MEN AT WORK – On Call with Steve Dawson from Oliver/Dawson Saxon

drHZZBsEcoAQCgC1XINFXuUOUmb-9S-lvWAZJ5_SkU4BvnXARiyXtxBXzephw9Y9ALrmjngl5i_fueDmdslK1c0uSns8gRsoBeAXuRI15mbbGn3fBWnTPrs-PN6R6W110747, Wheels of Steel, Heavy Metal Thunder, Never Surrender, And The Bands Played On are just some of the Heavy Metal anthems recorded by Saxon during the late 1970’s and early ’80’s. After the band split up, original members Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson formed their own version of Saxon. Here Steve talks with honesty and humour about those early days and how he is still enjoying the music biz.

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‘Looking back on my career so far I’d say my proudest moment was the first time going on Top of the Pops with Wheels of Steel and my mother finally accepting that I had got a proper job!’

Who were your influences and what got you playing music, was there a defining moment of hearing a song or watching a band when you said ‘I want to do that’ ?
‘What started it all off for me was listening to The Beatles particuarly Day Tripper and Last Train to Clarksville by The Monkeys’.

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The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, what was the feeling betwwen Saxon and Iron Maiden who were leading the charge, and did you realise how influential the movement was on bands like Metallica ? ‘Of course we did many shows with Iron Maiden, loved them all. And bands like Vardis, Samson and the Tygers were around then. We didn’t think too much about the future, we were just going for it you know, to be honest we were just happy to make it to the next week !
As far as Metallica goes I remember first time coming across them when they supported us at the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles. It was not until much later that we heard Metallica were heavily influenced by Saxon, the drummer Lars Ulrich came out and said that. It’s nice of him to acknoweledge our influence but we didn’t know about it really we were just playing the music we loved’.

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Have you any memories of the day’s when Saxon played on the bill of the Monsters of Rock festival in 1980 & 1982 ? ‘First time in 1980 we were playing with so many of our hero’s. We were listening to records like Killing Machine by Judas Priest and Long Live Rock n Roll from Rainbow and here we are on the same bill! We just hoped we got through the set without making any mistakes. At that time it was the biggest crowd that we’ve ever played, so you could say we were a bit nervous’ !

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‘In 1982 Gillan were on after us then Status Quo were headlining. Anvil and a few other bands had been on before us but it was over very quickly and at the end we got a good fee for playing, so that turned out to be a good day’s work’.

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Is there a cameraderie between musicians when you are on tour ? ‘We are all in it together, and we are just musicians at work having a great time. Unfortunately there are some arseholes in the music biz so it’s best to keep away from them as much as you can. You never stop learning in this job and we are forever gratefull that we can earn a living doing what we love’.

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Does your experience of the early Saxon days help you enjoy performing now ?
‘You know life on the road is one big adventure and like all musicians we have stories from the road. When we are together we can talk for hours about the laughter, the tears and the heady nights so this is a nice lead into telling you Graham and I have a new book coming out, called Saxon Drugs and Rock & Roll, the Real Spinal Tap. It’ll be packed with lot’s of stories of life on the road, so that’s one to definitly check out soon on Tomahawk Press’. (The 1984 mockumentary Spinal Tap was based on Saxon, plus a few other bands have claimed an influence on the film which follows a fictional British Heavy Metal band on tour. The writer Harry Shearer went on tour with Saxon and took notes which formed the basis of the script for the film.)

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What has music given you ? ‘Music has given me a good job that I love, lots of great times, and more sex than I could have wished for. Oh and a failed marriage’.

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What are Oliver/Dawson Saxon planning for the rest of the year ? ‘Later this year we are recording a new album, we have a few idea’s for that already. It’ll be produced by the band and Paul O’Neill in his Wigan studio. We are keeping the same team together who recorded Motorbiker in 2012 because that went really well.
We’ve also got load’s of shows this summer around the UK and a few festivals in Europe like Stormcrusher in Germany, British Steel Festival in France and November we’re in Holland. It’s hard work but we love it’ !

With that Steve is off to work to put another rock n roll shift in.

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All tour dates and information available on the official website http://www.odsrock.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

UNDER THE BLADE – Against all odd’s with Tokyo Blade

Andy Boulton, Lead Guitarist for NWOBHM band Tokyo Blade talks about the high’s and lows of being in the music biz…

andyboultonOur first big break came when we did two big festivals in Holland and Belgium with Metallica, then our second big break came when we supported Mamas Boys throughout Europe. We were received in an unbelievably positive way and in a heartbeat we were back out on our own headlining tour. That was really incredible, there we were all in our early 20’s with a big flash tour bus and an Arctic truck full of gear playing sold out shows of 3-4000 capacity venues all over Europe which continued almost non-stop for three years. Then it was the USA tour and back home to film Live in London, a one hour show from the Camden Palace and a live session for BBC Radio One’s Friday Rock show with Tommy Vance. It was all travel, birds, booze and rock ‘n’ roll so we wouldn’t want that for a lifestyle in your mid 20s haha’

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That being the high, what was the low ? ‘At the risk of being overdramatic and sounding like a pompous arse the cost has been very high both financially and personally and on more than one occasion I’ve questioned why the fuck I still continue to play guitar with Tokyo Blade !
I think the biggest tragedy in our heyday was Vic Wright leaving the band to live in America just after our first US tour. We were on the verge of signing a major deal with WEA when he left and we never really recovered from that. Plus the fact that we were screwed for an awful lot of money forced Blade to fall apart’.

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Let’s go back to the beginning Andy. How did you get involved in playing music was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’? ‘I think if you’re a real musician then it’s in you somewhere. Your soul or spirit, it’s there from birth. My mother was a fantastic pianist and had an amazing ear. She could listen to something once and then play it perfectly, it’s definitely from her that I got my gift for music. I guess that something triggers inside you it must be DNA I guess, that sort of inner feeling to play music.
If I had to name one defining moment that moment would be when I was about 12 year old. I was at a friends house and his elder brother had just bought the second Queen album, he put on the first track of the second side Ogre Battle and that was it for me, my journey to the dark side was underway!
I started digging out my sisters albums she had Schools Out by Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin II and of course the almighty Led Zeppelin IV. I just soaked up everything I could. I begged my mother for a guitar and being a musician herself she understood and bought me one as soon as she could afford it. And I started with a red Jedson a sort of Telecaster’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  ‘We started in the way that most bands start, at school with friends just playing youth clubs. As the band got better we started playing pubs, just local stuff at first. As time progressed we all knew that what we wanted to do was to play rock and metal but we desperately needed decent equipment, so we decided that playing working men’s club’s was where the money was. This meant we had to play a load of material that we didn’t like, including country and western !
But we worked our asses off and saved some money to record a demo, we gave a copy to Tommy Vance who played it on the Friday Rockshow, and from there we gigged all over the country’.

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‘We did two big festivals in Holland and Belgium one was the Aardschock around ’84 on the bill were Metallica and Venom. We were really surprised by the number of Blade fans there and the amazing reaction from the crowd. Then our first big break came with the support for Irish band Mamas Boys throughout Europe. There were more tours and albums that followed and Tokyo Blade became a well respected part of the NWOBHM genre.’

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘A fucking nightmare in short, everything we ever did was with no real money. We signed to an awful record company who eventually took every penny we made. The first album we done was at Wickham Studios and was recorded and mixed in four days. We slept on the studio floor and lived on chip butties.
The second album Night of the Blade was little difference other than we had two weeks to record and mix it, real luxury ! We slept in a rough Bed & Breakfast it was a working man’s dosshouse really, with bedbugs and really greasy breakfasts, yep the whole 9 yards’. (The album got a USA release in 1984 under the title Midnight Rendezvous). ‘We financed the third album ourselves, Black Hearts & Jaded Spades and had a slightly better time of it and successive albums have been recorded under more or less similar circumstances’.

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‘We had a call one day from our agency, there was a proposal from London Weekend Television who wanted to film one of our gigs and would we mind playing at the Camden Palace and have it recorded for broadcast? Oh theres a fair bit of money in it for you as well. Where do we sign ? haha…the whole thing turned out great, a huge part of the Tokyo Blade history’.
(It’s worth checking out the concert Live in London filmed in 1985 also recorded for the show were Girlschool, Rock Goddess & Warlock. Also the newly released box set CD ‘Knights of the Blade’ received a favourable review by Philip Wilding in May 2017 edition of Classic Rock magazine ’sounding like a fledgling Def Leppard some songs could of bought them their own tour bus).

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ?  ‘Millions my friend far too many to tell but if I had to pick one it would be the tour with Mamas Boys and what follows is 100% fact and perfectly illustrates the luck or rather lack of it that Tokyo Blade has endured throughout its entire history’.

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Sharp intake of breath and here we go –
The 1983 European support tour with Mamas Boys had been set up and dates arranged and confirmed. The problem was our record company had persuaded us that our vocalist was not good enough as a front man and we must find a new singer. So we searched but had no luck. Our manager was going to pull the tour when a few days before we were due to leave a demo tape arrived at his office, we listened and it sounded promising. The singers name was Vic Wright. So we called him up and asked him when he could come for an audition. The catch being that he lived in Bradford 300 miles away and had no car. The audition would be the sound check for the first show of the tour !
He eventually made it to my house in Salisbury. How, I’m not sure ! I handed him a Sony Walkman with a cassette of the songs and some of the lyrics. We sat there all night and left my home at five a.m next day for the ferry’.

What sort of budget did you have for the tour ? ‘We had no money for hotels or food, and only a small amount for diesel. The money that we were to receive from the shows would only just cover our diesel to the next show, so our saving grace was to be two boxes of Tokyo Blade T-shirts which our manager said we would need to sell in order to get cash for food.’

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What type of transport did you have ? ‘A large Fiat Daily, it had to be large enough to carry five band members, four road crew and all our gear. To be honest there wasn’t enough room to scratch your bollocks plus with no money for hotels we were going to have to sleep in the fucking thing…yes all 9 of us!!!’
We eventually got on the road down to Calais where the charming French Customs Officers searched the two cardboard boxes full of T-shirts. This being pre-EU days we had no license to sell anything in Europe. Oh how we laughed as they deprived us of the T-shirts and they also added a lovely little fine which took care of most of our diesel money.
Anyway we still had all our duty free fags, until that is when we decided to stop and cheer ourselves up with a beer and in the very short time it takes to down one small beer some friend of humanity decided to smash the van window and nick all our duty free and my Sony Walkman which our new singer had conveniently left for them on the front seat.
To look on the bright side we had youth, enthusiasm and testosterone on our side so unanimously we thought ‘we’ll be ok, we’re gonna get through the next 14 days of this tour somehow’. We headed for the first venue’.

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What happened when you arrived for the first gig ? ‘When we arrived we were allowed to do one song for a soundcheck and luckily for us our new vocalist Vic Wright sang fine. So with half a ton of gaffa tape one of our road crew stuck his lyrics sheets all over the stage.
The gig itself ? We went down an absolute storm, the entire place erupted from the moment we hit the stage until we left ! We couldn’t believe it we knew this was going to be hard but it was going to be made a helluva lot easier playing shows like this every night. After the show the crew had piled all the gear into the van and we drove to the next venue in a better mood’.

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With the first successful gig out of the way, what happened next ?
‘We arrived very early in the morning and parked in some woods nearby to try and sleep. I’ve always been lucky in as much as I can sleep on a tight rope. Having said that sharing the front of an extremely cramped Fiat Daily van with nine very sweaty guys is not conducive for a good nights shut eye. It was at this point that our drummer Steve Pierce smugly announced that he had brought a tent for him and our bassist Andy Wrighton to share. It was pissing down with rain though.
Apparently during the night the tent leaked, a lot, and while Steve was having sweet dreams of steak and chips in a four poster bed, poor old Andy decided he couldn’t take anymore and being soaking wet, extremely tired and pissed off decided to go for a walk. A nice little woodland stroll.
Meanwhile the rest of us who had slept sitting upright in the van began to stir and decided to leave for the venue in the hope that there would be showers inside so we could at least get rid of some of the previous night’s sweat. We all crawled out of the van to discover one very damp drummer and zero bass players. The only conclusion we could reach was that poor old Andy couldn’t take any more and had decided to just go home. So we all piled back into the van and decided to drive about hoping to find him, meanwhile he had returned from his woodland walk to discover no tent, no drummer, no van, no band l!!’

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‘To say the poor bloke was in a state of extreme panic would be an understatement, he was left standing damp, cold and very much alone in the middle of the woods somewhere in Northern France with no money, no fags and no idea of how we was going to get anywhere. Remember these were the days before mobile phones. Meanwhile we scoured the nearby area to no avail so unanimously decided to return to the woods where we found a very distressed but a very much relieved bassist. It turned out to be a very emotional reunion and Andy’s vocabulary was now confined to expletives clearly designed to upset our more sensitive little personalities. He hadn’t taken our departure from the woods in good spirit, to say the least’.

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With no money for food how did you feed yourselves ? ‘Our roadie Cliff was very adept at stealing things and for the next three days he stole all the food he could get from various shops. This led to some very interesting meals, strawberries and bread, crisps and jam, apples and ham, those meals stick in my mind. After about three days our luck turned and Mamas Boys came to learn of our wild style of existence if you ever read this boys although I’ve said it 1 million times thank you from the bottom of my heart Pat, John and the late and much missed Tommy (RIP brother).
Not only did they allow John and I to sleep on their tour bus but also their catering ladies gave us the left over food they had cooked. All the bunks on the tourbus were taken so John and I slept in the seats at the front but it was a damn site more comfortable than the van.
And so we completed the tour and returned home to good old Blighty in high spirits like conquering warrior heroes. Successive tours saw us in our own tour buses and artic lorries carrying all the gear. Total luxury and as a result of that tour we always treated our support bands the same way we’d been treated by Mamas Boys’.

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What are you doing now and did this experience put you off music ? ‘Trust me when I say I am incredibly proud of what Tokyo Blade has achieved over the years because everything we’ve done has been against overwhelming odds. It’s all helped to turn us in to the tough, determined and tight band we are today. Although the music business chewed us up and spat us out, my band of brothers and myself battle on, still making new music still touring and still doing what we’ve always done to the best standard we can.
As I’ve said in more than one interview for me personally Tokyo Blade captures the spirit of the underdog our spirit lies with the working class and the downtrodden or dogged persistence against all odds means we are still out there doing what we do best. I make no apologies for Tokyo Blade and I’m fucking proud of what we’ve achieved’.

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‘As of today with our original vocalist Alan Marsh back on board I think we are the only New Wave of British Heavy Metal band still going with an original lineup and the new album to be recorded this year plus more tours to come. Unless I die I’ll crack on with that! Life is not a rehearsal, you get one crack at it so why waste it being unhappy? what ever life chucks at you just duck so it hits some other fucker and laugh your arse off, all the hard times make for the best stories and memories and that’s all we have left at the end of the day isn’t it?’

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‘Let’s face facts we were hardly the darlings of the UK music press who slagged us off at every available opportunity and continue to do so, but thanks to all our fans worldwide last year alone we headlined two British metal festivals, several in Europe plus a tour of Chile, Brazil and Ecuador. Apart from anything else music is my raison d’être. If anyone is to blame for my persistence with it blame Brian May for ever recording Ogre Battle oh and my late Mother’s DNA of course!

God bless you all xxx

Tour dates and information is available on the official website at Tokyoblade.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, 6th April 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

WEAPON UK: All Fired Up, 6th May 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TYTAN: Back in the Ring, 25th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF, On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

SATAN’S EMPIRE: The Devil Rides Out, 4th October 2017.

 

BACK IN THE RING – Going Another Round with NWOBHM band Tytan

On the eve of releasing a new album Tytan mainman Kev Riddles comes out fighting ‘We’ve now had a settled line up for two years and recently wrote and recorded the new album Justice Served. The album was produced by the legendary producer Chris Tsangarides and recorded at his Ecology Rooms Studio in Kent’. (Chris was responsible for producing records by Anvil, Gary Moore, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest and Tygers of Pan Tang who feature in an earlier post). ‘15178284_1381845801849346_2671499661486257910_nChris otherwise known as ‘The Dark Lord’ is an amazing character both in and out of the studio. He works very quickly, coaxing good performances with very few takes. The whole album was recorded and mixed in 13 consecutive days with as much time spent listening to Chris’ stories and anecdotes as spent actually working !’

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‘Justice Served was very different from making Tytan’s first album Rough Justice, which was recorded in 1982 at a studio in London owned by The Who. In those days studio time was hideously expensive and for the same money I could have bought a terrace of houses in Stockton on Tees’.

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Where did it all start for you Kev, was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” was it watching a band or hearing a song ?  ‘That’s easy, it can be summed up in one album…Age of Atlantic ! a 70’s compilation album featuring the likes of MC5, Iron Butterfly but mostly listened to the two tracks by Led Zeppelin! You can imagine the effect of hearing all of those bands on one album, at the tender age of 12 years old on a poor boy from Hackney !
It inspired me to nick the album from a record store, take it home and play it to death’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘My first ever gig was playing french horn in a brass chamber ensemble at a girls boarding school in Yorkshire – yes really ! I’ve never been so nervous but the lure of rock n’roll had me in its grip from that day, the girls and music, yep what a combination haha’.

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‘In the halcyon days of Angel Witch we toured constantly, either in our own right or with the likes of Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Saxon, April Wine and Girlschool. We played all over the UK and Europe. My favourite gigs to this day are still Newcastle City Hall, Manchester Apollo, Hammersmith Odeon and the Marquee’.

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‘In ’82 with Tytan we went all around the UK on The Cage Tour with Tygers of Pan Tang. During the tour we had an exotic dancer that used to come on stage and perform a rather raunchy routine with our singer Kal during the song Money for Love. The fans loved Carmine Brudenell but the Tygers hated how well she went down, so tried to stop her getting on stage. They put up barriers at the side but she always managed to appear, she even once climbed through ‘The Cage’ and did her routine from the drum riser ! Strangely we weren’t asked to do the European tour!!
Then in my days with Paul Samson’s Empire, I’ve good memories supporting Iron Maiden on the Somewhere in Time Tour in ’86”.

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In the book the Story of Anvil written by Lipps and Robb Reiner, they talk about Anvil paying £30,000 to be first on the bill headlined by Status Quo at the Monsters of Rock Festival in 1982. Did you experience this type of deal ? ‘What you’re talking about are called buy-on’s. At the time deals were always done behind the scenes, usually between managers and without the band’s knowledge, although everybody sort of knew it went on. When I was in Angel Witch we certainly never did any deals as we were popular enough in our own right. Our record company for Tytan may have invested in this way but I don’t know for certain. And to my knowledge Iron Maiden have never asked for buy-ons from any support band’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Way too many comical interludes to mention but a couple would include when playing on stage at Manchester Apollo I knocked myself unconscious while head butting my bass. I had to get numerous stitches for that one. Then at Brofest 2016 tripping and falling on my arse. I finished the song flat on my back !’

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Any future plans for Tytan ?  ‘Since being asked to reform in 2012 for the German festival Keep It True, we haven’t stopped working.  In the very near future we have a series of gigs in place with more to be added. They are to celebrate the release of the new album which co-incidentally is released on the same date as my beautiful wife’s birthday’.

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Tytan’s new album Justice Served is released on Friday 26th May by High Roller Records. 

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, 6th April 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

WEAPON UK: All Fired Up, 6th May 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

SATAN’S EMPIRE: The Devil Rides Out, 4th October 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast and The Fury, 24th October 2017.

 

CHAIN REACTION – with North Eastern Heavy Metal band Spartan Warrior

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This blog has featured quite a few funny stories from musicians during their time in the music biz, so when I talked with Neil Wil Kinson, the guitarist from Spartan Warrior I asked him, have you any to add ? ‘I remember in 1984 things were really looking up for the band, we had a record deal, and the night we were due to record our 2nd album we had a gig in our home town at Sunderland Mayfair. The bands future couldn’t look any brighter. We turned up at the gig, soundchecked, and went backstage to get ready. For stage wear I used to have these tight red spandex pants, looked good I thought. I remember the intro tape playing while I was standing at the side of the stage waiting to go on. You know ready to fuckin’ rock. The stage bouncer stood next to me, slowly looked me up and down and said ‘what are you playing tonight like ?… Fucking Swan Lake’.. ha ha What can I say ? totally burned on that one’.

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Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘If there was anything that made me want to join a band it was probably watching Queen on the Old Grey Whistle Test, also seeing Rainbow at Newcastle City Hall on the Rising tour. It was the first gig I’d been to and it was life changing !
Looking back I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember. Even as a toddler I remember just listening to music all the time. When I was about 4 year old I remember going on and on for a drum kit for xmas. I never got the kit but I did get a guitar and I just started messing around on that’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I suppose my earliest influences were bands like The Sweet. Shortly after that my older brother was listening to bands like Black Sabbath, UFO and Van Halen so I started listening to that stuff. In terms of guitar playing I would have to say that Michael Schenker was my biggest influence, in fact he’s still my favourite guitarist. Guitar partnerships also had a huge influence on me with my favourites being KK Downing and Glenn Tipton and later on Chris De Garmo and Michael Wilton. In fact Queensryche had a huge influence on me’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  ‘I started a band with my brother Dave and some friends from school. That band only did 2 gigs, one at Bede School in Sunderland and one at a Youth club. My next band after that was the band I’m still in today, Spartan Warrior. When we gigged during the 80’s it was mainly local bars like The Old 29 in Sunderland and clubs like Newcastle Mayfair. We didn’t really get the chance to play further afield as the band split just as the 2nd album came out. Since reforming Spartan Warrior we’ve been playing mostly rock clubs and metal venues plus festivals in mainland Europe and the UK’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘I started recording in 1983 when we got the chance to put a couple of songs on a compilation called Pure Overkill for Guardian Records in Durham. We paid for the studio time and recorded Steel n Chains and Comes As No Surprise. Also on that album are tracks by Tokyo Rose, Millenium, Risk and Incubus.
I think Spartan Warrior were also on some other compilations, one was a Roadrunner release called Metal Machine and the other was an album I only found out about recently called Hell Has Broken Loose on the Bronze label. Between those two albums we’ve featured alongside some great bands like Slayer, Motorhead and Raven, which is fantastic’.
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‘After Pure Overkill we thought things were starting to happen, the bloke who ran Guardian Studios (owner and producer Terry Gavaghan has appeared in a few previous blogs) asked if we wanted to do a full album we said yeah let’s go for it. Most of the band were working so time wise we could only record 2 songs in each session. We added the songs Cold Hearted, Stormer, Hunted plus a few other tracks and Guardian put it out in 1983′.
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‘Shortly after Pure Overkill was released Roadrunner Records got in touch with Guardian, they contacted us and a meeting was set up in the Swallow Hotel in Newcastle. We met Cees Wessells from Roadruner and signed the deal there. We started work on the 2nd Spartan Warrior album pretty much straight away. (Assassin, Son of a Bitch, Black Widow and a few more tracks where on that self titled album. It was released by Roadrunner Records in Europe and Canada in ’84, Japan in ’85 by Far East Metal Syndicate and a re-release on cd by Metal Mind Productions in 2009.)
Around ’85 there was some stuff being planned including an appearance on ECT, the new TV rock show on Channel 4, but it just didn’t come off. Lee Arron who was also signed to Roadrunner stepped in’.

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‘I also did various things including a brief stint with Waysted. There’s not really much to say about the Waysted thing. I auditioned and got the job after playing just 2 songs even though I learnt the entire back catalogue. I went down to Bournemouth to write for the next album, that was around 2007. I went back home after a week of solid writing and then next thing I know is I’m told that the previous guitarist is back in so that was that. I did get credited on a couple of songs when the album The Harsh Reality was released. It was a highlight for me to be involved with something with Pete Way as I am a UFO fan.
After that I was contacted to see if I would play guitar for a small tour they had put together to promote the album, but I couldn’t do it as work wouldn’t give me the time off. I often think what would have happened if I’d stuck with Waysted. Who knows ?
I also got to guest on my friends Risen Prophecys last album which was nice to do’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  ‘Well at the moment the priority is finishing the new Spartan Warrior album, which is nearly mixed. There’s a few companies interested in it so I’m hoping for a release date later this year.
We’ve also got a few gigs coming up. We’re off to Portugal in September and then there’s HRH NWobhm in Sheffield, that line up is pretty impressive with Raven, Diamond Head, Satan and our friends Avenger on the bill’.

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‘We’re also doing the Blast From the Past in Belgium in December. Diamond Head are headlining along with Tytan and Salem plus a few others.
We’re also doing Grim Up North in Bury to raise funds for Grimm Reaper vocalist Steve Grimmet who recently lost a leg while playing in South America. Get well soon Steve !
Plus working on another set of dates in Germany and Belgium with our mates in Avenger because that last tour with them was so good. So plenty for an old bloke to be getting on with !!!’

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Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.
Extra record information from discogs.com

Recommended:

Neil Wil Kinson, Spartan Warrior, Invader from the North, 21st September 2017.

JUST A MO’ – Greece is the Word for Maurice

Mythra bassist Maurice Bates talked ahead of playing on the Up the Hammers Festival in Greece on May 27th ‘It was great when we reformed Mythra in 2014 and now we’re just enjoying the ride as they say’.

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How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences?
‘When I was 12 years old my parents sent me to a guitar teacher to keep me out of trouble. My Influences were The Beatles, Kinks and The Who, then got into heavier stuff like Sabbath, Judas Priest and Rush, that stuff packed a bit more of a punch.
Me and some friends formed my first band Revolver in Newcastle and played Beatles songs. We played our first gig at school when I was 13. We auditioned for the TV programme Opportunity Knocks, we played in front of Hughie Green, but sadly we weren’t successfull haha’.

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How did Mythra get together? ‘When I was 15 I met John Roach, Peter Melsom and Kenny Anderson. We formed Zarathustra and rehearsed in St Hildas Youth Club or sometimes the Lambton Arms, South Shields. We started playing gigs at youth clubs around South Shields. We went through a period of changing members and brought in Barry Hopper on drums, he was originally in Obilisque. Then Vince High was brought in as the singer and it was at this point we changed the name to Mythra’.

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‘We started playing the social club scene around the North East where they would have rock nights on. After the gigs we’d pick up the cash then on the Saturday take it up to Newcastle where Ivan Burchall had his agency, he would take his cut. He’d also sort out the next weeks bookings, the same for the Mel Unsworth Agency and a few gigs through Beverly Artists in South Shields’.

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‘I remember playing at Boldon Lane Community Centre in South Shields around ’79 we had Hellanbach as support, to publicise gigs we used to get out on the streets late at night with a bucket of glue and paste up the posters in bus shelters around the town, it was a right laugh and it done the job to get the word around for the gig. Hundreds turned up. It is very different now using social media where it can take a few minutes to advertise a gig’.

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Did you ever think of basing the band closer to the capital ? ‘There wasn’t much discussion about basing the band in London cos we had regular gigs all around the North, we worked really hard and had fairly settled lives, we just needed a few more Bingley Hall type gigs to get noticed but sadly they never happened’.

Have you any stories from gigging ? ‘We supported Saxon at the Mayfair in Newcastle and were surprised to find them drinking tea instead of alcohol, they had their own industrial water boiler. We thought this was a great idea so we copied them and always carried a baby Burco water boiler to gigs to make our coffee and tea. So much for sex, drugs and rock n roll eh !
We once played the Old 29 in Sunderland and our friend Lou Taylor was the lighting guru, he was like a sixth member of Mythra then, and to his mothers dismay he made all the lighting rigs for our shows in his garage and bedroom.
On this particular gig he let off a smoke bomb which gave off so much smoke the pub had to be emptied. Another time I managed to get hold of an aircraft landing spotlight. When it was turned on and pointed at the audience it was so powerful it blinded everyone in the room, it was like looking into the sun haha’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘The first recording session was a new experience and opened our eyes to another part of being in a band, to be able to hear a finished track was brilliant. The first recording we done was the Death and Destiny EP in 1979. We chose Gaurdian over Impulse Studio basically because of the price, plus you got a better deal for reprinting the EP so we went there. The owner Terry Gavaghan was more of an engineer than producer, he just said to us no slow songs lads keep it up this is good ! We slept upstairs to the studio so we could get on with recording straight away in the morning. But as we were recording our own bit seperately you know, guitars, bass, vocals, everyone else had to leave the studio so we ended up in the pub! Happy days’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?
‘We reformed Mythra in 2014 and we have just released our new album Still Burning, and  getting ready to play a heavy metal festival in Athens…that’s not bad’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

Mythra: Still Burning, 13th February 2017.

John Roach, Still Got the Fire, 27th April 2017.

Vince High, Vinyl Junkies, 11th December 2017.

DUTCH STEEL – Martyr, Still Believing After All These Years

Dutch Heavy Metal band Martyr are celebrating 35 years together. Guitarist Rick Bouwman talked about their latest gig supporting Tygers of Pan Tang  ‘During our tour promoting new album You Are Next we supported the awesome Tygers in The Hague Club, Musicon’.

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‘We caught up with Tyger Robb, and Michael McCrystal plus our sound engineers did some shows with the Tygers in the past so it was a bit of a reunion. Also some of our most loyal fans are from The Hague, so a big party was guaranteed haha’.

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How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences? ‘My brother borrowed a guitar from a friend and I grabbed it. I knew 3 chords added a Big Muff distortion pedal and blew the neighbours away. These 3 chords made a lot of impact on some guys I knew that were already in a schoolband so I joined them.
When we started in 1982 Martyr’s main influences came from Japanese metal bands like Loudness, X-Ray and US metal bands like Queensryche and early Metallica. And of course we liked UK bands like Iron Maiden and Raven’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘My first real gigs with Martyr were in local clubs in our hometown Utrecht in Holland, and immediately we got serious about being a band. With our stubborn attitude and our specific style of metal we had quite a following straight away.
Over the next few years we played many headlining gigs all over Holland. We played festivals and big rock clubs like Paradiso in Amsterdam supporting bands like Exciter and Lita Ford’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our first recordings were with cassette decks in our rehearsal room. We had a different singer then, and one of the guys assisting on the recordings said, I can do it better than that guy. He proved it and became the new Martyr frontman. It turned out to be a lousy production but you could hear what the band Martyr was all about’.

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‘The next demo tape Metal Torture was recorded in an 8 track studio in a garage. This time it was a better production, and it sold over 1,000 copies and was spread all over the world due to tape trading in the metal underground. Selling 1,000 copies meant we had to copy these tapes one by one on our cassette decks. Damn that was a hell of a job, especially when Boudisque, a famous record store in Amsterdam, ordered them a hundred at a time. Our next demo For The Universe was recorded in Trinity Studio’s and that also got orders from Boudisque.
Due to those sales the band got picked up by Megaton Records and released For The Universe demo on vinyl. When one of the guys left from Megaton to start his own record company Metalloid we joined him. We went straight into a professional 24 track studio for a month. We recorded and released Darkness At Times Edge. The whole time was one big blast for us as youngsters’.

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‘I remember we didn’t have a drivers license in the early day’s so one of our dads took us to the studio for the Dutch Steel session in Groningen. We were working with the famous producer and radio DJ Alfred Lagarde. As we were still very young guys, and one of our dads was in the studio, Alfred needed to get his daily dose of stimulants away from our view’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘One time in 1985 we had to fill in for Killer from Belgium, you can say they are the Motorhead of Belgium. This was arranged just the day before the show. But as no internet existed then the fans of Killer were not aware they would be getting Martyr instead.
Although we were very heavy we had a totally different image. We wore the colors of our home town of Utrecht – red and white, including our total backline and drumkit. So as soon as we got on stage we were yelled at for being pussies by a big group of bikers who had came to see Killer. Also our singer had shall we say some very intimate fun with one of the bikers ladies so you can imagine we had to run and hide haha’.

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What are Martyr doing now and have you any plans for this year? ‘Martyr are very much alive and kicking. We reunited in the mid 2000’s, toured Europe several times and did many headline and festival shows. We played with bands like Lizzy Borden, Flotsam & Jetsam, Vicious Rumors, and supported Trivium, Raven and Saxon’.

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‘We’ve also released 3 more albums Fear, Cirlce Of 8 and our latest You Are Next which we are promoting right now with dates across Europe throughout the summer and leaving for Japan in September. Then on September 22nd we have a big show in Club P60 in Amstelveen to celebrate our 35th anniversary. It’s all looking good for Martyr !’

Album releasese, tour dates and more information on the official website martyronline.ni

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

THE MANSFIELD FOUR – Shaping Up for Another Attack from Heavy Metal band Savage

0527b5b359.jpg re sizedThe band are currently in the studio writing and recording new material for a 5 track EP to be released this year. But rewind nearly 40 years to Mansfield in the UK where Chris Bradley and Andy Dawson formed Savage. Little did they know the influence they would have on one of the biggest bands in the world. Chris takes up the story…

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‘Our first show outside the UK was playing to a 10,000 strong audience at the Aardschok Metal Festival in Holland. The headliners were Venom with Metallica as special guests. Metallica came to our dressing room for some pre-show drinks and told us that in the early days they were fans of the band and used to play our songs. In fact they recorded our tracks Let it Loose and Dirty Money and put them on the demo tape that got them signed to Megaforce records, run by Jon Zazula. And you know what, they never told Jon that it was our song’.

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What venues did Savage play?  ‘The first ever Savage show was in 1979 at High Oakham Youth Club in Mansfield, then most of the shows were at local pubs. Then from around 1983 as our star began to rise so to speak we started to expand across the whole country to various rock clubs and eventually spread out to festivals in Europe. Kerrang gave us favourable reviews of our shows so that helped a lot in getting more gigs’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘Pretty soon after forming Savage we started writing our own material so we recorded a few demo’s. I think our first one was in 1979 that was recorded in a local 4 track studio in the cellar of a terraced house.
Our first experience of a more professional set up was a full day in a 16 track studio in Wragby, Lincolnshire when we recorded two songs for the classic Heavy Metal compilation Scene of the Crime. As I remember the band’s paid about £200 each to cover the costs. There was Panza Division, Manitou, Sparta, Tyrant and us. We recorded two songs Dirty Money and Let it Loose. In the end they released the album and we got 25 copies to sell. A copy of the album ended up in the possession of a young Lars Ulrich which started the Metallica connection that I was talking about earlier’.

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‘In 1982 we were on another compilation album Metal Fatigue produced by newly formed label, Ebony Records in Hull. Other bands on the album included Assassin, Hot Wire and Headhunter. In all I think there were nine bands on the album. For that recording it was a similar deal to Scene of the Crime, we paid about £200 each to get a day in the studio and record one song. We recorded Ain’t No Fit Place and the producer was Darryl Johnston who was also the founder of Ebony. Basically that was the start of our relationship with the label’.

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‘After the critical success of the track, we went back into Ebony and recorded a double A side, Ain’t No Fit Place and China Run. For that 7” single we payed to the tune of £1,000 and Ebony released it on their label. Again the sales went really well, so well that they proposed a deal were they would pay for recording a complete album and releasing it on their label. We went for that and Loose ‘n’ Lethal was born’.

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What are Savage planning for the rest of 2017 ? ‘We are currently in the studio writing and recording new material for a 5 track EP to be released this year. Writing in the studio is a new approach for us so it will be very interesting to see what we come up with! Last year we produced and released 7, our seventh studio album. That included a second disc called Live ’n’ Lethal recorded in our home town. Featuring our entire first album plus selected numbers from the other albums. We are still an active live band though most shows now tend to be in Europe’.

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Both albums and more merchandise is available from the official website http://www.savageband.com

Current line up is
Chris Bradley: Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar (1978 – present)
Andy Dawson: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals (1978 – present)
Kris Bradley: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals (2010 – present)
Mark Nelson: Drums (2000 – present).

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF, On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast & The Fury, 24th October 2017.

ALL FIRED UP – with Danny Hynes frontman with Weapon UK.

10489830_10153099865827715_2885534848942166280_nDanny Hynes vocalist with NWOBHM band Weapon loves to tell stories, he mixes a pint of honesty with a large slice of humour… ‘Now we liked having a few explosions going off during our set you know, flashes, smoke bombs the whole lot. Well we just got on stage in Newquay, first few bars of our opener and a pyro went off between my legs…I almost became Danielle haha’.

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‘I’m sure you are well aware that Metallica were big fans of all things NWOBHM and in the early days they used to open their show with the Weapon song Set The Stage Alight. So when Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and record company Vertigo were putting together the compilation album New Wave of British Heavy Metal ’79 Revisited, he insisted that Set The Stage Alight went on the album. Nobody from Vertigo called the band but they did contact Virgin Publishing who owned the rights to the song. They in turn asked our permission which, of course, we gave.’

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‘We are delighted it made it onto the LP. We are very, very proud of the song, written by guitarist Jeff Summers, and we think it’s stood the test of time. As I said Metallica used to open their show with the track so it was very influential to them. So much so that they ‘borrowed’ the beginning of it for their song Hit The Lights. In the very near future we have some really exciting plans for that track’.

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Who were your influences in music and was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘Probably the first time I saw The Small Faces on TV. I became a huge fan of Steve Marriott who I thankfully got to meet a few years before his untimely death. Influences ? It’s got to be The Small Faces, Free, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Tom Jones to name just a few!’

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘After my move from Dublin in the 70’s I lived in Birmingham for 5 years where I began my musical career playing lots of social and working men’s clubs in and around The Midlands. Also played local rock venues like The Railway and Bogarts in Birmingham.
Then I moved to London with my mate Baz Downes, and we formed Snatch. Other members of that band included guitarist Bob Angelo and the late Daryl Read on drums. Bob had also played with Iron Maiden and Praying Mantis. Snatch played all the usual London rock joints but folded after about a year as we just couldn’t get a record deal.
Then in March 1980 I put an advert in Melody Maker magazine and through that met guitarist and vocalist Jeff Summers. We formed Weapon, signed to Virgin Publishing and supported Motorhead on their 32 date ‘Ace Up Your Sleeve’ tour. Culminating with 4 sell out shows at Hammersmith Odeon. We were on our way.’

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I can’t remember the name of the studios where we recorded the first Weapon demos but once Virgin showed interest they gave us time in their demo studio which was on board The Barge in Maida Vale, London. We then signed a 5 year publishing deal with them and recorded more tracks at The Manor Studios in Oxford which was Richard Branson’s country home. We also recorded at The Townhouse Studios in Shepherds Bush, London. Everything was looking up, it was all looking good, but as happens with a lot of bands it took a bad turn through lack of record company support. It all came to a head and ended with Weapon calling it a day in 1982′.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ?‘There is lots of funny and not so funny stories here’s a couple for you! We were at Edinburgh Odeon on the Motorhead tour and had just finished our sound check. Jeff and Baz went to the side of the stage to tune their guitars when the cables on one side of The Bomber snapped sending it crashing through the flight case that the tuners were mounted on. An inch or two closer and we would have lost two members of the band!
Once we were playing a gig in Stoke and the stage was very low, I walked towards it through the dry ice, tripped and went head first into the drum kit… Happy daze!’

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Have you any plans for Weapon in the future? ‘Weapon UK, as we are now known for legal reasons, are still very much involved in the music business. During the past few years we have played shows in the UK and all around Europe and another tour is planned for September this year. We are also on the bill at the two day ‘Grim Up North’ festival in Bury.
On the recording side we have a new single coming out soon and very shortly we will start work on the new album at Scream Studios in London. Yeah the future is looking bright and busy for Weapon UK !’

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The full line up for WEAPON UK is
Danny Hynes (Vocals) – Original member 1980
Jeff Summers (Guitar/Vocals) – Original member 1980
Darren Lee (Drums) Joined in January 2015
Tony Forsythe (Bass/Vocals) Joined – January 2017

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All the information on tour dates, record releases and back catalogue is available through the official website http://www.weapon-uk.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, 6th April 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TYTAN: Back in the Ring, 25th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

SATAN’S EMPIRE: The Devil Rides Out, 4th October 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast and The Fury, 24th October 2017.

 

NEW GANG IN TOWN – When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator

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Not a band I choose to listen to but the first time I heard Metallica was in the early 80’s when I used to go to a Rock night at Sunderland Mecca. The DJ used to play a mix of standard rock tracks and plenty of AOR thrown in. On the last night I ever went there I was looking at what records the DJ had lined up. I noticed a 12” cover with a black and red design on it but couldn’t make out the name. There was a lad next to me who pointed to the cover and said in a sharp tone ‘That’s next’. I was still squinting at it trying to make out the name ’Oh aye, what is it’. Then he replied in a very deadpan voice ‘Them my friend, are the new gang in town’. I smiled not knowing what he meant, I turned to the DJ who was pulling the record out of the sleeve ‘He’s right, this record… will wipe the floor’. He placed the vinyl on the turntable.
The last few bars of Heat of the Moment by Asia were fading out then followed a few seconds of silence which is very uncharecteristic for any DJ. Normally they have a seemless fade and mix into the next track. But no, not this time. It was as though the DJ wanted to give the last song enough time to fully leave the room and prepare the audience for what was to come. A sort off respectful time of silence and contemplation.
I looked onto the dancefloor. It was midnight. Optimum time for the floor to be filled. But it was empty. This whole sequence seemed to be in slow motion. Above, the lights were slowly changing colour from blue to green. I could hear people ordering drinks at the bar. Glasses clinking. A distant laugh. Then a crackle from the speakers. The lad next to me raised his eyebrows. No turning back. Sound of thundering drums. Hit the Lights.

The next few posts are interviews with bands who influenced Metallica. First up is Danny Haynes vocalist with Weapon UK.

STARING INTO THE FIRE – interview with Raven bassist John Gallagher

Tokyo 2015Raven were formed in 1974 in the North East of England by brothers John and Mark Gallagher and Mark Bowden. The band’s highly energized live show with a unique image and style of play has been described as athletic. But the first time I came across Raven was in 1980, they were on TV in a Chinese take away. I was with a friend and we were going to the youth club. We walked past the take away and noticed they had a telly on in the corner of the shop. We looked through the big window and saw a band on. They had long hair, it looked live, it looked loud, it must be Metal…!
We went in the shop, and it was loud. Suddenly the little old Chinese woman popped her head up from behind the counter ’They play loud, they Raven’ …That may be an alternative fact so I talked to someone who was actually there…’Once we did the ITV local news live..they also showed a video clip we did for Hard Ride and we did 4 songs for the Beeb’ said John Gallagher bassist and co-founding member of Raven.

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I’ll get straight into the questions John, first one, who were your influences and was there a defining moment hearing a song or watching a band where you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘I do remember banging pots and pans while watching The Beatles on Ready Steady Go. But it culminated with Slade, and by then music was an obsession.
I was influenced by basically everything I heard on the radio or saw on TV and gravitated toward the bass guitar. Loving the styles and note choices of Andy Fraser, Ronnie Lane, Gary Thain, Jimmy Lea and Roger Glover’.

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What was the feeling around the band when you were recording at Neat and starting to play gigs, was it a time when things were getting a bit more serious as a band or did you still have a job to fall back on? ‘Until early 1982 I was working at the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) as a clerk and by then we were generating enough to exist on the handouts from Neat’

Have you any memories from playing at the Newcastle Mayfair ? ‘The Mayfair was our ‘office’. We must have played it about 6 or 7 times. Hellanbach were good lads when they supported us, I think we did 2 or 3 dates in a row with them. But it’s such a shame they tore down the Mayfair…what a loss’.

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What was the driving force behind the jump from Neat, a small independent to Atlantic a major label and the USA ? and did this create a friendship with Metallica ? ‘The driving force was the idea to do it right – to have a major record deal and a major agency deal in the USA. We’d seen how major deals had screwed up many of our contemporaries in the UK and wanted to do it right in the USA. Besides, Neat was at this point a total dead end. We were restricted by budget and attitude. That all changed when we made US contacts and did our first US tour with a young rag tag outfit called Metallica opening for us. It was their first tour, they were pretty green and learned a lot. We all got on like a house on fire, we actually opened for them in 2014 in front of 70,000 people in Brazil and got to hang out with them for a while. Amazingly they have changed very little!’

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Creatively, what is it like now writing for your new album compared to the early Neat recordings ? Do the songs come quickly or do they take time ? ‘We have never had any problems writing songs. The only difference is that we all live far apart from each other. I’m in Virginia, Joe’s in Massachusetts and Mark’s in Florida.
So theres a lot of home writing then we get together and jam them out. Of course when we do get together, we jam and see what we can come up with! The only issues we have now is we have too many songs!’

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Any funny stories from your gigs ? ‘When our drummer Joe joined in 1988 we did the Nothing Exceeds like Excess album then went straight out on the road for 5 or 6 dates as a ‘trial by fire’…
At the Philadelphia gig we started with a little toe tapper called Die For Allah which is probably 250 beats a minute. The venue owner ran up on stage screaming into my brothers ear gesticulating wildly. Mark then started to die laughing barely able to play! I went over and shouted at him ‘what did he say, are we too loud’ he replied ‘no – he said we are too FAST!!!!!”

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Raven have a gig in the USA in October on a bill with North Eastern UK band Fist, did your paths cross back in the early days and have you been on the same bill before ? ‘Yes, we are one of the headliners on that Frost & Fire Festival in Ventura California on Oct 6th/7th and we know Fist well. They were the elder statesmen when we started I remember them when they were called Axe. We played a few shows with them and they were also on Neat and have always been a great band. It’s gonna be a lot of fun seeing them’.

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Last question, what has music given you ? ‘Looking back, for young lads like us, there was really only two ways out of Newcastle…and we weren’t great footballers….so we chose music. It’s given us so much, the opportunity to travel the world, meet my wife, have my family and just the ability to sit in a room with a guitar and bang out some riffs and create a song. Just to know that you have MADE something. Also there’s people out there that want to hear it, and hopefully the music will help them get through the day, like it does for me.
We are incredibly lucky to be able to do what we do and do not take that lightly, so when we go out its 100% 24/7/365 mate!!!!’

Thanks for the interview John and good luck for the tour.

New album release, tour dates and all information available at the official website

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Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

Recommended:

Lou Taylor (BLIND FURY) Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

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

Steve Dawson (O/D SAXON) Men at Work, 28th May 2017.

Steve Thompson (Songwriter) Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Antony Bray (VENOM INC) Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

Kev Charlton (HELLANBACH) The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

Dave Allison (ex-ANVIL) Still Hungry, 12th November 2017.