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05 June 2003
Taken From: Burrn Magazine (Apr 97) #3

I?ve been extremely lucky because my music has taken me to all corners of the world many times over. I?ve made friends and fans from people of every different culture. I?ve come a LONG way from the small town near Washington D.C. where I grew up. Being in an international rock band can put you into many strange situations that don?t happen to most people and it can take years to figure out how to deal with these things diplomatically. When one travels a lot, you must remember that YOU are now the foreigner and that you must understand that people in other countries do things different from you and that you must respect the ?hosts? of the countries that you are a guest in.

Having said all that, I?d like to take this opportunity to complain about an all-too-typical ?day-off? I just had in Europe. My complaints are not really very serious, but will maybe give you an idea of the little things that make touring hard sometimes. Right now I?m on a guitar clinic/seminar tour of Europe. It is a tough schedule, almost 3 weeks of being in a different city every night with only 2 days off all together. Alot of travel and alot of work.

The staff of my amplifier company which is sponsoring this tour has done an excellent job of coordinating everything every day until now so on the day off I wanted to do something by myself and let the staff rest and have a day off too. So finally the day off comes. I am not in a big city like London or Paris or Stockholm but a tiny town in the middle of nowhere (CHO-inaka!). I go to the hotel restaurant for lunch. It?s 2PM and I?m extremely hungry. The place is very crowded and there is nobody to show me to my table. After 10 minutes a hurried waiter gets me a table with two screaming kids on one side and a family with a dog (!) on the other side. A DOG in a restaurant. The thought of animals and their bugs and germs near my food makes me lose my appetite, but I?m so hungry that I try to put it out of my mind. The waiter takes my drink order and runs away before I can get to ordering any food. About 20 minutes later he comes back with a warm Coke with no ice.

The kids at the next table will not shut up. The menu has no English, it?s only written in German. My German is not nearly as good as my Japanese, but I can figure it out. Sort of. I realize that nothing looks good on the menu, but I was so hungry that I didn?t care, I just wanted to eat. I ordered something that I thought was chicken. As in most European restaurants, this place was very understaffed. There was only one waiter for a section of about 30 people. After 45 minutes of sheer agony with the kids screaming and running around the table, my food comes and it?s not chicken at all. Maybe it was beef. It was gray, hard like rubber and tasted like a shoe. I ate it anyway just to keep from fainting.

When I?m touring or recording, I need at least one decent meal a day. So after this unpleasant lunch experience, I had to plan for dinner. One of the staff called me and invited me to dinner. Sounds good, right? Yes and no. Here?s something you should know: Whenever you go out with the staff in Europe, a meal can take HOURS. For me, without being rude to the hosts, I like to get in, order food, eat, and get the hell out of there. I have a long drive and alot of work to do the next day so I don?t want to bullshit around till all hours while the host or whoever orders 20 varieties of coffee, petits fours and cognac. However, here I was, in the middle of nowhere and I definitely didn?t want to eat in the hotel again, so the offer for dinner was starting to sound ok...

So I go out to dinner with the staff and some local people that they know. I just want to eat some good food. We get to the restaurant and the food is just fine. I was happy about that. The problem was that like in most foreign countries, the staff politely speak English for a while, then they get tired and naturally go back to their native language. So after I finished eating (which in this case took about 15 minutes...), I?m stuck listening to these people I barely know speaking German and spending hours slowly ordering coffee, dessert, wine and whisky. None of these things I care about! It?s not a DATE, it?s a business dinner! I just wanted to avoid the hotel restaurant and have a good meal! Now this would all be just fine if I could understand what they were talking about. Actually, if I could understand them and be a part of the conversation, I would probably really enjoy it. But as the night wore on, I just got more and more angry. Why is it so much work just to get a decent meal??!!

The only way to deal with this kind of situation is to face the truth; the fact is that I?m SO lucky to be traveling the world FOR FREE and that these nice people are willing to take me out, feed me and let me be a guest in their country and all I have to do is play a silly little guitar. No manual labor, no factory work, no lifting, no brain surgery, just plucking some notes on a guitar. Not a real instrument like a violin or a piano, but a GUITAR. And not even a REAL GUITAR like a gut-string or a steel-string acoustic, but a guitar that is shaped like it came from a superhero comic or from another planet! When I start to think like this, I realize that when I was a little kid in Washington D.C. I never expected my guitar playing to take me even across the street. I also think about the guitarists in rival bands who were better than I was back then who just never got the chance to show their music to many people of such diverse cultures. Then I feel truly lucky to be sitting there not understanding the conversation.

I have one concept about the music business. Anyone who is in it in ANY capacity; from working or teaching in a music store, to playing in a nightclub or at weddings, to making or taking care of or renting instruments, to writing about music in a magazine or newspaper, to working in a studio or radio station, to playing large concerts or anything that is remotely involved with music is extremely fortunate. After all, music is just air, combinations of sounds and notes put in different orders. Amazing!

Taken From: Burrn Magazine (Apr 97) #3