ROCK THE KNIGHT (part one of an interview with Lou Taylor)

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Over 30 years ago Lou Taylor was vocalist for a number of British Heavy Metal bands notably, Saracen, Satan, Blind Fury and Persian Risk. He recalls a story from the 1980’s with a link to Metallica…‘When we were rehearsing in London Bridge Studios we were visited by the boys from Metallica and went on a couple of binges with them. One night our guitarist Russ Tippins went out drinking in London with their guitarist James Hetfield. I was told that we received a phone call from the police saying can you come and collect them because they were locked up in West End Central police station, they had been playing guitar on top of the canopy of Piccadilly Theatre.
It was curious that time when I met the drummer Lars Ulrick and he said I’ve met you before Lou, but I’ve never been to San Fransisco, he said I’m not from there I came from Denmark originally and a few years ago I came to Tyneside to watch Raven and other Heavy Metal bands. I remember speaking to you when you were in Saracen actually that night you were operating the lights at a gig in Newcastle, think it was for Raven. I was chuffed he remembered’.

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in music ? ‘It was seeing Ronnie James Dio and Rainbow at Newcastle City Hall in 1976, knocked my head off. Went to see them again in ’77 and thats where I made my decision, I would love to be able to sing like that guy up there, on that stage, blew me away.
I got a knock on the door from guitarist Steve Dawson who said I heard you can sing, well I don’t know if he’s being hanging outside my bathroom window, but he said why not come down and have a bash with us.
We rehearsed at Redwell School and I couldn’t hear a single word that I was going on about but suddenly I’m in a band. So we started Saracen and I don’t know whether there had been a void in my life but everything I breathed, touched, lived, everything I had to do was something with this band. Steve was a fantastic guitarist he knew the busines so we started gigging in the neighbourhood’.

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‘I saw lots of bands doing little venues and I had all these visions of grandeur. I wanted lights, smoke, I was fascinated with the show and the whole spectacle of the thing. I thought why can’t we do something like that we really needed to start banging the drum for this band. I got myself a job at Sound and Electronics in Newcastle, got a load of gear off them on the cheap and started putting on these light shows with bangs and flashes so people didn’t come along just for the music they also came to see what this show was all about’.

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What venues did you play ? ‘It all seemed to be going a little bit rapid partly due to the deception by myself generating all this promotional paraphenalia and some of the venues that the other bands were supporting at, we went in there as headliners. We got gigs at Mayfair Newcastle, Mayfair Sunderland, we got down to Shildon, Whitley Bay. Along with other bands around like Axe, Mythra, White Spirit and Tygers of Pan Tang we were making a lot of noise in the area and turned some heads’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘One day we got a knock from a fella who said I’ve got a recording studio and we can do some business for you. In walked Terry Gavaghan. In fact it was the same studio that South Shields bands Mythra and Hollow Ground used. He said I can do this record for you, get you gigs, you’ll be on the radio, come down to the studio record a few tunes and all it will cost is £200. He said it was going to have all the big names of the North East on the album, I was quite flattered. I saw it as moving up to the next level and felt excited to be in the studio and something happening for Saracen.
When we went down we first drove past the place and double backed on ourselves to find it as it looked just like an ordinary house, later we found it was two terraced houses knocked into one. But yeah it was just on the main street in a little town called Pity Me. I can’t remember much from the sessions apart from recording my vocals quite late at night and the drum booth being tiny. When Dave was behind the drums we had to pass him refreshments every so often as it was such a tight squeeze to get in or out so he stayed on the stool until he finished his parts. Terry was forever nipping out of the studio and coming back with a smelly cheese sandwich or something else to eat, and he loved to talk about the resident ghost – he had a string of yarns that could strangle the hulk !
On reflection we might have been better off recording at NEAT, as they were more loud and proud, you know the whole crash, bang and don’t forget the wallop. But out came this album that Terry produced called Roksnax. Now it’s not the worlds number one album but everyone involved in it will agree that it is a wonderful feeling and something special about getting your name on a piece of vinyl. Terry was true to his word and got the album in the shops. I bought six of them straight away ha ha’.

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Did you get offers from any other bands ? ‘It was late ’82 when I went for an audition to be the vocalist of Samson. To cut a long story short I didn’t get the job, but heres the story anyway…Samson had already released a couple of albums and were playing regular UK tours many of them as support. But unfortunately just as they were going to sign a major record deal with A&M their frontman Bruce Dickinson had just got a dream job fronting Iron Maiden, and look what they have done!
Maiden had also released a couple of albums and had toured extensivly with the likes of Kiss, Judas Priest and The Scorpions. So both bands were nearly head to head really as far as career progression goes. I’d say the strength of their management team was behind a lot of this, management pushed harder so Maiden were becoming more established and Samson had a few problems with theirs. Maiden were tipped to really go places and they chose Bruce to take along with them.
Back to the audition, I went to see Samsons new manager, Terry McClennan at Musicworks Studios in London, we went through a few songs, with the main man in the band, Paul Samson, listening in the background. I got positive notes from Terry McClellan but I got word that Paul wasn’t keen. Problem was, my vocal style, it is a bit similar to Bruce and everytime he heard me it reminded him of their former singer which didn’t go in my favour after what had happened, probaly felt like another stab in the heart really as Paul had worked so hard to get Samson to where it was and he would have felt the A&M deal was the final push needed to go on and headline their own shows.
Now Paul was a great blues, hard rock guitarist rather than straight ahead heavy metal and eventually he went with a guy called Nicky Moore whose vocal style was more suited to his guitar work. But in the end they still got a deal which I believe was with Polydor records’.

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Have you any stories from your gigs ? ‘After playing in a few bands on the London circuit, like Angelwitch, I moved back to the North East and joined Satan, and listening to them, boy they were tight, really sharp. We recorded a few bits and pieces then jumped on a ferry to do some gigs in Holland. We took this thing around Europe and by then the whole British Heavy Metal scene was red hot so it was one mad scene of gig here, gig there and everywhere we went was a bit wildness, a bit debauchery, some stories you can’t tell. But we had a great time. When you’ve played the Royal Standard in Walthomstow in front of fifty people and they aren’t interested, then you get out here where they are running after your car, sign my booby and all that, you really think you’ve made it, that’s gonna turn anybodys head…and it did’.

Read Part Two of ‘Rock the Knight’ with Lou Taylor next week where he talks about Blind Fury, Tommy Vance, Malcolm Dome, Jet records, Persian Risk and more…
 PART ONE of an interview with Lou Taylor. Taken from the documentary We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll also at The Word in South Shields 26th January 2017. Interview by Gary Alikivi. Added information from Maiden Voyage, Joe Shoomans biography of Bruce Dickinson.

LIFE SENTENCE: Addicted to NWOBHM with vocalist Brian Ross.

1Brian Ross has been vocalist for a number of North East NWOBHM bands including Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig.  Brian looks back on the influences and defining moments in his career. ‘We actually played what I think was my first gig at Wingate Youth Club in Durham around 1972. By the late 70’s I was in a band who were playing Led Zep, Judas Priest and Deep Purple stuff, I knew this was for me I could see it coming alongside punk. The kids were hungry for this noise, anger, excitement and a do it yourself attitude. It was definitly getting to me, getting in my blood, this raw and visceral sound was becoming addictive. The term New Wave of British Heavy Metal had been coined by then, and yeah it really was a new wave and you’ve gotta go with it… and we did’.

Were there any moments in your career when you thought yes, this is what I’m here for ?
‘I joined a band called Satan, now that name has certain significance and imagery attached to it for some people, you know upside down crosses and that, but our intention was not to go down that road. We weren’t exactly listening to the church bells ringing out on a Sunday but believe me it has attracted a certain type of response from some people, shall we say maybe misguided.
But a big turning point was when I was frontman for Avenger we played a gig at the Dynamo Festival over in Holland around 1982 and there was a different feel around the place, bands like Saxon and Iron Maiden were becoming well established. I knew I was on the right direction of travel’.

2Who were your influences ?
‘Looking back I suppose the influence on my music career started back in the early 70’s with Marc Bolan, although before that I did catch The Beatles on TV and that had a big effect on me and everyone really, the whole culture with music making a real breakthrough.
You know we were at school just miming little shows with some friends which led us to picking up guitars. That’s where the bug started really, thinking yeah this could work, it was fun. The Bolan album Electric Warrior was in the charts then so we would have put some of those songs together. Then I heard Alice Cooper and the rockier stuff that was coming through like Judas Priest. So their vocalist Rob Halford was a big influence on my career but the defining moment was hearing Ian Gillan, I said to myself yes I want to sing just like him’.

How do you come up with ideas for a song ?
‘Sometimes you can get lost in the writing process you have to be dedicated to it, really immersing yourself in the subject. There is projects I’ve researched over many years almost to the point of obsession. One time we were recording and I was writing lyrics for the band. Ended up I got a mental block for a few days which was worrying but once I put myself away I stayed up all night to finish the lyrics.
It’s the dedication that got me through. But once they are done it’s done. Listening back to stuff years later I don’t go back and want to change songs, you know I don’t want to add or take away an extra verse or something like that’.

3Why did you end up recording a lot of your material at Impulse Studio/NEAT records  ?
’With the technology today you can get good results recording at home but it’s different when you are in the studio, the atmosphere adds to the creative process. 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, we recorded it at NEAT and they 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 rather like the Newcastle Mayfair and Mecca in Sunderland. Both venues I’ve gigged at many times and I think there is still an audience out there who are hungry for bands like us. In 1983 Satan recorded Caught in the Act which at the time wasn’t well received by the reviewer in Kerrang, to be honest it’s a very scathing review which I still have.
But I look at things like that and use it to my advantage. If you are doing something you believe in you’ve got to keep going and believe in yourself. Really the review is an opinion of only one person. The fans view is more important they buy the records and turn up at the gigs’.

4What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future ?
‘I suppose a really good thing to come out of this is that I’m bringing my son Alan through the industry, sort of passing the baton on as he is playing with us in Blitzkrieg.
This year with Satan and Blitzkreig we are writing new material and looking at going into the studio, maybe First Avenue or Trinity Heights in Newcastle and off the back of that will be a run of gigs. It’s in yer blood, it’s an addiction’.

blitzkreigWe finished the interview and agreed to follow up on details of his recordings on NEAT and the Satan tour of America 2016. We said our goodbyes then went off into the dark misty night on the banks of the river Tyne in South Shields, I think Brian can howl out loud he’s Sold his Soul for Rock n Roll.

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

STILL BURNING – interview with Mythra.

mythra2017Interview with Vince High and Maurice Bates of Heavy Metal band Mythra.
Maurice Bates ‘Pleasently surprised yeah to say the least and after 30 odd years we’re trying our best to do the songs justice. After the gigs people come up to us and say great we loved it. What’s better than that’ frontman Vince High ‘ Metalheads have their own community they build friendships and that is all pulled together by a passion for the music. There is an underground scene going and a lot of them are real enthusiasts. There is some fans who turn up at all the Festival gigs, they fly across Europe, the USA and South America to see the bands.  Yeah it’s humbling really that some fans travel a long way to see us playing live’ Maurice added ‘And I’ve noticed a commeraderie between a lot of the bands, they support each other at gigs, kind words you know, they say great gig, things like that. Yeah you can say we are having a great time’.

Back in 1976 Mythra began what became a life long journey and through a few line up changes over the years, today they have settled on twin guitarists John Roach and Alex Perry, bassist Maurice Bates, Phil Davies on drums and vocalist Vince High. But at the time of the first New Wave of British Heavy Metal in 1979 they played on the circuit which included Raven, White Spirit, Geordie, Fist, and Son of a Bitch who became known as Saxon. In 1979 Mythra entered Gaurdian Studios to record an EP, with the backing of top music journalist Geoff Barton, Death and Destiny sold an absolute truck load and ended up staying in the UK Alternative charts for 12 weeks sitting next to the likes of Motorhead, Teardrop Explodes, Joy Division and UB40, it was all going so well. In 1980 they were on a bill with Girlschool, Saxon and Motorhead playing to 10,000 hungry Metalheads, another sign that everything was looking up. The band were on the radar of the bigger record companies and positioning themselves for the breakthrough. But then they were dealt an absolute killer blow from an industry which is well known for it’s ruthlessness when it comes to business decisions.

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Vince takes up the story ‘Everything was going great, we had played gigs with Saxon, Tommy Vance was playing the EP on the BBC Radio One Rock show and we loved the Motorhead gig at Stafford Bingley Hall. To actually get on stage in front of 10,000 people is just unbelievable. We’d gone from the social clubs to the Newcastle Mayfair to Stafford Bingley Hall in about six months. We were also lined up for the Ted Nugent UK tour in August 1980. Then 3 days before we were due to join the tour we got the news through that Mythra had been pulled and a band called Wild Horses got the support slots. They were ex members of Thin Lizzy and Rainbow with a load of serious financial clout behind them. The upshot was that we lost the gigs and we started seeing a different side to the business, one which we’d never come across before’.

With the ‘what might have been’ stories out of the way here we are in 2017, Vince High and Maurice Bates get me up to speed on what has been happening in the Mythra camp over the last two years.
Vince ’A series of connections happened starting with our reunion gig at Brofest in February 2015, that Newcastle gig was the first show we had done in 32 years, the response to that gig was phenomenal, we were blown away. Our performance was filmed by a German TV company (available on YouTube) and next morning our guitarist Alex Perry was approached by Keep It True Festival promoter Oliver Weinsheiner who booked us to play in Germany in April 2016 which was an amazing gig.  Bart Gabriel, CEO of Skol Records and Gabriel Management EU also approached us after Brofest which led to the release of our ‘Warriors Of Time’ Anthology album on CD in November 2015.  It was thanks to Bart that Steffen Boehm of German label High Roller Records released the vinyl version as a double album and also signed us to record our brand new studio album ‘Still Burning’.  Bart brokered the whole deal’.

Have you found the gigs are different now?
Vince ’In a lot of cities over Europe they have a small underground following of Metal, it’s a whole communal thing now. Some of the gig promoters are fans or record shop owners, so they can get the word out and with the internet it’s made easier, it can spread like wildfire. The venues we play at can get in about 500 to around 3,000 people’.
Maurice ‘The Barcelona gig was great, loved that one. It’s a bit different now using the internet to advertise gigs, I remember back in the late 70’s we played a gig in our hometown South Shields and we had the young metallers Hellanbach supporting us, well to advertise we had to run around with a bucket of glue sticking up posters in bus shelters all around the town ha ha’

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In October 2016 Mythra entered MP studios in Poland to record an album which they never thought would happen. I asked them what was the difference in 2016 compared to their first time recording in Gaurdian Studios back in 1979 ?
’Apart from having less hair ! ha ha. Yeah obviously we are more mature as musicians and took onboard suggestions on the odd guitar solo or vocal chorus here and there.  But we were really firing the ideas around which was very dynamic. It took us about twelve weeks in all to have that album written, rehearsed and recorded’. said Maurice.
Vince added ‘It was a very intensive process. From coming together with initial idea’s to working them up to a song and getting them in shape, we were very disciplined, that work ethic and our passion got the best out of us.  We initially wrote 16 tracks and ended up taking 12 over to the studio in Poland. Bart Gabriel was producer for the album with Mariusz Pietka engineering, we got on really well with the team and it came out in our playing. Compared to the Gaurdian recordings completed in our late teenage years there was more of a mutual respect and collaboration this time around as the band had more input into the recording’.
Maurice ‘In a way we were more relaxed about it even though within 10 days we got the 12 tracks recorded, 11 of them going on the vinyl album plus a bonus track on cd’.

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Does the album ‘Still Burning’ reflect Mythra now ?
Vince ’I wrote the words to the title track about the band as we are now, you know the whole team and how we feel after all these years, we felt we never really went away and the music was always with us so yeah Still Burning sums up where Mythra are right now. And really pleased with the album, we’re proud of it and how it’s turned out. The cover is special as well with great artwork by Italian artist Roberto Toderico’.

What next for Mythra ?
Maurice ‘We’ve already got more gigs lined up, Brofest #5 in February.  Over to Belgium in April, ‘Up The Hammers’ Festival in Athens in May were we’ll be playing more songs from the new album as it is released in April…can’t wait for that’
Vince added ‘We are flying over to America too in October, we are on the bill with our longtime friends Fist, playing in California at the Fire and Frost Festival. Jarvis Leatherby is the promoter there, he’s also in the band Night Demon and sings with Jaguar too. He is a big fan of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. We are looking forward to seeing some of our American fans and friends out there as they have a real passion for the music’.

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With that Vince and Maurice are off to rehearsals working on the set list. Who’d have thought that 40 years ago in a Northern working class town something that started then would still have a big effect on peoples lives now… the journey continues.

The brand new MYTHRA studio album ‘Still Burning’ is released on High Roller Records on 27th April.  It will be available on CD, vinyl and as a digital download.

Interview by Gary Alikivi with Vince High and Maurice Bates  South Shields 30th January 2017.

First blog post

This blog will include interviews with musicians from Punk, Rock and NWOBHM. ‘Musicians are always good at telling stories –  it’s all about the story isn’t it?’  gary-wilkinson-copy-2Gary Alikivi

UK/Tyneside Photographer & Film Maker since 1988.