Yeah? So what?
So I damaged my tendons in both arms back in August, and am still in pain/can barely play an instrument/type on a keyboard? So I spend all day now watching cold war documentaries and Star Trek TNG? I don't even like Star Trek, but after twelve weeks or so of forced inactivity I've run out of things to watch. But...but...so what? This potential future was at my very birth as a metaphysical midwife . I spent my teens and early twenties as a long-haired progressive rock fan - did anyone seriously not forsee my ending up slapped across an abused bedsheet watching science fiction all day?
What do the band say?
Well I had to skip a gig back in September. OH OH OH says reversing Santa - and that has just made me realise how long it's actually been since I last said hello to you. So I skipped the gig in Brighton at the beginning of September because I was in a phase where I couldn't actually feed myself. My least painful memory of this time is of my “nurse” cutting up a chocolate eclair with a knife and fork, and putting it inside me. At the time, I had little crab-like claws that I could barely use and would make me yelp if I tried to move them.
Following neatly from that experience, we had to prepare for the postponed Volition launch show at the ICA in London later the same month. I was slowly recovering, but it wasn't a completely easy time for anyone, as you can imagine. It was like Rocky, but instead of starting off as an underground boxer and getting stronger and punching meat and running to the top of a flight of stairs and celebrating, it was more about hardly being able to use a door handle to get out of the house and go to rehearsals where the montage would climax with me flinching at the press of a plastic synthesiser key and saying “I don't know, guys...” and then them going “Oh shit”, and instead of any sense of victory or overcoming there was just defeat and horror and denial and me having to pour tea out of a cup because it was too heavy to lift to my lips.
So round the back of the stage (AKA backshow area Xtreme to those in the business) before the ICA gig I was undergoing urgent self-adminstered treatment of various cooling ointments, massage, and deliciously distilled and necessary anaesthetics. Call it holistic.
The gig, then, turned into something of a giant exhalation of stress and tension following so much uncertainty. We were there, we had set up a new spider's web of experimental gear (which worked!), a lot of you turned up to see us, and I had managed to make it there to play the songs. I was still on a knife-edge as to whether I'd get a pang of pain or loss of control at any moment, but it seemed that despite the effect of nerves I'd got the dosage just right. We got a lot of great feedback from that gig, and I have to say it felt similar onstage. And offstage afterwards, too. Some gigs are just like that. Despite the stresses – in fact, likely because of them – it was one of my favourite shows that we've played. There's something almost intoxicating about that combination of relief, success, and intoxicants...
And lucky old “New James”, the new member of our sect. It was maybe his third gig with us, or something.
So it's the usual Phoria, for me, of blast-off-extreme-Phoria-time followed by intense rest and rehabilitation.
Again I had to resist almost all activity before we took a trip up to Scotland for some dates up there. What a great place that is. The air, the love, the cities, the mountains...they all helped with the day-to-day frustration of barely being able to do what I turned up to do. I wasn't convinced that the trip was good for my arms, but hey...that's music. Pot Noodles and Travelodges.
And then it was three weeks in Europe. All time prior, I was barely been able to use my phone – definitely not able to type on a keyboard like I am doing today – and in between stretches and rehabilitation exercises my time was spent slumped against a wall dispassionately watching crap with no option to even read as I couldn't hold a book for too long...and then all of a sudden through the stagnant muck of so much forced inactivity I'm off to Europe for three weeks of gigs and intense party time.
I don't think I could have survived the down time without the promise that I would be throwing away all healing in a fit of madness doubtless borne of some untouched psychological need for acceptance to which I and my follow swaggerers have surrendered our entire lives.
There's no doubt that this tour was one of the most stupid and therefore best times to be in Phoria. We had our new sound engineer, Ollie, to keep us updated on the technical aspects of every location we hit (I mean every technical aspect of every location. ...we received regular updates from him on the 4G connection speeds along various sections of the autobahn) and we were also carrying a new stage set up that we sometimes had to get ready in ten minutes flat. All this while one man light (of course I couldn't load gear!) with next to no clue where we were going each day or how we would get there. Ed pretended to know, but he didn't really. It was just the six of us, rumbling around in our little van like blind mice. Lucklily, we hit great crowds and great crew and great hosts and great everything. Berlin - you were as brilliant as ever expected, Nuremburg – you were an experience out of the blue, Munich – you were delicious, and playing with Bat for Lashes in Copenhagen and Poliça in the cool city of Stockholm was exciting and great and all this stuff that's a little too much even now. I thought I needed time to digest it and then it would all come out in a way that made sense but it still doesn't. Time is a different object when the van is your home for nine hours a day, and what you're doing for love and a little money is infused with having to cope with the fact that that's the very thing you should not be doing right now.
Thanks to everyone who came to and tolerated any of the shows and anyone who came and said hello. It always means the world to us. And thanks to old friends in every city who said hello, too, and thanks to all the interviewers and autograph hunters and new friends that we can't wait to see again, to sleep in your basement for free, or to ravage your incomprehensibly continental kitchen for coffee before we leave in the morning.
My hands are starting to wane.
So, three and a bit months of a frustrating arm injury that has stopped me from doing the only things I do, punctuated by massive endeavours of gigness that demand all kinds of soul-and-body-based resources. I've had to deal with it, they've had to deal with me, and now here we are many, many weeks later, back from the tour, and I'm listening to Kenneth Brannagh talk about Afghanistan and the integrity of its Northern border in the 1970s with a completely incorrectly placed new hope.
What have we learned, then, from the past few months?
A few things.
I realised that I'm glad of the break my body insisted upon me. I've kept my door closed for much of the recent past, but it's taken this spell of pain and frustration to realise that flogging myself for ten hours a day seven days week for three years or so may not have been in its entirety the best route to self-improvement and/or creative fulfillment. Sure, you have to learn, but my body has hit me back just hard as I hit it with relentless day-long practice schedules and various abuses in my bizarre and potentially pointless quest for otherness. I have a feeling my tank was empty, and, in conking out, my body told me what I needed to hear.
And the band has learned a few things too, as a collective. And I think I know how that is going to manifest itself. The studio is getting a new round of improvements. I can't imagine what for.
That's it for now. Hope it made sense – I'm out of practice.
Have fun, but take regular breaks.