Datura4’s fourth studio album, West Coast Highway Cosmic, released tomorrow, is a sonic meditation on travel, among other things. It’s a trip! So, to celebrate its release, we asked the band’s guvnor, Dom Mariani to reflect on the theme of travel. Here’s what he sent us.
Madrid, September 1995
I love Madrid, it’s one of my most favourite cities in the world and the recent scenes of empty streets, makeshift hospitals on the brink and the messages I’ve had from my friends that live there are distressing. The COVID-19 virus has this great city in a semi-permanent lock-down while they struggle to contain the deadly pandemic.
I’ve toured Spain a bunch of times over the past 25 years. It’s been the cornerstone of the European tours. It’s been very good to me and my music. I probably wouldn’t be making records today if it weren’t for places like Spain, so here’s a few memories from my very first tour there.
In September of 1995 I agreed to do a ten-day promotional tour of Spain as well as a show in Stockholm. It was going there to promote the first DM3 album, One Time Two Time Three Red Light, which had been released a couple years earlier in Australia. The band had just signed a licensing deal for Europe through Spanish label Running Circle. It was also my first visit to Spain, so I didn’t quite know what to expect.
The other members of DM3 couldn’t do it for various reasons, so I asked my pal Marty Moon (Hugh Veldon) if he would be keen to fill in on drums. The idea was a two piece with the possibility of hooking up with a bass player in Madrid.
The previous year I’d experienced my first tour of Europe. DM3 were invited to play The Roskilde Festival in Denmark along with a few club shows in Germany, France and Italy.
Arriving in Madrid late in the afternoon, we got through customs without any problems and waited in the passenger terminal for someone from the label to pick us up. After several hours of waiting and numerous phone calls that went to an answering machine, we resigned ourselves to the fact that no one was coming to pick us up and that we’d have to make our own way into the city to find a hotel for the night.
We were both asleep when at around 11pm the phone rings. It’s Ceasar on the line who apologised for not picking us up at the airport. “Sorry man! I got drunk last night. I was asleep when you called”. He asked if we’d like to go out for a beer. We were pretty stuffed, but we thought ‘well let’s do it’, get to know this guy and maybe get some info on the tour. An hour later Ceasar (who resembled Charles Bronson) appeared in the hotel lobby. He suggested we go to a small club in the Malasaña quarter called Tupperware where they played great 60’s music. We soon discovered it was one of many the hole in the wall clubs in Malasana. The guy behind the bar was also spinning the discs.
We requested ‘Psychotic Reaction’ by ‘The Count Five’ and the dance floor responded. There was a great vibe and we soon made some new friends. By 4am we’d had enough, and we stumbled out into the street with no idea of how to get back to our hotel. Ceasar had already split, so we were by ourselves wandering around half cut on booze in the narrow back streets of a city we’d never been to. There was no one around and it felt like we were going around in circles, but we eventually found the Gran Via and caught a taxi back to the hotel. It was just the start of what would be an eventful but shambolic tour.
The very next day we fronted up to the Running Circle office to get details for the tour. We met the label owner Michael and his assistant Christina who ordered lunch for us and we soon found out that there were only four shows booked. Majorca, Madrid, Castellon and Lleida, which was later cancelled. It was a long way to go for three shows. We sorted travel arrangements and backline, went back to the hotel to get our bags and headed straight to the airport to catch a flight to Majorca to play our first show at the Bambalam Café.
It was a warm day in Madrid and the airport was bustling. We’d just finished checking in when we noticed this tall dark gent standing in the departure lounge dressed like a river boat gambler looking like he’d just flown in from New Orleans – draped jacket, purple vest, purple round rimmed sunglasses, pompadour/ mullet hairdo, pointy snakeskin boots and to top thing off, he had a chihuahua on a leash. He looked the epitome of cool,…he definitely stood out.
I said to Marty,…”Fuck! that looks like Willy Deville! I’m pretty sure it is no one else could look like that, let’s go say hello.” I was a little reluctant at first, he looked like the kind of guy that you couldn’t approach. We were both in awe – he was one of my idols and after a few minutes of being star struck we decided to saunter over and say hello. He was standing beside his manager who was checking us out and to our surprise he was super friendly. He asked our names and what we were doing in Madrid. We gushed and told him how much we admired his music and with a broad smile that revealed his gold teeth he slipped into self-promotion mode telling us he was also on a promotional tour for his new album Loup Garout, which he said was very good and at the same time warning us to stay away from a bootleg album that was floating around without his approval. He was gracious, relaxed and chatty, and seemed curious about these two Australians that were also on tour in Spain. It was a good 15 minutes chat and by chance a once in a lifetime moment in meeting one of my heroes. I never got to see him play live and I’m pretty sure he never toured Australia but having discovered Mink Deville in the late 70’s through their single ‘Mixed Up Shook Up Girl/ Spanish Stroll’ I would become a life-long fan.
Our tour would then go on to have some challenges and crazy episodes, but I came away with a deep appreciation of Spain and their music fans. The following year DM3 would release a second album (Road to Rome) and embark on another European tour that would include a triumphant return to Spain.
Late last year I embarked on two consecutive European tours, Datura4 in October followed by the Stems in November. The Stems played their final shows at The Fun House in Madrid in December. Both shows were sold out. Spain was on a public holiday weekend and the streets and bars in Madrid were teeming with people. It’s hard to fathom how this beautiful, vibrant and mighty city is being brought to its knees with anxiety and fear. We are living through an uncertain time and it looks like the world will be a different place when this pandemic blows over.
Stay safe and love to all.
Check out Dom Mariani’s Spanish Stroll playist on Spotify.
Get the Around The Sound review of West Coast Highway Cosmic here.