Episode 7. The Black Velvets, Fuji Rock 2005, pre-show day
Hailing from Liverpool and named after a very strong beer cocktail made from Guinness and white sparkling wine or champagne , The Black Velvets were gaining popularity very quickly in the UK with their Glam/Punk/Rock and Roll style of music and had already been signed to Sanctuary Music – Iron Maiden’s management company – who in turn got them a deal with Vertigo Records. They toured with The Who and Motley Crue and were chastised by Pete Townsend for being too drunk during the tour but of course made great friends with the boys from Motley Crue for exactly the same reasonThe quartet, consisting of Paul Carden on vocals, Nick Kilroe on drums, Dave Dutton on bass guitar and Robbie Ross guitar were, needless to say, particularly fond of everything that contained alcohol.
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Fuji Rock 05, The Black Velvets put on a superb show but written here is the story of the day they arrived in Japan.
I presumed they’d be tired and need some sleep after the flight as they had a busy schedule in the next few days so my plan was to meet them at the Excel Hotel in Shibuya on the Thursday before Fuji Rock to get to know them over for a beer and lunch and sort out any technical questions they had. We were due to travel up to the gig on Friday, stay overnight, play the gig Saturday lunchtime, do press and media in the afternoon and head back to the Excel sometime in the evening after the gig. Sunday was more press and media and Monday was a showcase gig in Tokyo with the Kaiser Chiefs for the Japanese music industry. I knew they were due to arrive around midday at the hotel and made my way there in plenty of time. At the reception, I discovered that a room had been booked in my name and collected the key even though I wasn’t planning on using it because it was too late to cancel the room and someone may need it later if, for example, one of the members found some female companionship. The band arrived shortly before 1am looking rather weary, explaining that it was a very long flight and had drunk rather a lot on the plane – four airplane mini-size bottles of wine, a few beers and some whiskeys to be precise (that’s each member, not between the four of them). ‘Well’ said I, ‘Check-in, drop your bags and I’ll take you for lunch. After that you can sleep all afternoon.’ This seemed agreeable to all and after a quick wash, we all set off for The Dubliners Irish pub just up the road.
Once there, they seemed to liven up a bit. We all ate a hearty meal, and got to know each other and sank a few beers. Around 5pm, I made sure they knew how to get back to the hotel as I was off to see the Kashima Antlers play Manchester United in the GTF Cup. They promised me they’d be finishing their drinks and heading back within half an hour so I said goodbye and left. After the game, (it finished Antlers 2 Man Utd 1 in case you are interested), I had to change trains at Shibuya and it was only 9:30pm so decided to stop off at The Dubliners for a Guinness before heading home. As I entered, I was somewhat surprised to find the band still there and now doing shots at the bar. The lady serving drinks looked at me with relief as if I were the person who was going to save her from this mad group of musicians and told me they had been there all evening and had drunk their way through every cocktail on the menu. I managed to persuade them to go back to the hotel after one more round of drinks that I would buy them and sure enough, we all tumbled down the road to the hotel around 10:30pm; I left them in the lobby collecting their room keys and caught the train back to my home in Musashi Kosugi.
Left to Right: Dave Dutton, Robbie Ross, Nick Kilroe and Paul Carden. Nick is currently the drummer in Echo and the Bunnymen.
I was asleep when the phone rang at 11:40pm. A Liverpool accent on the other end of the line said ‘Eh Glenn! We’re in a bar in Shibuya and we’ve bought drinks and we’ve got no money. They want to call the police – what should we do?’ I told them to stay there and hand the phone to the bar staff; I asked for the location and name of the bar and told the panicking owner said I’d be there as soon as I could. I dressed quickly, grabbed my wallet and the hotel room key and just had time to catch the last train back to Shibuya station. There I asked the policeman at the Koban where the bar was and set off to find it and I was now in a grumpy mood knowing that I was going to be spending the night in Shibuya as the last train had departed. Still, at least I had a hotel room. I found the bar tucked up around the back of the Love Hotels, went in, ignored the band went to the counter, told them who I was and paid the bill. I bought myself a beer and went and sat down with them who thanked me and apologized, explaining that they were so happy to be in Japan and got carried away with the all the excitement, etc. ‘That’s ok’ I said, ‘these things happen’ and then Nick and Paul started to argue about something. It turned into a fight; Paul hit Nick who hit Paul back. Paul tipped up the table, Nick stormed out of the club in anger and whilst Robbie and Dave tried to restrain Paul, shouted at me to go and find Nick. First I apologized to the bar staff and said I’d be back to sort any damage out and then ran outside to see where Nick was. I found him sitting on a step in a backstreet, crying. We walked around for ten minutes, arm in arm, me saying that it had been a very long day and that we should all get some sleep while he raged about how he was going to kill the singer. I asked him not to do it before the show.
Paul used to get nervous and put so much effort into his performance that we had to have a bucket on the side of the stage for him to vomit into.
Back at the bar, Nick and Paul quickly made up, hugged each other and Dave bought a round of drinks. As he sat down with them, I looked at him a bit puzzled. ‘I thought you didn’t have any money?’ said I. ‘Oh I found some in my other pocket’ said Dave rather cheerily, not realizing what the depth of my question actually meant. I asked them what they had been doing for the last few hours and they said that they had been chatting to the local girls in the area and been for a massage. I knew what they meant but they insisted on going into details anyway. Once the drinks were downed, their cash really had run out and we all went back to the hotel. This time I saw them into their rooms myself just to make sure they had gone in. I then went to my own room and fell straight to sleep: it was just gone 3am.
I awoke with a strange sensation in my legs. I could see through a gap in the curtains that it was dawn and the clock said 5:14am. I was lying on my left side and as I tried to roll over, my legs wouldn’t turn. With a bit of effort, they started to move and after a minute or so, I managed to turn so that I was lying on my back looking at the ceiling. As my eyes adjusted to the small amount of light filtering into the room, I started to make out a shape at the bottom of my bed. Actually, it was on the bed… a chair on my bed which was trapping my legs - and someone was sitting on it! I sat up in shock just as the light came on to see Paul, sitting in a wheelchair on my bed with a pint of Guinness in his hand while the other guys grinned manically behind him. Paul just smiled and said ‘Sorry about tonight – have a drink?’ and proffered the Guinness. It was just then that I noticed he was naked. “FUCK OFF” I yelled at the top of my voice which only made the band howl with laughter. As I sat there aghast, they lifted Paul, still holding the Guinness and the chair down and casually wheeled him out of the room, turning out the light as they did, bidding me goodnight. I buried my head in the pillow as the giggles faded down the corridor.
I caught the next train home, showered and went back to the hotel at midday. I mulled the fact that I had only known them 24 hours and there had already been fights, prostitutes, near brushes with the police and hotel pranks. Robbie entered the lobby with a chipper smile and was immediately accosted by three female fans. He signed autographs, offered them a swig of his half finished bottle of Jack Daniels which they politely declined and then sauntered over to me and gave me cheeky grin. I took the Jack Daniels and had a large swig; if you can’t beat them, join them.
I’m a big fan of the film Natural Born Killers and the star of that film Juliette Lewis was in the dressing room next to ours so I asked her to autograph my program.