MUSIC STILL MATTERS – for former Danceclass vocalist Dave Taggart

From his early days with The Executives, to packing out North East venues in Danceclass, recording in Germany with LiveRoom, writing TV soundtracks, and now touring with international pop star Belinda Carlisle, Dave Taggart has music in his blood…‘I’m living in Brighton now but always a Sunderland lad, that’s where I was brought up. After I got married we gravitated to the south coast where keyboard player Mark Taylor (Elton John, Simple Minds, Echo and the Bunnymen) landed me the job as guitarist and backing vocalist for the world-famous Belinda Carlisle. Suffice to say I’ve toured the world and we’ve had such a great time’.

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Dave on tour with Belinda Carlisle.

From a very young age music has been the life and love for Dave Taggart. But where was he turned on ?  ‘The first time I was in a Pontins Holiday camp in Morecombe. It was 1966 and we were on holiday for a week. As kids, we were left to our own devices as was the norm in those days. My greatest pleasure was sitting at the side of the stage watching the resident band play the latest hits. I was besotted and quickly became the bands gofor. I would receive a 10 bob note and orders for five ice lollies and packets of polos. This was of course to disguise the smell of the drink on their breath, which was a sackable offence. After that I suppose I was hooked on music and at 11 or 12. I received my first beat up cello guitar with half the machine heads missing and an action on it like the Tyne bridge drop. For influences I had too many to mention, John Martyn, Brinsley Schwarz then of course all the rock stuff. Lifelong friend and cohort Tony Mcananey lived in the same square as me and we would spend every summer night practising, practising, practising without any real idea. One evening he turned round to me and said you’re the singer ok !

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ’From school days we were taken to local folk clubs around Sunderland where we would play a bit of Lindisfarne, Fairport Convention, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young and early Eagles stuff before they went shit. Our mentor and driver at the time was our drama teacher Terry Deary. I wonder if teachers are allowed to do that these days. But he just had faith in our talent. Incidentally, that influential educator of young minds would go on to receive fame and fortune himself with the Horrible Histories…true bloody story that ! By 1977 we went out to Germany just to get away from the North-East and learn our chops. We’d play the American army and Air force bases. It certainly was a baptism of fire and we learnt a lot about the craft of performance. But too much innovative and exciting stuff was going on back in the UK. The likes of Elvis Costello, Clash and Ian Dury were happening. So by early ’78 we returned to England and formed a band in Sunderland called The Executives. It immediately took off. Success spiralled into a writing frenzy and low and behold Danceclass was formed’. 

(A split in late ’79 saw some of The Executive members go on to play in Well, Well, Well and The Toy Dolls. The complete line up of Danceclass was Dave Taggart, vocals,  Tony Mcananey, bass, Ali Reay, guitar and Trevor Brewis, drums). 

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’We just gigged and gigged acquiring a massive fan base which then attracted record company interest. By 1981 we ended up on the famous A&M record label. EMI begged us to sign with them but we were rather green and ended up with in the end, the wrong label. First album was recorded in Basing Street in London later to become the famous Sarm West. The producer was Mike Chapman famous for his work with Sweet and later Blondie. We toured with various large acts of the time Sad Cafe, John Martyn and Judie Tzuke. We also performed on the famous live music show The Tube’. (The Tube was a live music show broadcast from Tyne Tees Studio’s in Newcastle, UK. The show ran for five series from November 82 – April 87 and was responsible for introducing Frankie Goes to Hollywood, relaunching the career of Tina Turner and the last ever appearence of The Jam before they split).  

‘But it’s the old story, we went as far as we could with that label. We got the chance to support Blondie at Wembley Arena but apparently Debbie or Chris Stein spat their dummy out and refused to come to the UK. This was devastating news for a young band like us. Our second record signing was to MCA records. Some interesting material was written and recorded around that time. I think at one point we had Judy Tzuke on backing vocals and a coterie of musical acts hanging around so it was an exciting time. Unfortunately our guy at the helm Stuart Watson, was sacked from MCA and they cleared his roster of acts. Including us. Once again the young guys from the North-East were left floundering on the rocks. Left to our own devices in that big London town, I turned to session music mainly singing backing vocals and ended up for some reason on a lot of UK metal albums. There is a Dave Taggart backing vocal credit on the Destiny album by Saxon as well as albums I cant even remember singing on’. 

What are your thoughts on the second album and is it just collecting dust on a shelf somewhere ? ‘Looking back on the Danceclass second album, although the material was a considerate departure from the full speed ahead power pop of its forerunner, the writing especially from Tony Mac had so much more depth and maturity. The basic songs were beaten out at a beautiful rented house overlooking the lake in Bowness, while next door Simple Minds were recording their tracks for the Waterfront album. When we thought we had enough material, it was decided we should go abroad for further stimuli and the plush Wisseloord recording studios in Hilversum, Holland was chosen’. (Officialy opened in 1978 the studio was founded by electronics company Phillips and was used by international musicians such as Elton John, U2, Scorpions, Tina Turner, Def Leppard). 

‘We took along Steve Brown (producer ABC, George Michael, Wham!, Alison Moyet, Freddie Mercury, The Alarm, The Cult, Manic Street Preachers, The Pogues) and we had Richard Cottell on keyboards. It wasn’t easy recording the album as some of the songs changed dramatically as they grew and some just remained as a basic ‘rock out’ vibe. Suffice to say an album that we were proud of didn’t make it for release. We got compensation, but when you’re in your early to mid 20s with a passion for your music, it hurts. All water under the bridge now so … yes, that album will be collecting dust somewhere in a vault and all I have left are some well produced demos on quarter inch tape and a cassette of the album’.

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What was your next move ? ‘By the 1990’s I had returned to Sunderland and started writing more songs with Tony Mac who had got a job writing the music for Jimmy Nails BBC Spender series. While all this was happening our old Danceclass manager got us a deal with a new fledgeling German label who loved the material. We went out to Frankfurt to record the LiveRoom album. Moderate success followed and loving the creative environment, I stayed in Germany writing for TV and film while Tony returned to the North-East to mix the Spender soundtrack. An older countryish song that Tony almost threw away later became the inspiration for Jimmy‘s mid-90s TV hit Crocodile Shoes. These were real fun times as Tony wrote the music for the album with Jimmy Nail and we all ended up performing on it. Then of course touring it. After the Top of the Pops performances and tours I took time out to travel with my guitar to the Middle East and Europe before landing a job writing some of the incidental music for the BBC production ‘Our Friends in the North’.

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Finally, what does music mean to you ? ‘Everything. Even more so as I get older. I might not like some of the crap pumped out but I appreciate the time put in and how they got there. I’ve always had an all embracing love of different genres and that’s down to parental and sibling influence. Lying on my back as a toddler in our council house listening to Swan Lake, Ella Fitzgerald or the Fab Four. My brother taking me to the Sunderland Empire at the tender age of 12 to see Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, Bukka White. Or a year later the Newcastle City Hall to see the now legendary Rolling Stones concert where Jagger introduced the crowd to his new wife Bianca – while Bowie clapped in the wings. Fashions and fads fall along the wayside as your journey progresses and all you’re left with is the thing that really matters. The music’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

For further information check http://www.danceclassuk.com

Recommended:

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: 2nd April 2017.

Trevor Sewell 21st June 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH: 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson, (Songwriter & NEAT records producer) 27th June 2017.

John Verity, ARGENT/PHOENIX: 7th November 2017.

Dave Ditchburn BRASS ALLEY/GEORDIE/PILGRIM: 1st February 2018.

Les Tones & Arthur Ramm, BECKETT: 9th April 2018.

MUSIC MATTERS – interview with Les Tones and Arthur Ramm founder members of Beckett.

The 70’s and 80’s saw bands playing every night around the North East at mainly workingmens clubs…’Mostly it was two clubs a night with yer first set starting at 8pm. Then travelling to another club, loading in, setting up, playing a set and finishing for 2am. Finally back home and bed. Before you know it yer ma was shouting up the stairs it was time to get the bus for work. Aye them were the days ha ha’….remembers Arthur Ramm. Stories like these have been told many times before in smokey bars and clubs of the North East. But here we are sitting in The Word, a brand new cultural venue in South Shields.  A large circular building with huge glass walls and what looks like a floating staircase. As far removed as you can get from bingo, beer and bands. The stories were pouring out from Les Tones and Arthur Ramm founding members of Beckett. A band which changed line up many times until they called it a day in 1974. During their time Beckett had played countless gigs around the North East with stand out support slots with Rod Stewart and the Faces. There was a two week residency in the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, Germany. They notched up 25 UK dates with Captain Beefheart, 33 with Alex Harvey and 25 with Slade. Signed with major labels Warner Brothers and CBS. Released a single and a self titled album.  They also found time to appear on BBC TV music show the Old Grey Whistle Test, and a slot at the Reading Festival. We talked about music in general and the sounds travelling across the Atlantic – Elvis, Chuck Berry, Rock n Roll USA how they influenced a generation of British musicians. Turning on the Led Zepps, Deep Purples, Eric Claptons, who in turn put their stamp on the sound. British rock came out the other end.  Although they were referring to nearly 50 years ago, like a relay team passing the baton, stories from Les and Arthur still sounded fresh and told with good humour. Music really does matter.

When did you first get interested in music ? 

Les: ‘My dad was a piano player, my uncles were keyboard players for the cinema. When I was 14 my brother and cousin had acoustic guitars and my sister played all the 50’s records. I’ve always had music around me. I used to go to the local fairgrounds and there I heard Love Me Do and other songs by The Beatles. I just loved the sound and that changed my direction of what I wanted to do. I got a guitar and I was approached by a fella called Tommy Stead who was in a popular blues band called The Jump. So I joined the band at 15 and learned loads from them’.

Arthur: ‘I was aware of The Shadows but I wasn’t really interested in that, like Les it was The Beatles that kicked me off. It was Paul McCartney, I loved the way he played, he sang, he looked. I just loved The Beatles music’.

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Les Tones aged around 14.

When did you get your first guitar ? 

Les: ‘I was serving my time as a sheet metal worker in Hebburn Palmers shipyard when I bought a Hoffner Galaxy on tick, a loan you know. Then I exchanged it for a Burns guitar until my dad bought me a Gibson 335 for £150. That was great, wish I still had it’.

Arthur: ‘There was a shop called Savilles Brothers in South Shields and there it was in the shop window with a card stuck next to it with £7 10shillings written on. Eventually after a few weeks of pestering my mother, she relented and gave me the money ‘But you’ll have to pay it back’ she said. That’s where I bought not a bass, but my first 6 string guitar.  We had no money for amps so we first started with radios which had valves inside. That could amplify the sound and it had a speaker in so we used the output. But the 5 watts wasn’t loud enough cos when you were in rehearsal with a drum kit banging away you needed something louder. So we got what The Beatles and The Stones were using that was AC 30’s. They were the biggest amplifier at the time and then Eric Clapton started using a 50 watt Marshall. That became the norm until Pete Townsend said he wanted bigger. He wanted 100watt because they were playing big places and no one could hear them at the back of the hall. Suddenly it’s getting bigger and louder with 4 x 12 cabinets and everybodys ear’s gettting used to that level of sound. I remember we were playing Annabels Club in Sunderland  and to load the gear in you used the back stairs. We were loading in 4×12’s and they were so big you couldn’t see your feet’.

Les: ‘It was good having a full house and using all that gear at that volume because people absorbed the sound but if you had a venue a third full it was very different. But now a lot of people are returning to AC 30’s and using larger PA’s’.

Arthur: ‘I’m still using a Marshall now because I’m used to the sound and Les uses a Messa Boogie which is smaller in size but has plenty of power. The technology has changed over the years. We were playing the Birtley club one time and I had just bought my Marshall 100watt head. We were loading the gear in up the steep stairs at the back and I think it was our singer Terry Slesser who said ‘I’ll carry that up for you’. My brand new Marshall head slips out of his hand and goes boink, boink, boink, down the steps to the bottom. The side of the box fell away. I was distraught. We got the gear on stage and thought do I switch it on? Will it go pop! Eventually I turned it on and it worked perfectly. When I got it home I used some glue to stick the side back on. Marshall amp’s are made solidly you know’. 

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Arthur Ramm

Where did you rehearse and play your first gig ?

Les: ‘Around 1964 The Jump used to have house rehearsals at Tommy Steads and played on a Sunday at Aloysius Church Hall in Hebburn. The church ran it and they had bands on every Sunday and served soft drinks. The atmosphere was brilliant we used to look forward to it. When we played I used to push my amplifier up the street to get into the hall, we loved it. Tommy who is still playing today, was all genned up with the American music cos he had the records so we played a lot of soul and blues. But then Tommy moved to London so I left the band and joined Hedgehog Pie. We were classed as an underground band. But yeah that’s how I started’.

Arthur: ’We got a school band together and I was playing sort of bass notes on the heavy strings of my 6 string guitar. Sounded nothing like a bass really but that’s what I was after. So I got one out of the local magazine for £35 and I was away then. Then what changed for me was when I heard John Mayalls Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton and I thought wow I want to learn how to play like that. My first gig was at a wedding in Careme House in South Shields. It was for the guitarists cousin and we done about half an hour of bluesy songs’.

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The Shadey Kases with Arthur Ramm on the left.

How did Beckett form and where did the band rehearse ?

Arthur: ‘I was in a band called The Shadey Kases, who I joined around 65 or 66. I was the rhythm player, just a lonely strummer. One night Les was playing with his band in Sunderland with this great sounding guitar ‘Who is that playing, sounds fantastic’ I said. I was normally a shy person but afterwards went up to Les and said how did you get that sound, your playing is excellent. He was so friendly and showed me the amp and all that. We really got on because some people can be a bit stand off’ish. When Beckett started he was the guy to ask to play guitar and he said yes’.

Les: ’I was in Societys Child and we used to get a lot of work at the Hedworth Hall in South Shields. Alf Josephs from there used to manage us. But the band split over the singer and keyboardist arguing over petty things. The Hedworth Hall was a place all the bands would go to after a gig because it was open till 2am and we’d get in free of charge. There I met up with Arthur who had just left the John Miles band. ‘How would you like to join me and Alan’ (Craig, drummer). So yeah we are the three founding members of Beckett. We got Bill Cambell in on bass. Rehearsals were in a pre-fab building near St Francis Church in South Shields. Alan Craig got it cos he knew someone from the church. We used to go 2-3 times a week to rehearse and we done some Kinks stuff, some Deep Purple’. 

How did the name of the band come about ?

Arthur: ‘When we were talking about what we are going to call ourselves I said why not Becket ? There had been a film made called Becket starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole and I just liked the name.  Sounds good. Just the one word. So yeah we all went with that. If you look at Ringo Starr’s drumkit just the way they write the name Beatles, the style of the writing you know it just worked. The two t’s at the end came about because Ted Hooper suggested we should write it that way. Ted was always hanging around and had a brother who was playing guitar in West One, another Shields band we knew. Next we saw an advert for a gig we were doing at the Golden Slipper in South Shields and we were advertised with the two t’s. From then on in, it just stuck’.

Where did you gig and what venues did you play ?

Arthur: ‘We ended up being very successful starting off around the pubs and clubs. Usually there would be 2x 45minute sets. Early days we’d have lots of current stuff that was in the charts, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Beatles, Stones that sort of stuff. A blessing was the Bailey Organisation because they had the Latino club in South Shields and they would get us to guest before the main artist came on like Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdink, whoever had been on Top of the Pops. There were venues like Wetheralls, La Bamba in Darlington, La Ronde in Billingham, La Dolce Vita, The Cavendish Club there was so many. Only problem was it wasn’t till 2am when we finished then we had to get back home and we still had day jobs. I was an apprentice tool maker and had to get up for the bus to work at 6.30’.

Les: ‘The band used to play around the North East nearly every night of the week, quite often two bookings a night. We’d be sort of living two lives cos we’d be in a bubble on stage, going down well and everything was great. Then I’d get in at 4 in the morning and my mother would be dragging me out of bed at 6. Then not much later you’d be walking to work in the snow. The band was a job, we’d pay the stamp every Friday and get pay packets every Sunday. Arthur would get a cheque off Mel Unsworth the promoter then share it out. We would only have Tuesday off cos we had girlfriends’.

Arthur: ‘Good thing was you’d have the extra money from the gigs so you could buy an extra pedal or better guitar. One of our first gigs was at a nightclub in Darlington and the stage was big, we were right at the back and the singer was way out at the front. It was an area where all of the audience could see the artist. The lights dimmed, we went on and played an instrumental first called Supernatural. Our singer Rob Turner came on twirling the mic stand, giving it everything and there was only a dozen people there but he got them clapping. We were playing at the back in the shadows and were amazed because at rehearsals he’d just sit on a seat sort of crouched over and sing! When he was on stage his demeanour changed he was a totally different person. I always remember that gig. But I always remember the day he died. We were playing a gig at La Ronde in Billingham and were just coming up to 2am. He said let’s do a blues thing, Les you just kick it off, so we started to play. He started to sing ‘If I Knew You were Coming I would have Baked a Cake for You’ it was a blues song and that’s the last one he sang with us’.

Les: ‘I remember that gig, I remember as if it was yesterday. At the end he had a bit to drink and a girl with him. We had a policy of you go with the band you come back with the band. Then the day’s your own you know. We said your coming back with us just take her number. Arthur and I went home as usual in the Hillman Minx, that was our bassist Bill Cambell’s car and all we talked about was Rob not coming home with us. Next day was a Friday I got out of bed and went downstairs. My mam said someone’s been and left a message to phone Arthur it’s very important. The nearest phone was at the bottom of the street so I went down, phoned Arthur and he told me the bad news. I was shocked, we were upset and got the band together to talk about it. We went to see his parents’.

Arthur ‘We were told the weather conditions were very foggy that night and he was on the edge of the road near the pavement thumbing a lift. A few cars went by then he got hit. By now the girl he was with starts to thumb as Rob is on the ground. But cars just passed by because it looked like a drunken couple. Eventually someone stopped and drove him to hospital but he had too much internal bleeding’. 

Les: ‘He was only 24. The car just drove off. The person driving was caught because he put his car in a garage to have the windscreen fixed. He said to police he didn’t stop because he thought he had just hit an animal. Reports said he was under the influence of drink and drugs. He never got put in prison, just fined’.

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Terry Slesser in the middle.

Did the band make the decision to carry on ?

Les: ‘Let me tell you it wasn’t an easy decision to make. But we had gigs lined up and we knew a singer already who could fit into the band. Terry Slesser was a roadie for the John Miles band The Influence, Terry had also formed a band called Zig Zag. I had seen him a few times and thought he had a good voice. He was confident and had long hair. He joined the band eventually’. 

Arthur: ‘Yeah he learnt the songs very quickly, and fitted in. We done some great gigs especially supporting the Alex Harvey Band. They were so tight, really impressed with them’. 

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What was it that drove you on ?

Arthur: ‘It was just that the gig was so important, it was a simple as that’.

Les: ‘The time Beckett was playing it was magic. When we’d play the workingmens clubs they were queing out the door at 6pm to get a seat to see us. That’s the way it was. We’d play Middlesbrough and go to a gig in Sunderland. We’d go in a seperate car from the road crew who were in a van with all the gear. When we went in the club you would see lots of faces who were at the first gig, they’d travelled up to see us. We really appreciated that’. 

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When did Beckett start songwriting ?

Arthur: ‘Les left the band, and joined Sandgate. We got a guy called Kenny Mountain in. He was in a band called Yellow with Vic Malcolm from Geordie. They had a single out but didn’t do much. I rang Kenny who said he didn’t want to play lead but he would still be in the band. That meant I had to up my game. Kenny came up with some songs and we ended up sticking a couple in the set, then adding a few more, then a few more. That led us to meeting a guy called Geoff Docherty. He was a local promoter and saw us playing in Sunderland’. (Geoff Docherty was a very successfull North East promoter with major bands including Pink Floyd, The Who, Rod Stewart and David Bowie. One of the venues he promoted was The Locarno in Sunderland, a Mecca ballroom that held 3,000. For more information Geoff has authored two books ‘A Promoters Tale’ and ’Three Minutes of Magic’). 

Arthur: ‘Geoff approached our singer Terry Slesser. Geoff said he liked the band and said ‘I can do something for you’. We had other offers but the managers wanted too big a cut out of the money we were earning. It wouldn’t of left us with much. So we arranged a sit down meeting with Geoff, he was straight talking. We were very impressed. The clincher was when he said ‘I won’t take any money, not a penny from you until you are successful. I will have you backing people like Rod Stewart and Ten Years After’. Not long after we started travelling the country playing gigs and what a thrill it was playing in London, especially the Marquee club. He was exact to his words’.

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Did Geoff Docherty get the record companies interested in Beckett ?

Arthur: ‘Yes he got to know them all as he used to book the bands for the Top Rank Suite in Sunderland. He was very pushy. He’d tell them to come and see the band. His rhetoric and the way he put it over. Very convincing. He got us a deal with Warner Brothers and then we went to CBS. We got a £10,000 advance from Warner Brothers. Think our Mercedes van was around £4,000. But I had left before they made the album with Warner Brothers. They got Bob Barton in. The line up kept changing. All the original members had gone by then’.

By the time the album was released on Warners label Raft Records in 1974, the Beckett line up was Terry Wilson Slesser (vocals) Kenny Mountain (guitar) Robert Barton (guitar) Ian Murray (bass) and Keith Fisher (drums). The Iron Maiden connection is a story for another day if one of the members can get in touch. As we were about to leave The Word I asked Les and Arthur one more question.

What does music mean to you ?

Arthur: ‘Well I can’t live without music. If my hands don’t work I don’t know what will happen. I listen to music all the time and I am in a band now with Les’. 

Les: ‘When I’ve got a guitar I lose loads of time cos I can’t put it down. I’ve also been teaching music and I got into repairing and building guitars. I still play in a band now’. 

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.

Recommended:

Steve Dawson, THE ANIMALS: 2nd April 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: 29th April 2017.

Trevor Sewell, 21st June 2017.

Howard Baker, WARBECK: 17th August 2017.

John Verity, ARGENT: 7th November 2017.

Dave Ditchburn, BRASS ALLEY/GEORDIE: 1st February 2018.

ROKSNAPS #4

Roksnaps are fan photographs which captured the atmosphere of concerts on Tyneside during the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a time when rock and metal bands ruled the city halls up and down the country. On Tyneside we had the main venues of Mecca in Sunderland, The Mayfair and City Hall in Newcastle. The gigs were packed with tribes of mostly young lads from towns across the North East. T-shirts, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as souveniers – and some people took photographs on the night.

 

Here are more Roksnaps from John Edward Spence pictured above with Janick Gers in 1982.

 

‘The first gig I went to I was 15. It was on the 31st of October 1977 at the Newcastle City Hall and the band was Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The support band were called Kingfish. Rainbow came on really late and we missed our last bus home so one of friends had to phone his dad for a lift’.

 

‘Around October ’78 I decided to take my camera to a few gigs. I had a job so I bought a roll of film and some flashcubes, my camera was a Kodak 126. I couldn’t take it to every gig as the film and flashcubes used to make a dent in my pay packet’.

 

‘I used to go to loads of gigs at the City Hall and the Mayfair of course, that was my favourite venue. I was also lucky enough to see the bands associated with the NWOBHM, just loved the music around then’.

 

‘I don’t go to many gigs now. I always try and watch The Tubes when they come over, in fact the last gig I went to was to see The Tubes supporting Alice Cooper at Leeds, great gig’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

Steve Thompson (NEAT producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Roksnaps #1 18th February 2018.

Roksnaps #2 22nd February 2018.

Roksnaps #3 27th February 2018.

1980 The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside 11th February 2018.

LOST IN MUSIC – interview with North East musician Bernadette Mooney.

War Machine went on to play many gigs after the album was released in 1986 and I was asked to do a photo shoot in Kerrang called ladykillers. I really enjoyed the day as Bon Jovi was getting his photos taken the same day and for that month’s issue we both appeared in the Kerrang magazine. We also appeared in Viz as the meanest band in the North East but I think Venom should of got that one!

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How did you get started in music ? ‘Bought my first guitar when I was 15 and had lots of song ideas but wasn’t sure how to write. There was lots of lyrics in my head so I wrote them down, taught myself to play guitar from a book and started to write my own songs. A friend heard them and played them to a guy who was in a band. He liked my voice so I ended up doing a few gigs with him. Then I joined a band called Chapter 24. I played a while with them as a guitarist and vocalist but then moved on to a local band called She with Lee Robertson. I played a few gigs with them before forming War Machine with Steve White on guitar. We were both from Wallsend and Les Fry was living in Jesmond he was on bass. We had a drummer called Steve Smith who still gigs in the North East. My influences then were Pat Benatar, Steve was into Black Sabbath and Venom. I first met Steve White at college and we dated. Before he formed a band with me he was in Atomkraft with Tony Dolan who is now with Venom Inc. Steve and myself would write the songs together just by jamming. I had lyrics and give them to Steve who would write the guitar bits and Les added bass. I think Les wrote some songs too’.

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Where did War Machine rehearse and gig? ‘We used to rehearse in an old building. I think it was in Felling near Gateshead. It was horrible. The guys used to pee in Brown ale bottles as there were no toilets. I used to stand in a cardboard box with newspaper in to keep my feet warm. But we were skint and it was cheap. We did a few gigs around the North East and in Scotland. When we did a gig we went all out with the show. Pyrotechnics and explosions which always seemed to be going off near me! One night at Chrystals Arena in Scotland we set a ceiling on fire and got sent a £300 bill. We never paid of course. Couldn’t do that now with health and safety I don’t know how we got away with it. We even got offered a gig in what was then Yugoslavia. But they wouldn’t let us in because of our name. I remember we entered a Battle of the Bands held in Gateshead Brewery. We came second, or was it third ? War Machine would rehearse a lot before a gig, getting really tight and after playing many venues in the North East we ended up with a good fan base’.

What was your experience of recording ? ‘We recorded a demo at Neat records and on it was a song I wrote called Storm Warning. Dave Woods who owned Neat records, liked it so much he offered to record our album. The line up of the band that recorded was me, Steve and Les and we had Brian Waugh on drums. We didn’t get much time in the studio and we felt it was a bit rushed. Our album did pretty well abroad but we never received any royalties or from any other songs that were used on compilation albums. Dave Wood said all the money from the album paid for the distribution. (Nerd alert: War Machine released Unknown Soldier in 1986 on the Neat record label. An 8 track album including the tracks Power, On the Edge and No Place to Hide. The same year the album was also released by Roadrunner records in the Netherlands. Tracks by War Machine appeared on at least four compilation albums released in the 90’s). ‘We were young and naive so never questioned it. We were like many bands in that respect. We were played on a lot of radio shows across the world even the USA. I hosted the Alan Robson North East radio rock shows as he was a fan and played our music on his broadcasts’.

What happened next with the band ? ‘After a couple of years gigging I decided to leave the band as I got offered a job as a costume designer in London. It felt like the band was just doing the same round of gigs and I needed a change. Steve White the guitarist went on to play for Venom and Les went on to open Voodoo cafe. I worked in London for a few years where I did a lot of gigs with different bands’.

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What are you up to now, are you still in music ? ‘Being back home in the North East I have always played music and mainly my own. I write, record and produce my own songs. My style is very mellow now, a bit like me. Not like my wild days with War Machine which I really enjoyed’.

Listen: bernea on Reverbnation

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.
Recommended:
SATAN/BLIND FURY: Lou Taylor Rock the Knight, 26th Feb & 5th March 2017.
WARRIOR: The Hunger 12th April 2017.
FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.
TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, 5th August 2017.
ATOMKRAFT: Running with the Pack, 14th August 2017.
VIIXEN: Fox on the Run, 19th March 2018.

WITCHES OF TOKYO – interview with Japanese metal band Coven

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Heavy metal band Coven are based in Japan. Formed by musicians Ito and Taka they have released an EP to attract interest from record companies…
Taka: ‘At present the line up is just Ito on guitar and other musical instruments and me on vocals and playing bass’.
Ito: ‘We are currently looking for other members to start gigs in 2018. We are in the middle of preparing for some gigs as Coven. We are recording, mixing, arranging, and mastering ourselves. Now we are using just a cheap rehearsal studio in Tokyo and paying a one coin (500 Yen/hour). I have used recording studios in other bands before’.
Taka: ‘One reason why we’re still just a newcomer is because we don’t have much money. We have paid our own way until now and got a release. Our first EP on Svart Records in Finland was all without any help of Japanese labels. So we think we can make better songs without spending much money and without using high‐class recording studios. Of course it is not easy, but it depends on how much effort we put in. We think this has to be done on our own power’.
Ito: ‘We thought we needed to make a strong impression of Coven from Japan. So we needed to produce ourselves totally because it is very hard for Japanese bands to succeed all over the world’.

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Who were your influences in music ?
Taka: ‘Thank you for giving us this interview and we feel honored from you in the land of NWOBHM we love! Firstly, Angel Witch, Satan, Blitzkreig and a lot of NWOBHM bands were a huge influence on us. Also Mercyful Fate, Metallica, Riot, Manowar and early 90’s Japanese Metal of Loudness and X Japan. We have also been inspired by many songs and stories of Japanese comics and animations. We think it is also one of Japanese honour and cool culture in the world, so we added this essence into our songs.
As you know our band’s name Coven means a gathering of thirteen witches and people have an image during the medieval period. But we didn’t want to use such conventional images or any old Japanese-style painting because many metal bands have used such pictures. We wanted to make our original main character…yeah, like a Eddie, Iron Maiden! So, we developed the ideas and thought out a futuristic witch while getting hints from some great Japanese animations.
Our main character like a Eddie is a witch re-born in the future getting a half machine body with immortal life and great power. Take a close look and you find twelve unborn children spreading out from her hair. It’s also our wish that we spread our songs out to the world’.

How did you get involved in playing music ?
Taka: ‘I listened to heavy metal and hard rock from childhood. Because I have big brothers who were always listening to traditional heavy metal, hard rock and playing bass and guitar. Traditional metal like Iron Maiden and NWOBHM made me want to sing and play in a band influenced by NWOBHM. At that time I began to realize the power of music, especially metal power!’

Ito: ‘When I was a child, I listened to X Japan and Metallica. At that time I felt an electric current running through me. I started to practice, play guitar, bass and drums in some bands. I liked every musical instrument, but especially liked guitar and then joined Fastkill (Japanese Thrash metal band). I was playing in Fastkill for ten years since I was a teenager. I had supported bands like Destruction, Razor, and Assassin in Japan and overseas’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs ?
Ito: ‘When we started this band, we already had some ideas. Firstly the traditional sounds like early Iron Maiden and other NWOBHM bands. In addition we wanted to add Japanese elements, Japanese lyrics, singing rhythm with oriental pronunciation and accents of our identity. Because we are proud of being Japanese, we believe that we can do something special all over the world. We think it’s our style, the fusion of Japanese and Western, this characteristic is one of our special strengths’.

Taka: ‘But on the other hand, we know it also has a harmful effect. It is hard to understand Japanese lyrics and not easy to sing songs for people from different countries. We think singing loudly together is one of fun in Metal! So we’ve thought out some ways of putting some sing-along parts for singing together. We always make some English parts the chorus for singing easily. We have also made a lyric video with Japanese pronunciation on our Youtube channel’.

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What are the future plans for Coven ?
Ito: ‘We want to play not only in Japan but also all over the world, and we want to make a full-length album. We have already been making some new songs. We think it will be really great and we have confidence too!’

Taka: ‘We’ve just started, so keep on doing our best, and hope to see many people at our gigs !

Contact Coven at the following:

Coven Official Site: https://www.coven.site/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Coven.Japan/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CovenJapan
Bandcamp: https://coven.bandcamp.com/
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/coven_japan

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2017.

FOX ON THE RUN – interview with the new Thuderstick vocalist

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Viixen is the new lead vocalist for Thunderstick. The line up is Rex Thunderbolt (bass, backing vox) Baz Roze (guitar) Dave ‘Kandy’ Kilford (guitar) and of course the masked man Thunderstick (drums). I asked Viixen was there a defining moment when you said I want to do that…‘I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. When I was little my mother would hear me singing and say ‘it sounds lovely but why do you have to change it’. I was always changing the words and the melodies. I sang in the choir at school and I used to enter school music competitions. Always coming second to a girl who sang opera. I grew up in a small Shropshire town and had a religious upbringing so I didn’t have the exposure to bands that I could join. Then I got married and had children very young so it wasn’t until I hit 31 that I finally formed a band. I had recently got divorced and moved in with a girl who could play guitar. One evening she was playing the song Zombie by The Cranberries and I joined in with the vocals. It sounded pretty good so we decided to form a girlband’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I’ve always been a rock chick at heart. Listening to rock and metal makes me feel free and rebellious. Some of my favourites are Deep Purple, Kate Bush, Skid Row, Marilyn Manson and Evanescence. If the music makes me feel something… I’ll love it’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘I have been in two bands before joining Thunderstick. We gigged mostly in London and Kent. I started gigging in 2010 and played in pubs and clubs. Then we started playing festivals which were amazing. I loved the big stage and having plenty of space to bounce around. We had a large biker following so we played various biker rallies and festivals. I did a big gig for Gibson guitars during the London Olympics in 2012. The venue looked over the Olympic stadium and was pretty cool. I played at the London Hard Rock Café in October last year, which was a great venue’.

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Viixen has brought both her vocal strength and stagecraft experience to her new challenge; Thunderstick. The ex-Iron Maiden/Samson drummer is known for having strong female vocalists fronting his band and Viixen fits that role. He recently commented “I had been after Viixen for a while but the timing was never right, now in 2018 it will happen. The band is perfect for her, theatrics, energy and outrage allow her to express all of her personality’. 

Where do the ideas come for your songs ? ‘Like most artists I tend to write lyrics based on personal experiences. However if the band has already written the music I search for how the music makes me feel and write from that perspective. It helps that I’m incredibly empathic. I feel other peoples pain deeply even if I’ve not experienced the emotion myself. To me music is what feelings sound like and it’s a fantastic form of self expression’.

What is your experience of studio work ? ‘I’ve done some recording work in the studio with the band and I love it! Especially when you’re recording your own material and you get to hear all your ideas coming together. It’s a magical experience!

Have you recorded any TV appearences or filmed any music videos ? ‘I have recently recorded a music video with my other band Black Roze. The song is called In the Darkness and it’s an autobiographical tale about the darkness of depression and coming out of the other side. The guitarist and I wrote the storyline and how we were going to capture the concept of the song. It did involve running through a graveyard in a wedding dress during mid winter but it was well worth it!

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Haha yes I have a few…On two occasions we have set up all the equipment, started playing and the electrics blew in the venue! One of them was my sisters wedding which didn’t go down too well!

Due to my head banging and stomping around on stage I’ve had some wardrobe malfunctions. I did a biker festival last year and wore a tight cropped top. At the end of the gig the guitarists mum ran on stage and told me my bra was showing. Looking back at the pictures I saw that I’d basically played the whole gig in my bra! Recently I bought a new pair of goth platform boots from a charity shop, they were beautifull. I wore them to the gig and I was 6ft tall in them and I was boasting that I was taller than the other band members. Just before the second half one of the shoes gave way, the heel snapped and I fell over. A guy in the crowd fixed it with duct tape and I carried on. Next thing I know mid song the other shoe did the same thing. Leaving me feeling very small in my socks for the rest of the gig! At least the socks matched!’

For further information contact Viixen and Thunderstick on their facebook pages.

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.

Recommended:

PAUL DI’ANNO, True Faith  22nd April 2017.

THUNDERSTICK, Return of the Mask  19th July 2017.

 

SPACE CADETS – interview with David B from Electro Goth Punks Calling All Astronauts

With the Iggy/Sisters of Mercy match up they’ll hit you for three… ’Living the Dream’… ‘Empire’ and the expansive sound of ’Faith in Your Cause’. Just a couple of tracks released by the prolific Calling All Astronauts. In six years they have released 2 critically acclaimed albums and 11 singles. Received considerable radio play on BBC 6 Music and Radio X and built up a following of over 800,000 on Twitter…We take a stupid amount of time in the studio. The last album took over 2,000 hours to make. We are currently writing our third album’. (The line up is David B – vocals/programming, J – guitars and Paul McCrudden – bass)

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What is the background of CAA ? ‘J toured loads when he was in Caffeine, supporting bands like The Offspring, Blink 182, Rancid, New Found Glory, The Dickies and AFI. Paul was in The Marrionettes they opened for The Cult, Sisters Of Mercy and headlined their own tours. I was in a rap metal band called US:UK. We played with the likes of Faith No More, Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Gallon Drunk. With Calling All Astronauts we’ve mainly done festivals, though we did open for A Place To Bury Strangers and also Pop Will Eat Itself. I have plenty of stories from the gigs, but sadly none that I would put into the public domain’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs ? ’All our tunes start life as a drum pattern. We have our own studio and write as we go along, rather than jamming them out in a rehearsal studio. I have rolling news channels or Radio 4 on a lot, and take ideas from what is happening in the world’.

How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences ? ‘I think every song I’ve ever heard has influenced me. I analyse drum tracks and production on all genres of music and use it in our songs. When I was about 16 we had a garage band, but never did any gigs. Just played in a room at my parents house. It was doomed to failure, but made me want to do it properly’.

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How has the internet impacted on music and do you use crowdfunding ?  ’We don’t use it. I personally think they are like begging. The internet has destroyed independent music, and played right into the hands of the majors. They manufacture music more now than ever. They have fake streams, fake likes, fake followers and create artists by force feeding shit to kids via radio. It’s virtually impossible to sell records anymore thanks to streaming’.

Have you recorded any TV appearences or filmed any music videos ? ’We like abstract videos and make them all the time, although I think we are only in one of them’. (The video’s have a very colourful mix of cut up/montage/live action/lyric and social commentary. ‘Living the Dream’ is worth checking out and is available to view on the CAA You Tube channel.)

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What are the future plans for Calling All Astronauts ? ‘The new EP took us almost 6 months to record because my wife and I had a baby and I had a lot of responsibilities to fulfill. We’ve recorded 4 versions of songs that have influenced us. The Influences EP is coming out on 30th March’.
Calling All Astronauts contacts:
Homepage http://www.callingallastronauts.com
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/CAA_Official
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/callingallastronauts
YouTube http://www.youtube.com/+callingallastronauts
Bandcamp https://callingallastronauts1.bandcamp.com/
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/artist/0xqglBsPF9COYj64LNl85t
iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/calling-all-astronauts/id480852185
 Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

ROAD TRIP with The Rocket

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This blog has featured two bands from Belgium – WildHeart and Mr Myst. The third are pop punk band The Rocket, who are based in Aarschot.  Tom (vocals) Bastian (drums) Joris (bass) Frederik (synth) and Stijn (guitar) had a quick chat about  recording the new album and what impact the internet has had on music… ’The internet sure made it a lot easier to discover new music. These days, it doesn’t really matter anymore if you’re a band from L.A. or Nepal. If you’re on Spotify, everyone can hear your music. We don’t use crowdfunding or other online ways of getting financial support. We just put our heart in our music and hope people come to shows and buy our records’.

New single ‘Chain Reaction’ is very heavy on the pop and less of the punk…’We love using sweet melodies with in your face lyrics. Chain Reaction is definitely one of those. Let’s pretend we’re all loving the daily grind cause that makes life worthwhile, right? The general gist is that when it all goes to shit, it’s easy to start blaming everything and everyone but yourself. But more often than not, you have yourself to blame for bad things happening’.

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An album is due out in April and was produced by Marc McClusky (Weezer, Motion City Soundtrack, Bad Religion)… It was great working with Marc. We learned a lot from him and he’s a very cool guy to boot. His approach to recording and songwriting really took us out of our comfort zone and had us look at our own songs from a different perspective. We were lucky enough to be able to record the better part of the album in our own home studio. Marc flew in from New York and we spent an intense two weeks together, working on the album and giving him a taste of Belgium and its Belgians. Before those two weeks of recording, we did a lot of pre-production. We sent demo’s back and forth so we had a pretty good idea of what everything would sound like before the recording started’.

Have you any plans to take this record out on the road ? ’Yes, definitely. We’ve got some shows lined up already, but we’re hoping to add more. We’re currently setting up a tour package for southern Europe together with F.O.D. for later this year. And we’re open to more suggestions’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.

Recommended:

BARE TEETH: Hungry Like Wolves 3rd September 2017.

STUPID KARATE: Zip/Pop/Chop 14th September 2017.

HIGHTOWER: Anger is Our Energy 27th September 2017.

BARE TEETH: Tomorrow Starts Today 15th October 2017.

WILDHEART: Looks That Kill  2nd January 2018.

UPSIDE DOWN: Spanish Marks 3rd January 2018.

MR MYST: Dream On  26 January 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IRON MEN – interview with British Heavy Metal band Kaine.

 

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Kaine are a British Heavy Metal band based in East Anglia. They formed in 2009 and released their debut album ‘Falling Through Freedom’ in 2012, it’s follow-up ‘The Waystone’ came 2 years later. Vocals & rhythm guitarist Rage explains ‘I have spent a lot of time in various studios over the years starting out at Three Circles where we recorded our debut. Ade the engineer is great at what he does with top musical knowledge so that was a huge help. We did the second album at Angry Bee Studio’s and a separate building for the drums with Akis K, who sadly passed away not long after the album was released. Again a great experience working with Akis, very precise with his editing’.

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The current line up of Stevo Ellis (bass) Saxon Davids (lead guitarist/backing vocals) Chris MacKinnon (drums) and Rage (lead vocals/rhythm guitarist) have recently released ‘A Crisis of Faith’…

Rage: ‘We recorded our new album at Pointy Halo with Carl Brewer, a great engineer and studio. We decided to go with Carl this time due to the sound of the other heavy albums he had produced. Plus it fit in with the new direction of the band. He worked extremely hard to get this album sounding our best yet’.

Saxon:A Crisis Of Faith was a very fun album to record, as well as being quite stressful at times but it has paid off. I’m extremely proud of the work we did with Carl at Redwall Studios’.

They toured heavily completing two UK and Ireland tours. All this without any record label support. They also appeared on bills with Diamond Head, Praying Mantis, Tytan, Tygers of Pan Tang and ex members of Iron Maiden. Rage remembers one of the earlier gigs… ‘It’s been 9 years so there’s plenty of funny stories from gigs, and some are quite bizarre really. At one show an old man arrived with a shopping bag full of 12 cans of Fosters (beer) and a lettuce. He started jive dancing to the Metal bands. He shit himself there and then and flushed his kegs (underwear) down the bog. He just continued to dance the night away !!!! Kaine’s first gig was at Club Revolution in Peterborough back in 2010. The show itself was a bit of a disaster. We didn’t go down to well, the sound was terrible and the less said about it the better! I’d like to think things have improved!

Who were your influences in music ? 

Rage: ‘My biggest influences are everything from Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Judas Priest right through to bands such as Saxon, Iron Maiden and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Then up to the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and so on. Dio is a massive influence too. Playing wise Tony Iommi is easily my biggest influence, the first five Sabbath albums are my favourite albums ever’.

Saxon: ‘The main ones from when I started playing metal are the obvious ones such as Iron Maiden, Metallica and Black Sabbath. But since joining Kaine I’m influenced by a lot of Power Metal like Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. Also listening to a lot of Progressive metal in bands like Dream Theater, Queensryche and Symphony X. I’ve also been very influenced by guitarist Aaron Marshall of Intervals’.

Stevo: ‘As a metal bass player I am very much influenced by Steve DiGiorgio, Dan Briggs of Between the Buried and Me and Geezer Butler. As a musician and songwriter however I take inspiration from everywhere. Guys like Miles Davis and Michael Gira of Swans are huge influences on how I approach music as an art form. I take aspects from my entire taste in music when writing’.

How did you get interested in music ? 

Stevo: ‘I originally started playing bass when I was 14. I listened to a lot of Sabbath and Maiden around that time. Started with bass and never had any interest with guitar. My uncle helped me out big time as he got me into a lot of old school metal bands. As I was growing up he lent me the first bass I ever played which was a ’78 Fender P Bass. That’s what I learnt on. Around my area everyone wanted to be a lead guitarist, very few wanted to play bass so I pretty much got playing in bands straight away’.

Saxon: ‘I’ve been playing guitar since the age of 7. I remember as an early teen seeing my Dad watch the music video for Ace of Spades, that made me certain that’s what I wanted to do. After playing onstage for the first time around the age of 13 I fell in love with it completely. My first proper experience gigging was with my first band Entropy around the age of 16, which is actually how I ended up meeting Kaine. We were on the same bill with them on a local festival called OGfest’.

Rage: ‘In my younger years I’d go out and see a lot of bands, listen to a lot of music and it all sounded the same. So that’s where it started, bloody frustration. It was all essentially in the Trivium mould but I really like stuff like Iron Maiden, and there was none of that going on. So I learnt how to play the guitar and form a band essentially so there could be that option for people who didn’t just want a copy of whatever was popular at the time. I did dabble in a few other bands but nothing ever came of it, so I took it upon myself to move forward. I wanted old school Heavy Metal back’.

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Where do the ideas come for your songs ?

Rage: ‘I usually start with a riff, a lead or a chorus idea and build a song around that. I spend a lot of time trying stuff out and getting it right, honing it, taking stuff out, adding to it before I even show it to the bands where it changes again with everyone’s input’.

Saxon: ‘Usually I just fiddle about on the guitar and when a riff or lead line comes to me I’ll evolve it and structure it into a song. Heaven’s Abandonment from the new album is my full song contribution and was pretty much written in that format. I came up with the rhythm guitar riff for the verse and then built the song around that, added lead lines and a break section until I had the full song. That’s when Rage came in and added his lyrics to the song’.

What are your experiences of recording/studio work ? 

Saxon: ‘I had made one demo with my band before Kaine but my first official studio experience was in 2015 when we went to Three Circles Studio to record our song Justice Injustice. It was meant to be the song to introduce us as a 5 piece band, but shortly after we released that song we had further line up changes so that track now ended up as a one-off for that line up and appears as a bonus track on recent pressings of The Waystone. It was fun and exciting to be in the studio for the first time. And then with that experience it made going into recording the new album a little easier knowing the process.

What impact has the internet had on music?

Rage: ‘For a relatively unknown band like ourselves things such as filesharing and piracy has very little effect. We have a small but appreciative fanbase that will always buy our stuff so it really hasn’t had a huge effect on us. But the whole game has changed. Bands like ours generally don’t sell huge amounts anyway – our last album sold over 1,000 copies. Which is a great achievement given how small our promotional budget is compared to signed bands. I would say the choices of bands being pushed by the bigger labels and the lack of real investment in bands has done more damage to the sales of music than the internet has. Here they have a great tool for marketing to Metal fans but they sign bands that either don’t sell or they don’t promote. I don’t understand the logic behind it. Everyone complains about the music coming out but it seems to fall on deaf ears at the top. They seem to think they know better than their audience and I think ultimately that attitude is the problem coupled with the whole making bands pay to play supports, festival and tour slots limits the number of bands who can afford to push themselves. It’s all very short term. I’d like to see real artist development brought back essentially. That would do wonders for the industry – instead of cheap gimmicks, crap songs and paying your way to success. It’s so Un-Metal it’s just sad’.

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Have you recorded any TV appearances or filmed any music videos ?

Saxon: ‘My old band Entropy appeared on TV very briefly once during a news segment about a local festival but as far as music videos go, that’s still a milestone we’re yet to cross off our list’.

Rage:Kaine have never appeared on TV. There’s not a whole lot of options here in the  U.K. for television spots if your playing Heavy Metal. Mainstream culture seems to look down on us with a great deal of elitism and snobbery. Ultimately Heavy Metal isn’t something that they are going to push on television. As for music video’s it’s a budget issue – we simply couldn’t afford to do it justice at present. It’s better in my mind to have no video than a crap one. If you want to see our faces, come out to a show!

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? 

Saxon: ‘A funny story from the studio is when it came to recording guitars on our third visit, we couldn’t really afford a hotel this time round so Carl allowed us to stay in the studio. Which is supposedly haunted. Chris being quite unnerved by the paranormal decided to deal with this by drinking a lot of scotch to help him sleep. He had kept me awake for hours by yelling and throwing cushions at me so I already was in a fairly bad mood with him, but after eventually falling asleep, I see Chris wake up around 7am and sleepwalk off into the drum room. Then about 5 minutes later comes back in and flops into bed. When I told him about this later on he said he couldn’t remember a thing so I thought it would be funny to go over security footage to show Chris that he had been sleepwalking. Dean (one of the team at the studio) and I looked through the security footage and to our horror and amusement we see Chris urinating all over the nice leather sofa in the drum room. What made this worse is I then realised that about an hour after Chris went in there, I went in there to call my girlfriend and laid on that exact sofa. I weren’t too happy to begin with but we all found the funny side !

What are the future plans for Kaine?

Rage: ‘It’s hard to tell. We’ve just released this third album and we’ll see out our run of shows and obligations with this album before we consider the future. I expect it will be more of the same, but after 9 years it’s good to evaluate and move forward. It’s healthy. However, as far as making it big or whatever, it would be cool to tour with a bigger act again or play abroad. I’d love to do that at least one more time before I am done that’s for sure. I don’t expect to be signed or be the next big thing, so despite it not selling thousands of copies people have enjoyed this album so far’.

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New album Crisis of Faith out now. Contact the band on the official website at http://www.kaine-metal.com.

Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

METAL ON THE MENU – The Making of Cult NWOBHM album Roksnax

roksnaxSouth Shields is a small town on the North East coast of England. During the 1970’s it’s main employment was heavy industry. Shipbuilding and coal kept the workers thirsty. Pub’s and clubs were doing a roaring trade with entertainment from local rock bands. Heavy riffs and pounding drums were echoes from the pits and shipyards. By 1980 the New Wave of British Heavy Metal had rolled in. The sound waves crossed the Atlantic and landed in a garage in San Fransisco. Metallica were born, and went on to become the biggest band of the genre. Not far from that garage lived a young Nick Vrankovich. Nick is now at Buried by Time and Dust Records who have re-released Roksnax, one of the albums that helped kick start the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

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Terry Gavaghan, Guardian Records.

Originally released in 1980 by Guardian Records, the compilation album was produced by Terry Gavaghan. He recorded 3 North East bands at his studio in Durham. Teeside based Samurai, and from my hometown South Shields, Hollow Ground and Saracen. The main players behind the re-release take up the story…

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Nick Vrankovich

Nick Vrankovich (Buried By Time and Dust Records): ‘One night not long ago, I was sitting drinking some Newcastle Brown and spinning some of the compilation albums I had from the NWOBHM time, Lead Weight, HM Heroes, Metal for Muthas, all packed with songs that meant so much to us. Then I played Roksnax and I was quickly reminded of two things. One was that all twelve songs are incredible. When you talk of the magic of heavy metal or the mysticism of the NWOBHM surely they must be referring to releases like this. The second was how obscure this one was compared to the others. I made a clear decision that night to contact the bands to see if we could make this masterpiece available again. When I got in touch with the guy’s I found the willingness, generosity and honesty incredible. Even though I’m now over 50, these tracks mean as much to me as the day I first held the album all those years ago’.

‘By the end of 1980 I was 13 year old and not yet aware of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. I was into Kiss, Van Halen and shortly after Black Sabbath would change things for me in a big way. By the end of 1981 I discovered the Record Exchange in Walnut Creek, California which is about thirty minutes outside San Francisco. The second I entered the record store an obsession would be born. The store was heavily stocked with all the latest imports and cutting edge heavy metal from the UK and Europe. The extreme appearance and imagery of bands like Venom, Mercyful Fate, Angel Witch and countless others was something that fired my imagination and created an obsession that continues to this day. The fact that the music was so fantastic and really heavy only added fuel to the fire’.

BACKROK

‘The Record Exchange is where I first remember seeing the album Roksnax. It was an import which meant the price was $9.99 which was a huge sum of money for me. I remember looking at the photos on the back, it all looked so old and obscure. I was unsure what it would sound like. I had not heard of any of the bands on the record and of course it was next to impossible to find out about them unless they had a record deal. Sadly, this time I never bought the lp’.

‘The release disappeared into obscurity and was forgotten about until one day my brother scored a copy of the single Warlord by Hollow Ground. Needless to say we were overwhelmed with how great it was and amongst other NWOBHM singles, it was right up there with Mythra and Witchfinder General. We knew there were extra tracks from Hollow Ground on the Roksnax album so we hunted down a copy. We eventually found one and heard the instant magic from the Hollow Ground tracks. We were equally crushed by the Saracen and Samurai tracks. The speed of Saracen with the killer Dawson guitar riffs and soaring vocals from Lou Taylor was not only trailblazing but still raises the hair on my arms to this day. Samurai was undoubtedly the most obscure band of the three but their heroic sound was also incredible’.

METY

Martin Metcalf, Hollow Ground.

Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground): ‘I remember the buzz of being involved in Roksnax. The whole experience of being in Guardian Studio’s during November 1980 was magical. We met up with producer Terrry Gavaghan and talked through the idea of a compilation LP with a couple of other bands from the North East. Our mates from Shields, Saracen were also on the record. We were in the studios for 2 days and slept overnight there. The studio was basically 2 terraced houses knocked into one. I still remember the brown cork tiles in the studio and having to sellotape the headphones on my head when recording. The great memories of honing the songs and bringing them together with my friends, still burns brightly. The fine tuning and adjustments as we worked on them was a great feeling of coming together as a band, a unit. We used 2 of the songs from our EP Flying High and Rock On and added Fight With The Devil and The Holy One to make our four tracks for the Roksnax album’.

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Saracen

Steve Dawson (Saracen): ’Right from the start of the band the other members wanted to get in the studio but I thought we should of developed our sound a bit more, let it breathe a bit, walk before we run so to speak. But we booked some time in Guardian Studios where Mythra had recorded their Death and Destiny single. The owner Terry Gavaghan proposed the Roksnax album to us where he would put us on a compilation album. It was basically a live album with some overdubs’.

Geoff Nixon (Samurai)‘I have very fond memories of that time. We were convinced that we had an excellent line up, we felt as though we had something special. We were made so many promises by Terry Gavaghan at Guardian, we believed everything he said. He signed us to a 5 year publishing deal, as young lads we were flattered about the whole project’.

Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground): ’It’s real music made by real musicians. You can’t replicate it with machines. Sparking off each other while recording the tracks will stay with us forever. It’s what being in a band is all about…and we loved it. We were so proud of the music that we produced, and still are! It stands the test of time and the whole album is a perfect snapshot of the vitality of the NWOBHM movement’,

Lou Taylor (Saracen): ’Now it’s not the worlds number one album but everyone involved in this album agreed that it is a wonderful feeling and something special about getting your name on a piece of vinyl. Terry was true to his word and got the album in the shops. I bought six of them straight away ha ha’.

Geoff Nixon (Samurai): ‘But we actually split just after the album, sometimes you get one shot at fulfilling a dream don’t you. Many years later I found that the album had been on sale around the world but I don’t think it ever sold in Britain. Looking back we had a lot of fun and of course we always have the album’.

Lou Taylor (Saracen): ‘Just being prominent enough to be invited to be part of something which we had no concept of how much impact on the British music scene the emerging talent in this genre actually had ! NWOBHM say what ?? Guardian Studios were (in) famous enough already due to releases from acts in the region so this opportunity seemed too good to pass up!

Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground): ’Lars Ulrich from Metallica bought a copy of the Roksnax LP in Los Angeles and that lead to our track Fight With the Devil being played in a Metallica documentary. This was the documentary about the making of their Black Album. The scene is Lars Ulrich driving to the studio in his Porsche listening to Fight With the Devil. The film was released in 1992 and if I remember correctly we’re on the credits between Black Sabbath and Madonna! It led to me and Glenn our vocalist being invited to gigs on the Black Album tour. We had access all areas and were in the famous Snake Pit. It was brilliant’.

Lou Taylor (Saracen): ’Over a series of trips to a sleepy country village including one session which soaked up guitarist Steve’s 21st Birthday – a sacrifice of serious proportions ha! The long days and nights, the scary stories, the ghostly appearences, the owner eating sandwiches… Roksnax? The narrow deadlines, the even narrower drumbooth, the raw uncertainty of the mixes (still). But all tempered with the undeniable thrill of the coming eventuallity: 4 guys making their dreams come true, putting their music on vinyl for the very first time and still to be heard worldwide today…priceless !

For further information about Roksnax contact Buried by Time and Dust Records via facebook.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

MYTHRA Still Burning 13th February 2017.

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Harry Hill, FIST: Turn the Hell On, 29th April 2017.

Metallica: When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson,( NEAT Producer) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

It’s Only Rock n Roll 1st August 2017.

Pyromaniax – Bombs, Flashes and Burnt Eyebrows 12th December 2017.

Have You Heard This One ? -10 best stories from this years interviews 18th December 2017.

1980 – The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside, 11th February 2018.