TURN THE HELL ON – FIST drummer Harry Hill pull’s no punches.

Harry Hill is drummer with North East Heavy Metal legends Fist. I saw Fist a few times live but the memorable gig was at Newcastle Mayfair in 1982 when they supported Y&T.

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Y&T loved Fist they thought the band was great you know and the plan was to do a mini tour but sadly it never came off. Thinking back it would have been Carole Johnson who got us the support gig. Carole was ex wife of AC/DC singer Brian Johnson, she also had Lynx Studio – we had some wild nights there haha. Another memorable gig was around 1984 we done two nights at Hammersmith Odeon with Motorhead and they were loud, very loud, you don’t try and out do Motorhead’.

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Who were your influences in music ? ‘Basically the important guys John Bonham, Ian Paice, Cozy Powell and Bill Ward who in my opinion was one of the most underated drummers. The other one of course was Brian Downey out of Thin Lizzy who was also a great player. Modern day now I love listening to Mike Mangini from Dream Theatre, and of course Dave Grohl it’s good to keep up with them. Sometimes if I think I’ve done a good gig I’ve played well and then I watch one of these guys it’s ohh back to the drawing board mate haha’.

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘It was the old story of four mates at school, one was going to be singer one was the guitarist the other on bass and I was the drummer. None of us could actually play anything! I was around 14 then and lived in Shields with just my mother as my father had died a few years earlier. But he had a beautiful piano which he used to play in the front room. So in my wisdom I thought I would sell the piano and buy a drum kit which I did for £45. I put the drum kit where the piano was and thought my mother won’t notice I mean you never went in the front room did you haha. It was lock the door, close the curtains and off I go. I was totally oblivious to the neighbours about the noise I was making. They’d bray on the door and shout ‘will you stop hitting those drums Harry you’re giving me a headache’.
It was a tough instrument to learn then because there was no tuition or coaching like there is now. When I was at school I passed my exams for the Oxford University entry exam and I remember walking into the careers officers room he said well done Hill what’s your plans now, I said I’m gonna be a drummer in a rock band he screamed GET OUT! haha.
I was one of the first around town to get a kit with double bass drums and I locked myself away for weeks in my flat to learn them, it was the only way, the only way to do it is to get stuck in. I came out of that pretty competent at playing’.

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? ‘Keith Satchfield came round and said he was putting a band together with two drummers do you fancy joining. We were called Axe at this point. First rehearsals was upstairs in the Cyprus Pub in South Shields. The other drummer turned up in a MG car with Jackie Stewart gloves and I rolled up on a £3 push bike I got from the second hand shop haha. Dave Urwin was there and on bass we had Chris Nolan. Later we got in John Wylie. Eventually the band went with just the one drummer, the other guy was a nice lad but a bit sloppy and Keith was very much into keeping it tight, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse you gotta know your stuff learn your lines you know. So I was in. I thought this is it I had my house picked out in Los Angeles all ready to go!’

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What venues did you play ? ‘I remember the Gateshead Festival gig in August 1981 with Diamond Head, Ginger Baker and a few others it was a good line up. We were playing in a Warrington nightclub the night before and we got out around 3am. I was pissed on the bus on the way back when we finally got home I only had 2 hours kip before turning up at Gateshead. The guys working our backline where already there and were checking the drums, (one of them was Kev Charlton bassist for Hellanbach who will feature in a later post)  so with the bass drums banging away and my splitting headache from a huge hangover it wasn’t a good entrance. It was a two day festival and Rory Gallagher was headlining that night, top of the bill on the second day was Elvis Costello and halfway down the bill was an unknown band from Ireland called U2… whatever happened to them haha’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘We started recording pretty much straight away the first was in Impulse Studios, we were still called Axe then. We recorded S.S.Giro which we still play to this day. It was never released as a single it was just a demo tape. The track ended up on the Lead Weight compilation cassette put out by NEAT records. 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 the whole thing was coming together very quickly, that was 1980. Would love to see that again’.

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‘Strangely the only piece of vinyl I have is our single we recorded The Wanderer and I’ve an awful feling it was my idea to do that song haha. We started putting it in our set and we thought it was ok to play and sounded good so yeah went in and recorded it. Status Quo released a version a couple of month after ours but honestly thought our version was better haha’.

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‘When Iron Maiden took off all the labels were trying to sign NWOBHM bands. We went down to London and signed with MCA. There was a meeting in London in their offices and Stuart Watson was the A&R guy he signed us up’.

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‘We done the Turn the Hell On album in De Lane Studios in London there was four studios, in Studio One there was Queen, in Studio Two there was Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Studio Three was Wishbone Ash and in Studio Four was us, not bad eh !
Our problem was they gave us Derek Lawrence to produce Turn the Hell On, don’t get me wrong he was great producer for Wishbone Ash he done a fantastic job on them but that’s not who we were. When the final mix was done Keith heard it on bloody massive speakers in the recording studio so it was pounding but on a normal system it sounded weak as piss. We were so disappointed with the final mix. Ideally we should have had somebody like Mutt Lang or Martin Birch who done some Black Sabbath stuff. People like Ted Templeman who got a great sound for Van Halen. Production is so important and the producer would be an extra member of the band to help create the sound. North Eastern band Dance Class had the same problem as we did, they were with RCA, the album came out and didn’t have any punch to it you know’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘We worked through an agent Ivan Burchall, and we were out 6-7 nights a week in the clubs, we got to Durham, West Cornforth, Easington all over the North of England. We had a residency at the Legion in South Shields then after that we would drive over to Mingles rock bar in Whitley Bay. We were still Axe then before becoming Fist. The reason why we changed names was because there was an American band called Axe so we changed to Fist but we found there was a Canadian band called Fist so we became Fist UK and they called themselves Myofist when in Europe, complicated? nah not really.
In ’79 UFO were promoting their album The Wild, The Willing and The Innocent and we supported them on a 21 date tour then 23 dates in 1980. We had a great time with them, fantastic. We were playing the City Hall’s and Hammersmith Odeon and all the rest of it, magic time’.

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‘There was a guy in Jarrow, Mick Lewis who made these drums for me called Viking with two 24inch bass drums they were huge and the sound out of them was phenomenal. He made them out of orange boxes or something like that. Well Andy Parker UFO‘s drummer was playing a plastic Ludwig kit and he couldn’t get the sound I was getting. He was complaining about the support band getting a better sound so they flew in a guy from Ludwig in America to meet Mick Lewis at Newcastle City Hall. He asked Mick what was the secret to these drums, he thought there would be something technical and Mick just said I make them out of these orange boxes, nothing special. He was gutted haha.
But we had to buy on to that tour it was about £6,000 and we were only on £50 a night. That had to buy our fuel to get to the next gig and we had to pay the sound guy and the lighting guy £15 each for a good sound you know, unbelievable. But it was great exposure for us because we had our album out Turn the Hell On’.

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‘We were playing the Marquee and for two nights we were supporting Iron Maiden when Paul Di’Anno was in them. We were going down an absolute storm the place was chocca I’m not sure what the band thought about it but their road manager Adrian was kicking off, shouting and screaming ‘you’re just the support band you’re not supposed to go down like that’. We won him over in the end and he came in the dressing room with a crate of beer. Yep we give them a run for the money’.

Did Fist have a manager ? ‘Dave Woods was around for the Impulse recordings but he wasn’t manager, Carole Johnson took us on around 1982-3. Carole was ex wife of AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson, she also had Linx recording studios. John Craig was producer there. But it was party time there with drinks, dancing girls and illegal substances. We thought should we rehearse, record or… well you know. Some bad decisions were made there. We also had a company from Manchester looking after us, John Linnen and Kieth Maddox he was DJ on Radio Piccadilly they bought us a van and PA equipment but unfortunately that was all knicked’.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘Despite the songs written over 30 odd years ago they seem to be timeless you know. We went to Germany a couple of years ago and done the Keep It True Festival. I was gobsmacked there was about 3,000 people there and the first 500 people sang back to us Name, Rank and Serial Number. I was sitting behind my drum kit thinking how do they know the words cos after all these years I don’t even know them haha’.

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’It’s surreal really because back in the 70’s and ’80’s we were in unknown territory. I remember I got to 25 thinking I’m too old to be a rock drummer now. I saw the Rolling Stones at Knebworth in ’76 and thought they are a bit old for a rock n roll band they are getting on a bit, just after Lynyrd Skynyrd had blown everyone away like. But I think that I’m a better drummer now with the experience you know. I believe now that 80% of what you do is work rate and 20% is ability, you’ve got to nail it and do it again and again. I’m fitter now, keeping the standard up and still hitting the drums hard haha’

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‘I remember signing to MCA and runing back to my mam shouting Ma, Ma I’ve got a recording contract with a major label, but I didn’t stop and think whats our cut, how much do we make, what does this cost ? But thats what happens when you’re young and in a band. But I’ve got no regrets what so ever, cos I’ve had a fantastic time, still am’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

STILL GOT THE FIRE – with Mythra Guitarist John Roach.

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John Roach is guitarist with UK Heavy Metal band Mythra. On the eve of the release of their new album he took time out to reveal where it all started…
‘Around 1973 I used to go to Saville’s Music shop in South Shields on a Saturday afternoon to look at the records, and where they displayed guitars. I particularly remember the Silver Sparkle of a Burns Flyte gutar that was in the window. Another source of inspiration for our musical fantasies was a furniture shop that sold Hammond Organs. We read leaflets from Yamaha and the Bell Musical Instrument Catalogue, I mean this was musical equipment pornography haha.
At that time, I had an Audition electric guitar and 5 watt amp from Woolworths. I quickly grew out of that and it was replaced with a second hand Les Paul copy.
It got serious though in 1975 when I met Maurice Bates who played guitar. He had a Mackay 100 watt Amplifier and a 4 x 12 cabinet!
It was then that we formed a band, with original bassist Peter Melsom’s friend Kenny Anderson on drums. He was a reluctant drummer, in fact he bought a pair of drum sticks and used to play them on anything hard, technically he was what we called a fireplacer, he rattled away on anyones mantlepiece ha ha.’

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? ‘Once I had bought some decent equipment, thanks to my Dad, an Orange Graphic 120 amp and Vox 4 x 12 cabinet the four of us started rehearsing upstairs in the Lambton Arms pub in South Shields. We were called Zarathustra at the time and Maurice was the singer, in true Steve Marriot style. We rehearsed there for about a year working out songs and finding out how to be a band. It was at this time that we really committed to the band as we invested in a HH PA system and a Bedford van.
Through mutual friends we went to see a band called Highway or Freeway at a youth club the singer was called Vince High. They played some Free covers and Wishbone Ash. I can’t exactly remember how it happened but Vince joined us and we became a five piece. Coincidentally Vince and I both worked for Swan Hunter’s at the same shipyard in Hebburn.
We tried another drummer Barry Hopper, he joined and we became Mythra.
Our first couple of gigs were in youth clubs and then Maurice and I went out looking for an agent. We went to Ivan Birchall who had an office in Newcastle, he put us on his B list and we got loads of work in pubs and clubs all over the North East.’

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What venues did you play ? ‘I think we got a lot of work because we wanted to play all the time, we got short notice gigs where other bands cancelled. We played Saturday afternoon spots in the Old 29 pub in Sunderland. One of the things we had going for us that other bands didn’t, was a light show which Lou Taylor had built. (Lou went on to become frontman for Saracen, Satan and Blind Fury and features in a two part interview Rock the Knight Feb.26 & March 5th) For our gigs it seemed that every time we picked up Lou in the van he had more and more lighting equipment.
For a short time the local council hired out the Boldon Lane Community Centre and we played a few gigs there with fellow South Shields metal band Hellanbach. We had originally tried to hire the Bolingbroke Hall but that wasn’t available, I think punk band  Angelic Upstarts might have put paid to that venue.
A weird gig was at a club on the seafront in South Shields called the Shoreline. It was a late 70’s disco. We were a young heavy metal band playing Sabbath, UFO, Motorhead covers and our own original material. I don’t think the crowd knew how to take us.
I remember we were playing a gig in a workingmen’s club and the Concert Chairman called us on the phone to tell us we were too loud and to turn it down…thing was that the phone was on the stage! Now more recently with Mythra the gig stories seem to revolve around food varieties and quantities’.

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Where did you record the new album ? ‘For Mythra’s most recent album Still Burning we went to CP Studio in Poland. We started to write new songs and within a few months we had 13 songs which we whittled down to 12 which were recorded. The drums were done in two days with all of the guitars including solos and harmony parts, over the next four days. We then did the vocals and the bass.
We all played live and for practical reasons recorded the drums and DI guitars then we replaced the guitars one at a time and then the vocals and finally the bass. It was a lot of fun recording this way. We’re very pleased with the result it shows that there is life in the old dogs yet. The album is called Still Burning and demonstrates that Mythra still have the ‘FIRE’.

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What have Mythra got planned for the future ? ‘Mythra got back together in the summer of 2014 to see if we were any good. We were and we’re still here. Since our first gig in nearly 30 years in February 2015 we have recorded 17 new songs for two different albums. We’ve played in the UK, Germany, Spain, Belgium and have gigs planned this year in the UK, Greece, the Netherlands and California. Internationally, the interest and reaction to our gigs is great and we’ll keep going as long as that interest is there. I think for all of us in Mythra the best is yet to come’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2017.

TRUE FAITH – 100% Belief with Paul Di’Anno

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Paul Di’Anno  speaks candidly about his proudest achievments to date, and reveals a defining moment where his music career began. ‘You know it was Punk that woke me up, it was like a giant kick in the bollocks ! Before that I was always listening to music like Nazereth, Led Zeppelin and the like but Punk got me fired up. My influences have gotta be the Ramones, but I remember I was in my bedroom listening to The Sex Pistols when it really hit me you know, that’s what I needed to do’.

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What has music given you ? ‘You gotta understand music is my life, it’s all I’m good at. It’s been faithful and true to me, as I am to it. I play all around the planet to some truly wonderful people. I don’t like to use the word fan, because these Brothers and Sisters are all friends. They are truly awesome I love them and I think they know that. Having said that I still get nervous as fuck before shows. I’m a wreck but it’s the greatest high in the world, I absolutely love it’.

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What other music do you listen to or go to see live ? ‘For checking out any musicians or bands I haven’t been out much as I’m waiting on surgery for a medical problem. So I’ve not seen any bands in England for ages but when I’m back in Brazil I always check out the usual suspects Sepultura, Krisium, Shocker and a few local club bands. I had a great night at the Glen Hughes concert in Buenos Aries not long ago and of course my bands over in Brasil Scelerata and out in Argentina Doble Nuclear !’

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Is there any music or musicians that you admire today ? ‘Of the music that I admire today there is too many too mention cos you have all the old Punk stuff, but at a push it’s gotta be Judas Priest and Metallica’.

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In your music career so far what are you most proud of ?‘Looking back on my career the music I’m most proud of up to now is Running Free and the second Iron Maiden album Killers. After that in ’86 I released some good albums, Fighting Back by Battlezone, and the Killers albums. But you know the way I feel I’m sure there’s more to come’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

SHINE ON – the atmosphere is right for a new album say’s Cloven Hoof’s bassist Lee Payne

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On the eve of the release of their new album on the 21st April on High Roller Records, JUST FOR THE RECORD spoke to Cloven Hoof bassist Lee Payne ‘We are just about to release Who Mourns For The Morning Star. This new album explores the full sonic width of the band. There are epic tracks next to more hard hitting numbers that build and cover a whole spectrum of moods and atmospheres. The album combines all the best qualities of the trademark Cloven Hoof sound played with precision and feeling with a vocal delivery that is off the scale. I feel it is our best ever album that we have done and really stretched ourselves on this one’.

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Who were your first influences in music ?  ‘The 70’s was a very good decade for me and I spent every penny I had buying albums and listening to music. Over the years I saw hundreds of metal bands. The first live show I saw was Rainbow at Birmingham Odeon in 1975, then Black Sabbath on the Technical Ecstasy tour in 1977.
For influences I thought Cream were great and I loved Alice Cooper but I always go back to the old tried and trusted favourites like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and Rush’.

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Was there a defining moment when hearing a song or watching a band when you said ‘I want to do that’? ‘I got into music because of Highway Star by Deep Purple. I heard that song and it hit like a bolt of lightning. I was an immediate fan, no question about that. I knew I just had to learn how to play it! First I learned it on guitar then switched to bass because I wanted to play with Ritchie Blackmore one day haha’.

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‘I started Cloven Hoof way back in 1979. It was a fantastic time for me growing up in England at a very exciting time in metal history. Everyone would go anywhere to see a live band and with the British media supporting Heavy Metal it was an inspiring time. Geoff Barton, who formed Kerrang magazine, was the most important writer at the time. He worked for a music paper called Sounds and all the metal kids bought it. Even before we had a singer I sent a tape to him asking what he thought of the music. He loved the fledgling Cloven Hoof sound and when we eventually got a singer I went down to London and was interviewed by him. It was very prestigious and that gave Cloven Hoof respect even from day one thanks to Geoff. He tipped us for success in his Breaking through in 82 article along with Motley Crue and Venom’.

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What venues did Cloven Hoof play ?  ‘1983 saw Cloven Hoof touring throughout the length and breadth of the UK, earning ourselves a sizable underground cult following. In the summer of that year the band recorded a four-track session for Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show on Radio One and a similar session for a local radio station for DJ Mike Davies. Things were starting to happen for the band, we were really in the mix’.

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‘On the strength of the bands popularity Tyneside based Neat Records signed us to record the album Cloven Hoof. The album notched up figures of 24,000 units in 1984 alone. And off the back of some very successful overseas sales a European tour was organised. The tour was great and it culminated on the Shockwave Festival in Belgium. The Dynamo Club in Holland was another good memory of the gigs abroad. These venues provided some of the most enthusiastic Heavy Metal fans we had experienced. The reaction from the crowd at the end of the set’s was astounding.
 A big highlight of our recent gig history was playing on the Sweden Rock Festival in 2014 amongst Heavy Metal greats such as Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘In the old days we used Mad Hat studio in Wolverhampton. I recently saw our old producer Mark Stuart and we had a great time reminiscing about A Sultans Ransom which we recorded in 1989. He agreed that it was a killer album and he was proud to be part of it, I think we all felt that. For our recent recordings we have used a variety of studios for putting down base tracks’.

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‘We are with High Roller Records now and are really happy with the relationship, they care about metal and nothing else. They have some awesome names on their books Onslaught, Witchfynde, Exodus, Tokyo Blade to name but a few, we are in great company!
High Roller have been good to us, they were responsible for releasing Eye of the Sun for the first time on vinyl. The album was previously available only on CD but now it will be available on both formats and downloads. Through High Roller we also have access to one of the most respected audio engineers in the shape of Patrick Engel. He is an absolute wizard, when we got sent the final mix for approval – it was jaw dropping’.

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What’s next for Cloven Hoof ?  ‘We have a few gigs already confirmed this year, we can’t wait to take the new material on the road. On 25th August we’re playing at the Blast from the Past with Riot V in Belgium and the next day we’re at the Trueheim Festival in Germany. Then it’s the Britsh Steel Festival in October and we are hoping to get a few more confirmed for this year, can’t wait. Music is my life.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

TEN: Soundbites from first 10 blogs.

cropped-c2t4gd2wiaavbvh1.jpgComing up to the 10th interview posted and well over 1,000 views on a blog which I thought would be read by half a dozen people – but these stories will just keep on, keeping on…below is a list of the posts so far. Coming soon interviews with John Gallagher (RAVEN) Steve Thompson (NEAT Records songwriter & producer) & Paul Di’Annio (BATTLEZONE/KILLERS/IRON MAIDEN) and plenty room for more musicians and bands to tell a few stories, just get in touch.

STILL BURNING (MYTHRA)
Vince High ’I wrote the words to Still Burning about the band as we are now, 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. We are really pleased with the album, we’re proud of it and how it’s turned out’.

LIFE SENTENCE (SATAN/BLITZKREIG)
Brian Ross ‘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’.

ROCK THE KNIGHT (SARACEN/BLIND FURY)
Lou Taylor ‘We 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, some stories you can’t tell. 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, that’s gonna turn anybodys head…and it did’.

ANGELS OF THE NORTH (ANGELIC UPSTARTS)
Mond Cowie ‘I remember Joe Strummer saying we’re coming to your gig tonight do you mind if I bring Iggy Pop? We said Aye go on then haha. The gig was in New York we walked on stage, the lights blazed on and Mensi screamed “We’re the Angelic Upstarts, We’re from England, 1,2,3,4” as I strummed my guitar there was an almighty bang, it all went dark then nothing! There was a huge power cut. They couldn’t get it sorted out so we jumped off stage and went to the bar at the back where The Clash were standing and I ordered a Jack and Coke and said to Iggy Pop “It’ll be sorted in a minute, this sort of thing happens to us all the time”.

CAT SCRATCH FEVER (TYGERS OF PAN TANG)
Mickey McCrystal ‘It’s amazed me the amount of new fans who are just discovering the band and like the new songs, then go back and look at the history of the Tygers. It’s about respecting the song, doing it justice and sticking to those key Sykes solo’s and licks that people are waiting for, plus there’s plenty of opportunity for me to put my own stamp on the songs’.

THE DENTIST (GILLAN/BERNIE TORME)
Bernie Torme ‘Creative process for me is always different, some are instant, some are like pulling teeth and it goes on for years, literally. You never can tell. Just have to have a good memory really! Lately I’ve been able to do a single album, a double album and now a triple album. Mind you I’m not planning to buy a yacht or anything on the proceeds! Just as well really, maybe a toy yacht haha’.

LONG LIVE ROCK N ROLL (BORDELLO/THE ANIMALS)
Steve Dawson ‘I remember Bordello doing a showcase for CBS. We really went for it, putting our heart and soul into it you know. A guy called Dave Novek came along to have a look at us, we really laid it on in a good studio. But we found out that we ‘weren’t quite what they were looking for’. A couple of weeks later he signed Sigue Sigue Sputnik!’ Go figure Haha!’

TO HULL AND BACK (SALEM)
Paul Mcnamara ‘On stage our flash bombs comprised an old camera flash bulb wired to the mains electric, then flash powder poured on top and as we made our dramatic entrance one of our faithful roadies would throw the switch and BOOOM!! The crowd didn’t expect a mini nuclear mushroom cloud!’

THE HUNGER (WARRIOR)
Dave Dawson ‘I remember getting a call around 1981 from NEAT records owner Dave Woods he asked me if NEAT could include our song Flying High on a compilation they were producing called Lead Weight. Well of course I said yes when he listed the other bands who were going to be on. Fist, Venom, Raven just those three names were enough, they were THE Heavy Metal bands from the North East and to be in their company was fantastic for Warrior. Yes really proud of that’.

Next post week of April 18th 2017.
SHINE ON (CLOVEN HOOF)
Lee Payne ‘1983 saw Cloven Hoof touring throughout the length and breadth of the UK, earning ourselves a sizable underground cult following. In the summer of that year the band recorded a four-track session for Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show on Radio One and on the strength of the bands popularity Tyneside based NEAT Records signed us to record our first album. Things were starting to happen for the band, we were really in the mix’.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2017.

THE HUNGER – Back on the Trail with NWOBHM band Warrior

Dave Dawson is Lead Guitarist of Newcastle based NWOBHM band Warrior. He started the band back in 1979 and called it a day in 1984. After a 30 year break Warrior got back together in 2014. 13576863_872181496219399_1889458279566840925_o

I’ve been playing a copy of their latest album ‘Invasion Imminent’ it thunders out of my speakers and keyboard’s have been added giving a subtelty to their sound. But don’t dispair Warrior fans the band are showing no signs of slowing down, actually turning up a notch. ‘What we’ve done is add a more sophisticated sound to Warrior especially with Rise of the Warriors and Black Middens although you can never take away from the early stuff. We have a more mature outlook in our music and lyrics now. It’s great playing the old songs live, they still sound fresh and now with a diferent guitarist in he’s added a new modern rock sound. We’ve still got THE HUNGER’. The current line up is D.D. on Lead Guitar, Ed Halliday on Vocals, Lead guitar is Gwaither Bloom, Bill Baxter on Bass with Drums and Keyboards by Elliot Sneddon.

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How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences?
‘I started playing the Side drum in a military band when I was 11. This is where I met Warrior members Tony Watson, Rob Mills and Paul Atkinson. I first picked up the guitar age 14 and have played ever since and I just love blues, rock and metal. In the really early days I listened to Slade and Mott the Hoople then it was heavier stuff like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and AC/DC. A massive influence was Michael Schenker, he still is. Then I listened to all the guitar shredding stuff, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen and Richie Kotzen’.

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs? Warrior guitarist Tony Watson’s dad was a farmer, so he let us use one of the outbuildings on the farm. We could leave all the gear set up there, and use it as much as we wanted. Sometimes just to hang out, drink a few cans and listen to a tape. It was like a siege mentality, locked away for hours forgetting the world outside, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until we were ready to gig. It was a perfect set up for us. One of our songs Kansas City came from The Barn, it was from a jam I had with Tony, a riff came from it, we bounced off each other mixing the ideas then put some lyrics to it. The whole song came together very quickly. We eventually broke out of the Barn and started playing gigs during late 1980 and early 81’.

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What venues did Warrior play? ‘We done various local pubs, we played in the Newcastle College bar, there were three gigs at Newcastle Mayfair. Ken Booth our manager at the time sorted those gigs for us. That place was great to play but a bugger to load in. Carrying bass bins, amps all the gear from the entrance at the back of Stowell Street in through the kitchens, squeezing past the fridges finally onto the stage. Also played Sunderland Mayfair and Middlesbrough Rock Garden.
We done a couple of gigs with fellow NWOBHM band Satan, first one was at Billingham Swan and the other at The Beer Keller. I remember Lou Taylor from Satan gave me some nice words of encouragement and told me he liked my playing style – a bit Maiden-esque, which was nice of him to say. (Lou Taylor features in an earlier post ROCK THE KNIGHT) Also at The Beer Keller we played with Australian band Starfighters, Angus Young’s nephew played in them.
We went further afield to Blackpool, York and had some great gigs in the Lake District on Bank Holiday weekends. The pubs were filled with bikers from all over the country, that was absolutely brilliant, great memories’.

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What were you experiences of recording? ‘Our first demo recording was at Impulse Studios in Wallsend, we were in there all day and like the rest of the band I took my bait in, cheese and onion sarnies, packet of crisps bottle of pop haha. First session cost about £120, second session about £200 we were all working and chipped in for the recording but it still blew a hole in our pockets. When we recorded Dead When it Comes to Love EP we recorded live in the studio with no overdubs just a few takes and went with the best ones. I even remember what I was wearing, a tight black t shirt with purple hoops on, black pants and a pair of cowboy boots – yes I was ready to rock !’ (Around the same time Dave had just seen Y&T at the Newcastle Mayfair, maybe Dave Meniketti had on some cowboy boots and he was going for that look. I was at that gig and North East Heavy Metal legends Fist were supporting. Harry Hill drummer of Fist talks about the gig in a later post TURN THE HELL ON)
‘I remember getting a call around 1981 from NEAT records owner Dave Woods he asked me if NEAT could include our song Flying High on a compilation they were producing called Lead Weight. Well I was really chuffed about that, of course I said yes when he listed the other bands who were going to be on. Fist, Venom, Raven just those three names were enough, they were THE Heavy Metal bands from the North East and to be in their company was fantastic for Warrior. Yes really proud of that.
In 1982 we recorded Live in a Dive in a pub in Gateshead. That sound was really rough, very raw we didn’t go for the slick polished style them days haha. No it was definitly a live recording no overdubs. Actually the recording of that gig is much sought after now, it was originally only released on a cassette’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘In 1982 we played JR’s Rock Club in Blackpool. I remember the dressing room was a dive, rubbish all over, empty cans, filthy chairs. The bouncers were selling dope in the toilets to the kids, the whole club was filled with smoke and playing our song Flying High went down well that night haha.
Quite often after gigs we didn’t have much to eat and one time we had to share a tin of beans and a loaf of bread.
One time our manager Ken Booth hired someone to do some flash bombs. We thought yes this will look good. But when they went off they blew me forward, all the gear turned off and ripped a gash in the ceiling. It made the local papers, but that might have been the only time we were in them like !
We once played out in the Northumberland area in what looked like a giant cow shed, there was a decent crowd there and after the gig we stayed and slept on the stage, wooden floor boards with rolled up coats for pillows, aye happy days.
Sometimes instead of paying for overnight digs we would save a bit money by sleeping on the floor of the Warrior bus. But one night someone had stood in some dog crap, needless to say nobody got much sleep that night!’

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music? ‘Yes I am still very much involved with music. Although I never played in any bands for 30 years I had never stopped playing the guitar. It was at the 2014 Brofest gig in Newcastle where Warrior reformed. Brofest has such a diverse audience of ages and a lot of the crowd are from Europe’.10582825_716508445133858_3410407206647865527_o (1)

‘When we were on stage there were a few Spanish down the front along with Belgian, Italian and German, quite surprising to talk to them afterwards but really blown away that they come over from their diferent countries to see us and the other bands. We have played a few gigs in the UK since then including London and we’ve played over in Germany and Belgium’.

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‘German record label High Roller remastered and released our back catalogue Ressurected in 2016. We are about to release our new album Invasion Imminent that was a great experience to put together. Our drummer Elliott is the man responsible for production he is a very talented musician and has his own studio at home. It’s great what can be done at home now compared to analogue studio’s back in the day. Although we hired a place to record the drums and vocals then brought that back to Elliott, who mapped the songs out and pieced them together. We’re really pleased with the final product’.

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‘Really looking forward to the next gig at the Very Eavy Festival in the Netherlands on 22nd April with Holocaust, Tokyo Blade, Vardis and a few others. Should be a good ‘un’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

TO HULL AND BACK – with Salem’s Paul Macnamara

‘In 1983 we won a Battle of the Bands competition and the prize was to record in a Professional studio in Huddersfield. We were very pleased with the sound quality and I think it captured the developing maturity of our song writing. So we took this demo to several record companies but they all said “It’s good but not what we’re looking for at the moment”.

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Paul Macnamara, guitarist with Hull based heavy metal band Salem, who from 1979 to ’83 were part of the NWOBHM scene with Saxon, Tygers of Pan Tang and Iron Maiden. They reformed in 2009. I caught up with Paul when he came back from a Salem gig in Barcelona and asked him who were his influences ? ‘Probably the biggest influences were Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore and American bands like Kansas, Boston, Sammy Hagar and Ted Nugent. I also listened to a bit of jazz and classical music that was my dad’s influence’.

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘Music was always on at home it was a big part of our lives, my dad played piano and guitar. Around 12 years old, I started learning a few chords on that guitar and I haven’t looked back.
I was taught classical guitar at school, which was great for picking up music theory and the technical side of things.
I had a band at school that played a few small gigs and at the same school was Adrian Jenkinson who is Salem’s bass guitarist and music producer. It was he who recommended me to the ex Ethel the Frog guys and so formed Salem in 1979’. (Ethel the Frog had their song ‘Fight Back’ released on the compilation album ‘Metal for Muthas’ alongside Iron Maiden, Samson and Angel Witch)

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Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs ? Salem started rehearsing in a garage in a little street off Spring Bank in Hull, then we moved to the Hull Truck studios on the High Street.
Our first gig? well that was in the Autumn of 1980 in Hornsea a couple of miles up the coast supporting a band called The Crack. It was in a venue called The Floral Hall the gig wasn’t very memorable, to be honest there was hardly anyone there, just girlfriends and the other band…you’ve gotta start somewhere haven’t you!

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What venues did you play ? ‘We played in pubs and clubs in the Hull area, we travelled all around the North we got to Leeds, Sheffield, Grimsby, Cleethorpes and even as far as Darlington!! In 1982 a friend put me in touch with Neil Jeffries who was a journalist at new Heavy Metal magazine Kerrang. He recorded an interview and got it published in the May issue so we got a great turn out for the Darlington gig. It made a big difference to sales of the single. That’s a great memory from those early NWOBHM days’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our first recording sessions were in the well established Fairview Studios in Yorkshire, where many famous people have recorded great records there, so we were in good company. Notably in 1979 they had Def Leppard recording their EP – whatever happened to them haha. Fairview also made records for Witchfynde and Tokyo Blade who were part of the NWOBHM scene.
The first time we went in the studio was on 4th January 1981. This was a massive learning curve for me, I thought I could play the guitar ok, but the discipline of the studio was something quite different so we really had to be focused.
That demo cost about £200 which was a small fortune to us, it was about two weeks wages for me!  The studio looked like an old garage from the outside, but on the inside it seemed to bristle with complicated gear and technology. We recorded four tracks there, Coming For You, Cold As Steel, Fool’s Gold and Make The Grade. We were there for the whole day and felt shattered by the end’.

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‘The next time we recorded in Fairview was April ’82, that was for our single Cold As Steel / Reach For Eternity. By now we had Simon Saxby in on vocals and second lead guitarist Mark Allison to create a fuller sound. Not that memorable apart from Simon keep getting the lyrics wrong. As we were recording the reverse chord on the beginning of Reach for Eternity, I counted the band in, then when I nodded my head, my headphones flew off !(Back then Salem were selling the double A side single for £1.20)
Then in September ’82 we went to Adda Studios in Hull that was with a new drummer Paul Mendham who completes the current and well established line up. Adda cost us somewhat less than Fairview as it was, let’s say, not as sophisticated. But still we recorded six tracks that day. There was The Keeper, Fighting For The Cause, Coming For You and a few others.
The last demo was at September Sound in Huddersfield. This was a much bigger place because they normally had silver and brass bands there, but now they were hoping to get into rock music.  This time we recorded five fairly new songs: Rock Fever, Save The Night, The Other Side of Hell, The Hangman’s Noose and The King Trilogy III’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ?  ‘We supported a few touring bands when they came to Hull. There was Budgie, Magnum, Diamond Head and Tygers of Pan Tang who are still gigging now. The only time we got a mention on the front page of the local Hull Daily Mail was when we DIDN’T support the Alex Harvey Band, they turned up with their own support!
We used to experiment with pyrotechnics, thinking back, if the Health and Safety Executive had known we would have been in a lot of bother. I remember one gig we played in Sheffield there was so much smoke from the flash bomb it just hung around on stage so we couldn’t see anything at all!
Our ‘flash bombs’ comprised an old camera flash bulb wired to the mains electric, then flash powder poured on top and as we made our dramatic entrance to the Hall of the Mountain King one of our faithful roadies would throw the switch and BOOOM!! The crowd didn’t expect a mini nuclear mushroom cloud!
In hindsight, we could have travelled further, our horizons weren’t wide enough. So we never met with other bands apart from the touring bands we supported. One thing we could have done was have a manager to help promote the band, get bigger gigs and that illusive record deal. I tend to do all of that now!

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘Since re-forming Salem in 2009 we have been very busy, and have released two studio albums on the German label Pure Steel Records. We have played festivals in UK and Europe, gigged in places like Paris, Athens, Brussels, the Headbangers Open Air in Germany and we went to Sweden and played on the MuskelRock festival. We have just played the Brofest in Newcastle alongside Mythra, Tokyo Blade and really enjoyed that gig.
We’ve just come back from a gig in Barcelona, soon there’s gigs in Belgium, down to France then back to the UK and we’re looking to add more dates to take us through the year. We are also currently working on the next album which is sounding great! So, yes we are still very active, that is the plan to take it as far as we can’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

LONG LIVE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – with ex-Animals guitarist Steve Dawson.

Steve Dawson played guitar for several UK bands including Saracen, Bordello and 60’s icons The Animals.

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I met up with Steve at his workshop in South Shields and Lou Taylor happened to be there on a social visit. We all got talking about a time in the early 80’s when Lou, as well as singing, was doing the lights and pyro for a lot of bands playing around Tyneside. One such gig was for ‘Venom’ who were playing Hebburn Quay Club. ‘They used a hell of a lot of pyro and they blew the electrics in the whole club’. You’ll have to ask Lou for the full story, it’s worth hearing. We said our goodbyes to Lou who had to leave at that point, and as Steve put the kettle on he said he’ll tell me a few stories but ‘only promising the good ones, you’re not hearing the bad or the ugly haha!’
First he remembered a gig he played with Saracen back in 1981…

‘This particular gig was at West Cornforth. We always took a massive road crew, (which included a very young Glenn Howes ex-Fist vocalist and guitarist), because we had so many lights along with all our backline. We’d hired a Luton van, drove to the venue, and dropped off the equipment. Vocalist Lou Taylor and a few of the crew stayed with the gear while the rest of us decided to go into a nearby town for some ‘supplies’. I was sitting in the front of the van between Les Wilson our bass player and Dave Johnston our drummer who was driving. In the town, we got what we came for and started back to the gig.
It was a hot sunny day and Davey, typically, was acting the goat, you know, the usual rambunctious rock drummer behaviour. He was driving along this country lane doing about 10 miles an hour, jumping out the van running alongside then jumping back in. He did this maybe three times while I was talking to Les, not really paying much attention to his antics, when suddenly Les shouts ‘There’s no driver!’ I could see in the wing mirror that Davey had jumped out, lost his balance, and fallen over. Now the van was hurtling down the country lane gathering momentum and veering over to the edge!! I leapt into the driving seat and pulled the steering wheel back over and slammed the brakes on while Les was frantically pulling the handbrake.
Davey came running up seconds later as we both shouted ‘Just drive the van for Christ’s sake!’
Drummers!?!

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Who were your influences? ‘My influences were, and indeed still are, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix. The first record I bought was Voodoo Chile by Hendrix. I remember hearing it for the first time on the TV when he had died and it blew my mind, it was one of those truly inspirational moments.
When I was 11 my parents bought me an acoustic guitar for Christmas. The brand name was ‘Lark’ and it was made in China. They got it from Saville’s in Keppel Street, South Shields at a cost of £8. However, it was an electric guitar that I really wanted and a year later I got a Columbus Telecaster copy, again from Saville’s.
I also acquired a 30W amp and separate 50W cab from an uncle, it was an obscure brand and only had a very clean sound. I would later get a pedal that enabled me to get a dirty sound! Shortly after I moved on to using the popular low budget FAL Phase 50 which wasn’t much better as an amp, but it had a little more power’.

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When did you start your first band? ‘Around 1975 me and school class mate Brian Rickman started a band, it didn’t have a name at that point but he was on bass and I was of course on guitar. We were playing songs by bands like Status Quo, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and we rehearsed in Ricks bedroom in Wenlock Road, South Shields. We had a couple of drummers and singers come and go until my friend Glenn Coates joined on vocals. Another friend, from Tyne Dock Youth Club where we all hung out, Keith Macintosh, joined on drums and we started to rehearse in a little back room in the Club.
We would later rehearse upstairs in the Lambton Arms pub in King Street after being given the heads up from another band who were friends of ours and rehearsed there themselves – Zarathrustra, who later became Mythra.
By then I was using my new guitar, my first proper Fender Stratocaster, which I’ve still got, and my Marshall stack, (100W amp and two 4 x 12 cabs), basically what my heroes were using. It was inheritance money that enabled me to buy this equipment before leaving school.
After much rehearsal and sounding pretty sharp, we finally played our first gig in 1977 calling ourselves Midnight Lightning at The Tavern in Crossgate, South Shields. It was a 14-18 year olds disco and it turned out to be absolutely shocking because we had little experience outside our rehearsal space back at the club.
On that night though we learnt what not to do – Don’t have too much to drink before the show; monitors are essential when you’re not playing a small rehearsal room. We were so far away from each other we could only hear ourselves! We were paid off mid set and duly devastated at the time. I could go on and on about the mistakes we made, but hey, a harsh lesson about live sound that was to give us valuable experience for future gigs and we certainly took a lot in that respect from that first booking.
After recovering from the depths of despair we contacted some Youth Clubs around the town and arranged more gigs which were better suited to us.
By now my guitar sound had also evolved with the addition of a WEM copycat and Jen Phase Shifter, alongside my Colorsound Tone-Bender and Jen Cry Baby Wha.
Sadly, after about half a dozen gigs I left the band for reasons I can’t even recall. Thereafter I was asked to join a band called Kadanza with Vince High on vocals. Glenn and Brian eventually joined up with Martin Metcalf and John Lockney, later to become Hollow Ground. Kadanza weren’t together long and never gigged but I had started to write my own material by then and had acquired a second Fender Stratocaster, which I also still have. That was around 1978-79.
Sometime in ’79 I was approached by Les Wilson who in turn introduced me to Davey Johnston with the intention of forming a new band. Another school friend, Lou Taylor, brought along a tape of himself singing a Judas Priest song and it was surprisingly good, so yeah, we thought why not give it a go, let’s get this ball rolling’.

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What are your memories from your early gigs? Saracen took off at a rate of knots. Lou had a lot of connections as he worked in a Sound and Lights company and through that he got to know managers and promoters at various venues in the North East. The gigs were coming thick and fast.
We hadn’t really done any ground work with the smaller venues but we ended up going straight in and playing the Newcastle Mayfair, Tiffanies, Sunderland Mecca, Spennymoor Rec, West Cornforth which was a staple rock gig at the time. We played the legendary Legion Club in South Shields and packed it, I mean really packed it.
We also self-promoted a gig at the Bolingbroke Hall and booked a 4K PA, Lou got there early and set the lights up but when the PA Company turned up they said sorry we’ve double booked, and only brought 400 watts! Well that was woefully inadequate. The night was a total disaster! Yep that was a bad one. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you’.

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What are your experiences of recording? ‘Right from the start Les and Dave had wanted to get in the studio but I thought we should have developed our sound a bit more, let it breathe a bit, walk before we run so to speak. But yeah, we went into Guardian Studios in Durham where our friends, Mythra, had recorded their Death and Destiny EP. We booked a day there and recorded 3 songs. Speed of Sound, Fast Living and Feel Just the Same.
After that initial recording session, we were invited to attend a meeting with the owner Terry Gavaghan who proposed an idea to us about putting our tracks on a compilation album, called Roksnax. It was going to feature local bands Saracen, Samurai and Hollow Ground. Hellanbach were also at the meeting as they too were invited to take part, but they had no money (a requirement of being a part of the project!), also they had something going with NEAT records which was an obvious conflict of interest’.

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‘Most of us were friends from school or through the scene, you know, being thrown together in this cauldron of New Wave of British Heavy Metal. So, we decided yeah, ok, let’s go for it. We needed a fourth song for the Roksnax project and booked another day to record Setting The World Ablaze. The album was basically a ‘live’ performance in the studio with minimal overdubs. I spent my 21st birthday in that place…I’ll never get it back’.

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How long did Saracen last? ‘In the end the Saracen thing burned itself out really. Also, a major contributing factor was another band from the Midlands had the same name and had already recorded an album Heroes, Saints and Fools. They were getting reviews in the music press and it would have been confusing to go on.
After that it lost its momentum and we felt it was like going back to square one. That really put the final nail in our coffin because all the work we had done was pretty much nullified. We decided to call it a day’.

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Where did you go after that? ‘Well I went to London in January 1983 where I was sharing a flat with Lou Taylor who had been there for a few months already; I’ve never eaten so many fried breakfasts in my life. Lou put me in touch with a band called Bordello doing original stuff but after a few gigs it never worked out.
I remember doing a showcase for CBS. We really went for it, putting our heart and soul into it you know. A guy called Dave Novek came along to have a look at us, we really laid it on in a good studio. But we found out that we ‘weren’t quite what they were looking for’. A couple of weeks later he signed Sigue Sigue Sputnik!’ Go figure Haha!’

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What are you doing now and are you still involved in music? ‘I came back from London in ’87 and after stints with various local bands I was playing in The Animals from ’95 with original members Hilton Valentine, John Steel and later Dave Rowberry (who replaced Alan Price) and Jim Rodford from Argent and The Kinks. I had got myself another Strat to tour with and we went all around the world which lasted until 2002. I’d never even been out the country until I joined them at 35 years old.
Not long after leaving The Animals I got a job in Marshall Amplification’s revered R&D Department in January 2005 as a design engineer utilizing my knowledge of electronics to create new amps for my favourite manufacturer of guitar amplification. Talk about leaving one dream job for another! I stayed for nearly ten years but decided to move on in 2014 a couple of years after Jim, who I’d come to know as a dear friend, passed away.
Now I am running my own amplification business and currently performing around the UK with musicians in various projects. It’s in my blood and always will be. I wouldn’t want it any other way!’.

14. Steve at The Star Inn 01-12-16

After pulling on his guitar in the rehearsal room 40 years ago, and the continued service in the music industry since, Steve isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Maybe he’ll always keep the bad and ugly locked away never to be released.

Interview by Gary Alikivi taken from the documentary ‘We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll’ and in conversation on 2nd February 2017.