SOUND & MEMORY

with Field Music’s David Brewis

Peter & David Brewis (pic. BBC website)

On the same dial as Roxy Music and Prefab Sprout, are Sunderland bands The Futureheads and Field Music who formed during the noughties…The music community at that time was pretty tight. I’m sure there was rivalry but it was also really supportive. We probably shuddered at the idea of it being a “scene” – but that’s what it was.

The spine of Field Music are brothers Peter and David Brewis….We’d been teaching at a youth music project in Sunderland where we met Barry Hyde who later joined The Futureheads, and a bunch of other young musicians including Ian Black, who’d later join Field Music and release some records as Slug.

We asked Barry to join our band, which was just what we needed really. We could share our experience with regard to getting out there and playing and arranging for a band and he opened our eyes to a lot of music we didn’t know about – Captain Beefheart and The Velvet Underground and the free-er style of jagged edge in jazz.

That was an inspiring time, we had a lot of ideas and started a lot of bands which never played a gig. It took us a while to stop flailing around and make sense of what we wanted to do. For Barry that was The Futureheads, and for us that eventually became the first Field Music album.

What was your first experience of a recording studio ? We recorded with Frankie Stubbs at the Bunker in Sunderland a couple of times when we were first starting out – in ‘94 and ‘95 I think. And then we did a gig at South Hylton Working Mens Club to pay for a couple of days in Frankie Gibbon’s studio in Lambton Lion Park. But really, we felt best recording ourselves. We had a cassette four-track at home and were always working on songs and we fancied ourselves as producers as well as players.

In 1997 we applied for the first round of Lottery Arts funding and they gave us £4000 to set up and run a community studio for 6 months. We couldn’t afford the rent after that so we moved it back to our parent’s spare room. Our first proper release was an EP under the name The New Tellers, was recorded there, along with the first Futureheads demos.

In 2001 we clubbed together with The Futureheads and a couple of friends to have our own studio and practice room in a community centre and since then, we’ve always had our own studio space. We stayed in that first space for over ten years and recorded three Field Music albums, my first solo album as School of Language, Peter’s album under the name The Week That Was, most of the first Cornshed Sisters album, one of the early Maximo Park EPs, a chunk of The Futureheads’ fourth album and their first EP.

How did you get interested in music, are you from a musical family ? We, that’s me and my older brother Peter, don’t come from a particularly musical background but our parents were of that generation who grew up in perfect alignment with British rock music.

They were nine or ten when the Beatles came along, 16 year old and trying out rebellion when Let It Bleed (Rolling Stones) came out. And then in the ‘80s, when they were dealing with us, the few records they bought were either sophisticated adult rock like Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Hall and Oates, or sophisticated adult pop like the Pet Shop Boys.

What instruments did you pick up ? Peter was itching to play the drums after watching The Bangles on Top of the Pops. That was probably 1989. I wanted in on the action so I saved up for a twenty quid acoustic guitar from Argos. Actually, I’d been saving my pocket money ready for a holiday in Yugoslavia but their currency was devalued while we were there so I ended up bringing my meagre savings back and bought the guitar.

We didn’t know what we were doing but we liked the idea of playing music and then found a Led Zeppelin track on one of our parents’ compilation albums I think it was called – ‘By Invitation Only’. They also had Free Live – we became totally obsessed. Peter learned to play my guitar much more quickly than I did so I switched to bass after a couple of years.

Who were you listening to and who did you watch live ? We had a brief period of going to gigs at Newcastle City Hall while we were learning to play. The first one was probably Jethro Tull, who had Dave Mattacks playing drums with them on that tour, which is odd because we’ve gotten to know Dave a bit in recent years.

We went to a couple of technical guitar-type gigs – Joe Satriani, Steve Vai – while we were learning to play but that style of music didn’t bed in with us. We bought a Black Crowes CD in about 1993 and that did make sense to us. We travelled to Sheffield to see them play in 1995 but by then we were already gigging around the local pub circuit.

Where did you first rehearse as a band ? We rehearsed in the spare room in our parents’ house in Cleadon Village. Our neighbours were very tolerant! For a long time our bands revolved around me singing and playing bass or guitar, Peter playing guitar live but drumming on a lot of our demos and Andrew Moore, who was our friend from school and an incredible piano and organ player.

Our first drummer was called Paul Taylor. I’m not sure we ever saw eye to eye musically but he was a good drummer and amazing to watch. A young metaller called David Dorward joined on bass one time, and when we went to college the pool of musicians we knew grew a lot and we played with a couple of really good local drummers – Jaimie Curle and Garry McKenna – though I think we always had a sense that we wanted to be in charge of the drums.

What was your early experiences of playing live ? We must have played at school a couple of times but the first thing that really felt like a gig was a battle of the bands at Manor Quay called Wearstock in 1994. I think the band was called Underfoot back then.

From 1994 until 1998 we played tons of gigs on the pub circuit, doing mostly covers but gradually trying to add in our own songs. Our favourite venues were places like The Duke of Cumberland in Felling, The Turk’s Head in South Shields, Sleepers in East Boldon and The Keelboat in Fatfield. There were tons. It was a very wholesome way for a 14/15 year old to spend their free time!

Once we retired the pub-rock band, we were playing at places like The Royalty, Pure, Ashbrooke Cricket Club and Bar 36 in Sunderland and occasionally we’d venture to The Head of Steam in Newcastle.

When did you become a professional musician and how has it worked out for you, is it what you imagined as a teenager ? We signed a publishing deal a couple of months after I finished university in 2001 and since then I’ve mostly just been a musician. The period from 2001 until we released the first Field Music album was tricky. We didn’t really know what we were doing. We had very supportive manager and a very supportive publisher but we didn’t understand the extent to which being independently-minded means doing things yourself.

We probably didn’t realise that in order to get a record made our way, we would have to record it and mix it ourselves. We didn’t realise that in trying to make odd music on stage, we’d have to think very hard about how to make that work for an audience in venues which are primarily geared towards bands whose music is not odd!

Whatever dreams I had about being a musician when I was young have been stripped down to the barest elements and go along with essentially running a small business. So, yes, I get to make the music I want to make and I spend all this heady time writing songs and being creative in the studio and working out how to play these songs on stage with my friends, but I also have to book hotels and do VAT returns and do amateurish joinery in our studio. It’s harder work than I imagined but also probably better.

What does music mean to you and what has it given you ? I love writing songs and I love recording. If I ever have a period when I’m not doing those things I get gloomy and anxious. It’s not that it’s the only way I can express myself – I’m a wordy kind of person! And it’s not that it’s the only thing I’m good at – I could probably have stayed in academia in some maths-related sphere. But music is the thing which gets my synapses crackling. And in songwriting I can dive into pretty much any topic or follow any curious thought.

The last Field Music record grew out of a commission for the Imperial War Museum as part of a season about the aftermath of the First World War. We ended up researching and writing songs about planning law and sanitary towels and reparations and Tiananmen Square.

Our brains were in overdrive pulling these things together and turning it into a performance and then a record. It’s such a privilege that we get to do these things. But also I feel really proud that we can take on a challenge like that and make it work.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2020.

ATLANTIC RIDGE

Steve Hall talks about The Questionnaires new album.

An earlier interview with Steve talking about his time in North East band East Side Torpedoes features on the blog in March 2019. The Torpedoes were signed to EMI, regularly toured the UK and played the Knebworth Jazz Festival in 1982 supporting Ray Charles. After suffering bad luck in the recording studio the band called it a day in 1986.

Steve took up a successful career in academia while playing in local bands like The Questionnaires who supported Paul Young at the North Shields Fish Quay Festival in 2003.

In the interview Steve talked about ‘not being suited to life on the road and enjoying more the writing and recording side of music’. This brings his story up to date, as The Questionnaires have been busy in the studio with new album ‘Atlantic Ridge’.

In early 2019 guitarist and Dobro player Jim Hornsby and drummer Steve Dolder, who I’ve known for a long time, heard an earlier version of one of the songs, Hide and Seek and persuaded me to make the album. Initial sketches of the songs were made by Jane Wade and I in my home studio, just vocal and acoustic guitar. Some of our other musicians also own home studios or small semi-commercial studios.

Over time we evolved a performing and file-sharing process that worked, recording various instruments, bouncing rough mixes back and forward and re-doing them until everyone felt it was right. We said we wouldn’t be happy until it sounded like a band who had played together for a long time. It wasn’t easy.

By the time we were happy with the basic tracks, in effect we had played together for a long time. Atlantic Ridge was made between June 2019 and August 2020.

Steve Hall, The Questionnaires.

Who plays on the album? Our first album Arctic Circles, released in 2002, was a touch on the esoteric side, but we wanted Atlantic Ridge to be more down-to-earth, with a country/folk flavour to most of the songs. We chose the musicians very carefully.

They all had to be good enough to handle one or two tricky arrangements but at the same time sensitive enough to interpret the songs and come up with the parts that sounded right and conveyed the mood for each song.

To be quite honest we think we found the perfect combination. Jim Hornsby (Prelude, American Echoes, Martin Stephenson) on Dobro and guitar is a legendary country/Americana player, and as well as a great player, a great listener – every part he contributed in some way complemented the melody and harmony.

Steve Dolder (Eastside Torpedoes, Prefab Sprout, Glenn Tilbrook, Sid Griffin) on drums and Stephen P. Cunningham (Lindisfarne, The Proud Ones) on bass are as solid a rhythm section as you’ll get anywhere.

Anyone who cares to listen to the album will soon find out why Connecticut-born adopted Geordie Niles Krieger (Assembly Lane, The Often Herd) is regarded as one of the very best folk/bluegrass fiddle players in the country.

That was the core of The Questionnaires’ recording band, and we drafted in some special guests to put the icing on the cake – Roy Pearson on percussion, Liam Fender on organ, Les Watts on piano and Bevan Morris on bowed bass all show why they are constantly in demand for live and recording work on the North-East music scene. One fellow-musician and songwriter commented  ‘This is the North East’s Wrecking Crew’.

They made the production of this album a real pleasure, and where Jane and I pushed them to their limits they pushed us beyond ours.

What themes do you explore through the lyrics ? The themes that Jane’s lyrics follow vary from thumbnail portraits of interesting characters you meet in pubs and on the streets in provincial cities like Newcastle, to broader themes like the state of the world in these strange times and how it is affecting people.

General facets of modern life like addictive internet shopping and in the sadder moments, broken hearts and lost love. Some of it is quite serious, some of it is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Lyrical influences vary from jazz, ‘60s pop, folk and music hall songs. I think the stand out track is Heavy Heart.

How did you find recording the album in these uncertain times for the music industry? I knew that recording and promoting independent music is an uphill struggle if ever there was one. The corporate music industry has so many of the promotional platforms sewn up. They produce some great music and a lot of nicely produced crap, but they succeed because it’s their great music or their crap you hear on the radio or see on the TV every day.

The quality of independent music varies too, but it’s far harder to get airplay, so you don’t come across our great music or our crap on the airwaves every day. Some broadcasters who support local independent musicians – such as Chris Donald, Gary Hogg, Paul Kirsopp and a handful of others – are the salt of the earth, but we knew it would be a hard road, especially in a band whose ages vary from 29 to 73.

So, we began with the intention of just knocking the songs into shape because we love doing it and always have done, and keeping the recordings for friends, family and posterity.

But we’re all pros or ex-pros, and as we got going we began to think, well, you know, this is sounding OK, so why don’t we put a bit more effort into it and try a release?

As I said, our method of working was tricky. Working in home or semi-commercial studios owned by some of our musicians, initial song sketches on vocal/acoustic guitar sent to the rhythm section, guide drums and bass put on, everything redone again, add guide guitar and fiddle, percussion, organ, backing vocals, rough mixes bouncing back and forth, nobody happy, do it all again and on and on.

Of course Covid knocked us onto the back foot for months. But we persevered – we worked out that if a record label had been paying for the time we all put into Atlantic Ridge it would have cost over a million quid. As it all came together, we began to enjoy it more and more. By the time we finished we all agreed that this was easily good enough for a commercial release. We ran it past some pretty hard-headed music industry people we know and they said it was one of the best albums they heard in years.

‘Atlantic Ridge’ main sales is through the site Bandcamp https://thequestionnaires.bandcamp.com/

The album is available as a limited edition CD or digital download. It’s also available on Spotify, I-Tunes and all the other digital platforms. This is a special release for our friends and social media followers.

After a promo campaign Atlantic Ridge will be released nationally on January 15th, when, hopefully, if we get past the gatekeepers, you’ll be able to read about us in the press and hear us on national radio stations.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2020.

SHE ROCKS

Recording Studio Manager Lisa Murphy talks about a new project for Women in Music Production.

Research has found that women make up a very small percentage of artists, songwriters and producers. I want to address this imbalance. This project is designed to support more women into the music industry by providing them with the opportunity to develop music production skills’ said Lisa Murphy, Studio Manager for Blast Recording Studios and Production Room in Newcastle

A six month project for aspiring female music producers to further their career in the music industry is starting in November.

The application closing date for this exciting new opportunity in Newcastle is Sunday 25th October, so get in touch now.

Lisa added ‘Working as a female music producer in professional recording studios in the North East, I want to share my skills, experience and contacts to open the door to more women working as music producers.

The course will include working on projects in professional recording studios, masterclasses from professional music producers and individual time in the studio to complete your projects’.

What do you hope the course will achieve ? ‘The aim is to enable four emerging female music producers to develop skills, knowledge and contacts in order to further their career. This will be achieved through weekly sessions with myself and other relevant guest speakers, hands on learning in a studio environment, and individual time for each participant in the studio on a weekly basis for them to practice their skills and produce work for their portfolio.

Also built into this programme will be a number of projects developed by myself to give the participants access to other studios, recording session musicians and selected bands in a larger setting with different equipment’.

What is the aim of the project ?The overall aim is to enable the participants to gain their first important steps into a career in music production, an industry that is heavily influenced by a producer’s portfolio of prior work and contacts.

The use of teachers and music producers such as myself and other selected professionals – local songwriters, sound engineers and musicians – female, whenever possible, will support this aim, demonstrating that there is a place for women in the music industry – specifically in technical roles in which they are currently under-represented’.

Check the website for full details and how to apply:

www.womeninmusicproduction.co.uk

Applications close: Sunday 25th October

Interview by Gary Alikivi  October 2020.

METAL CITY

With their new album Raven carry the torch, or flying V, for metal into the future.

Excuse the pun but Amazon has been flooded with orders for this new offering from Raven. Why ? Well the word is out.

The Chief Headbangers have tooled up heavy and fired an opening three track strike. No time to waste. Only time to kill. The band don’t attempt to keep their powder dry at any moment on the album. Live rounds to the end. Check out the Human Race sequence drop at 2 minutes in. One of the defining moments on this album is right there. Raven are carrying the torch, or flying V, for metal into the future.

New single Metal City with a glorious big chorus is quickly followed by a ballsy, catchy Battlescarred, with a cry of ‘Raise your hands, to the sky, stand and fall, You and I’. Added to a Gallagher trademark scream the song builds and reaches out for better times. Surely a future live favourite?

Slick, tricky guitar from Mark Gallagher with balanced precision drumming by Mike Heller rattle and crunch tracks and pound them into submission. It’s all tightly packed like a mighty coiled spring. There’s even a Motorhead/Lemmy tribute – nice touch lads!

The wide and expansive closer, When Worlds Collide with ‘You meet your maker on the other side’ has turned a potential plod into a triumph. The trio look back over Metal City and watch the sun set. Credits roll.

On this evidence Raven consolidate their title of Chief Headbangers.

Any contenders?

Gary Alikivi  September 2020.

THE ISOLATION SESSIONS

North Wales based Stoakes Media have put together an album to raise money for The National Emergencies Trust Covid Appeal.

The ‘Isolation Sessions’ features 10 reworked songs mixing folk, country and heavy metal by a number of musicians. The album features a version of the Joan Baez classic Diamonds and Rust performed by Sicilian guitarist Antonello Giliberto and Tygers of Pan Tang drummer Craig Ellis, a song which Judas Priest covered.

‘Priest’s acoustic version was the first Priest song I heard, and actually, Judas Priest were the first metal band I saw live’ said Danny Stoakes, who was in radio but the work dried up a few year ago, so decided to form Stoakes Media….

‘We interview bands, do album and gig reviews, post up to date music news. Since starting the website nearly two years ago I have interviewed some incredible people, seen some amazing gigs and even put together a musical Christmas Advent calendar last year, which was so much fun!

Danny added ‘We generally get out and about to gigs right across the North West, occasionally hitting Yorkshire and the Midlands. If it’s loud with plenty of guitars – we’re there!’

Can you reveal some of the tracks that made the album ? ‘Having interviewed quite a few musicians over the years, I had a few people I could call upon. Gary Moat, frontman of rock band Burnt Out Wreck was the first.

On a long drive home from a gig I was listening to AC/DC and had the bizarre thought. ‘What would AC/DC sound like if Oasis covered them?’ And the idea for the Whole Lotta Rosie arrangement was born. I saw Gary singing a version of Highway To Hell and I knew then, I had to do this song. ‘The Isolation Sessions’ was born’.

‘Then I wanted something solitary to open the album, so I think that opening line from Comfortably Numb is perfect and really screams isolation – ‘Hello, is there anybody in there?’

Any songs from your favourite bands ? ‘Yeah, I saw Spike from The Quireboys play You Can’t Always Get What You Want – he is an incredible frontman. We recorded our version of that song. Also Sweet Mary Ann is another of my favourites. We thought we’d go all out Country Nashville, Pedal Steel’s ‘n’ all!’

Are there any unexpected songs on the album ? Learning to Wheels was one put together in lockdown. It’s a mash up between Learning to Fly by Tom Petty and Wheels by the Foo Fighters.

Danny also made room to record a home grown track…Unsafe Building by The Alarm, who are a great band, Mike Peters is a fellow North Walian! I think the words resonate perfectly. It’s definitely a song for these unprecedented times that we are experiencing’.

Did you enjoy putting the album together ? Yeah, The Wild Rover Blues was a fun song. Matt Pearce from Voodoo Six adds some great slide guitar and my mum even cameos on it! This is a great song to play live and over the years I have played it solo and played in plenty late night sessions with 20+ other musicians’.

How has the album been received ? ‘The support we received has been overwhelming, being featured not just in the UK, but all over the world – Germany, Spain, Mexico, the music media are really getting behind the project.

I am overjoyed that everyone has got involved in this project. All the artists have done this for nothing and Progressive Gears have put the album on their band camp completely free. Apart from the handling fee that Band Camp take, all the money is going to the Covid charity, which is amazing. I can’t thank everyone enough for getting involved and am so pleased with the result’.

Founding member of Judas Priest, K.K. Downing, added “I would strongly urge everyone to check out the album, not only for its much needed cause, but for the enjoyment you will have from listening to it. Much respect to all involved in this creation and my sincere thanks to you for your support.”

Order via the Progressive Gears band camp:

https://progressivegears.bandcamp.com/album/the-isolation-sessions

Or head over to the Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/theisolationsessions

Interview by Alikivi September 2020.

SHE’S A KNOCKOUT


New single released by pop/punk outfit Caffeine
2020 sees the return of London based Caffeine with new single She’s A Knockout. Guitarist J and bass/vocals, Scott McKewan, got in touch and talked about the new single…She’s a Knockout’ is about trying to get up when you’re at your lowest point. There’s bit of a juxtaposition going on as lyrically it’s a cry for help, but musically it’s a call to arms’.  

At the beginning of the noughties the band were playing Wembley Arena, touring with The Offspring, The Dickies, Rancid and Blink 182. They released two albums and toured America three times… Touring the States was incredible’ said J ‘We ended up going back and forth and never took it for granted. The scrapes we got into and the stories are pretty endless’. Have you got one that tops the list ? ‘I think giving away our entire back line of guitars, bass and amps to the crowd at the last American Bamboozle festival we played was the craziest thing we must have done. I remember handing my Ibanez to this 12 year old, I’d never seen an EMO kid so ecstatic. The things you do on tour eh!’  

In 2006 Caffeine went on hiatus, Scott formed The Candle Thieves and J started Calling All Astronauts… ‘Back then Caffeine were an incredibly hard working band’ said J ‘We played everywhere in the UK umpteen times and were constantly touring. When the U.S thing happened we perhaps concentrated too much on trying to get a foot in the door over there. The UK scene and venues were changing and the time felt right that we needed a break’.   Scott added ‘Definitely. From what I remember there was no big falling out, it was more like a natural progression at the time. As J said we’d been lucky enough to tour America a lot but it perhaps felt like we’d done all we could for that point in our lives’.   

Are you working on new material ? ’We are! It’s been so cool picking up the guitars again’ said Scott. ‘To be honest though me and J are so close that even if we put down the guitars and just hang out it’s a win-win situation. We’re recording in the U.K with Andy Hawkins at The Nave Studios producing it. He recorded our stuff back in the day and we’ve always trusted his production. The record should see the light of day early 2021’.   
She’s A Knockout is released via Supersonic media on September 25th 2020.   Contact the band: www.twitter.com/Caffeine_HQ www.facebook.com/caffeineuk https://open.spotify.com/artist/6ZZDj0FDKbX5FEDbACDvC6?si=mBCrfUWZRj2ip9afzcjpjQ

Interview by Alikivi  September 2020.

DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA

New single from Calling All Astronauts  

Divided States Of America sees London based electro-goth-punks in their lab cooking up a noxious potion of sneering punk with a heavy mix of rap and metal. The video drops in American TV news clips of burning flags, cars, and chaos on the streets – all hacked together under 3 minutes.

Moulding together a huge sound clash between Nine Inch Nails and Killing Joke, I asked David B (vox/keys/production) have they been an influence ? Both of them have been a massive influence on us. I saw NIN when they first played at The Astoria and then six months later my mates were in a band called Pig, and toured with them, so I got to see them several times. I’ve always loved Killing Joke, I think they are the most underrated band ever. They still make amazing albums 40 years after they started, and my mate Reza plays keys for them.

Why do you feel strongly about the state of the USA and the current resident of The White House. Is there anything to like about President Trump ? I feel Trump started this rise of the right with some of the dodgy alliances he did, and it paved the way for Boris to ape it in Britain, people like that embrace everything I find abhorrent in society.

Before teaming up again as Calling All Astronauts the band members worked on various projects. J Browning (guitarist) pounded the road on USA and European tours as a member of Pop-Punkers Caffeine, sharing stages with The Offspring, Blink 182, AFI and Rancid.

Bassist Paul McCrudden joined goth stalwarts The Marionettes headlining festivals and shows throughout Europe. While David taught himself to be a record producer. How did that go ? I was very lucky to have two mates who had produced a lot of well-known albums, and they were both happy for me to ring them and ask questions – so I did. I also watched countless tutorials on you tube by big name producers.

I think I was getting close on our second album, but on the third our latest, Resist, I had a stroke of luck. Paul (bass/guitars/keys) had known Alan Branch (double Grammy winner/ NIN, Depeche Mode, U2) since they were teenagers, Paul played him some of the tracks, and Alan came over to my place and gave me a one on one crash course in mixing.

When we were in the studio recording the new single my 3 year old daughter Daisy makes her musical debut. Alan was mixing the track and asked me to record a straight version of the chorus for the end. Daisy heard me doing the lines over and over and proceeded to run round the studio singing the chorus, a mic was quickly handed to her and the rest is history.

Check out the results on Divided States Of America released via Supersonic Media on September 18th 2020.   

Contact the band on: www.twitter.com/caa_official 

Facebook www.facebook.com/callingallastronauts 

YouTube  www.youtube,com/callingallastronauts Spotify  https://open.spotify.com/artist/0xqglBsPF9COYj64LNl85t

Interview by Alikivi   September 2020

METAL TOON, METAL CITY

Video filmed in Newcastle for new single from Chief Headbangers, Raven.

On Tyneside during the ‘70s and ‘80s rock music was heard from Sunderland to South Shields, bounced over the river Tyne to Whitley Bay and Wallsend – the vibrations were felt in Newcastle. A North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal was coming in.

Not just riding, but steering the wave were Fist, Hellanbach, Mythra, Tygers of Pan Tang and Venom pushing metal to its limits and discovering a new energy. Another one of those bands was Raven.

Now based Stateside, but originally formed in Newcastle in 1974, early gigs saw the trio cutting their teeth on North East live circuit of working mens clubs. Headline gigs at Newcastle Mayfair and Dingwalls gained the band a solid live reputation. The gates were opened, and the band went onto UK support slots with Iron Maiden, Ozzy and Whitesnake.

By the early ‘80s two albums ‘Rock Until You Drop’ and ‘Wiped Out’ were recorded in Impulse Studio, Wallsend on the Tyneside label, Neat Records. Then a call came in from America.

Raven were at the very forefront of speed metal spawning the big four beasts from the United States – Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and dragging Metallica out on their first, and scorching, tour across the USA. We know where they ended up. These were life changing moments. Raven knew their future was Stateside and subsequently signed to Megaforce and then major label, Atlantic.

Fast forward 40 years plus and the band are still hitting it hard with new single ‘Metal City’ from their forthcoming album. The music video was filmed on Tyneside capturing iconic structures like the Angel of the North, the Tyne Bridge and even St James’ Park home of Newcastle United. I asked bassist and vocalist John Gallagher did filming stir up any memories when you were at the locations ? It definitely stirred up some memories especially with one part of the shoot. We were driving to one of the locations when I mentioned “I grew up down that street there” and our video guy Paul said “Then let’s check it out!” So the footage with me playing the bass is in the backlane in Benwell where we played football as kids.

After ‘Top of the Mountain’ this is the second track released and both are very strong opening singles, I asked John are the band putting down a marker for what the listeners can expect from the rest of the album ? Very much so. Top was the perfect choice as the first song as it sounds like one of our early songs dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century!! And Metal City is not only the title track but it’s a real anthem type song. (Yep, added to trademark Gallagher scream, check out the geet big chorus!)

The rest of the album runs the gamut from crazy fast songs like The Power, and a tribute to Lemmy in Motorheadin’. Added to super aggressive tracks like Human Race and Break plus a bit of an epic in When Worlds Collide. So there’s variety, and all heavy with ‘all killer, no filler’.

How do you look at this album compared to previous releases ? This one is a belta! We actually think this album is the best thing we’ve ever done, for a band that’s been around the block as long as we have that’s really a case of laying down the gauntlet to many of the other bands of our era who are putting out ‘ok’ albums.

The band have just released new European tour dates, when was your last gig pre – covid ? Our last shows were on the Monsters of Rock cruise which departs from Florida. We did the pre-party show in Miami and a show on the cruise. Always great fun, and we actually did Chainsaw for the first time in about 30 years. We can’t wait to test drive these new songs on stage!

Watch the video on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtKKmm6ibOM&list=RDjtKKmm6ibOM&start_radio=1&t=20

Check official website for tour dates and album release:  https://ravenlunatics.com/

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2020.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #5

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Thomas Young VC (1895-1966).

Thomas was recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. As a stretcher bearer Thomas saved countless lives of army colleagues on First World War battlefields. He was presented with his VC on the 29th June 1918. This is his story.

My name is Thomas Young although I was born Thomas Morrell on 28th January 1895 in Boldon, North East England. When I was young my father was killed in a mining accident so my mother remarried a man form Whitburn called Surtees Young. We lived at Cliff Terrace, Ryhope. I left school early to become a miner. When I was 18 I joined up with the Gateshead Territorials then in 1914 transferred into the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. I was a stretcher bearer.

At the start of the War, I was posted to the Western Front and reached Boulogne in April 1915. We were immediately thrown into the Second Battle of Ypres. I also served on the Somme, at Arras and at Passchendaele. At the Somme I was wounded by a bullet in the left thigh and was evacuated to England. That put me out of action for a while but went back to France a few month later.

I was awarded my VC after a day on a battlefield in March 1918. It was all going off in broad daylight – rifles, machine-guns, shell fire, it was pretty heavy let me tell you. There was a number of casualties but I managed to bring back wounded comrades. Some I couldn’t move because they were badly injured, so I dressed them right there. When the wounds were dressed as much as I could I carried my marras back. I saved nine lives that way.

I went back to Durham for a spell of leave and they laid on a surprise for me. Officials from the coal mine took me home along the Scotswood Road in a pony and trap. My home was dressed with flags and bunting. I met The Earl of Durham who gave me a watch, some War Bonds and a silver cigarette case. A civic reception was laid on in Saltwell Park in Gateshead. There must have been thousands turned up that day.

After the war I went back to work in the mines but couldn’t keep my job because of my war wounds. I took on a new job at the mine as bath attendant and got £9 a week. But due to my health problems and financial worries I sold my VC medal, luckily a DLI officer saw it in a pawnbroker’s shop so the Regiment bought it back.

Thomas Young died at a hostel in Whickham on 15th October 1966, and buried in St Patrick’s Churchyard, High Spen, Durham with full military honours.

A memorial to Thomas Young was unveiled in July 2007 and can be seen in the grounds of High Spen primary school. In 2018 a commemorative memorial stone at Cotswold Lane in Boldon Colliery was unveiled to honour the memory of First World War hero Thomas. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Durham Light Infantry Museum & Durham Art Gallery.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources : Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #4

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Henry Howey Robson (1894-1964)

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. In this series of Tyneside VC medal recipients, was this man the youngest ? At the age of 20, Henry was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 14th December 1914. This is his story.

I was born in South Shields, North East England on 27th May 1894. We had a home in Hampden Street where my da’ Edward was a coal miner and my ma’ was called Mary Morris, they first came from Sunderland. It was a big family. I had six brothers and a sister. I went to Mortimer Road School in the town and after I left I joined da’ in the mines.

When war started I joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Scots and went to France. I was awarded the VC after being on the battlefield in Belgium. What happened was we attacked a German position and I saw one of our men wounded so went out and brought him back. Guns were going off all around. It was really heavy fire. I done the same for another soldier but got shot. I didn’t give up and went out again but got hit again. I was in a bad way so they took me back to camp and I was evacuated to England.

I went back home to South Shields where I had a good time. I met the Mayor at a civic reception in the Town Hall. I got the Freedom of the town and was presented with £73 raised through a Shilling Fund. Then I visited my old school and was presented with a gold watch by the kids. I returned to war but was wounded in France and never returned to the front.

After the war I worked a couple of jobs. I was in the shipyards and as a steward on oil tankers running between Britain and South America. I wanted to go to Canada so I sold my medal to a doctor for £80. This paid my way and I arrived in 1923, a new life started.

I started work as a streetcar conductor with Toronto Transportation. Then in 1924 got married to Alice Maude and we had a son and four daughters. Then I became a civil servant working in the Parliament Buildings in Ontario, then done six years as a Sergeant at Arms of the Ontario Legislature. Before retirement in 1954 I was an information clerk, showing visitors around Parliament.

Civic reception with the Mayor at South Shields Town Hall for Henry.

In the ‘50s Henry returned to England a couple of times for the VC celebrations. His VC had been bought by a solicitor from Dunfermline, who lent him the medal to wear at the 1956 VC Centenary in Hyde Park, London. It’s reported that the medal was never returned to the solicitor.

On 4th March 1964 Henry died at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto. He was buried in the Veteran’s Section of York Memorial Cemetery, Toronto.

In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His medals were presented to the Royal Scots Museum in Edinburgh Castle by his daughter, Mrs Patricia Gaskin of Toronto.

In 2008 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at South Shields Town Hall and in 2014 a commemorative stone to mark Private Henry Robson’s bravery, was unveiled in Robson Way, South Shields.

Sources: Ancestry, Durham at War, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.