NEW YORK GROOVE – 5 mins with American hard rock band Adorn the Wicked

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Adorn the Wicked are an established hard rock band from New York City, USA. Vocalist Kerry Lewis takes a break for 5 minutes and introduces the band….‘I have done Broadway and been onstage with established musicians including Frank Ferrerr from Guns n Roses and performed at the Oz Fest. Our drummer Juan originally from Uruguay has worked with bands Beledo and Sea Kelp on the New York scene. Hector on guitar is self taught and performing since the age of 12 and Danny on bass has played on the rock and punk scene for over 20 year. Amongst our influences are a real mix of Guns n Roses, Metallica, Frank Zappa, Buddy Guy, Prince, Avenged Sevenfold, Pearl Jam and many more. Our band is a fine blend of Guns n Roses meets Ozzy in a dark alley, behind a whorehouse with a bottle of Jack and some charley! I saw Juan (drums) with Sea Kelp and asked him to jam with us. He heard our EP Angels & Demons, and learned 3 songs in about two hours – he smoked it! And that’s pretty much how we got together. This band learns songs at warp speed too. We just played the Guns n Roses after party in October. People were blown away. They came and said ‘WOW you guys are great, how long have you been together?’ I said ‘only about 4 or 5 months!

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When did you get involved in music ? ‘When I was in grade school my music teacher heard me sing and started putting me in live shows. Dancing girls, musicals, I was hooked. I was 10 or 11? I was so young. I was on a local tv station for an amateur contest and came first’.

Angels & Demons is the title of your new EP, where was it recorded ?Angels & Demons was recorded by Chris Bucko, who is amazing. We recorded in Planet Studio which is in the basement of 251 West 30th Street in Manhattan. It took us about 2 weeks to record, mix and master the EP. The studio has a good reputation as Prince has recorded there for sure, and a vast amount of his entourage’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Many but most I can’t tell. They’re a bit naughty in many ways. We lost two roadies while we where doing a show in the Midwest. They went to rob a 7/11 at gun point when some cops came in for coffee and donuts. Busted!

What’s in the future for ATW ? ‘We are on the road always check our site for the latest gig dates. The EP Angels & Demons is on all major digital sites, Apple, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google play & about 140 others. We are also getting airtime on quite a few radio stations as well. Please come by and support us when we play in your town. Love to see you there’.

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Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.

 

LOOKING FOR A KISS – Last Great Dreamers guitarist Slyder Smith

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The Last Great Dreamers are a British rock/pop band with a bit o’ glam n’ swagger. I talked to guitarist and vocalist Slyder, who took of his shades ’n’ top hat and told me where it all began for him starting with his earliest gigging experiences…‘In the 80’s my first gigging band was called Scarlet Tarts, we were a kind of glam/goth band influenced by Hanoi Rocks, New York Dolls and Sisters of Mercy. I joined when I was 16 and my first gig was at Fareham Youth Centre in Portsmouth. The following year the band split and I formed my own band Anyone’s Daughter, taken from the Deep Purple song. We played in the Portsmouth and Southampton area in pubs and clubs with our biggest show being a support slot with the then up and coming Wolfsbane. Coincidentally I will be hooking up with them again 30 years on as we will be guests on 2 of their shows in December!
Disillusioned with the local scene I moved up to London after answering an ad that Marc (Valentine – Last Great Dreamers vocalist/guitarist) had placed looking for like-minded musicians to form a band into Hanoi Rocks, Dogs D’Amour etc.’

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‘With Silver Hearts later re-named Last Great Dreamers we played 100’s of pub and club shows all over the UK. We did the rounds in London at places like Covent Garden Rock Garden, Shepherds Bush Opera on the Green until we started getting regular shows at London’s Marquee club including supports with Suzi Quatro, Dogs D’Amour amongst many others. Highlights from that era were 2 support tours to promote our first album with Bang Tango and then Warrant also taking us into Europe’.

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‘More recently we have toured with The Runaways’ Cherie Currie on her first UK tour for over 30 years, this was very special as it felt like we were properly back and not just on a nostalgia trip. We had just released our first brand new single Dope School and the tour was an amazing experience being our first proper tour for over 20 years. Following that was a UK tour with Tigertailz in 2016, again a great tour and another new single release with Glitterball Apocalypse’.

LGD are involved in a pledge campaign and I was going to write about the pledge system that a lot of bands are involved in, but Slyder just nailed it… ‘Basically the pledgemusic campaign is a brilliant way to fund your music with no record company. The fans can pre-order the record so you can use the funds to make and manufacture your product. The pledgers also get exclusive updates on the progress including pics, videos, artwork etc. Plus the opportunity to get stuff like private gigs, signed stuff, test pressings, rare pics and demos etc. As well as cutting out the middle man and giving us more control over what we do it also gets the fans directly involved. It’s very humbling to have so many people pledge their hard earned cash so we can make our record, it really means a lot! We had great success on our last album and this time has been even better having raised the stakes to make a bigger and better album!’

How has the internet impacted on music ? ‘It’s a lot easier to get your product out there now. When our first album came out in 1994 it was very hard for fans to find it despite being distributed via one of the largest independents, also we weren’t allowed to sell any at gigs. Now with distribution via online sellers, download sites etc. plus our own website and Amazon shop our products are easy to find. Online marketing and social media is also fantastic for independent bands although it’s getting more expensive and the market is flooded a bit. The downside I guess is streaming and illegal downloading which really cheapens the product which is still very expensive to produce’.

Who were your influences in music ?  ‘I’ve had so many influences in music over the years and now I still reference loads of stuff from my childhood and teenage years when I’m writing and recording. I caught the tail end of glam rock as a kid but I first started buying records in the late 70’s when I was about 7/8 years old, mostly post punk/new wave stuff. I then got more into rock and metal so I suppose my earliest influences in my guitar playing were probably Ritchie Blackmore and Bernie Torme being a huge Deep Purple and Gillan fan. Into my teens I discovered Hanoi Rocks so Andy McCoy then became a big influence and the whole Hanoi vibe and image which led me back to early 70’s glam rock which I’d just missed out on so I’d add Marc Bolan into the mix.
All this led to me moving to London at the start of the whole Sleaze Rock n Roll scene heralded by the likes of Dogs D’Amour and The Quireboys. Since then Manic Street Preachers have also have been a constant in my life so they must have influenced me a lot over the years’.

How did you get involved in playing music, was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘Music was always being played in my house growing up and was important to all the family. I did have a guitar when I was about 4 or 5 but never really learned to play it. Top of the Pops was a huge event every week on Thursday nights. I have vivid memories of the likes of Alvin Stardust, Mud, Darts and Boomtown Rats on that show and I used to go to town every week to buy a single with my pocket money. I was kind of in a school band when I was about 10, we would play along to AC/DC records round my friend’s house, making a racket without being able to actually play. I was the drummer and my kit was a table football table with Tupperware pots as drums. I did have real drum sticks though!
The defining moment though was at the age of 11 when I went to my first gig, Saxon at Portmouth Guildhall closely followed by Thin Lizzy and Motorhead. After that I used to stage my own ‘gigs’ in my bedroom where I would mime to my records in front of my mirror with a tennis racket as a guitar! Soon after this I got my first proper guitar, a 5 watt amp and a fuzz box. I soon formed a band with some school mates. Again we couldn’t really play properly but from this it developed as I started guitar lessons and taking it more seriously’.

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What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘I started writing and recording way back with Anyone’s Daughter, we recorded 3 demos. The first was crudely done on a 4 track in our rehearsal room which was also a school classroom. My first proper studio experience was one that the band won in a Battle of the Bands competition. It was an 8 track studio, all a bit ropey but good experience I guess.
Once I had joined up with Marc and we’d formed Silver Hearts we recorded lots of demos over the years. We rehearsed for years at Alaska Street Studios, Waterloo and did most of our demo recording there, the last of which got LGD signed to Bleeding Hearts Records in 1993. Since reforming LGD those early demos have become quite sought after so as part of our pledgemusic campaign we’ve got them onto a limited edition CD set.
Our first album, as Last Great Dreamers, was recorded at Lynx Studios, Newcastle, formally owned by AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. We were signed to Bleeding Hearts Records (Music For Nations). Which was owned by Eric Cook and Tony Bray (Abaddon from Venom). Although names like Andy Scott (The Sweet) and Chas Chandler were banded around as producers it ended up being produced by house engineer Kevin Ridley. The first attempt resulted in the studios closure for 6 weeks as a cup of sugary coffee fell off a monitor into the mixing desk wrecking most of the channels. Eventually we got back in the studio to complete it with the house engineer Kevin Ridley and the result was Retrosexual released in November 1994 on CD. Re-released on our own label in 2015’.

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‘Our next release was Crash Landing in Teenage Heaven. We recorded most of it at Alaska Studios, London during the mid-late 90’s. 3 of the tracks were for single release with Bleeding Hearts Records but after getting out of that deal it was planned for release on X Records but that company went bust. LGD split soon after in ’97 but on our return in 2014 we decided to release our ‘lost album’ on our own label Ray Records.
Since then we recorded our first album proper, since our return, Transmissions from Oblivion. This was mostly recorded at Foel Residential Studios in rural mid Wales, released in September 2016 on Ray Records on CD and vinyl. It was successfully funded by a pledgemusic campaign. We are currently recording our yet to be titled fourth album also with the help of a pledgemusic campaign. This time we are in a small studio in Henley working with producer Pete Brown (son of Godfather of Rock n Roll Joe Brown). It would be quicker to list who he hasn’t worked with but to name a few Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Status Quo, George Harrison… the list goes on. He comes from a rock background having cut his teeth working for producer Chris Tsangarides (Anvil, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest) but has vast experience across many genres. We’ve just spent 10 days laying down all the rhythm tracks and so far it is sounding fantastic. I would say this could be the biggest and best Dreamers album to date!’

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Did you record any TV appearences or film any music videos ? ’We never did any videos back in the 90’s, mostly because our record company wouldn’t fund any! With the last 2 albums we have made our own videos, 3 from each record. All can be found on our You Tube channel. They are pretty low budget mostly filmed on iphones but with great results. We feel it’s all about what you capture, the creativity and the edit plus there is usually a bit of Dreamers humour in there! Our last video was made by a fan of the band that we have become friends with. He has captured loads of live and studio footage and put a great little video together for our song Tommy’s Tears from the Transmissions album’.
(Check it out, with the songs immeadiate Phil Spector intro and catchy little 60’s chorus. Another video track on their channel ’Glitterball Apocalypse’….has the opening lyrics…’The revolution starts tonight, the skys on fire, the streets are turning red’….while the song bounces along to a trippy Kinks/Hanoi tune. Well worth a listen).

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘There’s been loads over the years but one good one was when we were on tour with Bang Tango in 1995. We had done about 7 or 8 dates in the UK with them and had a few in Holland and Belgium to do. We had been playing pranks on each other throughout the tour as we had got to know each other really well. The last show in Holland, Bang Tango had tried to lock us in our dressing room to keep us out of mischief. The night before they had gaffa taped all our bags on the dressing room walls and ceiling so they knew we would have something up our sleeves. Meanwhile we had found some stuff in a broom cupboard in our dressing room that we thought would make good props for a joke plus we had got out of our dressing room easily. We decided that I would dress up as their bass player Kyle and surprise them on stage followed by the rest of Last Great Dreamers who were wearing an array of dodgy wigs, white overall coats and pushing brooms across the stage. It worked better than expected as Joe Leste (Bang Tango vocalist) was doing the intro to a song and I slipped on stage behind him looking very convincing as Kyle with slicked back hair, fake goatee made from gaffa tape, wrap around shades and leather waistcoat. He jumped round and proceeded to rock out to his song with the fake Kyle (me) on bass until he looked over to the right and saw the real Kyle. Then he saw the rest of LGD in wigs carrying brooms as they pretended to sweep the stage. They took it in good spirits but did have to re-start the song!’

What has music given you ? ‘I think music has always been an outlet for emotion whether playing or listening. Whether you are happy, sad, angry or depressed listening to music you love can always heal you. When LGD split in 1997 we had become very jaded by the business and that in turn made playing a chore. I played in another band for about 3 years but it never really felt quite the same as The Dreamers. Having had a 10 year break from playing completely until 2014 I now really appreciate what it means to me whether in the studio, rehearsal or on stage – it’s just a real buzz. The business is as tough and crappy as ever but when we are playing everything is alright’.

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What are the future plans for Last Great Dreamers ? ‘This year has been another amazing year for us. We toured as special guests to The Quireboys on their UK tour in April and September doing 20 dates with them. It was a fantastic experience playing to bigger crowds and making lots of new fans and friends along the way. We also did HRHAOR Festival in Pwllheli, North Wales and HRH Road Trip in Ibiza plus a few other great festivals.
As I said we are currently running a pledgemusic campaign for our fourth album, which we have just started recording. The campaign has just hit 93% of its target so a brilliant response. It runs until 6 January so it’s still possible to pre-order the album if you want to be involved.
The album is set for release in April 2018 so we are looking to be doing a headline or support UK tour to promote that. We have a tour of Spain booked for February 2018 with some festival appearances lined up. Prior to that we have 5 dates in December including 2 shows with Wolfsbane. We’re on The Croydon Rocks Festival on the 2nd with The Main Grains and a few others plus a New Years’ Eve party which we are really looking forward to’.

For more info/live dates/tickets/pics contact the band on the official website
http://www.lastgreatdreamers.com

Or pledge at: http://www.pledgemusic.com/lastgreatdreamers

Last Great Dreamers are:
Marc Valentine – Vocals/Guitar
Slyder – Guitar/Vocals
Steve Fielding – bass
Denley Slade – Drums

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017.

Recommended:

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS: Death or Glory 8th September 2017.

WILDHEART: Looks That Kill 2nd January 2017.

MR MYST: Dream On 26th January 2018.

ALIVE AND KICKING with Desolation Angels guitarist Robin Brancher

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Checking out some books in a charity shop I came across two which I’d read in the 1990’s – Trainspotting and The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail. Flicking through the pages I rememberd the storylines. It’s similar to picking up a Heavy Metal album from the 1980’s – Judas Priest, Scorpions, Accept. I’d remember the tracks. Listening to the new album by Desolation Angels recall’s that sound. The thwack of drums, twin guitar attack, powerful vocals, relentless energy. Slower tracks crunch and crackle. Yep, just like that. A quick check on who produced the album and Chris Tsangarides was the man behind the desk. It figures. CT produced some of the classic heavy rock and metal albums during the 1980’s. Thin Lizzy’s Thunder & Lightning, Forged in Fire by Anvil and Spellbound from Tygers of Pan Tang. I asked Robin how did working with CT come about ?
‘The situation with Chris T came about through John Wiggins of Tokyo Blade. John and I talk quite regularly about what our bands are are up to, and the state of music industry in general. And it was through one of these conversations that the idea of Chris coming together with Desolation Angels for our next album. Cheers for that John’.

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‘CT has his studio out near Kingsdown in Kent which is situated on a lovely part of the English coastline. His studio occupies a set of buildings on a large camping site which overlook the English Channel. Bands also get the use of a discounted crew lodge on the site to stay in. That really does help, as it’s fully kitted out and just a stones throw away from the studio itself. A short walking distance away are two pub’s, Zetland Arms, and The Rising Sun. Without these two highly essential recuperating dwellings the recording process would fail !

How long did you record for and did he tell you any stories ? ‘We recorded for about a month. This was done in weekly stints. I think the first one was a ten day shift, just to get settled in, and move the recording on. Then back for the vocals, overdubbing and mixing. Did Chris tell any stories? If there’s one fella on this planet that can tell you a story, it is without any doubt our man Chris Tsangarides! I’m surprised he hasn’t been inducted into The Guinness Book Of World Records for story telling! Yes indeed he told many a wild and wonderful story. To hear about Phil Lynott and his rampaging, to hear how the intro to Judas Priest’s Painkiller came about. To hear about the many laughs CT had with Gary Moore and to hear about the dealings with record companies, good and bad. Just to hear him talk about his own personal life journey – the man is held in very high regard in the rock world, and now in Desolation Angels too. The man is a legend, and rightfully so. I would think it would be safe to say that Desolation Angels will be back to work on the next set of songs with Chris. Now that we know him, and how he works, I can only see an even better album being produced’.

Who were your first influences in music ? ‘Well back in the day along with the Holy Trinity of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin. Keith Sharp and I were headlong into rock music and went to a lot of gigs. We listened to UFO, Free, Montrose, The Cult, The Doors, Ted Nugent, to be truthful, this list is just a small portion of what we were into. And we were into our music in a big way’.

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How did you get involved in playing music and was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ’When we were teenagers we lived in a small town called Woodford in Essex, not far from London. Keith Sharp and I would hang out with a crowd of local boys n girls. Mainly at the off-licence, chatting and trying it on with the girls. The lady who worked at the offy would sell us a can of beer each time we turned up. And I mean that. She would only allow one can per visit, per day. We would play loads of football over the at the nearby park, just being normal kids. But behind that adolescent scene Keith and I had discovered the BBC music programme The Old Grey Whistle Test. Things with the local crowd had taken a marked change. For Keith and I this scene was becoming stagnant, predictable and just mundane. We wanted something different and we were defiantly looking for more adventure!
Both of us were listening to a heavier sound of music compared to our friends. We were into Quo, Alice Cooper and Slade. Even Dutch prog rockers Focus were in there too. Every week without fail we would religiously watch The Old Grey Whistle Test. The presenter Whispering Bob Harris was our man with his finger on the pulse of everything Rock ’n’ Roll. And the pair of us constantly talked about music. So much so that the change from talking music to playing it, was hardly noticeable. Instead of meeting the usual gang down at the off-licence we would now play guitar together at every free moment. This was the start of the move away from the regular world, into our musical adventure’.

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When did you start playing gigs, what venues did you play and did you support name touring bands ? ‘We started a band straight away. In rehearsals we would play mostly Quo, Queen, Deep Purple and Wishbone Ash. We were very quick off the mark when writing our own songs and put them in the set straight away. However this first line-up never gigged so we had to make a few changes’.

The line-up for Desolation Angels during the 1980’s was Dave Wall (voice) Robin Brancher (guitars) Keith Sharp (guitars) Joe Larner (bass) and Brett Robertson (drums). ’There were plenty of rock pubs and clubs in London and all over the UK in those days and it was either 1979 or ’80 when we went downstairs at The Rock Garden in Covent Garden, London to play our first gig. Then we entered a talent competition in a rock pub in Wembley. I remember we played three songs. One of our own called Just Fantasy and two covers, Jumping Jack Flash done in the style of Johnny Winter and Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. Of which the latter won us the competition. Our prize being a crate of warm beer. I’ll always remember the crowd appreciation as we came to the finale of the song. Hands in the air clapping, whistling and shouting for more…man adultation tasted sweet – cartainly better than the warm beer!’

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Desolation Angels went on to support Diamond Head at The Electric Stadium in Chadwell Heath in 1981. And in the same year at the same venue we suported Samson. That was when Bruce Dickinson was in the line-up. Back then he was very helpful, supportive and encouraging. We also supported Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts and then a whole host of acts once we got into the Marquee in Wardour Street, London. That was a great time.
To be honest, Desolation Angels was, and still is, focussed on doing our own shows. We put a lot of effort into them. Not only musically, but also the theatrics too, plenty of pyrotechnics, smoke, lights, the whole show, and as big a PA as we could afford. Which was pretty substantial back then!

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‘Talking about Bruce Dickinson though, shortly after the Electric Stadium gig Desolation Angels went on to play a gig at The White Heart in Acton. Bruce said he would come along but he didn’t show up. That is, not until after our set. When we met him at the bar, he made his apologies for being late. But went on to tell us in the strictest of confidence, that he had got an unexpected call from the Iron Maiden management, asking him to go along for another audition with the Iron Maiden guys. The thing was while we were talking with Bruce you could see that he had a twinkle in his eyes, and he seemed extra excited. The news hadn’t been announced in any of the music press yet, but he was sure he had got the job as the replacement for Paul Di’Anno. As everybody knows, he certainly did get the gig with Iron Maiden. But it was still very noble and cool of him to turn up at our little gig in Acton and confide in us. I expect that after such an event he had just experienced, he really did need that beer!’

‘Also, and this is for the guitar aficionados. While I was backstage at the Electric Stadium, Paul Samson was there warming up on his trademark Gibson SG. By the side of him, he had two other guitars, both in fitted cases. He opened them up and inside were these Half Moon custom made guitars, really unusual shape. One was a yellow kinda sunburst colour, the other I can’t remember. He used one of them mid set in their gig, the yellow one I think. I was itching to pick one up and have a go, but man, I just daren’t. Paul was rock royalty, and I didn’t wanna overstep the mark. It would be nice to know where those guitars are today?’

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What were your early experiences of recording ? ‘Around 1981 Desolation Angels first recorded a demo at Legend Studios in Sidcup, Kent – we think it was there. It may of been two demo’s at separate times, we can’t really remember it was well over 30 years ago. The tracks recorded at that time where, Satan’s Child, Death Machine, Unsung Hero and All Hallows Eve. They are on our box set, Feels Like Thunder’.

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When did Desolation Angels make the move to LA and what was the reason behind the move ? ‘We moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and lived there for 7 years. We had been gigging regulary at a club in Sheperds Bush in London. It was the guy who managed the club, John Feely, who suggested that LA might be a good move for us. He had contacts out there and a band already playing at clubs along the ‘Strip. It must have taken about a second to confirm that we would go!’

‘We played many cities across the states. There was one gig in Las Vegas, now that was a night to remember, or maybe to forget ! After playing the gig we had an extremely boozy night and the whole band and it’s entourage were rounded up and thrown out of the hotel. Then our vans and trucks were surrounded by a convoy of police cars and escorted by state troopers out of Las Vagas to the Nevada state line. We eventually got to a casino on the border and ended up in the restaurant having a breakfast of steak ‘n’ eggs and more beers. We looked out on to the foyer and on display was the bullet ridden car of Bonnie and Clyde ! Hmmm, that kinda made you think !’

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘The whole thing of being in a Rock band is basically funny all the time, and strenuous too, everyday. There’s always something going on that you can look back and laugh at! Spinal Tap and Bad News spring to mind!
I have a few stories from back in the day. I remember playing a small pub somewhere and after finishing one of our numbers, our bassist Joe Larner ordered a pint of Guinness from a tiny hole/bar in the wall at his side of the stage. The pint took ages to settle and we were all there waiting and watching, including the audience. Joe finally got his pint, paid for it right there on stage and held it up high as a salute to the audience. Then took a great glug of the grog and we carried on. It was a rapturous night!’

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‘There was the time when we were driving down the A12 going to Norfolk for a gig. Another motorist was flashing our van. When we stopped, the guy said something was not quite right with our back axle. What happened was the pin in the back axle had snapped, and the vans back wheels were way out of alignement with the front wheels. We were basically going along the road sidewards. We had been driving along like a crab for miles haha’.

At the time where you aware the impact that Heavy Metal & NWOBHM was having and has had since ? ‘Rock music, rock clubs, rock venues were everywhere. Great Heavy Metal and NWOBHM bands just seemed to be on all the time. Back then every second pub had a Rock Night. Keith Sharp and I quickly got into heavier sounding music at an early age. Once into that scene, you could find Rock/Metal music everywhere. We would watch bands at the Marquee who would later go on to headline at the Hammersmith Odeon. Or bands at the Ruskin Arms and other London clubs where Iron Maiden, and others including us would regularly play. We weren’t really aware that we were going through a moment in rock music history that was going to be so well documented as it is these days. The impact for me was all the great bands that I got to see and learn from. You could never imagine it coming to an end.
I’m obviously very glad that these days there is such a vast interest in NWOBHM, and Rock/Metal music as a whole. It seems that there is no stopping it’s popularity. And that my friend is a darn good thing!’

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What has music given you ? ‘Life! No seriously, it has given me life. Here I am at this grand age, haha. I’m still slim, fit and healthy. Alright, I admit my hearing might of suffered a tad over the years, my hair is a mess, and I’m mighty damned cynical too. But otherwise, I’m still very much right there in the thick of it, at the front for the fight for Rock ’N’ Roll music. It ain’t ever gonna die, thats for sure, it’s just to cool !’

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The present line-up for Desolation Angels is Paul Taylor (voice) Robin Brancher (guitars) Keith Sharp (guitars) Clive Chief’O’ Pearson (bass) and Chris Takka (drums).Desolation Angels are very much alive and kicking. I have a great band and team around us to keep me motivated and sure-footed. I’m driven by the thirst for more Heavy Metal. I still believe. I can still dream too. Dreaming’s good. I still have goals. There always seems to be one more riff lurking on the fretboard. It’s my job to chase the bloody thing down then ram it out through amplification as LOUD as possible!
As you can imagine being in a band you get subjected to a hell of a lot more bonkers situations along life’s whirlwind ride than you might do in the average nine to five world. And when you have music as good as what we have produced right there on the recent KING album, believe me – it’s very hard to put something like that down. To walk away from it. To say that’s the end. To say, you know what, I’ve had enough. No, I don’t think so. I’m in it for good. That’s what the music has given me! ‘

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What are the future plans for Desolation Angels ? ‘Recently there has been some very significant news released about Desolation Angels signing a new deal with UK record company Dissonance Productions. This signing will drastically lift our profile and see the band gigging a hell of a lot more. Plus, some new songs are already in place as there is plans to record a new album in the near future. So, yes, really exciting times ahead. We cant wait!’

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Desolation Angels next gig is Sunday December 3rd 2017 at the Hard Rock Hell (NWOBHM) Xmas Rocka 2 held at the O2 Academy in Sheffield, UK. On the bill are headliners Raven plus Diamond Head, Satan, Seventh Son and more. Tickets on sale now.

You can find the latest info, gigs, photo’s, history and new album KING can be bought from the official website http://www.desolationangels.co.uk.

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

 

 

 

BACKLINE – interview with former Stage Hand and Lighting Designer PAR CAN

You’re at one of your first concerts, down the front and start looking around at how the stage is set up, drumkit on a riser at the back, cabinets at either side with their power light’s switched to red. There’s a couple of microphone stands across the front. With lights above the stage on each side. There is movement at the back. The light’s in the hall go out. The Roar. But who sets this all up ? From small clubs to huge enormodomes somebody has to load the gear on stage and have it all in place for showtime – stagehands and technicians – the crew. They are skilled in rigging, electrics, audio, video/projection, and handling the occasional prop. During shows they are responsible for operating the systems and for the maintenance and repair of the equipment.

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To get to know what goes on behind the scenes I talked to former Stage hand and Lighting Designer PAR CAN (some of you reading this will know his ‘real name’…)
‘After taking my O levels in Summer ’77, it was obvious to my parents I was not settling into my A levels. Especially as I had bunked off school to hang around the City Hall way too many times over the previous 3 and a half years, and a medical career was not gonna happen. My mother worked at the Civic Centre in Newcastle and had a word with Bob Brown the City Hall manager, who had a word with Newcastle City Hall Stage Manager Colin Rowell. He rang me and said to come and see him ’10 o’clock tomorrow, don’t be late’. Next day 16th October 1977 and Wishbone Ash was my first paid stage crew gig. I was in’.

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Newcastle City Hall, UK.

What music did you listen to ? ‘I was already an Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople, Deep Purple fan when as an early 11th birthday present my parents bought me several concert tickets for the City Hall and the first ever gig I went to was Mott The Hoople on 18th February 1972. I watched great concerts from bands like Bowie, The Doors, The Faces and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Mostly thanks to City Hall manager Bob Brown giving my mother complimentary tickets for me.
In 1973 I was introduced via Radio Luxembourg to a new band called Queen, they played Keep Yourself Alive, I flipped over them. Doing various Saturday jobs in a local bakery, bicycle shop and newsagents made me some money to indulge in my new found passion of buying records. Trips to the record shops in Newcastle became a habit and that is where imports by Kiss, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd and another favourite of mine, Todd Rundgren were bought. Because of Todd, I bought the first New York Dolls album…I loved it !

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Mott the Hoople

‘In November 1973 I was 12 year old and went to Gosforth Grammar school. I was tall for my age and a rugby player. I don’t recall how but come the day of the Mott the Hoople gig I didn’t have a ticket for the show and was desperate, but had no idea about touts or how else to get a ticket for a sold out show. I was in school assembly when I had a brainstorm and walked out. I got a bus straight to the City Hall and hung around the stage door. If memory serves me right there were 2 x 7½ ton trucks parked outside.
About an hour later, the stage door opened and a bunch of hairy gits ambled out, opened the trucks and load in had begun. I watched, said nowt, I was not exactly Mr Outgoing and besides, what the hell would I have said !
Next thing I knew a bloke (I now know was Philip John, long time Mott roadie) was trying to unload an electric piano by himself and was about to fall, he shouted to me ‘gimme a fuckin’ ‘and will ya’. I didn’t think, just helped him take the piano onstage and looked out onto the empty hall. I was dumbstruck ! Have you ever stood on a stage while equipment is being set up ? Then you will understand.
I ended up helping to unload the last of Mott’s backline with the roadcrew Phil, Richie and Stan. I tried convincing them I was 16, but for whatever reason they took pity when I told them I was a huge Mott and Queen fan. When I told them I was 16 they didn’t believe me. Stan the tour manager, said he would let me in that night for helping with the gear. I was in heaven’.
‘At the time a guy called Moose was City Hall Stage Manager and he just let me hang around and help out…thankfully. He let me ‘work’ other gigs over the next 2 and a half years until Colin Rowell took over in 1976.

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Rick Lefrack

Obviously, I had no idea how to wire things up, but Rick Lefrack the American Lighting Director asked me to sit at the Lighting Board and push channel faders as he called for them from the stage, my first time ‘focussing’.
That was it. Any hopes of an academic career died right there and then. I bunked off school regularly over the next 2 and a half years and got to know a few of the Stage Crew who were mostly really canny geezers, but some were a right bunch of dour fuckers !

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Dave Lee Roth and Neil ‘Alex’ Hall.

Some of the stage crew then were Neil ‘Alex’ Hall who would end up working for Van Halen and became Dave Lee Roths assistant. Dave Verow who would work for The Who and Tina Turner among others. Peter and Gordon Barden ‘The Twins’ who somehow ended up in Dallas working for Showco with Genesis, Lynyrd Skynrd and Bad Company. Paul Devine who worked for Pink Floyd on the Animals and Wall tours. Became Iron Maiden’s lighting designer in the late 80’s and now works on BBC Question Time. Richard ‘Bald Eagle’ Anderson who went onto work for Audiolease (sound) on several Motorhead tours.

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Dave Verow.

Now you were part of the stage crew did you focus on a particular role ? 
‘A month after Colin Rowell added me to his stage crew, my favourite band The Tubes were coming to town. The Hall was a bit quiet in November ’77 not too many shows needing 6 or more stage crew so I was able to follow The Tubes around the UK. 
Thanks to The Tubes Stage Manager Chopper Borges and the lighting crew I was able to blag myself onto the crew bus and again, got my foot in their door and that was the biggest change to my life, but more of that later’.

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‘So from October ’76 to April ’78 I was part time stage crew. I was making a lame attempt at my A levels to keep my parents quiet. In April ’78 I took a ferry to Holland and joined The Tubes tour. All went well until singer Fee Waybill broke his leg in Leicester on May 9th’.

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‘The next day instead of doing the show in Coventry the remaining 18 shows were cancelled. The following day the crew were back in London. Unloading the lighting and sound equipment into the TFA Electrosound warehouse. I spent the next week helping to dismantle and store the lighting equipment getting to know the staff there and as fate would have it I was invited to see Queen at Wembley Arena as a guest for 3 nights. May 11-13th, meeting Queen crew Crystal, Jobby and Ratty, which as fate would have it played a part in my future. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough work to keep me in London plus I didn’t have a place to live and sleeping on one of the lighting crew’s sofa wasn’t a great solution!

 So Colin Rowell asked me to come back to the City Hall and I worked there almost exclusively from May 1978 to May 1979 when The Tubes went on tour again’.

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‘Apart from the odd few days at TFA doing warehouse work mainly wiring bars of 6 PAR CANS. I did however do Bette Midler at the London Palladium for 5 days in September 1978 as a lampie for TFA, my first paid crew gig. That was with Penny Fitzgerald and Nigel Gibbons, both now sadly dead. We all know when the ‘stars’ die, especially 2016, but man… I lost a lot of old crew mates in 2015/6 and so far this year, 6 other crew I worked with over the years have died; mostly from various cancers.
The summer of 1978 a lot of the old hands moved to London so we needed new guys. That’s when I brought in Alan ‘Alla’ Armstrong, Kev ’Bessie & the Zinc Buckets’ Charlton, Ian ‘Ryles’ Rylance, Gary ‘Lil’ Lillee and Dave Linney and Ainsley…The Sheels Mafia were now in residence!’

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The Tubes were managed by a guy called Rikki Farr, he had set up the 1970 Isle of Wight festival among other things, one of which was setting up a sound & light company, TFA Electrosound. They were one of the ‘go to companies’ at the time, so in 1978/9 we saw many tours come to the City Hall using TFA equipment. 
I got to know a lot of the TFA crews, which would be a great help to me in the near future.
 I was always more fascinated by lights, so when The Tubes toured again in 1979 stage manager Chopper Borges rang me and said be in Glasgow the day before the opening night as load in was a day early so the band could have a few hours rehearsal. I worked with the lighting crew, one of whom was Simon Tutchener who would be the last Lighting Designer Queen used with Freddie Mercury in 1986. I would start at 9am putting the rigging in the roof with Simon, assemble, wire and repair the rig with Simon and the other tech Bob Birch. Then focussing with director Tom Birch who worked for The Eagles for many years. I ran a follow spot for both support act Squeeze and during The Tubes set to earn extra money. After the show we tore everything down put it in the 3 Edwin Shirley trucks and drove to the next city overnight. I made lifelong friends on that tour, the lighting crew, The Tubes crew and the band themselves whom I will be seeing when they tour the UK this year with Alice Cooper in November. I worked for TFA Electrosound until they went bankrupt in the Norton Warburg financial fiasco in 1981/82. Pink Floyd lost over £2 million ! After that I was completely self employd and worked for anyone that paid’.

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Van Halen, Newcastle City Hall 17th June 1980.

What are the logistics to setting a band up on stage ? ‘It primarily depends on who it is you are working for. Setting up for Abba and Queen weren’t as complicated as you may assume. Most bands have teams of legal and technical folk who plan the logistics. So by the time I would be involved it was mostly looking at lighting and staging plans, then building the systems as directed.
 Local North East UK band The Kane Gang was my personal hell on earth tour ! They should never have gone on tour, they had no stage presence; Really lovely guys, but terrible live. They and their management hadn’t a clue what they were doing. They were totally disorganised. The week before the opening night tour manager Harry was ringing me in Newcastle every hour trying desperately to organise rehearsals and power generators ! ‘Yeah sure Harry I will just magically organise a venue and power for you at the drop of a hat’.
I remember trying to book Tiffanys nightclub in Newcastle – what a bunch of arseholes running the place, they wanted utterly ridiculous amounts of money plus a list of demands longer than a Queen rider! Needless to say none of this happened.
Plus half the gigs were either cancelled or rearranged into smaller venues. If I remember rightly even the London date at Hammersmith Palais was cancelled. Imagine your first tour and you can’t even play London. 
They really should never have toured, and remained a studio band. They were really lovely guys and I liked the music but man the people around them really hadn’t a clue. I’m sure I will get grief for saying all of this. But look at their career and tell me I am wrong. The Kane Gang had their 10 minutes but pretty much sank without trace’.
(Martin Brammer ex-Kane Gang, did work in a studio and went on to write and produce songs for James Morrison, James Bay and Olly Murs).

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‘But in their defense I have to admit that was not a good time for me. I was in the grip of Absynthe, Jack Daniels and Cocaine. Not addiction, but certainly abuse and I completely lost sight of what was important. I just wanted to get back to America ASAP. During load in at a gig in Leeds University I smashed my right hand as we had decided to use the theatrical fly bars instead of our trussing…big mistake. The fly bars collapsed and all but crushed my right hand. I broke my wrist, 3 fingers and a bone in the hand…it bloody hurt! After being patched up at Jimmys (St James’ Hospital made famous in the TV documentary) I got back to the venue where Harry was waiting to ‘have a word’. It was decided I should go home….basically I was fired – the nerve. I breathed a sigh of relief, caught the train back to Newcastle for a week then flew to San Fransisco to start planning the next tour by The Tubes – Love Bomb’.

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‘I was a roadie/lighting designer/rigger until The Clash Of The Tytans tour finished at Wembley Arena in October 1990. By then it was 13 solid years without a break and a lot of abuse. I had to get away or I was going to die ! What I should have done was take a 3 month holiday, instead, I retired, flew home to Newcastle and my mother took one look at me and nearly fainted. 5 months later I was married. Don’t regret the marriage, but even today I bitterly regret the career change’.

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Lastly what do you think of the Motorhead track ‘We Are The Road Crew’ ?
Personally I love it… and most crews I know do too. I think however, it’s of its time, because the more I see of modern touring life and the ‘young guns’ running things, part of me doesn’t miss it. The FUN side of things seems to be a dirty word now. It always was a BUSINESS, but that’s ALL it is now’.

House light’s up there’s no encore.

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

RADGE AGAINST THE MACHINE – musician Carol Nichol talks about Lowfeye’s forthcoming album.

Based in Durham City, UK, Lowfeye are musicians Alan Rowland and Carol Nichol… ‘Initially I write the songs on piano or guitar. Alan plays the bass and drums then put’s it all together in his home recording studio. Lowfeye’s new album Pow is due for release very soon and initially it got interest from BBC Introducing after I wrote a track called Demons based on the character played by British actor Tom Hardy in BBC drama Taboo’. ‘Demons’ and ‘Dynamite’ have the dreamy smothering sound reminiscent of 90’s trip hop band Portishead mixed with a 60’s tv/film soundtrack. Is there any producers out there looking for a soundtrack ? Impressive stuff from the dark duo, and the BBC interest was entirely justified.

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‘All styles on the album are completely different to each other because I am a lover of music and its history. I can appreciate all the years of amazing music styles. A track on the album could be a dark Nick Cave style song, set to heavy guitar like Search and Destroy by Iggy and the Stooges. Or a film sound track style from the 60’s. I write how I feel and we try to capture those elements in our production. The track Pow is very haunting and it’s based around a girl who is is trapped in a volatile relationship and is crying out to her mother. The chorus Pow in one word captures the cry for help. Another song I wrote was Poor Little Rich Girl and is about Andy Warhol’s relationship with Edith Sedgewick who became his muse in his film Factory Girls. Her addiction and child abuse were covered up leading to her death at a young age. In the end Warhol dismissed any involvement in her life.
Other songs can be political or critical of society. I find the mainstream music scene along with TV celebrity’s awful. It’s bland, its beige, it’s plastic and unfortunately we are spoon fed this crap by radio and tv. Some songs can be slightly humourus which is like my track Beautiful WorldNow the worlds run by millionaires they can take from you in a blink of a stare and they walk like dogs in a beautiful world’.

Who were your influences in music ? ’I was brought up by an eccentric mother who brainwashed us all with diverse sounds so I’ve never been in a box listening to one style. My main influence as a kid was David Bowie, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, and Kate Bush – especially as she was a complete one off. She probably inspired me to get into music. But I hated anything trained, as I’m a self taught musician and perform how I feel at that time. You meet too many musicians who have become manufactured and it’s boring. To be honest I was a John Peel fan as he looked for something different in music and not the obvious, discovering amazing bands which really influenced me growing up’.

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PHOTO: WILL BINKS

‘I think you go to see a band as well as hear them. I struggled with dyslexia and I am 90% visual, so a real lover of front artists like Ian Curtis, Dave Byrne, Jaz Coleman, Lux Interior, The Cramps, Iggy, Dead Kenndeys and X Ray Specs. As a very young girl I particularity got blown away with the birth of punk not only in the UK but in America. I found it exciting with all that energy, and loved the rebellious side to it. Still love it today. I also front an original punk band The Relitics formed by Mick Hall in 2015. We have been supporting bands like the UK Subs, Chelsea, 999 and we did Rebellion 2017. It’s all good fun as you find people that are aged 40 plus have more passion to get out there and perform original music and have a voice in today’s beige society. The Relitics have released an album and vinyl and due to release a second album soon’.

When did you start in music ? ‘I have been in bands all my life. My first band was when I was 14, then I joined Gerbils in Red Wine. We used to rehearse down the Fowlers Yard in Durham which is home to Prefab Sprout and The Toy Dolls. We done a gig where a girl at the front dragged me off stage by my hair. I was a skinny little thing at the time but I managed to punch her giving her a black eye. She was a big lass and she didn’t half hit the floor. The door men at the pub where laughing more than anything.
In 1992 an A&R guy linked to ZTT records put me forward as a backing singer for Seal before he shot to fame. The European tour was for 30 day’s in Germany, France, Holland, Spain and Sweden. That was a great time.
I remember playing the Ewerk centre in Koln with Lloyd Cole supporting and after the gig ended up getting smashed on tequila and waking up with a shower cap on my head haha. I had a chance to go on tour again but declined as my father died suddenly.
After that I joined a band The Faraway Tree this was with two female vocalist’s, myself and Rebecca Crawford who now lives in Perth, Australia. We played a number of gigs and appeared on Tyne Tees TV entertainment show East Coast Mainline. I have played most venues in the North East especially the Newcastle Riverside in 1990’s and continue to go and see a lot of bands. I like the small venues better, the more intimate places the better for me as it captures the atmosphere at gigs’.

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Have you always been involved in music ? ’Yes I worked at Circulation Records in 1999-2014 which was set up to run a new deal for musicians 18 -24 to support them into music. At the time I was in a band formed by Chris Labron who played keyboards for Warfare. We played Stockton Festival and showcased bands and dj’s at the event. We also had guest speakers at Circulation Records like Bruce Dickinson, Simple Minds manager and Julian Cope. We arranged bands to perform with Slash and Snakepit in Berlin’.

Have you filmed any TV appearences or music video’s ? ‘I wrote a song called Individuality and performed that on Tyne Tees TV programme East Coast Mainline, which led to being asked to sing a wartime song in a Catherine Cookson period drama, and be an extra singing in it. On the day of filming, actress Catherine Zeta Jones was complaining about not being asked to sing the song and said she had a single out at the time. We all ended up standing around the piano singing it with the camera on her and my voice in the background’.

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What are your future plans ?Lowfeye album Pow will be available soon digitally on Spotify, iTunes and hard copy. The sleeve artwork was done by Rebecca Crawford who was in The Faraway Tree with me. She teaches Art & Design out in Australia and features on one of the songs we recorded when she came over this year. We are already working on the second album. You can find Carol Nichol and Lowfeye on Facebook and You Tube. I will also be doing regular gigs with punk band The Relitics in North East venues, and hoping to be playing Lowfeye gigs next year after the album release. A lot of the songs are targeted at soundtracks for film and TV – Peaky Blinders next year, you never know’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.

STILL HUNGRY – Dave Allison, original rhythm guitarist & vocalist from Canadian metallers Anvil

ROSS HALFIN ?

Dave Allison was a member of Anvil for 10 years and recorded 7 albums, his last was ‘Past and Present’ live album. I got in touch with Dave and asked what are you up to now ? ‘I pretty much quit playing when I left Anvil. I went to see them for the first time last year and I got totally inspired to start playing again. I am currently working with a network of all pro musicians from back in the day. Guys who are still in the game. We are writing songs and recording mostly over the internet. If I told you some mischievous stories and funny anicdotes from back in the day it would be a whole different interview and very X-rated haha’.

Back then Anvil were Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow (lead vocals, guitar), Dave Allison (guitar, vocals) Ian Dickson (bass, backing vocals) and Robb Reiner (drums) The band were originally called Lips and released their first album independently. They changed names to Anvil and signed to Attic Records who re-released their debut album ‘Hard ’n’ Heavy’ in 1981.

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Let’s go back to the start, when did you first get into playing music and who were your influences ? ’First band I played in I was maybe 13! Mike Poitras on drums, Dave McLean lead guitar and myself on rhythm guitar! We sucked but we had fun! Influences ? Too many to mention but a short list would be Deep Purple, Cream, Hendrix, Sabbath, Boston, Styx and Aerosmith previous to meeting the boys! Oh and Rush of course! After that anybody and everybody. I should probably include The Who, The Beatles and believe it or not The Monkeys in that first list!

Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that ? ‘When I first heard all of those previous bands. I started playing Monkeys songs when I was 8 years old when I got my first electric guitar and amplifier from money that I made from my paper route!

The early days of Anvil were a hard struggle in Canada… ‘First gig was with Anvil was after 10 months of rehearsal. We done seven days a week, 8 hours a day. Most of that was just Rob, Lips and myself. Ian didn’t join the band till very late. We already had the first album written long before the first gig. During this time we self recorded and self-produced the Lips album which eventually became the first Anvil album Hard ’n’ Heavy’.

Back then what venue’s were you playing ? ‘We played every s******** in Ontario and Quebec. Anywhere that would have us. It wasn’t easy back in the day being an original band. And we were loud as f***. We were a band who played mostly original music and all the clubs wanted tribute bands so we bullshitted our set list and said we played all the current Hard Rock band stuff. But of course we didn’t. We did do a lot of Ted Nugent though. And we would play a club for an entire week. Back in the day that’s how it was. We used to play the same clubs over and over again every 2 months. The word spread about us and eventually so did our territory’.

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By 1982 Anvil had released their second album ’Metal on Metal’. That year they got a call to play a festival which was fast becoming a regular on the rock circuit. Can you recall playing the UK Monsters of Rock ? ‘Monsters of Rock gig ! Ho Lee fuk ! What an experience. It was surreal ! Couldn’t believe we were actually there. Although by that time we really were a well-oiled, road hardened and very confident bunch of guys. But it was still the biggest thing we had ever done. I think we were a little heavy given the rest of the line-up’. On the bill were Uriah Heep, Hawkwind, Gillan, Saxon and headliners Status Quo. By 1983 Anvil had released their third album ‘Forged in Fire’ produced by Chris Tsangarides…‘We always took recording very seriously and worked very much as a team to achieve the end result. This would often create a bit of tension between us but that’s just the nature of the beast and the end result speaks for itself !

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To promote the album they went out on the ‘Another Perfect Day’ UK tour supporting Motorhead. I saw them at Newcastle City Hall, plus before that, at Leeds Queens Hall on a bill with Girlschool, Twisted Sister, Saxon and Spider. What are your memories from that day ? ‘With those bands the Leeds gig was a little more in keeping with who we were and was much more comfortable. That was an excellent show on the day, and we had a lot of fun doing it and playing with those bands’.

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Photo: David Plastic

Did you film any tv appearances or music video’s ? ‘Not as many as I would have liked to but yes there are number of them. My personal favourite are the Tokyo Tapes live at Sun Plaza. One guy filming on the balcony with what must have been a huge camera and the footage is as raw as it gets, but totally captures what Anvil was all about.
There is another really good one back in the Hard and Heavy days which was a guy’s college project that I also think is pretty good although again very raw!
Slickest one was Super Rock ’84 but it is short and only includes the tracks School Love and Metal on Metal with just short pieces of both those songs. I would love to see the rest of the footage but I don’t know if it exists’.

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What’s your future plans ? ‘I have a home studio and do all of that on computer, so with the musicians I’m working with it makes it kind of easy to trade ideas without travelling great distances to play together. I’m also very interested in taking older songs and remaking them much like we did in Anvil. Eventually the plan is to put out a recording. With the whole new spin of course and much more attitude! I tend to like attitude !

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

BLUE TO HIS SOUL – with musician John Verity

‘I recall one night I left the stage during a keyboard solo in Argent and couldn’t find my way back! I was very popular with the band that night!!! ….but I did make it back in the end’.

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Rod Argent and Russ Ballard formed rock band Argent in 1969 and are known for the hit singles Hold Your Head Up and God Gave Rock n Roll to You a song covered by American rock band Kiss in 1991. In 1973 John Verity joined Argent, I asked him where was the audition and how did you find out about it ?
‘There was no audition. I toured supporting Argent around the time of Russ Ballard deciding to quit. They asked me if I would consider replacing him and I said yes!
John has had a full career since then…’Right now I am just completing an 80 date tour of the UK promoting the My Religion album, with another busy year planned for 2018. My next album, Blue to My Soul is planned for release in November this year. We also released a live DVD earlier this year, shot at our show at the Jim Marshall Auditorium, The Stables Theatre, Wavendon, Milton Keynes’.

Since he first picked up a guitar in the early 60’s John has had a very prolific and distinguished career in music… ‘I was in various local bands in the 60’s around my home town of Bradford, West Yorkshire, playing pubs, clubs and youth clubs until I joined my first fully professional band in ’68. This was the Richard Kent Style from Manchester, a 6-piece with brass section. Pretty soon we were playing up to 14 gigs a week, twice a night, up and down the country and often abroad. In ’69 we changed our name to Tunnel when we were offered a gig at a rock club in Freeport, Grand Bahama – close to the U.S coast and frequented by American college kids. During our time at the club we were approached by a U.S promoter and relocated to North Miami Beach to seek our fortune!
Tunnel opened for many major U.S acts as they passed through Florida, but unfortunately there were pressures developing in the band resulting in a split. Everyone left town, except me. I felt that the opportunities were too good to waste and set about forming my own band using American musicians from the Miami area, with the aim of fulfilling the dates already planned for Tunnel. We had Teddy Napoleon on drums, and Mark Troisi on bass. The very first John Verity Band !
So, to the present JV Band – a revolving line-up depending on availability.
Either Liam James Gray, Bob Henrit or Steve Rodford on drums. Either Bob Skeat, Jamie Mallender, John Gordon, Roger Inniss or Russell Rodford on bass. When it comes to recording, everyone features in some way or another, along with various guest musicians/singers’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘My earliest influences were American blues and R&B artists but also the obvious ones for a young aspiring guitarist at the time – Chuck Berry, Hank B Marvin, Duane Eddy, Elvis. I loved and still do, the music of BB King, Aretha Franklin, Albert King, and Muddy Waters. The first Led Zep album was a major milestone’.

How did you get involved in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘I can’t really remember how I first got started. Once I’d discovered the guitar I really wasn’t interested in anything else – except girls of course, but they seemed to come hand-in-hand with the guitarist thing. A defining moment for me was much later. Up until this I had always been the guitar player in the band, who would sing the occasional harmony’.

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‘My voice has always been high and that didn’t seem to be very fashionable on the 60’s music scene here in the UK. Then we were booked to open a show in Redcar, at The Coatham. The headline band was The Who, and special guest was Terry Reid. There was a buzz in the industry about Terry Reid but I hadn’t seen him. He absolutely blew me away that night. His voice was out of this world but what really hit me was that he had a really high voice – sort of in the same ballpark as mine. From that night onwards I was determined to be a singer. A guitarist/singer that is! A while later in Miami I got my chance, and took it’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Probably far too much to mention everything, my earliest experience was EMI Studios in Manchester Square, London in the mid 60’s. Then various independent studios as they sprang up, including Advision, Olympic, Roundhouse. I started recording my own stuff early on. I wrote and demo’d all the songs for my first album in a cupboard in the apartment in Miami!
The demos for the first Saxon album were recorded in Chalk Farm, London. The album itself was recorded at Livingston Studios. I went on to record many projects there’.

(Nerd alert: Saxon was released in 1979 on the Carrere label. Clocking in at just under 30 mins it contained singles Big Teaser/Stallions of the Highway and Backs to the Wall/Militia Guard. The album helped put Saxon on the heavy metal map).

Was heavy metal a big departure from the music you had done ? ‘Not really a big departure. It wasn’t really ‘Metal’ yet – just heavy British rock. It was great fun working with the lads, though record company and management problems managed to screw it up in the end. Biff Byford and Paul Quinn had been in the very final John Verity Band before I joined Argent’.

After Argent split up John formed Phoenix and recorded 2 albums, the debut on CBS records in 1976 and ‘In Full View’ on Charisma in 1979.
‘There was some gigs with Phoenix. We did a few impromptu gigs in the UK before a European tour with Aerosmith to support our first album but from then on it became a studio project’.

A stint with London based band Charlie followed, they released an album ‘Good Morning America’ on RCA/Victor records.
‘There were no gigs with Charlie during my time’.

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That lasted until 1982 when the lead vocal spot was taken up by South Shields musician, Terry Wilson-Slesser (pic.above). The music video for ‘It’s Inevitable’ with Slesser is worth checking out on You Tube – it ends in a pie fight. Next for John was a tour with former Sweet vocalist Brian Connolly where they supported American female rock singer Pat Benatar on her 1983 ‘Get Nervous’ tour.

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Around this time Pat and her band played on the live TV music programme The Tube, the studio was in Newcastle. I was lucky to be in the audience for that show and witnessed a fantastic performance by Benatar. Again worth checking out on You Tube. But back to the story…‘Yes the Benatar tour was great and a sell out – but no crazy stories I’m afraid. All very well-organised and straight! The early 80’s I had been very busy recording in Livingston Studio’s in London with Brian Connolly, Russ Ballard, Charley, Phoenix, and my own album Interrupted Journey’.

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That band, simply called Verity, had rubbed shoulders with AOR giants Journey/Foreigner. Included was the track ‘Rescue Me’ which was a regular on the early years of MTV.
‘I then built my own studio back in Yorkshire where I wrote and recorded with many people including The Searchers, Mike Rutherford and Steve Thompson. (Steve is featured in an earlier blog The Godfather of North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal June 27.)

‘Around the mid-80’s I recorded with the Rolling Stones mobile – there was some live Motorhead tracks with Brian Robertson and Pete Gill in the line-up. I recorded 4 gigs I think, and mixed a selection from those’.

Looking around on You Tube there is some good footage of your band Phoenix on Saturday morning UK TV show Supersonic. Did you record many TV appearences or music videos ? ‘Yep, there was lots of TV here in the UK including Old Grey Whistle Test, Top of the Pops and Supersonic. The Argent ‘Circus’ film was one of the first to feature on MTV. To arrange the appearences there were various management companies around that time, but usually the record labels arranged TV slots’.

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Do you find the internet a help for musicians ? ’I used to be horrified when I spotted someone filming us with a ‘phone but now it’s just a regular occurrence that we put up with. Lots of poor quality stuff on the net but you could waste your life away getting it taken down. I just leave it. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity’.

What has music given you ? ‘Music has given me everything – but at times it has taken everything away too. It means everything to me. I have a very long-suffering wife, Carole. She lets me be what I am despite the faults and that’s amazing, the way she accepts my obsession with all things music related. Just amazing…’

Launch dates for the new album at Dreadnought Rock in Bathgate, Scotland are November 10th & Ripley Live in North Yorkshire on the 11th November.

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For more info, tour dates, merchandise, photo’s and video contact the official website johnverity.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.

Recommended:

Bernie Torme, The Dentist, 21st March 2017.

Steve Dawson (Animals), Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Steve Dawson (Saxon) Men at Work, 28th May 2017.

Trevor Sewell (The Revillos) Still Got the Blues, 21st June 2017.

Jon Dalton, California Dreaming, 18th October 2017.

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, 5th November 2017.

 

DOCTOR ROCK – Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist, Robb Weir

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How did you get involved in music and who were your influences ? ‘I was born in Ghana. My dad was working for the British Colonial Service out in West Africa as a doctor/surgeon specialising in tropical medicine. His transport in those days was a horse, and with two saddle bags full of medical supplies. Dad travelled from village to village coming across things like black magic and cannibalism. In 1959 my mum wanted to return home to the UK and in particular the North East of England. When we came home Dad worked as a medical officer of health and later went into general practise in South Shields. To get to work my father had to get the ferry across the river Tyne from North Shields to South Shields. One day he came home with a nylon strung Spanish guitar. He bought it from a junk shop I think. Dad was very musical and had trained in classical piano. To be honest he could pretty much play anything. He thought it might be fun for me to try and learn how to play. In our house there were records by Elvis, Little Richard, The Beatles and the Stones and I used to play along with them. I didn’t have any music lessons I basically taught myself how to play, I’m still learning one day I’ll get the hang of it!’

‘I started listening to Slade, Status Quo, Black Sabbath and then around 1974 I started going to the Newcastle City Hall and Mayfair to see every band you can think of. I became great friends with the manager of the Mayfair, Steven Lister who worked for the Mecca Association. I’d ring him up and ask who was playing and he’d leave my name on the guest list. I think it was after the first time Tygers of Pan Tang played there in ’79 that we became friends’.

 

The Tygers of Pan Tang formed in Whitley Bay in 1978 and by the early 80’s they had a lot of success. But can you pinpoint the time when the Tygers career took off ? ‘In 1979 we went into Impulse Recording studios in Wallsend and recorded, ‘Don’t Touch Me There.’ It had a release number 003 so we were in at the beginning of the Neat Record label story. We were the first heavy metal band to be recorded in the studio. So I’m very proud of the Tygers launching the label and giving the Neat label a direction. Impulse studios took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies, that was a lot for a small independent label. Our drummer’s girlfriend used to sell the single for us on the door of the venues we played like the Boilermakers in Sunderland, the Central club in Ashington and other workingmen’s clubs in the North East of England. That’s the gigs we used to play in the early days before the big time arrived. At that time workingmen’s clubs were full of men from the shipyards and mines. Most had long hair, jeans, tattoos and listened to rock music. All around the country the rock scene on a Friday night was huge and all the shows were packed. To see a band you had to get your arse out of the house, go to the bus stop in the pouring rain and get to the club. You couldn’t see a concert on the internet in those days! We were definitly in the right place at the right time’.

‘Don’t Touch Me There’ was reviewed in Sounds newspaper which made a massive difference to awareness so the next pressing was 4,000 copies! Then Dave Woods the label owner at Neat records was approached by MCA record company, they wanted us! So Dave did a deal, essentially selling the Tygers to them. So MCA pressed around 50,000 copies of the single! But our success still hadn’t really sunk in. We were caught up in the moment I guess, you’re just in a giant musical blender getting whizzed around with all the other acts. One of my more defining moments was when the album Wildcat came out. I got my first physical copy of it in my hand and showed my parents. They said yes that’s great but it would be nice if you got a proper job! I guess they just wanted the best for their son.’

Were you aware of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal ? ‘Only when I read about it in Sounds! It was a 3 or 4 page spread by Geoff Barton. He had started writing about the music – he coined the phrase NWOBHM. Geoff wrote about 4 bands initially – Iron Maiden from London, Def Leppard from Sheffield, Saxon from Barnsley and the Tygers from Whitley Bay. Reading it I thought, so we’re NWOBHM eh ha-ha. Listening back to Wildcat I didn’t realise how much punk had jumped into my head song writing wise. Well a rock voice on any song from Never Mind the Bollocks album would have turned that iconic punk album into a hard rock album. Steve Jones with his Les Paul and Marshall stack – had a great hard rock sound’.

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The Tygers were originally a 4 piece then changed to a 5 with the addition of guitarist John Sykes… ‘We recorded Wildcat in Morgan Studio’s in Willesden, North London with Chris Tsangarides producing. We had just finished 11 days recording the album – which was very quick. We’d been playing those songs on Wildcat for 2 years on the road so we knew them inside out and for the recording process. Chris just put forward a few production ideas. For example, I played a guitar solo through a Lesley cabinet which is normally associated with keyboard players. The top of the cabinet has horns inside and they spin when activated. So Chris had this idea of playing the guitar through it to see what it would sound like. He was quite inventive and it worked really well. I think we recorded the harmonic bit in Slave to Freedom that way and something else I can’t quite remember’.

‘1980 was a really busy year for us, we completed several tours supporting established bands. The Tygers went out with Magnum for 3 weeks in the March, they were promoting their new live album Marauder which Chris had just produced. We then went out with the Scorpions on their Lovedrive tour, then we did the On Through the Night, tour with Def Leppard. There was 3 weeks with Saxon on the Wheels of Steel tour and we did shows with Iron Maiden and Whitesnake as well’.

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‘Apart from Magnum, all the bands we opened up for where 2 guitar bands. When I played a guitar solo there was no rhythm behind it so the sound would drop. It was felt that to give the band a bigger, fuller sound we needed to add another guitar player. So our management and I.T.B (International Talent Booking) our agent down in Wardour Street, London said we think it would be better if the band added an additional guitar player. So after Wildcat was recorded we advertised and held auditions at Tower Bridge rehearsal studios, London. About 80 guitar players were invited down. There were 2 that stood head and shoulders above the rest and that was John Sykes and Steve Mann, who had just come out of a band called Liar. Steve went on to play with MSG and Lionheart who have just reformed. Steve now lives in Germany where he is a record producer. Steve played guitar and saxophone – John just played one hell of a guitar as you know!
John had everything, he was six foot tall, long blonde hair, stunningly good looking, incredible guitar player, great singer, good songwriter, although he never knew it at the time as he was just starting out – and the girls loved him, they fell at his feet. He was so much better at playing the guitar than me I thought to myself, I’d better up my game here.’

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Was John in a band previously ? ‘He was in a covers band in Blackpool called Streetfighter, and they were fronted by bass player Merv Goldsworthy who is now in FM. Merv and I remain good friends both the Tygers and FM were on the Cambridge Rock festival bill earlier this year. Streetfighter were famed for their exceptional Thin Lizzy covers’.
(Streetfighter appear on a 1980 heavy metal compilation album New Electric Warriors).
‘John was at my house one day and I was showing him the root chords from the songs on Wildcat and he said in a cockney accent ‘Ere Robb I’m fackin’ sick of this I’ve got this fackin’ idea what do you think of this’. He played me some chords, I said ‘I really like that I’ve got something that will go with that’. He replied ‘Fackin’ hell we got a song there, let’s go for that’. So we spent the rest of the day forgetting the set we were learning for the upcoming Wildcat tour and wrote Take It, which we recorded for the Spellbound album, unfortunately is the only song we wrote together’.

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Sykes went on to co-write and record 2 albums with the Tygers. ‘Spellbound’ was his first along with new vocalist Jon Deverill who had replaced Jess Cox. How did Jon Deverill get the job with the Tygers ? ‘John Sykes first gig was Reading festival, 1980 with Whitesnake headling, there was 42,000 people there! What happened was we had done the Wildcat tour, it was a sell out across the UK – Mayfair’s and Locarno’s and places like that, they all had a capacity of 2,000 people. There was a big buzz in the music press about us, we were getting full page adverts in Sounds, NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. It was all going well, really well.
But there was a meeting with our management and Rod MacSween our agent who said ‘with the singer you have at the moment we can’t really further the career of the band outside of the UK’. So our management took the decision to change the line up even though Wildcat had been so successful. We took this forward and advertised for a singer. We knew we were in a good position to get a great response because in the national charts Wildcat entered at number 13 and around us were the likes of Bowie, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind & Fire. All those multi platinum artists and here’s the little ‘ol Tygers of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay hanging in there. We were hoping it would do well but never expected it to do that well – it was fantastic.’

‘We had a huge response for a new vocalist with well over 130 singers turning up. But again there was one who was head and shoulders above everyone else, and that was Jon Deverill. A lad from the Welsh Valleys with a huge voice, he walked into the job really. So he moved up from Cardiff, his home city to the North East. Our management got him a place to live with John Sykes and we immediately started writing songs for Spellbound. So the Tygers story rolled on’.

‘We were living down in London and the Angelic Upstarts were down there at the same time. We were signed to MCA records and they were signed to EMI. I remember Mensi their singer sold second hand jags to supplement his income. The drummer Decca would also make a few quid. When the likes of Praying Mantis or Iron Maiden were playing at the Marquee club he’d appear wearing one of those big long trench coats. He would walk around the punters and open up his coat like Arthur Daley and inside were all the latest EMI album releases. He’d sell them out of his coat ha-ha! Obviously he had acquired them, ‘somehow’ from the EMI offices. It was hilarious to watch – and he always made a few quid. They were lovely lads you know, I’ve always liked them.’

1981 was a very busy time for the band. They were still contracted to MCA and that year saw the Tygers release 2 albums. ‘Spellbound’ recorded in Morgan Studio’s in London produced by Chris Tsangarides and released in April. The Tygers third album ‘Crazy Nights’ which was recorded at Trident Studios in London and produced by Dennis MacKay. It was released late 1981.
The more successful and commercial sounding album ‘The Cage’ was recorded in 1982. Extra songwriters were used resulting in a couple of singles that charted in the UK. But there was another line up change. Fred Purser, formerly of fellow North Eastern band Penetration, was in on lead guitar…
‘John got the Lizzy gig because he wanted to push his career further forward. Unbeknown to us he auditioned for Ozzy first but didn’t get that job. When he got back to the North East the news didn’t go down well with the rest of the band so we got another guitarist in. From what I gather John’s stepfather, Ron contacted MCA and told them they shouldn’t drop John as he had great potential, which they agreed. So they set him up in a recording studio in Dublin to record a single. In the studio next door was Thin Lizzy. Inevitably John met up and Lizzy and asked Phil if he would sing on, Don’t Leave Me This Way, John’s first single. Lizzy had just lost their guitarist Snowy White and there it was, the opening for John to join. We’ve remained friends after everything that has happened. I’ll always have a soft spot for John’.

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By January ’83 Thin Lizzy appeared on live music TV show, The Tube. A show where I was lucky to be in the audience. Interviews on the Tube had a look of almost falling apart and not quite knowing what was going to happen next – but that was its appeal. Thin Lizzy were interviewed in the dressing room before they went on stage.

Interviewer:Now perhaps the topic on everybody’s mind the Thin Lizzy split, tell me about it”.
Lynott:Yes we’re splitting up
Interviewer:Why”
Lynott: “Cos we want to”
Interviewer: “Why not just split when Snowy left as opposed to getting John in and starting all over again for just for a couple of months ?”
Lynott: “Cos we felt that John was better and we thought that we would give it a go with John, establish him as a protégé, and then let him go on and do great things.”
Interviewer: “Well how do John and Darren feel about this, it’s their claim to fame. “
Lynott: “No it’s not”.

The full interview is available on you tube. Sykes went on to massive worldwide success with Whitesnake, then as a solo artist.

The Tygers also played the iconic TV show The Tube, what are your memories of that day ? ‘Yes it was Christmas ’82. I remember our crew had just loaded our full touring backline of 18 Marshall 4×12’s, stacked 3 high in cages and 14 100watt Marshall heads onto the stage in Tyne Tees TV studio. We were in our dressing room and in the distance heard our track Gangland playing, what’s going on here we thought it was getting louder and louder. Then all of a sudden our dressing room door burst open and standing in the doorway was this huge, blonde, stripped to the waist, head banging monster. We were all shocked. He had a big cassette player on his shoulder playing at full volume…’you guy’s fuckin’ rock I love you guy’s’. He turned around and walked back out. We looked at each other… ‘Wasn’t that Dee Snider of Twisted Sister?’ I’ll never forget that ha-ha. We talked with them afterwards and they were fantastic, really brilliant. I got what they were all about, the dressing up and make up. Dee was really clever writing those songs, you know the big shouty anthems.’

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In 1982 Love Potion No. 9 was a hit in the UK charts, did you record many TV appearances for the promotion of the single ?
’We were at Newcastle Central Station 2 weeks running with our tickets in our hands ready to go down to do Top of the Pops, but both times we were told we are not being included in the show. One show they said they had the full quota of metal bands, i.e. one! To fill the time and the other show was cut 10 minutes short because of a Queens speech – and our spot was in those 10 minutes.
But we did appear on TV quite a few times, I remember the Old Grey Whistle Test, The Tube, we did a programme called Something Else on BBC2, there was Tony Wilsons Pop World and we did Friday Night Live on Tyne Tees television. There were more I’m sure.’

You formed a band called Sergeant, how did that come about ? ‘Tygers came to an end for me around late ’83, I was still writing songs, I had a little recording studio to put them together. I had over an album worth of songs. At this time I was still working with Brian Dick the drummer from the Tygers, he left the band at the same time as me. We recruited a singer and bass player, and named the band Sergeant. We recorded a 4 track demo at Lynx studio in Newcastle, which was owned at the time by Brian Johnson from AC/DC. The manager of Sergeant, Colin Rowell and I, went down to London and hawked the demo around all the record companies. Colin had a lot of contacts in the music business. He was working as the stage manager for The Tube music programme on Channel 4 at the time.
There was interest from a guy called Dave Novak head of A&R at CBS records. He came up to see us rehearsing in a hall near Jesmond, Newcastle. He liked us and said why not come down to London play a show with Mama’s Boys at the Marquee and I’ll bring Muff Winwood along, the CEO of CBS. We’ll do the deal in the dressing room. The initial advance was going to be £60,000.’
‘With this good news we set up a meeting at the Egypt Cottage pub in Newcastle with the other lads. They said great but, ‘we’ve decided we don’t want Robb in the band anymore’. I never got to the bottom of why they didn’t want me in my own band! I left the pub and Colin walked out with me telling them that ‘the record contract is walking out the door as well’. They were shocked and didn’t expect that, they thought Colin would just carry on as there manager. They apparently replaced me with a guitar player AND a keyboard player! Nice to know it took two to replace little old me! But they only lasted 4 or 5 shows. They supported Accept in the UK, and then disbanded’.
‘Not long after that I got a call from Jess Cox. We met up and eventually ended up recording a song of mine called ‘Small Town Flirt’ which Jess released through the Neat record label as he was working with Dave Woods the label owner at the time. He also re-released a whole load of other Tygers early demo material. But I wasn’t happy at all with the situation and I just got sick of it all so that’s when I ducked out of the music industry. Until, out of the blue, I got a call in 1999 which resulted in the Tygers, well I say Tygers. Jess told me he had called all the previous members and asked them if they could take part in the reformation. Apparently only Jess and I could do it as everyone else had commitments they couldn’t get out of ? This is what I was told. So we hired 3 fantastic musicians, Gav Gray, Glenn Howes and Chris Percy who were in Blitzkrieg at the time I think, if they could help out. We actually were the Friday night headliners at the Wacken Festival in Germany. Saxon and Dokken were on before us for goodness sake! We played in front of 22,000 people that night. I got so badly bitten again by the Rock’n’Roll bug I knew I just had to put the Tygers back together again somehow.’

Fast forward and the album Ambush was released in 2012 and then in 2016 a self titled album…’That went into the British charts at number 24, the Danish charts were the record company is based, at 13. The album has done really well. In 2013, Dean who was our longstanding guitarist from 2000, a good friend and a great player decided he wanted to do other musical things and left so we auditioned and now we’ve got Mickey McCrystal on guitar who is a great guitar player, six foot tall, he’s got the looks and an amazing career in front of him – in the spirit of John Sykes! Tygers are run as a family, and just like a family we all look out for each other and we get on really well. When on tour we’ve got a reputation amongst hotel managers of being a nice set of lads, we don’t tear the place up (anymore), the hotel managers tell us we can book with them again and again – gone are the days when we would set off fire extinguishers on hotel landings and super glue TV’s in the bath!’

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What is the feeling in the Tygers camp now compared to 1980’s ? ‘Tom Noble is back managing us, he first managed the band from 1978-82. He saw us play about 3 years ago in Rome, we had a drink after the show and we said we were putting a new album together. He asked if we wanted any help. Perfect timing if you ask me. So it came at a good time for both of us life is SO much easier with Tom…
It’s much better now, back then you were constantly chasing fame and glory, the autographs, photographs, interviews were all great but having to prove yourself all the time, the competition and ego’s – you couldn’t get away from it. Thing is, you wanted to be recognised, people buying your records meant you were doing well and you were alive. It was a double edged sword really.
However today is a totally different story, we are very pleased that people still choose to come and see the Tygers. Meet and greet is a massive part of our night and we look forward to it, say hi to the fans, sign a few things and talk to people. The pressure and ego’s are gone it’s so much more relaxed and enjoyable.’

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What does music mean to you ? ‘I’ve loved every second of my musical career, the whole ride has been like being sitting at the front of a giant rollercoaster, hands up, screaming with delight! Music is a way of life, it’s a wonderful thing, and it can be your best friend. You can turn to music at any time of your life and it can be a great comforter. I absolutely love it.’

Tygers of Pan Tang are on a UK tour during November 2017. For further info and tour dates contact the official website http://www.tygersofpantang.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 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.

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.

Dave Allison ANVIL: Still Hungry, 12th November 2017.