On Sept. 18, I'll be boarding Luftwaffe or Lufthansa (I still get them confused) with other members of The Greg Koch Band to fly to the Not-My-Fatherland (Germany). Italy, Austria and Denmark are also on the itinerary. (Full disclosure — though they won't admit it, I am 3/8 Danish.)
There isn't a gypsy in the world would have had me believing this turn of events a year ago. What happened is two dissimilar musicians got together and wrote themselves to a new place.
I was walking in the Village of Wauwatosa, a place with no shortage of charm, on a day pretty much like today last year when I turned the corner, and there stood the affable and – pardon the cheap pun – gregarious Mr. Koch. His suggestion that we try writing songs together probably sounded as strange to him as it did to me. We were working different corners of the field. He is well known as a guitar virtuoso and clinician and a guy who can play Chet Atkins one minute and Jimi Hendrix the next.
While I love both those artists and a whole slew of the ones Greg studied and emulated, I've always been drawn to the songs as much as the playing. But since I've been working on saying yes lately and suspending disbelief, we forged ahead. And I'm glad I did this time.
Sixty-seven songs and two CDs later, (Greg's is called "Plays Well With Others" and mine, to be released soon, is called "A Walk In The Park") we find ourselves heading across the pond. It's the umpteenth trip for Greg, who is quite popular in those parts and practically lives there. It's only the second time for me. I went to the U.K. with the twisted and gifted Phil Lee in 2008. We had what can only be described as an entry level, DIY tour of broken couches and mattresses on floors. I loved it.
Now I have always, despite my half-German heritage, preferred the Fab Four to the Fab Fuhrer. But to be honest, most of my preconceptions are based on bad movies and TV shows with the name "Hogan" in the title. So I'm going to give this country a fair shake.
Italy should be no problem. My spies who have toured there spoke with awe of wine bars at every rest stop and food that makes you want to apply for dual citizenship. For Denmark and Austria, both shorter visits, show me what you got — I have no preconceptions.
I'll be celebrating my 25th anniversary over there alone, with the exception of a few unwashed musicians. I did obtain permission from She Who Must Be Obeyed — proof that an understanding spouse is any musician's secret weapon. Many kilometers (their version of miles) will be covered with not too many nights off. If you've never toured with a band, you are not that far behind me. Semi-Twang's sole tour went from San Diego to Vancouver in 1988 (the same year I got married), and since then I have done the odd short one here and there.
I hope to apply the jaundiced and yellowing eye of a roots rock veteran and the puppy-ish enthusiasm of of someone who has toured little, and report back on a semi-regular basis to this site. It's least you can expect from a guy whose band is called Semi-Twang. Stay tuned.