How do European bands cope in America?

With the first blush of spring comes the thundering herd of European metal bands galloping into the United States for one final push before striking out on the European summer festival circuit.

For Poland’s Decapitated, touring the US is as familiar as power chords and polyrhythms, having crossed the United States fourteen times since their first North American tour in 2002. The techy death metallers began the year with a mini North American headlining tour, supported by Black Breath and Theories, and recently they wrapped up a heroic coast-to-coast campaign playing with At the Gates, The Haunted and Harm’s Way. We met with Decapitated’s guitarist Vogg on the San Diego stop of that tour, and he delivered some joyful tidings regarding new music.

“We’re going into the studio at the end of the year in December. We’ve got the studio booked and we’ve got some good engineers lined up and a guy to mix it already, so we can’t wait. We’re still evolving and I think we’re a lot more mature than we were two years ago. I can’t wait to start recording and working on the new record.”

Vogg: Up close and personal

Vogg: Up close and personal (Image credit: Oskar Szramka)

Where does your money go?
“The US is mostly less expensive than it is in Poland, but it really depends on what you’re buying. Fortunately for bands on the road, stuff like music equipment, cables, effects pedals and stuff like that are generally cheaper. I’m lucky enough to have enough endorsements where I get most of this stuff for free, but if something breaks, I can go to Guitar Center and buy stuff cheaper there than in Europe. Food can be more expensive but clothing is about the same, maybe a little less expensive. So the key there is when you leave Europe, don’t take too much clothing with you – buy a bunch of cool shit in the US and bring it home.”

How are Americans different than Europeans?
“It’s a different planet, US people are just different. You can walk down the street and talk with people, no problem. Sometimes when I go shopping in my hometown in Poland, I might have known the person selling me beer or bread for years, but we never talk. Here in the US, people are way more chill. You can tell that the fans know about music, they can understand what you’re trying to say and they really enjoy it. In Europe, they love the music as well, but the mentality is a bit different. Germans are into the music, but they aren’t as spontaneous. Polish crowds? Crazy. Italian crowds? Crazy. England? Wow… really good crowds there. As long as you put on a good show in the US, you’re going to have a really good time, that’s for sure.”

What’s your favourite city in the US?
“I really like San Francisco. I know it sounds weird, but it’s different from the rest of the US – it’s got a little bit of a European feel. What’s cool about the US is that every city is so different. They’ve got different looks, different foods, and different cultures. I like New York, but I don’t really like Los Angeles, to be honest. It’s cool to be there and I have lots of friends in LA but I just feel like there’s a lot pressure when I play there. San Diego is a really chill place. If you’re here from Europe for the first time, San Diego has good food, chill people and it seems like it could be a really cool place to live. We love Chicago because it has a huge Polish community.”

Any horror stories while touring North America?
“Oh yes. In November, 2014, we were touring with GWAR and our tour bus got into an accident just outside of New Orleans, right before our show. Although our bass player and our merch person went to the hospital to get checked out, they were fine. We did the show and finished the tour, but the van was wrecked. We were forced to rent a regular car from the airport. It sucked! For more than two weeks, we had to fit seven people in a Ford Expedition. In two days, we travelled from Seattle to Chicago and it was winter and we got caught in a fucking snowstorm. Of course, we blew a tyre, so we had to get out and replace it. Make sure that you have a good driver and make sure that you have good insurance so you don’t end up in a shitty little car for half the tour!”

How do you travel when you’re here?
“It all comes down to having a good driver and having your logistics worked out in advance – know what time you have to leave one city to get to the next city with extra time. We rented a big Sprinter van that has six beds and two couches, so it’s got everything we need. After the show, we can sleep and feel really comfortable. There’s a fridge, TV and stereo, so you can do whatever you want. We bullshit with each other, we read books, watch movies and all that. We’ve been listening to Kat – they’re the best metal band from Poland. After a good party, we get back to the bus and say, ‘Let’s listen to Kat!’”

How does the booze measure up?
“It’s good – America has everything. We mostly drink Jack Daniel’s or Jameson’s and I really like local beers too – ales and IPAs. There are a million kinds here, but you can’t beat a Jack and Coke on ice after a show or a nice Corona beer. A couple days ago, we were in El Paso and our sound guy bought some mezcal tequila, with the worm inside, so we’re waiting for a special occasion to drink it.” (Vogg makes a funny face when told he has to chew the worm)

What do you think of the food?
“My stomach is getting bigger and bigger everyday! We like to go out for Chinese and Vietnamese food – it’s really good here in the US. The highlight of the tour was the pho soup that you get in Vietnamese restaurants. It’s brilliant. Also, good burgers, but we order burgers in bars instead of fast food places. If you want to conserve energy, try to avoid fast food and truck stop food. Also, drink lots of water and try to make sure you eat some good, healthy food when you can.”

What do you miss about EU?
“Man, I miss mineral water and for food, we miss all the Polish soups, pierogis, schnitzels and stuff like that. On this tour, I don’t really miss Polish food. We eat really well. Usually after a couple weeks I can’t wait to get home and eat a fucking piergi, but right now, not so much. We’ve gotten much better at finding good food.”

What’s the best advice you can offer a band getting ready to tour the US for the first time?
“Find good transportation, because safety is the biggest priority. Be really serious about getting a good driver, a good tour manager and a good car company. Never pay an advance if you don’t have to. And enjoy it as much as you can, because touring the US is fucking brilliant.”

Decapitated’s latest album Blood Mantra is out now, via Nuclear Blast.

Joe Daly

Hailing from San Diego, California, Joe Daly is an award-winning music journalist with over thirty years experience. Since 2010, Joe has been a regular contributor for Metal Hammer, penning cover features, news stories, album reviews and other content. Joe also writes for Classic Rock, Bass Player, Men’s Health and Outburn magazines. He has served as Music Editor for several online outlets and he has been a contributor for SPIN, the BBC and a frequent guest on several podcasts. When he’s not serenading his neighbours with black metal, Joe enjoys playing hockey, beating on his bass and fawning over his dogs.