Every time I check in with a US carrier I have the same problem. They look from page to page and their eyebrows arch as they see stamps for Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bosnia and then it's "would you like to step this way sir?". Once I've persuaded passport officials that an arms dealer would probably dress a little better and certainly travel first class everything is okay.
The only other place that I regularly have problems is France. Strangely, for years and years Australia was among countries such as Algeria, Libya and Chad whose citizens needed visas.
Touring in Lebanon with The Prodigy was a bizarre experience. As you'd imagine, Lebanese authorities are quite conservative, and aren't exactly used to people with double Mohicans and multiple body-piercings.
The young Lebanese were more familiar with the band so the gig, staged in a car park, started well, though torrential rain combined with electricity and exposed wires meant the band momentarily had to leave the stage sharpish.
In 1996 I toured Bosnia with a British band called China Drum. We drove there, stopping overnight in Munich, then tried to do Munich to Sarajevo in one go. We didn't make it on the way there because we crashed the van but on the way back we did a 40-hour stretch in one go. Our two drivers were those strange rock and roll creatures that can exist with almost no sleep.
This is quite normal. I regularly meet roadies who drive from LA to New York in one go without even thinking about it. Eleven people in the back of the van means no one really sleeps. You end up getting utterly obsessed with people's foibles. I'll never understood how rock bands stay together.
In May '98 I went on assignment to Afghanistan for The Face. This was just after Tony Blair had been voted in and we wanted a piece on a country that was truly run by a "young government". At the time, Afghanistan was run by students in their 20s and 30s and had the world's richest resource of recreational drugs. In theory this populous might be Face readers in a parallel universe.
Instead what they'd come up with was the most brutally oppressive society in the world. Although the media had gone silly over the Taliban banning kite flying and making everyone grow a beard, no one had gone there to talk to the people and ask them "what's this all about?".
So I tried, and wasn't actually that successful. I just couldn't get a straight answer out of them without reference to the Koran. Even a desperate question like, "Who's your favourite for the World Cup?" received an answer like, "No one but the Almighty can predict the future". I mean, c'mon chaps, Argentina v Brazil? You must have some opinion.
It took me six days of constant nagging in Peshwar to get the visa. I think in this instance the Australian passport helped. Pakistan was testing its nuclear weapons and, I think, had I turned up with an American or British passport I'd have failed. But my Australian passport, sporting a kangaroo and an emu, was received with amusement, especially with my place of birth listed as Wagga Wagga - the sort of place that most people think is a joke. Rather than looking at you as a threat you become more of a clown.
Andrew Mueller's book, `Rock and Hard Places', is published by Virgin, price pounds 9.99.Reuse content