“After being on the road for 86 days straight, I got home and celebrated Xmas with my family.
It felt like I blinked and next thing I knew it was Feb. 2005 and I was back at Sharkbite Studios with Mark Keaton working on the mix of the audio for the “Elegies” DVD.
In March of 2005 we played the 2nd annual Desert Rock festival in Dubai, United Emirates. Now if you remember, in 2005 the middle east was a scary fucking place place for everyone, let alone a bunch of long-haired Americans! In 2005 we were 2 years into the war and the American media had pounded relentlessly into our heads how the whole entire multi-country region was entirely made up of terrorists. It was a bit daunting, but the money was so good we said “fuck it.”
So effective was the media manipulation that Genevra and I got into huge argument over doing the show! She was convinced, 1,000% that it was a “terrorist plot to kidnap an american heavy metal band for ransom!” I was like “dude, why would they kidnap a buncha nobodies like us!?”
I left for my 3 plane, 23 hour flight to the Middle East, half-wondering if she was right.
When we finally arrived we departed the plane and were greeted by our friendly promoter Jacki. Jacki escorts us and our manager Joseph off the tarmac to an inconspicuous bus. We board the bus, get comfortable and the next thing I knew the ride started feeling really long. Right there and then there my mind starts, maybe Genevra WAS right. Maybe they are kidnapping us!
We drive for what seems like 10 more minutes and at this point I’m freaking the fuck out. It also sucks that I’m the only one on the bus who aware of this. It IS a terrorist plot, FUCK! We arrive at a completely nondescript warehouse and the whole time I’m thinking “ok, this is it… goodbye cruel world!”
We’re walked off the bus and into a building and the first thing I see is a giant Rolex clock on the wall.
We’re in the private passport control for Emirates royalty!
They take us to our private waiting area and deliver us a giant multi-level tray of delicious middle eastern deserts and pastries, dates, and nuts. They turn on the giant plasma screen TV and offer us tea or coffee while our passports get cleared.
As we get in our vehicles to leave I am expecting to see nothing but camels and mosques as far as the eye can see. I couldn’t be more wrong. We begin to drive and the first things I see are Starbucks and Round Table Pizza, then Cactus Jacks, Subway, McDonald’s, Macy’s, Nordstroms, I’m like “what the fuck?”
Along this same route we passed an area where there’s casinos and giant luxury hotels everywhere. All super impressive and from what we were told, all are all super modern. It’s Blade Runner meets Las Vegas-on-the-beach.
The Desert Rock show itself is incredible! Just staring out into a sea middle eastern metal heads, all in leather jackets, Slayer shirts, Slipknot, Morbid Angel, Metallica, Megadeth shirts. These fans just didn’t look the part, they knew all the words as they moshed and headbanged. They chanted “Machine fuckin’ Head” just like anywhere else in the world. Music and for us Metal, is time and again the universal language.
Speaking of language… the venue had a couple of strict rules like no drinking alcohol onstage and no swearing, which of course I promptly disregarded! Our manager Joseph was left to explain my blatant disregard to the armed guards who had gathered and were quite unhappy with my “immoral” stage banter. Joseph Huston was a bit, uh… miffed.
After the show we spoke with kids from all the neighboring middle east, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, I was eager to talk with them about what their world was like, was it true? Was it just over-flowing with terrorists like the news was telling me?
They asked me the same thing to me, is America all gangs and Crips and Bloods killing everyone all the time? All they see on their news about America was cities like Compton over and over again. We both agreed that there was that element, but the vast majority of our countries weren’t like that. That we were being duped.
It was an eye-opening experience. It changed my perception of the middle east and our media forever.
During the Dubai run we started noticing our tour manger acting really strange. We had a short break as we geared up for the “States Turn Blue To Gray” tour at the end of April. Upon arriving home from Dubai, I went straight into Sharkbite again, and began recording the tracks for the Roadrunner United album, and that’s when I got the news that our TM had completely fallen off the deep end.
He went on a crack cocaine binge and stole over $10,000 of our tour start up money then quickly disappeared off the face of the Earth. For months we were terrified he was dead (we genuinely cared about this dude) but eventually he re-surfaced. Though it took four years, we were eventually paid back…with interest.
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