I was sitting here on Thursday evening, a bit bored and suddenly remembered that I had the W.A.S.P-tourlist somewhere. I took a quick glance at it and saw that W.A.S.P were playing the next day - Friday May 28th. Perfect! "Now, where the hell is Karlstad..."
I looked it up on a map and realized it wasn't that far away - in fact, it was just on the way up to Bianca, a friend of mine. About 5 hours to Skövde and then maybe another 2 hours or so. Totally O.K, so I called her up, asked her if she was up to it and the next day I was on my way! :-) Picked up Bianca on the way, and 2 hours later we were in Karlstad.
I don't know HOW we could have been so lucky, cause we drove for a little while trying to find the venue, but couldn't find it. Half way through town we saw a hotel.
- Look, Plaza Hotel! Let's ask them for directions!
Bianca went inside and came out laughing.
- It's just around the corner! she said and pointed straight at one of the W.A.S.P-trucks!
(We forgot this was a small town..!) We parked the car and went to the Transam Trucking Limited-trucks (Whitesnake used the same trucks, I got so nostalgic just thinking about it..!). It took about 5 minutes, and then one of the guys from the opening act Get Animal walked by, looking very tired.
[Picture: K.K (Get Animal)]
- Hey! Are you here..? How's it going..? and rubbed his eyes (he looked like he could really use some sleep..!). He had to get some rest and went to the van after our short chat.
The singer Pink (!) and the bassplayer K.K were in a phonebooth right across the street, and that's where at least Pink would stay most of the day! :-D Every time we looked in that direction, he was there talking to somebody! He must have spent a fortune on phone-cards..! K.K (which doesn't stand for anything in particular, I was told) came walking and looked a little surprised to see a familiar face in there in Karlstad! We talked a little and he put us on the guestlist.
- We bring in more people than we're allowed to every night...! he sighed.
- How many people do you KNOW here in Sweden..?
- Are you kidding?! We get to know new people all the time. Look!
He stuck his hand in his pocket and picked up a creased piece of paper - the guestlist. There were already 8 names on it and they had only been in Karlstad a few hours!
- Pink meets new people all the time! Here, that's the guy from the record-store... And that's the waitress..!! he smiled.
I think we got the picture! He gave me the paper and told me to write down my name, which I did, and then he went inside.
- You guys are gonna stick around for a little while, right..? I'll be seeing you later then.
That was really nice of him. The venue was small, so it could sell out quickly, you never know for sure. Bianca and I took a little walk in "downtown Karlstad", to find something to eat and an ATM. It took about 10 minutes back and forth, that's the size of the town we're talking about...! I saw W.A.S.P's tourmanager walk pass me a few times and he seemed to recognize me. Actually, he reminds us a little of Sean Connery, he has the same style! The "new" guys in W.A.S.P (the fellows who weren't there on the first albums are "new" as far as I'm concerned...!) were out for a walk, but I didn't bother them. I don't know much about them, anyway. I know that they seemed very nice, cause they smiled and nodded every time they passed me in Copenhagen! :-)
Pink got out of the phonebooth just as we passed him, so we talked to him a little - he's totally hyper! It's like he doesn't even know the meaning of the word RELAX! :-)
A few minutes later we saw the tournamager (Johnny) talking to the drummer, and I went over there to ask if he could give Blackie a short letter that I brought with me. But he thought I was after mr drummer and stepped aside with the words:
- I THINK she wants to talk to you!
- Actually no, I don't, I said but then realized what that sounded like, and added a "no offense..." (oops...)
He was cool about it, no problem.
- Could you give this letter to Blackie..?
- I certainly can, ma'm! he said and bowed with a smile. He's fun, a really nice man!
Bianca and I went back and forth for about 30 minutes, talked to the crew, and I must say that I have never met such nice people as W.A.S.P.'s entire staff - from the tourmanager to the t-shirt guy! I think we talked to every single one of them except for maybe one or two, and I liked all of them, very easy going fellows! Most of them had worked with other successful bands before.
The clock was ticking and I was still holding my W.A.S.P vinyl-LP in my hand. That was my first W.A.S.P-record, so it would be so great to have it signed. Suddenly Bianca started waving discreetly and rolling with her eyes just as discreetly and I was wondering what she wanted.
- Look to your right!! she whispered.
There was Blackie! He had huge sunglasses on and tried to hide his face in a jacket. It was very obvious that he was in no mood to talk to anybody... I think people picked up the vibes, cause although he passed a bunch of fans, nobody even tried to stop him.
He went inside (to Jäger, the place where they'd be playing later that evening). The tourmanager explained that they were already running late and that they had no time for autographs right now.
Fair enough, I wasn't THAT eager, I already have a few Blackie-autographs, it's just that it would be nice to have one on the LP. I could wait.
A few minutes later, Chris came walking down the street with the tourmanager (the tourmanager kept running back and forth like a yo-yo all day!) and looked a bit tired. They had been trying to wake him up by knocking at his door, but he slept so heavy that he hadn't even heard it! In other words - he was late for soundcheck...:-) No autographs there either... Well, what the heck! We decided to just sit there (there was an outdoor cafe just outside the venue) and have something to drink.
We spoke to the t-shirt guy a bit. He was Scottish and was a friend of Gun (anybody remember that band?!). He was talking about his job, about Blackie and about former jobs. He didn't even like heavy metal, he just ended up getting jobs like that!
Anyway, he went back inside to prepare for the t-shirt sales and we sat down at the nearest table where we could see who was going in and out. I ordered a glass of red wine and a glass of water, and when the waitor came back I thought he was joking! The glass was HUGE! Well, it's not like I haven't drunk before, so... :-) Suddenly Chris showed up in the door. He looked straight at me and just walked over, pulled out the chair next to me and started talking just as if we had known eachother forever!
No introductions, no questions, no nothing - to him that was perfectly normal! He was pissed off because of something that had happened at the soundcheck and just blurted it all out. The production-manager came out to get him and asked if he could talk about that "somewhere else", so I guess we weren't supposed to hear the "story". Which is why I'm not mentioning it here either! :-)
Anyway, he started talking and it didn't take me long to realize that Chris Holmes was totally genuine, down to earth, "what you see if what you get"-kind of guy. I wish I could describe him in words, but it's difficult. It was like he was totally unaware of the fact that he is a big hero to many people and that he's a member of one of the greatest heavy metal bands there ever was. And even if he WAS aware of it, he couldn't care less!
- I'm not a musician, I'm an entertainer. There's a BIG difference! he said.
- Musicians complain about everything. I just go up on stage because I enjoy it!
Bianca asked him what kind of music he liked or what bands he listened to personally.
- I don't listen to music... Well, imagine you were a secretary - you probably wouldn't go home and start typing something in your free time, would you? he explained.
But I said that there must have been a time when he DID listen to music, because somebody must have inspired him to pick up the guitar! He thought about it for a second and said:
- Jimi Hendrix... He could play, you know, he played with feeling! There aren't any guitarists like him around anymore, he sighed.
The interesting thing about Chris is also that he doesn't seem to think that artists or fans are any different from eachother, because whatever he would say to somebody in the band or in the crew, he could said to us too. The production-manager was a bit more nervous about what Chris was talking about in our presence, cause when Chris started yelling about the incident that had occured at the soundcheck, he just went:
- Chris... Can you talk about this somewhere else..?!
But the minute he left, mr Holmes was talking straight from his heart again! :-D Some of the things he told us were pretty shocking, and I couldn't believe that he was actually telling us about it.
I'm not sure how much of all that is already known to the public, but until I find out I'm not going to put it here on the web. What was said was said off the record, and I'm not going to be an a**hole and make a big sensation of it if it's supposed to be private. We talked about Lita Ford (his ex-wife), about his life, his life after he left W.A.S.P up until now and his current situation. It was like he was willing to talk about anything and not hide a single detail, and that is so unusual - musicians simply aren't like that...
All artists alter the truth a little when they're talking to fans or reporters to sort of distance themselves a little. That distance is what makes an artist interesting - sometimes. Just look at Prince, his secretive image makes people curious. But listening to Chris' life-story makes you want to know more, cause you just can't believe your ears..! If it had been anybody else I would have said that he was joking or exaggerating, but not this time. If he is a liar, he's a damn good one, but I don't think for a second that he's that kind of person.
I don't know, I've heard all sorts of things about Chris, but I can't help it - I really liked him, he lives right here, in the real world! He isn't any "better" from the rest of us, which is probably why it was so natural for him to come over to our table and just chat a bit.
- I wanted to go on this tour because it might be the last chance I'll ever have to travel, he said.
When he's not Chris Holmes from W.A.S.P he's just Christopher from California... He showed me his ID and said he was too embarrassed to say how old he was! I don't even think he is old. Maybe it's because I'm getting old..! :-)
Fans came and went while we were sitting there, all of them wanted to talk to him, and he didn't get sick of them for a second (some of them really went on MY nerves..!). But there was one fan I remember more than the others. It was a quite "big" girl who passed our table and saw my W.A.S.P-album. She leaned over the table, quickly pointed at the record and said:
- That is my favorite album! and smiled. She was a bit shy and a huge W.A.S.P-fan (she bought 3 t-shirts!)
- Why don't you say hello to Chris?! said the guy who had joined us at our table a few minutes earlier.
She didn't understand what he meant. She hadn't seen Chris... The guy pointed at Chris and said:
- That is Chris Holmes! Aren't you gonna say hello to him?!
She turned her face towards Chris and looked at him. First she didn't seem to register who she was actually looking at, but the second she DID, we all saw it! She looked shocked and just let out a scream.
- Aaaaaaaaeeee!!!! It's Chris Holmes!! Oh my god!! Oh my g-o-d!! and looked at him as if she couldn't believe her eyes! Chris looked at me with a puzzled face, like "what's going on?" cause the conversation up until then had been in Swedish.
- I think she really likes you! I said with a laugh, and he smiled at the girl, who was still in a state of shock.
- I can't believe I'm standing this close to him! I can even touch him! she said and I thought she was going to start crying, cause she looked so amazed and her voice had went up a few octaves! :-) Chris just smiled and seemed to enjoy the attention! Even I thought it was entertaining, fans like that are rare nowadays!
The girl got her autograph and couldn't stop staring at Chris. She left after a few minutes, I guess she needed to calm down a bit. I looked at Chris' tattoos and asked him how many hours he had spent decorating himself like that.
- These are done by friends who want to become tattoo-artists. So what do you do when you want to become a tattoo-artist? Yeah! You gotta practice on somebody..! I mean, what the hell is THIS?! he asked and pointed at something that looked like a piece of wood on his upper right arm, and right above that was a rose.
- These will be with me till I die, they'll be there when I rot... he said with a low voice, whatever that was supposed to mean... He barely knew what was tattooed on his body, didn't seem to care much either.
I asked him what he would like to do with his life, cause this thing with W.A.S.P might not last forever.
- You mean what would I like to do to make money or just what I would like to do..? he asked.
- What would you like to DO, what would you enjoy doing?!
He thought about it for a little while and went:
- I would like to race cars!
- Well, you can make money out of that! I said.
- Not the way I would drive them, hahaha! he laughed
The other stuff that was said during these hours before the show are things that I think were meant to be kept between us, so this is as much as I can and will tell you about our conversation, but all I can say is that Chris left a very deep impression on me. He's a remarkable man, far from the "perfect" guy (who IS perfect anyway?!), and he probably is a "Mean man", but I saw something else too that is difficult to explain.
I saw him as a human being more than a musician. I mean, I've been meeting musicians for what, 15 years now, and I always saw them as musicians, well, artists first and foremost. That's what most of them want people to do - see them as artists, because they don't let people get too close to them, they want the distance. Chris was different, and although some guys from the crew referred to him as "the giant baby" with big smiles on their faces, they love him. Maybe not when he wakes everybody up in the morning because HE can't sleep... We heard about that too! :-D
He spent his whole afternoon talking to us and other fans, and signed autographs, and didn't run off to hide in his hotel-room, which is what one would expect from most "rock-stars".
I don't know if something had happened to Blackie that partícular day, cause he really didn't want people to see him or approach him (it was very obvious). I've always admired Blackie for his brains and his musical talent, but I'm not sure about his behaviour that day... On the other hand, people are different. Chris is a social kind of guy, Blackie is more reserved and I guess I can't blame him for that. Things are not always what they seem, so who am I to judge anybody...
More about our day in Karlstad and some live-pics soon (this takes time...!)
PART 2 OF THIS STORY! (more pix...)
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