“Can you write about this for your tumblr? You need to write about Warsaw.” A tender gentleman held my hand and expressed this wish after our show in Palaty Kultura. There is, of course, always a risk to being an open book: You risk exposing yourself in ways that are not always most flatteringly. But truth be told I’d rather all my flaws be exposed than be unknowable. I feel lucky in my line of work to meet excellent people nearly daily and I like that some of them know a thing or two about me from the writings that I do for this tour journal. Of course much of it is poorly written and perhaps frequently even boring but the consequence of these dispatches is that I have become approachable in a whole new way. People will more immediately engage me in political debates or challenge my theories and dissatisfactions with the world. They will also advise me on things to do and things to eat and bands to hear and the secret spots hidden in every good city. It’s become an increasingly worthwhile exchange. So when I am asked to write about Warsaw – as if I wouldn’t – I have many things to tell you and not simply because you asked for it but mostly because it was tremendous. For the second time within twelve months we had the opportunity to play in Stalin’s middle finger. For architecture lovers, you will now this building as the city’s grandest and most debated feature of the skyline. For us, it is a perfect venue. A symbol of oppression taken over by the people it used to make feel small. And now it feels huge for all the right reasons. I will also reintroduce you to Emi – the promoter with the perfect smirk and world’s best hugs. She is scrappy and tender. She will elbow your ribs when complimenting you. (“Seriously, Handsome Furs are really big in Poland right now,” she says with a wink but then follows with, “But I mean it… actually.”) And she will also take all your terrible rotten laundry and clean it while you soundcheck and eat dinner, even though she is busy with both promoting the show and working as a lawyer. Needless to say, she is one of my all time favourite people on this earth. Her face alone makes me feel calm and safe and happy and excited all at once. When KFS take stage, I realize how many people have arrived and I feel nervous. (All evening I’d been nervous that they weren’t coming but suddenly the place is packed.) Both Chairman Cyprian and new hire Lodz promoter Blazej have taken trains from their respective homes in order to attend. Having the night off – after two immensely successful shows of theirs in Krakow and Lodz – they become the Front Row Heroes of their company namesake. They are moshing by the second song. The best way that I can sum up just how wonderful the crowd was for this show is in this way: when Dan jumped to the floor during What About Us? to sing directly into their faces and link arms with them and jump around chaotically, he was lifted into the air for his longest crowd surfing of our career. The people would not return him in time for his synth line finale. He stayed mid-air, mid-song, screaming his heart’s content, contentedly. It was a unique thing. A crazy rare lawless and chaotic moment. To be literally taken in arms by the people certainly makes you feel like you are serving them right. So, my dearest Warsaw, I would have written about you with a warm heart and beaming smile whether you’d asked me to or not. But I’m glad you did. It makes me know I’m yours. In a very real way that makes me feel honest and open and happy to be in this world together with you.
“That’s not the way things are done here in Copenhagen.”
Frequently Danes compare themselves to Swedes, as we all tend to define ourselves by the differences from our nearest neighbours, and frequently Danes find themselves a little looser than Swedes. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that Swedes are their stiffer brothers, more strict and more dominated by rules and more conservative in their demeanors and personalities. However, I find this to be least truthful in the “Free State of Chrisitania” which presents itself as a lawless community within Copenhagen’s city limits. It’s the sort of place I want to like – ideals of anarchy, protection of the rights of artists and outsiders – but what it has become instead is a community invested only in the right to smoke weed. And unfortunately they have lost their drugs to seedier dealers over the years. Believe me when I say, I’m all for people’s choice and rights when it comes to drugs of any kind – I’d like things to be made more safely available for all – but I think when this becomes the only ambition of a populace, a lot of other important rights get lost along the way. I will scan briefly the rights we lost in order to play at Loppen: the right to nice lodgings (we were in fact downgraded to a shittier hotel without warning immediately after arriving from our ridiculously early morning flight), the right to a balanced meal, the right to be helped with loading our gear, the right to drink alcohol, the right to even passable sound, the right to amicable hospitality from the venue staff even though we’d all mutually agreed to these simple egalitarian terms. We did our best to make things work, of course, but it wasn’t an easy time. When the manager of Loppen told the kindly and well-meaning promoter that we were not allowed to have our backstage rider, Dan and I were forced to have a little chat with the man. “We don’t allow bands to drink liquor before 10 pm,” he shrugged. In our defense, Dan exclaimed, “I’m a thirty-three year old man and I’ve been on tour for many many months and you agreed to our contract. What’s the problem exactly?” He shrugged again and said, “We’ve had a problem with bands getting too drunk to play.” I stepped up a little and said, “We don’t have that problem.” Again, a shrug, “That’s not the way things are done here in Copenhagen.” I hate meaningless rules so I said, “I’d rather you not act like my mother, I guess. If one wanted to, one could get themselves drunk in a matter of minutes. This 10 pm deadline you have set is a strange and arbitrary thing that doesn’t feel very fair. Plus, I’d like a glass of wine with my “meal.”” And eventually he relented but it took a lot of unnecessary teeth pulling. I love Denmark and we’ve had many excellent shows in the nation but I struggle with the nonsensical regulations of Christiania. None of it felt very good despite the show itself. It felt like there were stipulations and guidelines to everything we wanted to do – decreed by some unknown entity with no built in protocol for dialogue and recourse. It felt a little like everyone had given up. But we didn’t. Despite being under-attended and certainly the worst sound of the tour (due to one long-haired stoned out grey cloud of a man – indifferent and dreary and most likely deaf), we rocked out to Battle Cat very happily. And when we finally played, I thought “This is the way things should be done in Copenhagen” because the crowd was lovely and determined to have a good time. And, in the end, it felt like we were all on equal footing with them sharing big dreams despite the failed conditions of our given locale.
In Stockholm we introduced the Swedish police to the English expression Shit or get off the pot. At first we were confused by their random harassment but, in time, we managed to turn the tables and confuse them, feeling redeemed and triumphant, with our witty anecdotes. Here’s what happened exatly: We played a ballsy set at the city’s schwankest Scandic Malmen hotel lobby venue where the finest citizens of Stockholm (and they are some of the finest on earth of course) let loose their shiny hair and tapped their fancy shoes and, generally, banded about the low stage and took to shebanging and shindigging and bashing around. During the show Dan realized that his microphone was actually long enough to lead him wholly outside the venue. Covered in sweat and still singing his heart out he met with a perplexed bouncer in the frosty night air who tried to close the door on him before realizing that Dan was in fact the “star of the show” he was trying to protect! We continued to rile the crowd by describing our exhausting and troublesome experiences from the night prior in Copenhagen’s entitled weed city of Chrisitiania. Dan refers to them as “Fucking Hippies” and I concur that it’s “Nice to be back in civilization where there are actually less rules than in their anarchic squat quarters” and the crowd, mostly, yelps with agreement…except for a few stoners most likely. The show is truly a success. And we are happiest that our friends Carl and Axel and Patrik and Kalle and Aki and Stefan are there for it. So we were in high spirits when we left the bar and went back stage to do some press with our dear friend Victor Moreno from Madrid. We were just finishing off a lengthy chat and photo shoot when three of the most uncool-looking plain-clothed officers busted in on us. (My immediate thought was that if these are actually undercover cops they need to learn to dress better to bust up the folks in the finely dressed Stockholm hot spots!) In truth, we didn’t believe they were even police agents at first. When the first meathead cornered Dan and asked him if he’d been drinking, Dan said, “Who are you?” and then asked to see his badge. Still unconvinced and feeling like he might be getting shaken down from some scary fake cops whose intentions might be more duplicitous than the real ones, he raised himself up a bit and said, “Of course, I’ve been drinking. The venue gave me drink tickets.” (Truth be told, we didn’t even have booze any where near us because we were doing an interview in our backstage! They’d really chosen the wrong people to bully) And then when the second cop asked Dan if he’d ever done drugs before, Dan laughed and said, “Well yes of course. Who hasn’t done drugs in the history of their lives?” I laughed and said, “But sir I regretted it immediately.” And poor Victor tried to protest, “Do you guys realize that these are the people who just got off stage? You have this all wrong my friends.” His dulcet Spanish tones should have softened the mood some but they didn’t. As they continued to try to berate us, I ran up to the hotel lobby and told the reception what was happening and then proceeded to round up the head of security. I returned to the “scene of the crime”, where no crimes of any kind were being committed, just in time to hear Dan saying, “Have you heard of the expression Shit or get off the pot?” Cop number three shrugged and Cop number one said, “No.” So Dan explained, “The concept is this: if you aren’t going to make me pee in a cup or strip search me or arrest me, I’d like to go have a cigarette because this is just irritating and a waste of my time.” I took Dan’s hand and said, “Yes, baby, I feel like I’m being harassed and I’ve filed a complaint with the hotel staff.” With perfect timing the largest bouncers and hotel manager descended the flight of stairs and asked to have a word with the now lowly, poorly dressed idiotic undercover cops with nothing to do on a Wednesday night but try to “stir the pot” that we were apparently sitting on. And then it ended as swiftly as it had begun. And then we proceeded to actually get just a little bit drunk.
As you know we have been shortlisted for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize. Starting today our nominated record, Sound Kapital, will be live streaming courtesy of Rdio. The stream will be live for 24 hours starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, September 13. Also if you're feeling inspired, tweet your review of this album — in haiku form — with the hashtag #haikureview for your chance to win a free vinyl copy of Sound Kapital.
You are something magical.
It came as welcome and heartwarming news for us to make the Polaris shortlist for Sound Kapital. We are beyond honoured by this. And we are proud and deeply touched. Nothing could mean more to us. I very truly cried when I heard this news. For all of those who supported us and voted for us, we thank you deeply.
from Handsome Furs
Of course everything is bittersweet these days but I thank Polaris for the nod in nominating us for their prize.
All forms of love and support is truly meaningful currently. So thank you fans and judges. I mean it: it means a lot.
I cannot begin to give words or reason or clarity to this very personal and private situation which has been made public. Instead I can only express the immensity of my gratitude for the love and support and curiosity and collaboration and fortitude of spirit that you shared with us and helped us be committed to. My world is forever larger and grander and wholly changed because of the experiences created by and given to the Handsome Furs. I trust that those amongst you who loved us, I'm sure, were able to see the largeness of my heart in this. Trust that it will continue on. And that I will always be deeply thankful. I will honour every precious memory of what we had together. Thank you, truly and widely, from the very reaches of my heart.
With a heavy heart the time has come to let all of you know that Handsome Furs are no more.
The most important thing that needs to be said right now is how extremely grateful we are to all the fans all over the world that showered us with love and support over the years. Thank you for everything! It's been an incredible 6 years and we owe it all to you.
Created by our friend Brandon Jourdan, Global Uprisings is an independent news site and video series dedicated to showing responses to the economic crisis from around the world. Here’s their latest video:
Jerusalem in my Heart is a visual instillation and electronic performance created by musical frontman Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and filmmaker Malena Szlam. If you’re in Montreal, Jerusalem in My Heart will be performed on March 2nd and 3rd at the Mai Gallery. Check out a clip of the performance below from Montreal’s Festival de Nouveau Cinema.