PLAYED HIS CARDS RIGHT – celebrating a 45 year career with vocalist Pete Allenby

‘Every five years or so I still get very small royalty checks… about enough to buy a bag of chips!’

New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Tarot came from South Yorkshire. They formed in 1979 but folded in late 82′

‘There are no plans to reform. I have a four piece rock band called The Method and we play covers of band’s like Toto, Rush, The Who and Queen. We do about 30 gigs a year, we do it for the love !’


Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ?

‘I first got involved in music when I was asked to join a band soon after leaving school, and realised I wasn’t that bad at it! My main influences then were The Who, Queen, Joe Cocker and Alex Harvey.

My defining music moment was probably when I first heard Won’t Get Fooled Again then I bought the album, Who’s Next and played it to death! Also when I first heard Seven Seas of Rye by Queen. I’d never really heard anything quite like it before!’


When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play. Was it in the immediate area or travelling long distances, and did you support name touring bands ?

‘I started playing in ’72 but my first gig’s with Tarot started in 1979 in working men’s club’s. The line up was me on vocals, Malc King on guitars, on bass we had Brian Redfern and Andy Simpson on drums.

We quickly started playing at recognised rock gigs of the day, Ford Green in Leeds, Boilermakers in Sunderland, in Halifax was The White Lion then over to Jenks bar in Blackpool’.

‘We also supported bands like The Jags, John Parr, Fischer Z, Frankie Miller and Def Leppard -whatever happened to them ! On those gig’s we played the Universities, Newcastle Mayfair, Queen’s Hall in Bradford, we got to Doncaster, played The Cock and Lion in Bridlington and The Pier at Lowestoft.

Back in those day’s we got around the North a lot, we covered a lot of miles’.


What were your experiences of recording ? 

‘From 1979-81 Tarot recorded three demo sessions, first was in Halifax where we recorded five tracks in one day. I can’t remember the studio name but I do recall it was on the fourth floor cos I nearly had a coronary carrying the kit up there !

Our second and third recordings were at September Studios in Huddersfield, where we recorded six tracks in all, three at each session.

I can’t remember how much the sessions in the recording studio cost, but coming from Yorkshire I guess it wasn’t mega expensive. HOW MUCH! Being the Yorkshire man’s mantra!’.


‘The only published song from these sessions was Feel the Power which appeared on the compilation album – New Electric Warriors released in 1980.

I remember seeing the album in the local record shop, was a bit disappointed with the cover. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it.

How that came about was someone got in touch with us via Sounds magazine I think, they had checked our name as we were in the metal chart most weeks.

Streetfighter were also on the album, I met their manager a few times. We did a gig with them at Leeds Uni and the BBC came to film some of it including us.

I’m sure it was something to do with Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper not sure why. I don’t remember it being shown on tv’.


‘We also done a mini promotional tour for the album. To be honest I don’t know how many copies of the album were sold back then. It was re-released as part of a triple box set of NWOBHM, which I bought a copy of.

I managed to by a cd version a few years back of New Electric Warrior’s and also a vinyl copy too! I still get very small royalty checks every five year or so, about enough to buy a bag of chips !’

‘All the Tarot material has just been released for the first time, on a remastered cd Rough and Ready. To order a cd you can contact me directly at or the band via facebook page’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

INVADER FROM THE NORTH – Spartan Warrior guitarist Neil Wilkinson

In a previous interview on this blog (Chain Reaction, May 21st) Neil said’   After Pure Overkill we thought things were starting to happen, the bloke who ran Guardian Studio asked if we wanted to do a full album, we said yeah let’s go for it’.

Based in Sunderland North East UK, Spartan Warrior recorded two albums in the 1980’s, ‘Steel ’n’ Chains’ on Guardian Records and ‘Spartan Warrior’ on Roadrunner. They also appeared on compilations ‘100% Pure Metal’ and ’Pure Overkill’.

The band are still playing live so I got back in touch with Neil and asked him how long does it take to prepare for gig’s ?

’Well the amount of preparation depends on the gig really. Gigs abroad are definitely more complex as we have to book ferries or flights and there’s usually travel to the airport or ferry terminal to take into account.

For a lot of gigs that involve the ferry travelling through Dover is usually the cheapest, which for us in the North East involves an overnight drive to get an early ferry and then drive to a gig.

There’s been times I’ve set off around 9pm on a Friday evening and drove to Dover for an early morning 6 o’clock ferry which gets us to Calais for 8am allowing for an hours time difference.

Then drove to a gig and literally gone straight on stage to play having not slept a wink. I’m certain that’s a situation that’s not unique to us’.

‘Also if we need to hire a van it can be a lot of work – you wouldn’t think it, but it is. Also with a van comes a higher cost on the ferry. The whole thing can be a lot of work and probably way more involved than people think.

So far there’s been no problems apart from the time Dan decided to wear his bullet belt going through Heathrow airport ha ha – he actually put it through the scanner.

He was lucky to make it to the gig that time and I was sat in the airport thinking how we could busk the gig as a four piece’.


Is there any difference from coming of stage now to when Spartan Warrior played their first gigs ?

’There’s a definite difference. These days after gigs people want to talk and meet us and even sign stuff for them which is really nice’.

What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ?

‘We get all ages at festivals I’ve seen old blokes – like me – and parents with babies with ear defenders on. Its quite a small scene so you do get to see a lot of familiar faces, a lot of them are now friends’.

The set list, how do you decide what goes in/out, is tempo important to the order, how do you choose the first and last songs ?

’Putting a set list together is usually a joint exercise. There’s a core of songs that we class as must do, the one’s we think people expect to hear us play.

Other than that we try and switch the set up as much as possible so that people who’ve seen us before will get to hear something different. Tempo is important and we sometimes try and run songs into each other.

Playing the gigs we do and with four albums worth of songs we usually have limited time so we try and play as many songs as we can. Both first and last song we try and choose something that will hit hard from the off.

I remember reading something that had been written about us at Headbangers Open Air festival in Germany, they said Spartan Warrior opened with Stormer, ‘and nearly ripped my head off’. Well that was job done and exactly the reaction we wanted !’

In the coming month’s Spartan Warrior have a few gig’s coming up are there any that stand out ?

‘We’ve got the Trillians gig in Newcastle in November and we are looking forward to Grimm Up North which is a charity event’.

On September 30th in Bury is the Grimm Up North Festival.

On the bill are fellow NWOBHM bands Salem, Weapon UK plus a whole host of others who are coming together to help Steve Grimmet vocalist from Grim Reaper who tragically lost his leg while on tour in South America.

‘We are really looking forward to those gig’s, not just because we are playing but we also get to catch up with loads of mates in bands who are also on the bill’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.


MYTHRA: Still Burning, 13th February 2017.

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

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

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

WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

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

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

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

SPARTAN WARRIOR: Chain Reaction, 21st May 2017.

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

Vince High, Vinyl Junkies, 11th December 2017.

INCREASE THE PRESSURE – with Salem’s Paul Macnamara & Simon Saxby

This year UK metal band Salem completed dates at Brofest in Newcastle, Metarock in Barcelona and Wedfest in Hertford. They’ve also been working on new album Attrittion with release date early 2018 on Dissonance Productions.

The Hull based group have lined up four gig’s starting September 30th in Bury at the Grimm Up North Festival.

On the bill are Spartan Warrior, Weapon UK and a host of metal bands coming together to help one of their own.

Steve Grimmet vocalist with Grim Reaper tragically lost his leg while on tour in South America. It left him and his family with massive medical bills.

With a lot to sort out, Salem guitarist Paul Macnamara (pic. below on left) and frontman Simon Saxby told me about their plans.

Paul: ‘We played at British Steel in France 2015 and we’re really looking forward to do that again. Blast From The Past is new to us though we have gigged in Belgium several times already. And then Grimm Up North, well that’s something else quite special’.

Simon: ‘Preparing for gigs these days takes less time than it ever did when we were young and keen. I think because we’re old and keen to get out of going shopping…again. We tend to rehearse at home, and have a full band rehearsal nearer the gig just to make sure.

Paul Mac does most of the travel arrangements and thankfully, so far nobody has forgotten passports. However we are guilty of forgetting that it takes longer to remember whether you have got everything you need before you set off. Maybe that’s an age thing’.

Paul: ‘I do remember one time when arrived to pick up Simon at 6am in the way to a gig in Europe. He was asleep and didn’t hear his phone – so we resorted to throwing stones at the window of his third floor apartment!


On 7th October they go to France for the British Steel Festival 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 ?

Simon: ‘The set list is obviously governed by the time allotted, however, as we have continued writing and recording new material the choice of what to leave out gets more challenging.

The first song is always one with impact and power and thankfully we have a few to choose from. The last song is usually a song like Forgotten Dreams. The pace of the set fluctuates between those two’.

Paul: ‘We try to select a good blend of old and new, some from the 1980’s and increasingly more from the recent albums. We are always excited to include our newest material, so we may start incorporating songs from our forthcoming Attrition album soon – maybe!

During December the band have two more festival gigs to wrap up the year. On the 2nd they are at the HRH NWOBHM in Sheffield with Avenger, Diamond Head and headliners Raven.

What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ?

Simon: ‘With the popularity of rock music and the organisers of gigs being family people, we find a mixture of all ages. There is an honesty and warmth amongst the metal community that is ageless and the audience always reflects that’.

Paul: ‘And we do see more and more people at our gigs who have become our friends over the years. It’s great to see them there – singing along to all our songs.  We really appreciate their support’.


Finally, they travel onto Belgium for Blast from the Past festival playing alongside The Deep, Tysondog and headliners Diamond Head.

Is there any difference from coming off stage now to when Salem played their first gigs ?

Simon: ‘Yes it’s more tiring but many times more rewarding. We actually take time to enjoy every second on stage and enjoy a cold beer, a chat with people afterwards. Then a good night’s sleep before setting off again’.

Paul: ‘Definitely. For a start, we are playing bigger events than in the 80’s so there are a lot more people keen to talk with us at the merch table – which is great – and the dressing rooms are better, rather than having to change in the toilets!

I’m sure we work harder to put on a show which as Simon says is tiring – and it’s so good to engage with the audience. It is such a brilliant feeling to see so many people enjoying themselves who know our music and are singing along with us’.

For more info on gig’s, album releases, merchandise and listen to some of the tracks contact the band at the official website

Interview by Gary Alikivi   August 2017.


SALEM: To Hull and Back, April 6th 2017. 

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

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

CLOVEN HOOF: On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

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

YOUNG BLOOD – interview with Avenger and Repulsive Vision drummer Gary Young

Based in the North East of England Gary is drummer for New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Avenger, who he has played for on and off over 30 years.

He is also a member of four piece Cumbrian death metal band Repulsive Vision who formed in 2010. Both bands have recently released albums.


Avenger released The Slaughter Never Stops on Rocksector records in early 2016. Repulsive Vision released their debut album Look Past the Gore, and See the Art on 31st March this year on Danish metal label Mighty Music (pic below Gary standing on left)


‘Being lucky enough to get a release from a hard working label like Mighty Music has certainly been a great step in the right direction for us. We have really been delighted with the reviews and positive feedback that the debut has recieved.

For Avenger the new album really made it special for us as for quite a few people this was their first introduction to the band’.

If we go back to when you started playing drums who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ?

’I started by jamming with a mate from school Dave Burn, who is now a well known and respected guitarist. He is currently lead guitarist for Paul Raymonds band. I think meeting Dave and playing my favourite tunes of the era was what started me off’.
(Nerd alert: Paul Raymond, keyboardist/guitarist began his career in the late 60’s songwriting and performing with bands Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, UFO, Michael Schenker Group & Waysted)

‘My influences were primarily classic heavy rock bands such as Thin Lizzy, Van Halen and Judas Priest – and a good bit of punk. But my primary influence to form a band, write and perform original music was 100% NWOBHM bands in the Tyneside area during the early 80’s.

Seeing those lads get out of the North East and make such a profound impact on the scene worldwide was a huge motivation for me, and that continued after Avenger was formed.

For rehearsals we rented a room at Spectro Arts Center just off Pilgrim Street in Newcastle. A lot of bands those days used that place and it did create a feeling of community for all involved.

Curiously this community was going to last quite a few decades although we didn’t know it at the time’.

With bands like Raven, Venom, Tygers of Pan Tang, Fist, Mythra and NEAT Records all based in the North East of England.

This led to the North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal highlighted by music journalist Ian Ravendale reporting a ’Matrix of Metal Mayhem’ in the 17th May 1980 edition of Sounds.

Interviews on this blog have featured all of these bands plus Steve Thompson producer at NEAT Records.


What venues did Avenger play in ? 

‘Early on we used to play popular music venues in and around Newcastle such as the Newton Park Hotel and Tiffanys night club. I was also lucky to get off on tour when I was pretty young and play abroad.

A stand out gig from back in the day is Avengers debut gig in Europe at Dieppenbeek Belgium in ’83. We played as headline band on a show with maybe seven other bands in what was a large sports hall a bit like The Lightfoot in Walker, here in Newcastle.

As our time came to play the crowd started chanting our name – it was unbelievable and a bit scary but once we got onstage it was great. Thanks to social media, all these years later I’m reunited with the lads who organised that show’.

What were your experiences of recording ?

’I worked in the Shipyards near my hometown but for about a year before that I worked at Impulse Studios in Wallsend which was where Neat Records were based.

Due to this I was involved in a lot of recording sessions and some of them for what are now landmark albums like Venoms – Black Metal and Ravens – Wiped Out.

I had my first experiences of recording there with my own bands and helping people out on random recording sessions. They were great times’.

Have you any stories from recording two Avenger albums Blood Sports and Killer Elite ?

‘A long time ago now this Gary! One mad story was Ian Swift (vocals) and Mick Moore (bass) doing a promo interview with Metro Radio for Blood Sports shortly after recording the album.

They mentioned on air before the interview Avenger were coming in to the station to talk live about their new album Blood Sports.

Well some Animal Rights protesters turned up on the night going mad about us being ‘pro’ Blood Sports -we were like no!! You’ve got it all wrong’.


‘Recording Killer Elite, the most vivid memory was how much Keith Nichol the engineer mentored us during the recording. Encouraging us to try for better takes. Giving opinions on how to improve the dynamics of the songs, stuff like that.

It really brought home to me that there’s more to an engineer than tweaking knobs and sliding desk controls. An Engineer who is a musician will motivate a band and encourage the best performance within a bands ability.

Keith done that with us 110%. After that experience I’d always prefer to record with an engineer who is also a musician’.

Did you film any tv or music videos ?

‘Avenger filmed three promotional videos for Killer Elite which was unheard of back then for a band on a small indie label. Venom and their production team helped us out a lot on these shoots especially Venom drummer Tony Bray and their manager Eric Cook.

They had done quite a few videos and had a far better idea than us about presentation and all that. They loaned us a fair bit of gear and managed the pyrotechnics for the video.

Looking back they are what they are, very ’80s looking videos but even now people constantly refer to them, so over the years they have been a really useful promotional tool’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ?

’There’s one or two stories that stick with me, funnier ones like playing with Blitzkrieg at Newcastle University and being paid in bottles of Brown Ale! We jinged down the street afterwards.

Another time playing in Holland when we were young lads. During the terrible winter of 1985 two Dutch girls asked me and one of the lads ‘do you fancy coming back to ours ?’.

Being 18 at the time we said yeah. We got a taxi and ended up in a freezing cold rat infested basement under the student hall of residence.

Wait here we will see if the Night Porter is about because we can’t have visitors after 23.00’ they said. We waited and waited…Ahhhh it was a set up !…they left us in the freezing basement.

This was before mobile phones. It was broad daylight when our Dutch friends found us’.


‘Back in ’83 myself and vocalist Brian Ross were fortunate enough to be asked to play a one off show in Holland with a variety of musicians from other bands. Lads from Satan, Mercyful Fate and Deep Machine’.
(in Avenger at that time, Brian Ross has also been frontman for Satan and Blitzkreig. He features in the blog Life Sentence Feb.20th)

‘We travelled across to the continent which was the first time I’d ever flown in my life. We rehearsed a set of covers for a week then played the set to a full house the following Saturday.

It was great fun, it was also the first gig I played where we were all paid a significant fee.

Because of this one off show we managed to return and play three shows ten months later as a full band, one gig in Belgium and two in Holland.

This was Avengers first gigs outside the UK and they went really well. So much so that we were signed for three albums by NEAT the day after we returned from those gigs.

We returned to mainland Europe the following year playing more shows in Belgium and Holland. The following year 1985, the band played its first gigs in America but on return sadly the band folded’.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?

’Avenger reformed in 2005 and have played abroad every year since, including our debut shows in Brazil in 2013. We really enjoyed some great gigs for the early part of the promotion of the last album.

Dates that stand out for me was the Triel Open Air just outside of Paris, Rock You to Hell Festival in Athens, Greece and sets at Brofest in our home town Newcastle upon Tyne. Not forgetting the SOS festival in Bury’.

‘Repulsive Vision has been enjoying several prestigious supports in the last few years playing with their heroes Discharge, Benediction and Destroyer 666.

But the gig highlight for sure was performing at Las Vegas Deathfest in June on the same bill as Vader, one of my personal favourites. That was absolutely great.

Both bands have recent promo videos up on You tube for the albums and a quick search takes you straight to them for anyone who would like to check them out’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.


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.

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

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

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

VINYL JUNKIES Neil Newton – 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 they 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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Neil Newton is guitarist with North East punk band Angelic Upstarts.

‘I’ve written and recorded two albums with the Upstarts – Bullingdon Bastards which was released in 2015 on the BossTuneage label & The Dirty Dozen, which was originally released on I Hate People label in 2011 and later re-released on Randale Records.

Plus I’ve written and recorded two albums for a side project from the Upstarts in a band called The Dipsomaniacs. Those albums were on the Mad Butcher label and called Gambrinus (released 2008) and Well Connected (released 2012).

I’m currently in the process of writing more new tunes for a vinyl release too. That project I’ve called Sounds for Hounds with 100% of sales going to shelters for retired/abandoned greyhounds and lurchers’.


‘The Upstarts have shows booked for next year already. We still keep getting offered great gigs all over the world and we’ve just played to a packed-out Rebellion Festival for the second year running.

So the interest is still there for the Upstarts and as long as that remains, then I suspect Mensi will want to continue’.

Introductions over here are the 7 songs that shaped Neil’s world.

1) The Hotshots – Snoopy versus The Red Baron: The very first single I owned (I still have it in fact) I just loved its groove, which isn’t surprising considering that the ‘Hotshots’ on this fine piece of wax were in fact the Cimarons, who had migrated to the UK from Jamaica where they had sessioned for loads of artists including a certain Jimmy Cliff.

I was barely 5 years old at the time but the groove just hooked me and is most definitely responsible for my love of anything on Trojan and related labels.


2) Lou Busch Orchestra – Zambezi: One of my great-uncles had this ancient, battered owld wind up gramophone caper, which today would probably be worth a fortune to some beardy London hipster type and the only records you could play on it were old 78s which were canny heavy in weight.

They were like roof tiles and probably worth a fortune to some beardy London hipster type, who’d use them as fucking dinner plates or some other pretentious, crockery based catastrophe.

Anyway, leaving such bearded buffoonery aside, I was nebbing through all their old 78s and giving them a spin when I happened upon this tune.

It had, to my mind, a calypso style intro and that grabbed me straight away as calypso is very similar to mento, which massively influenced reggae & ska. Again, just as with the Hotshots/Cimarons, it was all about the groove baby!

In addition, there is some fantastic parpage going on and I love a good slice of the owld parpage caper (Parpage = Brass/Horn section, ye dig?) all of which led me to discover big band swing music which I also have a great fondness for.

By the way, Lou Busch also went by the name of Johnny ‘fingers’ Carr and this pic of him at the piano is mint. Look at him man, how can you fault someone displaying such top drawer dudery!


3) Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue: I queued up outside Pete Edmonds Record shop on Keppel Street in South Shields for this. It was really special for a number of reasons, not least of which were the brilliant tunes!

It was the first slab of coloured vinyl I can remember getting my hands on and the first double album I owned. In addition, I loved the artwork on the cover, a feature that the introduction of CD’s tragically diminished.

Just think of all the superb album covers from that time man, Motorhead, No Sleep til Hammersmith being one of the best ones. The respect for and appreciation of the effort that went into producing these slabs of glorious sonic delights, was probably the reason I carried Out of the Blue back home like I was carrying a fucking Ming vase!

I also remember buying a belt buckle with the album front cover artwork on it from, I think Image Records over the road from Pete Edmonds shop.

I definitely remember going into Image Records but as memories get a little fuggy as the years pass, it might not have been where I got the belt buckle from?

Still it’s nice to remember a time when Shields had lots of vinyl shops to choose from with Callers, at the Nook, being my usual vinyl/badges/posters hunting ground.

I really hope in this era of virtual cyber products, that people decide they’d like more physical product. The pleasure of relaxing while browsing through racks of vinyl is, I feel, a lost delight the younger generation may never experience. I hope I’m proved wrong.


4) Angelic Upstarts – Teenage Warning: I was considering leaving this out and picking another punk album, lest I be accused of bias but no, fuck that, this band certainly did shape my life because prior to the Upstarts, while I loved the energy and anger of punk, it wasn’t until after listening to this that I began to understand WHY.

I already had a fuzzy understanding of punk but the Upstarts slid everything sharply into view as they were writing about what people in our region could see happening to their family, friends and community.

As for the album itself? Hey, that feedback at the start man! It just starts menacing the listener straight away hahaha and then it crashes into the track like a brick hoyed through a window. Fucking magnificent!!

5) Eddie Cochran – C’mon Everybody: In an earlier interview I explained how my dad gave me this to learn on guitar when I was just starting out and it opened my eyes or more importantly, my ears, to early rock and roll and further back to the blues.

At the time I didn’t realise nor, I suppose, appreciate what a huge favour my dad had done for me. I was essentially learning the underpinning knowledge to all that came after it.

By that I mean for Rock/Punk/Alternative music. I don’t mean jazz which, to me, was far too up its own arse and learning it would’ve felt a bit like I was some posh kid learning Latin at Eton!

Mind, I have grown to respect those who play it but 30 years on and I still can’t help blurting out “self-indulgent smug wankery” when I attempt to say “wow, aren’t you fucking fabulous”. Oh dear!

So aye, cheers fatha for not being a cord wearing jazzy bastard and thanks for the steer to Eddie C, it really was something else.


6) AC/DC – If You Want Blood: Now this album shaped my view on how an electric guitar should sound. Which is that there is absolutely no place, nor valid excuse, for a rock guitarists’ tone platter to contain any salad on it whatsoever.

Nay, not even the merest waft of lettuce or smallest squeak of cress. Nein, nein, nein, it should only contain the thickest, juiciest, meatiest slabs of chunkment and the Young brothers deliver the choicest of cuts on this superb live album.

I’m not arsed over who was best chanter between Bon and Jonna nor do I give a fuck what the purists think, I enjoyed listening to both of them and it would not have made any difference to me which one of them had sung on this album, for me it is all about the huge blanket of chunko molunko unfurled by the Youngs. Marvellous!!


7) The Clash – London Calling: This album got me through the lowest, darkest time of my life. I’ve obviously no wish to go into details here about that time but if anyone tells you that music isn’t therapy? Tell them they’re are talking out of their fucking arse and are not to be trusted!

In contrast, there are one or two records from that time that I find very difficult to listen to.

The power of music? You’d better believe it tiger and this particular album really was a lifebelt for me during that time.

The tracks on the album?…. It’s the Clash!…. It’s London Calling!…. What? Do people really need to be told how good an album this is? Bloody Heathens!

Next up for Angelic Upstarts is North East Calling at Northumbria University on 30th September 2017.

A full line up including Cockney Rejects, Anti Nowhere League, Ruts DC and from Tyneside, Gimp Fist and Panic Report.  

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

Vinyl Junkies into by Gary Alikivi 2017.

DEATH OR GLORY – interview with Danny McCormack bassist The Main Grains/The Wildhearts

I’m with Danny at his home in Newcastle and notice a black and white photo on the sitting room wall, it’s a picture of The Garricks Head pub in South Shields… ‘Yeah my Grandma Pat used to have it’.

I remembered I had my first drink there when I was 16 year old. A pint of McKewan’s Scotch, after the first drink the froth covered the caterpillar growing on my top lip…

‘Yes, it was a great pub sadly not there now. She used to have regular lock-in’s, the punters staying behind after hours for a few more drinks.

A bloke with an accordion would be in, there was a piano player in the corner, and we’d all be singing along with them. Smokey tunes, great times and wild night’s, yes, I can remember all that’.

When living in London Danny McCormack was a member of The Wildhearts. During their commercial peak in the nineties, they recorded four albums with their second release P.H.U.Q entering the album charts at no.6.

The band also released a bucket load of top 30 singles, and they appeared on British tv music programme Top of the Pops,

and had support slots with Manic Street Preachers, Guns n Roses and AC/DC, they also toured America and Japan.

Danny went on to form The Yo Yos and recorded one album, toured the UK, Europe and Japan then split in 2000.

Since returning North in 2003 he has re-joined and left The Wildhearts several times, played with Dog’s D’Armour and with his younger brother Chris in Three Colours Red. The Yo Yos also made a brief comeback.

Those are just edited highlight’s of his life in rock n roll. But bringing the story up to date Danny has a new band – The Main Grains.

Before meeting up I checked out some of their music and watched a video for ‘Unscrewed’. I thought it had a Ramones/End of the Century/ Phil Spector feel to it…
’Yes it’s our nod to Phil Spector in a way. The Main Grains are JJ on guitar, Ginna on drums and Ben on guitar with me on bass and vocals.

They are Yorkshire lads so they come up to Gateshead where we rehearse. When we first got together it all fit in place, the playing is tight. That’s what you want.

We record the old fashioned way, idea’s on an acoustic first, then get in a room together to rehearse. Bounce idea’s off each other. We need the spark, the energy for it to come together. This time we are doing it ourselves.

We’ve had no record company input. So never signed anything, we own our own music. We make our own decisions and plenty people are coming to the gig’s, so we are doing something right.

We will work with promoters to put together a few more gig’s but we are in control, we’ll choose when we want to record and gig’.


Punk was a big influence in your life, can you remember where you first heard it ?

‘The jukebox man would come around to my grandma’s pub and say ‘Pat what do you want on the jukebox this week ? She said ‘All my usual’s you know the Patsy Cline stuff, but none of that punk rock music there’s far too much fucking swearing in it haha’.

My ear’s pricked up like devils horn’s. What’s punk rock ? Then I heard the Pistol’s, Damned, Clash and just loved it. They absolutely blew my mind. I used to play them at low volume so my mother couldn’t hear the swearing.

I was playing The Toy Doll’s, still love them to this day, Angelic Upstarts – there was a lot of complaints about them being on stage kicking a pig’s head around with a copper’s helmet on it.

But they were only singing the truth you know, reality, have a dose of this folks. I had a picture of them on my wall and there’s the ugly mugs of Mond and Mensi staring down at me haha. Yes I love punk’.

Did you have any hero’s in music ?

‘Nah I was never into the hero worship thing, never looked up to any of the musician’s or bands really. The only heroes out there are all the nurses, doctors and fireman. They face life and death decisions every day…that’s who real heroes are’.

When did you get your first guitar ?

‘I got my first guitar one Christmas, it was a classical. The reason I play bass is because two strings snapped and I didn’t have the heart to say to my mam that I’ve snapped the strings because A, I’ll get a clip around the lug for snapping them and B, she couldn’t afford to replace them.

I just used to play along with my records with the four strings like a bass’.

Then some mates got together, and we done my first band called Energetic Krusher. Ali was on vocals, Hairy the drummer, Louie and Nick Parsons on guitars.

Nick went on to do The Almighty. We made an album for a record label down London called Vinyl Solution. We had just split up but never told them.

Ali took us for a pint and told us about the record company interest, we all said yes of course we’ll do it. We were 15-16 year old with a record deal, it was brilliant. I remember going to school somebody video taped us in rehearsals. I was really chuffed’.

‘We got the buzz then, first gig I ever done was amazing. It just felt exactly right. The crowd were going nut’s, we were going nut’s, it sounded tight, in time, in tune. That was at The Riverside in Newcastle.

Later I was working at King’s Music guitar shop in Sunderland it was a YTS scheme getting £27.50 a week. I remember that was my exact fare to get to London and join The Wildhearts’.

How did that come about ?

‘Ginger from The Wildhearts had heard about Energetic Krusher through his mate Panda from South Shields and he came to see us play at The George Ropery in London.

That must have stuck in his mind you know because when one of the guy’s left his band Ginger was straight on the phone to me, saying would you come down for an audition.

Well when I got there it wasn’t really an audition because I took some acid and got off with the secretary from the record company. He said ‘You’re in!’ haha.

Ginger was a few year older than me and had already been down there a few years and had been in Beki and the Bombshell’s, The Quireboys and a few other bands.

You know I was in a band with Ginger from The Quireboys, and Bam Bam from Dog’s D’Amour. At 15 year old I was down the front at a Dogs D’Amour gig then four years later I was in a band with him, it was like a dream come true’.


Where did you stay in London, did you have any digs?

‘I was squatting in Gingers cupboard in Finchley Road. The woman used to come round for the rent and she started noticing I was there a lot. Who’s he, where’d he come from she’d say.

We were rehearsing in Jumbo Studios when we could. I was on dole money, we had nowt. We used to split and share our money to get by.

It was £15 quid with Ginger one week then next week he would give me £15 back. It was that hard when we first moved down there.

First year we were dossing around cos the band were in litigation. Ginger had signed some deals that weren’t working for us. It was all lawyer meetings, what was going on here you know. We couldn’t record it was frustrating.

But you know what it is, we didn’t give a shit, we believed in the band that much.

The songs were flying out of Ginger, he had an acoustic and played me a few tunes, what do you think of this one ? Then another and another, he used to blow me away.

Coming out with classic after classic in my book. The guy’s a genius. Nothing but admiration for him’.


Can you remember first recording with The Wildhearts ?

‘The first album was done in Wessex Studio’s where Never Mind the Bollock’s and London Calling by The Clash were recorded, bit of Queen stuff also done there, yes it was phenomenal. It was a great place.

We done demo’s there originally and they were so good we used them for the album, we tarted the vocal up a bit. All done in a week and we had an album’.

The Mondo Kimbo EP was done down in Wales at Rockfield Studio, a very famous studio, a lot of bands recorded there. Around late ’92 we done a lot of small gig’s but the turning point was when we played with Pantera at The Marquee, that was a phenomenal gig.

After that we went out with Wolfsbane, Manic Street Preachers, Alice in Chains even Steve Vai. We were building a reputation as a good live band.

We were playing tight, a pretty formidable unit. A stand out gig was supporting Guns n Roses in Japan. Ended up going there seven times’.


Did you film any TV appearances or music video’s?

‘As a job, being in a band with a plank of wood and four wires hanging around your neck doesn’t quite cut it with your parents, cos they had proper jobs.

So after we’d done Top of the Pops a few times and they’d seen me on the telly my mam and dad stopped asking if I was going to get a proper job.

We used to have a great time on the show, the crowd would go nut’s. I don’t know where they were from but there was a few Wildhearts t-shirts in the crowd.

We done it a few way’s, miming, live, sometimes just the vocal’s were live. But we never had a song where it stuck and grew. Our hardcore fan’s would buy the single’s and we would sell enough to get on the show, but never reached further in the charts’.

‘For the I Wanna Go Where the People Go video we filmed that in New York. We went there for five days to do the video and ended up living there for a couple of month.

We were in a house in Brooklyn it was great fun. For the first month we were in The Chelsea Hotel.

One night after drinking in CBGB’s we jumped in the taxi and told the driver to take us to the nearest drug dealer. ’No problem get in guy’s’. The taxi was quickly surrounded by them.

The deal was done and we returned to The Chelsea. We laid them out on the bed and looking through them we managed to score some salt and some pencil shavings haha… they must have seen us coming. We did get some spliff amongst the pencil shavings.

The drummer Ritchie put the radio on, lit some candles and we chilled out. The candle was on a wood shelf and he put something underneath so it wouldn’t burn through the shelf.

But he put a paper plate under the candle. Well of course we fell asleep and the candles burned through, fell into my bag and set his hair alight.

The fire caught hold on the old wooden floor, it was pretty big so I ran into the hallway in me under crackers looking for a fire extinguisher.

Next door and downstairs were making noises about all the smoke, now the fire brigade turned up, there was coppers running about and we were absolutely stoned.

The manager came and showed us to another room, he was very calm and said you’re in good company, the only people who’ve set fire’s in this hotel were Sid Vicious and Andy Warhol!

Eventually the record company starved us out of New York. They stopped the money going into the bank and we eventually went back to the UK to do Top of the Pops.

You know I don’t think about those times all the time, just now that you’ve asked but I can see it in my mind and thing is I’m back in touch with Ginger now’.

Where did you go after The Wildhearts ?

’After The Wildhearts I toured America with The Yo Yo’s and the first drive was three days – never complained about touring in a van in the UK again.

We went out with The Backyard Babies and The Murder City Devil’s. We done about 42 states in 5 month, that was brilliant.

We were on Sub Pop at the time and I recorded around 20 songs with them’.

(Nerd alert: Sub Pop was a USA record company working out of Seattle, famous in the 1980’s for signing bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden. In 2000 The Yo Yo’s released their debut album Uppers and Downers, it was recorded in Trident Studio’s, London).

‘They gave us the backing and at first it looked like a very good deal unfortunately it didn’t work out that way – but that’s another story. Those contracts look like they are written in Latin and I wasn’t trained as a lawyer. But hey, loved my time in that band, got to travel to Japan again’.

Danny has a lot more stories and will be returning in a few month time but before the interview we talked about musicians who have suffered with depression and addictions, or others who had recently passed away.

Danny has had his own problems which are well documented elsewhere, but I felt there was no need to repeat them here…

‘What’s in the past is just that, you can’t change it. Just looking forward to playing some more rock n roll. Musicians aren’t anything special. Me, I’m just a bass player in a rock n roll band. That’s who I am’.


The Main Grains.

Catch The Main Grains live at The New Adelphi, Hull on September 22 and at Trillians, Newcastle on September 23. They are supporting The Professionals at The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton October 27  2017.

The Main Grains have a new single coming out on 7th November 2017 The Rain is Over, What We Gonna Do Now ? and Sock It To Me Baby.


For more info, tour dates & downloads contact the official website or thru facebook or twitter.

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

METHOD IN THE MADNESS – interview with Wavis O’Shave

‘I’ve always enjoyed working in studios and confounding the hell out of engineers completely unaware of what was about to hit them.

And not once has it ever cost me a penny, always paid for on behalf of individuals holding out for me making them wealthy. No chance! Once I’d had my fun, I was off and as uncooperative as usual’.


In my previous blog about Wavis O’Shave, (Felt Nowt June 6th) I asked, Who was Wavis ? By the end of the interview it still wasn’t clear. Was he a musician, author, performance artist or fraudster ? A mix of all four ?

He had produced a hatfull off records – singles and albums. Appeared on live music programme The Tube. Under the guise of numerous identities, he was never shy of promoting his latest gag.

This interview looks at the time he spent in recording studios. A time that he described as ‘unclassifiable, non-commercial, and a none hit wonder’. Carry on Wavis…

’My, and the unsuspecting engineer’s first experience, was at a 4 track studio hidden in the small village of Wrabgy in Lincolnshire.

The unlucky engineer was Andy Dransfield, now owner of luxurious Chapel Studios. Which is a converted church at South Thoresby in Lincolnshire.

He has since recorded hits there with the likes of Paul Weller, Wet Wet Wet, Shirley Bassey, and the Arctic Monkeys’.

chapel studios. thoresby.lincs

‘I went down there during the winter of 1979 after being signed up at only my second attempt by a small indie label called Company Records based in Lincoln.

The first near miss was from Beggars Banquet, who at the time were too busy with Gary Numan who described me as ‘unusual’ .

Travelling down, there were five of us in the car that conked out alongside the River Trent. Whilst the car was being fixed nobody could find me. I’d gone for a walk across the frozen Trent. I was almost halfway across when the ice all around me started to audibly crack.

Andy might have preferred it had, but instead we recorded the four track Denis smokes tabs (John is a Fig Roll) EP and somehow he and a couple of his worried mates survived the experience of having five unbalanced, wayward Geordies in his small converted barn. We performed like complete rookies within a studio’.


‘Andy couldn’t believe it when I had him splice in the middle of the song Mauve Shoes are Awful, my mate Hatts dad swearing like a trooper.

It was on a demo tape we’d caught him on when he’d burst in Hatts bedroom during a take of the song. He was threatening to cut off the electricity and informing us he’d had ‘two stings alriddy’ for his pains. We spliced it in at exactly the point he’d burst in during the demo. There’s authenticity for you.

We sometimes made audible sounds instead of musical instruments and we recorded without a bass. Andy hadn’t experienced working this way before with any band.

But he did come round to appreciating that there was some uniquely original method in the apparent madness. He became a bit of fan actually, and remains so today’.

‘In 2005 I freaked Andy out by tracking him down and paying him an unannounced visit at his Chapel Studios. I sneaked in and quietly sat alongside him in exactly the same scene as I had last left him 25 years earlier.

When he noticed a presence, I just smiled. It was as if time had stood still.

I played him my Katie Derhams Bum cd that I’d just recorded on computer, and he couldn’t believe the quality. ‘It’s very Wavis’ he said. ‘Of course, you twat, ‘cos it is!’ I replied’.

Wavey and Dan

Wavis and Danny Baker from the NME

Did you have any success with your recordings ?

’I’m told the EP in time eventually went on to sell a total of 5,000 copies after being picked up by John Peel and Danny Baker. They both gave it the thumbs up in the NME. Dunno if that was true, never saw a penny, nor cared less.

Classics like You think you’re a Woman ‘cos you don’t eat Fishcakes and Don’t Crush Bees to Death with the End of your Walking Stick entirely threw the engineer Mr Dransfield who was exceptionally patient with his guests.

He even ended up playing drums on the Anna Ford’s Bum album that we recorded there the following year. He was a glutton for punishment. The master tapes were bought off him from Newcastle Indie label Anti-Pop for £100’.


‘In those days the Sounds had their own Alternative Chart from record store returns, and the album spent three weeks top of the chart before being knocked off by Adam Ant!

I have always been blessed with excellent session men and this was no exception. However, when the guitarist asked me how I wanted the guitar playing on She’s a Prune (meaning could he hear a demo first) I told him ‘Dead fast’ Blank looks all round’.

Did you record in any other studio’s ?

’My next actual studio raid came in 1980 and was at Terry ‘Slippers’ Gavaghan’s Guardian Studios within his terraced house at Pity Me in County Durham. Pity Terry, not me. I called him slippers ‘cos he never took ‘em off.

He was into ghosts and all that stuff and we even had a spool come flying off its reel whilst we were there. South Shields reprobate the late Danny Deen, took time out from his band The Letters and had persuaded some school teacher to stump up £300 for us to make a three track demo there. Danny provided the music and I wrote the lyrics’.

‘I’m surprised we ever got there as I seem to specialise in being picked up by conky out cars. By the time I was picked up at a roundabout, the car was filled with five people, it was falling to bits and was spewing constant black exhaust fumes.

Soon after a door came off, and we had to abandon ship when the steering wheel started lifting off. It would have done a circus clown proud. Cue ringing for two taxis.

To amuse ourselves, and my idea, we introduced ourselves as The Nancy Boy’s. We had been really naughty though and hadn’t rehearsed any of the songs so when it was time to record we found out we couldn’t reach the high notes or deal with key changes.

Terry couldn’t believe it. I was supposed to sing all three but ended up only doing the last one, It’s so Charming when we’re out Farming. A song about falling in love with a farmyard cow.

During the song a stressed Terry had absent mindedly left a microphone switched on which we didn’t realise until it was done, but we managed to get off with it’.

‘Everyone had a go at the other two but the middle one nobody could do. Cue the most absurd moment of my recording career when the engineer Terry even stepped forward to have a go at it and he couldn’t sing for toffee.

We actually had to come back another day with another £200 quid to sort it all out. Whilst we were there Trevor Horn of Buggles fame popped in. He must have wondered what became of the Nancy Boys.

If he’s bothered he can listen to a spoof radio interview with me and Danny on BBC Newcastle’s Bedrock show and the songs on YouTube under The Nancy Boys 1980 Wavis ‘O’Shave’.


‘Next free studio for me was a nice little compact effort somewhere in Chester-le-Street where the objective was to record my Texican Raveloni – Bedside Songs for Problem Children album. The artwork drawn by VIZ Comic’s Chris Donald.

I really can’t remember more details about that one, other than the engineer, naturally, was freaked out. My keyboard player caught us all out when he scarpered after two hours to go to give somebody an hour long violin lesson.

We had a great session though, containing my craziest material ever.

The content of the album only made it to cassette before becoming a 2005 release on cd by Essex indie label Falling A. The head honcho at the label was a fan who had been born and raised in South Shields’.


Wavis and Toyah Wilcox.

‘My friend at the time Toyah Wilcox, had her own copy and asked if she could record her fave track with me, the apocalyptic Better Get the Washing in.

Being aware of her own chart success scared me off as I was quite happy being what I preferred to be; unclassifiable, non-commercial, and a none hit wonder.

The album included You Won’t Catch Me on the 503 which is responsible for my greatest number of YouTube hits to date – 400,000 under ‘Phunny angry bus drivers’. The track was once played on Radio One for the first 20 seconds only.

The video for it was made by the 11 year old son of one of my fans! The song was the ‘B’ side of 1982 single, my last ever on vinyl, Tie Your Laces Tight released by Eccentric Records.

Now, the rumour remains that it was my mate Jools Holland who played piano on it. Did he? I’m not allowed to say, but if I did, I’ll say he might have…’

Have you any other stories from then ?

’Whilst in London in 1980 I was whisked away from spending time with Ian Dury’s Geordie Blockheads keyboardist Michael Gallagher, and guitarist John Turnbull to spring a surprise stitch up on singer Jona Lewie.

Jona had built a studio in the basement of his flat. Gate crashing in at 2.30am the whole idea of the somewhat contrived visit (manipulated by Anti-Pop connections) was to bribe Jona into allowing me free studio time.

Otherwise we would give a recorded phone call of him to the NME expressing his fears about his hair loss and premature ejaculation. It was a stitch up. Either free studio time or the NME got the tape.

Well in the end, I never got the studio, the NME never got the tape and Jona salvaged his hair’.

‘I used to play footy every Sunday on the fields at the Marine & Technical College in South Shields with some regulars.

One day this lad new to the area, turned up fresh from a holiday at Butlins in Minehead. No sooner on the pitch, he was excitedly trying to tell us all about this song he’d heard at Butlins and it had been top of their charts for six weeks.

It was my You Won’t Catch Me on the 503 song! Imagine his disbelief when one of the lads casually informed him ‘He did it!’ pointing over at me. Against all the odds, as usual. That’s the world of Wavis!

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

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

THE TOON SHOW – interview with Simon Donald, co-founder of VIZ

Was any subject off limits or was it all out there for ridicule ? ‘For VIZ, if it worked we used it. It was all about gut instinct’.


Simon set up the magazine with his brother Chris in 1979 at their home in Newcastle, North East UK.  


What was the inspiration behind VIZ ? Had you seen or heard something that made you say ‘I want to do that’ ?

‘I loved comics from an early age. I started wanting to be a comic artist when I was about eight or nine and by the age of eleven I started writing to Marvel to ask how I should go about it.

My entire family were comedy lovers, we spent hours as kids listening to Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Stan Freberg, then me and my brothers started to watch Monty Python. The whole family loved Laurel and Hardy and Morecombe and Wise.

When we were teenagers my brother Chris and I were introduced to comics for adults by a school friend called Jim Brownlow, he also introduced us to Derek and Clive by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, all of these things came together with Chris’ yearning to make a magazine.

A comic for grown-ups with surreal and outrageous humour and swearing. We also threw into the mix, without really thinking about it, a good dose of British working class reality’.


What type of music did you listen to when you were young ?

‘As a small child I listened to the radio and the Dansette with my Mam and heard all her favourites like Nat King Cole, Paul Robeson, The Seekers, and Frank Sinatra.

It was The Seekers that struck a chord with me and I got The Seekers Live at the Talk of the Town for Christmas 1970.

Shortly afterwards I was given a neighbour’s entire Beatles singles collection and that was me hooked. It was the Beatles all the way for the next few years.

The first band I ever saw was the Junco Partners at the Peoples Theatre in 1976, followed shortly afterwards by Woody Woodmansys U-Boat at the City Hall, they were support to Uriah Heap, but the less said about that the better’.


‘As punk rock landed I was thirteen so of course it was ‘mine’, The Clash, The Jam, The Sex Pistols and in particular The Ramones were my big things at that time, along with Alice Cooper and The Who.

As the New Wave faded I rejected New Romance for the tosh that it was and got into The Faces and then The Small Faces and a whole load of mod stuff from there.

I’ve always had an eclectic collection, there’s everything from disco to heavy rock in there’.


Is working on projects different today than when you were young, do idea’s come quickly or is it a longer process?

‘I think ideas come thicker and faster when you’re younger but for me they don’t stop coming, they just get less sporadic and more focussed.

I always thought it would be difficult to write a new comedy show every year but I actually really enjoy it and having produced so much work so regularly for Viz, it’s not the impossible challenge it could be.

That said sometimes ideas can take years to come to fruition, there’s an idea there but I don’t know how to use it, then one day, out of the blue, I’ll put two and two together and that night I’ll be trying it on stage’.


When did you realise that VIZ was becoming popular, had you seen a copy somewhere unusual ?

‘There was a time when it was unusual to see the comic anywhere outside of Newcastle. Seeing it in the window of Rough Trade Records in West London in the spring of 1981 always stays with me.

It was still rarity in London five years later and I remember at a street market I took a photo of my brother Steve finding it on a comics stall.

Two years after that the newspaper seller at Kings Cross Station had devoted his entire stall to the latest issue going on sale. It was unbelievable stuff’.

Did you realise the impact that VIZ would have on the North East and when was the distribution widened from pubs in Newcastle to nationwide newsagents?

‘We distributed the comic ourselves via pubs, local independent shops of all types, national independent record stores and student union bookshops from 1979 until 1985, at that time we signed a publishing deal with Virgin Vision and they began national distribution, it started quite slowly but within three years we’d pretty much taken over the world of British magazines.

The contract was later moved to John Brown Publishing, he had been in charge at Virgin and set up his own company on the back of our success. Quite stunning looking back’.


Are there any comedians/artists/entertainers that you like to watch or listen to today ?

‘There are some tremendous entertainers in the north east right now, a couple of my favourites who are always worth watching are Gavin Webster and Seymour Mace (pic. below). They never fail to make me cry laughing.

Two of my personal favourites nationally are Stewart Lee and Daniel Kitson, they are the sort of acts that never fail to impress me with the brilliant structure and thoughtfulness of their material, yet never fail to produce joyfully funny moments throughout their work. It’s clever but it’s all about getting laughs’.

Bringing your story up to date what are you up to now. I see you are working with Tyne Idols how’s that going ?

‘I’m currently touring two shows, a stand-up show called Satiscraptory and a character show called Barry Twyford Isn’t Meant. I also do the Tyne Idols bus tour gigs, which are an absolute hoot.

There are two types, one is a story of Viz sort of thing in which with Alex Collier, another of the ex Viz editors, we take you around all the places important in the story of Viz, telling all the funniest anecdotes from our time on the comic.

We stop at Viz-related pubs and you can take your own refreshments on the bus, its fantastic fun’.


‘The other is my character tour, in which I appear as a drunken historian called John Gruntle, plus a couple of other outrageous Geordie characters; Barry Twyford and Bingo from Benton’.

For more info contact for VIZ contact their official website at

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2017.