It was eight days of mayhem and mania. The first ever Damageplan live shows. And they did these in Japan. When the band went over there, Vocalist Paul Lachman kept a meticulous diary of what happened day by day. So, as we commemorate August 20, which would have been Dimebag's 48th birthday, her's the blow by blow account of that trip
Finally, time to go to work! We’d been slaving over the new record for so long, we’d almost forgotten what it was like to play a show. So we fly from Dallas to Tokyo, hop in a mini-bus to the hotel, and check in just long enough to drop our bags. Travelling to the other side of the world, it’s better to stay up and suffer a little longer without sleep to get used to the time change quicker. So we decide to get a dose of Tokyo nightlife… the first instinct is to hit the Roppongi district and go club hopping at the usual spots. First stop is the Lexington Queen, mostly comprising of teenage models from Europe. It’s a bit dead since it’s fairly early on a weeknight (the clubs don’t get hopping until after 2am). Next we went to Gas Panic, which is more notorious for chicks dancing on the bar.
The next night is more of the same with basically the same results – an empty wallet, broken sleep, and a mild case of ass dragging. Dimebag decides to do a little room trashing for entertainment. The promoter’s given us all gifts in our room, including an expensive fruit assortment, which quickly becomes a source of projectiles for Dimebag. He hurls them at high velocity towards a target he’s drawn on a towel and stuck to the wall just over [crew member Bobby Tongs’ head (who’s passed out on the bed from too much fun). There are some other casualties like drawers, lampshades, chairs, etc. No doubt they’ll eventually come back to haunt us…
But there’s work to be done. We take the train to Nagoya for the world premier of Damageplan live. Our first fucking show finally here! It’s like being in labour for nearly two years with Damageplan going to be born.
When we arrive at the venue, a bunch of people are waiting outside to greet us. It’s always nice to be met with your entire discography ready to be signed. We took some photos with the fans and head inside. The stage looks great: an enormous hanging backdrop, rows of guitar and bass cabinets and a nice light set-up. We run through a few songs at soundcheck to tune in the monitors and to shake off the rust from travelling. We haven’t played in almost a week so it feels good. Once it feels right, we go upstairs and get some food so we can chill before the show.
We head to the stage just before half seven and the Nagoya fans are on fire. The intro tape starts with the lights off – the audience can only see the band’s silhouettes walking on but the the cheers get louder. I run on just as I’m singing the first words –“Wake up!” and the place goes wild. We tear through the first few songs nearly back-to-back. Everything is going great, until we get some technical difficulties with Dimebag’s new guitar rig halfway through Crawl.The sound cuts in and out and then suddenly went down for the count. All we can do is stop. I keep the bullshit rolling while it gets fixed, but five minutes of waiting on stage seems like five hours. Moby [guitar tech] is on it, but I get the crowd to chant his name just to put a little heat on him. He’s back there sweating bullets while we toast a round of shots to the Japanese fans, then throw a few beers and shots into the crowd.
Once the sound’s back on, it’s as if it never happened. Dimebag kicks in to the clean section in the middle of the song and we’re back in business. Despite that minor bullshit, the show goes great. It doesn’t really feel like a first show even. There are a few small criticisms between us, but overall it’s a kickass gig.
We have a few drinks to celebrate backstage, and the crew come back to congratulate us. Apparently it sounded great out front. There’s a meet and greet downstairs with some of the fans, which is always fun. The level of enthusiasm is always great in Japan. Of course, we have to celebrate the first show some more, so we go to the Hard Rock Café – somewhat the ‘embassy’ over here. Once we’re all starting to fade from exhaustion, it’s time to go back. Luckily, tomorrow is a much-needed day off…
We get up and take the train to Osaka and get some beers on the way. Dimebag is still ‘ringing’ from last night. He bought a few beers off the beverage cart and I joined in happily. We even got our Japanese promoter going! She’s a bit intimidated at first, but having fun. First thing Dime does is raid my mini-bar and breaks a glass in my room. I retaliate by drinking one of his beers, and he again opts to break the glass in his room. Our tour manager Wookie is less than thrilled. We have just enough time to drop our bags before a production meeting. Wookie informs us that we were been kicked out of the hotel in Tokyo for damage to the rooms. I wasn’t involved with that for once, although I did manage to accidentally knock a hole in the wall in the hotel in Nagoya. The meeting eventually turns into one big ass bar tab. I sit there all day while various people drop off, until it’s just me and Kat. I invite a couple of our Japanese fans to sit with us at the bar and try various drinks. Somehow I manage to get the energy to go to Rock Rock – the famous bar in Osaka. It’s dead, so I go back to some much needed rest. Tomorrow is a show day after all…
I can’t stay asleep for shit, so I ring Bobby Tongs and we walk across the street to get some food. I go back down for a couple of hours, but still can’t sleep comfortably. I run through the shower and do some vocal warm-ups on the CD player, then go down to the lobby for tonight’s gig.
The venue is pretty cool: a very high-tech room with good sound dampening. We pull off a quick soundcheck, the bulk of which is just getting my monitors dialled in, and then go back to the dressing room to chill before the show. We neck a couple of shots, then put on Heaven And Hell and Powerslave before it’s off to the races. Osaka is ready to get Damaged and we lay into them right from the start! It takes me a few songs to loosen up the pipes, but then it all feels good. It’s like any other muscle really:
it needs to be stretched out and warmed up before it starts to work best. There’s also the adrenaline factor – it’s easy to go for it too hard too soon. All the songs go over great and the response is over the top, especially for Fuck You.We knew that would be a classic when we wrote it. The audience are floored when we bust out with Walk and New Level to close the show, and the roof comes off. There’s the usual crowd gathered for autographs between us and the van back to the hotel. Needless to say, we sign every one before we leave.
After that we go to the Hard Rock for a steak and a couple of drinks. Being the die-hards we are, we’re all pretty tired but we figure giving Rock Rock one last try. It’s better than the night before, but the ratio of enthusiasm to energy is pretty lame so it’s off to bed.
Sleep is once again intermittent. I feel a little smoked, but I get up and ring Tongs. We go down to get some coffee and see Wookie walking around outside. We join him on his quest to find some sort of pain reliever for Vinnie, but nobody has any. Fuck it. Then we go to grab some food next to the hotel in this mall that goes three floors underground. I go back to the room and choke it down, then try to watch TV but there’s nothing on there but CNN. We leave for Tokyo for tonight’s gig.
Back in Tokyo we check into our new hotel. There isn’t much to think about – we’re in the groove and ready to go for it tonight. It doesn’t take long when you’re working with the best in the business and we’ve all been doing this for most of our lives.
After a good sound check, everything’s locked in right and we go to the dressing room to eat and relax before the devastation kicks in. We’re all much more relaxed with two shows in the bag and we crank up some Hatebreed to get pumped for the show. We know this would be a fun one so the shots are flying! Off we go to take the stage…
The crowd is the loudest yet. We storm out and start the show with authority. I feel totally in command of the pipes at this point and push it a little more than the night before. There are some familiar faces in the crowd, people I’d met on a previous visit to Japan. There were also three US military nuts in front sporting their Black Label Society colours. They’re screaming with fists in the air the whole show. About four songs in they hand me a bottle of Jägermeister, which I promptly swig and pass around. One of them takes off his leather vest covered in military badges, Harley Davidson badges, and Black Label Society patches and throws it right to me. I set it on the drum riser for a minute until the song ends. The next tune is Reborn at which point I grab the vest and hold it up. I put it on and stand with my back to the crowd and get an extra boost in crowd volume. I sing the whole song with it on then throw it back to its rightful owner. They beg me to get them backstage after the show to have some drinks, which I arrange for them later.
The whole show’s off the hook and we leave the stage knowing Tokyo got their money’s worth.
Backstage is a madhouse. There are all the fans we’ve pulled in from the crowd, the guests we’ve invited, plus about 12 people from the label. We pour a couple of rounds for everyone and sign everything they stick in front of us.
Back to the hotel for a quick shower. The Black Label Society clan follow us to the hotel and take over the bar with Dimebag. We slam a couple there, before we take off for the Hard Rock for some more drinks. I hop a cab with the BLS boys and we drink in the back of the cab. We shoot the shit at the Hard Rock for an hour or two before it’s titty bar time. We went back to Tantra and things get a little fuzzy from there out. I have to go back to the hotel before things get out of hand – tomorrow is another show
Today we’re playing the same venue for the second night in a row. All the gear is set up from the night before and the monitors are untouched. Actually, they seem to sound better than last night. Maybe the tweaks that happened during the show made it better, not to mention having fresh ears probably helped. It’s on for tonight! Apparently we made quite an impression the night before. There are a lot of the same people from last night’s show again. It’s a good feeling to see people come back the next night. You know they must have loved it, especially since tickets were 7500 Yen! (about £40). This is definitely the best show yet. Start to finish, the band are ON! We were locked in and pushing it harder than ever, especially since we knew this was the last one in Japan. The crowd was the best of all the shows there. We walked out of there knowing that Damageplan was officially a force to be reckoned with. We blew it out one last night in celebration, then it was time to pack up and head home the next day.
The last day we go to a kickass noodle shop around the corner so we can get our nutrients for the trip home. Then we hop the bus to the airport. Everyone’s a bit travel-weary and international travel is no picnic these days. The first snag is luggage. The airline people won’t let us check the guitars and basses we had, since they’re taped together in pairs to count as one piece. They tried to charge us a shitload for the ‘extra baggage’. Wookie argues with the lady at the counter for 10 minutes before he demanded to talk to the supervisor. Then he argues with him for 10 minutes before they finally concede to put our stuff on. We say our goodbyes to the promoter reps that took good care of us throughout the whole trip.
We fly to San Jose and sleepwalk through customs, then we connect for Los Angeles to shoot the video for Save Me, but that’s a whole other chapter.
In all, I’d have to say that Japan is one of the best places in the world to play. The fans are some of the best in the world and the promoters always treat us excellent. I can’t wait to go back.
This was published in Metal Hammer issue 127
Read the story behind Cowboys From Hell here