Heel to toe to hair and hoof and it's head over heels and it's all but an ark-lark...

“Travel Tips, Rolling Rock, and The Twins”

  • By Su Chon
  • Rational Alternative Cyberzine
  • 1994

With her personal feedback system strapped to her neck, Elizabeth Fraser takes the stage (and the show) by storm. Well, she doesn’t actually rush the stage, or even acts as if she owns the damn thing. But everyone in the audience is there to hear her and only her. Some might have been there to listen to Robin on the Guitar, but he had so many problems that he hardly ever played. He just stood there with his personal roadie tuning different guitars the whole night. And nobody came expecting two live drummers to blow them completely away.

That’s pretty much the latest Cocteau Twins show. If you haven’t seen them on their Four Calendar Café tour, you probably won’t be able to see them until their next album comes out.

Since Robin spent most of his time not playing, it was smart for them to also bring along two additional guitarists (besides Simon Raymonde on bass). The two drummers and two additional guitarists all worked with Cocteau Twins on their latest album, and some of them have worked with the Twins since Heaven or Las Vegas. The sound was stupendous—I couldn’t believe the sounds they cranked out of their guitars. Liz put a new twist into every song. Especially enjoyable were “Carolyn’s Fingers” and “Iceblink Luck.”

I had one simple request—to see the Cocteau Twins. What I didn’t realize is that we would be embarking on an adventure. It took a lot of finesse, talking with the right security guards, and finding the road manager. This lead to an invite to the after show party and to other shows. Every journey starts with one step, and the adventure began in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake has tons of Twins fans, and they were psyched for the concert. The acoustics sucked, and people kept pushing us to get closer to the band. But Liz came out and started to sing, and her voice had a mesmerizing effect on the audience. The best thing about that show was that Liz came out into the crowd and danced next to us while Luna played their set.

After road-tripping with the Twins (we also saw them in Portland and Vegas), I think the Portland show was definitely the best. The Civic Auditorium had the best acoustics, and you could see the light show that accompanied the music. Plus their energy level was high, and that show was great. The band was in top form that night, and they were really pleased about their performance. The only bad thing about the Portland show was this stupid middle-aged woman who either was the promoter or part of an organization that brought the Twins there. She made stupid comments and told Robin that she was late for the show because she had a horticulture class. Eyes rolled!

The Vegas show was disorganized. The Twins were taping the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and their flight was late in arriving from L.A. At the venue, no one knew exactly when the Twins would be arriving—some organizers said that the bus didn’t show up to pick them up, other people said that they just barely called from the plane. On top of their rushed travels to get to the Vegas show, they were really bummed out by Kurt Cobain’s death and dedicated an extra encore to him. It did make the evening end on a more somber note. There was no after show party that night because the venue didn’t have the facilities so all of the Twins fans gathered around the tour buses waiting for Liz to come out.

What was it like road-tripping with the Twins? Well, it was interesting at the least. Travel tip 1: Fly to the concert area if you can. Avoid the one-night road trip because it’ll kill you. The audiences that attended were diverse—you saw older people who had no idea who the Twins are; preppie, clean cut kids; to gothic-dressed fans. The Twins wanted to meet the locals in each area they toured, and they were really nice. Rolling Rock was available at the after show parties along with Evian and Pepsi. Most of the band members that smoked, smoked Marlboros. And the band itself, well, they were really nice and signed a lot of stuff for us without complaining.<

The band on tour consisted of Liz Fraser, Robin Guthrie, Simon Raymonde (bass), Mitsuo Tate (guitar), Ben Blakeman (guitar), Benny DiMassa (percussion), and Dave “Polf” Palfreeman (percussion). They didn’t have major attitudes, and they all were really nice when they dealt with their fans. They all had separate opinions about previous albums, their former record company, the current tour, and life in general.

Because the Twins were 4AD’s biggest band, it was surprising when they switched to the Fontana label. Benny told us that “they left 4AD for very personal reasons.” We didn’t push the issue further, but we heard that they left 4AD because they didn’t want to be known as a “4AD Band.”

Robin had very strong opinions about several of their previous albums. When asked to sign my Moon and the Melodies cd, he exclaimed, “This is shit.” (This “shit” cd happens to be one of my favorites.) Robin also told us that “This Mortal Coil (TMC) is rubbish. Throw it into the Great Salt Lake! TMC is too depressing. They put in all these violins and stuff that ruins it.” Benny heard the conversation and said, “TMC IS Robin and Simon.” Robin interrupts and says, “This is why Benny got the job—he’s a good brown-noser.” Robin also talked about another project that he produced called Peace Together. “I hate Peter Gabriel, so I cut his part out of the song. If I would brag, my song is the best song on the album.” I dislike Peter Gabriel so I laughed when Robin said this.

When asked how they go into a recording session, Simon said, “We don’t make demos.” Instead, they go into the recording studio cold and create their albums that way. They feel most comfortable and relaxed when there are no expectations.

The camaraderie between the band members was apparent. They all laughed and joked with each other after the show or between songs on stage. Polf described the pre-concert ritual: “We’re very close. Everybody hugs each other before the show.”

What will Polf do after the tour? “I’m gonna take a long holiday and spend some time with my cat. Then Cabaret Voltaire may get back together to do more stuff.” About the tour, Polf, a member of Cabaret Voltaire who is just with them for this tour, described this tour, the European tour and the Twins’ guitars: “Moose is touring with us in Europe. Seefeel toured on the first leg.” Robin added, “Moose is great. Their guitarist made all of our guitars. They look like Strats but if you look very carefully, you’ll see that they’re not. Moose’s guitarist doesn’t only make guitars, he’s also a very good guitar player. Moose is a very loose band.”

About the rumored semi-autobiographical book by Liz, supposedly titled “Service and The Tree,” which would contain insight into her lyrics and about life in general, Liz said, “What book? It’ll be more like a pamphlet. It’ll read ‘I don’t know.’” About her lyrics, she said, “I make up my own words and steal things from languages I don’t understand.” So don’t tax your brains trying to figure out what she really is singing—she changes her lyrics even during the concert.

Travel tip 2: Robin says, “So you’re going to Spain? I have one thing to say to you—THIRD WORLD COUNTRY. It’s not too bad, just watch out for the toilets.”

About the use of live percussion over the drum machine: Benny said, “It took lots of drum work to get the sound right and in sync.” And whether he would be staying with the Twins, well… “There could be some collaborative work with live drums after the tour, but we can’t really say anything right now.”

About their fans and other places to tour: Polf said, “We have a big following in the States and in Japan. Mitsuo writes articles about the band, and we’re big there. In the UK, it’s small. We can’t afford to go to Australia because we’d lose $30,000, and would have to pay money to tour there.”

Robin and Liz are separated and are not planning to reconcile. One eager female fan in Portland flirted outrageously with Robin and kissed him when she left. Immediately following this, Robin leaned over and told Jeff, “Being single is great.” Jeff replied, “I kinda like it myself.” Robin replied, “You don’t understand, in the States, I’m single.” But for all you pining for the love of Liz, Jeff has first dibs.

Liz always arrived late to the after show party. Her assistant said that she usually called her children after a concert. Upon her appearance, she was humble and really appreciated our praise for the concert. On stage, she told us she drank hot water and juice.

After hearing the screams of fans during the concert for Song to the Siren, I asked Liz why she didn’t sing it. She replied, “It reminds me of a really difficult time in my life, and I don’t like to sing it.”

About Kurt Cobain’s suicide, Benny said, “It’s a great loss, and we will miss him.”

The Twins were great! All of the band members were really nice and pretty down to earth people. Simon took off in Vegas to go gambling with some friends. And Benny invited us to follow them to more cities. I enjoyed every minute of our adventure even though I got no sleep, missed a lot of school, and got sick on our last leg. Travel tip 3: Be prepared! If you meet the Twins, you never know where you could end up on their tour. If I had the money and the time, I would have followed them from Portland to California, to Vegas, to Phoenix, and eastward. The primo trip would have been to see them in Hawaii. One last bonus tip: Watch out for cops! ▣