I’m back (KERRONG!!!!) back in the DTK groove…
Like a spider in the house at autumn time, you can’t keep me out of Dressed To Kill for long. Some 18 months after I depped for Matt in Birkenhead and Chesterfield, I made a return to the drum stool – in slightly different circumstances.
When Gary contacted me in the Spring of this year asking whether I’d be available to join up along with other ex-DTK alumni for a series of special 25th Anniversary shows in October and November, I said yes immediately. It’s hard to overstate how proud I am to have been one small part of the band’s history this past quarter of a century, and the opportunity to help celebrate that anniversary was too good to ignore. Originally, I was to be one of several ex-members of the band to be part of things, but others’ circumstances eventually dictated that I was the only one available come the Autumn.
And so it was that I met up with all the boys at the ‘Batcave’ early on Friday morning in late October to collect the equipment and start our long drive north to Glasgow for gig No. 1 of 4 over the course of a month. Well, ALMOST all the boys…Ash would be meeting us up there at soundcheck time, as he was letting the train take the strain from his base in the North West.
As we made steady progress up the M6, with Danny & I in the front of the van talking about football (a topic which Danny had been denied in my absence, as no-one else was interested) and Gary, Matt and pyro boy Shane sat behind us smelling each others farts or something, I started thinking about my previous times in Glasgow with DTK.
The Ferry and The Garage had played host to 2 of my most favourite ever gigs with the band – the one Ferry performance in 2008 stuck in my mind for the deafening roar we heard from backstage as our intro tape started playing before we’d even emerged!! The Garage ‘Monsters Of Mock’ show with Judas Beast and Non Jovi in 2010 was notable for the sheer size of the crowd and once again the sheer noise that came our way from them.
This time, we were playing the Classic Grand – the only concern was that Glenn Hughes and Raven (remember them?) were also playing in the city that night, and that our attendance might be impacted. That said, promoter Gordon, ably assisted by our great friend Pete from Gallus Cooper, had been doing sterling work in putting the word around town. We would just have to wait and see…
After the traditional quality stopover at Tebay services, we made it into Glasgow in time for the 4pm load-in as arranged. Sound-check was slated for 5.30, so I would help Matt set his ‘Eric Carr’ kit up and do other odd jobs to help things along. As it happened, I would have more pressing concerns – namely, that Ash would be late arriving and that I would need to soundcheck as ‘Paul Stanley’.
My vocal range is nowhere near Ash’s, but once I’d rigged up his amp and guitars, I had what I thought was a fair stab at Shout It Out Loud. No one laughed or pointed fingers at me, (so it can’t have been too rank on my part) and we swiftly retreated to the downstairs dressing room to get into costume & make-up, as we would be onstage not long after 8pm, due to a 10.30 curfew.
Ash arrived not long after, cursing UK transport links in general, but he would be ready in good time. What was also clear as support band Hysteria finished up was that the venue was filling up very nicely indeed – pretty much to capacity as it goes. This was going to be fun.
I stood side stage out of sight from the audience for the first third of the set as the current DTK slammed through their opening salvo of KISS Klassics – the response was every bit as good as the gigs up here that I’d mentioned before. The band has always sounded great in recent years, but visually, the band looks better than ever – Matt’s drums look just astonishing, with the ‘mirror’ effect mosaic on every shell and the frankly wonderful lighted logos on each bass drum. It’s the sort of attention to detail that KISS fans love, and I’m a KISS fan so….
Half an hour in and it was my cue to enter stage right and hop on the kit for a 30-minute blast through some Peter-related tunes. Playing drums on someone else’s kit is an issue I’ve blogged about before, and I’m constantly amazed at how some drummers complain and moan about such things. You’re effectively in someone else’s house – so don’t move things about to suit you…make do!!
I love Matt’s snare anyway – and his Paiste ‘Rude’ cymbals too. They are incredibly loud and responsive. No wonder they’re still making them after all these years for rock drummers!!
Gary had balanced the setlist so that my little section got the best out of ‘Peter’. So you got Nothin To Lose, Hooligan, God Of Thunder (inc. solo!) and Beth, of course. It was all over for me as quickly as it had begun and Matt came back to start I Was Made For Lovin You – suffice to say that the whole set was brilliantly balanced and was lapped (licked?) up by the Glasgow crowd. Another truly memorable night spent by the Clyde.
Load outs are never great fun when you’ve not only played your heart out, but also spent 20 minutes scraping makeup off and then a good half hour breaking the gear down on the stage. Added to this was the 43 (I counted them) stone steps winding down from backstage to ground level, followed by a 50 yard walk down a cobbled path to the van – that meant that the castors on the amps and speakers were about as much use as a chocolate fireguard and so everything had to be carried stage to van. It’s a good job, then, that Pete Gallus, promoter Gordon and several other willing helpers were on hand to share the load and speed up the process – all meant that the kebab house was found that much quicker!! Pete from Gallus told us all to try the local delicacy - a ‘Sarbenny’ kebab pizza speciality – but we’re all creatures of habit (as well as creatures of the night) and we all gave it the swerve. Looked bloody massive anyway from the menu
A wet and windy drive South cursing local roadworks then ensued as we headed for our overnight stop near Carlisle. 2 rooms were booked at a Travel Tavern, to be split between 6 of us, so I roomed with Danny & pyro boy Shane whilst Ash, Gary & Matt took the other one.
Contrary to popular myth, rock bands don’t trash hotels intentionally. No – in DTK, we prefer to find more subtle ways to mangle hotel property. Before we’d even managed lights out, Shane had managed to destroy the bedside shelf in our room, believing it to be tough enough to take a human’s weight as he tried to sit on it to show Danny a (presumably rude) picture on his phone. The crash I heard from the bathroom as I was doing my teeth sounded like hell on earth! Thankfully, Bodgit & Scarper (i.e. Danny with minimal help from me) fixed the furniture the next morning whilst Shane chuckled and snored, but not in that order.
Crewe was meant to be the town where my official DTK tour duties began back in early 2006, only for a back injury to Gary forcing a cancellation on the day at the Limelight Club. Since I’d left the band at the end of 2010, the Limelight was shut and a new venue in the town, The Box, had sprung up – this was our destination for gig No.2 the next day, via a carvery restaurant somewhere in the North West for lunch, naturally.
Don’t knock the ‘carvery lunch’ by the way. Cheaper than the Golden Arches or any of that stuff and proper food to boot – we rarely eat breakfast on Saturday gigs as we’re waking up so late to set off, so this is the best and most filling option. It’s merely a question of whether you ‘go large’ with the oval plate, giant Yorkshire pud and extra sausage. I didn’t – others most certainly did.
Another excellent show in Crewe that evening-and always nice to see the usual friendly faces in the crowd from the UK KISS Army that have always championed our cause wherever we’ve gone and taken the piss out of us as much as we do them. I mean, that’s what proper mates do, right? – give each other pelters!
Gig No.3 a few weeks later in mid-November took me back close to ‘home’. In fact the Robin in Bilston was the scene in 2011 of the ‘handover’ of the drum duties from myself to Matt, so it would be nice to revisit that happy/sad occasion at one of the best live venues the UK has to offer for bands like us.
Shaun, the ever-friendly sound guy at The Robin, was utilising a very smart piece of technology that I’d never seen before we soundchecked. On his iPad, he was able to call up the settings of his mixing desk at the other end of the room, which meant he could stand onstage alongside us and walk around getting our personal monitor settings 100% perfect. No more guesswork and no more shouting across the room to sort out the finer details. The whole process must’ve saved a good 20 minutes of the usual back and forth you get at soundcheck time. Brilliant piece of kit!
Getting ready with the lads is, of course, time-consuming but never ever dull. The wisecracks and the piss-takes fly across the room as the Clown White gets slapped on – it’s something I’ve always missed in the intervening years as I stepped away from DTK, so it’s great to re-join the ‘dressing room banter’ albeit briefly. You don’t get that with most bands at our level. We’re essentially in the dressing room 2 hours before we go onstage to play, and so have no choice but to put up with each other’s company LOL!
And yet another storming show ensued in front of a packed house – Ash accidentally thwacked me in the throat during the encore Rock And Roll All Nite as I was at the front helping with the vocals and went for his mike too quickly without him noticing!! Incidentally, our running joke that developed over the 4 shows was for me to ape Gene’s shouting of the word ‘AIEE!!’ rather than simply ‘I’ during the sing-along section of that tune. Always raised a smile amongst our number, and those audience members who remembered Gene’s desire to do that back in the 70’s!
So, smiles all round as the house lights came back on, although our collective enjoyment of the gig was naturally tempered once we were back in the dressing room, as news came in of events in Paris the same night. It made for a somewhat sombre drive to our rest stop halfway between Bilston and the town of Chesterfield, our final stop on the Dressed To Kill 25th Anniversary tour.
Thankfully, I can report no Travel Tavern furniture-related mishaps on this occasion.
I wrote in a previous DTK blog about the band’s first ever visit to Real Time Live in Chesterfield a couple of years ago, and how impressed we all were with the set-up at a new live venue on the ‘tribute’ circuit. 2 years down the line and the same warm welcome remains, as does the highly professional attitude of all involved there. Even WE were professional in turning up nice and early to load in – so much so, that with soundcheck done and dusted, we had a good 2 hours to relax prior to makeup time.
I have to pay tribute to Matt Blakout at this point. He’s been part of things in DTK as long as I have as 2015 draws to a close, and he’s been wonderfully welcoming as the previous drummer swans in and plays 30 minutes of tunes and a solo on his kit during these 4 shows. Matt & I go back some 20 years anyway, as former drummers with City Kidds, so it’s been as easy going an arrangement as you could wish for during these shows. By the Chesterfield show, I’d almost sussed out which cymbal stands went where on his monster kit!!
Due to the lack of a private vantage point at the side of the stage, I wasn’t able to watch the first part of the final gig, preferring instead to remain in the downstairs dressing room until it was my time to enter stage right, and then also the period in between my slot and the encores. It was time for reflection on what was to be my final DTK performance (I’ve said that before, mind!) and also the start of the scaling back of the general DTK workload for the other lads in future.
I ended up saying this onstage as I returned for RARAN vocal duties one last time and we wrapped things up, but whilst there are other tribute acts that play most weekends in a year, or have a very tough musical act to try and successfully replicate onstage, the truth remains that, on any given gig night, there is, in my opinion, NO BAND that works as hard as Dressed To Kill to please those in attendance:
• Full lighted logos both at the rear of the stage and on both bass drum heads
• 2 hours for band members to get ready in full make-up and costume
• A full 2-hour set with no breaks playing songs from ALL eras of KISS’ repertoire
• Spending 20-30 mins post gig having photos with those who’ve waited to see us and say hello.
There’s just a few bullet points – there’s more where they came from, but you get the gist of it. They even added a song on the fly at the start of the encores to pay tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks, as ‘Flaming Youth’ got an airing. ‘Our flag is flying higher’ a particularly apposite line.
And then, one kebab meat and chips later, we were all headed our separate ways home tired, but ultimately fulfilled. As were all 4 audiences that we celebrated our 25th year with
So what of the DTK future? Well, that not really for me to say as a former member rather than a current one, but I do know that there will be a DTK in 2016 and beyond, albeit on a less visible scale on the UK circuit than you have become used to over the last quarter of a century.
Therefore, if you see that the lads have a special show booked, like a festival appearance or a big indoor show, and it’s anywhere near your neck of the woods, take advantage of it and go. It will be worth the trip - as it always has been.
Long live Dressed To Kill.