BACK IN THE GAME with St Helen’s rock band Snatch Back

‘We were sleeping in the van during a weekend of gigs. To pass the time before the evening gig, we were invited to an afternoon strip show. We returned to find the van windows had been broken. The singer was annoyed they only pinched his wooly hat and a half eaten bag of chips. The vintage guitars under the piles of sweaty underwear remained untouched’.

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Snatch Back formed in 1974 in St Helen’s, UK. What are they up to now…‘After decades of local fan interest we decided to reform the original line up in 2016. Ste and Ian had kept in touch. It was amazing how well we still got on. As soon as news got out we were invited to headline the St Helens Westfield Street Music Festival and got great press reviews. We are now building on this to promote and enjoy playing our music again to a much wider audience thanks to NWOBHM fans’.

The line up is:
Ste Byatt – guitar & vocals
John Cowley – lead vocals
Steven Platt – drums
Ian Wood – bass & Vocals

Who were your influences ?
Ste: ‘Watching Jimi Hendrix performing Voodoo Chile on UK tv music programme Top of the Pops. I never believed guitar could be so moving and limitless. Later I saw local band Gravy Train at a local theatre. From the moment their guitarist Norman Barret hit the stage it was ‘I want to do that’.
John: ‘My influences were albums by Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Mott the Hoople, Frankie Miller and Free. I walked around school with long hair, tassled jacket and acoustic guitar strumming Neil Young tunes but really wanted to be like Ozzy from the Black Sabbath 4 album cover.
Ian: ‘After watching Ten Years After, Mountain and Mott the Hoople at Liverpool Stadium gigs I wanted to play hard driving blues rock bass. Mott gave an interest in tempering this by writing more melodic novel material’.
Steven: ‘Hearing Foxtrot by Genesis on album and then soon after seeing them at Manchester Free Trade Hall. Loved those complex but driving drums’.
Ste : ‘Our drummer Steve took me to see Hendrix Plays Berkely. We immediately decided to form Snatch-Back as a four piece writing original rock. We all attended superb, affordable music venues like Liverpool Stadium and Liverpool Empire as well as Manchester Free Trade Hall. We saw great bands such as Back Street Crawler, The Faces, Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Bad Co, AC/DC, Judas Priest and Queen. They were all very influential’.

Youth Club Gig

Where did you start gigging ? ‘There wasn’t much going on for us really. Our town was filled with social clubs offering bingo and variety acts. The only other nights out were cinema and working mens pubs which had no music. There had been one non alcholic blues club in the 1960’s but was closed before 1970. There were no rehearsal or recording facilities. Snatch-Back bluffed our way into a local youth club to rehearse on the promise of organising live music concerts. We did this in two local clubs and encouraged recording bands like Gravy Train and Nutz (later Rage) to step down and play for door money’.

With Ste Kay Bass

‘Later the local cinema put us on between films by Status Quo and Rory Gallagher. This made the local news as an unusual event and ensured a larger following for us. Then a local social club was persuaded to allow us to run a Tuesday rock night. We partnered with another local band and filled this for several years with guest bands and us headlining once every few weeks. These audiences knew our own material from regular gigs but we had recorded very little apart from band rehearsals. By this time we had moved rehearsals to a farm where the singer worked. We were constantly writing and recording live demos there but never released any. With more experience, and having money for a van, we gigged in the surrounding areas of Liverpool, Cheshire and Yorkshire. These were all gained by doggedly phoning the venues for a gig. Our biggest venues were The Lion in Warrington, The Casino and Mr M’s Clubs, Wigan, The Cherry Tree in Runcorn. Stairways of Birkenhead. We were amazed to be playing the same venues at the same time as Vardis, Diamond Head, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Nutz, Limelight, Strife (later Nightwing) and even Alex Harvey’s final band’.

‘Unfortunately, late in the 80’s good venues closed for all but larger touring bands. Faced with longer travel for small pubs we again focused on our local St Helens to self promote and headline a Theatre gig with capacity 700 seats. Playing alongside other local original bands. We sold this out on two separate gigs. Unfortunately, without management and commercial savvy, we lost hope of ever topping these achievements outside of our area and finally drifted apart’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ’We recorded in Smile Studios, Manchester sometime in 1975. ’My mate’s got a great studio, very cheap. You need to do a demo tape’ that’s how it started. Very cheap meant a Sunday morning a quick 2 tracks and an even quicker mix. Very rushed, very stressed. The band felt they had reached a significant milestone and by the following Wednesday we would be partying with Led Zeppelin after this ground breaking session !
The studio is rumoured to have been used by bands such as Slaughter and the Dogs. It was an 8 track mixer/4 track tape recorder in a basement of a tiny terraced house. Unfortunately, the engineer was anti-rock, so stressful negotiations ensued in an attempt to get it sounding half decent. We were however, thrilled to be recording and listening to our original stuff in glorious stereo…but vowed to improve’.

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‘We sent this demo around and gained some recording company interest. But it was not representative of our live sound. The whereabouts of the tapes are unknown. Tracks recorded were Shoot on Sight (updated version on our 2016 CD) and another we don’t recall as it was soon dropped due to it’s ‘formative’ nature.
Next was Central Sound Studios, Manchester in 1979. After playing a Blackburn gig we were approached by a studio owner looking to fill off-peak time. A deal was struck which included a batch of vinyl singles. A few late evenings recording were completed. We were much more insistant on the Marshall stack sound and worked hard on well rehearsed overdubs. We were much more confident and happy with the sound. Again there was a poor engineering match as their experience was with Manchester Indie bands such as the Buzzcocks, who called in occasionally, along with various Manchester theatre and variety performers for all night recording sessions. Comedian Freddie Star popped in one night. We even did a seperate evening mixing, time was tight though, with artists in before, during and after our sessions. Unfortunately we had never heard of mastering. If this had been good, then the final single would have been a lot heavier. Tracks we recorded were Eastern Lady and Cryin’ to the Night (Copies of the vinyl on our 2016 CD).
Fortunately copies of this single and unofficial mp3 files kept interest in the band and brought us to the attention of NWOBHM fans’.

‘Then in ’81 we went into Amazon Studios, Liverpool. Wow! A 16 track pro studio with great engineering at last. We took great care to get a superb drum sound which the band that followed us Rage, pinched for their Nice and Dirty album. We planned a seperate day mixing and tightly rehearsed all the overdubs to cram 4 tracks into a one day session! Moving Out, Boogie Shoes, Got Trouble, She’s Dead.
Everything went great as we were much more experienced. However, more time and more overdubs as the engineer suggested, would have improved the sound. Unfortunately Ste B was over influenced by the sparse production of Van Halen 1’.

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‘Last year we went into Catalyst Studios, St Helens. Pro digital at last. A determined project to update the bands earlier material and produce a CD for Westfield Street Festival. We had the advantage of a determined studio owner Andy to assist us and the ability to transfer tracks to home studio for interim reviews and adding backing vocals to save time. Even so, we went over budget with extra guitar parts. Andy put extra hours in mastering and did a great job. We are very happy with the Back in the Game EP package. Would have been better with more time, a pro Rock producer and a mastering expert. But we had great reunion fun and its available through our media sites now.
Tracks recorded were Need Some Heat, Shoot on Sight , Gypsie of Love, Rough Treatment and bonus tracks from viny, Eastern Lady, Crying to the Night and a farm rehearsal track Nashville Splatt with rare drummer’s vocals. Additional drum and guideline tracks were recorded in these sessions which we are currently developing for future release’.

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Did you film any music video’s or tv appearences ? ‘The only early video was of a 1980’s St Helens Theatre Royal performance. This was never purchased by the band and its whereabouts are unknown. We have a few radio interviews on local independent stations. We did received regular request airplay of our single on Liverpool radio stations with rock DJs such as Phil Easton on Radio City’.

Have you any stories from your gigs ? ‘A fantastic rock night in New Brighton on the Wirral was followed by the noise of motor boats in the street ! What happened was we were due to play at The Empress of India Ballroom watering hole, it’s a first floor Victorian dance hall. To disguise it’s decline it is painted black inside. Anyway, we couldn’t park the van next to the entrance. The manager standing next to his Mercedes, was laughing as we parked up the hill and watched us lug the gear down and then scale the multiple flights of stairs to reach the stage. When the River Mersey winter tides came flooding in the water covered the ground floor but luckily it didn’t reach our van. But the Mercedes guy was waste deep in water attempting to retrieve his car arguing with the coastguard who were talking to him by megaphone. Haha what a scene’.

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‘We had picked up our new manager Mick. Eager to proove himself he copied the early Smile Studios demo and sent it to various record companies. A letter came back announcing a visit from a London A&R guy to our next gig. This was before the era of internet and mobile phones. The showcase gig was to be at the New Brighton Empress again. The red carpet was rolled out and VIP admission organised. The gentleman arrived in his Bentley, walked in with a Saville Row suit on and a gorgeous model on his arm wearing an immaculate white afghan coat. They were greeted by a big hairy venue owner ‘I don’t care who you are, it’s ten bob to get in’. They expected a polished club act but by then we had ‘matured’ to become a very hairy and very loud bunch of sweaty rockers playing to a sea of Newcastle Brown soaked bikers. ‘We’ve nailed it’ Mick the manager said as he waived the Bentley off. The following week a polite letter arrived declining Snatch-Back as they had found a more suitable band… The Rubettes. Oh well, no way our hair would have fitted under those berets on Top of the Pops’.
(The Rubettes had a string of hits during the 1970’s and were regulars on UK music programme Top of the Pops)

‘A call from Mick the manager he said ‘Got you a great new venue – definitely rock, you’ll love it’. Yes it was rock…and roll too! It was a Teddy Boy jive night. We had to fill an hour and a half with Led Zep rock and roll plus very long Chuck Berry jams or get beat up. Another time we played a late night club in a defunct church near Oldham, Lancashire. The owner was a dreadlocked Rasta who hated rock music but loved the amount of drink that it sold. We returned for a gig to be faced with another band already setting up. ‘Sorry man. We arrive early because we have trouble with our home made light show’. The Rasta says ‘Sorry I’ve double booked. Thing is I can’t stand rockers. One band is as crap as the other and they are set up already, so goodbye’. The other band was Def Leppard and things seemed to look up for them after that gig’.

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What is the future for Snatch Back ? ’We are not against becoming involved with managers, promoters or record companies. We welcome any support or advice that we can get to promote the band. We aim to continue to play gigs by establishing contacts in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and local rock band communities. We still find partner bands playing original rock and organise venues where possible. We love the recording experience but there is some regret that we didn’t do more recording in the 1970’s and 80’s. Our main focus then was keeping the band financially mobile by keeping the van and equipment running, and building a live fanbase. We are currently recording and working on new material for another release’.

Forthcomming gigs:
21st October 2017 E Rooms, Skelmesdale
16th December 2017 Yorkshire House, Lancaster
16th February 2018 The Griffin, Newton-le-Willows

Contact the band for more info including gig dates, photos, videos and shop at the official website snatch-back.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING – Jon Dalton on his journey from Glastonbury to L.A.

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A call came in from Los Angeles ‘Hello Gary, it’s Jon here how you doing, I received a message that you have been asking about Gold. Well here is the story’.
Before we go any further let me give you some background. Gold were formed in 1979 in Bristol, UK by guitarists Jon Dalton and Pete Willey. Like many of their contemporaries, Gold had grown up listening to first generation rock and metal bands Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Free and later Thin Lizzy and Queen. Gold’s music was a combination of space and glam mixed with heavy rock. Jon has lived in USA for 20 years as a professional musician. ‘I moved out to the US in 1999, I have Native American roots so it was like coming home. I also wanted to move my jazz career along. It seems that was a good call. I got signed to Innervision Records in 2003 and they released my first CD with them The Gift, and it did very well. The title track reached number 1 on New York’s CIM jazz chart. I spent some time over 2006-2007 back in the UK touring and recording with a jazz organ trio with my friend John-Paul Gard on Hammond organ. I released the resulting album in the US in 2009 and it’s been very well received among people who like that kind of jazz. I still come back to the UK from time to time for mini-tours with John-Paul and I love doing that. Gives me a chance to catch up with my UK friends and my family’s mostly over here these days’.

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‘I keep myself busy playing live with a residency in Los Angeles. I also have a YouTube channel dedicated to jazz guitar with performance videos, instrument reviews and playing tutorials, that kind of thing. I just got done completing the first track of my next CD with producer Richard E. Richard has done a wonderful job on that and a performance video cut will be up on YouTube soon. If things go according to plan, that CD will release on Innervision in 2018’.

When did you pick up a guitar and who were your influences ? ‘We had an 8 track player in the house and I’d listen to the Stones, Bowie, The Doors anything I could get my hands on, I was really into my music. I was already playing a bit of rock guitar but I was mostly into progressive rock like Yes. Then around 1975 I met Pete Willey and we hit it off straight away. Pete and I formed a school band called Grafitti we did a few school gigs and played in some pubs in Bristol. One memorable gig was in The Naval Volunteer. My chemistry teacher came into the pub and saw me playing. Next day at school he said you were quite good last night, maybe that’s why you never do your homework haha.
That band split up after the summer holidays and I started hanging out on the free festival circuit in the west country. I used to like Steve Hillage and the band Gong and they were heavily involved in these festivals. I think it was 7th day of the 7th month in ’77 when I first went to a festival, yes very mystical ! And there was Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine ’79 Glastonbury with a laser light show I’d never seen anything like it – blew my mind. I was a complete dyed in the wool Gong fan I couldn’t think of a better thing to do than sit in a damp field and watch them play at a free festival ! I may be wrong on the dates but I think it was 1979 when they started charging, it was a fiver to get in but Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine, Steve Hillage and Mother Gong were on the bill so I think it was probably the best fiver I spent’.

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Did you form a band again and what venues did you play ? ’I met up with Pete Willey again, he was more of a straight ahead rocker. He liked bands like Thin Lizzy, Queen but in common we liked songs from Free and Bad Company. Pete also had good knowledge of what was in the charts at the time. He liked a bit pop music, I was a bit more of a rock snob really. We brought this sound together and that formed the early version of Gold.
We started getting a few gigs one was at The Granary where all the top rock bands played. There was Tiffanys, The Locarno, we did have a good following for our spacey rock. This was at the end of the hippy rock era just before the tables turned and in came punk’.

What were your first experiences of recording ? ‘We recorded a 3 track demo Mountain Queen part one – I think the idea behind this song was a trilogy, but I can’t remember a bloody note of parts 2 and 3 haha. Other tracks were Change for the Better and Is My Love in Vain that was a really popular song a sort of love ballad with a guitar solo in the middle. We then changed our bass player, the first was Andy Scott who was more of a new waver he played on that demo but he really wanted to do more new wave stuff. We got another guy in Paul Summerill he was more of a rocker listening to bands like Rush and played a Rickenbacker bass. We had a guy called Steve Dawson on drums. There was a guy called Al Read who used to run a rock show on Radio Bristol and he played our stuff a lot and get us on for a few live chats’.

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‘But that line up of Gold split up and I started playing in a jazz funk band Climax. I still liked my rock though. I went to see AC/DC on one of their first tours in the UK and I remember the guy on the radio saying they were like a rock band but quite punky. I couldn’t see how the two would work together and I went more out of curiosity really and wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it. But by the end of the concert I was dancing and jumping around, they were great. The name of the band at the time was quite daring plus they were breaking all the rules with this punk thing. Walking outside I thought that’s the future of rock. The sound was edgier, harder and I could see that society was going that way, politics were changing, Thatcher got in power 1979 the whole landscape was changing and not in a good way. Bristol had around 250,000 people and in the whole city there were a handfull of homeless people. Then suddenly there was a big rise in people living on the streets, it became a different world. There was a sense that everything had hardened and that transfered over to music with the start of NWOBHM with Iron Maiden and Saxon’.

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Were you aware then and now, the impact of the music scene – heavy rock/metal/nwobhm ? ‘Well, I can say that, at the time, music was incredibly important to a lot of young people. What you listened to defined who you were, where you hung out and who your friends were likely to be. Right down to every little sub-set of every kind of music you can think of. Back then, if you bought an album, that could be the central talking point of your life for months. People would come to your house and listen to and discuss it. How it sounded in itself, how it compared to previous releases, where the act might be going. I can’t stress how important that kind of thing was to us. It was our lifeblood.

I think today, with the Internet and access to a gazillion tunes at your finger tips rather than having to go out and buy it, people are more eclectic in their tastes. That means that they tend to be less tribal but it also results in a sense of a greater loss of community. People are much more individual and isolated today than they were back in the day. Many of my friends from Gold days, are still in touch now and we still have the same core interests that we used to have back then. I’m still a Heavy Metal hippie/biker underneath despite the fact that these days, I’m more likely to do a gig in a dinner jacket than a cut-off t shirt and spandex pants’.

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‘I would add that, here in the States young people still really revere the classic rock acts of the 70’s. Led Zep, The Who, Pink Floyd. They’re still seen as the classics, rather than that stuff your Dad used to listen too. That may just have something to do with the sheer size of the place. New ideas take longer to roll out here to the extent it affects the culture. For instance dance music and electronica never really took off in the US at all beyond a small cult following. I can remember in the UK that you had to be really on top of things or people would laugh at you for being dated or old hat. That never bothered me because I couldn’t care less about trends and fashions. Americans don’t seem to care so much about that. If something’s good, it’s good regardless of when and where it was made or who made it. I guess you need both angles to make the world work’.

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How did Gold get back together ? ’I bumped into Pete we had always been good mates, and he said come and have a jam well I thought ok. I’ve seen AC/DC lets have a harder, rockier sound. There was Phil Williams on drums who had a great laid back powerful sound and thats what we needed to move forward, it’s what we were looking for. We went out with this new version of Gold and the crowds we were playing to then were headbangers in their late teen’s. We bought a pa system and rented it out to other bands to make a bit of money because we were broke. It was all coming together, we got a van and toured around the country. We got all over, up to Reading, Southend, Doncaster we were out a lot and picking up some interest. I heard we were watched by scouts for the management team from Motorhead and Girlschool, they were looking for a support band for the tours. But one night we got back home at 4am after playing and for once we decided not to unpack our van. It got pinched. All our cabs, pa, the lot. We didn’t have the money to replace the gear, we had no idea who had done it or where it had gone. Sadly, that was the end of Gold. That’s the story in a nutshell really’.

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‘We really had a blast but listening back to recordings just before that happened I got the feeling I had enough, and it was time to move on. Although that loss of equipment was a trajedy I didn’t want to be stuck being a rock musician. I admired great guitar players like Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. They were brilliant guitarists but some became these crazy virtuosos, and hair metal bored the pants of me. A band was at it’s best when you had team players, cammerdarie of playing in a group is what I like’.

Compared to the GOLD days what is the feeling you get today going on stage to perform? ’Well I’m a lot less nervous now than I used to be. I’ve always been a bit shy about performing which is odd because I get on well with people and I’m not exactly an introvert. But my hands used to shake like jelly and I could barely hold a guitar pick for the first few songs. I did do about 8 years on what we used to call the Cabaret circuit, that would be playing covers around the world in bars and hotels and on military bases. After sometimes, playing five, forty-five minute sets per night every week and six on Saturdays that kind of work tends to knock that out of you.
I still get the heebee geebees a little today but nowhere near as much because I’ve kind of trained that out of me. I also realize that it’s only a gig. There will be another one tomorrow or maybe their won’t. As for the upside, that’s never changed. Every now and again you get a stonking gig. You can never tell or anticipate when that’s going to happen, it just does. Your playing kicks up a notch. The audience senses that something’s going on and focuses more clearly on what you’re doing and something transformational happens. It’s moments like that, that keeps us musicians chasing the dragon in terms of live music. There’s nothing like that sensation and I’m as much a sucker for it now as I was 40 years ago’.

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What has music given you ? ’Music is my life. It has been since as long as I can remember. It’s defined me as a person. Taken me around the world, paid my bills, introduced me to my greatest friends and provided me with years of beauty, solace and wonder. My greatest inspiration has always been watching my grandmother Ada Dalton who would get up, every year, on her annual church bash on the stage of the Methodist Central Hall in Bristol and sing When I Grow Too Old To Dream in memory  of her husband John-Francis who died between the wars from complications of being a soldier. She passed on in 1974 at the age of 88. She never had much, but her love and passion expressed through music, kept her going. I learned a big lesson from that. Mostly that you should never give up, whatever the cost. Some things in life are just too important to let slip away. To be honest, I’m still chasing that level of heart and conviction in my work. I know I’ll never come close but it gives me a reason to get up in the morning. That’s what music’s given me. Thanks for taking the time to investigate Gold. I’ve really enjoyed sharing these experiences’.

For more information contact the official website jondaltonjazz.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

TOMORROW STARTS TODAY for French punk/metal band Bare Teeth

France was on my mind back in ’82. They played one of the best international football games I’ve seen, a 3-3 draw in a World Cup semi final against Germany. The album Repression by punk/metal band Trust was never off the turntable. Alright that was only two things but fast forward to 2017 and the postman drops through the letterbox a copy of First the Town, then the World EP by punk/metal band Bare Teeth. It’s always good when the lyric sheet is included and a list of production details which are sometimes overlooked.

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An introduction to the band on an earlier blog (Hungry Like Wolves, September 3rd) reveals the 4 piece are from Lille in Northern France. Greg (guitar & vocals) “We are really big fans of bands like Blink 182 and NOFX, but we also dig thrash/metal and hardcore music. We don’t really like putting labels on music, especially ours”. I wouldn’t dream of it either Greg but that sound is at the core of this album. A quick check on NOFX and yes I can hear a big influence. Pardon my French but you could call it gros son. Straight out the starting gate it’s all out attack. The EP continues on this road until ‘Parted Ways’ about a lost friendship… ‘We’ve parted ways since then, we said friends till the end. We’ve never imagined how we could have grown that old’. There is no pause for breath with stand out track ‘These Towns Need Guns’ with the chorus ’Remember that weapons don’t kill but a man does. It’s just someone who pulls the trigger. One more prayer for the fallen before you claim these towns need guns’… A plea for peace and disarmament around the world ? Indeed that’s the way to go but unfortunately world leaders haven’t heard this song with the closing line…’Let’s raise our voice so loud bullets remain silent’…great addition those lyric sheets. Leading into the closing acoustic track ‘Behind the Wall’.
Greg talked about the meaning behind the song “The song is both a reference to the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. I had the opportunity to tour several times in Central and Eastern Europe, these countries are way poorer than France. People from these countries lived a very different youth than ours, but we’ve all united through music. That’s incredible”.

‘First the Town, Then the World’ clocks in at just under 30 minutes, with the EP recently released in Japan, Bare Teeth are spreading the word. Their new single ‘Tomorrow Starts Today’ is taken from the EP. Greg (guitar/vocals. below 3rd left) explains… ’This song is about dedication, motivation and commitment. In short, get your fingers out of your asshole – as we say in France. Chase your dreams, make them happen, be proud of yourself and be confident about what you do!’

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’Tomorrow Starts Today’ music video is out now. The new EP ‘First the Town, Then the World’ is available on Digipack CDs, 12″ vinyl and in all digital formats.

Gary Alikivi September 2017.

 

VINYL JUNKIES – Tony Higgins, 7 songs that shaped his world

The love for vinyl has always been there and many stories are attached to it. There is whispers in some quarters that vinyl is back, and they are getting louder. Not in the same numbers that it was in the pre-cd day’s of the 70’s and 80’s, but the records are up on display shelves of record shop’s. There is hundred’s of reasons why we like a certain song. Vinyl Junkies is looking for the stories behind them.

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Jarrow Lad Tony Higgins now lives in Murcia, Spain. He is author of ‘Homage to Murcia: a season of football anarchy’. The book follows a lower league Spanish football club whilst capturing the history, politics and culture of the place that Tony now calls home. As well as helping run an English Academy in Murcia, Tony is currently working on a new book about his families exploits in World War 1. The book has many stories about characters from Tyneside and elsewhere, whilst tying in events that were happening in the wider world at that time. Tony tells me it’s a bit like Peaky Blinders and Catherine Cookson all rolled into one. 

(Link to book) – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Homage-Murcia-Season-Football-Anarchy-ebook/dp/B0146ZCL74 

Intrductions over, here are Tony’s 7 songs that shaped his world.

Whiteman in Hammersmith Palais – The Clash (1978) This was the first single that I ever bought. I purchased it in 1978, from a record shop in Jarrow called Records from the Past. The shop was at the bottom of Ellison Street, next to the newsagents – come toy shop, called Freddy Furlongs. In Furlongs you could buy Airfix soldiers and Subbuteo teams but at that time I was slowly shifting to a different type of moulded plastic, the flat pressed vinyl kind that played music.
As an impressionable eleven-year-old I had no idea what the lead singer, Joe Strummer, was singing about. It was only later in life that I would get the lyrics about Delroy Wilson, Leroy Smart and Ken Boothe. The messages in the lyrics of this track are just incredible and still resonate today, especially the one about “if Adolf Hitler flew in today they’d send a limousine anyway”. The artwork of the pink sleeve and smoking pistol in the middle of the disc is just something else too.

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The Murder of Liddle Towers – Angelic Upstarts (1978) – Shortly after my purchase of Whiteman my search for more Punk vinyl took me to nearby South Shields and another small record shop, on Ocean Road, called Pete Edmonds Records, those in the know reckoned you could get all the new sounds there. Anyway, this time I was in search of The Murder of Liddle Towers by local band Angelic Upstarts. The song is about the death, at the hands of the police, of a thirty-nine-year-old electrician and amateur boxing coach from County Durham, called Liddle Towers. On the B-side is the fantastic Police Oppression, which basically told the life of a teenager growing up on the streets of Tyneside, through the eyes of the lead singer Mensi. I also owned a Who killed Liddle badge and t-shirt and you had to be careful when wearing them as Northumbria’s finest weren’t too keen on the sentiment.

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Public Image –Public Image (1978) – I was just that bit too young really to be into the Sex Pistols when they were in their prime and literally I just caught onto their shirt tails, as they imploded on that infamous last tour of the USA. However, shortly after, The Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten, who had changed his name back to his real name John Lydon, was heading up a new band called Public Image Limited or PIL for short. Their first single, called Public Image, is a classic and I think I may have bought it in Newcastle when it first came out. I still think it is a brilliant song and the single was originally packaged in a fake newspaper that made outrageous statements such as “Refused to Play Russian Roulette”, “No One’s Innocent, Except Us”, “Donut’s Laugh saves life”. Apparently the song’s bass line was named as the 18th best bassline of all time by Stylus Magazine in 2005 but if you’ve heard it you know that it is even better than that!

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I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles – Cockney Rejects (1980) – I really don’t know where I first heard the Cockney Rejects or how I grew to really like the band. Nevertheless, they became one of my favourites, as punks began to give way to Boot Boys and Skinheads. The Rejects were a post punk band that around 1980 seemed to morph into a new musical street movement called Oi! This new musical faze was led by Garry Bushell, a journalist with the Sounds newspaper, and it became the flagship of the new wave of Skinheads that hit the scene around the early 80’s. In my opinion the movement was wrongly labelled as racist after some trouble erupted at a big Oi! gig in Southall.
The Rejects were and still are big West Ham fans and I remember them appearing on Top of the Pops, whilst drunk, performing this track. The song is a cover version of the West Ham football anthem. You can still see this performance on YouTube, it’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time. This all happened just before the 1980 FA Cup Final which West Ham went on to win, beating Arsenal 1 -0. Remember these were the days when FA Cup Final day was a big event in most British households and the whole world seemed to come to a standstill for a couple of hours. I recall the cover of the single being in the style of a West Ham shirt. I actually got to see the Rejects do a gig in Murcia a couple of years ago.

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Baggy Trousers – Madness (1980) – Around the same time as Oi! we had a revival of SKA music in the UK. Bands such as The Specials, Selecter and Madness were all attached to the Two Tone label and around 1979 these bands and others did a UK tour. This new British version of SKA however was a bit punkier than the original bands from Jamaica and although I loved all of the new groups I think my favourite was Madness. Madness soon moved from the Two Tone label and got their own record deal. I had bought their first and second album and the band released Baggy Trousers as a single, which I dutifully bought. This song was all about the bands school life and it seemed to reflect how I had grown up too. Of course I don’t suppose that I am alone in that feeling. The cover of the record had most of the band decked out in Crombie coats and the following Christmas yours truly was bedecked in one too.
I must have seen Madness over a dozen times now but I remember, around 1980, a mate and me bottling out of an opportunity of seeing them at Newcastle City Hall. It was at the time of the big Skinhead revival and I think we were worried about if we would get there and back in one piece, as violence at gigs was quite common then. Nevertheless, I do recall going to the cinema to see Dance Craze, a movie about all the new SKA bands and I remember skanking in the aisles with loads of other likeminded youths.

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Too Much Too Young – The Specials (1980)The Specials came a very close second to Madness for me and again they are a band that I have continued to listen to throughout my life. I remember buying this single in Jarrow Woolworths, a place you could get many a vinyl bargain in the cheap 50p rack. Anyway, Too Much Too Young got to number one and it was released as a five-track live EP in January 1980. As well as Too Much Too Young it featured cover versions of the old SKA tracks the Guns of Navarone and Skinhead Symphony – a medley of Long Shot Kick De Bucket, The Liquidator and Skinhead Moonstomp. Some of the tracks were recorded at Tiffany’s in Coventry, the bands home city, and the single had an iconic photo cover of the crowd. Many years later I got to see the band play their comeback gig in Newcastle and also later on in Coventry. Again this is another band whose lyrics still resonate today.

All Together Now – The Farm (1990) – Whiz forward to the 90s now but vinyl was still in vogue, just I think. Liverpool band The Farm are one of the most underrated bands ever in my opinion. I was right into them from the off and bought their first album Spartacus that went to number one. People say they were part of the Baggy or Madchester scene but I just like to say they were an indie band. They released from Spartacus one of the most iconic tracks ever, All Together Now. The song was written about the famous unofficial treaty, during World War 1 between British and German troops, that happened on Christmas Eve 1914. The track was produced by Suggs, the lead singer of Madness, and had a British Tommy in a Subbuteo style on the cover. As we know from the beginning of this piece, Subbuteo, toy soldiers and Madness had already played a big part in my life so that cover was just perfect! At any rate the single got to number 4 in the charts and the band were the first group that my wife and me ever went to see. They played that iconic Newcastle venue, The Mayfair, sometime around late 1990 or early 1991. Through the mysteries of social networks, I have become quite friendly with the band and recently I attended the guitarists wedding in Liverpool. The Farm are actually back making music and I have been to see them play on numerous occasions over the past few years. I even got to see them support Madness earlier this year!

Intro by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE – First new Warfare album in 25 years. The noise, the chaos, the mayhem – the world of Evo.

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As we’re talking on the phone the memories from 30 years ago are flooding back for Evo…‘We recorded a version of Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer, the record company banned it and stopped it going out cos we changed the song to Addicted to Drugs. We done a gig at the Marquee in London and it was one of my dreams to play on that stage. It was a great gig and for an encore we did Addicted to Love. We got a porn model on stage with us, she stripped off and squeezed lotion all over the audience, the kids at the front loved it, lapped it up, it was in their hair, everywhere, what a laugh – backstage she wanted to play with my snare drum haha. Those were the days, and I lived it to the max’.

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It can be difficult to pick out the best bits of your career but isn’t it strange how events happen and years later they come back round… ’I’ll tell you about the inspiration that started me out on the long road to rock n roll. After 25 years I’ve released a new album. It’s a follow up to the noise I created in the 1980’s. On the album I’ve got a few friends and guests like Fast Eddie Clarke from Motorhead, Lips from Anvil and Paul Gray on bass (UFO/The Damned) he wrote Do Anything You Wanna Do. I remember as a 14 year old boy in a cafe skiving off school I heard Eddie and the Hot Rods on the radio singing Do Anything You Wanna Do. That’s where it all started. The rest is history’.

How did you get started when you were young? ‘I could play bass guitar but drums appealed to me simply because they were loud and I didn’t want no 9-5 fuck that. I could create more mayhem than I even did at school. I wasn’t influenced by any drummers, I have my own style, possibly Rat Scabies from The Damned if anyone.
I started off in local shitty bands when I was around 16 they weren’t much but the first name band was Major Accident. We supported Chelsea around the UK, I was very young and enthusiastic wanting to get on but you know with some bands it just doesn’t work I got on really well with the group but thought I wanted to go up to the next level.’

During the early 80’s you were living in London, what was the scene like ? ‘Yes we were having a good time in London, however I went there for a reason, to further my career and experience. I went out drinking around Soho with the Stranglers and Motorhead. There was a band called The Blood who were talked about as the next big thing. I joined them and cut an album False Gestures for a Devious Public which is regarded as a cult classic now. It got to number 62 in the album charts. But after some internal fighting I left the band and joined Angelic Upstarts’.

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Was that a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire ? ‘No I got on well with my old mate Mensi. We toured all the time, on my very first gig Mensi the singer said get yersel ready cos in a few days we’ve got a little gig up in Leeds. I was still living in London and I went round to Algy Wards place (The Damned bassist) just around the corner from where I was living and told him about this small gig we’ve got. I’d never played live for about 6 month cos I’d only recorded with The Blood. Algy said, what? no the gig’s at the Queens Hall – it’s called Christmas On Earth it’s gonna be the biggest punk festival. On the day we arrived at Leeds there’s huge Trans Am trucks inside the place unloading the gear, the place was massive. We ended up second on the bill. There was The Damned, Chelsea, Anti Nowhere League, GBH, UK Subs a few more…On stage you could feel the power of the audience. 15,000 people bouncing… a little gig in Leeds haha’.

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‘But I wanted to try a few more of my own ideas you know, fronting my own band. So I formed a 3 piece mixing punk and metal – the way no one had done it before. Metal riffs and intellectual lyrics that stank of the street. Not at 10 but hitting the volume at 12, thrash wasn’t even invented then. Around early ’84 I came back up North and signed for Neat records, this was the beginning of Warfare. Neat was known as a very loud label, no commercial releases, you’d always be gauranteed to get yer ears blown out. A lot has been said about Dave Woods the label owner, some stuff I’ve heard about his dealings with bands. But personally I got on with him. It’s how you do business together isn’t it – he put me on a wage, because that’s what I asked for. We’d go out for meals, he became a family friend.
Anyway we went in the studio and recorded the first single Noise, Filth and Fury. On guitar there was Mantas from Venom, Algy Ward from The Damned on bass, and I did drums and lead vocals’.


(Nerd alert:The 7” three track ep single was produced by Evo at Impulse Studio’s, Wallsend the home of Neat records, and released in 1984. A side Burn the Kings Road, b side The New Age of Total Warfare and third track Noise, Filth and Fury.)
‘That immeadiately got to number 2 in the Heavy Metal charts. Then we cut the first album Pure Filfth’.

‘The 2nd album was Metal Anarchy and iconic Motorhead man Lemmy produced that. Tracks like Electric Mayhem, Disgrace, Living for the Last Days, a big seller along with Venom and Raven. You know looking back Neat had some good bands on the label, but if you really wanted your music big, angry and fucking loud that’s where Warfare, Venom and Raven came in. We didn’t take any prisoners’.

Any memories from that time ? ‘This one was fucking chaos. Typical Warfare. We played Newcastle Riverside and didn’t get paid. It was supposed to be 50/50 split on the door but the Riverside were letting in people free as a promotion before 8pm which I was never told about and certainly never agreed to. It all ended up in court. Anyway, when they didn’t pay we went mad, headbutting the manager, pissing in the amplifiers, smashing a huge hole in the centre of the stage, the crowd pulled the speakers off the stage, I smashed a bouncer in the face with a bass guitar. We created absolute mayhem. Same when we went to Holland, we gigged there and the same sort of thing happened. We threw real pigs blood at the audience. It was mental in Warfare – that’s what I wanted it to be – totally over the top. Gleefull and all in a days work’.

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What’s changed in the world of Warfare, why choose now to realease an album? ‘Back in the early 90’s I got really pissed off with the industry, I had ran out of ideas, I wasn’t a young kid anymore, it all came to a head really so I decided to stop. Over the 25 years since, I’ve been offered jobs with name bands, guest vocals, producing albums, but always turned them down until I had a dream one night. No, seriously. I was in a band again. On stage, the lights, the noise. When I woke up it was like the dream was still there. So I dragged my bass guitar out of the garage, I didn’t have an amp so I went to see my mate Fred Purser at his studio (ex Penetration, Tygers of Pan Tang) we knew each other from way back when we were starting out. Plugged into a valve amp hit the first chord albeit a bit rusty and blew everything off the desk haha. He said ‘Evo can you not turn that fucker down ? I said ‘no, on the contrary Fred, I’m going to turn it up haha’. Then the noise filth and fury was back in my polluted bloodstream’.

Next stop was writing and recording during 2015 & 16, after hearing the newly released Warfare album on High Roller Records it sounds like he was having a blast, ironic that one of the studio’s was Blast in Newcastle. Friends including Nik Turner (Hawkwind) Fast Eddie Clake (Motorhead) and Lips from Anvil making appearences. The album was also recorded at Wild Wood studios and at Trinity Heights, the hometurf of Fred Purser who supplies guitar on 2 tracks. The first ‘Screaming at the Sea’ a spoken word intro and bang into the attack of ‘Cemetery Dirt’ and attack again, again and again. Fast Eddie Clarke plays guitar on ‘Misanthropy’ ….’Step into the Fire they do as they are told, Greedy for a future always fighting for some gold’ …sounds like a scathing attack, look up the meaning of Misanthropy – well what else you got ? Religion and the clergy are in the crosshairs on ‘Black’ and Evo keeps up the relenting pace from the spoken word first track, until the perfect book ending to the album ‘Stardust’ which offers a nice escape route. It must have made an impact – it will for you.
‘I asked Lips from Anvil to do a spot on the album he agreed straight away, great guy. I liked Anvil cos I always thought they were the first thrash band with Warfare being the first punk metal band. And we’ve got Nikky Turner from Hawkwind on the album that driving bass from Lemmy and the powerful sound they created’.

Have you any future plans for Warfare ? ‘Well the album is out now and doing very well but I’ve no plans as yet to take this out live, I’ve been offered shows but nothing has stuck with me yet. I’m looking to do some producing work, maybe if the right act comes along. I’ve got a top class engineer working alongside me so yeah looking to get into that side of the business. Counting back I’ve recorded 17 albums in my career. I‘ve had quite a journey in music and a load of experience to take forward into production. I may consider doing a guest vocal or two’.

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Warfare new album out now on High Roller Records http://www.hrrecords.de

For more info contact Evo Evans on his facebook page or Lucy at Mayhem Management levans@tiscali.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

 

 

THE DEVIL RIDES OUT – with NWOBHM band Satan’s Empire

During winter 2015 heavy metal band Satan’s Empire reformed. They first got together in 1979 and were originally from Dundee in Scotland. Then moved to London in 1981. Today the band have 2 founding members left, Derek Lyon on vocals and Sandy McRitchie on guitar. They replaced Duncan Haggart and Billy Masterton with Paul Lewis coming in on lead guitar and rhythm section Wayne Hudson (bass) and Garry Bowler (drums). The band sat down and revealed all about Satans Empire… ‘We’ve been really busy setting things up. We signed an album deal this year with 3Ms Music from St Albans and have finished recording the album, the final mixes are being completed as we speak’.

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Where did you record the album? ’The drums and bass were recorded at Smokehouse Studios in London, then we travelled to the Coach House Studios in Hesdin, France to do guitars and vocals. In all it took about 12 days to get it down. We are still sorting out the order of the songs but the album is called Rising. Titles of some of the tracks, Satan’s Empire, On the Road to Hell, Slaves of Satan, Dragonslayer and Soldiers of War. It will be available early 2018 as a Limited Edition 8 track Vinyl with a bonus 7″ 2-track single of a demo from 1984. Sleeve design is by Andy Pilkington of Very Metal Art’.

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When you started out who were your influences and how did you get involved in music ? ‘ Music began for us from a school band doing covers and as our skills developed we played more difficult songs. Untill eventually we started jamming and writing our own stuff, that was about 1979. We were listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden’.

When did Satans Empire start playing and have you any funny stories from those early gigs ? ‘We did local pubs and clubs as well as dates all over Scotland. For a name band we supported Budgie in Dundee at the first Dundee Summer Festival. I remember one time we did the American naval base at Dunoon in Scotland as a favour for a friend. When we turned up, we got the gear ready on stage, then looked around and saw most of the punters were wearing cowboy hats! One guy said ’Hey boys you must be the Country & Western band ?’ When we cranked up the volume and started playing they got a bit of a shock!

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What were your early experiences of recording ? ‘Our first proper session was at Craighall Studios in Edinburgh. The demo was recorded on a small sixteen track where we came out with 2 tracks, Suicide Man and Soldiers of War’. (Nerd alert: ‘Soldiers of War’ appears on Lead Weight, a compilation released by NEAT Records on cassette in 1981. There are 11 bands with one track each on the tape including Raven, Warrior, Blitzkreig and Venom. Although Fist are on twice, their first track is ‘Throwing in the Towel’ and they are listed as their former name Axe to record ‘S.S.Giro’. Another compilation on NEAT Records is ‘The First Strike of N.W.O.B.H.M’ released in 1996. This also features ‘Soldiers of War’ and 16 other tracks by bands including Jaguar, Tygers of Pan Tang, White Spirit and Hellanbach).

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Are you aware of the impact that NWOBHM has had ? ‘We had a bit of an inkling when people kept asking us to reform – kind of cemented that assumption. There are a few bands within the NWOBHM movement that we are friends with and done gigs with’.

What is it like now rehearsing and playing live compared to 1980’s ? ’We rehearse at Farm Factory Studios in Welwyn Garden City and its fine there. To be honest there is no difference really only that we are more focussed at playing and not too much larking around. Bands we have met are more friendlier than the 80’s and we have made some good friends here’.

How do you sort out the set list, what songs are first/last and is tempo important ? ’We initially had sets for 30, 40, 45 and 60 mins to cover all options, and until recently, we always kept the same relevant set, but now we are just kind of flying it to see how it goes with the audiences’.

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What are the future plans for Satan’s Empire ?  ‘By the end of this year we will have done around 30 gigs as part of the On the Road to Hell tour. We are up and running and when the album is released we will be ready to promote it. For starters we are off to Europe in October with gigs in Belgium and France followed by two dates in the North of England in November at Newcastle and Dundee’.

For more info contact the band on various social media pages Facebook, Reverbnation and Bandcamp.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

 

 

BEAUTY & THE BOLLOCKS – UK Subs & Hi Fi Spitfires guitarist Steve Straughan

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‘Since joining the UK Subs I am more busy than ever, which I love. The UK Subs have a 40th anniversary gig in November, a UK tour then a 5 week tour of Europe’.

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The line up for the Subs is (right to left) Jamie Oliver on drums, Charlie Harper on vocals, Alvin Gibbs on bass, and Steve on guitar… ‘I’ve got a lot going on and always have since I first picked up a guitar after hearing Never Mind the Bollocks. Blew me away. It still does today’.

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Who were your influences Steve and how did you get involved in playing music ? Was there a defining moment when you said I want to do that ? ’1970’s music was healthy at the time but nothing was opening the doors for me. Music was always there in the background like the glam rock thing, but it just wasn’t grabbing me. It was like black and white tv, nothing special. But when punk came around it gave me that extra thing like colour tv. It just had that extra spark, that beauty. What can I say, it was incredible.
I remember watching video clips from The Great Rock n Roll Swindle, songs from the Bollocks album – that made me want to do it myself. Also listening to The Stranglers album, Rattus Norvegicus, and a lot of other punk stuff from 1977. That whole scene was electric. I rode the wave of punk rock to get into music first, then went back to the likes of 70’s glam to appreciate it. There was a keyhole to my musical heart and it was punk that opened it’.

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‘Where I lived in Sunderland we had a healthy punk scene. Watching the likes of Red Alert at Monkwearmouth youth club was very influential. Watching lad’s from my area and who were just a little bit older made me realise that it can be done. Being in a band back then was more like being in a gang but extended with instruments. Punk gave you the ability to tell your story and release your frustrations’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ’From the start I’ve been really busy gigging and recording. I haven’t stopped, over the years I’ve played in a number of bands. Way back in the early 80’s my first punk band Formal Warning played youth clubs and school halls in the Fulwell and Seaburn area of Sunderland where we lived. That lasted till around ’82. As I got older I joined Red London and toured all over Europe. I then joined a band called Holy Racket. Again toured all over Europe. We played brilliant gigs but one great memory was supporting Rancid at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Loved that. I’ve played guitar for the Lurkers touring around Europe with them from 2009 until 2012. I was guitarist for a couple of years in the Angelic Upstarts we played many great gigs including a USA tour. I formed Hi Fi Spitfires and toured a lot in the UK and abroad. One great tour we done was supporting TV Smiths Adverts and toured with 999 in Germany. We have supported everyone in the punk world really, like The Damned at the North East Calling gigs. Since joining the UK Subs just over a year ago, we have played extensively in the UK, Europe and the USA. Is that enough for ya’ haha’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘Over the years I have recorded with all of those bands I’ve talked about. Best thing is I’ve kind of found my home when working with producer Fred Purser at Trinity Heights in Newcastle. Fred was once guitarist of the North East 70’s punk band Penetration.
Some of the bands who have recorded at Trinity are Angelic Upstarts, Toy Dolls, Red Alert, Red London, Holy Racket and Hi Fi Spitfires. Holy Racket recorded the album Anthems For The Doomed And Dazed there, North Rebel Radio and Subliminal Chaos all of which were released on cd. We also recorded some material which was later released on a 7 inch single called Anoraxia.  Hi Fi Spitfires recorded the album England Screaming there which was released on cd and the album Nightraid which was released on cd and vinyl’.

‘We have always paid for everything ourselves, no record companies involved at all. If your serious about being in a band it’s obvious you have to record and release material. It’s not cheap to do it though. To record where we do it’s £220+ per day. On top of that there is the cost of pressing on cd or vinyl. The price of vinyl is unbelievably pricey. This is why I have only managed to do the vinyl route a couple of times. We are at the moment talking to a good friend who has agreed to put the money up to release our first album on vinyl like he did with our second’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘I could honestly write a book. Here are just two. A long time ago I played a charity gig in Sunderland. A friend of mine asked if he could come along as he had not seen any live bands before. I remember beforehand he was a bit nervous meeting the rest of my band. He kept asking if everything would be ok. I kept assuring him that everything would be cool and there certainly would not be any kind of trouble as it was a charity gig. As I got ready and packed my guitars he went to the shop and got some ale just to take the edge off as he was quite nervous around new people. At this point I just thought he was having a couple of drinks.

Fast forward to the gig and just before we went onstage he told us how grateful he was for letting him come with us. About 5 songs in I was aware that something was going totally wrong by the people’s faces in the venue. I turned to my side to see my once very nervous mate running round the stage and pogoing naked. The security was called and he was escorted from the building. We were told to get off the stage. I asked why and the bouncer said, shut up, get your gear off, your barred. After the initial shock I laughed my head off all the way home. I think we gave those people something extra thanks to my mate’.

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‘Years later I agreed for the same lad to come on tour with me in Belgium with the band I was in at the time Holy Racket. He assured me all the way there that he had learned his lesson and he wouldn’t do it again. There would be no repeat performance. I know he was very embarrassed about it. During our performance on stage he was looking in a cupboard and found a horses head mask. He came running on the stage naked, with the horses head on and a sock fastened to his cock. I couldn’t play for laughing. I remember the audience loving it’.

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‘Next stop for Hi Fi Spitfires are return recording sessions with Fred Purser at Trinity Heights, Newcastle. We are recording a 5 track cd called Doors To The USA. Yeah can’t wait’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

ANGER IS OUR ENERGY – 5 minutes with French punk band Hightower

In 2014 Hightower released their debut album ‘Sure. Fine. Whatever’ produced by Steve Evetts in Los Angeles, USA. In 2016 they again headed for LA to record their second album ‘Club Dragon’ also produced by Steve Evetts.


Romain: ‘After producing our first album we asked Steve if he was interested in producing our second album and he said yes ! We went out to LA and stayed in Motel 6 near the studio where we stayed the first time. We recorded Club Dragon late last year at Omen Room Studios in Garden Grove, California’.
Attila: ‘It was really hard work and Steve pushed me to give my best. But I really enjoyed the whole process’.
Jeremie: ‘I’ve had several recording experiences, but the most important was working with Steve Evetts for both of our albums. Recording in Los Angeles was unbelievable, and as our producer he understood how we wanted to sound and what the band was all about’.

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A lot of punk songs come from anger or injustice. Where do your ideas come from ?
Jeremie: ‘Most of our ideas come from our experiences in life, we’re trying to write down our thoughts about the frustrations that we share. It’s usually hard for me to write about positive feelings’.

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Where did it all start and who were your influences ? 
Jeremie: ‘We come from a few different towns. Our drummer Romain and I are from Paris, guitarist Benjamin and bassist Alexis are from Nevers in Central France and Attila the vocalist comes from Budapest in Hungary’.
Attila: ‘I live in a different country so sometimes I fly to France to just play a single show. I remember one time I flew to Paris, than we took a 4 hour drive to the festival, played a show at 4pm, than spent the whole night there. Next morning travelled back to Paris than onto Budapest’.
Jeremie: ‘When the 90’s/2000’s punk rock scene was exposed big time in the media I was really influenced by all the music. I realized I wanted to get involved when I saw Rise Against with Anti-Flag in Paris in 2004, that’s when I knew that I could never get away from music’.
Attila: ‘Back in the day when I was 13 I ran into a random punk show at the local skatepark and instantly became a punk rock fan. Then my friend found his father’s guitar and we started our first band. That was around 2003’.
Jeremie: ‘In 2008 I started playing in some small local clubs around Paris. That’s where it all began’.
Attila: ‘I’ve been in a bunch of bands since 2005 and have toured Europe with a couple of them. I couldn’t pick a favorite venue we played, but I like the small sweaty clubs with a good crowd’.

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Are there any musicians or bands that you admire today ?
Jeremie: ‘I don’t have any hero’s in music but I admire some punk bands from the 90’s era that are still active today’.
Attila:Daggermouth are my favorite band, I’m really happy that they are back together. I wish I could see them one day! They were a big inspiration for me’.
(Daggermouth are a Canadian punk rock band formed in 2004 in Vancouver).

What is in the future for Hightower ?
Jeremie: ‘Our new album Club Dragon was released on September 15th 2017 on digital platform and is already available at Krod Records on-line shop. Our next gig is in Budapest on October 7th and we are planning a European tour for February 2018. The band toured the UK back in 2015 and are definitly looking to go back again’.

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For more info about album releases and tour dates contact the band on their Facebook page.

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

 

 

PLAYED HIS CARDS RIGHT – celebrating a 45 year career with vocalist Pete Allenby

‘Every 5 years or so I still get very small royalty checks… about enough to buy a bag of chips!’ New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Tarot came from South Yorkshire. They formed in 1979 but folded in late 82′ ‘There are no plans to reform. I have a four piece rock band called The Method and we play covers of band’s like Toto, Rush, The Who and Queen. We do about 30 gigs a year, we do it for the love !’

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘I first got involved in music when I was asked to join a band soon after leaving school, and realised I wasn’t that bad at it! My main influences then were The Who, Queen, Joe Cocker and Alex Harvey. My defining music moment was probably when I first heard Won’t Get Fooled Again then I bought the album, Who’s Next and played it to death! Also when I first heard Seven Seas of Rye by Queen. I’d never really heard anything quite like it before!’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play. Was it in the immediate area or travelling long distances, and did you support name touring bands ? ‘I started playing in ’72 but my first gig’s with Tarot started in 1979 in working mens club’s. The line up was me on vocals, Malc King on guitars, on bass we had Brian Redfern and Andy Simpson on drums. We quickly started playing at recognised rock gigs of the day, Ford Green in Leeds, Boilermakers in Sunderland, in Halifax was The White Lion then over to Jenks bar in Blackpool’.


‘We also supported bands like The Jags, John Parr, Fischer Z, Frankie Miller and Def Leppard -whatever happened to them haha. On those gig’s we played the Universities, Newcastle Mayfair, Queen’s Hall in Bradford, we got to Doncaster, played The Cock and Lion in Bridlington and The Pier at Lowestoft. Back in those day’s we got around the North a lot, we covered a lot of miles’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘From 1979-81 Tarot recorded three demo sessions, first was in Halifax where we recorded five tracks in one day. I can’t remember the studio name but I do recall it was on the fourth floor cos I nearly had a coronary carrying the kit up there ! Our second and third recordings were at September Studios in Huddersfield, where we recorded 6 tracks in all, 3 at each session. I can’t remember how much the sessions in the recording studio cost, but coming from Yorkshire I guess it wasn’t mega expensive. HOW MUCH! Being the Yorkshire man’s mantra haha’.

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‘The only published song from these sessions was Feel the Power which appeared on the compilation album – New Electric Warriors released in 1980. I remember seeing the album in the local record shop, was a bit disappointed with the cover. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it. How that came about was someone got in touch with us via Sounds magazine I think, they had checked our name as we were in the metal chart most weeks. Streetfighter were also on the album, I met their manager a few times. We did a gig with them at Leeds Uni and the BBC came to film some of it including us. I’m sure it was something to do with Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper not sure why. I don’t remember it being shown on tv’.

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‘We also done a mini promotional tour for the album. To be honest I don’t know how many copies of the album were sold back then. It was re-released as part of a triple box set of NWOBHM, which I bought a copy of. I managed to by a cd version a few years back of New Electric Warrior’s and also a vinyl copy too! I still get very small royalty checks every 5 year or so, about enough to buy a bag of chips !’

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‘All the Tarot material has just been released for the first time, on a remastered cd Rough and Ready. To order a cd you can contact me directly at horacedog@talktalk.net or the band via facebook page’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

 

INVADER FROM THE NORTH – Spartan Warrior guitarist Neil Wil Kinson

In a previous interview on this blog (Chain Reaction, May 21st) Neil said…’After Pure Overkill we thought things were starting to happen, the bloke who ran Guardian Studio asked if we wanted to do a full album, we said yeah let’s go for it’. Based in Sunderland North East UK, Spartan Warrior recorded 2 albums in the 1980’s, ‘Steel ’n’ Chains’ on Guardian Records and ‘Spartan Warrior’ on Roadrunner. They also appeared on compilations ‘100% Pure Metal’ and ’Pure Overkill’.

The band are still playing live so I got back in touch with Neil and asked him how long does it take to prepare for gig’s ? ’Well the amount of preparation depends on the gig really. Gigs abroad are definitely more complex as we have to book ferries or flights and there’s usually travel to the airport or ferry terminal to take into account. For a lot of gigs that involve the ferry travelling through Dover is usually the cheapest, which for us in the North East involves an overnight drive to get an early ferry and then drive to a gig.
There’s been times I’ve set off aroung 9pm on a Friday evening and drove to Dover for an early morning 6 o’clock ferry which gets us to Calais for 8am allowing for an hours time difference. Then drove to a gig and literally gone straight on stage to play having not slept a wink. I’m certain that’s a situation that’s not unique to us’.

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‘Also if we need to hire a van it can be a lot of work – you wouldn’t think it, but it is. Also with a van comes a higher cost on the ferry. The whole thing can be a lot of work and probably way more involved than people think. So far there’s been no problems apart from the time Dan decided to wear his bulletbelt going through Heathrow airport ha ha – he actually put it through the scanner. He was lucky to make it to the gig that time and I was sat in the airport thinking how we could busk the gig as a four piece’.

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Is there any difference from coming of stage now to when Spartan Warrior played their first gigs ? ’There’s a definite difference. These days after gigs people want to talk and meet us and even sign stuff for them which is really nice’.

What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ? ‘We get all ages at festivals I’ve seen old blokes – like me – and parents with babies with ear defenders on. Its quite a small scene so you do get to see a lot of familiar faces, a lot of them are now friends’.

The set list, how do you decide what goes in/out, is tempo important to the order, how do you choose the first and last songs ? ’Putting a set list together is usually a joint exercise. Theres a core of songs that we class as must do, the one’s we think people expect to hear us play. Other than that we try and switch the set up as much as possible so that people who’ve seen us before will get to hear something different. Tempo is important and we sometimes try and run songs into each other.
Playing the gigs we do and with 4 albums worth of songs we usually have limited time so we try and play as many songs as we can. Both first and last song we try and choose something that will hit hard from the off. I remember reading something that had been written about us at Headbangers Open Air festival in Germany, they said Spartan Warrior opened with Stormer, ‘and nearly ripped my head off’. Well that was job done and exactly the reaction we wanted !’

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In the coming month’s Spartan Warrior have a few gig’s coming up are there any that stand out ? ‘We’ve got the Trillians gig in Newcastle in November and we are looking forward to Grimm Up North which is a charity event’. On September 30th in Bury is the Grimm Up North Festival. On the bill are fellow NWOBHM bands Salem, Weapon UK plus a whole host of others who are coming together to help Steve Grimmet vocalist from Grim Reaper who tragically lost his leg while on tour in South America…‘We are really looking forward to those gig’s, not just because we are playing but we also get to catch up with loads of mates in bands who are also on the bill’.

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Neil Wil Kinson features in an earlier blog Chain Reaction (May 21st).

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.