Crotch Rot and Near-Death Jacknifes: Withered Tour in Style
The road is not a pretty place. Tour Is Hell collects your favorite bands' war stories, some of which make Cormac McCarthy look like Dr. Seuss. Today, we get in the van with Mike Thompson of blackened death/doom destroyers Withered.
What album can everyone agree on in the van? What’s the most divisive?
We have a strict “Driver is DJ” rule in the van, so he calls the shots. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with any Metallica, up to (and including) the Black Album. We start getting divided on later-generation Swedish metal/hardcore crossover stuff like At the Gates.
What’s the strangest gig you’ve ever played?
That’s tough. Probably the time my old band got tricked into playing a house show that was supposed to be a raging kegger. It ended up being just for the dude that lived there and his bandmates. He had just had spinal surgery with a big bandage on his back, was a huge dude, and had a mini-altar to me in his bedroom because I was his favorite drummer at the time. There were even candles. This was with my grind band, Social Infestation. I’m not even that good of a drummer.
Tell us about your biggest onstage clusterfuck.
One time, in Canada, I went to hop over my pedal board to rip a guitar solo standing on the subs out front. I inadvertently kicked the power strip and lost power to my pedal board and our bassist's. It was pretty funny, but our bassist at the time didn’t think so.
Describe your craziest afterparty.
Hmmm ... I don’t know if that’s a good idea to give much detail. But I can say it involved a packed show, too much whiskey, too much of other things unmentionable, lots of fun ladies, several nightclubs, free shots at a gay bar while our other guitarist puked in the bathroom, bushes, etc., and getting to know my bandmates in ways I never thought I would. The Midwest is an unassuming party beast!
How do you deal with going days or even weeks without a shower?
You sorta just do and get used to it. Basically, when I drop my pants to take a shit and gag at the smell of my own undercarriage, it’s time for at least a wet wipe/sink bath. We also strive to find any available swimming hole along the way, or hop hotel fences.
Be it an accident, crazy fan or place to crash, what’s your scariest experience on the road?
We did two back-to-back tours in late 2010 (Danzig, then Skeletonwitch). We had about one and a half days to drive from L.A. to Detroit. When we hit western Colorado, there was a blizzard in the Vail area. On an elevated roadway on the side of a mountain, we hit a large patch of ice. Luckily, I was only going about 20-30 mph, but the van/trailer just drifted until it jackknifed 180 degrees and we bounced off the guard rail, keeping us from a 30-foot drop into a river. We had to detach the trailer and spin it by hand while other cars zoomed by in the middle of the night because the road was too narrow to drive it out. We pushed on to make the tour, and it happened again 20 minutes later. The rear of our trailer was protruding about 18 inches from the gear pressing against it. We got a hotel and got very drunk.
What’s your universal must-go restaurant or road stop?
We thrive at Pilot Flying J rest stops. Since they are all mostly identical, it gives a sense of home. We eat a lot of Wendy’s.
Who drives the most and least, and why?
I drive the most because I guess I’m the most experienced, I own the rig and know its quirks very well, and somehow I tend to be the most capable (least hung over, maybe) in the morning. The other guys split up the rest of the time pretty evenly.
What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without sleep?
How do you try to stay healthy on the road?
I try to be careful about what I eat to a large degree. I like walking around the cities for a little exercise, and drink a shitload of water. Oh, I always use my own microphone and never touch the inner door handles in bathrooms. No one wants a bad dose of dick hand.
How do you amuse yourself on long stretches with nothing to do?
It varies from making up city tourism jingles in the style of Michael McDonald to long (30-plus-minute) fart sound sessions, or whatever nonsense. Sometimes I wish we had one of those airplane black boxes. If not driving or navigating, we usually rest/sleep.
What do you argue about the most?
We rarely do, actually. If so, it’s either where to eat or who was slack at loading gear the night before. But never too elevated. Metal keeps us quite tolerant, it seems.
Withered's Grief Relic dropped on Season of Mist earlier this spring.