HEBBURN OR HELL – Venom Inc. drummer Antony Bray decides…

Out of the North East of England came a band who exploded onto the heavy metal scene and created their own genre of music. Black Metal. In the early 1980’s they scorched a path for American thrash bands Anthrax, Slayer and Metallica.
Over the past thirty years Venom have released a series of studio, compilation and live albums. This year Venom Inc. signed a record deal with Nuclear Blast and release a new album in August. But what is the story behind Venom ?

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In an open and honest interview, drummer Antony Bray looks back….Venom had it’s own momentum we were trying to do everything wrong, be blasphemous, be over the top, HMV wouldn’t display our third album in the window things like that. We were trying to get banned, wanting to be in the worst top ten records all that, we were trying – but it kept working’.

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What is the situation with Venom Inc now and how did the band get back together? ’A guy called Oliver Weinsheimer who promotes the Keep it True festival in Germany, came over to Brofest in Newcastle and saw Tony Dolan on stage with his old band Atomkraft. Guitarist Jeff Dunn was also there and he got on stage and played a couple of songs. Well I was stood at the bar there and Oliver came over and said would you fancy doing six songs at Keep it True in 2015. I said yeah if the rest of the band are ok about it, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. So that’s how it happened. We got together to do a one off festival in Germany, just rattle off some old songs we thought it’ll be good fun.

After the gig the phones lit up, people saying will you do it again, will you come to Japan, places like that, we got requests from different countries. There was a lot of interest. We got together, sat around the table saying do we realy want to do this ? We talked it through, just forgot our old problems and yes, we agreed to go ahead and do it.
After that there was a month in America some time in Europe, Australians want us over there. We went back to America twice, been to Asia, done a South America tour, it’s been a very busy time. Actually were doing more gigs than the original Venom did in the 80’s’.

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Compared to Venom’s earlier output, production of the new single ‘Dein Fleisch’ has a very slick and polished sound, is that what the band were going for ? ’Jeff had a lot to do with that, his Empire of Evil stuff is quite slick, he spent a lot of time on it with pro tools. Jeff said the record company are happy with it and that’s cool. We had the opportunity to crash through some demos but it went very modern and slick. We don’t live in the same country never mind city haha so it suited us to work this way. I done the drums at Blast Studio in Newcastle, Jeff sent over some guitar licks from Portugal, Tony lives in London’.

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‘There’s different ways of recording and I like the new Mythra album to be honest. It’s like getting back to how we done it in the early days you know, getting in the room kicking it around and see what we can do because thats what Venom were about. With raw metal bands like us, if we are all in the room we can change it up and effect it.
Last month we were in California and we played one of the tracks off the new album. We played the song as it is on the record but Tony said can we pick this up ? Yeh I said, it needs a bit of drive I was hoping you would say that. We were sitting on a hotel roof in Rio being interviewed when Jeff said I have worked out what makes the Venom sound and he turned and pointed at me, well I was stunned it was great to hear that. I know I’ve been a hammer and nail’s drummer but that’s what Venom have only ever wanted’.

Where did it all start for you Antony ? ’Used to go and see loads of bands at the Newcastle Mayfair and City Hall. The first band I seen was when my brother took me to see Deep Purple, then I went to see bands like The Runaways, Rainbow and Rush. We’d queue up all night to get tickets. When I left school I worked at the electronics engineering company Reyrolles, in my hometown of Hebburn, that’s where I met Eric Cook. We started on the same day. Little did I know that later he would become our manager.
I started playing drums around ’77 and my first drum kit was called Viking, it was built by Mick Lewis in Jarrow. He showed me how to make them and I made all my toms there. Then I was in a band called Oberon with Eric Cook on guitar. As everyone was buying motorcyles with their first wages from Reyrolles, Eric bought a Stratocaster’.

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After a few line up changes Venom settled on the unholy trinity of Conrad Lant on bass, Jeff Dunn on guitar and Tony on drums. ‘We used to rehease in a church hall on Wesgate Road in Newcastle where all the motorbike shops are. Really Venom were punks with long hair. We saw the instruments as a means to an end. Conrad was really proud of his lyrics and put them across the best way. But as instrumentalists it was always about making the biggest noise and craziest fashion. Sometimes we used to get a crowd of 30-40 people come in to see us rehearse. Our neighbours in the North East, heavy rock band Fist came in one time, their drummer Harry Hill heard us and said what is that, I can’t hear myself think haha’.

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‘Drummers have a different style of playing depending on what bands you’ve heard. Before we started there was no Slayer or Metallica. We were in front of all that, we had heard Motorhead, and knew we had to be louder and harder than them. Venom weren’t known as a big touring band, yes we did some festivals, there was plenty in Europe. But when we started out we played a gig at a heavy metal disco at the Quay club in Hebburn. Eric Cook ran the disco and he arranged to put Venom on. We bought our stage effects from Sound & Lights store in Newcastle where former Satan and Blind Fury vocalist Louie Taylor was working. (Louie features in earlier blog Rock the Knight February 2017).  He ended up doing some pyro for us, we were big on that haha. Louie was all about the safety aspect and I was all about let’s chuck some more powder in and see what happens. Well that gig we fused the building, lights went off right through the whole club, the bingo mafia downstairs went mad haha’.

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‘We were putting all the money back into Venom, buying the pyro, all the stage effects. We got our drumriser built for us in the shipyards, the whole scissor lift, it was just one big thing it never came apart. It was huge, they couldn’t get it out of the doors haha. Around this time Conrad was tape operator at NEAT doing a few days here and there and he bugged the owner Dave Woods about getting spare time in the studio for the band. He kept asking him can my band come in on the weekend ? Woodsy got so sick of him bugging him he just said ok, just do it, but pay for the tape. So we recorded a three track EP and we thought it might get a little review somewhere. I was still working at Reyrolles then and one morning I wandered in and someone had a copy of the Sounds. Couldn’t believe it, there’s a two page spread about our EP, f’ing hell look at this. When Woodsy saw it he thought, I hate the band, think they are bloody awfull – but kerching!’

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‘This all happened in one big wave, we played our first proper gig in Belgium, it got massive reviews. Next we went to New York and Metallica opened up for us. We did two nights in Staten Island but our gear got impounded, we were supposed to play the Aardschock festival in Holland with King Diamond and Raven. We trudged over there with no gear but we did take with us the Bloodlust video that we shot at the Peoples Theatre in Wallsend. It cost £3,000, the first sales of our album Welcome to Hell paid for that. We told the promoter what had happened and he watched the video and loved it. He said ‘This is the idea, we’ll show it on the screens and you can get up and tell the crowd you are sorry you can’t play because of what’s happened with your gear, and then you’ll sign some stuff afterwards’. We said yeah no problem. As Raven were setting their gear up on stage we walked out and told the crowd what had happened but we will play next year, big cheers. We played the video and the crowd went apeshit. Dave Woods was backstage saying I don’t get it, I just don’t get it’.

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‘I was in the NEAT offices one day as I was doing photo’s for bands like Avenger, and logo’s for Atomkraft. Just hanging around the scene and happy to be be there. A guy called Michael Rod came up he was from the TV programme Tomorrows World or something. He had a film company and was partners with Dave Wood in D.W. Enterprises who had NEAT records and Impulse Recording Studio. Woodsy pulled me to one side and said do you want to do this video with a few bands on, it’s called ‘Metal City’? Funny because Woodsy didn’t like heavy metal apart from Raven. We had a laugh putting it together but not sure why Saracen were on because they weren’t heavy metal like the other bands Avenger and Warfare. A couple of Venom live track’s were on from Hammersmith Odeon plus a video for Nightmare. Yeah it was good fun’.

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’We brought Metallica over here and they opened up for us, they were heavily influenced by the North East NWOBHM. I remember we were topping a bill in Europe, I was on the gantry at the side of the stage. I was looking down and listening to the band who were on before us. I turned to the person next to me and said ’They’ll be headliners soon’. This was around 1984. The band were Metallica

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After one more studio album ‘Possessed’ was released in 1985, Venom were heading for changes…’Jeff left the band, so me and Conrad got Newcastle musician Jim Clare in and an American lad called Mike Hickey. Venom only recorded one album then as I had a falling out with Conrad’.

1987’s studio album ‘Calm Before the Storm’ was released plus a live album. Conrad went on to front his new band Cronos… ‘I went along with Eric Cook to see Brian Johnson’s ex-wife Carol, we bought Lynx Recording Studio off her and as we were on a hiatus from Venom we were just putting other bands through the studio. We had Kieth Nicholl engineering for us after ex-Angelic Upstart Mond Cowie left.
One day a call came in and it was Music for Nations, they wanted to meet up. So I went down to a meeting in London and talked to the label. They said they would be very interested if Venom got back together. Travelling back on the train to the North East I thought this could work. So I rang Tony Dolan who was a long time fan of the band and he said I’ll take your arm off to be in Venom. We got Jeff Dunn back and we made the album Prime Evil in 1990. We stuck together a few years and recorded three albums in that time. Because it was a really good label, there was proper advertising, the lot, it was a big step up for us’.

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Fast forward to 2017, what are the future plans for Venom Inc ? ‘We’re working our balls off. In the past two years we’ve done 300 gigs. Now we’re promoting the album it’ll get heavier. We have another five festivals in this summer, then five weeks in America starting September. We’ve got UK dates in November and then full European tour through Christmas and New Year. We’ve got good set up’s in America, Australia and Europe keeping us working. Our set is an hour and a half and a lot will be off the new album but we’ll always do Black Metal, Countess Bathory, Die Hard and a few others. People at gigs shouting for some other old songs so we are re-learning some of them, yeh really looking forward to the tour’.

For more information about the new album ‘AVE’ released by Nuclear Blast and the latest tour dates check official website http://www.venom-inc.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

Recommended:

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, 5th August 2017.

ATOMKRAFT: Running with the Pack, 14th August 2017.

LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKING – in South Tyneside

10 years ago I started researching the South Tyneside music scene and from there a number of interviews with musicians were set up. Here is a few stories taken from them.

Duncan Binnie: ‘I was seeing bands when I was ten year old and at that time to go and watch bands at the Newcastle City Hall you’re just blown away. My brother had a guitar that I pinched out of his room, tried playing it, just the one string, thinking I can play this. Eventually it leads to a band, four lads getting together which we did’.

Ted Hunter: ‘My first inspiration to play music was me Dad, he was a guitarist in the ’60’s. Then when I was 14 I got a ticket to see Ted Nugent, he was jumping around the stage, screeching his head off. We had a little covers band and we used to practice in St Peters Youth Club in Whiteleas. There used to be a youth club in South Shields called St Hildas and local bands used to play there’.

John Hopper: ‘I just bought a cheap bass rehearsed and plugged away at St Judes Church Hall in Laygate. We played The Cyprus, the pubs in Shields. We just liked gigging that much we realised we had to do it more and more’.

John Lockney: ‘I was forever bashing away on me legs to music and many people said why don’t you become a drummer. We used to rehearse in the back of Tyne Dock Youth Club and we started playing gigs, I remember Bolingbroke Hall and Boldon Lane Community Centre in Shields’.

Joe Peterson: ‘Around the age of 14 my Dad was a singer in the North East Social clubs so that’s where I started thinking about music, started playing guitar. We played all round the country at that time as the clubs were thriving’.

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Robby Robertson: ‘First band I saw was The Damned, my lad took me along and that was it, hooked from then. Everybody had a go at being in a punk band. Everybody could have a shot at it and they did. We started off in Hebburn, Kinx nightclub, it was a cellar. We thought we were the business, we were rubbish like. We done the first gig, we jumped around all over, pulled the leads out and the p.a. caught on fire. The singer run over and blew it out ha ha. We had to finish after three songs, it was an absolute disaster, this is a bit harder than we thought it would be. We went on to play The Station in Gateshead with loads of bands, decent bands like Conflict and Icons of Filth‘.

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Paul McRae: ‘I got into music when I was about 10, in the backyard of John Williamson Street, playing with knitting needles and a dish haha. We used to rehearse at Trinity House Youth Club and we were right into Free then, so we started rehearsing all Free tracks. Then we played the schools, Stanhope Road, Dean Road. We used to play The Hunter and we liked it that much we played it ten times in the same gig’.

Rob Atkinson: ‘Lou Reed, The Doors, Iggy Pop that’s where I was at the time. In the band Next it was the influence we had on each other. It was a bit off the wall, could be a bit weird. But there wasn’t much else like it. When you work with people who can be so productive and come up with ideas, when you bounce of each other that’s the best part of the music. You don’t have to sit for years and think am I good enough. You just go out there and if they like it they like it, and if they don’t they don’t come and see ya’.

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Billy Morgan: ‘The alternative punk scene started and that changed things for me. Instead of being someone who was an observer in music I thought that I can do it. It was like we wanted to jump up and down and be heard, I’m here, I exist. Definitely pushing things to the alternative and coming up with something different. The very first gig we played in front of six people. Then the next gig we played in front of twelve and we thought we really doubled up’.

Richard Jago: ‘The punk thing was pretty fundamental, it was totally different. XTC, Ian Dury and the Blockheads that was the stuff that really made me sit up and listen. I couldn’t play guitar at least I couldn’t play very well, I couldn’t play drums so I started throwing words together. A number of influences like John Cooper Clarke, Ian Dury, the humour that was in what they were doing. I was also very much influenced by the ’80’s, middle of the Thatcher regime, pits were closing, industry was shutting down the yards were going’.

Another 4 years of a democratically elected dictator,
As the sun sets on the yards and poverty at large
The red flag flies from the end of Shields pier in the Peoples Republic of Tyne and Wear.

The iron woman ruined the river for ships and coal.
While the workforce live off the dole.
Like one great house of cards forgotten workers pits and yards,
No one sheds a tear, except the people in the Peoples Republic of Tyne and Wear

Some bands scraped the money together to go into studio’s and record demo tapes and singles. If the band were lucky enough small record labels would make albums.

Joe Peterson: ‘Lots of bands at the time used to record demos and post them off to every record company they could think of. I think they were very rarely listened to’.

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Ted Hunter: ‘There was plenty of bands doing original music at the time that could of got further, and obviously the record deal is the holy grail. But many bands got plenty ‘we regret to inform you’ letters. We spent four days in Guardian Studios in Pity Me, Durham and spent £400 for four days. Which was a fortune in those days. I was only getting £25 a week. We come out with two really good Prog tracks. Which I don’t think got the band anywhere’.

Duncan Binnie: ‘Desert Sounds was the first studio where we done a demo. But I was such a perfectionist. I wouldn’t send a demo tape away to a record company because I didn’t think it sounded quite right, I wouldn’t send a photo away to a record company cos I would think I didn’t look right. I just didn’t want the letter back saying, we don’t want this’.

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John Hopper: ‘First major gig was Tiffanys in Newcastle, that was a showcase. Thats where we got the record deal with NEAT Records in Wallsend. When we went into the studio we done most of the tracks that was listed for the album and the demo ones got taken off the reel and put onto the album reel. Originally the album was just called Slutt and then it got catalogued as Model Youth. It was released in 1988′.

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John Lockney: ‘The studios we used was Guardian Studios in Pity Me just outside Durham, run by a man called Terry Gavaghan. We recorded the four track EP and that was so nerve wracking at the time because we were green as grass. We were proud of the songs and we went around the local record shops to leave some copies on sale or return. It really was great, I mean you’ve been brought up on singles. Now suddenly you’ve got one of your own. It’s still one of the proudest things I’ve ever done you know.
We went back to record another two tracks for a compilation album Roksnax, the production was better then, we weren’t as green and went back again and done another four tracks for demos to flog around record companies. You can tell the difference how confident we were with more experience in the studio’.

Being in a band can also bring it’s funnier moments…

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Robbie Robertson: ‘Kev the original singer out of The Fiend decided he was going to get a mohican, so we cut this mohican for him but it turned out a bit wonky and looked rubbish so we painted it with yellow gloss paint’.

Joe Peterson: ‘We spent a lot of time in Scotland. Used to drive to a club, put the gear in the club, do the performance, leave the gear in the club overnight and sleep in the van. Which was really hot in the summer and absolutely freezing cold in the winter. So cold I remember waking up one morning, someone was sleeping in the passenger seat and his forehead had frozen to the window. We had to peel him off in the morning when he woke up’.

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Duncan Binnie: ‘In ’87 we’re playing the Amphitheatre down South Shields in front of can I say, one of the biggest crowds that’s been down there. Council wouldn’t give us any lights so it was an absolute disaster ‘cos halfway through the gig it was dark. But we had the fireworks and the stage was pretty good at that point. We had a few unpaid roadies one of them was called Joe and it’s unbelievable what effort he’s putting in for nowt. Well during a song one of our explosions went off at the wrong time and the poor guy he gets blown up at the gig. I remember going into The Marsden Rattler pub afterwards and he was standing there his coat was all burnt, the whole top of it was fringed up and he had no eyebrows left’.

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John Lockney: ‘We supported Fist one time, they were in a different league to us. When they went on I remember there was flour bombs from above the back of the stage getting dropped on the drummer Harry Hills head. He ended up being a blur of white as he thrashed around the drums’.

Joe Peterson: ‘A band I was in The James Boys did an audition for the producer of The Tube, and The Tube at the time was the music show. Everybody played live on it, this was the very last edition of The Tube and we passed the audition. We were given our times and dates to go and do it but a few days leading up to the recording we were told that as it was the last show Paul McCartney decided he wanted to appear on the show. So we were dropped and Paul McCartney took our place’.

Duncan Binnie: ‘We were playing Middlesbrough Town Hall which was the biggest gig we’d done ‘cos you’d feel cool, we were playing a stage the size of Newcastle City Hall. But the soundguy was going to me give us £50 and I’ll get you a good sound and I was going we haven’t got £50, it took us all our bus fare to get up to Middlesbrough’.

Last words…

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Joe Peterson: ‘Music is such a massive part of my life, that I think it has helped me through some really difficult times’.

Paul McRae: ‘The music, the scene, well it was just our life, everything about it, we were in it from the beginning’.

Robbie Robertson: ‘We just enjoy ourselves really, that’s what it’s about, if you don’t enjoy it you’re wasting your time’.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2007.

LIFE’S A BLAST -Making records on Tyneside

Ged:The New York Dolls would only record on vintage equipment so we had to do numerous trips down to London to get old drum kits, old amplifiers, old recording machines, proper vintage stuff from the 60 and 70’s. Actually the piano in the studio now is the one we brought in especially for them. It’s about 120 years old and they just left it there because it took eight people to bring it in, so they weren’t going to take it home with them haha’.

Sitting down in the boardroom with owner Ged Cook and studio manager Lisa Murphy, they introduced me to the world of BLAST recording studio in Newcastle…

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Ged:Blast is international. We can attract bands from all over the world it’s an international brand, it’s got a reputation. We’ve had bands here from Black Star Riders and Therapy? who have recorded all their albums here from 2008. They love the place and they are coming again soon. We had the New York Dolls here for a month. We’ve also had Take That here for a couple of days’.

Lisa: ‘We also have local bands just working on a project, we’re open to support local music as well as the bigger names’.

Ged: ‘Sometimes you can’t tell people there’s a famous band in the studio. With Take That we had a contract saying we couldn’t mention it. We had three blacked out limo’s and chauffers standing in the courtyard, but we had to shut the gates ‘cos the fans got to know’.

Lisa: ‘Mark Owen tweeted a picture of himself in the studio and people could tell it was at Blast. He was told off and sheepishly replied ‘I’m sorry guy’s, I’m sorry’. We all laughed about it really’.

Ged: ‘We are a bloody good recording studio for band’s, but we also do some voice over work like we had Aaardman Animation here a few year ago and we work closely with the broadcasters Sky, BBC, ITV and Metro radio’.

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What is the logistics for a band who don’t live in the area?

Ged: ‘Most of the bands who come here have record labels or management and the fee’s would be sorted out with Lisa. They might also want catering and accomodation which is strictly down to their budget. They can go from the Premier Inn, to the Hilton or down to Seaham Hall. Some bands do it themselves and they might stay at a friends house, it just depends on what they can afford. Maybe the band need extra equipment for the recording session, again Lisa and I can source that for them. We’ll always work around the clock, and find out what we can do for them’.

Lisa: ‘Yeah let’s face it, it’s not 9-5. We might just be working with a band for a day but we are really flexible that’s the way the industry works’.

Ged: ‘Our record label brought The New York Dolls to Newcastle. It was original members David Johannson, Sylvain Sylvain and from Blondie was Frank Infante. Really lovely people. We hired a big gated house over in Gateshead with a swimming pool, cinema room the lot, because the budget was there for them. We hired a bus to bring them over here each day. They started recording at 10 o’clock at night and finished at 4 or 5 in the morning, it was just the way they liked doing it’.

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‘The songwriting process was absolutely fantastic. They had brand new material and needed to try it out. Well The Cluny bar is just near here so they put on three live shows and sold out in ten minutes. People from all over Europe came over, queues outside. It was great, a hot summers night, they just walked out of here, onto the stage and tried the songs out asking the audience if they liked them or not, it was a great night !’

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What sort of prices do you charge to record in the studio?

Lisa: ‘We are more expensive than some other studios around here but we justify that with the quality recording and production available to the artists who record here. The live room and the desk is quite different to anything that is available around here’.

Ged: ‘For what you get here would cost you around £1,000 per day in London. That’s the beauty of Blast being in the North East ‘cos you get the local bands wanting to use the same studio as bands like Black Star Riders (pic.below). They don’t have to go to London or New York they can come to a place like Blast’.

Lisa: ‘They can also request the same engineer, to get to use the same microphones, the same cab’s, everything, it’s pretty special’.

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Ged: ‘From the rock and heavy metal lad’s based in the North East we had Tygers of Pan Tang doing their latest album here so did Avenger and Tysondog who I have connections with. Andy Taylor who produced the Power Station album and is recording another, said our live room gives the best drum sound he has ever had. And he has done Duran Duran, The Alarm and Then Jerico albums. He did the first Thunder album, a lot of rock bands. Everyone who comes in here has their own way of recording and Andy loved recording the vocals in the toilet…yes really. But yeah what do I know, I mean he’s the one who’s sold millions of records haha’.

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A lot of musicians use home recording equipment, what do Blast offer that is different?

Lisa: ‘The way technology is moving it’s going software based but there are still people who want to use vintage gear. We do have producers who want to do parts of their recording here, maybe a drum track or a vocal track or orchestral stuff. They need to do that in a controlled live space which you can’t replicate with a home studio. In our studio we have some pretty special outboard gear too which is a big selling point. People still want to use these things, not just the software version, and they can hear the quality of what comes out of getting hands on in here’.

Ged: ‘The way the music industry is now is that a lot of people record in the house and that’s fine ‘cos there is a lot of great kit out there but you will never replicate brilliant microphones and our live room. We had Luke Morley from Thunder here last year he set up his two amps and cranked off a big sound on his guitar which you can’t do in your bedroom. That’s what we do here, that’s what you pay for’.

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Who works in the studio?

Ged: ‘It can work a couple of ways, the Dolls brought their own guy over who has worked with The Killers or we use our own experienced engineers’.

Lisa: ‘It’s down to budgets and music genre’s where we can match the right engineer to the right job. It was one of our’s who tracked up for Take That. Engineering is some times about relationships. You’re dealing with individuals and their sound in really important to them – so having experience with developing that sound helps’.

Ged: ’Some of the younger bands have some great songs but need help from our experienced engineers to make them sound good. They need that because there is so much out there, so much content. It’s a fight to be listened to and to be heard. Our engineers are the best in the North East and help them as much as they can’.

Lisa: ‘My background is education so I am keen on bringing in new talent. There are a number of venues in the North East training a lot of people on music courses. We have good relationships with the colleges and Uni’s so we can bring in degree students to assist with engineering in appropiate jobs. That way we are developing home grown talent and giving them a foot on the ladder. It’s important to add the ‘who you know’ to the ‘what you know’, the contacts are just as important as the music couse qualification. To have the experience of sitting in when a band is being recorded is vital. We also offer workshops and masterclasses to develop skills for the industry’.

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Sadly, music can be a throwaway object now.

Ged: ‘You’ve hit the nail on the head there, you used to buy album’s before, now you buy songs. Some people just download songs and in some cases not knowing who the bands are’.

Lisa: ‘Some of those songs haven’t been written by that artist, they’ve overlaid the vocal that’s all. The whole thing can be turned out in days and go worldwide – as you know the internet has completely revolutionised everything we do. Sadly, some of the modern music industry is about fame rather than actual musicianship’.

Ged: ‘It’s not what it used to be in the industry, there used to be big budgets. The trend now, if a band are lucky enough to get a big advance, is try to keep as much of that themselves and record as much of the album themselves in the house, then come to places like Blast for final recordings. There is some bigger bands who can come in from the very beginning of the recording process but it has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Not for the better because to a trained ear you can hear programmed drums and some of those bands can’t play it live’.

Lisa: ‘Some bands now are playing live to a click and a full backing track. Sometimes I look and say where’s the keyboard player? I don’t see any strings, where are the backing vocals coming from? It’s a new sort of art really which is mainly found in pop music’.

Ged: ‘Sometimes we use the modern technology to our advantage by an engineer using Skype talking to an engineer in say New York where they are working on the same recording project’.

Lisa: ‘Yes by using Pro Tool’s in the Cloud you can have numerous artists in various locations at one time working on the same project. That’s using technology in a positive way because it can be about the logistics and cost. The band can have members living all across the UK and getting together is a total nightmare to arrange. So they will remotely rehearse and record but come together to tour for a week or so. It’s just the modern world and adapting to what works best’.

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Ged: ‘Yeah but I’m old skool like ‘get in the same room’ haha. We had Therapy? (pic.above) in here a week before they recorded. They live all over the UK but make sure they rehearse beforehand, then come here for pre-production, just blasting through the songs for a week, then record. That’s how I would do it to be honest’.

Why would a famous songwriter, musician or band come up to the North East to record?

Ged: ‘Basically this cost a million pounds to put together. It’s the best studio in the North, not Newcastle but the North. Everybody we’ve had here from outside the area, Black Star Riders, Take That, New York Dolls were blown away by the friendliness of the place. Andy Taylor has been all over the world but loves coming home to get the geordie back into his veins haha. Therapy? will not record anyway else, they love Newcastle’.

Lisa: ‘We’ve got amazing musicians up here who I can call upon when a band or songwriter needs a certain sound, bit of keyboards here that sort of thing, same for our engineers’.

Ged: ‘We’ve had musicians from around the country, we had a session the other year with Spike from the Quireboys on vocals, Luke Morley on guitar, Simon Kirk from Free and Bad Company on drums, and the keyboard player from Magnum. They were here for a week. Simon Kirk loved walking around Newcastle, they all loved it!’

Lisa: ’It’s like it’s a hidden gem up here and we are getting the story of Blast out there. We’re very competitive price wise and want people to come here and fall in love with the North East’.

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For more information and rates for recording sessions check out the website http://www.blast-recording.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

 

THUNDERSTICK in RETURN OF THE MASK – “so many things have happened along the way…it would make a great book”

Famously pictured on the front of Sounds was Thunderstick, drummer for New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Samson. By the 1980’s he had formed his own band, but that folded in ’87. Thirty years later, he’s back with a new album…but he has noticed a few changes in the music industry… ‘Back then a drummer would have to do an entire performance without any mistakes allowing the bass player and guitars to ‘drop in’ when they mess up.  Today the stuff that can be done to make everyone in the band sound ‘perfect’ is in my opinion makes music kind of sterile’.

56_thunderstick‘I released an album of past Thunderstick material back in 2011, it was called Echoes from the Analogue Asylum because everything on it was recorded in analogue.  The truth be known I have used the basic principles of recording in an analogue way for the new album.  Hopefully it gives that feel of a time gone by both in the songwriting style and the recorded sounds’.

Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘The way I got involved did have a defining moment.  I was a young kid helping my uncle collect stuff for a jumble sale.  Somebody threw out a pair of military drumsticks.  Guess what …they didn’t make it – I kept them.  The flame had been lit.  I started beating up on my parents furniture until they were forced into buying me a drumkit just to stop the carnage……I was 9!’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘I started playing ‘serious’ gigs that had a beginning a middle and an end rather than just playing continually until it was time to pack up and go home, which was the way it all started.  I was about 14 year old when we started getting structure to the songs and were ready for people to hear us.  The band were called Innomina Patris (pic.above) and the supports that we did were for UFO, Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, and Steeleye Span. It felt amazing to do a real gig where we actually got applause’.

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Did you realise the impact that NWOBHM would have ? ’No in a word!  It all felt like ‘work in progress’ each band trying to get tighter and more proficient at songwriting.  We would run across each other regularly.  It all started for real when the term NWOBHM and KERRANG was written in a gig review of us, Samson, Iron Maiden and Angelwitch by Geoff Barton for the music paper Sounds. Coupled with putting a picture of me in the mask on the front cover.  A movement had been born and suddenly each band was aware that we were part of something.  Punk had been killed off after their little time of domination, move over, it was time for the musicians that could actually play their instruments to once again take the spotlight’.

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Recording techniques are more fluid now, how and where did you record the new album? ‘I am fortunate that the musicians that I chose for this new album all live in the same country.  Albeit scattered here there and everywhere in the United Kingdom.  We did all of the rhythm tracks in a studio in Wales.  I worked with Dave (Kandy) Kilford who was in my band back in 1986. We recorded his guitar parts on the south coast of England where I live. Then it was back to Wales for the vocals and rough mixes.  Pre-mastering and eventual mastering I did with my brother in arms Rob Grain at his home studio’.

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What are your plans for touring ? ’Yes, I want to get it out there. I have just had some knee surgery and have to train my bionic leg to play kick drum..!
I haven’t chosen my gigging band yet it all depends on availability.  I will of course keep you informed. Bye for now ‘it’s been emotional’…

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Scheduled for release at the end of July, the CD album ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ will be available for purchase via Thunderstick’s Facebook page.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

 

 

 

VINYL JUNKIES – Will Binks, 7 songs that shaped my world

The love for vinyl has always been there and many stories are attached to it. There is whispers in some quarters that vinyl is back, and they are getting louder. Not in the same numbers that it was in the pre-cd day’s of the 70’s and 80’s, but the records are up on display shelves of record shop’s.

There is hundred’s of reasons why we like a certain song. Vinyl Junkies is looking for the stories behind them.

North East based Will Binks, a photographer, record collector and was editor for the 1980’s punk fanzines Hate and War and Still Dying.

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Will said ’The year was 1982 and I was 16 years old. I had been buying records and attending gigs since I was 13. I never had the luxury of a chance to learn to play an instrument so what was I gonna do to contribute to our local Punk Scene?
I had access to a typewriter and an admiration for Acts Of Defiance fanzine. Together with my cousin, Paul Briggs, we’d follow around Hebburn Punk band The Public Toys. That was basically how the whole thing started’.

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‘We needed a name and had cut out HATE AND WAR from a magazine so that was sorted. My Grandmother worked as a cleaner at Keppel Street Police Station in South Shields and on the sly would use their photocopier to copy the pages we had written. Two basic issues were published between July and November ’82, before we met up with Gary Payne at a Total Chaos gig in Newcastle. He suggested a new venture together with myself, the result was a new fanzine STILL DYING. My cousin had lost interest by now.
The two of us really upped the ante and set about putting together some really special reviews, articles and interviews. It only lasted 3 issues during 1983 but what an excellent time to be involved in such an endeavour’.

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‘By the second issue we had to seek out a printer where Ian from Testament Of Reality fanzine helped out. Issue three was printed by Edition zine. We probably sold around a couple of hundred each. We sold loads at gigs at The Station in Gateshead, The Bunker in Sunderland and even some at Volume Records in Newcastle.
Looking back I’m really proud of what we achieved even if it was just a small involvement in the North East Punk scene, but incredibly important to us’.

These are Will’s 7 songs that shaped his world.

1. Rezillos – Top of the Pops

‘I was only 11 years old in 1977 when Punk Rock shocked the establishment to its core. Even at such a tender age you couldn’t escape the furore and excitement surrounding this new music and fashion that had exploded onto the world thanks to Rotten & Co.
Top Of The Pops was staple viewing in our household every Thursday night, so even though I was at an age where my pocket money wasn’t enough to buy myself a record, I still saw lots of the first wave of Punk bands and I distinctly recall watching the Rezillos in 1978. I loved the zany colours, the catchy tune and the wrap-around sunglasses. It wasn’t until the following year when I earned cash for babysitting my brothers & sister that I had enough to purchase my first record’.

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2. Blondie – Heart of Glass

‘So there I was a few months short of my 13th birthday but now with enough pocket money to buy my first record. Wherever you turned you couldn’t escape the fact Blondie were the biggest band on the planet and the stunning Debbie Harry was every schoolboys dream, I was smitten with her ! So I ventured to my local record shop, Callers, in South Shields. I passed this shop on my way to school every day and strangely it sold furnishings downstairs and records and tapes upstairs! I parted with my 65p and in my mitts was a slab of plastic, Heart of Glass. That would be the beginning of my love affair with buying and collecting records’.
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3. Dead Kennedys – Kill the Poor

‘I used to take a short walk from my house to Boldon Lane in South Shields to visit S.T.A.R.S. (Second Time Around Record Shop) where they stocked second hand records and new releases. I remember one visit I bought Kill the Poor by Dead Kennedys and hurried home to make up a new compilation tape for myself with this song taking pride of place as the first track on it. Back then my hometown had at least ten record shops and it was great visiting them all, sometimes without a penny in my pocket it was just a thrill to flick through the singles and albums, taking great interest in the sleeves of the bands I loved’.

4. External Menace – What The Hell

Is an absolute cracker of a track from one of Scotlands finest bands from that era. Taken from the Total Anarchy compilation LP on Beat The System Records released in 1982.
I recall buying this album from The New Record Inn in Sunderland. A place I frequented a lot back then. I remember the fella who ran the shop had a square jaw and his missus always had her shirt unbuttoned just enough to tease the blokes ha ha. However it wasn’t just that what drew me to the place, ‘coz they stocked all the great releases from back then. I bizarrely recall the records on a pegboard resting on golf tees !
External Menace released two classic E.P.’s back then and in April 1983 I saw them as part of the Beat The System tour at Dingwalls in Newcastle. Leaving the shop that very day I bumped into Stu from Uproar who were also included on that album’.

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5. Onslaught – Power from Hell

‘The Station in Gateshead was a legendary venue. I’m really grateful to the promoter Toot who brought some amazing bands up to the North East between the Summer of 1983 and September ’85. That was when Onslaught headlined the last ever show there, Power from Hell one of my favourites. There wasn’t a bar so you brought your own grog and the only rule was no glue or glass bottles. I’ve gotta say the scene changed a lot in those two short years. Basically it went from a carefree, do as you please attitude to the introduction of unwritten rules. Some of the more influential and vocal in the scene were asking things like why do you eat meat, why do you wear leather, how can you like that band when you wear this bands t-shirt and so on.
Already, for quite some time I was aware of the rise of the bludgeoning thrash scene thanks to tapes I exchanged with Final Curtain fanzine editor Paul May and I instantly loved the sound and attitude of bands like Metallica, Anthrax, Venom and Slayer.
Punk bands Discharge, English Dogs, Onslaught, Sacrilege and Broken Bones were by now in full crossover effect. So with the demise of The Station I took it as my cue to break away from the rule-laden Punk scene and I branched off down a more Thrash/Metal avenue.
It’s not as if I suddenly hated Punk, I loved both genres as much as each other. I kept all my records and played them both side by side. I just needed to escape the Punk scene’s stringent regulations. I stuck with it for about another three years or so. The last gig I attended in the 80’s being Slayer at The Mayfair in April 1987 and the last record I bought was the Metallica double album …And Justice For All in 1988.
It wasn’t long after this that I took a total break from gigging and record buying when other things in life became more important you know, the responsibility of a job, house, mortgage and all that other shitty stuff ha ha! Thankfully I returned after my self imposed exile by the mid-90’s’.

6. Offspring – Come Out and Play

‘No longer owning a turntable I succumbed to the CD. At the beginning of 1990 still not reacquainted to the Punk & Metal scene I found myself only purchasing a handful of albums from bands I heard mainly on Radio One while I was working as a delivery driver. Never Loved Elvis by The Wonder Stuff, Manic Street Preachers album Generation Terrorists, there was Nirvana with Nevermind and Irish band Therapy? released Troublegum. Gig wise I had only accompanied my wife Tracey to a handful of gigs mainly at Gateshead Stadium’.

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‘Fast Forward to October 1994 and I’m watching Top Of The Pops. Simon Mayo introduces a band from California making their UK TV debut. I thought wow! these are great! who the fuck are these? It was Green Day playing Welcome To Paradise live. The very next day I finished work and drove to Our Price in South Shields and bought Dookie. Coincidentally two other things happened – Firstly, around this time wor kid gives me an old hi-fi with turntable that was destined for the tip if i didn’t want it. Great! I started to play some old records and even made up a few mix tapes. Secondly we get cable TV installed in November ’94 so now I’m watching Headbangers Ball and getting accustomed to loads of fantastic bands that are part of the new and exciting Yank Punk explosion. That was the catalyst that got me interested again. I started eagerly buying CD’s. Going to see Stiff Little Fingers the following year in March 1995, that is when I consider my proper return to gigging. Come Out And Play by Offspring got heavy MTV rotation during this period and instantly transports me back to that time every time I hear it!’

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7. Rancid – Fall Back Down

So, to wrap this up I’m gonna pick a song by a band that has always maintained a level of high quality in whatever they do. Constantly releasing excellent albums throughout their twenty plus years and having the ability to mix song styles effortlessly from Ska to Hardcore Punk with so much more in between. My introduction was the mighty Rancid album…And Out Come The Wolves. An album that ranks in my Top 10 without question. A truly superb record that has great songs with stories, tunes and songwriting to match. It seems impossible not to sing along. Saw them for the first time at the Reading Festival 1998 and they didn’t disappoint and, to be fair, they have always delivered every time I’ve witnessed them live.
Pretty difficult to pick one track but I’ve chose Fall Back Down on account of it bringing back a grin on my face. Recollections of road trips to Manchester and Glasgow in September 2003 to see them on the Indestructible Tour. A song that exudes positivity and optimism. ENJOY!

Recommended:  MARTIN POPOFF July 12th 2017 – JOHN HESTON August 3rd 2017 – NEIL ARMSTRONG August 11th 2017 – COLIN SMOULT  August 29th 2017 -– NEIL NEWTON September 12th 2017 – TONY HIGGINS October 11th 2017 – VINCE HIGH December 11th 2017.

Introduction by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

ROCKY ROAD FROM DUBLIN – but Bernie Torme has travelled well.

I was last in touch with Bernie Torme in March this year just before his gig in South Shields. (The Dentist, March 2017) He had just released a triple album Dublin Cowboy and was starting a UK tour to promote the record. I asked him how did it go, were there any stand out gig’s or surprises ? ‘It went really well, which was great for new boy Sy Morton on bass. The boy done good. Stand out gigs? Well for political reasons since you’re from the North East I’ll say South Shields! It was, but actually they were all fucking brilliant!’

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‘Edinburgh was a blast, we had my old bass player Phil Spalding from The Bernie Torme Band back in ’77 -’78 play one of our punk classics Secret Service and the great Doogie White got up to sing Smoke on The Water. That was wild’.

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What was the initial feedback from supporters to Dublin Cowboy ? ‘Really good, different people had different favourites, everyone seemed to dig the Dublin Cowboy track lots, and the acoustic album and live album. It was one of the best reactions I’ve had to any album, pretty pleased about that’.

In 1988 you worked with ex Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider in the band Desperado, how did that come about, what was it like writing with Dee and did you play live ? ‘It was great working with Dee, I love the guy, he’s one of a kind, great guy, great front man, awesome singer. The singer bit often gets ignored because he’s such a huge personality, but that man could sing the ass off anyone’.

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‘He asked me to do it initially because he had heard the lead guitar work I had done on the Mammoth album (I was the potential Mammoth that just wasn’t fat enough!) it was an interesting time, just before the bubble burst on the mega deals for rock stuff in the music biz. I couldn’t have given a fuck about all that, but it was important to Dee and his management.
So we careered through a few years of huge money and chaos. Dee on Atlantic being sued by Bill Graham (of Filmore fame), chapter 11 bankruptcy and out of the Atlantic deal. A new deal with Elektra, turned out a bad mistake! We recorded the album, which they initially loved, then they dropped the band after having a million dollars spent on us because someone had a bad weekend or something. That’s the politics of New York cokehead music industry execs…. Fuckin eejits! Quite traumatic at the time, but you survive and ride on free’.

‘Dee was great to work with, huge talent, good writer, always loads of ideas, sometimes a bit of a control freak, but thats understandable, he was the guy who had to carry the can. Fucking giant, I love the man’.

‘Only gig we ever did was in Birmingham, I think it was the International club or something? Maybe wrong about the name, but it was definitely Brum. It was a showcase for Atlantic, but with an audience. Good gig. Motorhead wanted us as special guest on their Euro tour in ’88 or early ’89 but Dee wouldn’t do it. I really wanted to, I still think not doing it was a big mistake, it would have put a real world value on the band’.

Bringing your story up to date what are your future plans, any touring in 2018 ? ‘Thinking about that one….not sure, maybe end of the year. Perhaps not, life is a bit complicated right now’.

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Lastly, what has music given you ? ‘A life, dreams, happiness, unhappiness, friends, enemies, experiences and seeing places. Meeting great people, shit people and doing things that a shy kid with a stutter from Dublin could never have imagined in a thousand years! Gave me everything really, for which I am eternally grateful, I wouldn’t have exchanged my life for anyone else’s. It definitely did not make me rich though! Hey music are you listening???!!!’

For information about the Dublin Cowboy album and more check the official website http://www.bernietorme.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

Bernie Torme, The Dentist 21st March 2017.

 

VINYL JUNKIES – 7 songs that shaped my world by author, Martin Popoff.

The love for vinyl has always been there and many stories are attached to it. There is whispers in some quarters that vinyl is back, and they are getting louder. Not in the same numbers that it was in the pre-cd day’s of the 70’s and 80’s, but the records are up on display in record shop’s.

A lot of people listen to songs in different ways. They download a song and in some cases they don’t know what the track is called or the name of the band. Does music mean as much as it did years ago?

There is hundred’s of reasons why we like a certain song. Vinyl Junkies is looking for the stories behind them.

A new feature for the blog is Vinyl Junkies: 7 songs that shaped my world. First up is Martin Popoff who is a Canadian author of 70 books, including ‘Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motorhead’ he has also wrote ‘Rush – Album by Album’ plus his recent release ‘Metal Collector: Gathered Tales from Headbangers’.


Many of his books are translated into French, German, Czech and Italian. Martin has also worked on CD liner notes for Dio, Anvil, Twisted Sister, Mahogany Rush plus many more.

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These are Martin’s 7 songs that shaped his world.

1.The Damned – Love Song (1979)
The Damned are one of my favourite bands, let alone favourite punk bands, and they did that delightful thing of cranking out singles with songs that aren’t on the albums. This one included a raging near heavy metal gem called Suicide. As well, I believe this was one of those where you could get it with a different member of the band on the cover, making a total of four covers. Mine has one of the sickest pictures of Rat Scabies ever taken.

Gary blog Damned

2. Gillan – New Orleans (1981)
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal did the punk thing and put out a lot of singles, and within that, Gillan were one of the best, certainly of the major label acts, that had B-sides that weren’t on the album. Didn’t care much for the tired blues cover, New Orleans but it was cool getting b side Take a Hold of Yourself. If you’re noticing a trend here, I was found it pointless buying domestic singles, because I would just usually opt for the album. But these trips down to Magic Mushroom and Strawberry Jams in Spokane, Canada, to buy imports, some of the greatest memories of my life.

Gary blog Gillan

3. The Clash – (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais (1978)
This was one of the few early punk singles I managed to hang onto all these years. I love the die-cut cover, the yellow, the custom record label with the gun pointing at you. The A-side was non-LP and even the B-side was non-LP, and I liked the B-side more than the A-side at the time, but alas, Hammersmith Palais became known as a great, great Clash track and rightly so. The Clash were one of the first bands allowed into my sphere that weren’t heavy metal or heavy punk. Thanks forever go to them for opening my mind, most notably with the London Calling album.

Gary blog Clash

4. Sex Pistols – Holidays in the Sun (1977)
Managed to buy few Pistols singles in the day, but this one was cool because I did buy the UK copy of the debut album, which didn’t have Satellite on it. Soon after, had to have the domestic version as well, and in Canada, at least, that did have Satellite, as a straight ad-on. But loved the colourful cartoon cover of this, and then the punk iconography on the back. Plus the a side was one of the bands cool, considerably heavy rocker’s. Which is what we loved about the Bollocks album: by the end of 1977, it was only this record, Rainbow Rising, Motörhead’s debut and AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock, where every last song on the album was heavy. And Motörhead just barely, because we were quite suspicious of Vibrator. Too happy.

5. Witchfynde – Give ‘em Hell (1980)
One of the creepier, blatantly evil New Wave of British Heavy Metal artifacts from the early singles apartment, Give ‘em Hell backed up the talk by being a scorching rocker, and Gettin’ Heavy wasn’t too shabby either. Too bad both the first and the second albums weren’t quite as intense by the percentages. But yeah, getting this in 1980… that beat Venom, and it even somehow seemed more serious than Venom.

6. Sweet – Action (1975)
Okay, now I did say that I didn’t drink domestic, but this unassuming non-picture sleeve single burned on my flame as a 13-year-old. Sure, me and my buddies were already captivated and on a heavy metal sugar high with Give Us a Wink and its flagship song, Action. But the beauty of this little number is that the B-side was a super-smart, sharp progressive metal rocker not found on any LP, called Medusa. As gorgeously appointed and executed as the band’s other highly professional heavy metal during this golden period, just the title and the rarity of it made Medusa like a little secret handshake or Freemason symbol amongst me and my schoolmates.

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7. D.O.A. – World War 3
Being from BC, we were always snobs that the only heavy punk there was came from Vancouver, and that was by D.O.A and Subhumans, where the closest thing that the twice the size Toronto had was The Diodes. We didn’t really count The Viletones because they couldn’t get it together to get a full-length album out. World War 3 was issued in 1979, with the first album coming in 1980. Yeah, I know, it’s all quite late, but the song, kicked ass, even if the B-side, Watcha Gonna Do? was almost post-punk. Love the black and white, love the band pictures, love Joey Shithead!

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Recommended: WILL BINKS July 7th 2017  – JOHN HESTON August 3rd 2017 – NEIL ARMSTRONG August 11th 2017 – COLIN SMOULT  August 29th 2017 -– NEIL NEWTON September 12th 2017 – TONY HIGGINS October 11th 2017 – VINCE HIGH December 11th 2017.

Introduction by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

 

 

 

UNDER THE SKIN with punk drummer Stevie James

Stevie James has been in a few bands over the years so he’s collected a lot of memories… ‘I’ve being tapped up by a midget in New Orleans, locked in squats in Genoa and our singer got stuck in a parachute once. I got altitude sickness on stage in Columbia and hid from Nazi skinheads in a loft in Poland. So many memories but if you venture out of your door you experience life in all it’s glory’.

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Where did it all start ? ‘I started off playing in bands as a kid, playing punk rock on drums. My first band was called The Betrayed and since then have played in so many bands including Hellkrusher, Grudge, Blunt Wound Trauma, Demon 340, The Fiend and The Varukers’.

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Who were your influences ? ‘Like most kids growing up you start with the music your parents listened to. For me it was a family of two sides. My mothers music taste was diabolical but my dads was great. He listened to bands like Them, The Kinks and the Rolling Stones. But he was also into heavier stuff like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Motorhead. It’s all music I still listen to.
My own music started with Damned, Specials and The Sex Pistols. I remember me dad playing Friggin in the Riggin to me uncle and thinking, I’m gonna get me lug dadded here but he just laughed. Then I discovered Angelic Upstarts and the UK Subs. Now I had a thread to follow I quickly discovered punk in all its forms and along with school mates, found the harder edged and politically motivated punk of the early eighties. Once I discovered that, it was life changing, I never looked back’.

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘When we were kids we hung around in large groups on the streets, roaming all over the place. In the early eighties there was an old drum shop on Bede Burn Road in Jarrow that would chuck old sticks and drum heads in a skip around the back. We would go and raid it and see what we could acquire. Kids from my generation didn’t have access to much so even an old drum head would spark off the imagination.
We would play Crass records that one of our friends older brother had. The anger and politically charged lyrics was the first time I really related to someone else’s point of view. It was the beginning of my interest in music.
Around ’81 or ’82 we went to see The Phantoms of the Underground, Blood Robots and The Pigs in a church hall in Jesmond, and that was that. I remember having to lie to my dad about where I was going and when I got dropped off at home after the gig, I thought I was gonna get a clout around the ear, but he just said ‘get to bed lad’ and I escaped another hiding.
We decided after that to start a band and moved in to me dads garden shed for about three years. I built a drum kit from water barrels from me dads allotment. They were covered in towels perched on upside down chairs with the backs pulled off and the dowel from the backs for sticks. I had a snare drum shell with only a bottom head and no snare, so I turned it upside down and covered it with a towel. That was my first kit until I bought a proper kit from a lad at the paper shop for £30.
We did our first gig in my parents kitchen when they went shopping. We sold tickets for 25p and filled the house with kids from the estate. We borrowed the school drum kit and took it to mine in shopping trolleys. Me parents came home half way through the gig and caught us. Me old man said I had one hour and went in the living room and closed the door. He was alright about me music was me old man’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘When I got heavily involved in the punk scene it was very d.i.y and we would play gigs anywhere and everywhere. The bands we followed predominantly played at The Station in Gateshead, The Bunker in Sunderland and later The Broken Doll in Newcastle. I played my first gig at the Anglo Asian club in the west end of Newcastle but we shook the floor so much they stopped us playing there. ‘We also used to play a lot at The Irish Centre in Newcastle’.

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‘When I was in a band that you could call serious we did our first gig at The Riverside in Newcastle but we played all over the country and some of us into Europe and America. I have played worldwide over the years, the punk scene is as far reaching as it gets and I’ve played with everyone from Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, to UK Subs, Discharge, Exploited, GBH, The Damned, Steve Ignorant from Crass, The Dickies, The Misfits, you name it. Those early days of kicking around the doors were special though’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘We were about as clueless as it gets but what we lacked in knowledge we made up for in enthusiasm. I can’t remember prices but we recorded as cheaply and as quickly as possible in those days. We used to go to Rednose studio on the north side and recorded our first single with a band called Senile Decay, which was mastered at Abbey Road then our first album there with Hellkrusher on the Wasteland record which was released in 1990. The record company said it wasn’t good enough so we went to Baker Street Studio in Jarrow owned by local musician Howard Baker’.

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‘I turned up with a pair of old drum sticks covered in gaffer tape and when the engineer asked me where my drums were, I told him I didn’t have any. I thought this was a studio so there would be some here. We ended up borrowing the kit of someone who stored it in the studio.
I later went on to study and become a sound engineer and record many artists over the years and in studios all over the world, including the amazing Rooftop Studio in South Shields. I went on to design and build The Cave Studio that is still standing to this day, which I’m proud of as it’s in my home town. I’ve always produced everything I ever did since I had the knowledge to do it’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Oh aye. So many, I wouldn’t know where to start. Most bands spend just about the full day travelling and drinking so they do everything three sheets to the wind but I don’t drink so I remember everything.
I’ve got loads of memories, like the time I slept in a convent, we’ve been escorted by police out of various cities and even over the borders of countries. There has been riots, kick off’s, we’ve blown so many circuit boards in venues it’s not funny.
I remember doing a gig with The Fiend and the guitarist Robby pulled into a petrol station to fill up the van and somehow managed to jam his keys into the van ignition and pulled off the steering wheel trying to get them back out. We had to leave the van on the forecourt and Robby got a lift on a moped to go get his car. Aye we still did the gig haha!’

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‘We done a gig in The Ferry pub in South Shields where we were so loud we vibrated all the bottles off the bar. They could hear us down the road at another pub so they complained to the police. One time we went through the metal detector in Berlin airport and one band member accidentally had a butter knife in his boot, it didn’t go off but we were sweating buckets going through security.
We were on tour in America when one of us got pulled in Dallas for having the same name as a wanted terrorist! They showed us a picture of an Asian fella and asked if it was one of us before they would let us go into South America’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘Music got under my skin and never left me. I was involved in an accident that damaged my spine badly and it had an impact on my health in general. It was a long and arduous climb back up to a semblence of normality but it changed how I live my life and affected me profoundly. I can’t play anywhere as well as I used to as the damage is degenerative and I have to tread really carefully but I still play’.

17390759_774692539354769_1864675901289886467_o‘I just can’t imagine my life without playing music in it. I will always play d.i.y punk just how its always been, and how it feel’s natural to me. There isn’t a single penny in it and it’s a chore like you couldn’t imagine. It can be frustrating to manage the logistics of it but I love it with everything that I am and always will, Cheers’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, Angels of the North, 12th March 2017.

ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Butchers of Bolingbroke, 1st June 2017.

Neil Newton, All the Young Punks, 4th June 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Felt Nowt, 6th June 2017.

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Method in the Madness, 5th September 2017.

Steve Staughan, Beauty & the Bollocks, 1st October 2017.

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

 

 

 

GUNS, MAGGOTTS & STREET PUNK – Just a normal day for Jarrow band Crashed Out

‘We played South Central LA and the gig got swamped by two rival gangs. The street outside had gangbangers in cars screeching up and down the street. The gangs were ready to go to war. Everyone was crapping themselves. We finished the set then legged it’….

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Where did it all start ? ’The very first line up of Crashed Out consisted of four 15 year old school mates, Gary Fulcher, Mark Spencer, Lee Griffiths and me, Lee Wright.
The present line up is my brother Chris Wright, Spencer Brown and Carlos. I’m the only original member from the start. At the very beginning we wanted to sound like a mash up of Rock and Punk. We listened to bands like Stiff Little Fingers, UK Subs, Nirvana, Cock Sparrer and AC/DC’.

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What made you get involved in playing music ? ‘The only reason I picked up the guitar was boredom. I was 14 years old and got it as a present for Christmas. I started to watch early Guns ’n’ Roses videos and got obsessed with music. I wanted to learn how Slash played his guitar solos, it amazed me. When I realised I couldn’t play like that, I turned to punk music, mainly Stiff Little Fingers and UK Subs. I spent months learning in my room. I found I could pick their songs up easier. Many years later we would tour and become friends with these types of bands, who would have known.’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘We started off playing our school hall in front of the kids and teachers. They didn’t think much of us punk kids making a noise, but we left our mark for sure. Twenty odd years later I bumped into an old school teacher and he mentioned that gig haha.
After that we started playing pubs up and down the country, it was difficult ‘cos of our age. But we managed to pull it off somehow. Around that time we supported the likes of UK Subs, The Exploited, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, GBH and a few others. I wrote hand written letters to gig promoters back then, it was hard work but it was great. We even managed to get to Belgium for a few gigs’.

18700263_1680083492020553_8599456778192868581_nWhat were your experiences of recording ? ‘In 1995 we recorded our first self financed single in a studio called Uncle Sams here in Newcastle. It was a professional analogue set up. I can’t remember costs but it wasn’t cheap. That first single was called Memories of Saturday and on the b side was Fight Back. Both those tracks are on a compilation album put out by Hammer Records called True Brit.
After releasing the single we followed it up with an album This is Our Music. Uncle Sam’s studio had a good vibe !’

19452811_1712751188753783_6758578909964056335_oHave you any funny stories from gigs ? ‘Theres always funny stories when traveling abroad with the band, trouble is it’s always a blur because of the alcohol, ha ha ! I remember on one of our first trip’s abroad we decided to go by ferry. We got absolutely plastered on the way over and one of the lads passed out drunk on the floor. Someone decided to pour a carton full of boiled rice down the back of his underpants while he slept. It wasn’t hot by the way. Anyway, morning came and we forgot about the various antics that had went on the previous night. As we left our cabin we joined the queue of people near the exit waiting to leave the ferry, when suddenly our mate starting screaming and grabbing at his arse. He was dancing round as if he was on fire, pulling rice out of his pants, he thought he had maggots coming out of his arse haha. With the added hangover he was really panicking, you should have seen the look on his face. I can still remember it now haha’.

18740719_1680083495353886_1086069961517649931_nChris Wright: ’Once we played in an old prison in Germany, with support from The Bruisers, who went on to become The Dropkick Murphys. Anyway it kicked off outside and some nutters were shooting guns so we had to hide in the back of the building.
This is a very bizzare but true story. We were in LA when we met Lemmy at the Rainbow Rooms. He asked me if I wanted to buy a Hollywood star paving slab with my name ettched on it. He said he could have it shipped to Jarrow for me!! Honestly true story’.

decca-drums2‘Former Angelic Upstarts drummer Decca Wade was playing for us in 2006. He played a gig in Spain completely naked and when he finished he stood up from his kit and bowed to the crowd. He took a step back and disappeared off the stage. Thing was the stage was in the centre of a hall and a curtain was drawn behind it so he couldn’t see the 5ft drop ha ha. He had to run from behind the stage through the crowd to the dressing room, all this while he was naked’.

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What are Crashed Out doing now and have you got any plans for the future ? ‘Well twenty plus years later we are still playing all over the world. We have new recordings in the pipeline and we have some new band members too. Things are going really well. Thanks for the interview’.

Crashed Out have lined up a few stand out gigs this year. They are playing at a charity gig at the Head of Steam in Newcastle on August 25th. In October the band are at Newcastle Uni with Cock Sparrer on the 7th, then on the 20th they are supporting Sham 69 at Newcastle Academy. December 9th they travel to Wales for a pre-Xmas bash then on 28th they are having a Xmas Mash Up at Trillians Bar in Newcastle.

Check the official website crashed-out.co.uk or their facebook page for more dates.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

Recommended:

Mond Cowie, Angels of the North, 12th March 2017.

ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Butchers of Bolingbroke, 1st June 2017.

Neil Newton, All the Young Punks, 4th June 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Felt Nowt, 6th June 2017.

Crashed Out, Guns, Maggots and Street Punk, 6th July 2017.

Wavis O’Shave, Method in the Madness, 5th September 2017.

Steve Staughan, Beauty & the Bollocks, 1st October 2017.

Evo, No One Gets Out Alive, 8th October 2017.

Steve Kincaide, Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

 

 

 

 

BACK FOR GOOD ? Return of NWOBHM band Troyen

Troyen are from the North West UK, they formed in 1980 and were active until late ’82. The NWOBHM band reformed in 2014 and are now ready to release new material in July, drummer Jeff Baddley takes up the story… ‘We were requested to play Brofest #3 by the promoter Stu Bartlett, during and after the gig the reception was great we all agreed we had to carry this on. So the past few years we have been riding the wave playing around the UK and Europe. That’s included gigs at The Borderline in London and appearing at Heavy Metal Maniacs festival in Holland’.

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How did you get your name and who were your influences ? ‘We were originally called Trojan until we found another band in the UK with the same name. So we decided to change to Troyen which is French for Trojan and is inspired by 1858 Hector Berlioz opera Les Troyens. We all have an eclectic mix of music and influences ranging from traditional classic rock like UFO, Rush and Judas Priest to new rock sounds like Shinedown, Alter Bridge, Opeth and Joe Bonamassa’.

Did Troyen get out on the road ? ‘It was really hard in pre-internet days for Troyen to get noticed. It was down to hard work and gigging as often as possible. We did over 130 gigs all over the country in the two years we were together, including support dates with Spider, Girlschool, Rhabstallion, and Diamond Head. We also enjoyed a six week European support tour with Nightwing’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our demo was Gil Norton’s first ever studio job. At the time, Gil was just learning how to record, engineer and produce music. Gil’s current portfolio consists of work for the likes of The Pixies, Foo Fighters, Feeder, Counting Crows, Terrorvision and many more of the same calibre’.

Demo Cover

‘The demo cassette was recorded in 1981 at Amazon Studios in Liverpool featuring Dreams Never Lie, Crazy Lady, Futures Friend and Don’t Send Me To War. That sold out of two runs of 250 copies and Troyen enjoyed good radio play alongside the promise of a contract with NEAT records for a three-track single and a possible LP’.

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‘Rough demos for the single were done, but sadly the band split prior to completion of the single’.

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‘Since re-forming we have produced an eight track cd featuring digitally enhanced tracks from the original demo, two old tracks that never made to tape or vinyl, Syrian Lady and First Blood. Also two new tracks Backlash and the title track Finish What You Started. This was recorded at Elusive Studios in St Helens and was partially crowd funded’.

Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘We have many ! Countless times meeting other bands in motorway services in the wee small hours of the morning and swapping experiences. Sadly most are not printable but here’s a few that are! We were gigging in Germany and driving down an autobahn, we didn’t notice till much later that someone was missing, it was one one our roadies !

Another one was in June ’82 and we were again in Germany playing the Schutorf Festival and during some down time we went to a park to play football, we recognised the other team but couldn’t think who they were. Turns out we played against Simple Minds. Think that was the night Jeff the drummer slept in a dog basket, or was that after a gig in Munster ha ha. Sorry we can’t reveal much more of this story but one night we had a very traumatic experience in a German night club with a pair of step ladders and a metal bucket’.

Storm Child (New EP)

What are Troyen doing now ? ‘We have recorded an EP Storm Child to be released in July to coincide with appearences at the Drunken Monkey Festival in August, Grim Up North Fest in Bury with a great line up. Also the British Steel in France with O/D Saxon, Cloven Hoof, Salem and a few more bands. In addition to other gigs in the UK and Belgium which are being arranged as we speak, we will play as long as people want to hear us’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.