VINYL JUNKIES – Colin Smoult, 7 songs that shaped his 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.

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Colin Smoult is owner of Jump, from 1991 until 1998 it was a second hand record shop in South Shields. Then he relocated and slowly phased out all second hand records, cassettes and DVD’s to concentrate on selling alternative lifestyle products. Colin is also involved in freelance sound and lighting production for bands on Tyneside.

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JUMP Records, Station Road, South Shields.

Introduction’s over, here are Colin’s 7 songs that shaped his world.

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1. All The Young Dudes – Mott The Hoople. My first ever vinyl purchase! Bought the new 7″ single during the summer of 1972 at the tender age of just 8 years old – I had cool taste even back then haha. I think it cost around 45p. I got it from Savilles Music Store in Keppel Street, South Shields. A fantastic place that had its musical instrument department upstairs, and the records sold downstairs, complete with listening booths. That song just jumped out to me on the radio, and I knew that I had to have a copy to listen to whenever I wanted to.

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2. Time – David Bowie. From my first ever album, Aladdin Sane, it was a present for my 10th birthday. Was really getting into Bowie, and both my brother & sister often played the Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust albums. Finally joined the world of getting albums and not just singles. Time for me was such a dramatic tune with lots of musical light and shade going on. Although bought for me, I was there at the time, and remember it coming from Pete Edmonds Record Shop in Frederick Street. On a Saturday afternoon in 1973, and it was very busy in there too. Oh how the times have changed.

3. Emerald – Thin Lizzy. Taken from the band’s 1978 double live album Live And Dangerous. Took a punt on this one as I’d heard a few of the previous singles by the band, and hoped that this album might be decent. Only turned out to be regarded as one of the greatest live rock albums ever! Loads of great songs on it, but Emerald always stood out for me as such fabulous moment. Only the 2nd song in and the band were totally kicking ass. Purchased the record from Callers at the Nook, my regular haunt as I only lived just around the corner. So many hours spent in that shop. A staple part of my youth.

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4. Carry On Wayward Son – Kansas. An incredible song, introduced to me by my older brother, but I then went out and bought the live version from the band’s Two For The Show album. Back then these double live album made for great samplers of what the bands were like, usually containing their most popular tracks up until then. Bought this one from Pete Edmonds Record Shop, which was now situated in the downstairs of the former Savilles shop, continuing on the legacy of the premises.

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5. Motorhead – Motorhead. At the time the band were rising in popularity with their Overkill album. Their original record label were cashing-in with the band’s rising fame, and re-issued the self-titled anthem on 7″ single. Such a good song, raw and unyielding. Picked up this one from Second Time Around Record Shop (S.T.A.R.S.) on Boldon Lane. A fab place that later on I would frequent on a fortnightly basis, as it was next door to the Unemployment Office, and was dead handy to pop into after I signed on ha-ha. I always tried to keep a bit money back for my next visit, hoping the album I had spotted 2 weeks earlier was still there. And often it was, and would be yet another one for the expanding collection.

6. Imagine – John Lennon. I was may more of a Beatles fan than Lennon’s solo stuff, but I do love this song, and whenever I hear it I always remember Images record shop at the bottom of Fowler Street. The reason being is this is where I was when I first heard about the shooting and death of John Lennon. I overhead the shop assistant and a customer talking about it. Rushed home, put on the radio, only to find out that it was all so horribly true. The cold December of 1980 got a lot colder that day, and for a lot of music fans, a little bit of them also died that day too.

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7. Jump – Van Halen. 2 reasons for this choice. Bought the album it came from ‘1984’, the day it came out, and as a Van Halen fan I also feel in love with this album. Purchased it at Volume Records, as at that time I was working in Newcastle just behind the Handyside Arcade, and I would peruse the record shops every lunch break. Second reason is that my friend named his second-hand shop after this tune, when he first opened it up back in 1984. I took it over in 1991, kept the name, and finally made my love of music and records become my job. Times changed, the shop moved location, and the business evolved into something else. But I’ve never lost my passion for music, as that will forever be a driving part of my character.

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

Intro by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

TYGER BAY – interview with Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, Tygers of Pan Tang original bassist

In 2016 Tygers of Pan Tang released an album of new tracks mixed by Soren Anderson, filmed video’s for the single’s Only the Brave and Glad Rags, completed tours around Europe, including dates in North and South America – not forgetting their own beer -Tyger Blood ! This year they continue to support the album with UK dates arranged for November. But way back in the 1970’s in the small seaside town of Whitley Bay in the North East of England…‘I think it was about 1976 when I met Robb (Weir, guitarist) and Brian (Dick, drums). I knew Brian through some other musicians I used to hang out with. Drummers were rare beasts in those days, especially one’s as good as Brian so I made sure I jammed with him as often as possible. I met Robb when someone gave me his telephone number as he was interested in getting a band together, actually we didn’t start playing together at first. I started roadying for his punk band first, they were called Trick’.

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Who were your first influences and how did you get involved in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘I wanted to be in a band from a very young age. A live band played at a Christmas party for kids where my father worked. This would have been in the sixties so they were a bit like The Beatles and had red guitars which I was fascinated by. I got a very cheap acoustic guitar as a Christmas present but didn’t know anyone who played guitar or could teach me and the few lessons I had only taught stuff I didn’t want to play.
It was only when I was given a copy of Space Ritual by Hawkwind and heard Lemmy play bass, especially Lord of Light, that I knew I wanted to play bass guitar. So I got a cheap bass and started learning bass lines by ear. So yeah, as a bass player it was definitely Lemmy that got me playing’.

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When did you meet up with the Tygers, when did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘When Brian and I decided we really wanted to get a band together I suggested we try jamming with Robb. It was an instant success! We started writing songs and looked for a singer and a guy called Mark Butcher joined the band. We did about 25 shows with Mark. After Mark left we had a bit of a hiatus then got back together and Jess Cox joined as singer and we started gigging regularly. There was no real metal scene around Newcastle at the time. There were no regular venues for local metal bands but there was a metal audience for bigger bands who played the Newcastle Mayfair or City Hall. There were three metal bands already playing locally when we started. There was Raven though they had not really hit on their athletic rock style at that time. There was Axe, who eventually became Fist, and there was Fastbreeder who now would be most notable for having Andy Taylor on guitar, later he joined Duran Duran !’

‘What separated us from these bands was that they all predated Punk Rock whereas we were starting during the Punk scene and were heavily influenced by it. Although there was not a local metal scene apart from the 3 bands I mentioned, there was a thriving local music scene generally in Newcastle in the mid to late 70’s. Many pubs had a room upstairs where bands could play and take money on the door. I can’t remember all the pubs we played but the Gosforth Hotel and the Bridge Hotel were ones we played regularly, as well as pubs further afield in and around the North East. In fact the Tygers first ever gig was at the Coach and Eight in Durham. As well as pubs which didn’t pay very well we got a club agent so we could play the CIU working men’s clubs’.

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‘Often these clubs, as well as serving the excellent Federation Ales would have rock nights where we could play, even playing our own material. You had to play two one hour sets, so you had to have quite a lot of material and obviously you had to play some covers. We played AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Motorhead, Status Quo, ZZ Top among others. One club we played was Sunderland Boilermakers, though playing in Sunderland was always an adventure for us Whitley Bay boys as of course they never clapped, something which Sunderland was famous for. Though you were still expected to do an encore, which they called a false tap, on the basis that if you were still alive they must have liked it!’

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One of Tygers of Pan Tang early gig’s at Mingles Bar, Whitley Bay.

How did the record deal’s come about with NEAT and MCA ? ‘We invested in some pyrotechnics which always ensured a good reception in the clubs as they were a bit unusual. We played schools as that way you could play to kids who couldn’t get into the pubs and clubs. It was at a show at Whitley Bay High School where we were seen by David Wood of Neat Records. His kids went there and I think having a fan base with school age kids was what helped our first single to sell. A big help to our early progress was doing a residency every Wednesday night at Mingles nightclub in our home town of Whitley Bay. It was already a venue but I think even after we stopped playing there it carried on being a sort of Heavy Metal club. Our biggest local gig before we had a record deal was when we headlined the Mayfair Ballroom in Newcastle. It was a bit of a disaster as we had loads of technical problems and probably because I was nervous I had got completely pissed and could barely stand up!
Still we attracted 1,500 people which was a lot for a local band and due to a misprint this got reported as 15,000 in the industry magazine Music Week and we got a record deal with MCA Records as a result!

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Did you come across other NWOBHM bands ? ’The first support we did was Iron Maiden for two nights at the Marquee in London. This was the first time we had travelled any distance to play and the first time I had ever been to London. The venue was packed and they were amazing gigs. Maiden were unbelievably good and you could tell they were going to be big.
We did a support tour with Magnum which was our first national tour. Later they supported us on a UK tour and they weren’t very pleased about it. We also supported Def Leppard and Saxon. Saxon were very good to us as Motorhead had been good to them in the same circumstances. Saxon were my favourite NWOBHM band and when we toured with them we helped out in their show by doing things like operating smoke machines, dry ice generators and spotlights just for fun.
We also supported Scorpions at quite large venues and it was a steep learning curve as we were not used to big venues. They weren’t impressed by our first couple of gigs and I think we were close to being sacked off the tour but we had a storming gig in Glasgow and then everything was fine. We learned a lot from Scorpions as they did everything very professionally’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I would be a bit hazy on dates! We first recorded at Impulse Studios in Wallsend. In fact our first session was doing three tracks for which we got cheap studio time by doing them as a competition entry for the Vitavox Live Sound Awards, this was David Wood’s idea. This would have been in 1978 I suppose. We hadn’t really thought about the Awards competition, we even put false names on the entry form. But actually found that we had to play at the competion and won it!
We did two other sessions at Impulse one of which was just to record our live set so we just set up and played the whole set live without stopping and no overdubs. Much of this was eventually released as the First Kill album so those tracks would be a pretty good example of what we actually sounded like at the time. We also did a session to record the Don’t Touch Me There single with two b side tracks, which was our first single and was released on Neat. All of the Neat stuff was produced by Steve Thompson’. (Featured in an earlier blog The Godfather of North East NWOBHM in June 2017)
‘I don’t think he had worked with a band who knew so little about music, as we couldn’t have played a scale between us! After we got the record deal with MCA, at first this was through Neat. Well Neat wanted us to record our first album in their studio at Impulse in Wallsend, but the producer Chris Tsangarides came up to look at it and said he couldn’t work there and wanted to use his usual studio which was Morgan Studios in London. That was where we did the Wild Cat and Spellbound albums. We actually demo’d Spellbound at Guardian Studios in Durham. The demo’s were the first time we had recorded with new singer Jon Deveril and new guitarist John Sykes both albums represented an amazing leap forward for the band. When I first listened to the demo’s at home after the sessions, I couldn’t believe how good this line up sounded’.

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‘Recording Wildcat and Spellbound was a great experience but there was no time for self-indulgence and both albums were done in a couple of weeks. Guitar, bass and drums were recorded in a couple of takes, then guitar overdubs and vocals. We did get to add a few extras like kettle drums and bass synth pedals, I was a big Rush fan at the time!

‘The next recording we did was with a mobile at a gig in Nottingham at the Rock City venue. For some reason which I still don’t know, John Sykes listened to it and said it was unusable and it got forgotten about until it was released some 20 years later. I think it would have made a massive difference to our career had it been released at the time because instead we had to do the Crazy Nights album, and we weren’t ready. We didn’t demo that album and quite a lot of it was written in the studio. It was recorded just bass and drums with a guide guitar and later guitars were added then vocals. It wasn’t a very good way to record because we had never actually heard the songs before we recorded the basic tracks as there were no lyrics, just a chord progression or riff. Only a couple of songs were actually written properly before recording. There are virtually no overdubs and no backing vocals. We hadn’t used Chris Tsangarides, partly as we just wanted a change but partly as he wanted a writing credit on a track on Spellbound which annoyed us.
Anyway we got in Dennis MacKay on Gary Moore’s recommendation but he was totally wrong for the band. He was doing a Stanley Clarke album in the States at the same time and was flying back and forwards. It was also our own fault as we were partying too hard at that point and not taking the music seriously enough. Still there are some good tracks on the album. Crazy Nights was partly recorded at Trident Studios in London which closed down straight after though I don’t think this was our fault. The vocals were done on the Virgin recording studio on a boat on the Thames!

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After the first 3 albums what was the band’s approach for the 4th ? ‘After the problems with Crazy Nights we decided to get serious and get a commercial producer in and this was Peter Collins. He had never done rock before but he must have liked the experience as he went on to do Rush and various other rock bands after us. He came to a rehearsal said he couldn’t believe his first experience of hearing loud rock guitar in a confined space! Our first recording with Peter was Love Potion No 9 while John Sykes was still in the band. Love Potion No 9 got a lot of radio play and was our biggest single. Obviously it is a cover but it doesn’t sound much like the original. It was suggested by Peter Collin’s manager who was Pete Waterman who later became part of Stock, Aitken and Waterman of Kylie Minogue fame.
At that point John Sykes left the band to try for the job with Ozzy after Randy Rhodes died. He didn’t get the job but when he asked to come back we said no and looked for a replacement. At first Fred Purser was just supposed to be temporary to do a French tour we had booked but we got on so well we asked him to join full time. Fred had been in local punk band Penetration but in fact he was quite a sophisticated musician, at least compared to the rest of us’.

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‘We recorded The Cage with Peter Collins at Marquee Studios in London. We had picked some cover songs to do after the success with Love Potion and there were also some co-writes with people outside the band and Fred had a few songs so it was a different pool of songs to our usual stuff. We still didn’t get that long to record and it was the usual couple of weeks to do most of it but Peter Collins was a real slave driver so we got a lot done. The Cage was a commercial success and was our biggest album and we went to Japan and did a big UK tour and did supports and some headlining in Europe’.

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What festival’s did you play, what other bands were on and was there any stand out moments ? ‘Festivals in the UK in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s were not like they are now and were pretty rough and ready. I’d say they were a bit like the wild west and from the stage you looked out on thirty thousand people seemingly all throwing cans of piss at each other. It was pretty scary. The only UK festival we played was Reading which we did twice. The first time was 1980 it was John Sykes first proper gig with the band. It was mega exciting to do though we were well down the bill and must have been playing early afternoon.
The second time we played Reading was in ’82 after The Cage was released and was scarier still as by this time we were well up the bill. In fact we had been given a very strange spot. There were two stages but these were for the same audience and they were set apart so they could be setting up one bands gear whilst another played. One stage was slightly smaller than the other so the top of the bill and second on the bill played the bigger stage and we had to play between them on the second stage. Therefore we were sandwiched between Blackfoot and Iron Maiden. We knew how good Blackfoot were and were not keen on the idea of going on after them as they were a bigger band than us. We contemplated not doing it but a majority of the band wanted to do it so we went ahead. Our agent said the secret was to start playing the moment that Blackfoot left the stage so that is what we did and it was a fantastic success’.

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‘Reading in 1982 was still a bit lawless and during the performance I did get hit by a bottle though I barely noticed it at the time and there was a large bruise afterwards. Backstage was a bit different, before our performance we were eating strawberries and cream with Brit Ekland! In Europe we did a few festivals and we did two in the Netherlands a week apart which left us staying in Amsterdam for a week with nothing to do but enjoy ourselves! Festivals in Europe were different to UK festivals as they were not specific to a genre of music. So in one festival we played with The Beat and Killing Joke, at another it was Dexy’s Midnight Runners and at a festival in Sweden we headlined one night and Simple Minds headlined the next night. In the UK the different audiences would have killed each other but they all got on fine in the festivals in Europe’.

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The Tygers recorded a few TV appearances notably The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Tube. How did they come about and what other bands were on ? ‘There wasn’t as much opportunity to be on the TV in those days. You had to have a hit single to get on Top of the Pops and we were one spot away from that with Love Potion but never actually made it. Our first TV was in Manchester on a show presented by Tony Wilson who went on to start the Factory label. This was on the Wild Cat tour and is on YouTube. It is the only film of us with Jess Cox and we did Euthanasia. We did a local North East TV show but I can’t remember the name of it. It was a kind of chat show and we were the band that played in the middle. We did Don’t Stop By off Spellbound but whilst there are some photo’s there is no surviving film.
After Crazy Nights we did a TV special about Viz magazine. The show was called Something Else and was a kind of magazine show that each week did something about a particular city. The one on Newcastle centred on Viz. The two bands on were us and Angelic Upstarts who were great’. (Angelic Upstarts feature in an earlier blog The Butchers of Bolingbroke, June 2017 and original guitarist Mond Cowie features in Angels of the North, March 2017)

‘The music bit was filmed in London at BBC TV Centre and we did Raised On Rock and Love Don’t Stay these are both on YouTube. Whilst we really liked Viz, they didn’t really like us and I know that Simon Donald of Viz didn’t want the Tygers on but was told he had to have us! We then did the Old Grey Whistle Test. The other band on was someone from Wings but I can’t remember who they were. We did Running out of Time from Crazy Nights and Love Potion No.9 which by then I think was out as a single. This was our last TV with John Sykes on guitar. By the time we did OGWT the format had changed a bit from the early days and there was an audience of sorts but when they applied for tickets they didn’t know who was going to be playing. It was just a generic TV audience and not fans of the band. After filming we went out for something to eat and were stopped by the police as apparently we fitted the description of people they were looking for in connection with criminal damage. We were able to give them an alibi !’

‘Our final TV performance was The Tube in 1982. It was one of the early episodes of The Tube and we were on with Iggy Pop and Twisted Sister. Unfortunately Iggy Pop was a total dick and a complete diva and by the time he was happy with his sound there was no time for anyone else to sound check. It was great meeting Twisted Sister. They were a fantastic band, great performers and we felt very reserved and British in comparison. They were all absolutely enormous as well, it was like meeting a bunch of wrestlers!
I think The Tube was the last time the version of the Tygers I was in played together. We split up shortly after. We were not in a very good state of mind but the film which is on YouTube is better than I remembered it at the time. As to who arranged the TV appearances I suppose it was our managers or the record company. I know our managers used to badger local TV to put us on as we were a local band’.

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NWOBHM, did you realise the impact that the genre of music would have ? ‘NWOBHM was quite big at the time and had pretty much an instant impact but I certainly didn’t realise that anyone would be talking about it in thirty years time. Or that it would directly influence the future of metal by inspiring the thrash metal bands that would come after it. The first time we heard about NWOBHM was Geoff Barton’s piece in Sounds Magazine. At that point we were doing quite well on the local scene. There was a local indoor music event called the Bedrock Festival at the Guildhall in Newcastle and we headlined one of the nights. There were many local band’s on so I would say we were quite a big local band. However, the problem was how to expand outside of the North East and the NWOBHM was that opportunity’.

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‘When the first article about Def Leppard and the second about Maiden was in Sounds magazine our manager sent Geoff a tape saying that we were a similar sort of band but in Newcastle rather than Sheffield or London. The next week there was a sort of round up of heavy rock and metal bands around the country and we were in that. Our single started selling outside the North East and we started to get national attention. I don’t know if any of this would have happened without the NWOBHM. Obviously there was a few NWOBHM bands at the start including Maiden, Saxon, Leppard, Diamond Head and Girlschool but I think we kind of stopped thinking about being part of the NWOBHM once we got to release our second album. I was aware of Venom of course as we knew Conrad (Cronos) quite well from before Venom and in fact I went to their first gig with Cronos. I just didn’t understand it at all though, of course they were right and I was wrong as they went on to be probably the most influential NWOBHM band other than Maiden‘.

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Can you remember when the Tygers called it a day? ‘Unfortunately in the success of our 4th album The Cage lay the seed of the bands demise. MCA records wanted to do more covers and more rocked up versions of soul classics and we didn’t want to do it. We had a four track machine on which we demo’d some songs written by Fred but this did not change MCA’s mind and whist other companies were interested in the band they were not interested in buying us out of our deal with MCA.
However the fifth album demos were interesting as we recorded live drums and everything as we would in a studio but on the four track. We turned one of the rooms in my parents’ house into a studio and put mattresses on the walls and used the next door room as a control room. Fred was actually a pretty good producer and now owns a studio in Newcastle. Anyway, as a result of all the frustration we split up as there seemed no way forward.
Apart from Venom I was completely unware of all of the bands who came along as the kind of second wave of NWOBHM or that NEAT had become some sort of NWOBHM label. The Tygers thing all happened between ’78 and ’82 and then it was over and I completely lost touch with the whole scene that carried on after that’.

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Mischief or Madness, have you any funny stories from being in the band ? ‘There is a rule among bands that what goes on the road stays on the road so there is a lot I could tell you about which I am not going to tell you about haha. But a couple of funny things come to mind. We were always looking for practical jokes to play on people or each other and when staying in a large hotel in France, having returned from the gig Brian and I noticed that people who wanted their breakfast in their rooms hung a cardboard notice on the outside of their doors with what they wanted for breakfast, and more importantly what time they wanted it. So we went round and changed all the times to 6am. The next morning pandemonium ensued as half the hotel were woken for breakfast several hours before they wanted to be, including our band mates and managers who were traveling with us’.

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‘Another time whilst recording at Morgan Studios we knew our manager was coming to visit the studio so we set up pyrotechnics just inside the studio door and got reception to warn us when he was coming in. He opened the door and found himself in total darkness and then a few seconds later a whole bank of magnesium explosions went off! He didn’t know what had hit him. We didn’t always know when was a good time for jokes and when wasn’t. Jon Deverill was doing vocals at the studio and the rest of us were at the apartment we had rented so we decided to set up a few surprises for when he got back. What we didn’t realise was that he would actually get back at about 4 in the morning after a particularly grueling vocal session, was exhausted and was therefore not really in the mood to have a bucket of water on his head from the top of the door, his bed sheet folded over so he couldn’t get in properly, and the legs of his bed collapse once he was in it!’

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Current Tygers bassist Gav Gray with Richard Laws.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I am involved in the music business as after the band I qualified as a lawyer and started working in the music business and have been doing that for the last 30 years or so. I tend to represent companies rather than artists and whilst I still do a lot of record company and publishing company work, the industry has changed in the time I have worked in it. There is a lot more brand related work and merchandising. I don’t go to many gigs these days as my days in the Tygers left me with permanent hearing damage and some gigs now are so loud it is actually painful unless I wear hearing protection.
I did go to see the current line-up of the Tygers about a year ago and it was great to see them as they were really good. It was great to see Robb again as I hadn’t seen him for 30 years though I am now in touch with some of the old band on social media and speak to Robb on the phone occasionally.
I still play music though I didn’t for many years. I only started again because at one of the places I worked someone had the idea of putting a band together for the Christmas party so I dug out my bass and we ended up doing quite a few private parties just playing covers. Now I just play for my own amusement and guitar rather than bass, though I still have my old Rickenbacker bass from the Tygers days. At least I know some scales now!’

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

Micky McCrystal, Cat Scratch Fever, 17th March 2017.

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

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, 5th November 2017.

 

ON THE HOOF – Lee Payne bassist with Cloven Hoof

‘We play from the heart and soul and after every show I can throw my stage clothes against the wall and they stick there!’

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Originally formed in 1979 in the West Midlands, UK, New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Cloven Hoof went on to record 5 studio album’s including this year’s release on High Roller Records ‘Who Mourns for the Morning Star’. To support the album they have lined up 3 gig’s starting on August 25th in Belgium supporting USA hard rock legends Riot. I got in touch with Cloven Hoof bassist Lee Payne as he was preparing for the gig’s…‘A lot of logistics need sorting out with Hoof as the line up is Anglo-American. We are always mindful of one another’s commitments before committing to anything. We usually plan 6 month ahead to avoid problems, that way gigs are hand picked and we only do the ones we really feel enthusiastic about. 100% commitment and dedication is demanded by all band members and a lot of effort goes in by all concerned to make it work – especially as we have a continent to divide us. The good side to this of course is we can play in America and Europe easily because we have a base camp in both territories’.

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‘All the band meet up about a week before a show in England and go into 7 days solid rehearsal. We practise 12 hours a day continuous to get the set slick. In truth we have it down in about a day but use the rest if the time to work out fine details and stagecraft’.

‘No one has ever forgotten their passport so far thank goodness, but we have a fair share of scares along the way with touring. Once due to fog in Milan we had to take 6 flights to get home to England due to rescheduling. You have to be super dedicated to your craft to take these things in your stride. Endless hotels waiting around and travelling is the biggest drag in any musicians experience. We all live for the time on stage when we can kick ass and get off on the music along with the fans. It makes all the hassle seem worthwhile’.

After the Belgium gig the Hoof go to Germany where you are headlining the Trveheim Festival. Have you played any of these gigs before ? ’We normally try to break new ground and play new venues and territories to keep things interesting. On occasions some festivals are so prestigious that you feel you should perform at them more than once. Sweden Rock Festival was incredible last time so we would play it again in a heartbeat. The same for Keep it True, Headbangers Open Air, Bang your Head, Sword Brothers and Up the Hammers. They are institutions these days so we would be silly not to play at these festivals when asked. In fact I think we will play Sword Brothers again next year as a point in question. America will be our prime target 2018 so it will be very exciting to play there at long last. Brazil and South America is another place we are eager to tour to help promote the re-releases on the Classic Metal label’.

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For the third gig the band travel to France for the British Steel Festival on 7th October playing on a bill with Tytan, Satan’s Empire and headliners Oliver/Dawson Saxon. How do the band write the set list, decide what songs are in/out and is tempo important to the set order ? ’The set list is tricky because we have so many songs to choose from these days. We always exclude someone’s favourite song unfortunately but it can’t be helped. There are only so many songs you can fit into a set. 90 minutes is our longest set time because any longer and we run out of energy. We like to keep up a high tempo set and it takes it out of you burning up the stage. The fans tell us what they want to hear via the website so we are governed by them what to include in part at least’.

‘We always start off with a fast song either Inquisitor or Astral Rider that everyone knows because we have the fans attention right from the start. Then we introduce a new number early on before the usual stage favourites. A show has to be structured and flow so the audience can interact with you at the right pace. We let the singer suggest the order songs are in to protect his voice. We always finish with Laying down the Law because it is a famous audience participation song and an old classic. You have to balance the back catalogue and tracks from new albums seamlessly. At least that is our aim, something for everyone in fact. Old fans and new can come to our shows assured we will all rock out together and they will hear at least something they are familiar with’.

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What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ? ‘We are lucky enough to have whole families attending our shows these days. Some have been fans for over 40 years and have followed us right from The Opening Ritual up to the present day. We do see a lot of familiar faces but lately we have seen a lot more young kids on the front row. It seems there is a revival in NWOBHM that is very encouraging and it bodes well for the future. Music can defy age limit or nationality and that is what is fantastic about metal. Young kids get off on our energy level, it is still high octane from start to finish. Not many bands out there can match our drive, power and stagecraft’.

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Is there any difference from coming of stage now to when Cloven Hoof played their first gigs ? ‘Definitely! In the old days I would come off stage and still be full of energy to run a marathon. It would take me hours to come down I was so pumped up with adrenaline. Now I am totally shattered! lol. But I am quietly pleased I can still rock out with the best of them. As long as I can run about the stage like a crazy man and deliver the goods then I will do it till I drop. I give the fans everything, all the guys in this band and the audience knows that. We play from the heart and soul and after every show I can throw my stage clothes against the wall and they stick there! If they didn’t then you are not working hard enough, the audience deserve and demand your very best… and when they see Cloven Hoof that is what they get in spades!’

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For more info, merchandise, photo’s and tour dates visit the official website at clovenhoof.net

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

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

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

HOWARDS WAY- interview with North East musician Howard Baker

‘In Warbeck we were playing Germany for seven weeks doing 4 x 45 minute sets a night, and 5 on a weekend, that’s how we learnt our trade. In ’85 we got a record deal with EMI. But that went tits up. More of that later’.

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Howard has spent most of his life in the music business from performing to owning a studio. From early influences, gigs, experiences in recording studio’s, high’s and lows, to the present day – this interview uncovers most of the stories in his career – but some of the riskier one’s might never make print you’ll have to go and see him he might tell you. ‘I still do a lot of gigs a year and continue to work over in Tenerife and France. Currently we are working on pulling together a show with songs from the 1960’s, not a tribute as such more of putting our own stamp on the tracks. So really looking forward to taking that out to the theatres’.

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 Who were your influences ? ‘When we were young everybody liked Elvis Presley but I was more of a rebel, I liked Little Richard. I just loved his antics, I loved Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino a bit bluesy you know. But my voice was always geared up to the likes of Coverdale and Rodgers, more rocky, that style you know, my tones were that way. When I was in Warbeck we toured with Free and Argent. Our friends Beckett and Brass Alley were the same, you’d also have John Miles Set on the bill at the Locarno or The Mayfair. I remember playing the Mayfair and supporting Back Street Crawler. I loved that time. I remember recording at Impulse Studio with Warbeck and after the session Keith Satchfield leaving his black beauty Les Paul guitar outside, it was there all night. Luckiest guy in the world because it was still there next day !’

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What venues did Warbeck play? ‘We worked through Mel Unsworth Agency then, it was not uncommon for us to do ten shows a week, clubs like Annabels, Zhivagos, Dontino’s in Hexham. You were doing workingmens clubs, three half hours and finishing half past ten. Then on stage in Hexham for 12.30 or Julies up in Sunderland.
For the support work the agent was Ivan Burchill he had all the contracts for Mayfairs and City Hall’s. I remember supporting The Pink Fairies, a strange rock punky sort of band. (Nerd Alert: While still a member of the Pink Fairies, in May 1975 Larry Wallis joined a new band, Motörhead with Lemmy and Lucas Fox. In September 1975 Fox left the band and Motörhead recruited a new drummer, Phil Taylor. Wallis recorded an album with the band, ‘On Parole’. It remained unreleased until 1979 when Motörhead had established some reputation for themselves. In February 1976 Wallis was joined by Fast Eddie Clarke on guitar. Later in the same month Wallis left Motörhead.)

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‘The best laugh was doing the City Hall with Alvin Stardust and it was the craziest line up ever. We were a full on rock band supporting the pop star. His single out at the time was My Coo Ca Choo. Anyway we were in the dressing room while 2,000 kids were screaming outside wanting Alvin. We were worried but he came up to us and said just do your show lads, and don’t worry the fan’s are screaming so loud they can’t hear what you’re playing anyway haha. Afterwards he came back to us and said that was brilliant lad’s. Then I watched him and the way he controlled the whole show was completely different from us, we were head’s down rock you know. I must admit he was really good, a great showman’.

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‘Around 1975 a guy called Roberto Donova came up North from London to see us play. He was interested in signing us. We were playing the Barmston Club in Washington and he turned up in his Rolls Royce and parked it outside. He wandered in, heard us play five songs, bought us a round of drinks and said see ya in my studio in a couple of weeks’.

‘We had a big monitor system, four huge bins we bought off Jethro Tull. First club we played it in was so loud we blew the polystyrene tiles of the ceiling. It took a few gigs to get used to it haha.
We had some pyro to put on a bit of a show. We used to put the bombs in two small waste paper bins, but one gig we forgot them so went outside in the backlane and got a big rubbish bin. We put both bombs in there and set it up behind Craigy (Alan Craig) the drummer. End of the first set the roadies set it off and a big boom ! But they never cleaned the bin out first so there was rubbish, banana skins all sorts all over the stage, haha’.

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‘Another pyro story was we were playing Usworth Social Club and we forgot to bring smoke flares. We liked a bit of smoke around the stage. So we went out and bought some flares nearby. These were for boats, like distress flares. Again they were set up behind the drums and were set off at the end of the set just as we played Smoke on the Water. Well at first they didn’t look much but the smoke coming out of them just kept on coming until it filled the concert room. Our eyes were streaming, the concert chairman was up in arms but the worst thing was the smoke was orange. There was so much smoke we couldn’t see a thing, they rang the fire brigade who eventually found the bin and hoyed it outside. The concert room was covered in orange stains, all over the chairs, everywhere. Ended up we never got paid just a massive cleaning bill’.

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‘Around ’78 Warbeck travelled down to London in our own transit van to support AC/DC at the Marquee. Bon Scott was thin as a rake then and Angus was just a tiny fella but you could just tell they had something about them. A great sound with a solid rhythm section for Angus to play with. They had a real presence. We also supported Whitesnake up at Ashington. I remember it was a November, absolutely freezing and the place was chocka block. Our dressing room was tiny with a little radiator and Coverdale’s room was all soft chairs, heaters with lobster thermadore. I knew him from when he was in a band called Government and he said hello. I thought I need to be at that level. We got close but through bad circumstances, didn’t quite get there. There was a lot of talent up here in the North East. Some of them should have made it bigger you know. Really good writers and great players I worked with, some wonderful performers up here’.

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‘All the Northern rock bands have worked bloody hard but a lot got ripped off. Some had a self destruct button though, it’s part of the make up. When we were signed suddenly we thought we were rock stars, but we had no money. The record company drove us from the house to the recording studio in Roll’s Royce’s. It was called RG Jones’ studio in Wimbledon. A guy I mentioned earlier Roberto Danova, he was composer, arranger, the producer there. In the studio next door was the Average White Band recording, across the hall was Queen. But we were missing recording sessions, the producers saying what’s going on here you know. The studio was £1,000 per day. But it was a case of self destruct from one of the band, drinking was involved. There was a tour with Whitesnake lined up. That should have happened. I had worked to get that far but I left in the end and opened a studio’.

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‘I had a record deal with Warner Bros in France with my band Nightwalker that was around 1990. A friend of mine called Guierc, he was a big shot in a private hospital, manager I think, but he was a rock star at night haha. He was in a music shop in Paris and there were two guys talking one of them was Dominic Ruiz who amongst others, wrote songs for rock band Krokus. He was saying he could do with an English singer and my friend Gieric butted in and said I know just the guy who can help you. Within two days I had plane tickets to fly to France. When I got there I met Dominic Ruize, he said I like your voice do you want to do some writing. All this through an interpreter because he only knew a few English words, and two of them were McEwans Scotch and Brown Ale haha’.

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‘We came back to my studio Baker Street in Jarrow and wrote together for five weeks, we done about about fifteen songs. He went back to France and set up some recording sessions with some really top players. It was brilliant, a great experience. It was all going well. I thought hey all the North East bands Warbeck, Brass Alley, Lucas Tyson all them bands who worked their socks off and thought we knew our stuff, but I learned a whole lot more when I went to their studio. I worked with Vanessa Paradis, she said Howard never start a song with a letter P, because it pop’s on the mic and using an S in lyrics. Just little things like that, they were a big help’.

‘We done a video and the single was ready for release. Our producer, John Ducusse who worked out of Harrison Studio, was with Warner Bros who had just been taken over by Sony. He had an album out, it was doing really well in Europe and he asked for another 25,000 copies of his album, they said no. He had been with the company for years. After a big row they said John, you’re sacked and you can take your bands with you. Well we were one of his bands. So they called us on December 23rd to say they had dropped us. I thought the call was going to be about the release of the single because they had already sent the acetates to radio stations. It’s a horrible feeling because I’d worked for years to get to that point. I was gutted’.

‘Around that time we put together a track and entered it into the Eurovision song contest. Sadly not succesful but reached the final 20. We recorded a few sessions with notable North East musicians, Ted Hunter and Shaun Taylor. I played in a band with guitarist Steve Dawson for about three years, that was Riff Raff. I was also in Ramm with Arthur Ramm from Beckett. Then the JPM Band with a guy called Mark Taylor who went on to play with Simple Minds.
When I had the studio a few people came in and recorded bits and pieces, former Hellanbach members Kev Charlton and Davey Patton came in for a session. The band Pariah came through here, Russ Tippins and Shaun Taylor he ended up in Nightwalker with me. Also guitarist Dale Carson who is now playing with Borderland. All really good players.
Some did go on to bigger things like Steve Robson he’s wrote stuff for Take That, One Direction, Christina Aguilera, a long list of them, now he’s head producer at Northern Sky Studio’s in London’.

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Bringing your story up to date what are you doing now ? ’I released a blues album in Summer 2015 The Paris Files recorded in a studio in Montmagny, north of the French capital.   Now I record a lot in Richmond Studio in Durham then send it to producer MrHardearly in Paris who gets in good musicians. This new album is more laid back and bluesy compared to my rock voice. That went really well. I’m still very busy doing nearly 200 gig’s a year, we’re currently putting a new sixties show together to tour. I would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of the musician’s, producers, promoters that I’ve worked with through my career. The likes of Eric Moutard, Kevin Twedddle at Richmond Studio, Shirly Teasdale who was with me in Riff Raff for 17 years. You know, music, I would do it all again. It’s given me a house, a lovely lifestyle, yes I would do it all again’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

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

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

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

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Kev Charlton, HELLANBACH/BESSIE & THE ZINC BUCKETS: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

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

 

 

RUNNING WITH THE PACK ‘We had a gang mentality, we weren’t scared of any band’ back to the start with drummer Ged Wolf

Blast Recording Studio in Newcastle is the venue to record more stories for the blog. There has been over 50 interviews and over 6,000 views since starting in February this year. This time it’s Ged Wolf who has been drummer with North East heavy metal bands Tysondog and Atomkraft giving him many fantastic memories and great stories which he has shared here – let’s get started Ged.

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Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? ’As a drummer I loved Cozy Powell, he was a hero, but what got me first into drumming was my brother. He was in a band with Tony Bray the Venom Inc drummer. Before they became Venom they used to rehearse on a Saturday at Clegwell school in Hebburn. I’d go along there and inbetween breaks used to have a knock about on the drums. I found I was natural, never had a drum lesson in my life’.

‘Then Christmas morning when I was 13 year old my brother bought me a Premier red sparkle drum kit. The noise was a nightmare for my parents so I used to put t-shirts on my drums to dampen it down haha. I got into listening to rock bands with other kids at school and in the meantime my brother started managing Venom and I ended up on the road crew. Used to go to the rehearsals and got a background in how things worked. Ended up as back up drummer for the band when I was 15, never had to stand in but I was there in case’.

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‘My very first gig at Newcastle City Hall was watching Whitesnake, (pic.above with Cozy Powell 3rd from left) the second was Bad Company and I remember seeing Twisted Sister at Newcastle Mayfair. You had to be over 18 to get in and I wasn’t old enough then but was with my brother and mates so snuck in with them. The Mayfair was the hallowed ground with a bar in it and surrounded by all the big boys haha. It was a great sweaty gig but the very next day flew out to America with Venom to do a couple of shows. Out there they had Metallica supporting. They only done two shows at the Paramount Theatre in New York but they made a big impression.
We all lived together in one big house for about three weeks, it was the crew, Venom and Metallica. But me and the other drum tech Gordon were too young to go out drinking and watching bands with all the others so we stayed in the house and got drunk. But living with them was great, we had some real adventures haha’.

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‘The first gig in New York was memorable, we had made some huge bomb pots the size of footballs, you know Venom was all about the show. Well the guy in charge of the pyro was out of his head on something and he ended up loading the pots twice. The bombs went off at the start of their first song Witching Hour, one of the bombs went down through the stage creating a big hole. The other one went up over the crowd, past the balcony and embedded into the back wall. There is a plaque there now, Venom 1983 haha.
But the explosion blew the whole backline so for the second gig we had to get all new equipment. I’ve never had to work so hard all my life it was 24 hours non stop. I was that tired I was asleep under the drumriser when Metallica were playing. It was the only place I could stretch out haha’.

‘I was in the studio at NEAT records as drum tech when Venom were recording. I remember they were working on a new song Countess Bathory and Tony the drummer popped out for something to eat so I filled in on drums and played with Conrad and Jeff. I worked out the drums for the song. So when Tony got back they said Ged’s worked it out just do it like him!’

‘But I didn’t want to be a roady all my life, I wanted to be in a band, see the lights, hear the crowd an all that. I had ambitions of my own and had all these studio and touring experiences at an early age, and was considered a pretty good drummer in the North East. One day I saw an advert in local newspaper The Chronicle for a band wanting a drummer. Thing was I had just got the Venom drum kit as Tony Bray had got a new one built, a Viking drum kit the biggest in the North East. So mine was second biggest haha. But I didn’t tell my brother I was going, I just went for the audition and didn’t tell the band my connections with NEAT and all that, kept it all quiet. I just turned up at the Coach and Horses pub in Wallsend with only a three piece drum kit – and I got the job ! I was drummer in Tysondog.
They were like a Judas Priest sounding band so it was all fill’s which was fine for me. Every rehearsal after that I used to take an extra piece of kit so it ended up a twelve piece’.

‘But I wasn’t happy, I was a good 6-7 years younger than the others so as a young one I wasn’t getting listened to, but other aspects I had more experience. I was also a bit of a hot head you know. Well we recorded an album with NEAT records and just before it was due to be released I left the band. So that was it. They got in Rob Walker to replace me, great lad, good drummer’.

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How did the Atomkraft job come about ? ‘About 6 months after leaving Tysondog I was in NEAT Records and Venom bassist Chronos came up to me and said there’s a guy you should talk to. That’s when I met Tony Dolan. He was a bass player, so we had a few jamming sessions and got to know each other. It was going well, just playing a few Motorhead songs stuff like that, just bass and drums. He had a band called Atomkraft but wanted to update it. They used to wear jeans, t shirts and bullet belts, it was like the press photo for Ace of Spades. We needed to freshen things up and arranged auditions for a guitarist and got 16 year old Rob Mathews in, he was from Pelaw. Tony was from Wallsend and I was from Jarrow. So at the time Atomkraft was just a three piece’.

‘We had punk influences, the metal thrash scene had that, we all loved AC/DC, I also loved Kiss but mix it all together and that’s what we were. The attitude side of it was from punk that was a big part of it’.

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‘We wrote, rehearsed and recorded at NEAT Records and came out with our first album Future Warriors in June ’85. Our very first gig was supporting Slayer at the Marquee in London which was Slayer’s debut European gig. We all went down there with our gear, done the soundcheck and out pops the assistant manager of the Marquee asking who’s in your roadcrew? Well we had 14 people on our crew haha. Basically it was our friends from Newcastle who came down wanting to see the gig haha’.

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‘The stage was so small I had to arrange the drums with Slayer’s drummer Dave Lambardo and see what was the best way to do it. We were supporting them and he played drums facing the side of the stage which was a bit awkward but we sorted it out. In the end he said can you lend me a pair of drumsticks I haven’t got any ? I said yes it’s the least I can do.
Well we’re on stage but after only three songs of our set the whole backline goes off. Even though we had 14 roadies not one of them knew what they were doing. We found it was the guitar that had gone off so me and Tony played along then after 30 seconds I just smashed my whole drum kit and threw it into the crowd. I’d just bought a new kit that was back home so I thought, fuck it, smash this one up ! We went off stage everyone is howling, funnily enough it went down great. We got some great press off it. Anyway stage is cleared and ready for Slayer to go on. Dave Lombardo says to me have you got them drumsticks ? – I’d hoyed everything into the crowd haha. So my drum roadie had to go out and get some back for him haha.
Yes that was Atomkraft’s debut gig. Then after that for about six weeks we went over to Europe with Venom and Exodus and had a great time’.

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Atomkraft only played a few gig’s in the North East. Was that a deliberate decision ? ’Yes by 1986 Atomkraft turned into a 5 piece and in came DC Rage from South Shields and Ian Swift on vocals. At a trial for that line up we got a 25 minute support slot with Girlschool at Newcastle University and then we played The Riverside at Newcastle. But I was gutted at that gig because a lot of young kids couldn’t get in. The thing was at Atomkraft we were once at the Mayfair and someone next to us was talking to his friends saying ‘that’s the band that everyone has heard of but nobody has seen’. I thought that was a great compliment. We weren’t bothered, we knew we hadn’t played Newcastle, that’s just the way it was’.

‘Sometimes it’s not about ability it’s about determination and focus to where you want to go. We had that as Atomkraft, we used to go to the Newcastle Mayfair on the Friday and Saturday nights getting drunk but always made sure we rehearsed every Saturday and Sunday, that was our focus and dedication. Putting the groundwork in that’s how we got those tours. There’s no substitute for rehearsal’.

‘We had a gang mentality of it’s us against you, we don’t care if you like us we just went out on stage and done the best we could we weren’t scared of any band. We made sure if we played live or recorded we were rehearsed and ready to go. We went out with some of the top American bands and if you weren’t up to it you were off the tour, but we put the groundwork in and worked really hard’.

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‘Through our hard work and the management, in the space of two years we done three major European tours with Venom. They were at 5-6,000 seaters some were 10,000. We were young kids compared to them.
There was a point in 1983 when Venom were the biggest selling independant band in the world – not too bad for some guys from Tyneside. Venom were the big boys they brought over Metallica and Slayer for European tours. But the difference was that those bands ended up on good record labels that supported them with promotion.
Now there is two bands Venom and Venom Inc, it’s not a competition between them I’m friends with them all, it’s good what they are both doing’.

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Have you any memorable gigs ? ’A stand out gig for us was in ’87 The Longest Day at Hammersmith Odeon with Agent Steel, Nuclear Assault and Onslaught. There is a video of that and it went live on Radio One. Another stand out gig was when we toured with Nasty Savage and we were the first British thrash band to play Poland. The security was 2,000 armed troops circling the crowd. There was around 40,000 people there they loved the British bands. It was video’d and a live album was made which we never saw a penny from’.

Atomkraft’s biggest audiences were Holland and Germany. Another memorable gig was the Dynamo in Eindhoven. Testament and Onslaught were on the bill and Stryper were headlining. For that we had the Future Warriors image which was Mad Max style. We got off the tour bus heading for the stage and went past Stryper who looked at us and said what’s going on here ! Our vocalist Swifty had injured his hand so we gaffa taped his mic to his hand haha. Marshall Amps had just brought out Jubilee stacks which were silver, we had 12 either side so our image and our stage presence really stood out. The crowd were jumping, absolutely bouncing, I’ll never forget it.
That was the gig somebody threw something on stage, it was like a cannon ball with a fuse burning, everyone saying it’s a bomb ! It roll’s in front of my drum riser, everyone splits off the stage, so I do the natural thing and tell my drum roadie to go and get it haha. Turned out to be nothing just burnt itself out’.

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‘The headliners Stryper were a Christian band, and on that day nobody was allowed to swear, it was part of the contract. Well our singer Swifty went straight out there on stage ‘How the fuck ya doing Holland’ haha. But on the side of the stage Stryper just gave us the thumbs up, they loved us really’.

Was image important ? ’Yes we wanted to stand out, everybody was doing the Metallica thing, jeans, ripped t-shirts you know but the thing we had was as we progressed from a three piece to a five we sounded like Venom, a bit of Motorhead and Kiss. We were speeding up, the guitar sound was getting crisper, we knew we had to up or game. But we were on NEAT Records who never put money into their bands and all American bands coming over on Music for Nations were getting money thrown at them for tour buses and that. We never got one advance from NEAT Records and we were selling a lot of records’.

What has music given you ? ‘I was talking to me dad years ago and he said he joined the merchant navy and saw the world – I joined a band and saw the world. I’ve been to so many places and met so many people, some good some bad, but I would never change anything. All those years ago learning how to play the drums in Clegwell School in Hebburn got me here today, it’s been one big adventure’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

VENOM INC.: Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

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

 

VINYL JUNKIES – Neil Armstrong 7 songs that shaped his 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 the 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.

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‘The End of the Pier’ is a new play that Neil Armstrong wrote and is about to perform at The Customs House, South Shields. Neil is an award winning actor/writer/director based in the North East of England. Over the last twenty-five years he has directed shows for dozens of companies, has been nominated by B.A.F.T.A, The Writers Guild of Great Britain and the National Comedy awards. His play ‘Remember Jim’ which he wrote, starred in and directed, won Best Performance at the Sunderland Echo W.O.W Culture Awards. In 2015 and 2016 he wrote, co-directed and starred in Durham Gala Theatre’s Pantomimes, both broke all box office records to become the most successful productions ever to be staged there.

Introduction’s over, here are Neil’s 7 songs that shaped his world.

1 ‘One of the first songs that got me into music was I Feel Fine by The Beatles. I didn’t actually buy it, my Aunty Nora gave me an old 45 of it in about 1972 I think. This really started me on my way to buying records. I think the feedback at the start of the song drew me in. How the hell did they do that? I wondered, when I was eight. I still think it sounds great today.’

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2 ‘Given that I earn my living poncing about on a stage, I thought I should include something theatrical in my pick of the pops. So jumping back in time to 1970, I was in London, aged six and on holiday with me Mam, Dad and our Julie. We went to see the film version of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver ! I didn’t want to go I think the picture of Fagin on the wall outside the cinema scared me, but I did go and came out singing ‘You’ve got to pick a pocket or two’ with me sister whilst we tried to steal loose change from me Dad’s pockets. I know it’s not exactly Rock but there’s some great tunes in it’.

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3 ‘By the time I was fourteen I had my first guitar and had moved on to now loving The Beatles later period when they ‘Went weird’ as all me Aunties used to say. I had the Blue Album which I paid for through me Mam’s Kay’s Catalogue. I played it over and over again, it was me only LP at this point apart from a K-Tel chart toppers compilation thing. I loved every song on it. If I had to pick a favourite I couldn’t, but Here Comes the Sun would be close’.

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4 ‘By the time I was fifteen it all went a bit Prog! The Musical Box by Genesis from their 1971 album Nursery Crime was largely what did it. I’m from Seaham and it wasn’t as posh as it is now, so listening to these Gothic tales of people getting their heads knocked off with croquet mallets in English Stately Homes and Gardens was for me, a perfect escape. I didn’t care that most of the band were ex-public schoolboys or that my mates were listening to the Sex Pistols or Sham 69 or whoever. I was off on one with Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and the rest, to hell with punk! Let’s Prog! Ten years too late admittedly but never mind. I still love this song today. I don’t even think it’s pretentious, preposterous maybe, but not pretentious’.

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5 ‘Hazy Jane #2 by Nick Drake. I discovered this song on an Island Sampler called Bumpers that I think I bought in The Old Durham Bookshop in Sunderland. I was about 16 at the time and for some mad unfortunate reason I was working in the Civil Service. The only good thing about working there was you got flexi-time so I used to bugger off early on a Friday afternoon to spend my hard earned money from what I considered to be the worst job in the world on LPs. I think this song is gorgeous. I love music that evokes pictures and places in your head and this did for me. It still does and always will’.

6 ‘La Rossa by Van Der Graaf Generator from their albunm Still Life. It’s angry, it’s noisy, it’s got Peter Hammill screaming his head off. I met him once when he was supporting Marillion at the Mayfair in Newcastle. Me and me mate Geoff weren’t that bothered about Marillion so we sneaked into his dressing room to see if he could offer us any advice on how we might become rock stars. He was a lovely bloke, and even sent us a Christmas Card wishing us well in our quest later that year. VDGG I know are an acquired taste, but I loved how they never gave two hoots about anything other than their music. I saw them at the Sage in 2005 when they reformed and they were amazing’.

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7 ‘I was on YouTube about a year ago and discovered a song called Le Soir Du Diable by French band Ange. It was live footage from a gig they did in 1977. Here we had a hairy singer (Christian Decamps) with two sock puppets on his hands – one an angel, the other a devil and they are both playing the xylophone for him as he sings. I’ve tried telling me mates this is tremendous. I mean let’s face it you’re not going to see some twat like Ed Sheeran doing that anytime soon! But unfortunately I seem to be alone on this one. Nevertheless I stand by this band and say ‘They don’t make ’em like that anymore!’ and I wish they did. But just in case they never do, I went and tracked down every 1970’s Ange album. There’s a bloke at Chester le Street market on a Saturday who can sort you out French Prog with Puppets if you fancy it…….no?….just me then?’

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Neil’s new play ‘The End of the Pier’ is on at The Customs House, South Shields from 22nd – 26th August 2017.

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

Intro by Gary Alikivi 2017.

 

ACE OF BASS with North East musician Duncan Emmerson

‘Is there a bass player out there who didn’t want to be Lemmy? Motorhead were always my favourite band, and still are to this day. One of my proudest moments was meeting Fast Eddie’.

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Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘Blimey, there’s a question. Probably hearing Overkill and seeing my first gig, Motorhead supported by Saxon at Newcastle City Hall on December 2nd 1979. That did it for me, and for the following few years I was virtually a resident both at the City Hall and The Mayfair. I still maintain 1979-1984 were the best years in music. Ever’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I haven’t been in a proper recording studio since 1992 when I recorded with a band called Honey at Dungeon Studios in Oxford. I was living in Oxford at the time when there was quite a healthy music scene with a few bands becoming high profile on a national scale. The likes of Ride, On A Friday who became Radiohead and The Jennifers who became Supergrass. I answered an advert in the paper for Honey and ended up doing a few support slots, usually at the famous Jericho Tavern.
In Dungeon Studio we recorded seven tracks in two days and slept under the mixing desk. We still keep in touch which is nice. Those experiences do give you a bond don’t they?  Actually, while I’m talking about them, our one claim to fame was that we supported a local band called On A Friday, who as any fool will know, changed their name to Radiohead’.

When did you start playing gigs in the North East and what venues did you play ?  ‘The first local band I played in was a three piece called Requiem, the brainchild of Glenn S Howes, until recently the singer/guitarist with Fist. I was on the bass, and Sean Taylor from Satan was the drummer. We were a cover band, did gigs on the local pub circuit, bike rallies and the like. This went on for a couple of years from about 2008’.

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‘I joined Warrior in 2014 as the band had been asked to play at Brofest in Newcastle. They needed a bass player and Sean Taylor, yes him again, was drumming for the band. He got in touch and asked if I would like to do it. We played the gig at Brofest in February 2014, and the year after that we played at Headbangers Open Air in Germany and Garage Dayz Revisited in that there London. I’m going to put this on record…thank you to Blitzkrieg for looking after us on both occasions’.

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‘Locally, we played the legendary venues of Trillians and the Penny Gill, and last year we played at Negasonic in Belgium which was a tremendous gig. Guido who runs it is such a lovely bloke.  Personally, I was delighted to meet Rock Goddess at HOA, we’d just come off stage and suddenly there’s Tracey Lamb asking me ‘What was it like mate’? Starstruck or what?  To this day I’ve never been able to talk to musicians I grew up admiring and listening to, even those who have gone on to become good friends. I just babble like a twat haha’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘Well, the one that springs to mind was doing a lunchtime gig with Requiem at a club in Sunderland which is notorious for two reasons. I’m not going to mention the second reason, but for the first one, the audience, and there’s usually a healthy turnout, take great pride in ignoring the band. They’ll read their papers and play dominoes, and revel in silence after each song.  Anyway, we did our opening number, finished to deathly quiet and Glenn, as he did at every gig announces ‘Good Evening (name of venue)’ at the top of his voice. Not a thing. Then we heard from the darkness ‘It’s lunchtime ya daft c**t’. Probably the only reaction ever, which should be a point of pride’.

‘One more semi funny tale. When Warrior played HOA we did a signing session after the set. One guy presented us with a cd by the band from Chesterfield with the same name, the album was called Let Battle Commence. Despite the fact they were a trio, he refused to be convinced he had the wrong band and wouldn’t leave until we signed it. I think he had to be removed eventually haha.’

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I’m currently playing bass for the recently resurrected Dark Heart, who had an album out in 1984 called Shadows Of The Night on Roadrunner Records. I joined Dark Heart after I left Warrior. The line up is myself, Alan Clark who was an original founder member on lead vocals/guitar, Nick Catterick, an outstanding lead guitarist who I’ve known for many years now, and Elliot Sneddon on drums who I played with in Warrior’.

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‘How that came about was Alan Clark got in touch and asked if I’d be interested as he’d been offered an album deal and wanted to resurrect the band. He’s a great singer and I jumped at the chance to work with him. Having Nick and Elliot on board as well was the icing on the cake. It’s nice to get the old rhythm section back together. Dark Heart are currently recording a new album to be released later this year via the Greek label Sleaszy Rider Records. We’ve already got rough mixes of around five or six songs so it’s well under way, and I have to say it’s going to be well worth a listen.  Watch this space….’

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2017.

Recommended:

Brian Ross SATAN/BLITZKREIG: Life Sentence, 20th February 2017.

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

Micky McCrystal, Cat Scratch Fever, March 17th 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

Kev Charlton HELLANBACH: The Entertainer, 23rd June 2017.

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

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

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

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, Tyger Bay, 24th August 2017.

BACK FOR ANOTHER BITE -with Kevin Wynn, bassist with NWOBHM band Tysondog

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Have you any funny stories from gigs ? ‘I could fill a book really !!! Some of them unprintable haha. But one of the stupidest was when Tysondog were in Scotland and before a gig in Glasgow we were due to be interviewed by the legend that is Tom Russell on his radio Clyde Rock Show. We were trying to find the studio, no sat nav’s in them days !
We stopped in the Clydebank area and asked these young kids for direction, I noticed some of them were carrying guitars. Well years later around 1991 I’m in the Cardiff Post House hotel on business when I get talking to, well pissed really, with Wet,Wet,Wet, yes the pop band.
They had just performed at Cardiff Stadium in front of 50,000 people and after the gig the drummer Tommy Cunningham bought about a dozen bottles of champers in the hotel bar. Tommy says to me ‘Kev I hear you used to be in a band ?’ When I told him yeah Tysondog you won’t have heard of them we were a NWOBHM band from the 80’s. Well from his reaction he nearly died. He jumped up shouting ‘No fuckin’ way man !’ ..yup …it was him and some of the other lads out of Wet, Wet, Wet, who we’d asked for directions ha ha.
They said that night they tuned in to the radio to hear us being interviewed and were telling everyone they’d met some rock stars haha.
Oh forgot to tell ya that after the radio interview we all jumped into our hotel swimming pool bollock naked. They had security cameras so most of the staff had a good laugh at a bunch of skinny, pissed up, hairy arsed Geordies !’

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Where did it all begin ? ‘When we were 16 year old we just played the local church halls and youth clubs. Then progressed to pubs in the Newcastle area’

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Kevin also talked about his influences…‘Early on I liked Bowie, Queen, Sweet, T.Rex. then proper rock of Deep Purple, Sabbath and Zeppelin. That lead me to heavier stuff like Judas Priest and Saxon. I decided to get involved in playing music after watching my first concert The Sweet at the Newcastle City Hall. They were heavy as f##k !’

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Our first demo was a live recording of a gig in a working man’s club in Ashington, Northumberland. We sent a copy to NEAT records who had just started releasing heavy metal records. They asked us to record a single there. It was our first time ever in a studio and we came out with Eat the Rich’. (In 1983 Eat the Rich was released as a 7” single on NEAT records. The studio also released two albums by the band. Beware of the Dog in 1984 and two year later Crimes of Insanity, which included a version of School’s Out, the Alice Cooper anthem).

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What are Tysondog doing now and have you got any plans for the future ? Yeah Tysondog released their third album Cry Havoc on Rocksector Records in 2015. In September this year we’ve got a gig at the Gaura metal festival in Brazil with Anvil. Later that month we go to Manchester for the Grimm Up North festival with a few bands on the bill including founder members of Saxon’.

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‘Then in December it’s the big HRH NWOBHM festival in Sheffield with Satan, Raven and a few others before a few club shows in Newcastle and over to Holland. Last gig this year is in December with Girlschool, Diamond Head, Tytan, Spartan Warrior and a few others, it’s a great line up at the Blast from the Past festival held in Belgium.
We are busy planning more European dates for 2018. Yeah that’s enough to be getting on with’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.

Recommended:

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

VENOM INC: Hebburn or Hell, 28th July 2017.

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

VINYL JUNKIES – John Heston, 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.

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John Heston has been a Tyneside musician for 30 years and is currently in ska punk band The Panic Report. These are John’s 7 songs that shaped his world.

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1. New York Groove – Ace Frehley
This was the first record I ever bought from the Handy Shop in Frederick Street, South Shields when I was about ten years old. A few of my mates were into KISS, and as an impressionable youth I was immediately attracted to the image. Being a fan of horror films, I loved all the blood and fire breathing etc. I saw this record in the racks and when I got it home was surprised that it wasn’t some demonic metal tune but a funky ode to New York City. I loved it then and still do now.

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2. At the Edge – Stiff Little Fingers
I was a heavy rock fan until I was about 14, but this is the song that made me cut my hair and lose the denim jacket. I first heard it at Buddys nightclub in South Shields on the 14-18 night, and I was transfixed straight away. The lyrics totally summed up the teen angst that everyone faces at some point, and what a tune! Yet again I paid a visit to the Handy Shop and bought Hanx!, their live album. It turned me into a big fan, and they’re probably the band I’ve seen most times live.

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3. Should I Stay Or Should I Go/ Straight To Hell (double A side) – The Clash
I first consciously heard The Clash in the Eureka pub in South Shields when I was about 14. We used to get in and play pool even though we were underage, and they used to have a great jukebox. From the moment Should I Stay Or Should I Go kicked in I was hooked, and found myself singing along before the song had even finished. I immediately walked 100 yards up the road to the Handy Shop to see if they had it in stock, and I was in luck, they had the 12″ single. I got it home and after a few plays I put the other song, Straight To Hell on. This is the moment I totally fell in love with The Clash, this song just stopped me in my tracks. A haunting, eerie track that sounds like no one else, telling the tale of abandoned children of the Vietnam war, and the troubles the veterans faced when they got back to America. This is still probably my favourite song of all time.

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4. Lady Stardust – David Bowie
I ‘borrowed’ the Ziggy Stardust LP from my cousin Jill in the mid 80’s. She had left home for London so I liberated it from her house as I was a casual fan of his Let’s Dance-era stuff. This was something else altogether and immediately fell in love with this album. Every song is a winner but Lady Stardust is my favourite, just an amazing vocal and brilliant piano from Mick Ronson. I still have the LP somewhere, I’ll give it back one day Jill, I promise!

5. E=MC2 – Big Audio Dynamite
The Clash are my favourite band but they’d split up by the time I got on board. The next best thing was guitarist Mick Jones’ outfit. They were quite groundbreaking at the time, one of the first bands to use samples etc, and this track remains one of my favourites. It’s a great lesson in making two chords go a long way, with different melodies interwoven on top. A strangely hypnotic song, it had me hooked straight way, and was a sizeable hit in the UK.

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6. Senses Working Overtime – XTC
One of the most underrated bands ever. This is probably their most well known song, and another one I picked up in the Handy Shop from the bargain bin. It has strange medieval sounding verses then explodes into one of the catchiest choruses I’ve ever heard. This led me to digging deeper into their catalogue and what a treasure trove it is. It’s a shame they packed in touring in 1982 because I would have loved to have seen them live. Fiercely intelligent music and totally original, one of my favourite bands.

7. Good Morning Britain – Aztec Camera
As we entered the Nineties I was buying less and less records but this one came as a breath of fresh air. A great lyric with each verse dealing with a different country of the British Isles. The river Tyne even gets a mention which always helps for a local lad like myself. Scorching guitar solo as well leading into one of those key changes which get the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. Unfortunately the Handy Shop had closed by the time this came out, I think I ended up buying it at the rather soulless WH Smith.

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Recommended: WILL BINKS July 7th 2017 – MARTIN POPOFF July 12th 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.

Intro Gary Alikivi July 2017.

STORMY DAZE – Life’s like that for North East guitarist Jim Clare

In the early 1980’s guitarist Jim Clare played for North Eastern UK bands Hellfire and Geneva… ‘It was hot pies and cans of Carlsberg Special in the rehearsal rooms with my first band, in the next room were Fist and the other was Hellanbach… it was like the Walk this Way video by Aerosmith and Run DMC haha. During the late 80’s he was guitarist in Black Metal merchants Venom where he recorded the album Calm Before the Storm and went out on tour… ‘I remember we were in America and met up with the Cycle Sluts From Hell, basically they were the Spice Girls on PCP, that was some wild night at the Ritz in New York City’.

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Where did it all begin for you? ‘Music was around me from an early age, my older brother’s were into folk and my cousin Bob Henrit played in Argent and The Kinks. I started studying bass then moved on to guitar. In 1980 I bought my Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Goldtop (1972) for £300 and used my brothers HH amp. I was listening to British rock bands like Queen, Thin Lizzy and UFO also American stuff like The Doors and Van Halen’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘In 1980 my first proper band was called Hardline, we played The Mitre in Benwell and a few other pub’s in Newcastle. Then by 1981, I was in a power trio called Hellfire who had a couple of line ups and played a few gigs around the North East. That lasted until 1983’.

‘Then I moved down to London to join metal band Tank who were signed at the time, but that didn’t come off I can’t remember why exactly, it’s lost in the mists of time.
So I came back to the North East and although I couldn’t play NWOBHM to save my life, and still can’t haha. I auditioned for a few heavy metal band’s that were on the scene, Warrior, Tysondog and Tygers of Pan Tang.
But eventually joined AOR band Geneva in 1985 and again gigged around Tyneside notably at Edwards Bar, Mingles in Whitley Bay, Tiffany’s in Newcastle, yes loved that band’.

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‘Then I joined Venom in 1986 which lasted a couple of years, that line up was Tony Bray on drums, (featured in an earlier blog) bass and vocals was Conrad Lant with me and Mike Hickey on guitars. Around ’89 we had Chris Patterson on drums and were called Cronos then. That lasted till around 1993’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘First recording was using a 4 Track at Desert Sound in Felling. Ian McKie was the engineer he used a 1/4” Reel to Reel with Roland 301 Space echo. A great little sound with nice tracked guitar’s’.

‘With Hellfire we went to Guardian Studios in Durham. I can safely say that was the worst recording experience of my life. Starting with little or no overdubs, the producer told us all the old stories that the studio was famous for…including the one about the studio ghost as well as the solo he played on The Carpenters track haha.
Other studio work was when I played for Warfare and Venom. We recorded a few things in Impulse Studio where NEAT records were based’.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘To many to mention but here’s a couple of snippets for you. We were playing a gig in Newcastle with Hardline and for dramatic effect we came bouncing on stage on space hoppers and used a lot of smoke bombs. The landlord went crazy as it turned the beer flat and people retching in the toilets.
On tour with Venom we arrived in Japan with all our guitars and amps still back in London. We were soundchecking with cheap radio systems that picked up samba music on the radio and it was blasting out of the 4×12’s’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I play with The Ballbreakers who’ve been described as ZZ Top on crack. We’ve played quite a few Bikers festivals where we do a range of our own tunes She’s On….I’m Off and Shaved By The Bell. As you can tell with those titles we’re not collecting for charity, we refuse to compromise even when we do covers we do them our way. I’m joined along with Pete Green on bass and Matty Wilson on drums. Right now we are in the middle of finishing our debut album which we are recording in Alnwick’.

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‘I also play in a two guitar outfit called Balls of Steel playing a brand of anthemic, airpunching cheese rock where the punters and the band have a lotta fun. And I run , I’ve been lucky enough to have taught players that are now ripping up the North East scene. So I’m busy as hell’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2017.