fucking car problem!!! buggery barney, well pissed off we consider the pothole of last night, the weight the car carries, and ask dennis and lena to take the train back to moscow. they agree, but we feel quite miserable about the whole situation. we arrange to meet at dennis' place at 22.00, so have the time to drive extra-slowly and carefully, avoiding the consequences a blown tire at 100 kmh might have. we still hit moscow fairly soon so use the extra time to buy dinner at a supermarket. our on the road diet usually consisted of bread, olives, raw vegetables, fruit, pickles, mustard and other spreads, spicy sauces, crisps, juices and water, with slight different "extras" in each place, sometimes tofu, or soya-drink, peanut-butter or wheat-burgers. happily munching away in front of dennis' block we await him and lena. once they arrive we get into a cosy round of tea and talks. some time later we're off to move into the appartement that dennis rented for us, located about 30 minutes from moscow's centre, next to the perovo metro-station, a tiny three rooms with kitchen, bathroom and balcony, on the third floor of a quiet residential area.
we sleep in. christoph, corinne and reto who get up a bit earlier go food-hunting. reto wants to get back sooner than cristoph and corinne to work on stuff, but christoph and corinne, who leave a good 20 minutes after him, return first. where the hell is reto? with his mobile in the appartement we have no choice but to wander around looking for him. 20 minutes later he's found he got a bit lost no surprise really, the road we're on not only looks but is also named the same as the next two ones (vladimirskaya 1, 2 and 3 respectively)! the bunkr is a tunnel-like cellar with 3 seperate bars, a dance-club really, with is a dark cozy hole at the far end, the dancefloor/stage, seperated by curtains. we get to meet alexei borisov, a legend (as dennis says) of the moscow independent/experimental scene, actively involved for over 20 years, and a very nice person too! we agree on a live-collaboration this same evening. at first we're a bit disappointed at only about 25 people turning up - but as ohne get going this proves to be no let-down at all - the place blows up and goes nuts! the crowd is sweating and hot, screaming and yelling and moving about, daniel is carried around on peoples backs... ohne go straight into rm74 followed directly by the alexej-ohne collab - but then, we're stopped, the managers of the place won't have it no more we're told to stop, a house-dj squeezes in.. one of the spectators compares the impact of our set to the disaster of chernobyl.
13.5. - 18.5. moscow
the following days in moscow are spent wandering around town, food-hunting and cooking, going to the darn car-garage once more - and receiving a cancellation of our concert in wroclaw/poland! quel horreur and buggery barney! we were looking forward to that, playing on the 3rd day of a 3-day festival in front of a bunch of goths (that's what it looked like on the video we received). our offer to play for just accomodation and a crate of beer didn't help, the date was definitely off. lovely olga from oscow, whom we had met at our appearance in minsk, got in touch with friends in st. petersburg, as did alexei borisov, but to no satisfactory result, we could have played a show, but there was no fee and no accomodation, st.petersburg being about 600 kilometres away from moscow. hm hm in the late afternoon of the 14th we are called to a "briefing" of all participants of the "altermedium.02 festival", subtitled "well tempered noise", hosted by andrey smirnov, director of the moscow theremin centre, with performers from austria, new zealand, holland, britain, israel, norway and of course russia, each presenting a little introduction and background. a bit of an academic round, nontheless, we're excited. smirnov reckons that this is the first event of this size and with such international participation to take place in moscow.
once at the dom, where the festival was taking place, at about noon of the 15th, we have a hard and long time soundchecking, thanks to an incapable sound-man. the evening takes off with a short tape-piece by jon appleton and improvised computer-treatments of his ensemble's live-sounds by theremin-centre-composer dmitry subochev. ohne took on the stage stage next and invaded the minds of the audience and the space of the dom. reto played the piano beautifully that night, before daniel and dave gave it the head-treatment. rm's set went down in a storm, and aleph had this massive, antique monster of a dj-mixer to treat - the audience went ballistic, it turned out to be the strongest crowd-response anyone got during the 3 days of the festival. we were chuffed bloody sick!! the next two evenings of the festival were attended as well and we got to meet and exchange with a nice bunch of different people, spectators as well as other performers. we would have been happy to play more gigs, as would have been dennis, even though he sweated blood and tears to get us even this far. still, we had a marvellous time in moscow (apart from 2 days spent at the car-repair-centre). we end up deciding against a trip to st.petersburg. olga recommends we get in touch with katiusha and kostek in warsaw.
19.5. moscow/ru -minsk/by
we get ready for, as we called it during tour-preparations, "the "hellride" - 1900 kilometres from moscow through belarus into poland. with a laughing and a crying eye we depart from dennis and lena, and moscow, all of us deeply touched by the good experiences we could share. we owe endless thanks to all you've done dear dennis
after a bizarre change of weather (sunshine, wind, rain, hail and snow in short spells) we get to the russian-belarussian border, again, more of a checkpoint. the russian border-officers manage to sell us yet another car-insurance (5 us$), but when they want an extra 100 us$ for health insurances we go "no way"!! unfortunately the bastards are holding our passports, so we're forced to spend a good 45 minutes trying to get the passports back, which the russians stubbornly refuse to return, asking for the cash. but then good corinne and her charme manage to bribe the head of the border-bastards with 20 us$ - and we're off! we stop in minsk for the night. dmitri is overwhelmed to see us, treats us like lost sons who've finally found their way back home. we spend another splendid night, spirits high and plentiful.
20.5. minsk/by - warsaw/pl
we hit brest at about noon, a large town on the border from belarus to poland. at the border we squeeze past the first line (as dmitri instructed) and talk to some officers. who promptly send us back to the very end of the line. sitting there in the scorching sun, clueless, some geezer walks up to our car and says he can put us into "1st position" for 150 Euro (!!), otherwise we would have to wait at least 24 hours to get through. no way were we gonna hang on for 24 hours, but no way are we pay ing 150 euros either. so once again we head to the front of the first row, talk to the officers again. we try to bribe 'em, but they kindly hand back the money hidden in one of our passports. we do our little song of the music-group on tour and that we have to be in warsaw in the evening for a concert, and so on. i guess we were persistent enough, for they finally let us to the front of the first row - off to the second row, where we do the same again, talk to the officers. they direct us to the bus-lane which is quite a bit faster, but ask for four cd's in return. we give em two, and it works. off into queue number three, which ends in a pre-passport-checkpoint. we accidently get into the diplomats-lane, and even though the officers we approached say we have to get to the back of the regular row, we stayed get through, quite quickly too. then, passport-check, and off into the fourth row. again, we do our little song, and again it works, we're pointed to the bus-lane. finally we got to the customs-checkpoint, where they have us open nearly all bits of luggage. they don't seem interested in our equipment, one of the officers however, after spotting one of our microphone-object-constructions, reckons we're some kind of "avantgarde"-group - rightey-oh! they are friendly enough, having a laugh as they find some sovjet posters we picked up in moscow, and finally letting us out. poland in re-introduced the dreary procedure of stamping our equipment list (which wasn't valid in both russia and belarus). this took about another hour, so all in all it took us 6 hours to cross the border, and considering that it might have taken as much as 24 hours, we didn't do bad ... after we're through we read in our travel-guides that brest is the worst possible border to cross into or out of belarus..... entering poland felt like being back in western territory. on the way to warsaw we finally manage to get in touch with katiusha and kostek, who were ready to put us up for the night.
21. - 22.5. warsaw/pl
we ended up staying three marvellous days in warsaw, well looked after by katiusha and kostek, without knowing us beforehand they generously give us their time, show us warsaw, also manage to put us on the bill of the "black frog", a rather large squat, where we play with four punk/hardcore-bands, a.o. the amazing "contra la contra" (blistering hardcore from grodno/belarus, check http://contra-la-contra.by.ru).. more marvellous experiences that don't fail to move us thank you katishua and kostek for your kind and outstanding efforts!
23.5. warsaw/pl - prague/cz
unfortunately no replacement was found for our gig in prague that got cancelled (on the day of our departure on tour), so we just stop shortly in the czech capital to drop off corinne and christoph - yep, they are leaving both had to return to zurich to work on other projects they're involved in. it seemed wrong to break up our crew, at the same time clear that there was no way out, corinne's and christoph's schedules and responsibilities were bound to dates and deadlines hell yeah, the show goes on. since the people from ars morta universum, who were supposed to organise our prague-gig, neither answered to our emails nor took the phone, we have no other choice than to find accomodation ourselves. we head towards brno, where we were to play on the 25th, looking for a cheap place to stay, but we're unlucky. the first (cheap looking) motel is closed for the night (after midnight already), and after the third or fourth hotel we check we are too tired to move on and end up staying in a far too expensive hotel, halfway between prague and brno.
24.5. prague - brno/cz
after arriving in brno and calling prokop our local host for directions, getting lost a bit, we finally find the "fleda", a organised looking cultural centre that books mainly czech acts. "revival-bands" seem to be the popular thing here, but there's also films screened regularly, a bar, a tea-room and several spaces for other activities and exchange. prokop shows us his office on the 2nd floor of the fleda - our home for the next 3 nights. across the road there's a veggie-restaurant, esoteric, and they play nothing but phil collins, but the food is ace - we end up eating there all three days, trying almost everything. the evening some local acts play the fleda, a funk/comedy group with about 30 people on stage, an awful hiphop/metal combo, and other obliging, popular music acts. about 150 people are having a ball.
25. - 26.5. brno/cz
for today an all-town event is announced, with some kind of parade in the afternoon and loads of parties and czech rock acts in the evening - not too lucky for us about 30 people show up to our concert, it makes the fleda concert-hall seem rather empty since it's a fairly big place. regardless, we go wild making use of the large stage and the space available, but, the heat doesn't quite come on. still, the few people did seem to enjoy it, and prokop says he is pleasantly chuffed! we spend the next day wandering around brno (a very boring place), getting things done and end the day with beers, long talks and games of pinball.
27.5. brno/cz - bratislava/sk
bratislava is only about 150 kilometers away, but with one border to cross, where once again, surprise surprise, we come across corrupt customs-officials. first we're asked about the obligatory vignette (road-tax) which we knew nothing about, the result of which is a fine - 150 euros! "impossible" i go, and haggle and haggle, finally managing to bring the fine down to 20 us-dollars, knowing that we're still being ripped off large. oh well. next, the equipment list. the van in queue before us has the same type of list and is totally taken apart. ooh-ooh, we might expect trouble, also since two items on our list went home with corinne and christoph, the list thus being "not in order". once the stamps are all done and it's our turn with inspections, the officer in charge asks me if I have any czech money on me, i affirm, he then grabs a 100 kroner-bill and indicates that we leave - and we're off! the bastards, but I suppose we're lucky too. once we hit bratislava (and get lost a bit) we phone miro and get told to get in touch with michael, with whom we arrange a meeting point. we find ourselves in a situation that is representative for a lot of similar moments that we've encountered during our tour: in a "new" city, we're at a given meeting point, waiting, curious about what will happen next, and then, then, again and again, we meet wonderful people, passionately active and involved individuals - beforehand, apart from email-contact (in rare cases talks on the phone) and the promise of a concert, we knew nothing about who we would meet, what we would see, where we would stay, how people were, the venue, the city, the feel in general, all that stuff anything could happen, and it usually did, but always in the best possible way. seriously, we felt immensely blessed, humbled, pleased, excited, being able to "play" that beautifully rewarding game of interaction, giving and receiving, experiencing undescribably great moments same thing in bratislava - a lovely bunch of people welcome us, look after and take care of us, give us their time, share what they have, invite us into their lives and allow us to turn them upside-down for some days - and are grateful for it! what joy!! we are so eternally thankful for all of this i won't try to put it into words.. so we meet michael, who first takes us to drop off our gear at the place we'll be playing at tomorrow. there we meet vlad, another jolly character, and together we go to the places we're staying at, this time it's two separate appartements. both dusan as well as matej & eleonora warmly welcome us into their cozy abodes. after that michael and vlad bring us to a guarded spot where we park and leave our van. just round the corner from that spot we enter a billiards place, enjoying local brews, have talks and games, with more friendly folk turning up bit by bit. vlad gets out his home-made absinth. we end up at the appartement where daniel and reto are staying with a group of about 15, also miro, responsible for our stay and concert in bratislava, manages turns up. a lot later on, and in a sligthly different frame of mind, tom and me are taken by dusan to his home where we (get the munchies, but finally) sleep. another excellent day!
"up & müesli" my diary says. michael picks tom and me up and takes us to matej's and eleonora's place, where daniel and reto are staying. shortly after vlad pops up, and we all go to a student-vegetarian-restaurant, then for a walk around bratislava, a rather charming little town on the danube. after that it's off to the venue. the place we perform in tonight is in a highschool, down a flight of stairs, along corridors and through a sports-room down another flight of stairs, next to a tea-room run by some students - a small but atmospheric theatre/cinema-type room, a declining floor with about 6 rows of seats (where contact-mics are attached). the place fills up nicely and about 40 people are present when local act poo opens up, screening some nice visuals. we are in an excellent mood to play and have a lot of fun in front of a good crowd. there's a piano, daniel and me climb over and fall between the rows of seats, reto surprises everybody by throwing one of his pedals to the floor in such an outrageously dramatic and funny way that everyone cracks up and roars. master aleph's set finally fries the last bit of sense out of everyone present, sprinkling so much grotesque humour into his set that it's impossible to even try to hold a straight face. laughter continues late into the night..
29.5. bratislava/sk - vienna/a
in the afternoon the whole bratislava crew meets us for a meal at a pizzeria. once again we find ourselves not wanting to move on thank you everyone in bratislava for a really marvellous time! the 70 kilometres to vienna are a piece of cake, and the border-procedures don't take too long - i'm at the "austria-in" counter with my equipment-list, when the official next to the one i'm dealing with gets off the phone and yells "is there a tom smith here?" i go "uhm yeah, he's outside", get out and fetch tom, who wants to just grab his passport - but it's not there! we search the car but cannot find it. back in the office i tell the guy that tom's in the car looking for his passport. "well" says the official "your friend's passport has been found at the checkpoint (about half a kilometre down the road)" oops. on entering austria we're saddened to see signposts we can actually understand, but a nice sunset as we approach vienna makes it half as bad. after a bit of an extended drive around vienna's centre we finally get to herbie's grand home. pita turns up a bit later and we're off to the rhiz for some beers, we meet hecker and massimo and - surprise - alexei borisov! he's playing at the phonotaktik festival, 3 days of concerts and events held in different locations in vienna, that stir interest also through a cryptical organisational frame.
maybe the phonotaktik-festival explains why we get not too big a crowd at our gig at the rhiz, maybe not. we also make the silly mistake of overeating ourselves a bit (not having had decent food all day) about 2 hours before we are due on. in any case, we're not all too chuffed with the turn-out as with our performance itself, even with pita saying it was "top".funny enough though, the recording of that evening turned out rather nice. and, we had a blast in vienna thanks to those who put us up and put up with us - cheers!
31.5. vienna/a - ljubljana/si
after another visit to the mego-office on the morning of may 31st we leave vienna at about 11.00 and pass the austrian-slovenian border with ease, definately the most mellow border we've come across so far. the landscape into slovenia is gorgeous, but the last bit of the drive, on small, crowded roads, is a pain in the arse. at about 5 in the afternoon we get to the metelkova, a large semi-legal/squatted area in the heart of ljubljana, and meet matjaz, yet another passionately engaged individual. the room/hall we play in is about 10 metres wide and 30 long, a big wooden stage on one end and a flight of stairs up to a balcony on the other. matjaz serves yummy vegan goodies he cooked himself. the evening starts well, "the life of brian" is screened, nice one, then kraski solisti hit the stage, their saxophone-drums-organ-clarinette-bass-guitar-cacophony a nice example of fresh free whatever. well tuned we engulf the audience nicely and roar fiercely - the sound that night is marvellous, and we get the most appropriate volume so far - us and the 60 or so audience is having a ball - great! rm74 goes on and gets right down to it, shakes the place with a blasting set something wicked, when two uniforms walk in and look around in a stupor, trying to spot the source of the racket. after a minute or two they get on stage, tap reto's shoulder and tell him to turn it off. reto then starts explaining that what he is doing, what they are hearing, why he is doing it, why he is here, and that his set only last another five minutes anyway, but oh buggery barney, the cops will have nothing of it, so reto hits the button.
1.6. ljubljana/si - vienna/a
after a night in a not so cosy room of a large squat matjaz wakes us with more of his cooking skills. well fed we leave ljubljana and head back to vienna, in order to have a look at an event of the phonotaktik-festival. the border is piss-easy again, and we get to see kevin drumm and markus schmickler later on at the rhiz.
2.6. vienna/a - linz/a
it's nice to have a shower! after some vietnamese food we're off to linz, a good three hour drive eastwards. we're hardly late when we find the kapu, outside of which we meet joerg and armin and a bunch of others. we set up, check, and then go for some food. we have a doss and play over a nice p.a., reto gets a lady in the audience to undress him bit by bit, each bit of clothing then neatly placed on a cord across the stage, while daniel and dave are doing their burp-thing - everyone has a good time, even if the turnout is a bit shallow, about 20 people end up in the kapu that night, the lovely hot summer evening could be blamed. we're lodged in the same building, upstairs - bargain!
3.6. linz/a - aarau/ch
by the time we leave linz it's noon, we count on 10 to 12 hours to reach the ohne-headquarters in aarau, switzerland. we have a fun drive through lush landscape, massive pre-alpine bits and bobs shooting high, beers on the go, and the border is done within no time at all. after only 8 hours switzerland greets us with torrential rain and grim coldness - cor blimey, after 6 weeks on the road, with marvellous sunshine or at least warm weather for all but about one week, this - what a welcome!
when we get to dave's home the telephone is dead and half of the inhabitants have moved out.
4.6. - 7.6. aarau - basel - zurich - lausanne - aarau/ch
after a day worth of not so much rest but getting things fixed and worked out we get on the last leg of the tour, 3 swiss dates, with a new driver, andrew, dave's brother, who succesfully introduces his driving skills by artistically scraping the van in front of the parterre in basel. we smile and say hello to ibrahim, set up and are happy to find another piano. we have some food upstairs, the parterre being a cafe/restaurant, the performing space a well equipped, dark room, a crowd of about 30. we love to play and play with love, and once again feel well received - merci vielmal! the following day zurich, toni molkerei, a huge room in a large industrial complex, a trendy place too, by 23.00 about 200 people have gathered, half of which are regulars who leave shortly after we start. we show a tight fist of a package and take the roof off the place - what a blast! in the espace autogere in lausanne, in the french-speaking part of switzerland, in top form, we we display a perfectly tuned set of performances, the 21st and last euroschizo-show.
the 6 weeks lasted 6 months and were over in 6 days. all the organisational pains were worth every single second. all the encounters were rich in experience, and joy, as we felt, for all involved. this tour was an experiment in a lot of aspects. ohne are 4 people brought together by some mad idea and plan. 6 people, 4 nationalities, getting to know each other, in a van across more than 12'000 kilometres through 12 countries. all this involved a lot of tests and trainings, but resulted in an amazing experience. many seeds were planted as well as fruits picked.
this tour couldn't have been what it became were it not for the outstanding people we met on our way, helping make this whole thing not just happen, but an amazing experience, offering so much and sharing most marvellous times with us ... we are humbled, eternally grateful.