Millennium came to prominence in the early eighties riding with the tribe of bands known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The five-piece were formed in Billingham, Teeside in 1983. Vocalist Mark Duffy looks back to where it all started…‘It all started when Pete McArdle and I who were school friends, started to go to guitar lessons at age 16. Pete would come over to my house with new albums that he thought were good and we would give them a spin. At the time we were listening to American AOR bands like Journey and Styx. Then one day he brought round the Black Sabbath album Heaven and Hell. It totally blew me away, the riffs and the Ronnie James Dio vocals, that was the moment I wanted to be in a heavy metal band. From then on we listened to bands like Whitesnake, Saxon, Y&T and Judas Priest’.
When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘Back in the 80’s Millenium played the local music venue The Swan in Billingham. It had a hall at the back of the pub with a bit of a stage. They had a rock night on a Tuesday. We played a gig there supporting Teeside band Black Rose who had a few releases on NEAT Records. Other than that Millennium only did one small tour around places like Stoke, Warrington, Kings Lynn, Wigan and Sheffield.
We’ve just signed to 3Ms Records and recorded our new album Awakening in Hesdin, France. We are releasing it this summer to hopefully create interest for us to do more gigs, something which has been lacking for us so far’.
What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Millennium recorded a lot of demos over the years. Our first demo was recorded at Guardian Studios in Durham. We heard a few bands had been there so we thought we would give it a go. The first demo we recorded Magic Mirror and I’m on Fire. We were pleased with the result so we done another three tracks there Steal Your Heart, Rock was Meant for Me and Nightmare (which later became The Devil Rides Out) before recording our debut album. The band were happy with the results of the demo’s so we were pleased to be recording our album there. We recorded and mixed the album over two weeks with label owner and producer Terry Gavaghan’.
Despite rave reviews including one in Kerrang magazine the band seemed to lose their way after the album’s release. What happened ? ‘You are right our debut album did receive some great reviews especially from Xavier Russell in Kerrang. But the band lost ground with some unfortunate circumstances. First our guitarist Dave Merrington left the band soon after the recording of the album. Then the bands distribution company went bankrupt resulting in no more pressings of the album after the first 1000 copies. Also the band had a few disagreements with Terry Gavaghan and had a bit of a falling out which resulted in the band parting ways with the label’.
‘They did offer Millennium a contract to record another album but we declined.
Guardian also released Magic Mirror, Steal Your Heart and Rock was Meant for Me on the Pure Overkill compilation album released in 1983. Playing alongside Risk, Spartan Warrior, Incubus and Tokyo Rose the album helped boost the band’s presence on the British heavy metal scene’.
‘The band recruited guitarist Mike Muskett and continued to record a number of demos between 1984 – 1988 hoping to secure a record deal. The Metal Era demo was recorded in 1986 on which the band made an unsuccessful return to their earlier style. The band took one last shot at regaining their lost glory with another demo in 1987 before calling it a day.
Other than vocalist Mark Duffy (who would go on to have success with thrash act Toranaga) the band members faded away. The band split in 1988.
Bringing recordings up to date No Remorse Records re-released our debut album in 2014 and also released Caught in a War Zone. That was released last year and contained an album full of recordings from 1985’.
Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘We had a Spinal Tap moment at one of the gigs when we came on stage and the smoke machine came on for effect, smoke machines were used a lot in those days. Anyway this thing just kept belting out the dry ice or whatever they used so when coming on I couldn’t see the stage or mic stand. We couldn’t even see the crowd and they couldn’t see us! After it calmed down and cleared a bit we started the gig but the daft bat doing the smoke machine set it off again haha’.
‘Another story was when we were going to a distribution company to drop off copies of the debut Millennium album. The distribution company was somewhere down south so we set off on the A1 and got to the Yorkshire area. We suddenly realised we needed petrol so for some reason we went off at the next exit looking for a petrol station and ended up driving around these mining towns. Suddenly the police stopped us and surrounded us. They wouldn’t let us go any further, gave us the third degree asking lots of questions like lho are you where are you going, how many of you in the van ? It turned out they thought we were striking miners going to join the picket line ! They made us turn back in the direction we came. It took a long time to get to the distribution company that day!’
What are Millenium doing now and have you got any plans ? ‘Millennium reformed in September 2015. We were asked to do Bro Fest 2016. Original drummer Steve Mennell and guitarist Dave Hardy (who joined Millennium in 1986) were involved along with William Philpot, Andy Fisher and myself.
We are looking forward to releasing the new album in the summer and playing the new songs at some gigs we are in the middle of arranging now’.
For information about the band check their Facebook page MILLENNIUM UK.
Original line up 1982 Mark Duffy – vocals, Pete McArdle – guitar, Dave Merrington – guitar, Steve Mennell – drums and Dave Price – bass
Line up 2017 Mark Duffy – vocals, William Philpot – guitar, Andy Fisher – bass Darren Moore – drums.
Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.