RUNNING WITH THE PACK ‘We had a gang mentality, it’s us against you, we weren’t scared of any band’ back to the start with drummer Ged Wolf

Blast Recording Studio in Newcastle is the venue to record more stories for the Just for the Record blog. There has been over 50 interviews and over 6,000 views since starting in February this year. This time it’s Ged Wolf who has been drummer with North East heavy metal bands Tysondog and Atomkraft giving him many fantastic memories and great stories which he has shared here – let’s get started Ged.

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? ’As a drummer I loved Cozy Powell, he was a hero, but what got me first into drumming was my brother. He was in a band with Tony Bray the Venom Inc drummer. Before they became Venom they used to rehearse on a Saturday at Clegwell school in Hebburn. I’d go along there and inbetween breaks used to have a knock about on the drums. I found I was natural, never had a drum lesson in my life’.

‘Then Christmas morning when I was 13 year old my brother bought me a Premier red sparkle drum kit. The noise was a nightmare for my parents so I used to put t-shirts on my drums to dampen it down haha. I got into listening to rock bands with other kids at school and in the meantime my brother started managing Venom and I ended up on the road crew. Used to go to the rehearsals and got a background in how things worked. Ended up as back up drummer for the band when I was 15, never had to stand in but I was there in case’.

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‘My very first gig at Newcastle City Hall was watching Whitesnake, (pic.above with Cozy Powell 3rd from left) the second was Bad Company and I remember seeing Twisted Sister at Newcastle Mayfair. You had to be over 18 to get in and I wasn’t old enough then but was with my brother and mates so snuck in with them. The Mayfair was the hallowed ground with a bar in it and surrounded by all the big boys haha. It was a great sweaty gig but the very next day flew out to America with Venom to do a couple of shows. Out there they had Metallica supporting. They only done two shows at the Paramount Theatre in New York but they made a big impression.
We all lived together in one big house for about three weeks, it was the crew, Venom and Metallica. But me and the other drum tech Gordon were too young to go out drinking and watching bands with all the others so we stayed in the house and got drunk. But living with them was great, we had some real adventures haha’.

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‘The first gig in New York was memorable, we had made some huge bomb pots the size of footballs, you know Venom was all about the show. Well the guy in charge of the pyro was out of his head on something and he ended up loading the pots twice. The bombs went off at the start of their first song Witching Hour, one of the bombs went down through the stage creating a big hole. The other one went up over the crowd, past the balcony and embedded into the back wall. There is a plaque there now, Venom 1983 haha.
But the explosion blew the whole backline so for the second gig we had to get all new equipment. I’ve never had to work so hard all my life it was 24 hours non stop. I was that tired I was asleep under the drumriser when Metallica were playing. It was the only place I could stretch out haha’.

‘I was in the studio at NEAT records as drum tech when Venom were recording. I remember they were working on a new song Countess Bathory and Tony the drummer popped out for something to eat so I filled in on drums and played with Conrad and Jeff. I worked out the drums for the song. So when Tony got back they said Ged’s worked it out just do it like him!’

‘But I didn’t want to be a roady all my life, I wanted to be in a band, see the lights, hear the crowd an all that. I had ambitions of my own and had all these studio and touring experiences at an early age, and was considered a pretty good drummer in the North East. One day I saw an advert in local newspaper The Chronicle for a band wanting a drummer. Thing was I had just got the Venom drum kit as Tony Bray had got a new one built, a Viking drum kit the biggest in the North East. So mine was second biggest haha. But I didn’t tell my brother I was going, I just went for the audition and didn’t tell the band my connections with NEAT and all that, kept it all quiet. I just turned up at the Coach and Horses pub in Wallsend with only a three piece drum kit – and I got the job ! I was drummer in Tysondog.
They were like a Judas Priest sounding band so it was all fill’s which was fine for me. Every rehearsal after that I used to take an extra piece of kit so it ended up a twelve piece’.

‘But I wasn’t happy, I was a good 6-7 years younger than the others so as a young one I wasn’t getting listened to, but other aspects I had more experience. I was also a bit of a hot head you know. Well we recorded an album with NEAT records and just before it was due to be released I left the band. So that was it. They got in Rob Walker to replace me, great lad, good drummer’.

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How did the Atomkraft job come about ? ‘About 6 months after leaving Tysondog I was in NEAT Records and Venom bassist Chronos came up to me and said there’s a guy you should talk to. That’s when I met Tony Dolan. He was a bass player, so we had a few jamming sessions and got to know each other. It was going well, just playing a few Motorhead songs stuff like that, just bass and drums. He had a band called Atomkraft but wanted to update it. They used to wear jeans, t shirts and bullet belts, it was like the press photo for Ace of Spades. We needed to freshen things up and arranged auditions for a guitarist and got 16 year old Rob Mathews in, he was from Pelaw. Tony was from Wallsend and I was from Jarrow. So at the time Atomkraft was just a three piece’.

‘We had punk influences, the metal thrash scene had that, we all loved AC/DC, I also loved Kiss but mix it all together and that’s what we were. The attitude side of it was from punk that was a big part of it’.

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‘We wrote, rehearsed and recorded at NEAT Records and came out with our first album Future Warriors in June ’85. Our very first gig was supporting Slayer at the Marquee in London which was Slayer’s debut European gig. We all went down there with our gear, done the soundcheck and out pops the assistant manager of the Marquee asking who’s in your roadcrew? Well we had 14 people on our crew haha. Basically it was our friends from Newcastle who came down wanting to see the gig haha’.

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‘The stage was so small I had to arrange the drums with Slayer’s drummer Dave Lambardo and see what was the best way to do it. We were supporting them and he played drums facing the side of the stage which was a bit awkward but we sorted it out. In the end he said can you lend me a pair of drumsticks I haven’t got any ? I said yes it’s the least I can do.
Well we’re on stage but after only three songs of our set the whole backline goes off. Even though we had 14 roadies not one of them knew what they were doing. We found it was the guitar that had gone off so me and Tony played along then after 30 seconds I just smashed my whole drum kit and threw it into the crowd. I’d just bought a new kit that was back home so I thought, fuck it, smash this one up ! We went off stage everyone is howling, funnily enough it went down great. We got some great press off it. Anyway stage is cleared and ready for Slayer to go on. Dave Lombardo says to me have you got them drumsticks ? – I’d hoyed everything into the crowd haha. So my drum roadie had to go out and get some back for him haha.
Yes that was Atomkraft’s debut gig. Then after that for about six weeks we went over to Europe with Venom and Exodus and had a great time’.

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Atomkraft only played a few gig’s in the North East. Was that a deliberate decision ? ’Yes by 1986 Atomkraft turned into a 5 piece and in came DC Rage from South Shields and Ian Swift on vocals. At a trial for that line up we got a 25 minute support slot with Girlschool at Newcastle University and then we played The Riverside at Newcastle. But I was gutted at that gig because a lot of young kids couldn’t get in. The thing was at Atomkraft we were once at the Mayfair and someone next to us was talking to his friends saying ‘that’s the band that everyone has heard of but nobody has seen’. I thought that was a great compliment. We weren’t bothered, we knew we hadn’t played Newcastle, that’s just the way it was’.

‘Sometimes it’s not about ability it’s about determination and focus to where you want to go. We had that as Atomkraft, we used to go to the Newcastle Mayfair on the Friday and Saturday nights getting drunk but always made sure we rehearsed every Saturday and Sunday, that was our focus and dedication. Putting the groundwork in that’s how we got those tours. There’s no substitute for rehearsal’.

‘We had a gang mentality of it’s us against you, we don’t care if you like us we just went out on stage and done the best we could we weren’t scared of any band. We made sure if we played live or recorded we were rehearsed and ready to go. We went out with some of the top American bands and if you weren’t up to it you were off the tour, but we put the groundwork in and worked really hard’.

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‘Through our hard work and the management, in the space of two years we done three major European tours with Venom. They were at 5-6,000 seaters some were 10,000. We were young kids compared to them.
There was a point in 1983 when Venom were the biggest selling independant band in the world – not too bad for some guys from Tyneside. Venom were the big boys they brought over Metallica and Slayer for European tours. But the difference was that those bands ended up on good record labels that supported them with promotion.
Now there is two bands Venom and Venom Inc, it’s not a competition between them I’m friends with them all, it’s good what they are both doing’.

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Have you any memorable gigs ? ’A stand out gig for us was in ’87 The Longest Day at Hammersmith Odeon with Agent Steel, Nuclear Assault and Onslaught. There is a video of that and it went live on Radio One. Another stand out gig was when we toured with Nasty Savage and we were the first British thrash band to play Poland. The security was 2,000 armed troops circling the crowd. There was around 40,000 people there they loved the British bands. It was video’d and a live album was made which we never saw a penny from’.

Atomkraft’s biggest audiences were Holland and Germany. Another memorable gig was the Dynamo in Eindhoven. Testament and Onslaught were on the bill and Stryper were headlining. For that we had the Future Warriors image which was Mad Max style. We got off the tour bus heading for the stage and went past Stryper who looked at us and said what’s going on here ! Our vocalist Swifty had injured his hand so we gaffa taped his mic to his hand haha. Marshall Amps had just brought out Jubilee stacks which were silver, we had 12 either side so our image and our stage presence really stood out. The crowd were jumping, absolutely bouncing, I’ll never forget it.
That was the gig somebody threw something on stage, it was like a cannon ball with a fuse burning, everyone saying it’s a bomb ! It roll’s in front of my drum riser, everyone splits off the stage, so I do the natural thing and tell my drum roadie to go and get it haha. Turned out to be nothing just burnt itself out’.

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‘The headliners Stryper were a Christian band, and on that day nobody was allowed to swear, it was part of the contract. Well our singer Swifty went straight out there on stage ‘How the fuck ya doing Holland’ haha. But on the side of the stage Stryper just gave us the thumbs up, they loved us really’.

Was image important ? ’Yes we wanted to stand out, everybody was doing the Metallica thing, jeans, ripped t-shirts you know but the thing we had was as we progressed from a three piece to a five we sounded like Venom, a bit of Motorhead and Kiss. We were speeding up, the guitar sound was getting crisper, we knew we had to up or game. But we were on NEAT Records who never put money into their bands and all American bands coming over on Music for Nations were getting money thrown at them for tour buses and that. We never got one advance from NEAT Records and we were selling a lot of records’.

What has music given you ? ‘I was talking to me dad years ago and he said he joined the merchant navy and saw the world – I joined a band and saw the world. I’ve been to so many places and met so many people, some good some bad, but I would never change anything. All those years ago learning how to play the drums in Clegwell School in Hebburn got me here today, it’s been one big adventure’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.
JUST FOR THE RECORD.

 

VINYL JUNKIES – Neil Armstrong 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 the 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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‘The End of the Pier’ is a new play that Neil Armstrong wrote and is about to perform at The Customs House, South Shields. Neil is an award winning actor/writer/director based in the North East of England. Over the last twenty-five years he has directed shows for dozens of companies, has been nominated by B.A.F.T.A, The Writers Guild of Great Britain and the National Comedy awards. His play ‘Remember Jim’ which he wrote, starred in and directed, won Best Performance at the Sunderland Echo W.O.W Culture Awards. In 2015 and 2016 he wrote, co-directed and starred in Durham Gala Theatre’s Pantomimes, both broke all box office records to become the most successful productions ever to be staged there.

Introduction’s over, here are Neil’s 7 songs that shaped his world.

1 ‘One of the first songs that got me into music was I Feel Fine by The Beatles. I didn’t actually buy it, my Aunty Nora gave me an old 45 of it in about 1972 I think. This really started me on my way to buying records. I think the feedback at the start of the song drew me in. How the hell did they do that? I wondered, when I was eight. I still think it sounds great today.’

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2 ‘Given that I earn my living poncing about on a stage, I thought I should include something theatrical in my pick of the pops. So jumping back in time to 1970, I was in London, aged six and on holiday with me Mam, Dad and our Julie. We went to see the film version of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver ! I didn’t want to go I think the picture of Fagin on the wall outside the cinema scared me, but I did go and came out singing ‘You’ve got to pick a pocket or two’ with me sister whilst we tried to steal loose change from me Dad’s pockets. I know it’s not exactly Rock but there’s some great tunes in it’.

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3 ‘By the time I was fourteen I had my first guitar and had moved on to now loving The Beatles later period when they ‘Went weird’ as all me Aunties used to say. I had the Blue Album which I paid for through me Mam’s Kay’s Catalogue. I played it over and over again, it was me only LP at this point apart from a K-Tel chart toppers compilation thing. I loved every song on it. If I had to pick a favourite I couldn’t, but Here Comes the Sun would be close’.

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4 ‘By the time I was fifteen it all went a bit Prog! The Musical Box by Genesis from their 1971 album Nursery Crime was largely what did it. I’m from Seaham and it wasn’t as posh as it is now, so listening to these Gothic tales of people getting their heads knocked off with croquet mallets in English Stately Homes and Gardens was for me, a perfect escape. I didn’t care that most of the band were ex-public schoolboys or that my mates were listening to the Sex Pistols or Sham 69 or whoever. I was off on one with Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and the rest, to hell with punk! Let’s Prog! Ten years too late admittedly but never mind. I still love this song today. I don’t even think it’s pretentious, preposterous maybe, but not pretentious’.

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5 ‘Hazy Jane #2 by Nick Drake. I discovered this song on an Island Sampler called Bumpers that I think I bought in The Old Durham Bookshop in Sunderland. I was about 16 at the time and for some mad unfortunate reason I was working in the Civil Service. The only good thing about working there was you got flexi-time so I used to bugger off early on a Friday afternoon to spend my hard earned money from what I considered to be the worst job in the world on LPs. I think this song is gorgeous. I love music that evokes pictures and places in your head and this did for me. It still does and always will’.

6 ‘La Rossa by Van Der Graaf Generator from their albunm Still Life. It’s angry, it’s noisy, it’s got Peter Hammill screaming his head off. I met him once when he was supporting Marillion at the Mayfair in Newcastle. Me and me mate Geoff weren’t that bothered about Marillion so we sneaked into his dressing room to see if he could offer us any advice on how we might become rock stars. He was a lovely bloke, and even sent us a Christmas Card wishing us well in our quest later that year. VDGG I know are an acquired taste, but I loved how they never gave two hoots about anything other than their music. I saw them at the Sage in 2005 when they reformed and they were amazing’.

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7 ‘I was on YouTube about a year ago and discovered a song called Le Soir Du Diable by French band Ange. It was live footage from a gig they did in 1977. Here we had a hairy singer (Christian Decamps) with two sock puppets on his hands – one an angel, the other a devil and they are both playing the xylophone for him as he sings. I’ve tried telling me mates this is tremendous. I mean let’s face it you’re not going to see some twat like Ed Sheeran doing that anytime soon! But unfortunately I seem to be alone on this one. Nevertheless I stand by this band and say ‘They don’t make ’em like that anymore!’ and I wish they did. But just in case they never do, I went and tracked down every 1970’s Ange album. There’s a bloke at Chester le Street market on a Saturday who can sort you out French Prog with Puppets if you fancy it…….no?….just me then?’

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Neil’s new play ‘The End of the Pier’ is on at The Customs House, South Shields from 22nd – 26th August 2017.

Intro by Gary Alikivi, JUST FOR THE RECORD 2017.

 

ACE OF BASS with North East musician Duncan Emmerson

‘Is there a bass player out there who didn’t want to be Lemmy? Motorhead were always my favourite band, and still are to this day. One of my proudest moments was meeting Fast Eddie’.

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Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘Blimey, there’s a question. Probably hearing Overkill and seeing my first gig, Motorhead supported by Saxon at Newcastle City Hall on December 2nd 1979. That did it for me, and for the following few years I was virtually a resident both at the City Hall and The Mayfair. I still maintain 1979-1984 were the best years in music. Ever’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I haven’t been in a proper recording studio since 1992 when I recorded with a band called Honey at Dungeon Studios in Oxford. I was living in Oxford at the time when there was quite a healthy music scene with a few bands becoming high profile on a national scale. The likes of Ride, On A Friday who became Radiohead and The Jennifers who became Supergrass. I answered an advert in the paper for Honey and ended up doing a few support slots, usually at the famous Jericho Tavern.
In Dungeon Studio we recorded seven tracks in two days and slept under the mixing desk. We still keep in touch which is nice. Those experiences do give you a bond don’t they?  Actually, while I’m talking about them, our one claim to fame was that we supported a local band called On A Friday, who as any fool will know, changed their name to Radiohead’.

When did you start playing gigs in the North East and what venues did you play ?  ‘The first local band I played in was a three piece called Requiem, the brainchild of Glenn S Howes, until recently the singer/guitarist with Fist. I was on the bass, and Sean Taylor from Satan was the drummer. We were a cover band, did gigs on the local pub circuit, bike rallies and the like. This went on for a couple of years from about 2008’.

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‘I joined Warrior in 2014 as the band had been asked to play at Brofest in Newcastle. They needed a bass player and Sean Taylor, yes him again, was drumming for the band. He got in touch and asked if I would like to do it. We played the gig at Brofest in February 2014, and the year after that we played at Headbangers Open Air in Germany and Garage Dayz Revisited in that there London. I’m going to put this on record…thank you to Blitzkrieg for looking after us on both occasions’.

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‘Locally, we played the legendary venues of Trillians and the Penny Gill, and last year we played at Negasonic in Belgium which was a tremendous gig. Guido who runs it is such a lovely bloke.  Personally, I was delighted to meet Rock Goddess at HOA, we’d just come off stage and suddenly there’s Tracey Lamb asking me ‘What was it like mate’? Starstruck or what?  To this day I’ve never been able to talk to musicians I grew up admiring and listening to, even those who have gone on to become good friends. I just babble like a twat haha’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Well, the one that springs to mind was doing a lunchtime gig with Requiem at a club in Sunderland which is notorious for two reasons. I’m not going to mention the second reason, but for the first one, the audience, and there’s usually a healthy turnout, take great pride in ignoring the band. They’ll read their papers and play dominoes, and revel in silence after each song.  Anyway, we did our opening number, finished to deathly quiet and Glenn, as he did at every gig announces ‘Good Evening (name of venue)’ at the top of his voice. Not a thing. Then we heard from the darkness ‘It’s lunchtime ya daft c**t’. Probably the only reaction ever, which should be a point of pride’.

‘One more semi funny tale. When Warrior played HOA we did a signing session after the set. One guy presented us with a cd by the band from Chesterfield with the same name, the album was called Let Battle Commence. Despite the fact they were a trio, he refused to be convinced he had the wrong band and wouldn’t leave until we signed it. I think he had to be removed eventually haha.’

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I’m currently playing bass for the recently resurrected Dark Heart, who had an album out in 1984 called Shadows Of The Night on Roadrunner Records. I joined Dark Heart after I left Warrior. The line up is myself, Alan Clark who was an original founder member on lead vocals/guitar, Nick Catterick, an outstanding lead guitarist who I’ve known for many years now, and Elliot Sneddon on drums who I played with in Warrior’.

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‘How that came about was Alan Clark got in touch and asked if I’d be interested as he’d been offered an album deal and wanted to resurrect the band. He’s a great singer and I jumped at the chance to work with him. Having Nick and Elliot on board as well was the icing on the cake. It’s nice to get the old rhythm section back together. Dark Heart are currently recording a new album to be released later this year via the Greek label Sleaszy Rider Records. We’ve already got rough mixes of around five or six songs so it’s well under way, and I have to say it’s going to be well worth a listen.  Watch this space….’

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.
JUST FOR THE RECORD.

BACK FOR ANOTHER BITE -with Kevin Wynn, bassist with NWOBHM band Tysondog

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Have you any funny stories from gigs ? ‘I could fill a book really !!! Some of them unprintable haha. But one of the stupidest was when Tysondog were in Scotland and before a gig in Glasgow we were due to be interviewed by the legend that is Tom Russell on his radio Clyde Rock Show. We were trying to find the studio, no sat nav’s in them days !
We stopped in the Clydebank area and asked these young kids for direction, I noticed some of them were carrying guitars. Well years later around 1991 I’m in the Cardiff Post House hotel on business when I get talking to, well pissed really, with Wet,Wet,Wet, yes the pop band.
They had just performed at Cardiff Stadium in front of 50,000 people and after the gig the drummer Tommy Cunningham bought about a dozen bottles of champers in the hotel bar. Tommy says to me ‘Kev I hear you used to be in a band ?’ When I told him yeah Tysondog you won’t have heard of them we were a NWOBHM band from the 80’s. Well from his reaction he nearly died. He jumped up shouting ‘No fuckin’ way man !’ ..yup …it was him and some of the other lads out of Wet, Wet, Wet, who we’d asked for directions ha ha.
They said that night they tuned in to the radio to hear us being interviewed and were telling everyone they’d met some rock stars haha.
Oh forgot to tell ya that after the radio interview we all jumped into our hotel swimming pool bollock naked. They had security cameras so most of the staff had a good laugh at a bunch of skinny, pissed up, hairy arsed Geordies !’

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Where did it all begin ? ‘When we were 16 year old we just played the local church halls and youth clubs. Then progressed to pubs in the Newcastle area’

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Kevin also talked about his influences…‘Early on I liked Bowie, Queen, Sweet, T.Rex. then proper rock of Deep Purple, Sabbath and Zeppelin. That lead me to heavier stuff like Judas Priest and Saxon. I decided to get involved in playing music after watching my first concert The Sweet at the Newcastle City Hall. They were heavy as f##k !’

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our first demo was a live recording of a gig in a working man’s club in Ashington, Northumberland. We sent a copy to NEAT records who had just started releasing heavy metal records. They asked us to record a single there. It was our first time ever in a studio and we came out with Eat the Rich’. (In 1983 Eat the Rich was released as a 7” single on NEAT records. The studio also released two albums by the band. Beware of the Dog in 1984 and two year later Crimes of Insanity, which included a version of School’s Out, the Alice Cooper anthem).

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What are Tysondog doing now and have you got any plans for the future ? Yeah Tysondog released their third album Cry Havoc on Rocksector Records in 2015. In September this year we’ve got a gig at the Gaura metal festival in Brazil with Anvil. Later that month we go to Manchester for the Grimm Up North festival with a few bands on the bill including founder members of Saxon’.

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‘Then in December it’s the big HRH NWOBHM festival in Sheffield with Satan, Raven and a few others before a few club shows in Newcastle and over to Holland. Last gig this year is in December with Girlschool, Diamond Head, Tytan, Spartan Warrior and a few others, it’s a great line up at the Blast from the Past festival held in Belgium.
We are busy planning more European dates for 2018. Yeah that’s enough to be getting on with’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.
JUST FOR THE RECORD.

VINYL JUNKIES – John Heston, 7 songs that shaped my 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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John Heston has been a Tyneside musician for 30 years and is currently in ska punk band The Panic Report. These are John’s 7 songs that shaped his world.

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1. New York Groove – Ace Frehley
This was the first record I ever bought from the Handy Shop in Frederick Street, South Shields when I was about ten years old. A few of my mates were into KISS, and as an impressionable youth I was immediately attracted to the image. Being a fan of horror films, I loved all the blood and fire breathing etc. I saw this record in the racks and when I got it home was surprised that it wasn’t some demonic metal tune but a funky ode to New York City. I loved it then and still do now.

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2. At the Edge – Stiff Little Fingers
I was a heavy rock fan until I was about 14, but this is the song that made me cut my hair and lose the denim jacket. I first heard it at Buddys nightclub in South Shields on the 14-18 night, and I was transfixed straight away. The lyrics totally summed up the teen angst that everyone faces at some point, and what a tune! Yet again I paid a visit to the Handy Shop and bought Hanx!, their live album. It turned me into a big fan, and they’re probably the band I’ve seen most times live.

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3. Should I Stay Or Should I Go/ Straight To Hell (double A side) – The Clash
I first consciously heard The Clash in the Eureka pub in South Shields when I was about 14. We used to get in and play pool even though we were underage, and they used to have a great jukebox. From the moment Should I Stay Or Should I Go kicked in I was hooked, and found myself singing along before the song had even finished. I immediately walked 100 yards up the road to the Handy Shop to see if they had it in stock, and I was in luck, they had the 12″ single. I got it home and after a few plays I put the other song, Straight To Hell on. This is the moment I totally fell in love with The Clash, this song just stopped me in my tracks. A haunting, eerie track that sounds like no one else, telling the tale of abandoned children of the Vietnam war, and the troubles the veterans faced when they got back to America. This is still probably my favourite song of all time.

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4. Lady Stardust – David Bowie
I ‘borrowed’ the Ziggy Stardust LP from my cousin Jill in the mid 80’s. She had left home for London so I liberated it from her house as I was a casual fan of his Let’s Dance-era stuff. This was something else altogether and immediately fell in love with this album. Every song is a winner but Lady Stardust is my favourite, just an amazing vocal and brilliant piano from Mick Ronson. I still have the LP somewhere, I’ll give it back one day Jill, I promise!

5. E=MC2 – Big Audio Dynamite
The Clash are my favourite band but they’d split up by the time I got on board. The next best thing was guitarist Mick Jones’ outfit. They were quite groundbreaking at the time, one of the first bands to use samples etc, and this track remains one of my favourites. It’s a great lesson in making two chords go a long way, with different melodies interwoven on top. A strangely hypnotic song, it had me hooked straight way, and was a sizeable hit in the UK.

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6. Senses Working Overtime – XTC
One of the most underrated bands ever. This is probably their most well known song, and another one I picked up in the Handy Shop from the bargain bin. It has strange medieval sounding verses then explodes into one of the catchiest choruses I’ve ever heard. This led me to digging deeper into their catalogue and what a treasure trove it is. It’s a shame they packed in touring in 1982 because I would have loved to have seen them live. Fiercely intelligent music and totally original, one of my favourite bands.

7. Good Morning Britain – Aztec Camera
As we entered the Nineties I was buying less and less records but this one came as a breath of fresh air. A great lyric with each verse dealing with a different country of the British Isles. The river Tyne even gets a mention which always helps for a local lad like myself. Scorching guitar solo as well leading into one of those key changes which get the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. Unfortunately the Handy Shop had closed by the time this came out, I think I ended up buying it at the rather soulless WH Smith.

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Intro Gary Alikivi July 2017.
JUST FOR THE RECORD.

STORMY DAZE – Life’s like that for North East guitarist Jim Clare

In the early 1980’s guitarist Jim Clare played for North Eastern UK bands Hellfire and Geneva… ‘It was hot pies and cans of Carlsberg Special in the rehearsal rooms with my first band, in the next room were Fist and the other was Hellanbach… it was like the Walk this Way video by Aerosmith and Run DMC haha. During the late 80’s he was guitarist in Black Metal merchants Venom where he recorded the album Calm Before the Storm and went out on tour… ‘I remember we were in America and met up with the Cycle Sluts From Hell, basically they were the Spice Girls on PCP, that was some wild night at the Ritz in New York City’.

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Where did it all begin for you? ‘Music was around me from an early age, my older brother’s were into folk and my cousin Bob Henrit played in Argent and The Kinks. I started studying bass then moved on to guitar. In 1980 I bought my Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Goldtop (1972) for £300 and used my brothers HH amp. I was listening to British rock bands like Queen, Thin Lizzy and UFO also American stuff like The Doors and Van Halen’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘In 1980 my first proper band was called Hardline, we played The Mitre in Benwell and a few other pub’s in Newcastle. Then by 1981, I was in a power trio called Hellfire who had a couple of line ups and played a few gigs around the North East. That lasted until 1983’.

‘Then I moved down to London to join metal band Tank who were signed at the time, but that didn’t come off I can’t remember why exactly, it’s lost in the mists of time.
So I came back to the North East and although I couldn’t play NWOBHM to save my life, and still can’t haha. I auditioned for a few heavy metal band’s that were on the scene, Warrior, Tysondog and Tygers of Pan Tang.
But eventually joined AOR band Geneva in 1985 and again gigged around Tyneside notably at Edwards Bar, Mingles in Whitley Bay, Tiffany’s in Newcastle, yes loved that band’.

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‘Then I joined Venom in 1986 which lasted a couple of years, that line up was Tony Bray on drums, (featured in an earlier blog) bass and vocals was Conrad Lant with me and Mike Hickey on guitars. Around ’89 we had Chris Patterson on drums and were called Cronos then. That lasted till around 1993’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘First recording was using a 4 Track at Desert Sound in Felling. Ian McKie was the engineer he used a 1/4” Reel to Reel with Roland 301 Space echo. A great little sound with nice tracked guitar’s’.

‘With Hellfire we went to Guardian Studios in Durham. I can safely say that was the worst recording experience of my life. Starting with little or no overdubs, the producer told us all the old stories that the studio was famous for…including the one about the studio ghost as well as the solo he played on The Carpenters track haha.
Other studio work was when I played for Warfare and Venom. We recorded a few things in Impulse Studio where NEAT records were based’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘To many to mention but here’s a couple of snippets for you. We were playing a gig in Newcastle with Hardline and for dramatic effect we came bouncing on stage on space hoppers and used a lot of smoke bombs. The landlord went crazy as it turned the beer flat and people retching in the toilets.
On tour with Venom we arrived in Japan with all our guitars and amps still back in London. We were soundchecking with cheap radio systems that picked up samba music on the radio and it was blasting out of the 4×12’s’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I play with The Ballbreakers who’ve been described as ZZ Top on crack. We’ve played quite a few Bikers festivals where we do a range of our own tunes She’s On….I’m Off and Shaved By The Bell. As you can tell with those titles we’re not collecting for charity, we refuse to compromise even when we do covers we do them our way. I’m joined along with Pete Green on bass and Matty Wilson on drums. Right now we are in the middle of finishing our debut album which we are recording in Alnwick’.

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‘I also play in a two guitar outfit called Balls of Steel playing a brand of anthemic, airpunching cheese rock where the punters and the band have a lotta fun. And I run , I’ve been lucky enough to have taught players that are now ripping up the North East scene. So I’m busy as hell’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2017.
JUST FOR THE RECORD.

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S ONLY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – Just for the Record hit’s 5,000 views.

It’s all about the story isn’t it. For over a decade of making documentaries and releasing them on DVD, in February this year I decided to try a different media.

The original idea was to transcribe the interviews from my music documentary ‘We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll’ (available via You Tube). The stories still sounded fresh and funny even though I heard them many times during editing. But where do they go from here ? I’d read a few blogs and thought they would be a good outlet for the stories, how do I put one together?

I got in touch with a friend who wrote a blog and he talked about using a WordPress template. It didn’t sound too difficult so I checked it out. I named the blog Just for the Record, that seemed appropiate and started writing.

The interviews filmed for the music documentary were a good start, they just needed updating. Then I got in touch with more musicians, recording their stories via email or meeting up and using a dictaphone. The initial idea was to interview North East based musicians but social media makes it easier to contact bands from across the UK, Europe and USA. Managers and European PR agencies have also been in touch to arrange interviews.

The blog mainly covers rock, punk and NWOBHM. Although the scope has widened lately, but if the story is good – it’s in. The latest feature, Vinyl Junkies, interviews musicians, actors and writers who talk about their favourite 7 records that shaped their world.

So here we are, 5,300 views in 6 month on a blog which I thought would be read by a handfull of people. Starting with 300 a month in February it has grown to 1,500 in July. Special thanks to everyone who has shared their stories…they just keep on coming.

Listed below are all the blogs from the past 6 month. To make it easier to find an interview you can now check on the month or put the musician or band name into the white search bar.

February:
Vince High & Maurice Bates (Mythra) Brian Ross (Satan, Blitzkreig) Lou Taylor (pt 1 Satan, Blind Fury).

March:
Lou Taylor (pt 2 Satan, Blind Fury) Mond Cowie (Angelic Upstarts) Micky McCrystal (Tygers of Pan Tang) Bernie Torme (Gillan)

April:
Steve Dawson (Saracen, The Animals) John Gallagher (Raven) Paul Mcnamara (Salem) Dave Dawson (Warrior) Lee Payne (Cloven Hoof) Paul Di’Anno (Iron Maiden, Battlezone) John Roach (Mythra) Harry Hill (Fist).

May:
Danny Hynes (Weapon UK) Chris Bradley (Savage) Rick Bouwman (Martyr) Maurice Bates (Mythra) Neil Wil Kinson (Spartan Warrior) Kev Riddles (Tytan) Andy Boulton (Tokyo Blade) Steve Dawson (Oliver/Dawson Saxon).

June:
The Butchers of Bolinbroke (Angelic Upstarts) Neil Newton (Angelic Upstarts) Wavis O’Shave (Alternative), Terry & Gerry (Ska/punk), Mick Maughan (Phasslayne, Cirkus) Trevor Short (Dealer) Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground) Trevor Sewell (Blues) Kev Charlton (Hellanbach, Bessie & the Zinc Buckets) Steve Thompson (Bullfrog, Neat records) Mark Duffy (Millenium).

July:
Ian Dick (Soldier) Jeff Baddley (Troyen) Lee & Chris Wright (Crashed Out) Stevie James (Grudge, Warwound) Martin Popoff (Vinyl Junkies) Bernie Torme (Desperado) Will Binks (Vinyl Junkies) Thunderstick (Samson) Blast Recording Studio (Newcastle, UK) Let the Music do the Talking (Tyneside musicians) Antony Bray (Venom Inc).

 

 

HEBBURN OR HELL – Venom Inc. drummer Antony Bray decides…

Out of the North East of England came a band who exploded onto the heavy metal scene and created their own genre of music. Black Metal. In the early 1980’s they scorched a path for American thrash bands Anthrax, Slayer and Metallica.
Over the past thirty years Venom have released a series of studio, compilation and live albums. This year Venom Inc. signed a record deal with Nuclear Blast and release a new album in August. But what is the story behind Venom ?

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In an open and honest interview, drummer Antony Bray looks back….Venom had it’s own momentum we were trying to do everything wrong, be blasphemous, be over the top, HMV wouldn’t display our third album in the window things like that. We were trying to get banned, wanting to be in the worst top ten records all that, we were trying – but it kept working’.

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What is the situation with Venom Inc now and how did the band get back together? ’A guy called Oliver Weinsheimer who promotes the Keep it True festival in Germany, came over to Brofest in Newcastle and saw Tony Dolan on stage with his old band Atomkraft. Guitarist Jeff Dunn was also there and he got on stage and played a couple of songs. Well I was stood at the bar there and Oliver came over and said would you fancy doing six songs at Keep it True in 2015. I said yeah if the rest of the band are ok about it, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. So that’s how it happened. We got together to do a one off festival in Germany, just rattle off some old songs we thought it’ll be good fun.

After the gig the phones lit up, people saying will you do it again, will you come to Japan, places like that, we got requests from different countries. There was a lot of interest. We got together, sat around the table saying do we realy want to do this ? We talked it through, just forgot our old problems and yes, we agreed to go ahead and do it.
After that there was a month in America some time in Europe, Australians want us over there. We went back to America twice, been to Asia, done a South America tour, it’s been a very busy time. Actually were doing more gigs than the original Venom did in the 80’s’.

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Compared to Venom’s earlier output, production of the new single ‘Dein Fleisch’ has a very slick and polished sound, is that what the band were going for ? ’Jeff had a lot to do with that, his Empire of Evil stuff is quite slick, he spent a lot of time on it with pro tools. Jeff said the record company are happy with it and that’s cool. We had the opportunity to crash through some demos but it went very modern and slick. We don’t live in the same country never mind city haha so it suited us to work this way. I done the drums at Blast Studio in Newcastle, Jeff sent over some guitar licks from Portugal, Tony lives in London’.

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‘There’s different ways of recording and I like the new Mythra album to be honest. It’s like getting back to how we done it in the early days you know, getting in the room kicking it around and see what we can do because thats what Venom were about. With raw metal bands like us, if we are all in the room we can change it up and effect it.
Last month we were in California and we played one of the tracks off the new album. We played the song as it is on the record but Tony said can we pick this up ? Yeh I said, it needs a bit of drive I was hoping you would say that. We were sitting on a hotel roof in Rio being interviewed when Jeff said I have worked out what makes the Venom sound and he turned and pointed at me, well I was stunned it was great to hear that. I know I’ve been a hammer and nail’s drummer but that’s what Venom have only ever wanted’.

Where did it all start for you Antony ? ’Used to go and see loads of bands at the Newcastle Mayfair and City Hall. The first band I seen was when my brother took me to see Deep Purple, then I went to see bands like The Runaways, Rainbow and Rush. We’d queue up all night to get tickets. When I left school I worked at the electronics engineering company Reyrolles, in my hometown of Hebburn, that’s where I met Eric Cook. We started on the same day. Little did I know that later he would become our manager.
I started playing drums around ’77 and my first drum kit was called Viking, it was built by Mick Lewis in Jarrow. He showed me how to make them and I made all my toms there. Then I was in a band called Oberon with Eric Cook on guitar. As everyone was buying motorcyles with their first wages from Reyrolles, Eric bought a Stratocaster’.

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After a few line up changes Venom settled on the unholy trinity of Conrad Lant on bass, Jeff Dunn on guitar and Tony on drums. ‘We used to rehease in a church hall on Wesgate Road in Newcastle where all the motorbike shops are. Really Venom were punks with long hair. We saw the instruments as a means to an end. Conrad was really proud of his lyrics and put them across the best way. But as instrumentalists it was always about making the biggest noise and craziest fashion. Sometimes we used to get a crowd of 30-40 people come in to see us rehearse. Our neighbours in the North East, heavy rock band Fist came in one time, their drummer Harry Hill heard us and said what is that, I can’t hear myself think haha’.

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‘Drummers have a different style of playing depending on what bands you’ve heard. Before we started there was no Slayer or Metallica. We were in front of all that, we had heard Motorhead, and knew we had to be louder and harder than them. Venom weren’t known as a big touring band, yes we did some festivals, there was plenty in Europe. But when we started out we played a gig at a heavy metal disco at the Quay club in Hebburn. Eric Cook ran the disco and he arranged to put Venom on. We bought our stage effects from Sound & Lights store in Newcastle where former Satan and Blind Fury vocalist Louie Taylor was working. (Louie features in earlier blog Rock the Knight February 2017).  He ended up doing some pyro for us, we were big on that haha. Louie was all about the safety aspect and I was all about let’s chuck some more powder in and see what happens. Well that gig we fused the building, lights went off right through the whole club, the bingo mafia downstairs went mad haha’.

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‘We were putting all the money back into Venom, buying the pyro, all the stage effects. We got our drumriser built for us in the shipyards, the whole scissor lift, it was just one big thing it never came apart. It was huge, they couldn’t get it out of the doors haha. Around this time Conrad was tape operator at NEAT doing a few days here and there and he bugged the owner Dave Woods about getting spare time in the studio for the band. He kept asking him can my band come in on the weekend ? Woodsy got so sick of him bugging him he just said ok, just do it, but pay for the tape. So we recorded a three track EP and we thought it might get a little review somewhere. I was still working at Reyrolles then and one morning I wandered in and someone had a copy of the Sounds. Couldn’t believe it, there’s a two page spread about our EP, f’ing hell look at this. When Woodsy saw it he thought, I hate the band, think they are bloody awfull – but kerching!’

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‘This all happened in one big wave, we played our first proper gig in Belgium, it got massive reviews. Next we went to New York and Metallica opened up for us. We did two nights in Staten Island but our gear got impounded, we were supposed to play the Aardschock festival in Holland with King Diamond and Raven. We trudged over there with no gear but we did take with us the Bloodlust video that we shot at the Peoples Theatre in Wallsend. It cost £3,000, the first sales of our album Welcome to Hell paid for that. We told the promoter what had happened and he watched the video and loved it. He said ‘This is the idea, we’ll show it on the screens and you can get up and tell the crowd you are sorry you can’t play because of what’s happened with your gear, and then you’ll sign some stuff afterwards’. We said yeah no problem. As Raven were setting their gear up on stage we walked out and told the crowd what had happened but we will play next year, big cheers. We played the video and the crowd went apeshit. Dave Woods was backstage saying I don’t get it, I just don’t get it’.

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‘I was in the NEAT offices one day as I was doing photo’s for bands like Avenger, and logo’s for Atomkraft. Just hanging around the scene and happy to be be there. A guy called Michael Rod came up he was from the TV programme Tomorrows World or something. He had a film company and was partners with Dave Wood in D.W. Enterprises who had NEAT records and Impulse Recording Studio. Woodsy pulled me to one side and said do you want to do this video with a few bands on, it’s called ‘Metal City’? Funny because Woodsy didn’t like heavy metal apart from Raven. We had a laugh putting it together but not sure why Saracen were on because they weren’t heavy metal like the other bands Avenger and Warfare. A couple of Venom live track’s were on from Hammersmith Odeon plus a video for Nightmare. Yeah it was good fun’.

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’We brought Metallica over here and they opened up for us, they were heavily influenced by the North East NWOBHM. I remember we were topping a bill in Europe, I was on the gantry at the side of the stage. I was looking down and listening to the band who were on before us. I turned to the person next to me and said ’They’ll be headliners soon’. This was around 1984. The band were Metallica

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After one more studio album ‘Possessed’ was released in 1985, Venom were heading for changes…’Jeff left the band, so me and Conrad got Newcastle musician Jim Clare in and an American lad called Mike Hickey. Venom only recorded one album then as I had a falling out with Conrad’.

1987’s studio album ‘Calm Before the Storm’ was released plus a live album. Conrad went on to front his new band Cronos… ‘I went along with Eric Cook to see Brian Johnson’s ex-wife Carol, we bought Lynx Recording Studio off her and as we were on a hiatus from Venom we were just putting other bands through the studio. We had Kieth Nicholl engineering for us after ex-Angelic Upstart Mond Cowie left.
One day a call came in and it was Music for Nations, they wanted to meet up. So I went down to a meeting in London and talked to the label. They said they would be very interested if Venom got back together. Travelling back on the train to the North East I thought this could work. So I rang Tony Dolan who was a long time fan of the band and he said I’ll take your arm off to be in Venom. We got Jeff Dunn back and we made the album Prime Evil in 1990. We stuck together a few years and recorded three albums in that time. Because it was a really good label, there was proper advertising, the lot, it was a big step up for us’.

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Fast forward to 2017, what are the future plans for Venom Inc ? ‘We’re working our balls off. In the past two years we’ve done 300 gigs. Now we’re promoting the album it’ll get heavier. We have another five festivals in this summer, then five weeks in America starting September. We’ve got UK dates in November and then full European tour through Christmas and New Year. We’ve got good set up’s in America, Australia and Europe keeping us working. Our set is an hour and a half and a lot will be off the new album but we’ll always do Black Metal, Countess Bathory, Die Hard and a few others. People at gigs shouting for some other old songs so we are re-learning some of them, yeh really looking forward to the tour’.

For more information about the new album ‘AVE’ released by Nuclear Blast and the latest tour dates check official website http://www.venom-inc.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.
JUST FOR THE RECORD.

LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKING

10 years ago I started researching the South Tyneside music scene and from there a number of interviews with musicians were set up. Here is a few stories taken from them.

Duncan Binnie: ‘I was seeing bands when I was ten year old and at that time to go and watch bands at the Newcastle City Hall you’re just blown away. My brother had a guitar that I pinched out of his room, tried playing it, just the one string, thinking I can play this. Eventually it leads to a band, four lads getting together which we did’.

Ted Hunter: ‘My first inspiration to play music was me Dad, he was a guitarist in the ’60’s. Then when I was 14 I got a ticket to see Ted Nugent, he was jumping around the stage, screeching his head off. We had a little covers band and we used to practice in St Peters Youth Club in Whiteleas. There used to be a youth club in South Shields called St Hildas and local bands used to play there’.

John Hopper: ‘I just bought a cheap bass rehearsed and plugged away at St Judes Church Hall in Laygate. We played The Cyprus, the pubs in Shields. We just liked gigging that much we realised we had to do it more and more’.

John Lockney: ‘I was forever bashing away on me legs to music and many people said why don’t you become a drummer. We used to rehearse in the back of Tyne Dock Youth Club and we started playing gigs, I remember Bolingbroke Hall and Boldon Lane Community Centre in Shields’.

Joe Peterson: ‘Around the age of 14 my Dad was a singer in the North East Social clubs so that’s where I started thinking about music, started playing guitar. We played all round the country at that time as the clubs were thriving’.

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Robby Robertson: ‘First band I saw was The Damned, my lad took me along and that was it, hooked from then. Everybody had a go at being in a punk band. Everybody could have a shot at it and they did. We started off in Hebburn, Kinx nightclub, it was a cellar. We thought we were the business, we were rubbish like. We done the first gig, we jumped around all over, pulled the leads out and the p.a. caught on fire. The singer run over and blew it out ha ha. We had to finish after three songs, it was an absolute disaster, this is a bit harder than we thought it would be. We went on to play The Station in Gateshead with loads of bands, decent bands like Conflict and Icons of Filth‘.

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Paul McRae: ‘I got into music when I was about 10, in the backyard of John Williamson Street, playing with knitting needles and a dish haha. We used to rehearse at Trinity House Youth Club and we were right into Free then, so we started rehearsing all Free tracks. Then we played the schools, Stanhope Road, Dean Road. We used to play The Hunter and we liked it that much we played it ten times in the same gig’.

Rob Atkinson: ‘Lou Reed, The Doors, Iggy Pop that’s where I was at the time. In the band Next it was the influence we had on each other. It was a bit off the wall, could be a bit weird. But there wasn’t much else like it. When you work with people who can be so productive and come up with ideas, when you bounce of each other that’s the best part of the music. You don’t have to sit for years and think am I good enough. You just go out there and if they like it they like it, and if they don’t they don’t come and see ya’.

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Billy Morgan: ‘The alternative punk scene started and that changed things for me. Instead of being someone who was an observer in music I thought that I can do it. It was like we wanted to jump up and down and be heard, I’m here, I exist. Definitely pushing things to the alternative and coming up with something different. The very first gig we played in front of six people. Then the next gig we played in front of twelve and we thought we really doubled up’.

Richard Jago: ‘The punk thing was pretty fundamental, it was totally different. XTC, Ian Dury and the Blockheads that was the stuff that really made me sit up and listen. I couldn’t play guitar at least I couldn’t play very well, I couldn’t play drums so I started throwing words together. A number of influences like John Cooper Clarke, Ian Dury, the humour that was in what they were doing. I was also very much influenced by the ’80’s, middle of the Thatcher regime, pits were closing, industry was shutting down the yards were going’.

Another 4 years of a democratically elected dictator,
As the sun sets on the yards and poverty at large
The red flag flies from the end of Shields pier in the Peoples Republic of Tyne and Wear.

The iron woman ruined the river for ships and coal.
While the workforce live off the dole.
Like one great house of cards forgotten workers pits and yards,
No one sheds a tear, except the people in the Peoples Republic of Tyne and Wear

Some bands scraped the money together to go into studio’s and record demo tapes and singles. If the band were lucky enough small record labels would make albums.

Joe Peterson: ‘Lots of bands at the time used to record demos and post them off to every record company they could think of. I think they were very rarely listened to’.

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Ted Hunter: ‘There was plenty of bands doing original music at the time that could of got further, and obviously the record deal is the holy grail. But many bands got plenty ‘we regret to inform you’ letters. We spent four days in Guardian Studios in Pity Me, Durham and spent £400 for four days. Which was a fortune in those days. I was only getting £25 a week. We come out with two really good Prog tracks. Which I don’t think got the band anywhere’.

Duncan Binnie: ‘Desert Sounds was the first studio where we done a demo. But I was such a perfectionist. I wouldn’t send a demo tape away to a record company because I didn’t think it sounded quite right, I wouldn’t send a photo away to a record company cos I would think I didn’t look right. I just didn’t want the letter back saying, we don’t want this’.

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John Hopper: ‘First major gig was Tiffanys in Newcastle, that was a showcase. Thats where we got the record deal with NEAT Records in Wallsend. When we went into the studio we done most of the tracks that was listed for the album and the demo ones got taken off the reel and put onto the album reel. Originally the album was just called Slutt and then it got catalogued as Model Youth. It was released in 1988′.

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John Lockney: ‘The studios we used was Guardian Studios in Pity Me just outside Durham, run by a man called Terry Gavaghan. We recorded the four track EP and that was so nerve wracking at the time because we were green as grass. We were proud of the songs and we went around the local record shops to leave some copies on sale or return. It really was great, I mean you’ve been brought up on singles. Now suddenly you’ve got one of your own. It’s still one of the proudest things I’ve ever done you know.
We went back to record another two tracks for a compilation album Roksnax, the production was better then, we weren’t as green and went back again and done another four tracks for demos to flog around record companies. You can tell the difference how confident we were with more experience in the studio’.

Being in a band can also bring it’s funnier moments…

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Robbie Robertson: ‘Kev the original singer out of The Fiend decided he was going to get a mohican, so we cut this mohican for him but it turned out a bit wonky and looked rubbish so we painted it with yellow gloss paint’.

Joe Peterson: ‘We spent a lot of time in Scotland. Used to drive to a club, put the gear in the club, do the performance, leave the gear in the club overnight and sleep in the van. Which was really hot in the summer and absolutely freezing cold in the winter. So cold I remember waking up one morning, someone was sleeping in the passenger seat and his forehead had frozen to the window. We had to peel him off in the morning when he woke up’.

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Duncan Binnie: ‘In ’87 we’re playing the Amphitheatre down South Shields in front of can I say, one of the biggest crowds that’s been down there. Council wouldn’t give us any lights so it was an absolute disaster ‘cos halfway through the gig it was dark. But we had the fireworks and the stage was pretty good at that point. We had a few unpaid roadies one of them was called Joe and it’s unbelievable what effort he’s putting in for nowt. Well during a song one of our explosions went off at the wrong time and the poor guy he gets blown up at the gig. I remember going into The Marsden Rattler pub afterwards and he was standing there his coat was all burnt, the whole top of it was fringed up and he had no eyebrows left’.

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John Lockney: ‘We supported Fist one time, they were in a different league to us. When they went on I remember there was flour bombs from above the back of the stage getting dropped on the drummer Harry Hills head. He ended up being a blur of white as he thrashed around the drums’.

Joe Peterson: ‘A band I was in The James Boys did an audition for the producer of The Tube, and The Tube at the time was the music show. Everybody played live on it, this was the very last edition of The Tube and we passed the audition. We were given our times and dates to go and do it but a few days leading up to the recording we were told that as it was the last show Paul McCartney decided he wanted to appear on the show. So we were dropped and Paul McCartney took our place’.

Duncan Binnie: ‘We were playing Middlesbrough Town Hall which was the biggest gig we’d done ‘cos you’d feel cool, we were playing a stage the size of Newcastle City Hall. But the soundguy was going to me give us £50 and I’ll get you a good sound and I was going we haven’t got £50, it took us all our bus fare to get up to Middlesbrough’.

Last words…

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Joe Peterson: ‘Music is such a massive part of my life, that I think it has helped me through some really difficult times’.

Paul McRae: ‘The music, the scene, well it was just our life, everything about it, we were in it from the beginning’.

Robbie Robertson: ‘We just enjoy ourselves really, that’s what it’s about, if you don’t enjoy it you’re wasting your time’.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2007.
JUST FOR THE RECORD.

LIFE’S A BLAST -Making records on Tyneside

Ged:The New York Dolls would only record on vintage equipment so we had to do numerous trips down to London to get old drum kits, old amplifiers, old recording machines, proper vintage stuff from the 60 and 70’s. Actually the piano in the studio now is the one we brought in especially for them. It’s about 120 years old and they just left it there because it took eight people to bring it in, so they weren’t going to take it home with them haha’.

Sitting down in the boardroom with owner Ged Cook and studio manager Lisa Murphy, they introduced me to the world of BLAST recording studio in Newcastle…

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Ged:Blast is international. We can attract bands from all over the world it’s an international brand, it’s got a reputation. We’ve had bands here from Black Star Riders and Therapy? who have recorded all their albums here from 2008. They love the place and they are coming again soon. We had the New York Dolls here for a month. We’ve also had Take That here for a couple of days’.

Lisa: ‘We also have local bands just working on a project, we’re open to support local music as well as the bigger names’.

Ged: ‘Sometimes you can’t tell people there’s a famous band in the studio. With Take That we had a contract saying we couldn’t mention it. We had three blacked out limo’s and chauffers standing in the courtyard, but we had to shut the gates ‘cos the fans got to know’.

Lisa: ‘Mark Owen tweeted a picture of himself in the studio and people could tell it was at Blast. He was told off and sheepishly replied ‘I’m sorry guy’s, I’m sorry’. We all laughed about it really’.

Ged: ‘We are a bloody good recording studio for band’s, but we also do some voice over work like we had Aaardman Animation here a few year ago and we work closely with the broadcasters Sky, BBC, ITV and Metro radio’.

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What is the logistics for a band who don’t live in the area?

Ged: ‘Most of the bands who come here have record labels or management and the fee’s would be sorted out with Lisa. They might also want catering and accomodation which is strictly down to their budget. They can go from the Premier Inn, to the Hilton or down to Seaham Hall. Some bands do it themselves and they might stay at a friends house, it just depends on what they can afford. Maybe the band need extra equipment for the recording session, again Lisa and I can source that for them. We’ll always work around the clock, and find out what we can do for them’.

Lisa: ‘Yeah let’s face it, it’s not 9-5. We might just be working with a band for a day but we are really flexible that’s the way the industry works’.

Ged: ‘Our record label brought The New York Dolls to Newcastle. It was original members David Johannson, Sylvain Sylvain and from Blondie was Frank Infante. Really lovely people. We hired a big gated house over in Gateshead with a swimming pool, cinema room the lot, because the budget was there for them. We hired a bus to bring them over here each day. They started recording at 10 o’clock at night and finished at 4 or 5 in the morning, it was just the way they liked doing it’.

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‘The songwriting process was absolutely fantastic. They had brand new material and needed to try it out. Well The Cluny bar is just near here so they put on three live shows and sold out in ten minutes. People from all over Europe came over, queues outside. It was great, a hot summers night, they just walked out of here, onto the stage and tried the songs out asking the audience if they liked them or not, it was a great night !’

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What sort of prices do you charge to record in the studio?

Lisa: ‘We are more expensive than some other studios around here but we justify that with the quality recording and production available to the artists who record here. The live room and the desk is quite different to anything that is available around here’.

Ged: ‘For what you get here would cost you around £1,000 per day in London. That’s the beauty of Blast being in the North East ‘cos you get the local bands wanting to use the same studio as bands like Black Star Riders (pic.below). They don’t have to go to London or New York they can come to a place like Blast’.

Lisa: ‘They can also request the same engineer, to get to use the same microphones, the same cab’s, everything, it’s pretty special’.

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Ged: ‘From the rock and heavy metal lad’s based in the North East we had Tygers of Pan Tang doing their latest album here so did Avenger and Tysondog who I have connections with. Andy Taylor who produced the Power Station album and is recording another, said our live room gives the best drum sound he has ever had. And he has done Duran Duran, The Alarm and Then Jerico albums. He did the first Thunder album, a lot of rock bands. Everyone who comes in here has their own way of recording and Andy loved recording the vocals in the toilet…yes really. But yeah what do I know, I mean he’s the one who’s sold millions of records haha’.

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A lot of musicians use home recording equipment, what do Blast offer that is different?

Lisa: ‘The way technology is moving it’s going software based but there are still people who want to use vintage gear. We do have producers who want to do parts of their recording here, maybe a drum track or a vocal track or orchestral stuff. They need to do that in a controlled live space which you can’t replicate with a home studio. In our studio we have some pretty special outboard gear too which is a big selling point. People still want to use these things, not just the software version, and they can hear the quality of what comes out of getting hands on in here’.

Ged: ‘The way the music industry is now is that a lot of people record in the house and that’s fine ‘cos there is a lot of great kit out there but you will never replicate brilliant microphones and our live room. We had Luke Morley from Thunder here last year he set up his two amps and cranked off a big sound on his guitar which you can’t do in your bedroom. That’s what we do here, that’s what you pay for’.

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Who works in the studio?

Ged: ‘It can work a couple of ways, the Dolls brought their own guy over who has worked with The Killers or we use our own experienced engineers’.

Lisa: ‘It’s down to budgets and music genre’s where we can match the right engineer to the right job. It was one of our’s who tracked up for Take That. Engineering is some times about relationships. You’re dealing with individuals and their sound in really important to them – so having experience with developing that sound helps’.

Ged: ’Some of the younger bands have some great songs but need help from our experienced engineers to make them sound good. They need that because there is so much out there, so much content. It’s a fight to be listened to and to be heard. Our engineers are the best in the North East and help them as much as they can’.

Lisa: ‘My background is education so I am keen on bringing in new talent. There are a number of venues in the North East training a lot of people on music courses. We have good relationships with the colleges and Uni’s so we can bring in degree students to assist with engineering in appropiate jobs. That way we are developing home grown talent and giving them a foot on the ladder. It’s important to add the ‘who you know’ to the ‘what you know’, the contacts are just as important as the music couse qualification. To have the experience of sitting in when a band is being recorded is vital. We also offer workshops and masterclasses to develop skills for the industry’.

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Sadly, music can be a throwaway object now.

Ged: ‘You’ve hit the nail on the head there, you used to buy album’s before, now you buy songs. Some people just download songs and in some cases not knowing who the bands are’.

Lisa: ‘Some of those songs haven’t been written by that artist, they’ve overlaid the vocal that’s all. The whole thing can be turned out in days and go worldwide – as you know the internet has completely revolutionised everything we do. Sadly, some of the modern music industry is about fame rather than actual musicianship’.

Ged: ‘It’s not what it used to be in the industry, there used to be big budgets. The trend now, if a band are lucky enough to get a big advance, is try to keep as much of that themselves and record as much of the album themselves in the house, then come to places like Blast for final recordings. There is some bigger bands who can come in from the very beginning of the recording process but it has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Not for the better because to a trained ear you can hear programmed drums and some of those bands can’t play it live’.

Lisa: ‘Some bands now are playing live to a click and a full backing track. Sometimes I look and say where’s the keyboard player? I don’t see any strings, where are the backing vocals coming from? It’s a new sort of art really which is mainly found in pop music’.

Ged: ‘Sometimes we use the modern technology to our advantage by an engineer using Skype talking to an engineer in say New York where they are working on the same recording project’.

Lisa: ‘Yes by using Pro Tool’s in the Cloud you can have numerous artists in various locations at one time working on the same project. That’s using technology in a positive way because it can be about the logistics and cost. The band can have members living all across the UK and getting together is a total nightmare to arrange. So they will remotely rehearse and record but come together to tour for a week or so. It’s just the modern world and adapting to what works best’.

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Ged: ‘Yeah but I’m old skool like ‘get in the same room’ haha. We had Therapy? (pic.above) in here a week before they recorded. They live all over the UK but make sure they rehearse beforehand, then come here for pre-production, just blasting through the songs for a week, then record. That’s how I would do it to be honest’.

Why would a famous songwriter, musician or band come up to the North East to record?

Ged: ‘Basically this cost a million pounds to put together. It’s the best studio in the North, not Newcastle but the North. Everybody we’ve had here from outside the area, Black Star Riders, Take That, New York Dolls were blown away by the friendliness of the place. Andy Taylor has been all over the world but loves coming home to get the geordie back into his veins haha. Therapy? will not record anyway else, they love Newcastle’.

Lisa: ‘We’ve got amazing musicians up here who I can call upon when a band or songwriter needs a certain sound, bit of keyboards here that sort of thing, same for our engineers’.

Ged: ‘We’ve had musicians from around the country, we had a session the other year with Spike from the Quireboys on vocals, Luke Morley on guitar, Simon Kirk from Free and Bad Company on drums, and the keyboard player from Magnum. They were here for a week. Simon Kirk loved walking around Newcastle, they all loved it!’

Lisa: ’It’s like it’s a hidden gem up here and we are getting the story of Blast out there. We’re very competitive price wise and want people to come here and fall in love with the North East’.

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For more information and rates for recording sessions check out the website http://www.blast-recording.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.
JUST FOR THE RECORD.