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 Just for the Record 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.
JUST FOR THE RECORD.