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.
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.
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’.
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’.
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’.
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’.
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!’
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’.
‘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’.
‘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’.
‘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’.
Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.