Rod's back on the road! - Dallas Diary (June 12, 2010)

Jeffmetal

Ancient Mariner
So here we are again. Diary time.

I arrived June 4th in Dallas and the band came in from rehearsals in Florida the following day. That night we all got together for dinner at a good nearby steakhouse (what else in Texas!) so we could catch up. I hadn't seen some of the guys for a long time as I didn't need to go out to recording. Steve won't let me hear anything til its finished anyway and there is little point hanging round the studio getting in the way. And of course I had plenty to keep me busy with the forthcoming tour and album, too bloody busy in fact! So I gave them a full update on everything that is going on including all the international press we had out to talk to them, all of whom had arrived earlier in the day. All this is because of the long lead time for magazines coming out in the summer.

The following couple of days were full of various interviews for the guys and then down to the gig to check out the stage set and lights, and of course Eddie, sound check and run through the set. Even in the evening it was so very hot, to such a degree I started to worry about what it would be like on stage at the show. With a temperature touching on the 90s, you add the heat from the vast array of lights we have for this tour and I thought they may well melt. Checked we had oxygen in case it was too crazy, and water to put out the flames if they did fire up! As it happened the day of the show it was fortunately overcast with occasional rain so the temperature was acceptable and even better it didn't rain on us at the show. On Monday night Steve, Jan and I went to a nearby studio to link up to Rockline. The host, Bob Coburn, is a genuine rock and Maiden fan and we always enjoy doing this show as we get to get questions direct from the fans.

The day before the show they all went back to the venue to do some pics -- we can never have too many as there is such demand from the media, especially with an album coming up. Its not something any rock band particularly enjoys doing but it is a necessary evil and the band are very relaxed working with our photographer John McMurtrie who will be out on tour with us taking these and live shots for the first couple of weeks or so.

Bruce and I managed to take some time off and we jumped at the opportunity given to us by 2 Navy Pilot friends (thanks Patton and Monkey, who fly C1 and C4 transport planes, you know those massive birds), to visit Carson Naval Airforce base. We got to see Hueys and Tomcats, sit on a thermonuclear device ( not live I trust) and other great Boys Own treats, but the highlight was unquestionably to sit in the cockpit of an F-18, which is the naval equivalent of the famous F-16 fighter - this being made in Fort Worth, hence the design for our Texas event shirt. Bruce even got to go on the flight simulator and try to land it on an aircraft carrier which amazingly he managed to do at the second attempt, having had a total wipe out on the first and possibly sinking the carrier. A following night landing attempt proved to be more difficult! Patton, Monkey and others gave us highly interesting briefings on what goes on and how and we even got to visit the top gun Cowboys bar, which was fascinating with all the pics, trophies , motifs and other items. A real insight into a world which would otherwise be so difficult to experience. So many of the guys on the base were big fans and most came along to the show. So thanks to them all for a fascinating few hours.

The day of the show I am nervous as hell. A few months ago the band started off with a blank piece of paper for the new songs, and I start with the same for album art and concept and new stage production, on which we then work as a team, sending sketches and pics and progress reports by email til we are all happy. Its a very stressful time. We try to create a fresh new Maiden planet around each new album, usually, and in this case too, based on an album title. This time Bruce came up with the idea of The Final Frontier, which we all liked as it gave us great scope as to the edges of science or space, a lot of scope for something different. The title is not intended to hint at anything though I can see why we get asked -- it is just a fitting title which gave us a good basis to put together this new Maiden world. Whether or not there is another new album will depend how we all feel in a few years when it is time to consider this, but everyone is still fit and excited about all things Maiden so a positive view should prevail at this juncture. So don't ask the obvious on the title as we don't know!!

We worked on the concepts and art for quite a while, starting to progress stage set design in parallel, with a great deal of assistance from our designer, Stuart Crouch at Peacock in London, our set designers Alan and Sam at Hangman, and artist Mel Grant who has worked with us on various projects since Fear of the Dark and who I think did a fantastic job on the album sleeve, which of course you have all seen now. Hope you like El Dorado too! We pass the progressing artwork stages around and all comment until we feel we have the best way forward.

So waiting to see a new show incorporating all this time and effort is very tough, you just hope the fans like it. I am of course too close to be a fair objective judge but I do think that when the show started it all looked great. Hope you will all agree when you get to see it, we put a lot of effort in I can tell you! As I noted before too the lights are much more spectacular. The SBIT tour used intentionally a par can rig similar to the one in '85, but the lights on that show were not that huge a part of it due to the brightness of the overall set. But when you start getting into a new space type ideas it made sense to really go to town on the lights and I think our designer and lighting man Rob did a terrific job - on the first night it looked truly spectacular and will only get better and better as Rob gets more and more accustomed to it, adding new nuances.

I was also very pleased with Eddie. Every time we do something different there are dissenters, its the nature of the beast so to speak, but change if done well is always interesting, even if the change is more dramatic this time! Its still very much Eddie. The walking one is by far the most sophisticated yet and we even welcome a fourth guitarist to the band as you will no doubt have seen by now.

Before the show I was nervously pacing around checking out this that and the other. Anything to fill in time. Went out front to check how the merch looked. (hope you all like the new stuff -- I particularly like the USA event shirt, very funny, another gem from Herve). Nicko and I dropped into the Dream Theater dressing room to give them a large cake to welcome them to the tour, great band and we know most of the them really well so excellent to have them with us for the North American part of the tour.

The Dallas crowd gave us a fantastic reception, we haven't been here since 2003 as last time we had about 3,300 turn out to see us -- but this time it was 11,300 so you can be sure we will be back! You never get everything working 100% on a first show, not even the band as it takes a few gigs to get the pace, but I think overall we did pretty well, and our brilliant Killer Krew deserve a big hand for this too.

We arrived in Houston yesterday and spent a fascinating few hours in a hugely interesting historical place, and somewhere very apt for this album -- but more of that next time. Got back to the hotel in time for the last 5 min of the NBA Finals, sadly my team, the Lakers, lost -- but still a lot to play for.

In the early days of a tour, especially with an album coming up, its incredibly busy for me but I will try to keep on top of the diaries. I wont get chance to take many photos but will include some of John's while he is around and try to keep it interesting for you all. More from after we finish in Texas. Bye for now!

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Privateer454

Invader
Jeffmetal said:
The title is not intended to hint at anything though I can see why we get asked -- it is just a fitting title which gave us a good basis to put together this new Maiden world. Whether or not there is another new album will depend how we all feel in a few years when it is time to consider this, but everyone is still fit and excited about all things Maiden so a positive view should prevail at this juncture. So don't ask the obvious on the title as we don't know!!

While it's good that it is not a confirmation of no more albums, I would have prefered something a little more positive about the future. 

Thaks for the link though, it was a great read and everything just keeps getting me more pumped for the July show.
 

Jeffmetal

Ancient Mariner
I think the question mark about the next studio album is first a marketing plot to keep us guessing even more during the next 2 years and also, the response The Final Frontier receive will be another huge factor on the continuity of the band into this newborn decade.

Do the moderation intend to put this thread as a stick as new diary entries will be posted here as they come along on the official site? (If you do so, remove the date on the thread title as there'll be diary from every time Rod writes 'em. Cheers.)
 

LooseCannon

Enterprise-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
I'm not going to sticky it, but I'll be happy to change the title when we get a new diary.
 

Ranko

I'll shoot the gunner first!
Thanks for the share, Jeff. Rod's diaries are always interesting to read.
 

Jeffmetal

Ancient Mariner
No prob, man. He said, as you probably did read, that a new entry will come after leaving Texas. So about 3 days for second diary entry.
 

Jeffmetal

Ancient Mariner
Rod's Diary - Houston and San Antonio

On arrival in Houston Nicko, Davey, Steve, Bruce, Jan and I, along with photographer John and IMTV boss Andy Matthews, set off for a very special and historical location, NASA Space Centre, as the invited guests of astronaut Michael J. Massimino and the NASA Mission Control fans. It was a memorable experience meeting and listening to the experiences of a bona fide astronaut, one who has undertaken four space walks including one to replace failed batteries in the Hubble Telescope. We were given a very detailed tour lasting many hours. First we were taken around and inside the replica Space Station, which is far larger inside than one would think although it is basically a series of "tunnels". Next was the Space Shuttle, where we were even allowed to play in the cockpit!! Sadly the Space Shuttles are to be retired soon apparently. A major surprise was then to walk into the Mission Control Room, something we have all seen on News and NASA documentaries, and of course featured in a number of movies, to find the many fans who work in there had put up massive pictures of the band on the screens where you would normally see the rockets taking off. We spent a lot of time talking to the tech guys in there and could have spent longer as it was so very interesting (thanks Thor, Odin and gang). Next we were led into the historic Apollo Room from which the early moon trips were coordinated. The equipment was so outdated it hard to believe it was able to provide the "brain power" to get man on the moon -- not once but six times. The red phone with its direct line to the President to inform him of the moon landing was also still there and of course Nicko and I had to have a go. Sadly the Pres was out!

We then walked over to check out a couple of rockets outside and the shed for Saturn V, being intercepted along the way by a "lurking" fan and his son. George was actually the Head of Security of the Space Shuttle and was on a day off. However, having heard we were coming, he stayed around hoping to meet up with us. After some autographs he took us round the massive Saturn V and explained a lot of the history. All the fuel in the massive first stage is burnt in two and a half minutes propelling the rocket just 2.5 miles and to speeds of some 6,000 mph. Incredible. Apparently there are three Saturn Vs left as when the Apollo programme was terminated these three had already been built so are now effectively space museum pieces -- a sad end to a very exciting beginning in the life of a rocket.

In the evening we were taken to the simulator of the Space Shuttle and divided into two groups of 4 to have a go, this being a great privilege as people who had worked at NASA for over fifteen years had never been allowed to try it. Our inhouse flight specialist Bruce reckoned that definite non-flyer Janick did the smoothest landing. I flew with Nicko who did great -- there is a real shuddering as it takes off then you are thrown back in the seats -- well strapped in of course -- then it smoothes out as it gets into space .....and then you come down, and if you miss the landing there is no second chance. You cant lift off again like a plane, just one shot!!

If you ever get chance you must make a visit. It truly is a very memorable experience. So much has been gained from the Space Programme in so many areas of science, technology, engineering, astronomy, human survival and medicine -- you name a science and the space programme will have had an beneficial effect on it.  Surely it is short sighted to limit the bounds of human experience and knowledge  by reducing the programme as appears to have been happening. However in the press here recently there is talk of President Obama wanting to land man on an asteroid hurtling round the sun by 2025. A first trip into "Deep Space" - now that would be something... if it can get the funding. I think it would be rather more difficult than this was in the Bruce Willis movie "Armageddon". Lets hope it goes ahead though, it would be an incredible achievement at least equal to the first moon landing!

Next day was a showday which I spent working most of the time but got down to the Amphitheatre early to catch up on a few issues with the crew. All had gone pretty well show-wise on the first one in Dallas but there is always a lot of detail to get perfect in the first few shows. It usually takes about six before band and show are running as we would like to so I spend these shows watching intently from the mixing desk making notes for suggested improvements or to eliminate mistakes. Basically we all work together to really optimise the show for the fans. We usually have a set camera out front too so Steve can have a look at the production and light show in case he wishes to embellish everything.
It also takes a show or three to feel if the set works as well as it can and in this instance after Dallas we replaced 1000 Suns with Wrathchild as it seemed to give the set a better balance. It was always the plan to alternate Paschendale and Dance of Death as we couldn't decide which one to go with! Both seem to be working well in their different ways.

Michael and other NASA personnel came to the show and Nicko returned the favour to Michael letting him sit behind his drums and watch him beat the hell out of them for the first 3 numbers. Also as a golfer it was great to see previous Open winner Mark Calcavecchia there as a guest of Nicko and have a beer and a chat. (On winning the 89 British Open and holding up the Cup his comment was "how is my name going to fit on it?")

For a second show I was pleased how it went and the 12,000 fans out front seemed to have a great time and were full of zest still for the sing along for Running Free at the end. It was pretty humid in the evening but, as with Dallas, we were fortunate that it clouded over again so didn't get too unbearably hot on stage.

Then it was on to San Antonio -- John and I met up with Major Monkey again in the morning. He took us to the USAF Airbase to check out the massive C35 transport planes he flies. These are huge, 4 stories high in the cockpit and almost room for a convoy in the back. On the road it is great to be able to get out and see these things, we would never get the chance ordinarily. I used to make tons of Airfix Model planes when I was a kid so must admit I love it. There is also an outdoor air museum there with the majestic SR-71, forerunner to the Stealthbomber, and B-29 Flying Fortress which after the C-35 looked quite small.

For the show in the evening we had opted for indoors in the splendid AT & T Centre, sold out to 13,000. Really good show, everything coming together really well. Afterwards pretty well everyone got out of the hotel to a local bar where we had a few beers.

I seem to have missed out commenting along the way about sport, my great passion, and of course it is a great time for it. Of course we checked out the embarrassingly poor England v USA World Cup game and the sorry mistake by our keeper. Have to say USA deserved the draw for sure. Steve was mortified - I watched it with some of the guys in the hotel bar. Why cant our lot show a bit more cohesion, determination and passion? But as you may know this is not my game, rugby is and even sadder England Rugby put up an equally passionless and limited performance against Australia, losing 27- 17 (but at least we were soon to improve , unlike our football brethren!). Also the NBA Finals were going on -- I am a Lakers fan from living in LA 1984-88 when I used to go regularly to see the might of Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Cooper, AC Green and the rest. They were amazing and it is certainly some level of synchronicity that in those days it was also Lakers v Celtics as THE match up and most finals. I used to hate the Celtics McHale and his angularity (and opposing impact on a game!!) but you could never hate Bird, just admire his talent. I will keep my sport summaries to a minimum and in one place so those lacking interest can skip it. but it is all very much part of touring and I have of course got my Sky Slingbox hooked up!!!

- Rod

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Jeffmetal

Ancient Mariner
Good catch as when I got to that part, the word 'spoiler' came to my mind. Ahahahahahahahahahah... Some more pics from Gadd's random gallery -

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Hanging with Mark Calcavecchia (he's a golfer)
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Bruce with Mission Controllers from NASA
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Jan posing
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Watching England's first World Cup game. Doesn't appear to be going well...
 

Jeffmetal

Ancient Mariner
Rod's Diary - Denver, Albuquerque & Phoenix
Published: June 25, 2010

We flew into Denver the day of the show, its always pleasant to see mountains out of the hotel window. The gig was at Fiddlers Green Amphitheatre where we last played in 2003 I think to about 5000 people. This time there were 11,000! The stage area is a bit smaller than most Amphitheatres but we are always able to adapt to a good extent by designing some flexibility in the production to allow for such variances so I don't think the fans missed anything at all. The stage was flanked by 2 huge screens -- we have spent some time on the screen video screens bringing in a live music TV producer/editor Andy Matthews (who is also doing IMTV) and added our own cameras on Nicko (2 for the best looking guy in the band!!), an Eddie-cam as we call it and one shooting out front from behind the drums, all to supplement the house system which is normally one camera on each side front of stage and 2 on the mixing desk. I reckoned there would be a lot of fans on the lawns and the arenas would be full for this tour so we wanted to make sure all those further from the stage got as good a view as possible on the screens.

Denver is at higher altitude (Mile High?) so thinner air and much cooler in the evening than Texas!!! At the end of the show I was even quite cold from standing on the desk. Tougher on the band too! The show went fine with a good audience. The next day we stayed in Denver but not much to say as I was working all day.

Albuquerque was next and some serious heat -- same venue as last time, Journal Pavillion, another Amphitheater, this one appearing to be on the edge of the desert and once again there it was quite windy -- and very hot. The radio station 94 Rock or KZRR is by far the biggest current and historical supporter of Maiden in the USA so it was good to meet Phil and some of the staff before the show to thank them for giving us some airplay!! Show went well to around 12,000 -- its always a great audience here. After the show we flew on to Phoenix and arrived at the next hotel just before the bar closed!!


Watching the game

Phoenix show day was a big day -- Game 7 of the NBA finals!!! I had been catching as much as possible of the previous games and was determined to see all this game so asked Ian to ensure there was a good TV in a room backstage. Shouldn't have bothered, they had TVs all over the place!! We had a few sporting guests, Mark Calcavecchia came along again, as did Pat Preez , a PGA tour golfer, with his brother Mike, plus from baseball pitching legend Randy Johnson and Elaine La Russa, wife of Cardinals Manager Tony, who is also apparently a big fan but had a Cards game that night. I invited them to watch the game and have a few beers in my room prior to us going on stage which all were very happy to participate in -- an NBA Final Game 7 (for the uninitiated the finals are best of 7 and it was 3-3 in an already exciting series which favoured one side then the other). For a sports nut like me its always so interesting being able to meet people who played at the top of their sport and listen to some stories. There seem to be quite a number here who are genuine big fans of Maiden -- the highlight on the last tour was when Lance Armstrong came to MSG and joined me on the mixing desk singing along to the songs!

With about 3 min left in the final fourth quarter the Lakers were edging it but the band were due to go on stage. I popped out to the toilet during the time out and when I got back the room was empty. EVERYONE had gone out to see the start of the show, missing the final couple of minutes of an incredibly exciting game! Now that is what I call real fans. Of course I watched the end of the game -- Lakers won!!

It was incredibly hot even on the mixing desk so must have been very difficult on stage with all the many lights too but the show went very well with a great audience once again of about 11,000. Everything is going well -- band , crew and even myself are ready for San Bernardino which will be the biggest show on this North American tour -- but more about that later.

- Rod

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Rod's Diary - LA to Seattle
Published: July 1, 2010

San Bernardino is about 80 miles out of LA and is a very well equipped Amphitheater with a potential maximum capacity of over 40,000, about 12,000 seated and the rest on the lawns. Like most acts who play there we didn't expect to get even close to sell out, (not this time anyway!)  and anything over 15,000 looks good and we got close to 25,000 so it looked great. Fortunately about 2 miles from the venue we were met by our police escort and it was just as well as, although only about 90 minutes before we were to go on stage there were hundreds of cars in a massive traffic jam/tailback on the highway leading to the entrance. There is only one way in and out so of course all the traffic had to go the same way hence the hold ups. As we got closer there were thousands of fans walking up to the entrances from the car parks. It was pretty clear even at this time that there could be delays -- shades of San Paolo 2009 when about 20,000 were waiting to get into Interlagos when I arrived (see that diary). So, on arrival, I met with promoter and our Production Manager to assess the situation -- fortunately they had already delayed Dream Theater by about 15 min to gain some time to get the fans in. We were due to go on at 8.50 and this was already put back to 9.10, having a reasonable time between acts as DT delayed. We reassessed just prior to that and decided we would have to go on at 9.30 so as to ensure all our fans were in. This left a longer gap between sets of some 50 min, much longer than we like to have as its unfair on the fans. So an announcement was needed to inform everyone inside of what was going on and that we were ready to go but were waiting to get everyone in. I drew the short straw to make the on stage announcement which I did, simply saying we were ready to go but there were still a couple of thousand fellow fans outside so, if it was ok with everyone, we would wait and go on at 9.30 for sure so please be patient and get a beer or visit the toilet or have a wander for 25 mins or so. As I have always found in these circumstances, if you are clear and honest with the fans they will respond positively and this was again the case -- I think everyone thinks of themselves still outside and how happy they would be if both band and audience were happy to wait for them to get in. There was not even a groan and I thank those misguided individuals who yelled a welcome to me when I made my very rare stage appearance!! So thanks to all of you who were there for your patience.

Rod stuns the 25,000 fans at San Bernardino into silence with his rendition of El Dorado

In between discussions on this I visited the guest area to see some of my guests and say hello to various biz people, label, media etc. As usual in LA, NY or London there were too many people for comfort and you get hassled by people you really don't want to talk to and this stops you talking to people you do! But it will never change, its the same for any band.

I don't know precisely what it is with Maiden, probably nervous energy , but they always seem to nail the really big shows and this was no exception. Everything had been getting better with the playing and the show gradually from the start in Dallas and this night was absolutely breath-taking, the band were totally fired up and were playing with immaculate precision, Doug did a terrific job on the out front sound and the show looked a million dollars. I know the band approach all shows the same, they are all important and fans irrespective of number or place deserve the best and the band are fully aware of that and always go on full throttle so it just has to be that extra pressure can bring the very best out of them, really pushes them to the edge. It has happened many times all the way through our history, the big ones have always been mega, they are never less than their very best. Tension, pressure, nerves, call it what you will, but it works!! Or maybe its just me feeling the pressure and seeing it from a different angle? Who knows. Anyway I was on the mixing desk all the way through (with my beers) and I had a great time. And I think so did all the fans, the reception was tumultuous -- so thanks if you were there for your very vocal support as well as your patience. A really great show for one and all -- including I found out later the band. I have said here many times how important it is for the band to truly enjoy a show to have good onstage sound, something which varies a lot and sometimes you can do little about despite excellent road techs on the stage. And tonight the onstage sound was spot on.

After to make sure we could get out of the venue we were straight off stage into the cars and off with a police escort. This way we could get back to the hotel for a couple of well deserved beers before they closed!!

The next day was Concord, another Amphitheater near San Francisco, where we sold the last ticket on the day to have a 12,500 sell out. However I wasn't there -- I took a day off. I think I deserved it as fitting in all the work with the shows and travel can be tough (hence the tardiness of these diaries) That's my excuse anyway, I had a quiet day with lunch of bangers and mash at an English Pub, read some English papers I got hold of, caught a bit of sun and only looked at my BlackBerry about 300 times!! But even without me there I heard that the show went just great!! Nicko, Jan and I had been down the pub on the Friday evening too meeting up with various people for a few beers, and I was there again on the Monday eve for dinner with some of our label people following various meetings during the day. When in Rome??!!

Lets get rid of the sport report here. We all know England are out. Hardly surprising based on performances lacking energy, passion, commitment and most other things. It is hard to truly get behind your national team if you despise the attitude of some of the players -- not all, for example Rooney gives his all, although he did look tired in South Africa. I saw the Algeria game in -- of course -- the pub, I think on the Saturday before the San Bernardino show (on tour one day drifts into another and plays havoc with your memory! Or is it age!!) -- well I saw the first ten minutes and seeing the poor body language and lack of any real application by some of our players I left. You could almost bet on a 0-0 draw. No disrespect to Algeria but we were piss poor. I saw the (7am here) Slovenia game too, where we managed a feeble 1-0 victory and most of the German game where, irrespective of a disallowed but unquestionable goal, we were beaten by a far more exciting team. Fortunately things were very different in the 2 sports I love -- rugby and cricket. In the former we beat Australia in OZ 21-20, only the third time ever we have won down there, and our cricketers also beat Oz at one day cricket quite easily to win the second game of the 5 match series -- and they have since won a close game in the third so the series is ours. Fantastic stuff. An Oz journo was at San Bernardino to do a feature for a number of major papers down there so I had of course to search him out, gloat and invite him to join me on the desk and share my beers during the show!! I love the continuous sporting conflcts with and the company of Aussies. As a Yorkshireman I find my inclinations much closer to those of an Aussie than most Englishmen from say Kent or the south. Sport, beer, beer and sport -- fantastic idea!! Just throw in a bit of music to the mix and you are all set!

So on to Seattle, another Amphitheater, another 12,000, another great show. Some on stage comments from Bruce from here and Concord had hit the media basically about him denigrating downloads. This was not the actual story. Bruce still prefers analogue's warm sound to CDs, and CDs to downloads -- probably I do too. Others disagree and yes the convenience is great with iPods etc -- as one report said you can't carry Iron Maiden playing live down a subway -- and nor can you a record deck!! As usual his comments were to some extent misinterpreted and headlines misleading but that generally happens with the media on most everything.

We flew into Vancouver -- a beautiful lively city -- straight after the show and members of our party who shall remain nameless (Dave et al) had a bit of a party til the early hours. What the hell, we were back in Canada, somewhere the support for Maiden has been unwavering over the years. We will hopefully get to this next part of the tale soon.

NB -- for those who are new to these diaries if you check back to previous diaries for the cities I mention most will be covered and will have more detail on the venue and the city if you are at all interested. I see little point in repeating myself. This not only applies to North America but also to a lot more places we will visit over the next year.

- Rod

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Jeffmetal

Ancient Mariner
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