■ The Shamen frontman talks about a brush with gangsters in Johannesburg, where to party in Los Angeles, and raving in Essex
What is your favourite on-the-road moment?
In 1992 The Shamen did an amazing show in Long Beach, California, in the world’s largest geodesic dome. It houses Howard Hughes’s flying boat, the Spruce Goose. The show was incredible and we projected visuals onto the plane. Afterwards, however, I decided to crack on at an after-party with my new-found LA friends. Needless to say, I missed the tour bus to San Diego the next morning, leaving the manager and the band fuming and worried sick. I made it to soundcheck after taking a train there, but no one was amused except for me — naughty, naughty.
I moved to LA over a decade ago and I love everything about it. Where I live in Silver Lake/Echo Park it’s very bohemian and hip. The weather’s amazing, and the people are so friendly. The party scene is brilliant — my favourite club is Sound in Hollywood as they have a great set-up, a great sound system, and a very good international line-up. It’s by far the coolest club in LA for underground music (soundnightclub.com). Elf in Echo Park is my favourite vegetarian restaurant and serves a modern twist on Mediterranean-Lebanese cuisine (mains approx. £13.75, elfcafe.com).
When have you been most frightened while travelling?
I was with Layo, Bushwacka and Pure Science doing a massive The End Sound System show in Johannesburg in the late 90s. We went to an after-party at a pub but turned up to find it was closed due to the mafia boss pub owner being shot the night before. The pub manager invited us in, and Pure Science — a heavy weed smoker — asked if he could roll a joint. He lit up just as four gangsters armed with machine guns walked in. The mafia boss’s right-hand man went nuts at him for disrespectfully smoking a joint in his boss’s place and gave him until the count of ten to put it out — it was extinguished by ‘two’. The promoter told us we were lucky because the gangster usually kills when he gets to three. The whole experience is movie material for sure.
What have you ever taken from a hotel room?
I always take the disposable slippers. I’ll get a week or two of wear out of them at home before throwing them away when they get a little bit stinky.
What is the best souvenir you’ve come home with?
My wife. I found her at the Yoshitoshi [record label] party while out partying with DJ Omid 16B at the Miami Winter Music Conference. Actually, the truth is that she found me, we hit it off immediately and a few months later I brought her home to London as a souvenir from a USA DJ tour.
Worst meal you’ve had abroad?
In 1992 I became a vegetarian. Back then when on tour with The Shamen, food was difficult generally and in Germany, vegetarian meant one sausage instead of two. A particular waiter offered me pork, then chicken, then fish when I told him I was vegetarian, so in the end I had to settle for a plate of frozen peas and carrots. It was a delight. Not.
Strangest place you’ve spent the night?
The Manumission Hotel in Ibiza (now closed). Strange is an understatement. Unspeakable happenings happened there — think Quentin Tarantino’s idea of a twisted party.
Ever come close to being arrested?
In 1991 I went to an M25 orbital rave near Grays in Essex where I was booked to play. The police had the roads blocked off. Our convoy of about 20 cars parked up in a service station and we decided to try to make it to there on foot, which foolishly involved crossing the M25 motorway. I was extremely close to being arrested and the police confiscated my records, which thankfully I got back the next week.
Where are you going next?
I’ve just accepted my only booking since lockdown to play at Epizode Festival on the island of Phu Quoc in Vietnam in December (epizode.asia/#what). In Vietnam they’ve seen less than 1,000 Covid-19 cases. It’s amazing how they’ve dealt with this pandemic. Fingers crossed the mask naysayers and conspiracy theorists learn to behave themselves, so we can get this virus under control by then.
■ FreqStream, a portal presenting podcasts and live streams curated by Mr C, is available at freqstream.com