"You're lucky I don't shoot you, motherfuckers!". Our New York cabbie is not a happy man, or even a very nice man. Indeed, he seems potentially homicidal.
3 Colours Red's singer/bassist Pete Vuckovic and guitarist Ben Harding naturally expected complaints when we didn't tip him for being a directionless fuckwit. But he's threatening to shoot us for the $1.80 he claims we owe. It's going to be a strange ride...
Britain's brightest lights are in New York to play their first ever US gig, as part of the CMJ music industry week. All this with only the limited-edition 'This Is My Hollywood' single to their name. Their debut album, which they've been busily recording in London, isn't even due out until 1997.
"We might not release anything else, ever," deadpans guitarist Chris McCormack. "Why give people ammunition to slag us off?"
Naturally, from the moment their Virgin Airways flight took off, 3 Colours Red went ballistic. Cries of "Could we have another create of beer please, pet?" were frequent.
On arrival at JFK Airport, 3 Colours Red hired a limousine and rolled towards the neon of Manhattan drinking more beer and playing a tape of their fine album like some sort of crazy rock mantra. Their first port of call was a massive Smashing Pumpkins party, inhabited by supermodels, Metallica and anybody who's anybody.
"Those supermodels keep trying to chat me up," says Chris with the twinkling eyes of a top bullshitter. "I said to Helena Christensen, 'Look, Lars Ulrich's over there. Fuck off and talk to him instead.'"
"I nearly twatted Claudia Schiffer," reports drummer Keith Baxter, more truthfully. "She was in me way, and when you're drunk you can't stop if you're on the move."
3 Colours Red eventually realised it was time to leave when Chris very nearly spilt Metallica frontman James Hetfield's pint, and Fluffy arrived.
"You could open an envelope and they'd be there," says Pete. "We came here to escape those fuckers."
Back at the Paramount Hotel, night soon became morning over the course of a "nine hour chat" fired up by the adrenalin of being in New York, New York. The scale of this madness is best summarised by the image of Pete throwing up in the bathroom in the early hours, then using a screwdriver to prise the last chunk of vomit from his throat.
That was yesterday. On the second night, we find the boys at a tiny Manic Street Preachers showcase gig. Chris looks like a sack of shit, without the sack. "I haven't been to bed yet," he groans.
He does eventually get some sleep, and is resurrected the next day as his usual hyper, cigarette-blagging self. The Paramount, which 3 Colours Red are sharing with members of the Foo Fighters and Alice In Chains, has the world's most pretentious hotel lobby. No food or drink is allowed here. And Geordie scruffs aren't allowed to put their feet up on the designer furniture.
"You're not in South Shields now, mate," warns Keith, as a pump-muscled security man instructs Chris to get his feet down.
Only Chris is new to America. Ben spent two and a half months here, initially touring with his old band Senseless Things, then lingering in Chicago and finally returning to England having gotten himself engaged to be married. Keith recorded an album here with his old band, Shitclad. Pete spent time in Boston with a young lady.
"New York reminds me of London - everything's so big," says Chris. "I wouldn't want to be skint here."
3 Colours Red are slowly adapting to getting paid for being in a rock band.
"I used to pick and choose at the supermarket," recalls Keith. "I liked those Safeway's Supersavers beans, at nine pence a can."
"But it's most definitely Heinz, now I don't have to go down the labour Exchange, sir," sniffs Pete.
We're weaving across a bustling Times Square with none other than Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock. Chris played guitar on Matlock's solo album, and Glen - an unassuming teetotaller - wants Chris's advice on the blonde Gibson 335 guitar he's thinking of buying for $1,800.
"I just felt like saying, 'I don't fuckin' know - just buy it'," MacCormack says later, after purchasing his first $1 hot dog.
Tonight, 3 Colours Red get their first chnace to impress the shit out of the Yanks at the Mercury Lounge - a venue which they immediately liken to Camden's Monarch pub. Soundcheck is late, due to the irate taxi driver incident. Pete and Ben eventually find their way to the venue after bumping into ex-Quireboy/now-Nancy Boy bassist Nigel Mogg on the street and getting directions. Surreal.
Pete, who is contemplating walking onstage with a pair of Calvin Klein boxer shorts on his head, denies feeling any nerves.
"You could put us anywhere on the fucking map, and we'd still make the same noise" he shrugs.
Six hours later, the band are back onstage, with Vuckovic smirking cheekily at a couple of hundred people. "Hello, America," he says. "Bet you thought we were roadies."
With that, 3 Colours Red unleash exactly the kind of set that has been hammering nails into the UK all year. The whole event is industry-based, which means the crows nods politely at best.
"We're used to 80 people bouncing down the front," sighs Keith afterwards. "You feed off it. But when it's like this you just think 'Fuck you'."
The band watch Heavy Stereo and then slope off to a bar. After that, it's back to a smoky, aromatic hotel room, where the dazed and confused foursome briefly consider calling their first album 'I'll Have Pancakes And Maple Syrup, Please. No Actually, Fuck Off'.
"Divven't wark," chuckles Chris the next day, reading a road sign which actually says, 'Don't Walk'. We're flying home later, but first we're off up the Empire States Building. "I don't really care about this tourist shit," says Chris afterwards. "I'd like to visit Ryker's Island Prison though. That's where Sid Vicious went when he killed Nancy Spungen."
Hours later, 3 Colours Red climb on a bus to the airport, quite looking forward to being back in a world where people don't beg you to say, "Can I sweep your chimneys for you, guv'nor?"
Lining up for the security x-rays, we remember that we still haven't learned why New York is called the Big Apple. Let's ask the nice young lady from Salt Lake City who's behind us.
"I've no idea," she says. "LA is called the Big Orange..."
"Are there any Big Melons?" enquired Pete.
"There are Big Melons everywhere," the nice young lady from Salt Lake City coyly replies. "You just have to know where to look."
"I'll keep me eyes peeled," grins Vuckovic.
Whirling off in an infectious gale of laughter, 3 Colours Red head back to their Hollywood. Eyes peeled.
Jason Arnopp, Kerrang!