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’.
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’
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’.
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’.
‘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′.
‘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’.
‘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’.
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’.
‘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 !!!’
Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2017.
Extra record information from discogs.com