VINYL JUNKIES – Gary Payne, 7 songs that shaped his world

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

Promoter/Manager/Label owner/Vinyl collector – just all round music lover Gary Payne got in touch…

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‘Back in the 80’s I co-edited a punk fanzine ‘Still Dying’ with my friend Will Binks, and along the way managed a few bands here and there. I recall my sister buying me a copy of Lonely this Christmas by Mud for a present. It had a “to” and “from” printed on the front sleeve, which my sister actually filled in with biro. Being someone who progressed onto collecting vinyl, this heinous act of defacing a picture sleeve should surely be worthy of a lengthy spell at her majesty’s pleasure. 

By early ’78  and ’79 , myself and my friends were becoming increasingly attracted to the many bands emerging on the punk scene and I think we could all sense there was just a different feel to what we had been into previously. In the days when the local cinemas always featured a supporting film to the main feature, a trip to see Ray Winstone in Scum was preceded by the short film Punk Can Take It, which was basically the UK Subs in concert.The flame was lit and burned brightly as we meandered our way through many bands that were emerging onto the scene. 

Aged 16, myself and my cousin made the trip to Newcastle Mayfair in an attempt to see the UK Subs. The night suddenly took a turn for the worse when an over zealous bouncer refused to believe that I could be 18 and therefore wouldn’t let me in. Soon after, we took in our very first gig, Buzzcocks at Newcastle City Hall, although we couldn’t help think that the singer of the support band was a right miserable bastard! Still, I suppose Joy Division, and Ian Curtis in particular, had their well documented demons. I recall standing at that gig commenting to my mate how sad it was to see there were 2 fella’s next to us who must have been in their 50’s. Today, as a regular gig goer, I still wonder if the younger attendees look at me and my mates with the same level of disdain. In true punk rock style though, I don’t care what they think, but in years to come they will hopefully come to know that punk is like a favourite toy you just can’t put down.

I grew up with a new found air of independence and took on the mantle of organising our trips around the country to see a few of my heroes. Highlights would include Dead Kennedys in Liverpool, with Jello in magnificent form, as well as The Clash at Brixton Academy. A few memorable trips were also on the agenda, namely Chron Gen at Preston and Vice Squad at Worksop, the latter of which made us known to the late Dave Bateman, Vice Squad guitarist and all round decent bloke. To add to that, I could have died a happy man after the night we interviewed The Ramones for our fanzine at the Thistle Hotel in Newcastle, just after their Mayfair gig.

Their were lots of gigs that were brilliant along the way, but I especially recall the Christmas on Earth festival at Leeds as being a fun day out, not to mention us being chuffed to bits that the aforementioned Dave Bateman actually remembered us as we passed Vice Squads merch stall. It seems ridiculous reading that back, but to a fan, it meant, and still means everything, perhaps more so as he is no longer with us. I had a lot of friends who turned their hands to playing in various bands, but being blessed with the musical talents of a goat, I had to find some other outlet for my enthusiasm. It was soon after when I decided to put my organisational skills to great use by managing a local band called Public Toys.

Comprising a few of my friends, I would like to think my efforts went some way to raising their profile and their guitarist Robby remains a close mate to this day. My next foray into management saw me take the reins for a band from Peterlee called Uproar. On hearing them, it was hard not to realise that they were a cut above the rest, and several ep’s and albums went some way to confirming that. We endured a long and partly successful partnership over the coming years and again, the band and the punks in their local area remain some of the

finest people I have ever met. In the mid 80’s, I coincidentally timed the lull in the punk scene with meeting my beautiful wife and starting a family, although my love for all things punk never waned. In the 90’s, a host of punk bands seemed to be reforming and over time, the scene became as vibrant as it ever was. I still had the urge to contribute to the scene in some way, so I started my own label Calcaza Records. I started a free website and advertised for any interested bands to send me recordings or demos and all would be considered for inclusion. I have never been money orientated and my only aim was to get as many unknown bands heard by more people. It was important to me that I included a booklet with all lyrics and full contact info for all bands as this would be a starting point hopefully, should anyone discover a band they might like. Maybe it was seen by some as naive, but those that know me will know that I just love being involved in music, so if I made money, great….if I didn’t so what. Most bands who appeared on the 2 cd’s I released took on board my intentions, but one band in particular, who shall remain nameless, were as unhelpful as they could be and had no interest in anything but themselves. 

After my 2 cd’s, I turned to promoting, and put on a few gigs in the North East, again, with no real intention other than to put good gigs on, and hopefully not lose too much money in the process. A John Cooper Clarke promotion made me a fair bit on one occasion, although on the whole, I probably lost more on my other gigs. My main aim was that bands were paid fairly and no one took the piss…..2 criteria that a lot of promoters seem to overlook these days. In the last few years, my son, a very talented musician in his own right, has been in several bands, all of which I seem to have fallen into managing, and I have genuinely loved being involved. Charlie Don’t Dance, for me the best of them, were very poppy, but very, very good, and even though they were a world away from punk, they were pure quality. It all just goes to prove that there are thousands of excellent bands out there, many of whom we will never get to hear, so it’s good that there are folk in this world to give them a helping hand in whatever way they can. 

As I creep past my mid 50’s, I still attend punk gigs and I still get the same buzz I always did and hopefully that will never change. Recent bad health meant I have to take things a bit easier than I used to, but I must profess to joining in with my mate Will Binks during a recent Skids gig and doing the Jobson kick in the middle of ‘Into the Valley’. In all honesty, a lie down afterwards would have been appreciated! On a recent trip shopping with my daughter, I spied a young chap with a Dead Kennedys t shirt serving behind the counter. I was tempted to stay quiet but couldn’t resist almost bragging that I had seen them back in the day when they were at their finest. The lad in question, who must have been about 20 years old, looked me up and down and said, ‘Do you know what it is mate? Old fella’s like you make the scene what it is!’ Cheeky young git, but you know what?…..I kind of like that comment. So, to you all, like what you like and never apologise for it. For me, it will always be punk rock, and that is something I am especially proud of’.

Here are 7 songs that shaped Gary’s world.

1. Sex Pistols: Bodies (1977)

‘Being a punk in those days still upset a lot of people and we embraced the fact that it was fun being differently dressed to the majority of other people. With my tartan bondage trousers, Pistols t shirt and occasionally a chain and padlock around my neck, I revelled in the glory of it. One day we were at my mates house and we spied the Jehovas Witnesses doing the rounds in the local area. Mischievously we tried to come up with a way to get rid of them. The plan was to have the chorus to Bodies playing on full volume just as the guy knocked at the door. Anyway, my mate Geoff answers the knock and as the guy begins talking, the volume was cranked up, and the obscene chorus to Bodies kicked in. Behind muted grins, we revelled in the profanities coming from Johnny Rottens mouth and we felt sure the fella would move on to his next person. To our surprise, he stood back and said ‘Ah, the Sex Pistols….great band!’  We just stood there open mouthed whilst the fella just laughed and walked off’.

2. B Movie: Nowhere Girl (1980) 

‘Like most people, I have never given up hope that one day I will discover a hidden talent that will enable me to play in a band, and when that day comes, I will write a song just like this one by B Movie. My love of punk steps aside to find one of the catchiest pop tunes you will ever hear. I must stress that it is the 12″ extended version that captivates me, and I have always advocated a song going on and on…and on, if it is catchy. The way the song starts with a simple tune and then just builds and builds is a work of pure genius. It is a song I will never tire of’.

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3. Big Country: Chance (1983)

‘My love of The Skids endeared me to the talent that was Stuart Adamson and after their demise. I followed his next band Big Country with high expectations. I was not to be disappointed, and their first album The Crossing was magnificent. Stuart took the reins on lead vocals and guitar and kept me enthralled until his sad passing several years later. One song in particular showcased the raw emotion of the band and it was Chance. Watching them play live always was an awesome experience and to hear the crowd take over the chorus of this song at every gig never failed to move me. It is still a song I find it difficult to listen to for emotional reasons,but it is pure quality’.

4. The Boys: First time (1979) 

‘I bought my first ever compilation album, 20 of another kind, with a spikey,yellow haired punk on the front,which instantly grabbed my attention. It contained several classics, and amongst them was this song by The Boys, which remains one of my favourite songs of all time. Aged 16, I never really got what the song was about, but years later I did ! It cemented my love for pop punk and that is something that has always stayed with me’.

5. The Stranglers: Always the Sun (1986)

‘On meeting my future wife in 1985, I persuaded her to join me in my passion for collecting 7″ singles, although a lot of the punk bands I liked had temporarily called it a day, which meant we bought quite a lot of poppier stuff. Artists such as Status Quo, Madonna and A-ha took up residency in a red vinyl singles box under the bed, but the jewel in the crown was my copy of Always the Sun by The Stranglers. Since the release of the brilliant Golden Brown years earlier, The Stranglers were showing themselves to be a lot more commercial, and this song is just wonderful. Even at recent gigs, you will be hard pressed to find a better performance of any song in their sets, and to hear the crowd singing the chorus just goes to confirm that’.

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6. The Ruts: Jah War (1979)

‘The Ruts debut album The Crack, showed them to be a cut above a lot of the other punk bands around at the time. Fusing punk with reggae was never gonna be easy, but they made it look so. Documenting the vicious attack by the police on a black friend of theirs, they produced one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. Malcolm’s vocals are sorely missed and never bettered than on this recording. It upset me greatly when he died prematurely and I still recall a friend telling me the news whilst at college doing my apprenticeship, ironically wearing my Ruts t shirt that very day. I immediately went home and put this song on’.

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7. Flux of Pink Indians: Neu Smell – Tube Disasters (1981)

‘I used to visit my local record shop, Callers at the Nook shopping centre in South Shields, and I would often buy most of the new punk stuff they had bought in each week. Yes, I ended up with the odd rubbish single, but boy did I hit lucky with this one. I have never been a massive fan of the many bands that affiliated themselves to the anarchist scene, but this song by Flux of Pink Indians just has it all. Angry vocals integrate with a catchy beat that just sucks you in. It is a song I still play regularly and love. Whenever I play it now for some reason I feel the need to text my mates and rave about how good this song still is. I’m sure they’re all sick of me, but I’m still gonna keep doing it !’ 

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2018.

Recommended:

VINYL JUNKIES:

Will Binks July 7th 2017

Martin Popoff July 12th 2017

John Heston August 3rd 2017

Neil Armstrong August 11th 2017

Colin Smoult August 29th 2017

Neil Newton September 12th 2017

Tony Higgins October 11th 2017

Vince High December 11th 2017.

DEFENDER OF THE NORTH – Guardian Recording Studio stories #3

Gaurdian Sound Studio’s were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK. ‘Pity Me’ features later in this story by Steve Thompson, songwriter and ex producer at NEAT records. There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings. Whatever is behind the name it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog. They were home to a well known recording studio. From 1978 some of the bands who recorded in Guardian were: Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7”. 1979 saw an E.P from Mythra and releases in 1980 from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax. From 1982 to 85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior had made singles or albums. I caught up with a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian… 

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STEVE THOMPSON: (Songwriter) ‘I had quit as house producer at Neat Records in 1981. I had begun to realise that I was helping other people build careers whilst mine was on hold. I was becoming bogged down in Heavy Metal and whilst there’s no doubt I’m a bit of a rocker, I really wanted to pursue the path of a songwriter first and foremost. Production might come into it somewhere along the line but I wanted that to be a sideline, not my main gig. So I set about composing the song that is the subject of this story, ‘Please Don’t Sympathise’. This is what happened.

I had just cut a single with The Hollies. Bruce Welch of The Shadows was in the production seat for that recording in Odyssey Studios, London. I signed a publishing deal with Bruce and remember signing the contract at Tyne Tees TV Studios in Newcastle, Hank Marvin was witness. Bruce had heard an 8 song demo of my songs and selected 4 favourites from it. He asked me to make some more advanced demos of those 4. I could have gone into Neat/Impulse Studio but I still wanted to carve new territory so I went to Guardian Studios in Pity Me, County Durham. I played bass, keyboards and guitar on the session with Paul Smith on drums and I brought my old mate Dave Black in to do vocals. I spent two full days on those demos, Bruce Welch was paying and he really wanted me to go to town on the production. Then a producer called Chris Neil entered the story. Chris had worked with Leo Sayer, Gerry Rafferty, A-Ha, Rod Stewart, Cher and others. Chris and I had just had a massive hit with his production of my song Hurry Home. Chris was by now having a bit of a love affair with my material. Chris had asked Bruce to give him first dibs on any of my new songs that came along. He picked up on two from the four songs I’d just demoed in Guardian. One of them he sang himself under the band name Favoured Nations. But the recording pertinent to this story is his production of Sheena Easton’s new album Madness, Money and Music. He recorded my song Please Don’t Sympathise for that album. The album did very well. It went top 20 in the UK, peaking at 13. It also charted in several other countries and did particularly well in Japan’.

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‘About a year later Celine Dion also recorded the song in French ‘Ne Me Plaignez Pas’. It was a huge hit single in Canada and certified Gold status. The album it was featured on sold 400,000 copies in Canada and 700,000 copies in France. I never did go back to Guardian but that is a lot of action from just one demo session. Interestingly, the literal translation of Ne Me Plaignez Pas is Please Don’t PITY ME ! Spooky huh?’

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‘These days I’m doing this song and many others that I wrote for various artists with my own band. I’ve uploaded a video collage here https://vimeo.com/266141205. It starts with the Guardian demo with Dave Black singing. The demo doesn’t sound that sophisticated after 37 years but that’s where it started. Then there are clips of the Sheena and Celine versions and then my band doing it live. Sadly Dave Black is no longer around to sing the song as he did on the demo but Terry Slesser does a fine job of it. Jen Normandale comes in on the bridge in French ala Celine!’  www.steve-thompson.org.uk

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This needs to be confirmed by a visit down to Pity Me, but  a quick search of 26-28 Front Street on google maps reveals a well known supermarket where the two terraced houses were. I wonder if customers buying their tins of beans and bananas know the rich musical history that Gaurdian Studios contributed to recording in the North East. The Tap & Spile is just next door, was that the pub where many of the bands went for refreshment ? If anyone has information or recorded in Guardian studios it’ll be much appreciated if can you get in touch.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2018.

Recommended:

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

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

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

ROKSNAX: Metal on the Menu, 9th March 2018.

NEAT BITES – Making Records on Wallsend

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Neat Records were based in Wallsend, North East England. The label was established in the late 70’s by Dave Woods, who was the owner of Impulse Studios. It was notable for releases by Venom, Raven and Blitzkreig who are acknowledged as major influences on American bands Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Songwriter and producer Steve Thompson helped set up Neat and produced the initial recordings…One day Dave Woods came in and said there’s a band who are making a bit of noise out there why not get them in and sell a few records? So in came Tygers of Pan Tang to cut three tracks. Incidentally it was to be the third single I’d produced for NEAT. Now we know it is known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and the tide was coming in that very evening haha’. 

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ROBB WEIR (Tygers of Pan Tang) ‘In 1979 we recorded, ‘Don’t Touch Me There.’  It had a release number 003 so we were in at the beginning of the Neat Record label story. We were the first heavy metal band to be recorded in the studio. So I’m very proud of the Tygers giving the Neat label a direction. Impulse studios took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies, that was a lot for a small independent label. Don’t Touch Me There was reviewed in Sounds newspaper which made a massive difference so the next pressing was 4,000 ! Then studio owner Dave Woods was approached by MCA record company, they wanted us! So Dave did a deal, essentially selling the Tygers to them. So MCA pressed around 50,000 copies of the single!’

BRIAN ROSS (Blitzkreig) ‘I remember the first time in Impulse Studio was great we made it feel like our second home. It came highly recommended as Tyne Tees TV used it to record their jingles there and we recorded a jingle Hot n Heavy Express which Alan Robson used on his radio show. It went well so we extended it into a single. NEAT put it out on a compilation EP. Now this studio was the label to be on, and I mean in the country not just the North East, I’ve recorded many tracks there as Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig. It’s a shame it’s not there now’. 

ANTONY BRAY (Venom) 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 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 factory 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!’

KEITH NICHOLL (Impulse studio engineer) ‘With Raven, their playing was always intensive but there were loads of stories and quite a few laughs. I think they simply wanted to do a better album than the first and then again the third. Any band would. Can’t remember if there was an official tour but they did loads of gigs. Good live band’.

HARRY HILL (Fist) ‘The first single we put out was Name, Rank and Serial Number and You Never Get Me Up In One of Those on the b side. We done a lot of reheasal and prep work so we were tight, ready to record. When we done Name, Rank we were on Northern Life TV. The cameras came down filmed in the studio that was 1980. Strangely the only piece of vinyl I have is our single The Wanderer. We started putting it in our set so yeah, went in and recorded it. Status Quo released a version a couple of month after us but honestly thought our version was better haha’.

GARY YOUNG (Avenger) ’I worked in the Shipyards near my home town but for about a year before that I worked at Impulse Studios in Wallsend which was where Neat Records were based. Due to this I was involved in a lot of recording sessions and some of them for what are now landmark albums like Venoms – Black Metal and Ravens – Wiped Out. I had my first experiences of recording there with my own bands and helping people out on random recording sessions. They were great times’.

DAVY LITTLE (Axis) ‘I remember Fist guitarist Keith Satchfield was in when we were recording. He was always track suited up. Getting fit and going on runs in preparation for a tour. I had met him a few times when I was younger I used to go and see Warbeck and Axe. Always thought he was a cool musician and writer. Plus a nice fella. We were very inexperienced and new nothing about studios. He  gave us advice on how to set up amps. Was very supportive I never forgot that. Also when we were in there a very young moody boy was working there. Making tea, helping get kit in. Always drawing. Asked to see some of his drawings. All dark, tombstones, skulls, flying demons…nice kid tho said he didn’t think we were very heavy metal. I agreed. He said “one day I am going to have the heaviest band ever”. I met Chronos years later in a club in Newcastle when he was fronting the mighty Venom. A nice lad’.

STEVE WALLACE (Shotgun Brides) ‘There was a kid called Richard Denton who grew up in the same area as us and he was working A&R at Impulse records in Wallsend. He persuaded the owner Dave Woods to take us on. We went into Impulse Studio and recorded the track Restless, that was engineered and produced by Kev Ridley in 1987. The b side of the single was Eighteen. We recorded the song bit by bit, tracking it up. Unlike a few other bands it wasn’t recorded by playing all the way through and off you go add a couple of overdubs, no it was fully tracked. It eventually ended up on a NEAT compilation album’.

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MICHAEL MAUGHAN (Phasslayne) In the summer of ’85 Phasslayne were approached by Neat Records. Dave Woods was the main man there. What happened was we recorded a demo at Desert Sounds in Felling which they really liked so the label asked us to record a live no dubs demo in their studio in Wallsend. On hearing that Dave Woods signed us to do an album. But just before we got our record deal our singer left and everyone looked at me so that’s how I ended up doing the vocals. I think Keith Nichol was the engineer. For guitars I used my Strat and Maurice Bates from Mythra loaned me his Les Paul. We called the album Cut it Up, it’s on vinyl’.

KEV CHARLTON (Hellanbach) ‘We got a deal with NEAT records to record our first album. That was the best time. After rehearsing for months getting the new songs together we recorded the album which is a very proud moment in my life. Now Hear This came out in ’83 and was produced by Keith Nichol. I remember getting the first copy of the album, taking it into work thinking this might be me leaving the shipyards. It was one of the weirdest times of my life because it came out to amazing five star reviews and some of the big bands weren’t even getting five stars. I remember sitting in the toilets of Wallsend shipyard reading the reviews in Kerrang and Sounds, thinking this will be the last time I’ll be in the shipyard….but it wasn’t !’ 

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To read a comprehensive story of NEAT records get a hold of the book ’Neat and Tidy’ by John Tucker. It examines the history of the label, its bands and their releases including interviews with many key players in the Neat Records’ story such as label boss David Wood, producer Steve Thompson, Raven’s John Gallagher and Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn from Venom.

https://www.johntuckeronline.co.uk/neat-and-tidy-the-story-of-neat-records.html

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2018.

Recommended:

Brian Ross, SATAN/BLITZKREIG, Life Sentence, 20th February 2017.

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

John Gallagher, RAVEN: Staring into the Fire, 3rd May 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH/BESSIE & THE ZINC BUCKETS: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

Robb Weir TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Doctor Rock  2017

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

Guardian Studio: Defender of the North 3rd May 2018.

ROKSNAPS #5

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Lemmy, Motorhead 1979.

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

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Thin Lizzy, 1980.

One fan who kept his photo’s and shared them on this blog was Paul White…

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‘The pics I’ve managed to dig out here are scanned from my original prints as the negatives went walkabout many moons ago. Here’s what you’ve got. Whitesnake – Trouble and the Lovehunter tour. Thin Lizzy – Black Rose tour, Motorhead – Overkill and Bomber tour (I think). Enjoy.’

 

‘I went to my first gig in 1975. Status Quo’s On The Level tour. What a night. Back then when a band like that played, the first few rows of seats would be ripped up immediately the band came on. Along with Glasgow Apollo the City Hall and Mayfair were the best gigs in the country for touring bands. If there was a band like AC/DC on at the Mayfair you could be lifted off your feet by the crowd and pushed from side to side. You certainly had to know how to use your elbows. The exhilaration when the lights suddenly went down and a massive cheer would go up. Nothing like it. At some point I realised we had an old Minolta SLR lying round the house that nobody was using. With only a rudimentary understanding of how to use it, I bought some film and took it to a gig. The Scorpions first Newcastle gig I think it was. I remember, because the gig tickets were white and loads of people had photocopied a mates and applied a perf with a needle, including me. The staff on the doors never had time to properly check tickets back then, it was easy peasy. That happened more than once I have to say. The photos were crap though. I had no flash and was wary of the staff taking the camera. Worse, I was on the balcony and didnt have a great view. No idea what happened to those shots. Just as well. I was more lucky from then on’. 

 

‘Next time it was the Whitesnake first tour to promote Trouble which had just been released. Better seats meant better pics. A few times I queued overnight for tickets and got great seats. One time in a blizzard for Rush’s Hemispheres tour. The weather was so bad it made the local TV news. I just remember waking up under a foot of snow. Queuing overnight wasnt always a good idea though. One time me and a mate got the last bus from Blyth to Newcastle to queue for Rainbow tickets only to find a sign on the doors saying ‘Rainbow tickets will not be on sale’. Unfortunately the last bus home had gone and we couldnt afford a taxi. We kipped in a doorway of the Civic Centre and got the first bus in the morning. Wouldnt swap those days for anything though. Happy days indeed. The list of great bands we saw is hard to believe these days. Tell some young kid that you saw AC/DC or UFO at the Mayfair and their mouths drop open. We were blessed for sure’.

 

 

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2018.

Recommended:

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

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

Roksnaps #1 18th February 2018.

Roksnaps #2 22nd February 2018.

Roksnaps #3 27th February 2018.

Roksnaps #4  4th April 2018.

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

FROM PLASTICINE TO PIXELS – interview with Tyneside artist/animator/educator Sheila Graber

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During the 90’s I was making films on tape editing machines in Stanhope Complex, South Shields. It could take hours to build a couple of minutes sequence of video, audio, narration and music – a process that takes a lot less time today. Those editing machines I used have a link to Sheila Graber…. Around 1985 I was asked by David Lumb, Chief Adviser at South Tyneside Education Authority would I like the post of Art/Media Advisor. I agreed to a part time post as I was heavily involved in animation jobs at the time. It involved helping schools from Nursery to Secondary with any problems. One large problem at the time (still is) is that some teenagers do no take to reading/writing that well and become bored and disruptive at school. Knowing how my own students at King George school had responded to working with video in the 1970’s  I secured a government grant to hire a a room in Chuter Ede Education Centre, South Shields with a budget for video equipment and staff to run the project. Here schools could send young people to learn video skills and apply them to their lessons. It was very well attended for a few years  but a change of Government pulled the funding. Then  along came Community Worker Phil Charlton (RIP) who took the gear down to Stanhope Community Complex, it was like passing the baton on. Then YOU used them Gary and now, happily, here we are ! ’.

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Me working on video tape machines at Stanhope Complex, South Shields. Notice the Panasonic edit controller, MX10 and edit machines. There was one play and one record machine.

Looking back to your younger days can you point to any moments which led you to where you are now ? ‘I had two life changing events in 1960. My Dad, Capt. George Graber, was Pilot Master on the Tyne from 1947, and in 1960 we finally moved into the Pilot Office House on the Lawe Top. I was lucky enough to have a small room to use as a studio. The views of the river were stunning. Also that year I went to Birmingham School for Training Art Teachers. On the first day the tutor asked us ’Why are you here’. Somebody spoke up ’To get our Art Teacher’s Diploma’. She quickly replied ’So what is Art’. During the rest of the course we discovered the answer for ourselves’…I found that “Everyone is an artist in their own way.”  It wasn’t a skill passed down from your family or something that only one or two people could do, everybody,if encouraged, could make something to express themselves and feel worthwhile whether it’s painting, knitting,cooking,writing or video making. I’ve have tried to follow that all my life’.

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Painting in 1960 of the view of the river Tyne outside Sheila’s window.

Sheila returned to Tyneside teaching Art in schools and also worked on her own projects….‘I started teaching Art in Stanhope Road Secondary School in 1961. Then onto The Girl’s High School and finally King George Comprehensive. Divorced in 1970 I had extra time in my life. I bought a super 8 camera for holiday films and found I could bring plasticine letters to life for titles by filming then one frame at a time. Three week later when the film came back  I saw them move by themselves MAGIC! I took the camera into school and the children’s interest was enormous. Their reaction really turned me around. Pupils who had little interest in learning suddenly came alive. Animation is a very good tool for education because everyone can learn and have fun at the same time. Animation can also be used to show how things work. Like the short I was invited to make by BBC Inside Look North on how their program was put together in 1977. Featuring the late great Mike Neville’. (Check Inside Look North 1977 and over 100 others on “Sheila Graber YouTube” channel).

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‘In 1974 my animation ‘Boy and The Cat’  won the ’10 Best’ film competition run by Movie Maker Magazine. So it was screened at the National Film Theatre  in London. Later my work were spotted by Nicole Jouve an agent for World TV. She phoned me up and wanted to distribute some of the shorts I’d made. At first I thought it was a friend kidding around. But she went ahead and distributed the short 16mm films I’d made, from ‘Mondrian’ to ‘Evolution’, worldwide. Then Nicole (who was also the agent for The Magic Roundabout) commissioned me to Animate 10 of Rudyard Kipling’s  Just So Stories’ – she had gained the contract in direct competition with Disney Studios. In 1980 I gave up my job as a full time art teacher as the series had to be completed in one year. Looking back, I have met people who have asked me ‘can you do this for us ? …and I’ve just jumped in and said ‘yes I’ll do that’. You’ve done that too Gary, just gone for it and most times it works out and leads onto other projects’.

What are you working on now ? ‘I still teach animation at University of Sunderland and have some of my prints, cards and DVD’s on sale in Sunderland Museum and at The Word in South Shields. Currently I am producing more books and fun interactive animated apps. Just finished one on Van Gogh, you can play with it now online on my website. Animation is a magic process but sadly under used. Disney called it the ‘Art of the Future’. He was right. I hope today’s computer games evolve from killing to caring and that iPads and smart phones are used to create images and animation as well as text to help folks of all ages to enjoy learning and creating their view of the world. I’ll be featuring these ideas, work of people I’ve influenced and in turn work by folks THEY have influenced in my forthcoming exhibition at South Shields Ocean Road Museum & Customs House in 2020 – ‘Life Begins at 80’. Look forward to seeing some of YOUR video productions there Gary’. 

Contact Sheila at:

http://www.sheilagraberanimation.com

 Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2018.

Recommended:

David G. Wilkinson: Waves upon Waves 3rd June 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARK MY WORDS with Ettrick Scott from Jazz Riot

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‘I’m loathe to describe myself as a poet because I’ve studied the form in depth – Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley etc that’s your poets. Me ? I’m just a rhyming gobshite mate. I went to Northumbria University in my 40’s and did a creative writing degree and I started studying and writing poetry. Something just clicked and ended up with me starting Jazz Riot. Who are Staggerin’ Jon Lee on Lap pedal steel from Byker and I’m not entirely sure where guitarist Stevie G lives these days – near Killingworth somewhere, maybe? and me, I’m a talker based in Ovingham, Northumberland.’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ’Around early 89. The first proper band was The Legendary Harley Dread. Three quarters of this combo were sales assistants from Newcastles Grott Guitars. We were influenced by the Stooges, Doors, Stranglers and in my case Guns n Roses. I’m fascinated by hedonism. ‘Appetite for Destruction’ was an amazing album. I read an article about them once which said that had Dionysus – the Greek God of wine, ritual madness and theatre – been at large in Los Angeles in the mid ‘80s, he would have been a member of GNR. I totally agree with that. They went all bloated and shite after ‘Appetite’ mind, but that’s what inevitably happens when you throw millions of dollars at drug addicts and alcoholics. I’d estimate that around 90% of our gigs were at The Broken Doll and the Riverside in Newcastle. Our first gig was at the Doll supporting Mega City Four. I tried to conquer my nerves beforehand by getting absolutely lathered on Southern Comfort. The end result being that I went all Iggy Pop for the gig, and can’t remember anything about it. The rest of the band were peeved at the clip I was in but also impressed that I managed to sing all the right words. We also played there with Penetration’s Pauline Murray. The only other name act we gigged with was ex-Hawkwind guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton. Both at the Doll and the Kasbah in Sunderland. Looking back we were incompetent and awful. But being in a band with your mates in your early twenties is like being pirates innit ? We wore tight leather trousers, abused substances, pulled some lasses and got paid, sometimes’.

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Who were your influences in music ? ‘I’m a writer. I’m all about words, my primary influence has to be my dad. I’m the offspring of an Art teacher mother and an English lecturer father. So I’m basically an arty little twat who likes words a lot. Sadly the art gene passed me by. I can’t even draw a decent stick man. But the English bit got me big time. My parents split up when I was 10 month old and all of my early memories of my Dad involve being in a car with him spouting assorted lyrics and folk songs at me. The first rhyme I can remember committing to memory I was maybe 5 or 6, was by Leonard Cohen and it’s one I still love to this day. ‘I lit a thin green candle to make you jealous of me. But the room just filled up with mosquitoes, they’d heard that my body was free’. To me that’s a perfect rhyming couplet; it’s unsettling, there’s a sadness there, and it’s quite funny in a dark sort of way. Whenever I meet someone who peddles the tired myth that L.Cohen Esq. makes music to slash your wrists to, I know I’m most likely talking to someone who hasn’t listened to him much and is just recycling an opinion. I find his writing immensely touching and funny as fuck, loaded with humanity and dry as a bone humour. The second couplet I can remember learning is from Time by David Bowie; ’Time, she flexes like a whore/Falls wanking to the floor’. Which is maybe not the sort of thing one should be reciting to a child still at infant school. But here, that’s my old man for you. He rarely modifies his patter based on the age of the person he’s talking to’.

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How did you get involved in music ? ‘I always wanted to be the singer in a band because, to my mind at least, the singer is the one who writes all the lyrics – or he should anyway. The one defining incident that made me want to be in a band was this; Aged 14 me and two other kids were jamming in our school music block one lunchtime – guitar, drums, me singing. The music room had a tiny window which looked onto an area where all the hard kids gathered to smoke. Me and the hard kids did not get along at all. I was bullied a bit at school, not a severe kicking type, but a fair bit of hassle because I was different. Different in a way that’s hard to quantify but I suppose ‘arty little twat’ goes some way to explain my school years. Anyway our playing quickly attracted the attention of the hard lads and they didn’t like it one little bit. They started screaming abuse and flicking the v’s at the window, and then began spitting on it. After 10 minutes the window was completely covered in hockle. Y’knaa I’d be the first to admit I’m a bit of a wind up merchant and as soon as I saw the possibilty to piss people off – I can remember clear as day thinking ‘Oh aye, I’m fuckin’ having this’.

What were your experiences of recording ‘We recorded one 3 track demo at Newcastle Arts Centre, I can’t remember us sending it out to anyone. ‘Just Say Yes’, Heads Gone Crazy’ and ‘Flesh Starts Creeping’ – yes we had live fast die young lifestyles then. We started recording and drinking at 9.30am. We were mortal by the afternoon. I fell over the mixing desk. The bassist couldn’t nail down his parts. The engineer sent us to the pub to stop distracting him any further. Years later I found that the engineer took over bass and stood in for him’.

Did you record any TV appearances or film any music videos ? ‘There used to be a video knocking about of us onstage and backstage at the Riverside supporting Mega City Four. We all lost our copies and it’s a real shame because I don’t think there’s any footage of the Riverside backstage area. It would be interesting to see again..anybody got it ?’

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘My favourite involves the two gigs we done with Hawkwinds Huw Lloyd Langton. A man who had possibly taken one acid trip too many, bless him. After we supported him at the Broken Doll in Newcastle we had a good crack on with him, got on really well. Then we played with him again in Sunderland about three month later. We got chatting after the gig but it quickly became apparent that he didn’t have the first clue who we were and no memory whatsoever of having met us before. Drugs man – just say no kids’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved in music ? ‘It amuses me that I sang in bands for a few years and got pretty much nowhere. But as soon as I started talking instead I got a bit of recognition. I added music to my words because what I understand is rock n roll and I believe experiences should be shared. I love coming off stage and hanging out with the same people that played the gig and getting the same buzz of it. I can’t perform at those spoken words nights. I don’t understand that world at all. That’s a very lonely place to be. If you’re going to die on your arse on stage it might aswell be with your mates next to you. To date we’ve opened for John Cooper Clarke, Penetration, TV Smith, Field Music and loads more. We played the International Psychology Conference in Liverpool last year. This year we’re on a real strange festival bill with John Cleese, Gary Lineker, Pussy Riot and Hugh Grant – thinking about it – that line up get’s funnier every time. When I went to University I couldn’t have dreamt that this is where it would lead. If it all stopped tomorrow I can honestly say I’ve had the very best of times in Jazz Riot’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2018.

Recommended:

ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Butchers of Bolingbroke, 1st June 2017.

Simon Donald, VIZ: The Toon Show, 1st September 2017.

Steve Straughan, UK SUBS: Beauty & the Bollocks, 1st October 2017.

Steve Kincaide: A Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

ONE STEP BEYOND MIDDLESBROUGH – with Pete McDermott from eighties Ska band The Videos

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Who were your influences and was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ‘I was listening to Jeff Beck and Wishbone Ash. I remember watching Mick Ronson and Bowie on Top of the Pops playing Starman..well that was it… game over!’  

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘At 15 years old I started playing the pubs and clubs of the North East. When I joined The Videos we went professional and played all over Europe supporting bands like Bucks Fizz, Racey, Madness, The Specials, Selector, Bad Manners all that Two Tone stuff and a bit of pop. Loved it. Was also in a band called The Jogging Waiters !’

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What were your experiences of recording ? ’We recorded in Guardian Studio in Durham. We done Deo, Him or Me and Blitzo Calypso. We also recorded some demo’s for Miles Copeland manager of The Police. That was at Strawberry Studios. The line up for The Videos was Ged Duffy on bass. Johnny Newsome on drums and myself on guitar. We all handled vocals with Ged the lead’. 

Did you record any TV appearences or film any music videos ? ’Around 1979 we were on Border TV where we played Deo. Also the Tyne Tees TV programme Northern Life. That came about because we had a manager Dave Connors from Middlesbrough who knew a couple of TV people, and somehow he got us on twice for our singles Deo and Blitzo Calypso – that led to our tour with Bucks Fizz. The Videos lasted until 82’.

(Check them out on You Tube at The Videos Ska/White reggae pop band).

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Well on stage there was a few electrocutions ! There was a time in Guardian Studio when John Miles got the tea on for us. We met David Bowie at Julies nightclub in Newcastle, I remember he fancied my mate. Once we were playing at a club in Newcastle and a flash bomb went off prematurely, just as a woman passed by with a tray of drinks – it set fire to her nylon dress’.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  I run The Foxhead Cowboy home recording studio and just produced a few tracks for local musicians Mark Simpson and another for Jonathan Honour. They are on Spotify and Apple music. I got two of my own songs Pallister Park and The Foxhead Cowboys through to the semi final of a UK songwriting competition. They can both be heard along with tons of my other songs on Soundcloud under Mac the Geetar. 

I’m also playing in a band with Spike -ex Chris Rea band. Doing some Tom Petty, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Drive by Truckers and Ron Sexsmith. We have Steve Conway on vocals, Gary Cain drums, Bob Garrington on guitar, Martin Poole on bass and yours truly on guitar and vocals. Also playing in pubs with The Rivals. Doing some power pop, 70’s and 80’s stuff plus some up to date tunes’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Recommended:

Steve Kincaide: A Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

LOUD AS WAR – interview with Def Con One drummer Antton Lant.

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Over the past year I have interviewed a few bands who take no prisoners when it comes to sheer power. If ya want to hear good ol’ bone crunching, face ripping, spleen removing, 100% metal. Def Con One are the go to band. Check out the videos on You Tube for their tracks 10 Bullets, Warface, Brute Force & Ignorance – you can’t miss ‘em they look like extras from Sons of Anarchy with muscles, tatt’s and shaven heads. Drummer Antton Lant looks back to where it started… ‘With my older brothers being in bands I’ve always been around music. I got an SG guitar one Christmas and used to jump around in my bedroom pretending I was playing Wembley Stadium haha. Back in the day I was massively into bands like AC/DC, Kiss and Van Halen. I loved the imagery of American bands Twisted Sister and Motley Crue which played heavily on my first band Slutt. Then I heard a band called Pantera and after that it all got much heavier’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  In my first band Slutt I started playing in South Shields pubs and clubs. We then got to tour Poland playing huge stadiums – 20,000 a night. Later we toured the UK playing mainly rock clubs. After Slutt called it a day in late ’91 I put a band together called Ezee but that fizzled out and I just kind of lost interest in playing but I was still writing. I was finding it hard to find a drummer who would play the stuff I wanted to play. My oldest brother is a drummer and he let me play on his kit and showed me some stuff which I liked so I swapped him my Steve Vai guitar for his kit. I then started looking for a band that needed a drummer so I could get some experience playing drums. I found some guys called Deadline, they didn’t really have a name set in stone and ended up being called Sanitys Edge. That was more metal in the vein of Megadeth, Maiden, that kinda stuff. I wanted to go heavier so formed Def-Con-One. Then I was asked to help out black metal legends Venom in the studio and ended up being the drummer for 10 year. We headlined some of the biggest festivals across Europe and played various tours. I got to play on three albums. Obviously having my name linked to Venom helped me a lot with Def-Con-One. Our record companies were big Venom fans. I was also playing in another band full off ex Venom members called M-pire of Evil. This put me in touch with the record companys – contacts I wouldn’t of got without the Venom link. Over the years I managed to achieve a lot for Def-Con-One. But it was hard, you had to put the work in’.

 

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Recordings were great fun. Loved it in a studio compared to recording in your bedroom. Venom got to record in some huge studios. I made one album with Slutt, three albums with VenomResurrection, Metal Black and Hell. Two with M-Pire of Evil – Creatures of the Black and Hell to the Holy and two with Def-Con-One – Warface and 2. First album with Venom was Resurrection. We flew into Hamburg, Germany and  lived in the studio it was crazy. The studio had a kitchen, showers, sauna, tv room the lot. It was awesome. Charlie the producer hired me a Pearl masters kit with different size bass drums which he loved to record. We followed Motorhead into that studio and he played us some tracks he had just recorded. It sounded massive. He was a real task master though. He had me play the songs through quite a lot of times so he could pick what he felt was the best performance. It was great fun. Wen I recorded Metal Black we were in the Town House Studios in London, in the same studio that Queen recorded all their classic albums. So that was awesome too’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ?  ‘Wow too many too tell and most you couldn’t publish haha. But here’s one. We played Hammerfest a few years back and the food that the bands get is ok. A band I know, Cradle of Filth were headlining, so backstage I made my way over to them. We’re sitting on their bus chatting and their vocalist Dani asked what the food was like. I told him and he said they don’t eat that, they had tokens for the restaurant. That sounded better. Next thing Dani askes their tour manager to hook me up and I was able to get the Def-Con-One lads big steaks and all the trimmings’. 

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What have you got in the pipeline for Def-Con-One ? ‘I helped out a few tribute bands last year which was fun. There was Ozzy, Twisted Sister and an AC/DC tribute. All really great guys, good fun and enjoyed it. In the Def-Con-One camp we have been really busy sorting out a few things and will be back gigging soon. We are actually recording at the minute. The band have got a few festivals booked but that’s very hush hush till they reveal the whole line up and announce it formally’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Recommendations:

VENOM INC: Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

WARFARE: No One Gets Out Alive, 8th October 2017.

OBSIDIAN: Bomb Tracks, 8th January 2018.

BLACK FORGE: Take No Prisoners, 18th January 2018.

SLUTT: Angels with Dirty Faces, 6th May 2018.

MUSIC IS STILL THEIR FIRST LOVE – Alikivi blog makes the news

The blog has hit over 30,000 views, a great way to mark that milestone is with two features in the local newspaper.

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The Shields Gazette 5th June 2018.

In April, the blog included an interview with two founder members of Beckett, Les Tones and Arthur Ramm. During their time Beckett had played countless gigs around the North East with stand out support slots with Rod Stewart and the Faces. They also notched up dates with Captain Beefheart, Alex Harvey and Slade. Signed with major labels Warner Brothers and CBS, released a single and self titled album. They also found time to appear on BBC TV music show the Old Grey Whistle Test, and a slot at the Reading Festival. On Monday June 4th journalist Peter French wrote an article and featured the interview in The Shields Gazette newspaper and on it’s website – with part two of the story published on June 5th.

Gary Alikivi June 2018.

WAVES UPON WAVES – interview with artist David G. Wilkinson

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David worked for more than thirty years teaching Art & Design in a local college. He has exhibited his work in this country and abroad. His new exhibition is at The Customs House, South Shields where he took time out and talked about his influences… ‘Very early on in reception class at school we got bits of paper and plasticene and we had to make something for the flower show in South Shields. I made a small dog and ended up with 2nd prize in my age group, and got half a crown ha ha. Art continued through junior school, the seniors at St Josephs in Hebburn and of course being influenced by living next to the sea. In art school I had a step up in learning, where you do something for a while then suddenly you notice that what you are producing starts to look better. It can be an enormous difference and through teaching you can see it in others’. 

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How did the mural on Commercial Road in South Shields come about ? ’I went to an interview to be part of the newly formed South Tyneside Community Arts group. I talked about painting murals around the town and the guy interviewing said that sounds great, we’ll employ you to paint a few. So I got involved with the YTS scheme and was put in charge of some 16-17 year olds. Then a guy in South Tyneside Planning Department said we’ve got this wall in Commercial Road do you fancy taking that on’.

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‘Some of the young people were interested in art, but one left to be a fireman, one joined the RAF, above all they had committment. Some enrolled on art courses, that’s when the college asked me to do some part time teaching. That snowballed, but I was still painting and doing my own stuff’. 

What is your latest project and exhibition ? ‘The last two years of my degree I’ve just painted the sea, nothing else. Just the water and sky nothing around the edges. Waves upon waves. Then abstraction became part of what I was doing because the clouds are fairly abstract themselves. I liked the fact you can look at a picture of Marsden rock and it’ll never change from one day to another, but clouds constantly change and you see different shapes in them. The changes can happen pretty fast. Watercolour artists get out there and make the swift changes of colour and light. Plus working outside is quite exciting – something I done quite a lot when I was at Fine Art college. Then bringing it inside to draw big canvases. 

It’s all about the process, these paintings around us are all provisional, they are on their way to somewhere else – the next page in the sketch book. This art is all about the things you can’t freeze. Within the abstract stuff I try to put in the history of the making. The layering of it. That history begins to have a depth. You can’t put a name on it. There’s maybe some pictures in this room which I can say are complete, they have gone their journey. I don’t want to make any changes to them but the next one can add something to that’.

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Has there been a time when you haven’t painted ? ‘When I don’t paint it feels a bit weird, then something pops in yer head, get quite excited about it and where the next layer is going to go. I really like that… I like making images I suppose. But when I worked teaching at the college things would sit and gestate at certain times of the year. You might jot down ideas, do drawings, take photographs but then something would bubble, a crack of light in a cloud and you’d work on it. But there’s never been a time when I’ve said I’m not going to do this anymore – think that would feel very weird’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Sea, Sky and River: Fixing the line about it’s edge. 

Exhibition in The Upper Fusion Gallery, The Customs House, South Shields until 31 August 2018.

Thanks to Julia Northam & Fietscher Fotos, South Shields for the mural photographs.