Punk Rock Tour Tales #8: Matty from Roughneck Riot

Matty Roughneck gives us is favourite memories (and lack of memories) of life on tour in the Euro DIY punk scene.

Punk Rock Tour Tales is a new Shout Louder feature, where we interview bands about their tour stories. Read them all here.

Before the coronacoaster got rolling, Warrington’s folks-punks Roughneck Riot were booked to make a highly anticipated return to the live circuit. After nearly 15 years of touring, earning themselves a reputation as one of the riotous bands the UK punk scene has to offer, they took a one-year hiatus in 2019 to recoup some energy.

We took some time out to speak to Matty about his favourite road stories, including many that he’s forgotten.

Of the touring you’ve done, what’s been your favourite so far?  

Pretty tough question for a couple of reasons. There’s been so many tours, with good and bad parts to them that it’s hard to say what was the best. They also seem to blend into one big tour in my head and a lot of the memories have been blurred by the finest beverages and such from across the mainland.

I think one of the best we can all agree on as a band is Dempsey’s first European tour with us. It was a very weird time for me personally as it was just after my best friend had died and touring really didn’t seem possible in my head. However, it was scorching for the entire tour, we played some huge gigs and festivals and got to meet up with old friends we hadn’t seen in a while. We also somehow managed to be playing near a beach, lake or river everyday, and there always seemed to be big parties going on most nights, so it felt like a big summer holiday!

What’s the furthest you’ve ever driven to play a 30 minute set? 

It’s gotta be Mighty Sounds Festival in Czech! If we’d been an organised band whatsoever back then, we could have easily booked a flight or sorted out extra days off with our jobs but nooo, we forgot. There was so much traffic between Warrington and Mighty Sounds that we drove for 20 odd hours and nearly missed our set. Greeny’s amp didn’t work for the first half of the set so naturally we were all a bit down on ourselves but thought, “We’re at Mighty Sounds, lets enjoy it whilst we’re here!”. Which we did… for about 4 hours before we had to drive all the way back to go back to work! 

Have you ever looked around on tour and thought ‘what the fuck is happening’? What had happened? 

So, so many times that weird things don’t always register as weird these days. Most require a full story themselves but to name some highlights: “The mutant brothers in the woods,” “There’s a massage trailer backstage if you want,” “Draw a sausage.” Also, being walked halfway across Pilzen for weed and being handed a lucky stone, “The Man with a Scrotum for a Palm,” the many times we all nearly died individually. “LAURYN HILL IS LATE SO YOU’RE ON!” “The lonesome youth hostel.” MOSCOW. “Valium was a bad idea,” “T-shirt head and the fish pizza,” “Stalin’s ‘tasch and the drunken train driver,” “The Cartel’s Pizza Oven Disaster,” “Belgian puddle beds,” “FUCKING ERIC and the broken handbrake,” “Jazz wizard and the smoke flavoured beer,” “Passing a drugs test in France.” …The list could just go on and on.

When was the first / last time that you had a ‘fuck, this isn’t worth it’ moment? How did you overcome it? 

This is another one that’s pretty hard to remember anything specific. A lot of times on tour, especially if you’re weeks in and exhausted, can feel like a massive waste of time. Then usually by the end of the night it all feels worth it again. Or at least knowing the next day will be completely different takes your mind off that thought.

We played a very strange gig in a squatted military hospital once, after driving through the night. We were shown a tiny storeroom with broken windows and puddles everywhere and told we can sleep there. Then, during sound check, we realised we were probably going to be electrocuted during the set as everything was just taped together. There didn’t seem to be any advertising anywhere, so there was nobody expected to come and, at this point, we felt like just sneaking off and driving into the sea… But it turned out to be such a unique gig and the atmosphere was amazing!

It’s hard to stay focused on the shitter parts when you are never in the same place for more than a day or two. After nearly 15 years we decided to take the year off because our progress just seemed to stop, and it was starting to feel less and less worth it. That year off (now looking like two) is pretty much a massive lesson from the universe reminding us how worth it it really is!

What are your tips for surviving a tour? 

Expect everything to go wrong. Try not to be a dick to each other if you’re going to be stuck in a tiny metal box for 90% of the tour (were still working on this). Just don’t be a dick in general. You’re just a musician. Get used to trying to sleep in any situation. Get used to not sleeping. Be professional and friendly even if you’re not feeling very friendly. It’ll go a long way.

One thing we left it far too late to do is try not to make it so much of a job. If you don’t leave room for having fun and relaxing, it stops being fun. Be prepared to not come back with any money!

Do you have a long-serving tour vehicle? What are its quirks? 

We are proud to say we have been part of the LDV crew for the majority of our touring life so far. Everyone says to avoid them like the plague. But for fuck’s sake, what punk band can afford anything else when they start touring!

They have been a nightmare at times, but they become like a band member that everyone loves and hates. One of our old ones had an electric bus door that didn’t really play by the rules. Not great in the snow. That same van didn’t have windscreen wipers for a year either. Not great in the snow but I’m an expert in driving in rain now… It also started 60% of the time… everytime! One of our vans lost the use of the central locking so everybody had to climb through the driver’s door or the window (which didn’t lock so we had to set up a sneaky system with wooden blocks to keep people out). Fucking great, vans.

What’s your soundtrack in the van? 

Greeny’s very loud voice. Musically we’re pretty useless in the van. I can’t remember if we’ve had a working CD player for more than a month or two in any van. We’ve had many, many shitty bluetooth speakers that are hilariously bad and most of the time the van is too loud to listen to anything! We did have Black Lace on a lot when Martin Battle [Incisions, Riggots] filled in on bass for us once…

Do you have a luxury item you take with you? 

Personally, no, I’ve never brought anything with me because things that go in the van don’t usually come home from tour. And everything in the van always seems to be a bit wet.

I find tour to be enough distractions to not need anything, unless you’ve got a day off in the middle of nowhere or something. Usually I’m driving or trying to sleep in the van, then unloading and sound-checking, then food, gig, drink ’til you sleep and then repeat. Occasionally one of us will have a laptop or something for watching stuff at night but that’s about it. Cait brought a camping stove and kettle on a few tours. That’s luxury innit?

Are there any van in-jokes that are safe to share with us? 

Hmmmm. We do have the odd thing. There’s usually one running joke in the van every tour. We played a game once where each person gets one go per day to request the driver to honk the horn and they can’t refuse. So that often ended up meaning honking at police or poor folk trying to innocently cross the road.

There’s also the classic ‘draw Bart Simpson with your eyes closed’ game. That’s always good for a good ol’ innocent laugh. One of the oldest in jokes came from our very first journey to Dover to get the ferry and saw a sign for Leeds Castle. For a second we thought we’d somehow turned round and headed up north so occasionally when we’re near our destination we’ll shout, “WELCOME TAE SCOTLAND!” to shake things up a bit. Sam also takes an impressively long time to make rollies sometimes, so after watching him create his masterpiece one day I took it off him and launched it out the window on the motorway as he tried to light it… In jokes are a lot less funny when you tell people about them…

If you could choose any band alive, which band would you most like to tour with?

Hmmm, it’s quite a tough question as I’ve learned from touring that your favourite bands might not be great to tour with, and bands you didn’t think you’d work well on tour with can be amazing.

Our first night touring with Talco in Germany, we thought, “Ahh shit these guys don’t want us here at all,” but it turned out they were just shy like us and it was one of the best tours we’ve ever had. I still think top of my list though is to finish that fucking tour with Faintest Idea that we had to cancel after the first day because our van blew up. They’re always easy to get on with, even when Dani The Diva shows up, and they make us look great at every gig and do things like encourage Ryan to get too drunk to play. I’d keep an eye out for the Roughneck Idea round 2. We’re going to spend all our money on a double decker coach and David Brent the whole thing.

You can’t catch Roughneck Riot live at the moment, because the world’s is ending, but they have made a hot sauce, joggers and some new merch for the tour that never happened. Check it out over at their online store.

Punk Rock Tour Tales is a new Shout Louder feature, where we interview bands about their tour stories. Read them all here.

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