Box News #262 – November 28, 2017

Mick talks about pre-production for the new album, flying to Dubai, the emotional ‘Churchill’ film, running out of vino, ‘Jumeirah Creekside Hotel,’ the ‘Tumbay’ medical centre, being met with flowers, seeing the amazing state of the art medical machinery, being screamed at by the students, eating at an amazing Arabic Curry House, seeing ‘Ocean Colour Scene,’ meeting the German twins Andrea and Claudia Obergfell, being taken to the only 7star hotel in the world the ‘Burj Al Arab Jumeriah,’ opulence aplenty, food and service to die for, Camel Milk, a cake to celebrate Dubai being our 61st Country we have performed in, the concert outside in an amazing setting, hot and humid, the mistimed firework display, and a wonderful atmosphere for a rock show.

Mick also discusses, flying to Bucharesti Romania, the Hard Rock Cafe, Russ and water, the German front line, dressing room mayhem, and the noisy Tarom Airlines flight to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv Israel.

Mick also talks about, walking along the beach, inferior equipment in the venue in Haifa, a great loud audience, the ‘Havana Club’ in Tel Aviv, surprise meet and greets, a great atmosphere, and the thorough checks you have to go through to leave Israel at the Ben Guiron Airport. Arriving in London, losing Scampi’s bag, changing crew, staying in a LHR Airport hotel, driving to Wales, our Caravans, blackouts, school dinners, meeting one of our managers Ace and his assistant Sean, the Von Hertzen Brothers, a great show headlining the Hard Rock Hell Prog stage despite a few problems, the train, the drive, the cab home and Spurs losing to Arsenal.

Well after 2 weeks in the studio on pre-production for the new album which was hard work, but very worthwhile, we were all glad to be back at LHR Terminal 5 to catch a BA flight to Dubai. This was going to be a fun 2 weeks playing concerts in Dubai, Romania, Israel and Wales.

The flight was 7 hours 30 minutes long and everything was going very well until they run out of wine. To be honest I think they just shut the bar. The films to watch were pretty mediocre though they did show ‘Churchill’ which was brilliant. I had seen ‘Dunkirk’ previously in London with my wife Sheila, and this was a very emotional film that even brought a tear to my eye I have to say, and you would be hard put not to be moved by it.

On arrival in Dubai it only took 20 minutes to get through passport control and we were met by our promoters reps. We landed at 11.45pm, and the hotel was only a few minutes drive from the airport. It was a magnificent hotel with fabulous rooms and some went to the bar while others like my good-self went to bed. The time difference was 4 hours ahead of the UK.

The next morning everyone made breakfast except for Davey and I. To be honest the rest of the gang got up for breakfast as it closed late at 11am, but we were being taken to lunch at 12.45pm, so I thought I would give brekky a miss. There is only so much food you can eat and I was happy to skip that one.

The band all piled into waiting limousines waiting outside the hotel for a 45 minute drive to a medical centre called ‘Thumbay.’ We didn’t know what to expect but boy were we in for a surprise. At the door we were met by the medical staff waiting in line to present each of us a bunch of flowers.

Then we were taken through the facility which was just amazing. It was a medical university that had the latest version of everything, and it was brilliant to see it all. Apart from the major state of the art equipment, they had role play rooms for a Pharmacy and a Doctors Surgery, and along with that they had fully equipped Operating rooms complete with dummies on tables that were actually breathing, and they could operate on them and even inject them. It was a multi-cultural university with students from all over the world and a truly inspiring place.

We met the founder President and the Managing Director and I was presented with a gold ‘Thumbay` display as a thanks for our music. We then found out why we were there. The heads of the University loved our music when they were studying, and they see that music can be a good healer, and by us being at the facility it inspired the young students.

Well we discovered that very quickly, as we were invited into a lecture room where a load of students were sitting, and as we walked in they just screamed with excitement. We were directed to sit on a stage and behind us they flashed our new Heep logo, and then after a short speech they played a video of us playing. All of this was met with loud screams. Then we all had to say something into the microphone and after that we were asked to pull names out of a jar to give out free tickets for the show. Every winner had a picture taken with the one of the band who was presenting the ticket.

When we were finished we had pictures taken with all of the students and then we went for lunch. This was at a restaurant that was predominantly an Arabic curry house and the food was delicious. It never stopped coming and by the end of it we were totally full to the brim.

We went back to the hotel to relax before meeting up for dinner at 7pm. We were taken to an Italian restaurant in the hotel grounds which was lovely. As the band were still full from lunch, we just had a couple of starters while the crew tucked in. We did have some lovely wine though and that night ‘Ocean Colour Scene’ were playing, so we went to watch them. What a result. They were very good and as it was outside and still hot, they were sweating buckets. This was a sign of things to come for us the following night.

There was an Irish Bar but I could not go in as it was a smoking bar and Bernie and I didn’t like that, as we had to sing the next day. Still we walked around with Russ and had pictures taken with many people that recognised us, which was cool, then I went to my room. We lost Phil and Davey who had apparently been invited to the free bar so they stayed there drinking loads.

The next morning at breakfast we saw the German twins Andrea and Claudia Obergfell walk in to the breakfast room, so it was big hellos all round. They were on this whole tour with us which is amazing.
Shortly after breakfast we walked across to the stage to have a sound check at 11.30am, as this was in the hotel grounds. This went very well considering we were on hired equipment and then the band were taken to lunch. Well we are known to be an eating drinking band and since being in Dubai we have certainly put that to the test.

This was up another level though, as we were taken to the ‘Burj Al Arab Jumeriah’ hotel which is the only seven star hotel in the world. It was just incredible and hard to fully articulate the opulence of the hotel, but it really was amazing. In the reception area, there was a dancing water fountain and to each side of the escalators were walled aquariums. In fact they employ a team of 10 people to look after the aquariums, as they are in other parts of the hotel too. Outside even before you put foot in the hotel reception there are parked white Rolls Royce’s and white Bentley cars aplenty.

We were taken into the restaurant which had a view to die for as it overlooked the ocean where there was a boat race happening. We could see lovely Palm trees and even in the far distance you could see Iran. The food there was absolutely wonderful and so was the service. It never stopped coming and there were even three deserts. One of them was Camel’s milk, but as a band we were divided on that one whether it was nice or not. There were 160 Chefs working in the kitchens.

The promoters Ashraf and Gerard had arranged for a cake to be presented to us to celebrate the fact that Dubai would be the 61st Country the mighty Heep have performed in. This was wonderful and in keeping with the opulence we had already experienced, it was edged with real gold leaf. It was a lovely surprise and very kind of them.

After lunch, we were shown around the hotel by the hotel manager. She showed us one of the rooms, well firstly she said that the hotel does not have any rooms as all the rooms are suites. which was amazing. Views to die for, huge beds, gold trimmings everywhere and basically the best of everything. Even the weighing scales in the bathroom and the hair dryer were gold. She then took us to the bar areas, the pool areas, the viewing deck and just about everywhere which was really cool. Every door we opened or room we entered had the ‘Wow’ factor. It was great to see and she said for special guests they fly them by helicopter straight from the airport and land on the helipad on the top of the hotel and are taken direct to their suites.

Oh yes regarding the air conditioning in your suite where it is either too cold or too hot, the minute you walk in the room it adjusts to your body temperature, so no need to touch the thermostat. The whole area the hotel is on is called Palm Island and evidently from the moon the only two things you can see on earth are the Great Wall of China and Palm Island, which this hotel is built upon.

After this amazing experience, we drove in our limousines back to the hotel but we were still too full to join the crew for dinner, so we chilled until it was time to get ready for the concert.

We could walk to the stage from our hotel which was great so we met at 8.50pm in the hotel reception and then walked to our dressing room. We were all changed into our stage clothes anyway, so we just relaxed and warmed up. Then as always in these territories we had to have some pictures taken along with some backstage footage on video.

Soon we were walking to the stage outside the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, and once there you could feel the heat and the humidity. Still the adrenaline kicked in and we took to the stage with massive cheers from the audience, which sounded so good. Being outside it had a really good feel about it and the audience were well up for it. We rocked through the set list and they were with us every inch of the way. It was hot and sweaty for us and the same for the audience, but in the end the whole night had a very special feel about it and we had a great time. The twins were rocking out down the front too. There was however a mistimed firework display on the early soft parts of ‘July Morning,’ but luckily this was short lived.

After the show, the dressing room was crowded there for a while with friends, promoters, the promoters’ families, journalists and even some we did not know at all. We did not stay too long as we had an early flight the next day to Bucharest Romania. At most we would get 5-6hours sleep.

By all accounts the concert was a huge success and there was talk of bringing us back again, which we would love to do in a heartbeat.

The next morning, we left at 7.45am to fly to Romania. We checked in and everything went fine and a few of us went to Duty Free to buy some Camel’s Milk Chocolate for our loved ones at home to try. We found out that once we were on the plane it was a budget airline, and although it was a 5-hour flight you had to buy any food or drink you wanted. There was a pre-order situation but we didn’t know this, so this took us by surprise, plus there were no films to watch, so those with iPads and health bars to eat were lucky they had them.

At the baggage carousel everything turned up okay, but my case which was new and only 5 days old with one flight under its belt, had its wheel smashed off, so I had to report the damage while the others waited for me outside. Luckily, I had taken pictures of my case, which I had gotten into the habit of doing before flying, so I could produce pictures if need be to prove it was in perfect condition before flying, and this was one of those times. I still have to fly to Israel and back to London with it, so I hope it holds out.

Once the report was complete, we drove to our hotel in Bucharest. Actually, it was on the outskirts.
We checked in and had some lunch before retiring to our rooms until we met up again at 7-7.30pm in the bar for dinner. As it was a night off and we were miles from anywhere, and the hotel was full of wedding parties, we all ate at the hotel restaurant and had an early night.

At every hotel in the world we insist that the promoter puts 2 bottles of water in each room, as in some territories you cannot trust the tap water, not even to clean your teeth, but at midnight Russ got more water than he bargained for, as someone above his room had run a bath and it had overflowed and dripped through his ceiling. He rang reception and he had no choice but to move rooms. He then started the painful process of packing up his suitcase to change rooms. What a nightmare!

The next day after breakfast, we had a couple of hours to rest before going down to the ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ for our sound-check. On arrival, I was pleasantly surprised that it was a decent size venue and stage, unlike a lot of the HR Cafe’s I have been to around the world. After the sound-check we had lunch and then we drove back to the hotel.

We had some time to spare, so I sat in my room going over the songs we had written in the studio before this tour started. Then in no time at all we were driving back down to the venue for dinner and the gig. It was good to see it was a very full house and we had a great time on stage, made all the better by the audience who were really into it. The atmosphere was electric and we just fed off of that. It was a good concert and the German Twins were down the front with Sina Rückmann from Germany arriving too, making it a German front line in Romania. After the show, the very small dressing room became full to the brim with people and drinks being brought in by the staff every 5 minutes, and it was just general mayhem in the end. All good fun but mayhem just about sums it up.

The next day was a bit of a hang about day, as we did not check out until 4pm to drive to Bucharest Airport to fly on Tarom Airlines to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv Israel. I spent the day going over our songs again and making notes and at 4pm we all piled into our respective vans and drove to the airport.

The flight was approximately 3 1/2 hours long, but it was a noisy one. There were rows of blokes all around us that would not stop getting out of their seats and chatting and shouting out to their mates spread all over the plane. They were the proverbial pain in the backside, but I just put my headphones on and turned up the volume on the film I was watching and tried to avoid them.

When we landed in Tel Aviv we were met by our promoter and of course Moshe and Beni were there to greet us which was nice, like they always do!

The hotel was a 40minute drive and it was nearly midnight when we arrived and most of us went to bed, but the crew sat outside having a beer for a while.

The next day after breakfast Bernie, Russ and I went for a walk along the beach which was just across the road from the hotel which was nice. Davey was still in his room and Phil had long gone on his walkabout. We were being picked up for lunch at 1pm and then again at 4.30pm to drive the hour plus to Haifa the first gig. Well the proposed hour journey to Haifa ended up being 2 hours long, and when we arrived at the ‘Wunderbar,’ venue it was very dark inside and we could see that the gig would be a challenge, as some of the equipment especially the P/A, Monitors & Lights were old and inferior, which is an accurate description. It was definitely a night of heads down and see you at the finishing line night.

The good thing was that the audience were brilliant and they were into every single note we played and sang. That made for a great atmosphere and the smiles on their faces really made it for me. They sang so loudly on songs like ‘July Morning’ and ‘Lady in Black,’ that it was almost louder than the band.

Prior to going on stage, it was sprung on us that the promoter had sold meet and greet tickets so we were duty bound to sit outside our dressing room and sign autographs that were mostly posters of that nights’ gig.

They did look after us but the dressing room was a dark old dingy place to hang out, which reminded me of the floor of the old ‘Marquee’ venue in London. All black and sticky from beer 🙂 However everyone was happy and after the show we had pictures taken with the owner of the venue, his bar staff and other people we did not know which was all cool. We did manage to say hi to the twins quickly who braved the front row once again, before we drove back to the hotel.

I managed to get to bed at 2.30am, so going down for an early breakfast was not on the cards, but hey ho I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I went down for a coffee.

Everyone met at reception for lunch but some of the crew missed it. It was a 20-minute drive and a good lunch, which was nice and healthy, and then it was back to the hotel. Phil, Davey and I went for a walk down the beach, and it was good to get some fresh air and a little sun. The crew went down to the venue and Bernie and Russ went to their rooms.

That night we were playing the ‘Havana Club’ in Tel Aviv. It was a large venue and a good stage, so we were happy about that. We went down to the sound check and then we were told we could not make any noise for another hour, so we sat around bored for a bit. Well it wasn’t that boring as Dave and I worked a guitar part on a new song, and of course there was the usual Heep banter in full flow.

Once again, we were informed that there was a meet and greet organised, so we did this before the show began. As we walked on to the stage there was a huge roar and we could see the venue was packed. This made for a good night and the atmosphere was terrific. The audience sang very loudly at points in the show and that really spurred us on. It was a good concert to end our short stay in Israel and the fans never let us down, as they rocked big time.

After the show, we met some people and generally had a good chat with many pictures taken, before Phil, Bernie, Russ and I went back to the hotel on the first bus. Davey stayed with the crew coming home on the second bus, a lot later.

The next day, bus one made it to breakfast, and bus two didn’t. We left at 12.30pm to drive to the airport. Now leaving Israel takes forever. There are security questions, the check in desk, security for the bags, passport control and you are forever waiting in line for something. It takes an age to get through to the departure gates, and there are constant reminders over the airport tannoy that it is illegal to carry firearms. I have to say though that the airport staff which is 90% female, were very nice to deal with. A lady at the check in desk recognised us, and Davey gave her a signed autographed picture, which she loved, and she promptly gave us a piece of paper to get us all in the Airport Lounge, which was very nice of her.

At the gate, I was one of the last to board with Phil, and then panic set in, as I could not find my passport and boarding pass. I looked in my jacket pocket, my carry-on bag, and then retraced my steps to the coffee shop and duty free. It was not looking good when one of the airport ladies came over to help me and lo and behold she found it in my jacket pocket where I started, so the panic was over and we boarded the plane. My whole world collapsed there for a while, but these things do happen and they are no fun when they do.

Once we had boarded the British Airways flight to LHR we sat there for a while, as we had missed our departure slot. Not because of me I might add, as there were people boarding even after I had sat down.

When we arrived at LHR everybody’s bag arrived but Scampi’s. There was a bit of a crew split off as Scampi, Brian & Angus had work booked with other bands, so they did not come with us to the Hard Rock Hell Prog festival in Gwynedd North Wales where we were headlining the Friday night. I found out later that Scampi’s bag was still in Tel Aviv and it eventually made its way to his house in Manchester, so that was a relief.

We then drove to a Holiday Inn Airport hotel to get a few hours’ sleep before driving to Wales for the show. We were picked up John Bintliff, Scampi’s brother, so in essence we kept it in the family.

It was approximately a 6-hour drive to the venue, with a stop for lunch. When we arrived, we picked up our passes and met the stand in crew, before going to our caravans. Bernie and I were sharing and everybody was ready for a quick nap. Well I got up out of my single bed that was in fact a half size single bed for a child, because I could not sleep to have a shower. As I got up the whole caravan was thrown into darkness, as the lights had fused. This then woke Bernie up, and with the light from our respective phones we looked for the fuse box.

On finding this there was nothing tripped, so I phoned Vic who had driven our own backline to the show for us, to see if he could help. He went to the site office and someone came around and it was found that it was fused from the outside. Eventually we had the lights and heating back on, but it was a miserable hour waiting in the freezing cold and blackout.

I did have to laugh at the fact we had started this tour in Dubai with all the opulence in the world, and here Bernie and I were sitting in a dark cold caravan 2 weeks later, with no lights, and no heating, in deepest dark Wales. What a leveller that was!

After this we found out that none of the caravans had towels, soap or toilet paper, so we then had to wait for that to be delivered before we could shower. Knowing that we were coming in that day to play, I was gobsmacked that none of this was in the caravan already. It certainly did not resonate with the fact we were headlining at all. J

After a shower, we went to the catering, which was to be honest no better than my old school dinners. The choice was sausages, potatoes and Brussel Sprouts that were so stewed you would be hard put to keep your duvet on the bed at night, such was the ferocity of the wind created, if you happened to eat them. If I had indulged, for sure on the show I would have blown over my Engl stack half way through the set. The other food option was hard pasta and a chili type sauce and a basic salad.

While we were eating one of our managers Ace joined us with his assistant Sean, which was very cool and he filled us in on all things Heep for next year, which sounded all very exciting. After eating, the rest of the boys disappeared and Bernie and I did an interview. Once finished we walked back to the caravan to get ready for the show.

We were picked up and driven to the dressing room. This was a cold room with the most basic of riders, but we just had to make do. We did manage to see the Von Hertzen Brothers who were really good, but even then, I was dragged off for another interview with Bernie. We had a few minutes to warm up and then we were on stage.

It was a good size venue and I have to say it was great being on our own equipment. Russ was on his brand-new drum set and he had Richie our normal tech helping him out for this one show. This was still not without its problems, as by the 3rd number he had broken the underneath snare drum skin, so we had to stop the show for a few minutes to get it fixed. He also had immense problems with his in-ear system with things being too loud which hurt his ears. As it was a stand in crew we all had a few problems, but once we settled in, the show was most enjoyable and we had a great time. The audience were great and it was a brilliant night.

After a few drinks at the after show party we headed back to our caravans for a sleep of sorts before we left to drive to Manchester in the morning, and then get a train to Euston and a cab home. We did manage to run into Kevin and Yvonne Jones at the after show party, so I could sign their albums and Kev’s beautiful Carparelli S4 guitar. I was pleased about that, as at up to that point it was very difficult to meet up with all that was going on.

While we were traveling back in the van, I had the football scores on my iPhone and Spurs my football team had lost to North London rivals Arsenal 2-0. One goal was offside and the other was from a free kick that shouldn’t have been, but hey we could not stick one in the net and lost. It was very disappointing and perhaps we are still a work in progress and not as good as we think we are.

I was soon back home and my English Setter dog Iggy went mental when I opened the front door, and Sheila was home which was lovely, but Romeo was at a friend’s house, but he came home later. I could not believe how cold it was so the heating switch was turned to ON very quickly and we had a lovely relaxing family evening together and after all of that running about over the last 2 weeks it was just what I needed.

‘Appy days! Mick



5 Responses to “Box News #262 – November 28, 2017”

  1. David Learmonth Says:

    Quite a schedule!
    Good to know some of the Arab countries are open to western music!

  2. Glen Doucet (Canada) Says:

    Wow, you guys never cease to amaze me, Dubai, Romania, Israel, Wales, 61 countries that Heep have played in…..awesome…

  3. Glen Doucet (Canada) Says:

    We bought our tickets and will be in the audience to see the Mighty Heep in Ottawa, Canada on February 8, 2018….we can’t wait to see the band again…..should be awesome

  4. Mark Novicki Says:

    So happy to see you’re coming to the colonies in 2018! See you in Ct and Peekskill NY! ‘Appy Days!

  5. Glen Doucet (Canada) Says:

    When I found out Heep were coming to Canada and we bought our tickets for Ottawa, I watched Live in Koko and Live in Armenia just to celebrate…..both are awesome concerts….

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