Guest Columns



[Blackened doom metallers Woods of Ypres are currently touring North America on the so-called “Pain & Piss Tour.” Bassist Shane Madden will be taking us along with him on his journey of pain and piss, to be delivered in four parts throughout the tour. Read Part IPart II and Part III from weeks past. The fourth and final entry follows.]

Shane Madden - Woods of Ypres

Part IV: The Process

The venue was an auditorium that looked like it could be part of any high school in North America. It had those white, speckled, linoleum tile floors and wooden steps leading to the stage and brown, unattractive folding tables along the sides of the room presumably for merch, but there was none there. The gravel parking lot outside was crowded with teenagers coming to the show on a Tuesday night now that school was out for the summer. They stood clustered in their various circles in gym shorts, neon deathcore tees, and ironic tanktops, unmoved by the lightning storm going on overhead. These were not the styles I remember from my day. It was sticky outside as the heat had come on just as we neared Texas, like the state border was the entrance to the first circle of hell.

The incident here was that I apparently misplaced a guitar head. The gear was inside but I didn’t remember the details of load-in but just before set time it was just gone, vanished from where it had been sitting on top of a cab. I started running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The panic was suffocating at first and then transformed into an overwhelming sense of loss of direction and displacement. The prospect of the theft of gear and personal property is one of my worst fears while on tour. It happens, but I like to think it’s avoidable through careful planning. I felt pressure because some people I had known in college came out to the show unannounced and I snubbed them in my frantic search. I guess they moved down there at some point and heard about the show somehow. Where was the rest of the band? I also saw a dude from Relapse who I swore was in Europe.

Doubling back to retrace my steps I got caught in a conversation in a side room before I remembered what I needed to be doing was trying to save the guitar head. I ran back to the stage and now the cab was gone, just an oddly placed drum monitor standing upright. This had to be some misunderstanding with the sound guy moving gear during changeover but I hadn’t met anyone working at the venue all night when I thought about it. Was that my parents that just came through the door?

I then found myself staring at a white stucco ceiling with the pattering sound of drops of water hitting a soft, saturated surface. I rolled to my left and the air conditioning unit sticking out of the wall was dripping onto the carpet. The whole place smelled like moldy, wet socks. Everyone passed out around me; we had ended up in a desperation motel. I hurried out to the parking lot, bright and hot already at around eight in the morning and I found the van safe and sound with all the gear in place. Anxiety dreams. They come to me occasionally but never so vividly. It was like the fear of theft combined with a film reel of all the time devoted to the cause being judged as a moment of weakness by people that I hadn’t seen for years and no longer knew.

Bothering to analyze this common dream any further would be boring and pitiful and most likely embarrassing. Crawling through rush hour traffic in Atlanta, racing against the last few minutes of my remaining batter power as I write, the sense of time lingers in my mind as we face down the last forty-eight hours of this tour that began thirty-three days ago. You’re often only reminded of the days of the week at shows because of someone saying that they can’t stay for the set because of work in the morning. That means it’s a weeknight. Weekend turnouts are often a little better too so that can be a clue. People are drunker. Even the days of the week are irrelevant to the sense of time I’m really trying to reference here. An invented sense of time. It’s the time that could have been spent doing something else over the course of the past thirty-three days. In moments of doubt you might catch yourself wondering, just for a second, why you’re sweating in a van in Atlanta traffic at that particular moment. Summerholidays vs. Punk Routine.

The doubts don’t linger for us. Pushing through the home stretch of the tour can be numbing and even if you manage to catch a decent night’s rest it’s difficult to summon your energy to one hundred percent. Even then, the pressures at home mount as we need to get back to day jobs and mundane responsibilities. The end of tour doesn’t lessen the workload for the band, either. There’s always more to be done that couldn’t be accomplished from the road and this time around the next album is in the immediate works, on schedule for an August recording. The e-mails shall flow forth.

We encounter folks at shows all over that say “Our band would love to tour but we can’t leave work,” or “How do you guys get the time and money to tour?” This is the invented time that we operate on; our time. Almost no employers will provide time for tour. No one will invent time for you to tour. We could be contributing to 401k’s and accumulating days off but there’s none of that kind of time in what we do. Invent time to tour, withstand pressure from home, and then, at the very least, you’ll see a lot of country. There’s anxiety and great possibility for loss and dripping air conditioners. There’s also amazing opportunity when things are done correctly and thoroughly. Over the last few days we passed through the bright lights and faux culture of Las Vegas, lost a lot of sweat in San Antonio, dodged giant cockroaches in New Orleans, watched an intense thunder storm awestruck on a beach on the Gulf Coast, pounded back whiskey with friends in Birmingham. We invent our own time for this and make it work because no one else will. The routine becomes normality and we take it all in stride until the next time we’re back on the road on our time, in our own time.

– Shane / Woods of Ypres

Woods of Ypres Pain & Piss Tour

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