H.E.R.R. Tour Diary

flyer triumvirat festivalA highly personal report about the experiences of various members from HERR, who travelled to Switzerland to perform at the Triumvirat Festival in Yverdon-Les-Bains (15-16 April 2006).

MS = Michiel Spape MH = Miklos Hoffer TS = Troy Southgate

[MH] Easter was scheduled to take place in Switzerland this year for HERR, as we were invited to play at the Triumvirat Festival (15-16 April). Michiel, Oskar, Reinier, Marianne and myself all went by train to Yverdon on Friday 14th. Troy was due to go by plane on Sunday. We had some equipment with us but we managed to get all our things packed. We appointed Reinier as touring operator, as he is the best when it comes to fixing schedules. The travelling was quite comfortable, but long. Three of us watched “Oldboy” on a laptop late into the night, a somewhat unnerving Japanese film. Conversations were varying from music, the state of the world to silly jokes as cans of beer were diminishing in numbers. Around three o’clock the last of us vanquished insomnia.

[MS] So far, travelling by train proved to be a great experience. Flying may be faster, but somehow it always takes up a full day in the end, waiting everywhere for no apparent reason and if you need to fly at low cost, there are always impossible times for the departures involved. Not to mention the fact that I hate flying because my ears continue to ache for two days after. None of this now, just a bit of God’s punishment for those who drink the wine that doesn’t contain Jesus’ DNA.

[MH] In the morning we could enjoy the beautiful Swiss countryside with its mountains, rivers and vegetation. The train went up and down a little, which we felt in the stomach. We arrived at Yverdon around twelve o’clock. The way to the hostel was quite easy.

[MS] Near the hostel, a wooden fortress stood tall, presumably intended for children, but no doubt they were scared off by a man who looked much like Michael Moynihan in his younger days (unless he wore a fake beard on stage two days later!). Not knowing about the beard, we found ourselves ‘ often being reviewed as copies of the band whose initials had so many fans during the highlight of 80s television – mysteriously being drawn to this palace of worms. It’s not exactly as high as the infamous walls of Constantinople, but we had some healthy exercise and Kodak moments anyway.

Herr @ the fortress.jpg

[MH] We went out to see Yverdon and drank some coffee at the city’s central square. Yverdon was small but looked quite nice, there was a castle as well. In front of the church some children and adults were singing songs of praise for an anti-drug campaign. One person asked us about the message in our music to which we responded ‘authentic life’ and ‘reviving European culture and history in general’. After that some misanthropic-looking clowns entered the scene. One of them blew his trumpet for two notes and then looked around immensely bored ‘ that was quite funny.

Herr @ Yverdon's central square

After this, most of us took a little nap and afterwards met up with the organisation quite rapidly. There was some miscommunication on the sound-check but no real problems. In the evening, Tom treated us to a very good meal. Then it was time to watch the bands: Feuerkreiner, Die Weisse Rose, Allerseelen, Knotwork (Blood Axis acoustic) and Ianva made a very good evening in which we met quite a few musicians, fans and acquaintances.

[MS] Personally, I must confess not having watched too many times, and certainly few entire sets. I’ve always preferred listening to the studio work more than live stuff and whilst some bands make a true effort of visualising their performance, I tend to get restless after a short while. Events such as this, as I understand them, are social by nature, yet often, the darkly clad amassed there seem to prefer standing there, watching emotionlessly and then clapping (or nodding in approval) after a song, like a robot programmed to act only when the audio level falls below a given threshold. But I did see some very interesting bands, of which I was most intrigued by Der Feuerkreiner, who sounded much louder (i.e. noisier) than on their records. Mostly, however, I was migrating hither and thither on and off the stairs, chatting to people like the Servian doorman whose opinions could be described as, well, typical.

[MH] On Sunday we got up a little late. It was time to get the groceries in after that. Troy couldn’t make the sound-check so the rest of us had to do that. There were some language and acoustic problems, so sadly we had to skip one of our better songs.

[TS] I left my home in South London at precisely 9am and made the short, 40-minute trip to London City Airport on the Docklands Light Railway, passing through Canary Wharf and the more run-down areas of the East End on my way. It was a blistering hot day but I was traveling very lightly indeed, unlike many of my previous trips abroad, carrying a small backpack which contained a batch of ‘military grey’ HERR T-shirts for the other members of the band. I also traveled in the black suit, shirt and tie that I was due to wear on stage at Le Citrons Masques. I’d only ever flown to Holland and Germany before, so popping down to north-west Switzerland was to be my longest trip yet, although for people who travel abroad quite often the hour and fifty-five minutes it took me probably seems like a bit of a doddle. But not for me, I only stepped onto my first plane a couple of years ago and really don’t like flying at all, a sentiment that is shared by several other members of the band. It’s not the fear of death at 20,000 feet, but the fact that one is completely powerless to have any say in the outcome. The airport was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, and thankfully had none of the misanthropy-inducing crowds that you see at Stansted. When I go to Holland, on the other hand, I usually have to wait at Stansted Airport from 11pm-7am for the early morning flight out, so arriving two hours before the flight was a comparative luxury. My distaste for flying was also tempered by the beautiful scenery as we passed over the snow-tipped mountains of the French and Swiss countryside and touched down beside the inviting waters of Lake Leman.

[MS] Not sure if this is a common phenomenon in Switzerland, but it appeared as if those Swiss of the German part of the country were able to speak German, English and French, but those of the French part only understood fluent French and nothing short of that. Our sound engineer, at least, belonged to the latter category, so we were all very thankful to Frau Nebel who translated our usual exasperation about drums coming out of the wrong monitors and that sort of thing, remarkably efficiently.

[TS] I finally stepped onto Swiss soil during the mid-afternoon and was met at Geneva Airport by Tom (one of the festival organizers) and two of his friends, one from Germany and another from Latvia. I hadn’t met Tom before, but his Soleil Noir T-shirt and the black Von Thronstahl shirts of his two female companions told me that these were probably the people I was supposed to meet! Like most of these things, it had a really trans-Continental flavour to it all and it’s always very satisfying to know that so many different European nationalities harbour a genuine love for the same kind of music. We drove by car to Yverdon, giving me a chance to look at the huge, monolithic countryside that flanked the motorway. Whilst the girls sat in the front of the car, Tom and I sat in the back and chatted about our respective countries and about the general decline of Europe in general. The journey took about thirty-five minutes all told, until we turned in along a meandering river and came to a halt right outside the venue. Something told me the other members would be sitting downstairs in the bar and there they were, with greetings exchanged all round and Reinier immediately offering me a very welcome glass of beer. Soon afterwards we were treated to a steak dinner by our hosts and Mich and myself went for a stroll around the town square, something which I hadn’t been able to do the previous day. The castle was very impressive, too, as was the generally relaxed atmosphere in the town itself. Everything is structured around the river that acts as the very life-blood of the place, and I couldn’t believe how slowly people drive in Yverdon, but as Oskar pointed out apparently they are very proud of their little town and try hard to retain its pleasant, laid-back nature. The arrival of 200 black-clad paramilitary neofolkers and industrialists, therefore, must have raised more than a few eyebrows.

[MH] Troy arrived around six so we welcomed him amidst our ranks. Tonight Visions, Les Joyaux de la Princesse + Blood Axis, ourselves and Of the Wand and the Moon were playing. When preparing for our own gig we didn’t see much of Les Joyaux, let us make up for that on the next occasion. Our show began a little chaotically due to a sound problem, but it went a lot better afterwards. It became a somewhat raw yet energetic performance. The organ on the Fall created some alien buzz but did not wreck the song. A massive roar came from the audience ‘ that really makes your day.

HERR on stage

[MS] Having a midi-keyboard hooked-up to a laptop is a tricky business, indeed, but if you then connect it to a constantly-unstable Behringer audio-interface, you are prone to disaster. I can, however, hear when it starts to break down, and am able to correct it then, but at that moment the monitors were cracking enough as it was even without the keyboard playing. If our next gig will be in a cathedral, I’d much appreciate it if I could use the real organ! As a bonus, there was the question of some requested wires not being there and a faulty wire that ran from Oskar’s mixer to the sound board, but I hope the overall sound was better than from our position behind the monitors. The audience, meanwhile, didn’t seem to mind much, anyway, as it was brilliant to hear their roars after each and every song, so thanks to you as well!

[TS] Despite the various sound problems and the fact that I was unable to hear myself singing through the monitors for most of the time, the audience did seem to enjoy themselves and we made lots of new friends. It was a pity that my daughter, Maria, was unable to join us onstage like she had done for three songs in Vlissingen (Holland), but hopefully she’ll get her chance next time we play in England or the Netherlands. Marco Deplano (Foresta Di Ferro/Ostara) seemed to think that I was wearing a Barcelona shirt during ‘Hopes Die In Winter’, for some reason, but I soon put him straight about that! I think a lot also has to be said for the excellent organisation, especially with regard to Tom; he did everything he could to make us feel as relaxed and catered for as possible and deserves some real credit for his professional attitude.

[MS] After all the bands had played and having had a few too many drinks, the power went down and instead of gasping by the sudden lack of modern comforts, Thomas from Die Weisse Rose and four of us HERRen valiantly took up their weapons of choice and did a few improvised songs (parts of ‘Innocent Hearts’, ‘A New Rome’, ‘The Fall of Constantinople’ and Miklos’ ‘Dansdictator’) with cello, melodica and two drums). Personally, I found that an amazing, if somewhat drunken, moment and had the best unvoltaged time ever.

Some pictures of the other performing bands can be found in the Gallery.

The Triumvirat festival was organised by Sonorit├ęs Obscures, SoleilNoir and Schwarze Sonne.