where’s all the ice?


Everyone took exception to the holiday period last week, and we took a brief jaunt away from home, to visit our new friends in Iceland, and our old friends in Manchester.

 I’m sure that joke’s been made a good many times before…

Everyone took exception to the holiday period last week, and we took a brief jaunt away from home, to visit our new friends in Iceland, and our old friends in Manchester.

First, we flew north. We met up early on Tuesday morning at the legendary Glasgow International Airport, our personnel in pleasant moods, as hugs and high-fives were exchanged… 

The team:

Simon: Vocals, Guitars, Doesn’t Sleep on Planes James: Bass, Vocals, Doesn’t not sleep on planes Ben: Drums, Vocals, Doesn’t not sleep on any moving vehicle Neil: Tour Manager, Blog, Sleeps less than possibly anyone Churd: Guitar Tech, Fisherman, Can sleep anywhere at anytime Adam: Drum Tech, Moonlighter, Would always rather sleep than sight-see. Francesca: On holiday, presumably has the closest thing to a normal sleep pattern.

We also had Justin (Sound engineer, manages to sleep under the mixing desk sometimes) and Dan (Monitor Engineer, carries his own special NASA-technology pillow EVERYWHERE with him) who joined us on Wednesday, flying back to London early Thursday. All too brief.

Upon arriving at Reykjavik, as we made our way off the flight, it became swiftly apparent (I say swiftly, only Simon and Francesca noticed initially) that NOTHING was open in the airport… We started to wonder whether or not this was due to the economic crash, and whether it would be the same all over…

After meeting one of our beautiful and friendly Icelandic hosts in arrivals, we put our bags and equipment into a large vehicle, which proceeded to take us the 1 hour drive to Reykjavik city, and the Nordica Hotel, which was to be our home for the next three nights.

After spending 20 minutes ironing out a small problem at the hotel, we eventually threw our bags into our rooms, and reconvened downstairs, to get some lunch, and hit a nearby pool hall, where we spent most of our evening, in the process drinking them out of tequila, and starting on some horrendous dry salty liquorice  shot… I also took two physical hits from two of the three Johnston brothers present… First, drum tech Adam and I raced from one side of the room to the other, walking sideways, in a manner that has you shift your toes to the right, then bring your heels over to match, repeat until you’ve reached your destination… Right at the end, a shove from my Johnston saw me hit the deck spectacularly. Your fucking card is marked, my friend. Don’t let the fact that I hugged you goodbye fool you otherwise… Shortly after that, James, upon winning a game of pool, saw fit to bash my bottom lip with the back of the video camera… Accidentally, he assures me, but you still go to prison for manslaughter, so we’ll add that to the karmic balance.

The next day (showday! zing!) we met downstairs, to drive down to NASA, the venue that the band were due to headline that evening.

A little bit of touring context and background for you, to enable the next part to make more sense; We have a backline (i.e. musical equipment) weighing about 2.5 tonnes in total, and so it is inefficient to take the entire thing to certain places abroad, and thus, we have a condensed "flying backline" that we take on such excursions that begin and end at an airport… Often this backline will be freighted, which means that a guy and a van shows up, to pick it up from us, and it will arrives a few days later, customs-approved, at a venue in another country. This is only really relevant for when we’re crossing borders that involves customs and taxes. Otherwise, we’ll roll up to the airport with our 19 items, weighing approx 200kgs in total, and pray for two things; One, that Simon’s Marshall amp-head will be allowed to fly, since it usually weighs in at 32.3kg, with the flying limit being 32kgs, lest the dainty baggage handlers hurt themselves… (In Australia, we had to sent that amp via freight between every show, as it was just a tiny bit too heavy for their ultra-strict unions) 

The other thing we pray for, is that the person behind the check-in desk, realises that their employer’s excess baggage policy is one of the most inconsistent and unproportional policies held by any commercial travel provider. Essentially, you go above your 20/30/40kgs per passenger limit, they charge you through the eyes for it… £8 per extra kilo, if you’re really unlucky, or £60 per extra piece if they’re a bit more lenient. Its still fucking barbaric though, and takes ages to process. 

Anyway, when we fly with equipment, we have a very specific specification of equipment to be provided on the ground, ranging from Simon’s 4 amplifiers, to James’ three amps and cabs, to Ben’s drumkits, to ancillary things like guitar racks and stands.

So we showed up at Nasa, where some of the other bands on the bill were finishing soundcheck (we had deigned to go last, as Justin and Dan were not yet in the country), to discover a distinct lack of equipment provided… In advance of the show, I had seen two lists of equipment… One for the other bands, and then one for the use of Biffy, that we had spec’d specially… Unfortunately, it seemed that someone had decided that our backline looked much better, and so that would be used for the entire show…

Now – bluntly, we’re not keen on sharing equipment, not because we’re horrible and selfish people, looking to fuck over others… Rather, because its silly to use a drumkit thats had 5 people beat the shit out of it, before Ben sits down, because it’ll sound shit, and the chances of something breaking are increased dramatically, and if we’ve travelled all this way to put a show on, then its not professional on our behalf to accept that kind of risk. You’ve all spent money (increasingly, a lot of money) on tickets, and deserve to see the best show within our means… If this means that the other bands need to use their own amps, and drums, then its all in the belief that we can put on a better show this way.

After a few heated phonecalls, a new drumkit and new amps were at the venue within about 21 minutes, and the Biffy stage was set for a quick soundcheck. 

We were playing at the Iceland Airwaves festival, which takes place in downtown Reykjavik. Its not an outdoor festival, its more like In The City in Manchester, Camden Crawl in London, CMJ in New York, or SXSW in Austin, where you’ve got a wide selection of shows in the evening and through the day, taking place across venues in the city. Our show was on the opening night, and was part of the Kerrang! magazine festivities across the festival.

Paul, Nina and our old friend Simon, from K! showed up during soundcheck, with smiles, and massive posters, before we wandered round the corner for a comical dinner, which took an hour and a half to arrive, during which time, our table was fucking SURROUNDED by people who showed up to watch a band playing in the same venue… At one point, I turned around, and almost knocked over two of the girls from Amiina, who had appeared behind us. 

After dinner, we returned to the hotel for an hour or so, and then travelled back to the venue, just in time to catch We Made God, and Agent Fresco, who were both awesome, really original and exciting, and a pleasure to be able to watch. As with everyone in Iceland, they were all really nice people as well, as were the lovely girls in Vicky, who we met after the show. Amazing that so many great bands come from such a small population. 

The band took to the stage around midnight, to a packed Nasa, and played for just over an hour… the set was similar to the festival setlist from this summer, but for a few changes, most notably a closing Now The Action Is On Fire!

After drinks in the dressing room, with familiar faces from all corners of the globe (we had the UK, mainland Europe, both US coasts, and the Southern Hemisphere all represented in our friends), we returned to the hotel for a few quiet drinks, and played jokes involving setting 6am and 7am alarm calls for certain members of the touring party. 

Good times!

More to follow, notably Team Biffy and Team Kerrang! joining forces for a trip to the Blue Lagoon, during which a member of the Kerrang Team, whose name rhymes with Eyemon, majestically shed his shorts, so assured of the cloudyness of the lagoon in protecting his modesty. It was a golden moment in Lagoon history, I think. 

Stay tuned…