SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND with Davy Craig former guitarist for North East noise merchants Drill

Drill formed in the late 80s. A live review in Sounds said…’when the massive guitar barrage is coupled with vocals they sound like they’re fresh off The Exorcist. Drill have a magnificent intensity’…. For my first gig we were booked at the Riverside on Wednesday 18th July 1990. I was 21. A few of my mates were in the audience and by the time we went on stage I was a shaking mess. But once the drum machine counted us in for the first song I was in the zone. The audience stood as if they’d been sonically blasted into submission. That was my first proper gig and I wanted more.

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Davy Craig on the right playing his first gig at The Riverside, Newcastle.

When did your interest with music begin ? I always thought that being able to play guitar was a mystical gift that you were born with and was unattainable. But I knew a lad who was selling a bass for £20. I had some money left over from Christmas and begged my parents to lend me the difference. They did and I headed home with the guitar. After a few months I became bored at the limitations of the bass so sold it for £25 and bought a guitar with an amp. Immediately I felt I was in business. I just played what I heard…badly, but I loved it.

Who were your influences ? I was brought up with The Beatles, The Moody Blues and Donovan,  Then U2, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Big Country. Amongst 60s bands like Velvet Underground, The Doors and a number of Punk and Post Punk bands.

I’d read an interview with Will Sergeant from Echo and the Bunnymen. A lot of music journalists and ‘musos’ gave him a hard time, because of the simplistic style of his playing. He sounded incredible to me though.

He said something along the lines of ‘I’m not very good at playing anyone else’s stuff, or like anyone else…but no bastard can play like me! That was the whole key for me.

Had guitars started to become an obsession then I had two part time jobs and saved every penny to upgrade my guitars, amps and effects. By the time I was 17 I had an early 60s Japanese reissue Candy Apple Red Stratocaster and a Fender Amp with upgraded pedals. I knew about chords by then and was learning more and more, but still in my own style. I got to find out about the world of effects and tried to get my hands on as many cheap second hand Arion effects. Phaser, flanger, distortion and an analogue delay which was a real game changer.

My dad would just turn off the house electricity and have everyone sat in the dark rather than tell me to turn my amp down! Loads of other crap was going on and I started bunking off from school to get home and play guitar in peace.

I also became friends with members of local band Candleman Summer and roadied for them. I thought the guitarist Graeme McCulla, was superb. I watched closely and learnt from him.

When I went to university in London the first thing I bought with my grant was an E-bow in Denmark Street in Soho. That changed everything and I spent hours playing with big delays, slide, distortion and other effects to create all sorts of weird and wonderful sounds.

When were your first gigs ? I played in a few bands at a Community Centre in Hebburn. But I left because I didn’t want to play Dire Straits, OMD, Level 42 and the like. I wanted to make a racket!

How did getting the job with Drill come about ? When I started my second year at Uni I had plans of joining a band in London but after a few problems came back to the North East and looked in various music ads.

There was an advert in The Sunday Sun in July 1990 for a band who required a 3rd guitarist. That intrigued me. They were into Big Black, The Band of Susans stuff like that. I spoke to a lad called Kev Wilkinson and arranged to meet up.

I went along to the rehearsal rooms and Kev said…‘Well get inside and set up, because I’m fucking sick of all of the metal heads we’ve had so far!’ The first thing I noticed was no drummer, then the bassist Drew Gallon, who played for The Shotgun Brides and later Forgodsake. He was helping the band out.

In the corner standing in front of a huge double stack of four cabs was Tony O’Brien. Kev and Tony had previously been in The Shotgun Brides.

I was asked to play a few things which sounded absolutely deafening. Having enjoyed it I left and when I got home got a call from Kev. He told me that I was in the band, but I had to learn all of the songs for a gig that Wednesday at the Riverside!

I was also told that I couldn’t use my strat or my Fender Amp as they weren’t powerful enough. I borrowed a Marshall cab from Tony, along with a Fender guitar, the humbucker being crucial to the sound, with a borrowed 2 x12 cab. I learnt the songs and rehearsed a couple of times prior to the gig and felt confident. I was ready to play my first gig with Drill.

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Things were going well with the band ? Yes, Kev would pick me up for rehearsals and gigs so we had a lot of time to chat. He was very forthright in his view of what the band should be like and I loved being part of it.

We started writing new songs together with Kev at the helm. Part of me wondered if he was just making it up as he went along or he was a genius with real vision. It felt great to be part of something that seemed so different to anything else around.

I became mates with the other lads from The Shotgun Brides. I got on well with Chris McCormack, later of 3 Colours Red and Professionals.

Who was in the line up and what equipment did the band use ? I had to sell my beloved Fender Strat at Grott Guitars in Newcastle. I put what money I had to buy a Simms Watt 4 x 12 cab from Rock City and picked up a Burman 100 Watt Amp that was in Grott Guitars. I needed a guitar, Kev wanted me to have something with a meatier sound.

I entered McKay’s on Westgate Road and saw two guitars that were ideal. One was a Yamaha, and the other was a bright green Gordon Smith Gypsy II, with double humbuckers and a coil tap. Tony put a new bridge on it, along with a brass nut, for ridiculous sustain. I was geared up.  I was encouraged to join in writing.

Simon Moore eventually joined on bass. We worked on each other’s sound and everyone was happy to experiment. Si used Marshall’sThe Gov’nor’ pedal on his bass. It took a while to get the sound right as we wanted that cutting distortion, without losing the bottom end. His style of playing suited the band perfectly. Kev used a Fender Mustang guitar which gave a great top end cutting through the rest of us.

Tony used multiple guitars, but mainly Gibson models, Les Paul Special, Firebird, a couple of Flying V’s plus a stunning Gibson L5-S. His 4 x 10 cabs made his guitars sound quite trebly, but Tony was playing what was closest to being lead parts.

I suppose I was in the middle, with the Simms Watt 4 x 12, then aside from the drum machine, playing in various time signatures. Kev’s voice was the ingredient he wanted to get spot on. He picked up a zoom guitar effect, which was the size of a walkman. I think he initially wanted to use it for his guitar, but decided to use it on his vocals instead. He utilized a number of effects, but the main ones were distortion and harmoniser/octave controls.

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What venues did the band play ? We didn’t play many gigs just the Riverside and a few local venues in Newcastle. At The Broken Doll I was always asked what the fuck was I playing, but in a good way and many just marvelled at the E-bow, as they scraped themselves off the walls pummelled by our sonic assault. I very quickly felt that I was going to keep playing in the band and see where things were going to take us.

The clincher for sticking with it came when we signed to Abstract Records with Edward Christie. In September 1990 we joined the stable that previously had New Model Army and UK Subs as it’s main bands.

What was your experience of the studio ? We booked into Impulse Studios in Wallsend with Kevin Ridley, the singer with Forgodsake. Kevin was a really nice bloke and he really pushed us.

We went in on 17th January 1991, the day the Gulf War started. We had no idea what was going on in the outside world as we were walled into the studio. It felt really claustrophobic and I think we captured that on the album, which was completed in five days.

At first, we started with one of our favourites, Compressed Head. We played everything correctly, but Kevin Ridley wasn’t happy and said it sounded flat. Not having been in a studio before, even to do a demo, I had no idea but Kevin was right. It didn’t sound like it should.

We were paying for the studio time, or at least the record company were and we felt like we were wasting it. We scrapped that song for now and said that we’d come back to it.

We moved onto other tracks and I think the first one we did was Pylons. When we came back in to listen to it, it sounded spot on and somehow the studio, the desk and ourselves had come alive.

We blasted through the songs and Kev added his vocals, deciding to run a lead out of the recording booth and into the old Victorian toilets which was covered in tiles. It sounded fantastic. Kev doing his vocals sat on the netty was a masterstroke.

With an instrumental called E the sample was played backwards and by pure chance it sounded like someone saying Eee, ya fucker…! It was hilarious and fitted.

I loved playing that song as I was given free range to create atmospheric sounds over sparse chords that it was built from. I scraped the E-bow, holding it with my ring and little fingers, at the same time holding a plectrum and changing from one to the other very quickly. Plus employing my made up chords and even using a wee bit of string bending!

Anyway, the album was finished and mixed with us having completed Compressed Head, a great way to end. Overall, I’m very proud of the whole thing.

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Skin Down was released in June 1991 and billed as Industrial Noise Guitar music. It was met with some excellent reviews across the board, most giving us 10/10. Some local music writers had really championed the band, none more so than Kriss Knights and especially Lee Conlon who was a big part of the Paint It Red magazine. The big nationals also seemed to love us with Melody Maker describing it as ‘a musical white knuckle ride’. 

Written press weren’t the only ones to champion the album. The record company on hearing what we’d delivered, pushed us to the forefront of the label and it sold quite well.

National radio got involved, with us being played and championed by John Peel. We got album of the month on BBC radio, ahead of the first Blur album.

I loved all of this and wanted more. It felt like we were riding a huge wave and were about to sign to an agency for tours. I thought it was all about to happen!

Did you film any music videos or appear on tv ? Kev came in to rehearsal with the news that he’d left a tape at Tyne Tees Studios and we’d been picked up to appear on local arts programme Elements. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything was happening. We went to an old steel foundry in Gateshead and set up to mime to a song.

I remember it taking most of the day. I don’t know about the other lads, but I had great fun. When we finished we headed for free drinks in the pub round the corner.

With an album recorded how did you promote it ? We only played a handful of gigs. One was supporting Swervedriver at Riverside. After our second song the house lights came on as there was a technical problem. We looked out and saw Swervedriver stood next to the desk, mouths agape. We just laughed, got on with it and showed them what we were made of. It went down a storm with the crowd going crazy at the front. When Swervedriver came on the crowd moved back from the stage and were very subdued.

We also did a gig in a pub near Blyth. Not many turned up, but those that did were going mad. Four people were sat in the corner and asked to speak to us after the gig. They’d come over from America to see us, having been told about us by the label. They loved us and wanted us to go to L.A. for a four venue residency, with a view to moving on through the US. I couldn’t believe it.

We thought they were mad coming all that way but they were genuine. I had my bags packed in my own mind and I think Si was up for it as well. But Tony and Kev were married, with mortgages and well paid jobs. They didn’t fancy getting stranded in L.A. so it didn’t happen. The same thing happened with tours that were in the offing in Europe and Japan.

We hadn’t even played London and our only gig outside of the North East was in a working men’s club in Burnley. It was booked by a group of fans from the area.

As we sound checked people coming out of the snooker room were shouting ‘What the bluddy ‘ell’s this flamin’ racket?’ The atmosphere wasn’t good to say the least.

We set up on stage, instructed not to move the house organ, drum kit, or bingo machine. The place was jam packed when we went on. A crowd of around 30 kids were at the front jumping around and absolutely loving it. The rest of the ballroom consisted of pensioners out in their finest clobber.

With the drum machine we knew the songs by names, but also by the numbers that were programmed in. Kev did away with the set list and said Davy, what number will we play next?  I shouted out a number, he pressed it and we launched into it. As I shouted the number I noticed that most of the crowd suddenly sprang into life. No they weren’t going to start headbanging or crowd surfing, they were looking for their bingo dabbers and cards! I couldn’t stop laughing. We’d broken the unwritten code of never mess with the bingo! I read a number of years later that club was the inspiration for Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights!

Soon after I became disillusioned with the whole thing. My girlfriend at the time was feeding me lies about members of the band, that they were planning to replace me with Chris McCormack. She just wanted me to get a proper job. I thought that I’d get a writing credit for E but didn’t. No tours or gigs apart from a few local ones. With Kev and Tony saying we were going to continue writing new material and go straight back into the studio. I couldn’t see the point if we weren’t going to promote the debut album.

On reflection what do you think of your time in the band ? I left having only been in the band for just over a year. It was great when it lasted. But I felt that so many opportunities were missed.

What am I up to now ? Well I’ve been in a few bands since but my health, both physically and mentally wasn’t very good and I become disabled around 5 years ago. I haven’t played since but hoping to improve and maybe get out doing some solo stuff.

It’s nice to hear people still talking about the band, both online and in conversation. I’m very proud of it all, but it seems a bit sad that it didn’t take off and it just ended with a whimper.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  January 2019.

ROCK FROM A HARD PLACE with Paul Laskey from rock band Cloverhill

Burnley blues/rock band Cloverhill are a vehicle for the songwriting of Paul Laskey. He was keen to talk about recording and plans for the future, but first I asked him about crowdfunding…I think that it is a good thing but maybe tends to get a bit over used and puts people off. As long as you understand that there is no guaranteed return and you are doing it for the love of the music, then more power to it. The ability to maybe give a break to talented people and the right causes is a good thing. We would look at it under the right circumstances.

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How did Cloverhill get together ? It started when I was playing at a festival in France where I met another musician playing on the bill, Grant Henderson. Grant is a drummer and producer with a studio in the Leeds area. We got on really well and I asked him if I could use his place to record some of the songs that I had written over the years – so that is how Cloverhill was born. We got in a bass player, Vince Rycheck, and a couple of ladies from bands that we knew to do backing vocals. I played all guitars and recorded lead vocals. Grant added drums, percussion and keyboards.

Were you pleased with the album ? The studio is our blank canvas – I love it. We go in with basic ideas and hopefully a fully fledged work of art comes out. It’s called 7 of One and 2 1/2 of the Other. Named after the settings on the old Fender amp that we used with one of my guitars, a 1980s Kramer. We wanted to get a kind of retro sound to underpin a lot of the album.

Due to funds and time available the album took a while to make, but was completed at the end of 2016 and released in 2017. It was mastered by Tony Dixon at Masterpiece in London, with the brief of  ‘as loud as **** please’.

Any gigs planned for Cloverhill ? The plan was to go live in 2018 as 3 piece with stripped down versions of the songs but, unfortunately, the bass player pulled out at the last minute. He was unable to commit to gigging for a variety of reasons. That threw us up in the air a bit and it took us a long time to find a replacement but we now have one. Marcio Couto, a fantastically talented and funky bass player originally from Brazil, but now living close to me in the North West.

With his introduction we are now on the second round of recording for the new album, which is generally taking us in a more funk/blues Southern Rock direction. It is a lot more stripped down and is probably reflective of a mixture of my real roots and where I am today.

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When can we expect any new songs from the band ? A new single, Love You To Pieces will be out by March. Funnily enough, this is probably the most ‘pop’ song we have done and will probably be a bit of an oddity on the album but we felt it would make a good single.

What are the immediate plans for Cloverhill ? The plan is to go live during 2019 once we have all got some sessions out of the way. In the meantime, you can find Marcio and me jamming with friends at The Shift Cafe in Burnley.

 Contact Paul at https://www.facebook.com/CloverhillRock

 Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2019.

The Benidorm Roller with entertainer Martin Weavers

Making a living as an entertainer can be hard going with most people having another job to support their family…. A few year ago I was working as a Health and Safety officer but got made redundant so decided to get a full time job in a school to work alongside the music. This worked really well and my wife and I saved enough money to get to Benidorm and make a singing career out here.

I hope to make our band The Rollermaniacs the best tribute to The Bay City Rollers. The line up is Nick Carter on  rhythm guitar, Xavier Bravo on lead and me on vocals. The Rollers use live guitar and vocals unlike some tribute bands in Benidorm. I’m also planning some solo shows and currently in CoCo Benidorm every Saturday afternoon. Why not pop in ?

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What is your background and when did you first get interested in music ? I’m originally from Suffolk and moved to Essex via three marriages. My first memories of music where when my mum used to listen to the forces sweet hearts programme on the radio every Sunday. I first listened to Slade and then the Bay City Rollers came along and I was hooked…I know it’s cheesy but it’s true.

My first gig was as a comedy vocalist in 1993 at the Sudbury Bird Cage Society Christmas dinner. When I was in a comedy double act we had a gig at The Pavillion Theatre in Eastbourne and my partner thought it was a good idea to go to a fun fair after the sound check. After being thrown around on the waltzer I was so sick I nearly had to cancel – but the show had to go on!

Did you see being an entertainer as a full time career ? I’ve also done TV work as an extra on Lovejoy, The Chief and acted in Insiders with Bill Nighy. That went out on BBC1. I was on the pilot episode of Britain’s Got Talent, also the Barrymore and Des O’Connor shows. Always kept busy. From listening to performing, music has given me enjoyment all through my life and over the years I’ve made loads of friends and followers.

What does music mean to you ? I can live the rest of my life knowing I have helped people get away from their normal day to day life, and through the music relive some of their past.

 Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2019.

ONLY A NORTHERN SONG in conversation with Tyneside songwriter John Clavering

What projects are you working on ? I’m in the studio writing and arranging with musician Cortney Dixon. Cortney is like a creative soul mate we have a lot in common the way we work. She is also working with a writer called Jim Lowe – Grammy award winning producer whose worked loads with bands like Stereophonics and the Charlatans. So the songwriting is really coming on and she plans on releasing something this year. I also play keys for her live.

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On stage with John and Cortney Dixon.

It’s really interesting stuff as Cortney is not interested in pop or the girly image. She’s interested in making an album with 2 sides, the cover, the whole product you know. Really old school. I’m enjoying that stuff. She has management who benefit her with contacts and wisdom as they’ve been around a long time.

A couple of year ago when I was engineer at The Customs Space Studio in South Shields I was working with Martin Francis Trollope who is engineer there now, Cortney and Jade Thirlwell who went on to be in Little Mix. Obviously Jade went through the whole TV route while Cortney went opposite to that but they are both talented and great singers. It’ll be interesting to see where Jade goes after Little Mix and the crazy pop world that she is in. Cortney has been offered that route, she met the Cowells and all of them you know but she didn’t want that. I’m proud that she’s took her own path. Quite a punk ethic really.

What is your background in music ? I was in a few bands in the 80s and 90s. One was 3 Kicks a Newcastle based funk/pop sort of band then The Ghosts of Soul. For that band we done our songwriting, gig’s and video all funded by playing the workingmen’s clubs. We would have a different name doing the covers, make some money then put it all back in and do some recording. I remember how hungry we were. We would of done anything to make enough money. We were at college when Ghosts of Soul were about so we had a grant but that wasn’t enough. We could use the studio gear at college which was great but to be a travelling, touring musician can be expensive.

Were you making a living as a full time musician…..I don’t think you can make a career out of it you’ve got to be lucky to play more than a couple of gigs a week. But if you get a couple of corporate gigs you can get paid £600 for a nights work. In my experience some people aren’t interested in creative stuff when they do covers. Unfortunately people don’t see you as a real musician in the industry.

How do you think live music is seen now ? I worried a few year ago that it was going to be everybody singing along to a macbook (laughs). But it hasn’t gone that way, it’s gone back to bands. There has been a huge resurgence in the sales of classic guitars, Fender, Gibson and old analogue keyboards. As a keyboard player and music technologist that really interests me. But still can’t afford the buggers (laughs). As a 80s/90s musician it feels good that it’s going back to that as it worked really well. It’s fascinating.

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John 2nd from left and Cortney (in blue) with the live band.

There might not be the financial returns from music but it’s still valuable….Yes like you with film and video you do it because you want to do it. It’s a need. You get an idea in your head, you create it and put it out there. The only way you can justify your existence is by people saying that’s good and that’s a kind of ego rubbing there. But I find it sad that in this commercial world so few people can make their way by just being an artist. A lot of artists I know have another job. People don’t pay for stuff now with Spotify, and on You Tube there is visual tours of art galleries now. So they don’t have money for new art.

There are original bands out there who use the internet as their only outlet. A lot of niche stuff getting heard on Soundcloud and Spotify. They’re not playing live so not making any money at it.

But there is nothing like standing in the front row of a gig. You will never get that feeling from watching You Tube on your phone (laughs). I love going back and watching the 70s/80s stuff that I missed like Led Zep. That’s all great but seeing stuff live like Sam Fender is amazing. Sam is a good friend of mine from North Shields. He is a singer/songwriter. He has a really good band, it’s exciting, he’s touring again this year. Some of his songs have a strong meaning and tackle things like suicide. He get’s it across well. Really visceral with hundreds of students at the gig jumping around. Me standing there like an old fart but it’s really great. On stage it’s all live. There is no tech running. Just guitar, bass, drums, singing.

Sam has built a following with drip feeding a few original songs on-line, and with good management he has been guaranteed live gigs, TV stuff. He was on the Jools Holland show a few month back. He is very media friendly and I think you will see a lot of him. It’s very interesting watching his career develop.

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What does music mean to you ? Music is a huge part of my life. It’s kept the wolf from the door in a financial sense but creatively it’s my steam valve. I feel really good when I write a song. It’s a soul thing, part of my make up is to be making music.

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2019.

TWO YEAR LATER…. Alikivi blog in the news.

A 2 year milestone for the blog is four articles which featured in local newspaper The Shields Gazette in the last few weeks. Included in the articles are extracts from some of the interviews I’ve done with musicians.

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/hair-raising-adventures-of-a-south-tyneside-musician-1-9573698

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/hanging-bed-sheet-from-south-shields-bridge-to-promote-gig-1-9560464

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/how-guitar-present-led-to-a-life-of-music-1-9547817

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/when-south-shields-had-a-thriving-rock-scene-1-9535098

Gary Alikivi  February 2019

 

CUSTOM SONGS in conversation with South Tyneside musician & studio engineer Martin Francis Trollope

We had John Gallagher from Raven in the studio the other week. He came in to add vocals and bass for something Steve Thompson was putting together. (Steve is a North East songwriter who featured in a post June 27th 2017). It was amazing. I only heard of Raven when I went to a Slayer gig last November with Anthrax supporting them. They said it was great to be in Newcastle where Venom and Raven came from. A few month later here he was hanging out in the studio. I listened to the album and I could totally see it. When John came in and put the vocal down he could still do it. He was screaming and held a note for about a minute and the bass, well he was flying all over the place. Yes he’s still got it.

Steve was putting these songs together for his publishing company and he was having such a good time it’s ended up for an album. He’s done about 15 songs. He like’s it here so just kept coming back. A lot of people do return, we get reviews on social media saying the studio is just nice and relaxed atmosphere.

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Who else have you had in the studio ? Lately we’ve had Newcastle musician Afnan Prince in the studio, also Connor Pattison from Durham. They have an Arctic Monkeys sound. After some recordings here the file of individual tracks of bass, snare drum, vocals etc get sent to another engineer who put’s a sort of extra shine on the mix you know and get’s it played on the radio.

We had some kids from Sunderland doing like indie rock which is a big thing. We had a band called Tank Engine in doing a real thrashy rock. They are from Washington and used to be in a band called Your Code Name is Milo who did fairly big thing’s in the 2000s. The drummer is in a band with tv’s Hairy Bikers. They are releasing stuff in Spring and I’m really looking forward to it, really interesting band.

I’ve done a lot of rap, so I was producing some beats and people were coming on and rapping on them. There was some acoustic stuff like with singer/songwriter Trev Gibb who has branched out on all sorts of sounds now.Most of what I do now is the finished product. Radio play, You Tube and Trev’s is for an album.

Most of what I record here end’s up on Radio Newcastle at some point. Some end up on BBC Radio 6. One was for a 15 year old called Tom Smith. He played on all the instruments and we sent it in and Radio DJ Tom Robinson loved it and played it. Just this Saturday I had 4 songs produced here on BBC Newcastle so that was good.

Sounds like the studio is getting a reputation… Yes it’s building up. Only in the last couple of years it’s started to happen as this has been here about 15 years. First off it was based around a youth club which was a great idea when it was 50p to come in and record. I wouldn’t have started recording if it wasn’t for that.

About 10 years ago Daniel Clifford and I were in a band called Squares and recorded a few EP’s with original engineer John Clavering. We picked up how to record so we made an album. We didn’t know anything about EQ or compression (laughs). But we learned and I ended up getting a job here.

Do you think there is much original music out there and venues to play ? As far as I know there is some amazing stuff in the North East. I catch up with it by listening to BBC Radio Newcastle on a Saturday night 8-10pm. That’s their introducing show run by Nick Roberts. All you have to do is load an mp3 to the introducing site, they have a listen and your song can go to your local radio or if they really like it a national show like BBC1 Extra.

For venues there is still The Cluny, or The Riverside which is good. The Head of Steam is still going. These are Newcastle but as far as I know nothing in South Shields. You can hire out The Customs House but you’d have to already have a following to do that. Most pub’s are focused on cover bands because that’s what get’s people through the doors. I think The Queen Vic were trying out bands but don’t know how that worked. Bands I record haven’t mentioned playing in Shields.

I’m working on putting a funding bid together to organise a live music event mainly for a student audience. Just need to fine tune it.

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With home recording made easier why would musicians use this or any studio ? I love that you can record at home. It’s what I used to do for demo’s and singles. Had some good sounds recorded in the house. But if you pay what we charge £15 per hour you get access to excellent industry standard microphone’s, guitar amp’s, drum kit to make a big noise which you wouldn’t be able to do in your house. Plus my years of experience which all counts.

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2019.

 Contact Martin on 0191 456 3917

The Customs Space, Captains Row, South Shields NE33 5AS

THIS FLIGHT

Steve Straughan guitarist with UK Subs got in touch about an ongoing problem of instruments damaged by airlines. An issue that he feels all touring musicians should be aware off…In 2015 the headstock on my Gibson Les Paul Classic was smashed off while in a hard, solid flight case. The guitar was actually in two pieces. This was the second time it had happened on two different airlines. This was when I decided to take action.

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I took to social media and loads of people replied offering good advice. I got in touch with Air France and at first they told me they would not compensate me. Their reason being that the guitar case was not damaged but the guitar was. So I sent an email directly to the CEO of the airline and I started receiving offers of compensation from their staff. Eventually I was compensated but it took a long time.

But this was only due to all the good people out there. All the messages of support really helped. It felt like I wasn’t going through the whole process alone. This is why I set up a facebook page to help others who find themselves in the same unfortunate position. We can take on the big companies if we stick together.

What do you think is the main problem in transporting your instruments ? On top of the lack of storage issue there is the on-going problem of the instruments being smashed by the baggage handlers and left in the airport or even sent to the wrong airport. It’s also a hard fight to get any compensation for damaged instruments. It’s becoming very difficult for musicians.

Airlines have lost my guitar twice. There was one concert in Budapest and another in Spain where I had to use another musician’s guitar. I often get messages saying it’s happened to them.

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Is this being addressed by the airlines and can you see it becoming a bigger problem ? More airlines now are refusing to take guitars on board planes and store them in the overhead lockers, or any other lockers. Some airlines are now even stating that you must give them advance warning for guitars to be stored even in the hold. It’s a big ongoing problem.

What do you think is the future for musicians who use airlines ? I’m starting to think that it’s gonna have to be down to promoters to supply guitars and other instruments. A lot of musicians find it hard using guitars other than their own because most have them set up to the way they like them. The sound can also be quite different. The unfortunate thing is I see no other way.

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If you are a touring musician that uses flights and your instrument has suffered damage or has been lost by an airline please share your story. I’m trying to get musicians from all over the world to act on this and voice their outrage and concerns. The more the better. All of our voices could possibly help you get justice. It worked for me. Nothing is required apart from our anger, frustration and voices.

 If you have experienced any problems contact 

Airlines Smashed Or Lost Instruments group page on facebook.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   January 2019.

ENTER STAGE RIGHT interview with former Tygers of Pan Tang vocalist Jon Deverill

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Fred Purser and Jon Deverill.

Jon has just released a new album, Square One with former Tygers guitarist Fred Purser…Square One was recorded in the early 1990s. After the collapse of the Tygers in 83 guitarist Fred Purser and myself decided to continue our partnership. I have huge respect for Fred. He’s quite simply the most talented man I’ve met. On the album he wrote, engineered, produced and played all the instruments, except the drums.

We both shared the same vision and were completely on the same page. Our musical tastes are very similar. Fred has his own recording studio so the facilities were there to make the album. I love the songs.

When was your first experience inside a recording studio ? I had formed a band called Persian Risk with my good friend Phil Campbell who later joined Motorhead. We went into a small studio in Cardiff and recorded four songs. I loved it. I’ve always enjoyed recording. Creating something is very exciting.

How did you get interested in music and who were your influences ? I used to sing along to records in my bedroom and watched Top of the Pops religiously. I discovered that I could actually sing the songs so formed a band in school. My early influences were Alice Cooper, Robert Plant, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel and David Coverdale.

My first band was called Pageant and I formed it with some friends in school. I was fifteen. We played in church halls before progressing to pubs in South Wales. We took it very seriously and wrote our own songs. At that time I decided I wanted to sing professionally.

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What led you to getting the job with the Tygers ? I was gigging around South Wales with Persian Risk and saw an add in Melody Maker about the Tygers looking for a new singer. I’d seen the band at Reading Festival earlier that year, 1980. They were great and I very much wanted to join them. I got in touch and came up to Newcastle for an audition and got the job. I was on cloud 9. My life changed forever. A once in a lifetime chance and I still can’t believe my good fortune.

In the space of a year I went from playing small pubs in South Wales to Hammersmith Odeon. I was with the Tygers for six years in total. We played in Europe and Japan. To promote The Wreckage album we toured America, plus of course all around the UK.

My first gig with the Tygers was at the legendary Marquee Club in London. Gone now of course. Oh yes I was living the dream !

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1982 was a good year for the Tygers with a UK tour for new album The Cage, a slot at the Reading Festival in August and appearing on TV show The Tube in December. What are your memories from that time ?  I remember Reading Festival and The Tube very clearly. Reading was amazing. 57,000 people. Our biggest gig ever. We were the last band on stage B and the first to use lights that day. Iron Maiden closed the day on stage A.

The Tube was great too. It was a good gig for us and went out to a big audience. We were on with Twisted Sister who I feel stole the show. They got signed by Atlantic Records after their performance. Iggy Pop was also on. He was frightening. Really scary. God knows what he was on!

Hellbound – Spellbound Live album has just been released. What can you remember from those times ? The live Tygers album was recorded at Nottingham Rock City in 1981. It was my first tour. I loved it. So exciting and I’ll never forget it. High energy and quite literally Crazy Nights! We were promoting Spellbound which is an album I’m very proud of. I think it’s the best Tygers Of Pan Tang album. I still enjoy listening to it.

After a successfull album The Cage, you worked with songwriter Steve Thompson again…..Even though we released The Wreckage and Burning in the Shade as Tygers records. They were really more like my solo albums. I loved working with Steve Thompson. He’s a very talented songwriter and we hit it off instantly. We wrote those two albums and I’m proud of them.

Your next move was into acting. How did the change of career come about ? I’ve always wanted to be an actor. It’s something I’ve done all my life so returning to it made perfect sense. In 1989 I auditioned and got in to The Royal Welsh College Of Music And Drama and spent the next three years training to be an actor. They were three of the best years of my life. I’ve been working as a professional actor ever since. Never stopped singing and I’ve done a lot of musical theatre. A highlight being Blood Brothers in the West End. I’ll continue doing it.

Music and acting – what do they mean to you ? Music and acting is my life. They mean everything to me. Being creative and expressing myself is life to me. I have to act to live. I love what I do and continue doing it till the end. They say you’re a born actor. Yes. Totally!

With the Square One album out on the shelves where does it stand with your Tygers work ? I’m very proud of it. It’s by far my best work. I’m so delighted that it’s finally been released. We never lost faith that one day it would be.

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Contact the band https://www.facebook.com/sparechaynge/

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2019.

 

Recommended:

Micky McCrystal, Road Works Jan 3rd 2019.

Fred Purser, Square One Dec 30th 2018.

Robb Weir, Rock City Live Dec 19th 2018.

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock Nov 5th 2017.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, Tyger Bay Aug 24th 2017.

Micky McCrystal, Cat Scratch Fever Mar 17th 2017.

Tygers of Pan Tang, Guardian Recording Studio May 3rd 2018.

Ian Penman, Writing on the Wall, Aug 1st 2018.

Steve Thompson, Godfather of New Wave of British Heavy Metal June 27th 2017.

200 NOT OUT

With the blog hitting over 50,000 views and 199 posts so far, a milestone 200th post comes from a piece in local newspaper The Shields Gazette. Journalist Peter French writes on his page about the post of 14th January 2019 where I featured the music scene in South Shields during the 90s.

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The Shields Gazette 14th January 2019.

Link to full piece:……https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/when-south-shields-had-a-thriving-rock-scene-1-9535098

Thanks to all readers of the blog so far I’m looking forward to adding more interviews  including former Tygers of Pan Tang vocalist Jon Deverill, Burnley blues/rock band Cloverhill and a feature on the issue of instruments damaged on airlines with UK Subs guitarist Steve Straughan.

Gary Alikivi January 2019.

LAST GANGS IN TOWN

 

The title reflects the original music scene in South Shields during the 1990s. The town had countless numbers of venues booking bands who played their own music. But it isn’t the case today. Looking through some photographs I took then, I wondered what the bands thought of those times ?

Iain Cunningham, (Cripplin’ Jack) The 90s was a great time for music. In Sunny South Shields by the Sea the original music scene was thriving. There were original bands with lots of venues willing to give them a stage to hone their craft. Whether it be a Sunday night in the Ferry Tavern, Wednesday night was spent in Porters and The Vic was a Monday night downstairs or Saturday night upstairs. There was always somewhere to watch original music.

 

It felt very much like a community and I’m surprised none of the bands actually cracked it and broke through to the mainstream. It was a great scene to be part of. The nights had great crowds, a cracking atmosphere and cheap beer promotions, which usually lead to hangovers and regret.

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Cripplin’ Jack in 1996. Iain Cunningham on the right.

Crippling Jack were formed in 1995 by Ian Maxwell, Dean Walsh, who was later replaced by Paul Westgate, Richard Gardner, Christopher Charlton and myself. We went on to play all over the North East and recorded our demo John Woo E.Q. in the Underfoot studios with Dave and Pete Brewis, who themselves, are enjoying a great career in music with their band Field Music.

Davey Mac was a supporter of the music scene. His rehearsal rooms were legendary and, if they could speak, would tell some stories. I think we still owe him a small fortune as we always ended the rehearsal shouting back up the stairs to him ‘We’ll pay you double next week!

Actually Crippling Jack reformed in 2009 and went on to play more gigs around the town releasing 2 more EPs. After nine years apart, vocalist Ian Maxwell summed up the bands feelings as he stepped up to the mic and declared… ‘It’s good to be back’.

Iain Robertson, (January Blue) This band had many incarnations, and it all started with me and vocalist Woody who were mainstays throughout January Blue and later New Rising. We first played a gig together in April 92 at Cleadon Village Hall with another band called Agadoo Factory. This gig featured the first song Woody ever wrote called Die Forever ! We wanted to keep going and little did we know that we’d be still playing together 8 years later, frequently visiting London having gained a record deal with London records.

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January Blue in 1994. Iain Robertson at the top.

We’d heard Pete Edmonds the manager of Porters bar in South Shields, would pay £300 a gig if you managed to pack the place out. So we hit every bin in King Street with a flyer and our piece de resistance was at 6.30am hanging a bed sheet on both sides of Westoe Bridges to catch the rush hour traffic coming in and going out of town. We got an ear full (and rightly so) for plastering one flyer on the arse of the war hero Kirkpatricks donkey statue in King street, which in hindsight was disrespectful but hell – we had a gig to promote.

Needless to say, Porters was full, we got our £300 quid and Pete Edmonds was bouncing around and grinning like a Cheshire Cat. He booked us again and we were definitely in a good bargaining position for the next gig’.

 

Newts Newton, (Cloud 10) On reflection, I didn’t really enjoy the 90s in general for many reasons but musically, I detested all that ‘mad for it’avin it’ laddish bollocks. It seemed like every new band had curtain haircuts, walked like chimps and stood onstage like tins of milk, wearing tracker tops zipped up to their noses, all while strumming mindlessly with faces like a smacked arse. Trying to be ‘edgy’. Aye right, fuck off man.

Meanwhile, the band I was in at the time, Cloud 10, were writing kitchen sink drama style songs that moaned about all and sundry, while we marched about in overcoats and quiffs thinking we were the fucking Clash, glowering at everyone (laughs).

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Cloud 10 in 1996. Newts on the right.

Locally, plenty bands were springing up and yeah, we in Cloud 10 pretty much sneered at them all. Not that we had much to be smug about mind, we were arrogant and nothing special really.  Looking back, being brutally honest, it was a waste of time as our band were better at talking about things, instead of actually getting up and fucking doing them. Although one night, two of us did go out and do some promotion work with two roller brushes and 10 litres of minty buff emulsion paint. But ultimately, it was all pointless.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi December 2018.