As much as musicians love to romanticize the idea of playing shows abroad, the hazardous realities of being in a foreign country should never be ignored just because you’re in a band on tour. Earlier this month New York hardcore band Pro-Pain’s vocalist Gary Meskil was brutally beaten and robbed while on tour in Europe. The heinous attack took place at a pub in Brussels, Belgium on July 3rd, where Meskil was stabbed kicked and beaten by a group of men who left him for dead, after stealing his passport and cash. Meskil survived the horrific attack but was left with severe injuries to his jaw and face, requiring surgery and forcing Pro-Pain to cancel its remaining concert dates in Europe.
Although Meskil survived, and several suspects were arrested, the attack leaves many touring musicians in metal bands, especially those lacking the funds for security guards, wondering about safety while on tour, but in particular when traveling outside of the U.S. Plus, with Trump in the Oval Office, and threats of terrorism and other global instability, the world is just not getting any safer.
Now, metal heads are normally not ones to cave into fear, so there isn’t much of a chance that bands will stop touring other countries. With this in mind, the Weekly spoke to three musicians from underground metal bands, to chat about how they keep safe while touring abroad, as well as other anecdotes, perspectives about other countries and tips on how to keep safe on the road when you are far from home.
Leon del Muerte is a veteran extreme metal guitarist from the West Coast. He has lived in Northern and Southern California but resides in Portland Oregon with his wife, Liz (Dreaming Dead). Leon plays with Nails, Terrorizer LA, Murder Construct, and Impaled, and has also been part of Exhumed, Phobia, Intronaut and Nausea LA..
What were some of your experiences when you first toured in a foreign country?
del Muerte: The first few shows I did outside of the US were in places like Canada and Mexico. Mexico has always been super fun, even in the sketchy places. There’s been some goofy shit, like buying drugs from people who we probably shouldn’t have and being shitty, drunk Americans in places we shouldn’t be. I’ve ridden buses through sketchy parts of Mexico where people were taken off the bus and beaten, but the locals kept us from becoming casualties.
Around 2003, I went to Europe for the first time, and I was so fucking excited. We had a bus, a driver, doing a legit tour with bands I loved. It was so fucking fun. We just drank and played and partied those first few times. The glamor of going to Europe has worn a little since, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still love it. Only issues we’ve had in Europe are problems our bus driver created, like smashing the old painted ceiling in the Madrid central transit station, chopping a toll booth in half because we left the door down on our trailer and having a guitar stolen right out of our trailer in Barcelona. That guy had balls of steel—just walked onto the trailer and took it. We thought he worked for the club. But, truth be told, if you keep your wits about you and have a local to keep you from being a total dipshit, you’ll almost certainly be fine.
Are there any countries you would not play shows or tour in?
del Meurte: There’s probably certain cities in South America or Eastern Europe, but I don’t think I’d strike a whole country off my list due to the danger of being there. I’ll be playing in Moscow for the first time ever, and I’m super excited even though it’s probably a place a lot of people would avoid. I’d love to check out more places, rather than avoiding them. That being said, I don’t think we’ll be playing in North Korea or the Middle East anytime soon.
Have you ever been in rough situations involving the police in other countries?
del Muerte: In Tijuana, I was grabbed by some cops, who pulled a huge bag of white powder out my pocket that certainly wasn’t there before, who drove me around scaring the shit out of everyone (and me) they could find. They finally took all the money out of my wallet and let me go.
We’ve also had our bus boarded by armed women in the Czech Republic. It was a little scary at first, but then we realized they just wanted some merch and split.
Me and Danny(drummer, Intronaut, Phobia, Murder Construct, Exhumed) were detained flying into Japan for a few hours because we didn’t have the right paperwork. There was a language barrier, and finally, they asked who we knew in Japan and I literally named every single person I ever knew in Japan until they heard a name they recognized and let us go.
Have you ever been sick or injured in another country?
del Murete: Yeah, I’ve been sick pretty much everywhere, haha. Mexico and USA are my top two spots for getting food poisoning, but it’s happened in other places. The problem with eating with a band is that we’re busy from lunchtime until after dinner with prepping for the show, so we end up eating at seedy shitholes late at night. I’ll never stop loving the food in other countries, but I might start bringing some fuckin’ Immodium AD with me from now on.
A few times that I’ve been to Europe I get some kinda flu-like thing that lasts about a week and is not fun. But honestly, I might take that over 24-hour food poisoning which is not only not fun but also embarrassing due to all the pants-shitting.
What would be your advice for bands about to tour outside of the US?
del Murte: Make sure you have all your legal issues cleared before you leave the US. Make sure you know what voltage you’re gonna need for your electrical items you might be bringing. Keep an eye on your shit, obviously. Bring toilet paper if you have butt problems!
Mike Joseph Pardi is a Southern California based extreme metal guitarist who has played in several underground death/black metal bands such as Ritual, Draconis, Helsott, Innerfury, and Psionic. He has also toured globally with legendary death metal act Possessed.
What was your first time playing in another country like?
Pardi: It was a South America tour with Possessed, we played eight shows, four in Brazil, also Chile, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay. The promoters were legit for the most part. All the crowds were great, and people were very hospitable. But, I accidentally bit into a completely uncooked chicken sandwich and had to force myself to puke, which was not good. Other than that, lots of people were rioting in one part of Brazil due to the government spending a ton of money on the Pope’s visit. We simply took another route to the airport to avoid the chaos and violence in the streets. Also, in Paraguay, they had recently voted in a new president, and there was a military presence all around.
Are there any countries you would not tour in?
Pardi: I will never play/visit any Islamic countries, or African countries. It is way too unsafe, unstable, and unsanitary in many of those places.
Have you ever had any scary situation occur while on tour in another country?
Pardi, Well, I have never got into any life threatening situations, but I did miss a flight in Brazil due to their “homeland security” taking forever to check my bag. I had to divert two flights to catch up with the rest of the guys in Possessed! Also, one of the reasons I actually quit Possessed was because of the Islamic Terrorist attacks in Europe, which were increasing heavily last year, and four of the shows were in Germany. The attack in Berlin last year happened just one day after Possessed played there, the same venue I believe too!
What is the best part about touring abroad?
Pardi: I will try to sum it up a quickly as possible. You gain new perspectives about the world, other cultures, yourself, and your home country. There are a lot of beautiful women also. Not to mention, fans in some other countries are still rabid, like the old days. I feel like a lot of American metal fans are very spoiled and jaded, so playing other places really breathed life back into the experience for me. Sight seeing is also great when it happens, but it is much rarer and unlikely than the average person would assume for bands on tour, most times we are in vans or buses literally on the road.
What advice would you give to any bands about to tour outside of the US?
Pardi: My advice to these bands would be to stay alert, stay on your toes, don’t get separated from your crew, stay hydrated (water, duh) drink beer too, but don’t get shit faced cause your body is also your instrument. You will learn what that means real quick on the road. Also, be prepared to not get as much sleep as required, not get daily showers, and try to be cool to people, because remember, you are an entertainer a musician, not a diplomat or a celebrity, and you are a guest in their country! Don’t make Americans look bad by being a prick!
Emilio Marquez is a Mexican American extreme metal drummer who has played with Possessed, Asesino, Coffn Text, and Engrave among others.
What was your first experience like touring outside of the US?
Marquez: It was in Mexico with Asesino. It was Me, Dino Cazares and Tony Campos. The show itself was great the fans were awesome. But it turned out shitty in the end. It was hell because of the asshole promoter who ripped us off and didn’t want to pay us the money we were owed for the show. All in all, it was a fun cool show but a very shitty situation to be in for a band.
Are there any countries you would not tour in?
Marquez: Yes, I would not tour in places like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and any other countries out there that hate Americans and hate American values.
Have you ever had any problems or safety issues while on tour in other countries?
Marquez: Yes, we have had a few actually over the years. In Mexico one time, the police wanted money for jay walking and it was kind of a scary situation. Also, in Durango Mexico Asesino had a show again, where the promoter didn’t want to pay the band, even though it was a sold out show. It was a messed up situation, and for us, sad because the people/fans are amazing, it wasn’t their fault.
What are some of your favorite aspects of touring in other countries?
Marquez: I love seeing the appreciation for having us in their country. Seeing the way the scene is in different countries such as Japan. For example, after each song the fans are quiet. But at the end of the show, they are screaming and clapping for like 10 minutes. Horns up Japanese metal heads!
What would you tell bands about to go on tour in another country:
Marquez: Make sure your passport is in good condition. In Mexico I had to fly from Mexico City to TJ Mexico because they would not let me fly to the US with a damaged passport, I accidentally washed it. Also, bring power bars and snacks in Europe, because the food is so different than the US. And, be sure to bring condoms because, well you get it or she will! Lastly, Enjoy the bad shows with the good ones, stay close to your group, and just be professional because everyone hates rock star assholes!
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.