So my plan to stay in the hotel didn’t last very long. Just after switching off the laptop and settling down for a night in my friend Anita dropped me a message inviting me out for drinks. Of course I agreed. Anita is Canadian and a clothes designer here in Berlin. I first met her about ten years ago in Leeds. She is a friend of some of my favourite people on the planet. Though we’ve all since drifted apart we do still keep in contact from time to time. I’d last seen Anita about three years ago when I was in Berlin for a U2 concert and we had met for a quick beer at Wild At Heart in Kreuzberg. This time we arrange to meet at a bar called Monterey on Danziger Strasse. It is great little place with plenty of atmosphere. The DJ is only playing music from vinyl records and is a great mix of alternative hits. I notice the beer selection, and right at the top of the list is one called Piñata. It is brewed at the North Brewing Company in Leeds. I explained to the barman that I’m from the same city as this beer and he enthusiastically responds with a number of questions about Leeds craft ale. He reels of an impressive list of Leeds breweries and I throw a few Bradford breweries into the mix. We agree that we are living in a golden age of booze.
Anita’s boyfriend Renee joins us and he is a lovely man. I notice Anita is wearing a 'St Paul and the Broken Bones' shirt and she tells me they went to the concert the other night. I’ve seen them twice before. Once at Glastonbury and once at the Irish Centre in Leeds. Great band. Over the course of the evening the conversation switches between crimes and fines in Berlin, to surfing, strange knee injuries, and Frida Kahlo. Anita tells me she had just visited the Frida Kahlo exhibition in London and suggested I pay a visit. I drop a quick a message to Barbara asking if she would like to go with me and she swiftly replies with a “HELL YEAH”, and we arrange to meet the following weekend.
Around midnight we called time and head off home. I'm hoping to be back in Berlin in the spring and hope we can all catch up again. It seems like my routine on this trip is to call in the Pizza store on the way home followed by the night shop for some more beer. There are worse routines I suppose. I return to my room and stand out on the balcony observing the street as I chew on the delicious pepperoni slices and wash them down with a cool bottle of Berliner.
The next morning I woke up early and went for a walk around Treptower Park, which hosts a huge Soviet War Memorial. It is remembrance weekend back home. It is not hard to forget as I notice my Internet feed is full of people arguing about poppies. I can’t help but think that some of these people don’t understand or respect the act of remembrance anymore. For me it is a private thing. My grand father did fight in the war. I never knew him as he died when I was young. My Aunties like to tell me that I look like him. At home I have a working German Tank Periscope that he brought back with him from the war. In those days if a tank was captured they army would try take the optics in an attempt to decommission the tank. A friend once said “Don’t you find it a little macabre that someone would have been looking through this thing to kill people with?” I replied with “Its in the hands of the good guys now … besides it might come in handy should the bad guys ever show up again”. For me remembrance is daily. We can’t allow anything like that to happen again. It started with politicians, with lies and propaganda. It started with people just routinely doing their jobs and blindly following orders. It started with division. Look how it ended.
Treptower Park is beautiful, especially in the autumn. The leaves are golden and the air is fresh. I spend a couple of hours taking photographs before walking back along the river to my hotel where I do finally manage to have a lazy evening watching my football team Leeds United. A devastating 4-1 defeat. I walk to the night shop and stock up on some beers to drown my sorrows. I spend the rest of the evening listening to music. I went through Brian Eno, Barbarella’s Bang Bang, and Lykke Li before finally settling on listening to recordings of The Yalla Yallas latest sessions.
The first few sessions have been a lot of enjoyable hard work. Everyone has been on the ball. Grant played some wonderful drums on the first day. You don’t always notice how good he is at drumming, very solid with a nice groove. Vince also turned up after visiting Chernobyl. We teased him with some jokes like ‘Have you been away? You’ve got a nice glow about you”. Lewis was in the drum seat for the second session. He delivered an incredible drumming performance and is such a great guy to be in the studio with. Grant and Lewis’ humour bounces between each other in a manner that would leave most comedy duo’s trailing in the dust. Mel and Dave also appeared and give us some much-needed energy. Dave with stories aplenty. Mel bringing the sushi. The next two sessions were drum edits and Vince laying down his bass lines. Vince is a reserved fellow and goes about his session with a solid professionalism. No fucking about.
In the final two sessions before I left for Berlin. Will and myself were laying down our guitars. That was an intense session. We worked super hard. Especially on the Tuesday as there was no Grant so I had the role of producer for the day. Everything was all set up the previous evening and all I had to do was press record for Will. We didn’t stop … a full ten-hour session. No lunch breaks. No phone calls. During the recording of my guitar tracks Will turns to me and says “Rob, I know it was disappointing for you with what happened in Blackpool but I’m really glad we got to keep the album” “Me too Will, Me too” I replied with a huge grin on my face. There’s still no sign of Joel but we’ve booked him in for early January. We’ve also spoken to Sammy from King Zepha about some Saxophones and he’s agreed to help us out. Barbara and Lewis have both signed up to do backing vocals alongside Sammy in January. It is shaping up to be a really great album. My favourite songs so far are ‘Walking in the Rain’, ‘Into the Future’, and ‘Blackpool’.
The next sessions will take place in December and will most likely be some mixing of the instruments we’ve recorded so far, plus more lead guitar and then my vocals. The album is already starting to sound dynamite.