BODO SWINGS – interview with German rock drummer Bodo Schopf

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You might know German drummer Bodo Schopf from the sheer amount of studio projects and live work…’I have played several tours around the world, many great stages like Wembley Arena. Many big open air festivals around Europe as well as in the USA, Japan and Canada. I played in bands supporting Rush, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Scorpions, Ozzy Osborne and Bon Jovi’…..

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Or you might know him from his work on McAuley Schenker albums ‘Perfect Timing’ in 1987 and ‘Save Yourself’ 1989…. ‘In 1985 I played on the Rock Me Amadeus tour for Austrian star Falco. Then I got an invitation to go to London and audition for Michael Schenker. I was drummer number 64, and 2 weeks later I was in the rehearsal room with Michael Schenker. I played for 5 years with his band. We recorded the albums and made music video’s for songs like Love is Not a Game, Anytime and This is My Heart. After that I joined the German prog rock band Eloy in 1994, 3 albums and many tours followed. In 2007 I played again with Michael Schenker, then back with Eloy until 2013. In 2014 I founded with vocalist David Readman the band Pendulum of Fortune. We are currently doing promotion for our album Searching for the God Inside and then we are preparing for our upcoming live shows’.

Pendulum of Fortune are
David Readman – lead vocals
Bodo Schopf – drums
Vladimir Shevyakov – guitar
Franky R. – bass

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Pendulum of Fortune

How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences ? ‘I’ve played music since I was 5 and I remember years later when I was playing with my senior school band our bassist said ‘It would be great if we could be professional musicians’. I always remembered this statement and 2 years later at the age of 17 I became a professional musician. When I was a teenager I was listening to Grand Funk Railroad Live album, then came Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and recent stuff from Creed’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘At 17 I played in an American club band, we played the clubs of the American army barracks in Germany, doing up to 29 shows a month. I did that for 3 years, that was my school of music, my education. Afterwards I played in a band called Wolfhound then for 3 years in the back up band for Ike and Tina Turner that took me through the 70’s. I also worked with the band Juicy Lucy, then played 3 years with UK band The Sweet, followed by a tour with the German rockstar and composer Udo Lindenberg’.

Have you recorded any TV appearences or filmed any music videos ? ’Yes I was in many TV shows with full playback and also played live. I done MTV, a live German TV show called Ohne Filter, even played in a movie called Cold Fever. Of course we filmed many videos with the McAuley Schenker Group and recorded a live video with The Sweet. There was also videos with Eloy, and now of course with Pendulum of Fortune’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I’ve played on over 300 albums and well over a thousand jingles and commercials. I played for artists like Chris Thompson, Eric Burdon, Hazel O’Connor, Gotthardt, Michael Schenker, Eloy, The Sweet and many others. I’ve recorded in the Record Plant and One on One studios both in L.A. The Puk studio in Denmark, Musicland of Munich and so many others. In the early days it was great to work in the studios, with all the musicians, producers and engineers, sadly today this is no longer the case. The studio cost’s were then very high, up to $2000 a day. Today I record drums in my own studio which is on the island of Sardinia. I work on my own and record the drums for artist’s around the whole world, it all goes through the internet. If you need drums check out my website http://www.sardegnaproductionmusic.com’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs ? ’If I knew this, I would know where the creator lives. Somebody sends me these ideas in my head. Mostly when I sit down with my guitar and record I have the whole song already in my mind. Other times I create a song when I sit down and just play’.

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Have you any funny stories from being in a band/playing gigs ? ‘Oh yes, there would be hundreds of stories but one story I have to tell, because I love the British humor. We were with MSG on tour with Def Leppard. The drummer Rick Allen, who had only one arm left after his car accident, asked me if I would go out with him to have a beer. So we went to a pub and drank more than one beer. Rick stared constantly at my jacket, on it I had a drummer made from foam material with a safety pin attaching it to the jacket. It was a gift from a fan. Rick said ‘Bodo there is something wrong with your jacket’ . I looked at my jacket and asked what is wrong. Rick said ‘Can I have a closer look at the little drummer on your jacket ? I replied yes why not. So he tore the drummer’s arm off and said with a grin… ‘Now it’s right’.

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Are there any other musicians/bands who you admire ? ’I admire every musician who stays healthy as they get older. Also to live and create music that can inspire listeners’.

What has music given you ? ‘Joy, love and understanding’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.

HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE ? -10 best stories from this years interviews (2017).

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The saying goes ‘Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story’. But some stories don’t need any embillishment, if it makes you laugh or even smile it’s job done. ‘Have You Heard This One’ is 10 stories that have appeared on this blog since starting in February 2017. First up is Lou Taylor (Blind Fury, Rock the Knight part one February 26th) ‘When we were rehearsing in London Bridge Studios we were visited by the boys from Metallica and went on a couple of binges with them. One night our guitarist Russ Tippins went out drinking in London with their guitarist James Hetfield. We received a phone call from the police saying can you come and collect them because they are locked up in West End Central police station. They had been playing guitar on top of the canopy of Piccadilly Theatre’.

Mond Cowie (ex-Angelic Upstarts, Angels of the North March 12th) ‘In 1981 we went on our first American tour. We got there a few days early to acclimatize and The Clash were staying in the same hotel so we used to meet them every night for the happy hour. Happy hours are class in America you don’t just get nuts and crisps you get chicken wings and pizzas and all sorts. We used to starve ourselves all day just waiting for the happy hour. It was a great laugh with them and I remember Joe Strummer saying ‘we’re coming to your gig tonight do you mind if I bring Iggy Pop?’ We said ‘Aye go on then’ haha. The gig was in New York but I can’t remember if it was Radio City or Civic Hall but we walked on stage, the lights blazed on and Mensi screamed “We’re the Angelic Upstarts, We’re from England, 1,2,3,4” then just as I strummed my guitar there was an almighty bang, it all went dark then nothing! There was a huge power cut. They couldn’t get it sorted out quickly so we jumped off stage and went to the bar at the back where The Clash were standing and I ordered a Jack and Coke and said to Iggy PopIt’ll be sorted in a minute, this sort of thing happens to us all the time”.

Neil Wil Kinson (Spartan Warrior, Chain Reaction May 21st) ’I remember in 1984 things were really looking up for the band, we had a record deal, and the night we were due to record our 2nd album we had a gig in our home town at Sunderland Mayfair. The bands future couldn’t look any brighter. We turned up at the gig, soundchecked, and went backstage to get ready. For stage wear I used to have these tight red spandex pants, looked good I thought. I remember the intro tape playing while I was standing at the side of the stage waiting to go on. You know ready to fuckin’ rock. The stage bouncer stood next to me, slowly looked me up and down and said ‘what are you playing tonight like ? Fucking Swan Lake’..What can I say ? totally burned on that one’.

Andy Boulton (Tokyo Blade, Under the Blade May 26th) ‘The 1983 European support tour with Mamas Boys had been set up and dates arranged and confirmed. But we had no money for hotels or food, and only a small amount for diesel. We slept in the van. The money that we were to receive from the shows would only just cover our diesel to the next show, so our saving grace was to be two boxes of Tokyo Blade T-shirts which our manager said we would need to sell in order to get cash for food. We eventually got on the road down to Calais where the charming French Customs Officers searched the van finding two cardboard boxes full of T-shirts. This being pre-EU days we had no license to sell anything in Europe. Oh how we laughed as they deprived us of the T-shirts and they also added a lovely little fine which took care of most of our diesel money.
Anyway we still had all our duty free fags, until that is when we decided to stop and cheer ourselves up with a beer and in the very short time it takes to down one small beer some friend of humanity decided to smash the van window and nick all our duty free and my Sony Walkman which our new singer had conveniently left for them on the front seat’.

Lee Wright (Crashed Out, Guns, Maggotts & Street Punk July 6th) ‘Theres always funny stories when traveling abroad with the band, trouble is it’s always a blur because of the alcohol! I remember on one of our first trip’s abroad we decided to go by ferry. We got absolutely plastered on the way over and one of the lads passed out drunk on the floor. Someone decided to pour a carton full of boiled rice down the back of his underpants while he slept. It wasn’t hot by the way. Anyway, morning came and we forgot about the various antics that had went on the previous night. As we left our cabin we joined the queue of people near the exit waiting to leave the ferry, when suddenly our mate starting screaming and grabbing at his arse. He was dancing round as if he was on fire, pulling rice out of his pants, he thought he had maggots coming out of his arse. With the added hangover he was really panicking, you should have seen the look on his face. I can still remember it now haha’.

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

Danny McCormack (The Main Grains, Death or Glory September 8th) ‘For the ‘I Wanna Go Where the People Go’ video we filmed that in New York. We went there for 5 days to do the video and ended up living there for a couple of month 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’. We shot off and soon the taxi was quickly surrounded by them. The deal was done and we returned to The Chelsea Hotel. We laid the drugs 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’

Gary Young (Avenger, Young Blood September 17th) ‘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 is before mobile phones. It was broad daylight when our Dutch friends found us’.

Robb Weir (Tygers of Pan Tang, Doctor Rock November 5th 2017) talking about playing on live UK TV show The Tube… ‘Yes it was Christmas ’82. I remember the crew had just loaded our backline of 18 4×12’s, stacked 3 high in cages, onto the stage in the tv studio. We were in our dressing room and in the distance heard our track Gangland, 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, bare chested 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 haha. We talked with the band afterwards and they were fantastic, really brilliant. I got what they were all about, the dressing up and make up you know. Dee was really clever writing those songs, you know the big shouty anthems’.

Bodo Schopf (Pendulum of Fortune, Bodo Swings December 2018) ‘One story I have to tell, because I love the British humor. We were with MSG on tour with Def Leppard, the drummer Rick Allen, who had only one arm left after his car accident asked me if I would go out with him having a beer. So we went to a pub and drank more than one beer. Rick stared constantly at my jacket, on it I had a drummer made from foam material with a safety pin attaching it to the jacket. It was a gift from a fan. Rick said ‘Bodo there is something wrong with your jacket’. I looked at my jacket and asked what is wrong. Rick said ‘Can I have a closer look at the little drummer on your jacket ? I replied ‘yes why not’. So he tore the drummer’s arm off and said with a grin… ‘Now it`s right’.

Thanks to everyone who has shared their stories and read the blog this year have a Happy Christmas and a successfull 2018.

Gary Alikivi

 

LOWFEYE – Deadly duo trip hop into the sunset on their debut album

POW (Independant release on RoxyDog Records).

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Having a conversation the other day about the lack of quality and choice of music on TV, you know the early evening programmes run by business men looking for the latest cash cow. It’s like being entertained by robots. Where’s the off button ? The theme was also talked about in a recent interview on this blog with songwriter Carol Nichol (Radge Against the Machine November 15th 2017). Along with musician/producer Alan Rowland, they are Durham band Lowfeye and just in time to save me from death by robots their new album Pow, arrived in the post.


I had a few domestic duties and a pile of washing to iron so I popped on the cd, pressed play and pulled a pair of jeans over the ironing board. Dynamite is first track in with a smooth, smothering tone. Ironically for an opening song it’s like the track played over the closing credits of a film. Songs on the album could underscore expensive perfume adverts or a movie soundtrack – get Tarantino on the line. Next up is Demons with it’s dreamy, velvety vocals reminiscent of the 90’s Bristol scene, home to trip hop bands Massive Attack and Portishead. Or the current dark sounds of The XX.
The smooth, claustophobic production continue to swim in the shadows until Six Foot Tall rips open the landscape to a bright, light widescreen, and the golden plains of South Dakota. It comes riding in on horseback to set you free just like Barbara Stanwyck in the opening scenes of cowboy movie Forty Guns…’and you ride the rolling river and you’re standing six feet tall, hold on in the morning, hold on till dawn…yippee aye yay’…has Tarantino answered that call yet ?
Blinders and closing track Beautiful World return to the comforting sound of an album which is bursting with confidence and ideas. Yes it’s a perfect antidote to pop gunk blocking the airways, it’s a stoner album to take the blues away, it’s like turning a dial on the radio and finding a pirate station broadcasting an anti pop message – mute the robots. Press repeat, play again and hit the volume, there’s a couple more shirts to iron.

Listen now: Six Foot Tall, Dynamite, Demons.
Listen next: Portishead, Massive Attack, The XX.

For a digital or hard copy of Pow contact Carol Nichol or Lowfeye on facebook.

Gary Alikivi December 2017.

 

PYROMANIAX – Bombs, Flashes and Burnt Eyebrows

On their world tours American rock band Kiss would go to huge lengths to put on an explosive show. But not when I saw them at Newcastle City Hall in October ’83. The band had unmasked and cut back. Apart from fire ’n’ blood spurted out by Gene Simmons, there were no stage effects. The full circus hadn’t turned up.

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Kiss, Newcastle City Hall, 29th October 1983. Photo by Stephen ‘Winst’ Wilson.

The late 70’s and early 80’s saw bands on this blog putting on a show. To add atmosphere there would be dry ice and smoke, and for dramatic effect, explosions at the beginning/end of a song. But they didn’t all go to plan.
Here’s 10 stories about bombs that didn’t stick to the script and smoke machines with a mind of their own.

Dave Dawson (Warrior, The Hunger April 12th) ‘One time our manager Ken Booth hired someone to do some flash bombs. We thought yes this will look good. But when they went off they blew me forward, all the gear turned off and ripped a gash in the ceiling. It made the local papers, but that might have been the only time we were in them like !

Danny Hynes (Weapon UK, All Fired Up May 6th) ‘Now we liked having a few explosions going off during our set you know, flashes, smoke bombs the whole lot. Well we just got on stage in Newquay, first few bars of our opener and a pyro went off between my legs…I almost became Danielle haha.
Once we were playing a gig in Stoke and the stage was very low, I walked towards it through the dry ice, tripped and went head first into the drum kit… Happy daze!

Paul Macnamara (Salem, To Hull and Back April 6th) ‘We used to experiment with pyrotechnics, thinking back, if the Health and Safety Executive had known we would have been in a lot of bother. I remember one gig we played in Sheffield there was so much smoke from the flash bomb it just hung around on stage so we couldn’t see anything at all!
Our ‘flash bombs’ comprised an old camera flash bulb wired to the mains electric, then flash powder poured on top and as we made our dramatic entrance to the Hall of the Mountain King one of our faithful roadies would throw the switch and BOOOM!! The crowd didn’t expect a mini nuclear mushroom cloud!

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Mandora, South Shields Ampitheatre, July 1987. Video still by Craig Elliott.

Duncan Binnie (Mandora, Let the Music Do the Talking July 25th) ‘During summer ’87 we’re playing an outdoor gig at the Amphitheatre down South Shields seafront at one of the biggest crowds that’s been down there. Council wouldn’t give us any lights so it was an absolute disaster ‘cos halfway through the gig it was dark. But we had the fireworks and the stage was pretty good at that point. We had a few unpaid roadies one of them was called Joe and it’s unbelievable what effort he’s putting in for nowt. Well during a song he’s crawled onstage sorting a drum out or something when one of our explosions went off and the poor guy gets blown up. I remember seeing him afterwards and he was standing there, his coat was all burnt, the whole top of it was fringed up and he had no eyebrows left’.
Watch the full interview and footage (start at 50mins) in the music documentary ’We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll’ on You Tube.

Maurice Bates (Mythra, Just A Mo’ May 12) ‘We once played the Old 29 in Sunderland and our friend Lou Taylor was the lighting guru. To his mothers dismay he made all the lighting rigs for our shows in his garage and bedroom.
On this particular gig he let off a smoke bomb which gave off so much smoke the pub had to be emptied. Another time I managed to get hold of an aircraft landing spotlight. When it was turned on and pointed at the audience it was so powerful it blinded everyone in the room, it was like looking into the sun haha’.

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Tygers of Pan Tang, Newcastle Mayfair, September 1980. Photo by John Edward Spence.

Richard Laws (Tygers of Pan Tang original bassist) ‘My hand is bandaged in these photos because we used to keep our pyrotechnics in a cool box and they had leaked and the box had a load of magnesium powder at the bottom. I thought it would be fun to put a match to it and it nearly blew my hand off ! I had second degree burns and it was agony! When it happened you can imagine I disappeared in an enormous flash and cloud of smoke and when I came to my senses my hand had swollen to twice its normal size. It was so painful I had to keep my hand in a bucket of water until I got to the doctor and got the bandages on. Luckily, even though it was quite a serious burn I could still hold a pick. They were old pyros from when we did the clubs which we would put on tables at the front of the stage. There was a theatrical shop in Newcastle where you could buy the cartridges and the electric firing mechanism. When I first got them I set them off in the back garden to see what they were like and they were pretty spectacular. I remember a few times at gigs people sitting at the tables we put them on and despite being warned, refusing to move until the bombs went off – then they moved pretty quick! By the time the 1980 UK tour started I was still bandaged but I could at least play’.

Howard Baker, Warbeck/Nightwalker (Howard’s Way, August 17th) ‘We had some pyro to put on a bit of a show. We used to put the bombs in two small waste paper bins, but at one gig we forgot them so went outside in the backlane and got a big bin. We put both bombs in there and set it up behind the drummer. End of the first set the roadies set it off and a big boom ! But they never cleaned the bin out first so there was rubbish, banana skins all sorts all over the stage, haha.
Another time we were playing Usworth Social Club and we forgot to bring smoke flares. We liked a bit of smoke around the stage. So we went out and bought some flares nearby. These were for boats, like distress flares. Again they were set up behind the drums and were set off just as we played Smoke on the Water. Well at first they didn’t look much but the smoke coming out of them just kept on coming until it filled the concert room. The concert chairman was up in arms. There was so much smoke we couldn’t see a thing, our eyes started streaming. They rang the fire brigade who eventually found the bin and hoyed it outside. But the worst thing was the smoke was orange. The concert room was covered in orange stains, all over the chairs, everywhere. Ended up we never got paid for that gig, just a massive cleaning bill’.

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Saracen, 1980.

Glenn S. Howes, Blitzkreig/Fist/Saracen roadie (Metal Health, December 1st) ‘Working for Saracen at the Legion Club in South Shields in the early 80’s I was put on smoke machine duty. Saracen are on stage rocking away. I pushed the button to put a little smoke on stage however Les the bass player kept shouting more, more ! I was only a bairn at the time so I did as I was told. Before you knew it the whole concert room was full of stage smoke. You couldn’t see the band at all. We had to open all the doors and windows to get rid of it. I got a right royal telling off from the vocalist Louie Taylor. Les never told him it was his fault’.

Ged Wolf, Atomkraft/Venom drum roadie (Running with the Pack, August 14th) ‘The first gig in New York, USA was memorable, we had made some huge bomb pots the size of footballs, you know Venom was all about the show. Well the guy in charge of the pyro was out of his head on something and he ended up loading the pots twice. The bombs went off at the start of their first song Witching Hour, one of the bombs went down through the stage creating a big hole. The other one went up over the crowd, past the balcony and embedded into the back wall. There is a plaque there now, Venom 1983 haha.
But the explosion blew the whole backline so for the second gig we had to get all new equipment. I’ve never had to work so hard in all my life it was 24 hours non stop. I was that tired I was asleep under the drumriser when Metallica were playing. It was the only place I could stretch out haha’.

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Venom

Tony Bray, Venom (Hebburn or Hell, July 28th) ‘We were putting all the money back into Venom, buying the pyro, all the stage effects. We got our drumriser built for us in the shipyards, the whole scissor lift, it was just one big thing it never came apart. It was huge, they couldn’t get it out of the doors haha. But when we started out we played a gig at a heavy metal disco at the Quay club in Hebburn. Eric Cook (later Venom manager) ran the disco and he arranged to put Venom on. We bought our stage effects from Sound & Lights store in Newcastle where former Blind Fury vocalist Louie Taylor was working. He ended up doing some pyro for us, we were big on that haha. Louie was all about the safety aspect and I was all about let’s chuck some more powder in and see what happens. Well that gig we fused the building, lights went off right through the whole club, the bingo mafia downstairs went mad haha’.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2017.

 

 

VINYL JUNKIES – Vince High, 7 songs that shaped his world

The love for vinyl has always been there and many stories are attached to your favourite records. There are whispers in some quarters that vinyl is back, and they are getting louder. Not in the same numbers that it was in the pre-cd day’s of the 70’s and 80’s, but the records are up on display in record shop’s. There is hundred’s of reasons why we like a certain song. Vinyl Junkies is looking for the stories behind them.

Vince High is lead singer with North East UK heavy metal band Mythra. They are one of the original New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands and have been cited as an early influence by Lars Ulrich of Metallica. They formed in the second half of the 1970’s and released their legendary ‘Death & Destiny EP’ in 1979.  After reforming in 2014 Mythra are still active on the current international Metal scene. In October 2017 they made their triumphant first appearance in the United States at California’s ‘Frost & Fire III’ Festival. 

Introductions over, here are 7 songs that shaped Vince’s world.

1.  ‘Black Night’ by Deep Purple was one of the first singles I ever bought. Probably my first encounter with Heavy Rock. Some of my mates’ older brothers used to play their records when we were hanging around and I can remember loving this single and ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’ too.  I think it was the guitar riffs and the energy that moved me. Purple were the first band I ever saw live at Newcastle City Hall in February 1973.  Life changing experience for sure and sparked a lifelong love of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal.

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2. ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath is another big single for me.  The guitar riff and the vocal effects sounded amazing at the time of release and still do. It was one of the first songs I ever sang when me and my mates put our first band together. It’s a classic!

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3.  I used to buy second hand records from a shop just off Frederick Street in South Shields when I was a kid in the early 1970’s.  I think it was called The Handy Shop but I might be wrong as it was so long ago haha.  I remember buying a sampler album called ‘The Age Of Atlantic’ which had, amongst other tracks, ‘Communication Breakdown’ from Led Zeppelin. That prompted me to buy Zeppelin 1 which remains one of my favourite albums of all time.

4.  ‘Radar Love’ by Dutch band Golden Earring is another single I absolutely loved at the time it was released and still do.  I saw them at Newcastle City Hall around 1974 and they were amazing. Bought the album ‘Moontan’ which, once again, remains one of my favourites to this day.  I think that was probably their only big record in the UK.  However, those guys are still going strong, still playing live and still sounding great!

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5.  Wishbone Ash had a massive album ‘Argus’ which me and my mates went crazy for as kids.  More melodic than the band’s mentioned above but wow those twin lead guitars were amazing.  ‘Blowin’ Free’ is regarded as the classic track which every club band copied at the time but the whole album is superb.

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6.  Also liked a bit of Progressive Rock as a kid and I remember the album ‘Fragile’ by Yes. Me and my classmates at school used to swap albums and I remember swapping my ‘Tarkus’ by ELP for ‘Fragile’.  So many great tracks including ‘Roundabout’ which I absolutely love. Yes were a supergroup…all amazing musicians.

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7.  I started buying American imports when I went to Newcastle on Saturday afternoons with my girlfriend around the mid 70’s.  They were a little bit more expensive but worth it. I remember going to the Mayfair on a Friday night and the DJ playing ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ by Kansas.  I had to have the album ‘Leftoverture’. It’s sheer class from start to finish.

Intro Gary Alikivi November 2017.

Recommended:

Mythra: Still Burning, 13th February 2017.

John Roach, Still Got the Fire, 27th April 2017.

Maurice Bates, Just A Mo’, 12th May 2017.

VINYL JUNKIES:

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 -– Neil Newton September 12th 2017 

Tony Higgins October 11th 2017.

 

 

GUN FOR HIRE – interview with Tyneside bassist Ed Thomas

Where did you rehearse and when did you start playing gigs ? ‘At first we’d rehearse at low volume in various band members bedrooms, with the drummer keeping time by slapping his legs, then he graduated to using a dustbin. A couple of times we rehearsed in a garage belonging to Ginger’s parents. I was 18 when I played my first gig with The Cups a bit of a South Shields supergroup that lasted until ’86. Guitarist Ginger and Stidi on drums both going on to be in The Wildhearts. Then I joined Gunslinger in ’88 and we used Baker Street Studio in Jarrow to rehearse until our singer Macca’s brother opened The Rock In, also in Jarrow. I lasted in them till 1990’.

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How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘When I was fourteen myself and most of my friends all wanted to play guitar. It seemed that everyone did back then. I think it’s because we had nowt else to do! There were no computers or consoles and only 3 channels on the telly. All we had was music and it was only natural that we’d want to emulate our heroes’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I was a massive Kiss fan and I loved Ace Frehleys loose, laid back style. Low strung Les Pauls, man, you can’t beat ’em! Although I play bass I didn’t really have any bass influences and I started playing by accident! I knew Ginger from The Wildhearts when we were 16 and he wanted a bass player for his band so he asked me to do it cos he said I was a crap guitarist. To be fair, he was right, so I suppose he was the reason I started playing bass and kept at it because I found it to be much more fun than guitar!’

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What venues did you play ? ‘My first gigs with The Cups were at The Legion club and The Cyprus pub in South Shields, wild nights in there! There were a few great venues in Shields in the Gunslinger days, Fist drummer Harry Hill had just opened the Queen Vic and that was a favourite, always jumping! There were also Cagneys in Tyne Dock and Laceys in Laygate! Quality! Heh heh. In Sunderland there was the Old 29 of course and I think it was called The Ivy House’.

GUNSLINGERby Steve Elliot

Gunslinger with Ed in the middle.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I only recorded a couple of times with Gunslinger. Once in ’88 at Baker Street Studio which had all the cutting edge gear but we couldn’t seem to get the sound we were looking for so it was a bit of a disappointment. Tracks were Holdin’ On, She Said and Gunslinger.
Then around ’89 we recorded twice in Micky Clark’s little 8 track studio in Frederick Street, South Shields and those recordings were much more successful! Much closer to the edgy feel we wanted so we done Gunslinger, Holdin’ On and She Said along with High Risk, Broken Dreams, Falling to Pieces, I Got a Feeling and I’m sure there were one or two more thats coming back to me, yes Shock Treatment, Play it from the Heart and Nothing to Show. But yeah really enjoyed that session’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘The Ivy House in Sunderland! I think we were the first band they’d had on there so they had no idea what to expect. We got in trouble for parking outside. The landlord wouldn’t let us use the front door so we had to go in through the cellar and up the steps into the bar, and he nearly had kittens when he saw our gear. He said ‘that lot looks far too loud for in here’.
It was only a little place so we stashed our guitar cases in the cellar and by the end of the night we’d had enough hassle from the fella so we filled our cases with cans from the cellar and carried our guitars out separately!’

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘I had an 8 year break from music after Gunslinger. I got a proper job and everything! Back in 2000 though I felt the urge and to be honest it never really went away. I’ve been in cover bands ever since, Kneejerk Reaction around 2003-09 then The Enzymes until 2013, Horizon from 2012-16, The Rawmones for one year in 2012 and at the moment I’m playing in Andromeda and The Spacehoppers, as well as helping out with my mates PA hire business. I’ll be involved with music til the day I drop!’

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Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

IT’LL BE ALRIGHT IN THE MIX with Tyneside rock drummer Mark Woodhouse

After nearly 40 years hard work and dedication Mark Woodhouse is still drumming in a pub near you. But in the 1980’s he was drummer with South Shields based Heavy Metal band White Vice… ‘We once got called White Mice by a free newspaper in Durham despite spelling it phonetically over the phone. Several times. Hardly a name to fetch the leather clad Metal hordes out to see us!’

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Heavy Rock had a big following on Tyneside, and South Shields was no exception did this genre of music have a big influence on you ? ‘It was early ’80’s I was heavily into AC/DC and listening to the Friday Rock Show which got me into Metal. By the time we got a band together I was on drums almost by default because everyone else either played guitar or wanted to sing!
I’ve never been a special fan of any particular drummer, it’s always been the music they were playing that I enjoyed and took influences from. Which is why one drum fill I often pull out of the bag is a close variation on what the guy on the first Go West album used to do ! Admittedly not very Metal but it works a treat’.

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What are your earliest memories of drumming ? ‘First drum kit was a Frankenstein drum kit from the West Park Community Centre in South Shields. It didn’t have any stands to speak of, the bass pedal broke after a couple of weeks, so for a year I played drums without a bass pedal. From an influence standpoint, I ripped fills wholesale from Accept”s Restless & Wild album, and I spent many hours playing along to tapes of Judas Priest albums.
We eventually got a band together and the nucleus was me and Steve McGinley. We went through a few names, at that time we called ourselves Trias, and there was a revolving door of members before the next permanent member Dave Johnston came in on bass. Barry Marshall joined on guitar and the final piece in the jigsaw was Tess Mulligan who took up frontman duties. This became the classic White Vice line up’.

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Where did White Vice rehearse and what can you remember from then? ‘In terms of rehearsal rooms White Vice used the Martec club, Baker Street and The North Eastern pub in Jarrow. That pub was brilliant. It was always freezing cold in the room we were in and over the top of the door there was an extension cable running from the bar. We’d be pounding drums, screeching guitars, laying out some serious slabs of prime Heavy Metal at full volume. Then nip into the bar for refreshment only to find a smokey room full of old Jarrovians in flat caps playing dominoes, supping pints and smoking rollies. Totally detached from what was happening next door. Even though it sounded like armageddon through a couple of 100watt Marshall amps.
I often wonder how we found these places and organised rehearsals given that it was before the Internet, social media, mobile phones etc. The organisation around the band must have all been done word of mouth, and the same for every other band around that time’.

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I did a couple of recordings with White Vice and punk band The Fiend. We recorded the first White Vice demo Thrash On Delivery on Easter Sunday 1986 at Desert Sounds in Pelaw and it included the songs Hard Rocker, Sacred Armageddon, Breaking Ice and Death From Above. Then we went into Baker Street Studios on the Bede Estate in Jarrow and did the Hot Day In July demo on Sunday 5th July 1987. We recorded 5 songs in that session The Death Mosh, The Beast, The Time To Panic (Infectious Terror), and Search & Destroy.
Both White Vice demos were done from scratch in one day from probably mid morning until about 9pm. The Fiend ones I did took a little longer, probably a day and a half. But for the first Fiend demo I did my drum tracks and had to leave the studio to go back to work for 1pm. So I had no further input and the next I knew of it was when the tape was put in my hands!
‘The second session might actually have taken longer as the band had to go back for guitar overdubs as there was a distortion problem on the mic. Baker Street was a very high tech studio, in a local sense anyway and as for the recording, we were told it would be alright in the mix !’

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Around 1986 we did most of our socialising in Durham and Chester Le Street especially at the legendary Greenbanks Rock Night on Mondays. We had tracks from our demo played there regularly and this led to gigs in Annfield Plain, Willington, Washington Arts Centre and Fowlers Yard in Durham.
Some of our most notable gigs were self promoted, especially at The Bullion Hall in Chester Le Street where we employed DJs, a bar manager, door staff, PA and lights. Some of the bands that supported us there were Acid Reign and Battleaxe, who were New Wave Of British Heavy Metal legends and local to Chester Le Street.
We headlined what turned into A Battle at the Bullion in Chester Le Street November ’86 where Battleaxe were squashed on the bill inbetween our band and Pulse, also from South Shields. Let’s put it this way I don’t think Battleaxe took too kindly to being turned over on their home turf. Also at that gig was Karen Mcnulty she came as a guest of our singer Tess. Karen was vocalist for She, who recorded at NEAT records. Tess told me that he met Karen in Trillians Bar, Newcastle, he was putting studs in his jacket, sang a few lyrics to her bought a few drinks and she fancied the gig’.

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‘While we played she sat at the desk with the soundman Howard Baker. Karen told us later on, that our set was tight and intense, like seeing Metallica walk onstage. She was surprised this was only our sixth gig, I’m pretty sure it was meant as a compliment.
A mad song title we had was Metal Minstrel ! It started with a clean guitar playing like a 16th Century lute, then the distortion pedal was pressed, then I simply had to play as fast as I possibly could. We used the same “wear Mark out after a slow start” technique for a few songs’.

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How did Howard Baker help the band ? (see interview Howards Way August 17th 2017) ‘Howard did live sound for us a few times, he had an old ambulance van that he ferried us around in, we were packed in the back with the gear. Don’t forget that he had Baker Street Rehearsal Studios where we practically lived as a band for about two to three years. Then around ’87 he added the recording studio plus he opened Baker Street Audios in South Shields’.

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How long did White Vice last ? ‘Around this time our bassist Dave Johnston left so we enlisted a Chester Le Street musician known only to us as Space Debris. Yep really. But very few gigs followed and the loss of Tess on vocals pretty much put paid to things. His swan song was the Hot Day In July demo. Once Tess left the feel had gone so by 1988 the band had run its course’.

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What are you up to now and are you still involved in music ? ‘Me and Barry Marshall have played together for the last two and a half years in Classic Rock Covers band Andromeda. I also play in a band called The Spacehoppers with bass player Ed Thomas who was in Shields bands The Cups and most notably Gunslinger, which is a whole other story!’ (See next post for an interview with Ed Thomas.)

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.

 

 

METAL HEALTH with North East UK musician Glenn S.Howes

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Can you remember your first band ? ‘I was 16 years old, I was gorgeous, and had hair! Ha. My first band was called Axizz and we played metal. We were all friends of the same age and were from a little town called South Shields, North East UK. The line-up changed a few times, we knew we were young and inexperienced but that didn’t stop us from trying. There were other bands I knocked about with over the years and some were short lived but these were bands that I loved being in and they were great lads. It was a great learning curve for us all. South Shields in those days in regards to employment was very grim, but for some reason the music scene was excellent. There were a lot of bands and musicians around. So it was an exciting place to be musically. Strangely my parents thought the band thing was a reasonable idea, which shocked me because I wanted them to hate it. I’m trying my best not to name drop but there is the obvious connection to a name band that made it big (ish) in the 90’s and we all knew each other. This was the very early 80’s at the same time as NWOBHM and as fans of that genre know, North East bands were a leading light in that movement’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘To be honest I have a lot of different influences but if I was pushed to name some I would say my main influences over the years have been Rainbow, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Gary Moore, Fist, Saracen, Beatles, Roy Orbinson, Queen, UFO, Van Halen, Scorpions, Motorhead and NWOBHM. I do have a lot of other favourites and got into some of the heavier stuff like Annihilator and Testament from the late 80’s onwards’.

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Ritchie Blackmore

How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘Growing up in the UK through the early 70’s I used to get excited every time I heard a guitar song on the radio or tv. I didn’t understand what it was at the time but knew I was feeling it somewhere deep inside. Then watching Top of the Pops I knew the name of the bands. It was Sweet, Slade and Marc Bolan, the distorted guitar was doing it for me but I was still too young to understand that it was an electric guitar with a distorted amp or fuzz pedal. The big revelation came when I heard my first proper heavy rock song. You guessed it. Smoke on the Water. I was still wet behind the ears at the time so still didn’t take it all in. I was a listener at this point and had no desire to become a musician but I did fantasise of being Ritchie Blackmore or Angus Young on stage. As you do.
The love for music especially Rock and Metal grew as I entered my teens getting to the point where I became obsessed, which I still am. My parents bought me a flying V copy from a shop on the Haymarket, Newcastle when I was 15. It was black but I really wanted to look like KK Downing or Michael Schenker, even though I wasn’t blonde. So I had it sprayed white. Ironically because I was just starting to learn I was pretty crap and my friends were away ahead of me, so I got roped into singing. So I was originally a singer not a guitar player’.

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Saracen

Was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ was it watching a band or hearing a particular song ? ‘What really did it for me was that we used to go and watch Saracen rehearse at this prefab in West Park, South Shields. There were also other bands rehearsing there like Hollow Ground we used to watch. I remember the first time I saw Saracen rehearse they blew me away. They were older than us and much more experienced. The singer was Louie Taylor, the guitar player was Steve Dawson, bass Les Wilson and drummer Dave Johnson. They had all the top gear. Louie sang like Ian Gillan and Steve played and even looked like Blackmore a bit. These guys were pro’.
(Interviews on this blog with Lou Taylor, Rock the Knight February 2017 and Steve Dawson, Long Live Rock n Roll April 2017). ‘I remember thinking to myself, it can be done and it is possible you can achieve something by playing rock music. What they taught me apart from professionalism was that anything is possible and you could create a truly great rock band which I considered Saracen to be. I still consider the Saracen lads Louie and Steve in particular to be mentors’.

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Satan at St Hilda’s Youth Club 1982.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘There were a few venues knocking about in my home town however my favourite and most visited was The British Legion. I used to go and watch bands there all the time. I don’t know how I got in as I was clearly under age. Not only bands that my peers where in but I suppose what you would call name bands as well. I have some great memories of seeing Saracen, Polaris, Zig-Zag, Phasslayne, Fist, Mandora, Cups, Avenger and many others’.

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Glenn 2nd from left in the early days of Chase.

‘Another place I used to frequent was St Hildas Youth Club. This is where Axizz played their first ever gig supporting the mighty Fist. 1981 if I remember correctly. It’s weird that many years later I ended up being the frontman for Fist. I also remember Juggling Monkeys, Hellenbach, Emerson and Satan at St Hildas. Those were the days. I used to roadie a lot as well. Did some gigs for Fist and Satan as well as Saracen. Other regular haunts were the Sunderland and Newcastle Mayfair’s. Saw many a big name band there and got to play the Newcastle Mayfair once with a band I was in called Chase’.

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Glenn taking a break lying down in Chase.

‘Post 1987 I moved on to playing the international circuit with Blitzkrieg, Avenger, Tygers of Pan Tang, Fist and other named bands. Playing at festival shows such as Wacken Gemany, Metal Melt Down USA, Headbangers Open Air Germany, Heavy Metal Night 9 Italy, Keep It True Germany, all over Europe. Also tours supporting the likes of Y&T. I remember playing with Blitzkrieg around 1990 we played the Newcastle University and instead of receiving payment in money we got 11 crates of Brown Ale. Our drummer Gary Young was so happy!

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‘We also used to rehearse and record in Baker Street, Jarrow just up the road from South Shields. We went in there a lot towards the end of the 80’s. I remember one day arriving for a Blitzkrieg rehearsal and we had Venom in one room and Satan in the other. It was loud! Venom were rehearsing their live show for a USA tour I think. That was kind of normal in those days’.

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‘The biggest gig I did was with the Tygers of Pan Tang at the famous Wacken Festival in Germany ’99. I remember we started the gig after the intro so ran on stage to start rocking in front of approximately 15 to 20,000 metal fans when we noticed that we had no lights. Guitarist Robb Weir looked at the side of the stage to see the lighting guy fast asleep. He must have been really excited to be doing the lights. A swift kick to the shins and he soon woke up. Actually that show was recorded and Live at Wacken ‘99 was the last album I did at Neat records’.

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I did a few demos in those early years after Axizz with bands such as Chase, Ladykillers, Kickout and a more metal version of punk band The Fiend. We used Desert Sounds in Felling quite a lot. Nothing ever came of those demos but it was fun anyway. I recorded with Blitzkrieg (twice) and Tygers of Pan Tang at the famous Impulse Studios in Wallsend, home of Neat Records. I have some great memories of doing those albums and the times spent in the studio’.

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‘Things had changed for me by late summer ’87, I had joined Blitzkrieg as guitarist. Initially there were a few line ups shuffles then we signed to Neat records. Recording Ten years of Blitzkrieg was a blast and always interesting. The drummer Gary Young from Avenger /Repulsive Vision fame was in the band at the time and was always a hoot. We had Keith Nichol doing the engineering who did a great job. I also remember Tribe of Toffs coming into the studio to do an interview with a local radio station guy. They were famous at the time for doing a novelty hit record John Kettley is a Weatherman. God knows who had the bright idea to let them in the studio where we were recording. They came in and told us to be quiet! You can imagine our response.
Ten years of Blitzkrieg took only about 3 weeks to record although it was a mini album anyway. It’s now considered an underground classic and highly sort after by NWOBHM enthusiasts and collectors. I don’t think there were a lot pressed initially maybe a thousand or so if that. Ten years of Blitzkrieg was licensed out from Neat records to the Roadrunner label for Europe 1991 – and we didn’t receive a penny’.

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Blitzkrieg’s album Mists of Avalon was a different affair. It was hard work and we were committed to making a great album so it was more serious and I suppose more professional. The great thing about that time was although it was much harder due to the volume of material we were recording, it was also much smoother. Mainly due to the drummer Mark Hancock getting his drum tracks down in in one to two takes each time. What a star. I had a lot of the stuff written even before I re-joined Blitzkrieg in 1997. In fact I had so much material that we could of ended up with a double album, which actually we nearly did. Myself and vocalist Brian Ross had and still have a good relationship. We bounced vocal ideas off each other. I think we came up with some pretty interesting stuff. The album did take a while. I remember working 6 weeks straight every day apart from Sunday’s as I was pretty much overseeing the whole project and was doing some pre-production. After 6 weeks I was burned out so I had to take a break. I think we got back together after a couple of weeks after that and finished the album. Not as long as a Def Leppard album I suppose’.

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‘Unfortunately in the background there was some political stuff going on which made that album suffer in the long term. Keith Nichol who was the long standing Neat engineer, started the album with us but he had a dispute with the label. He left their employment shortly after. I have nothing against Keith personally I respect him however being honest the recording that he had done with us was not good. I can only assume by this point he just didn’t care much. He indulged himself in recording techniques that weren’t suited to our material. This caused us some problems later when mixing as it couldn’t be undone unless we re-recorded and we simply didn’t have the time or funds. At least that is what we were told. If you listen to the album you can hear the mix getting a bit better later on when it was kind of salvaged to a certain degree by the new engineer Pete Carr. He came on board to help us out. Then the mastering didn’t help the situation either. It sounded lifeless and it also ended up with a truly terrible album cover. Possibly one of the worst album/cd covers ever. We did some covers as well as the original material. They have never been released or re-mixed. There is a cover of Enter Sandman, an Alice Cooper song and there is a cover of Ace of Spades with myself on lead vocals. They sounded great. It’s a shame nothing was done with those extra tracks. I really wish I could have the master tapes and re-mix and re-record stuff on that album’.

‘Finally Mists was released in 1998 on Neat Metal records which was an updated version of Neat, and ran by original Tygers of Pan Tang vocalist Jess Cox. Just as it was about to be released Jess lost his distribution in Japan which would of made up a large part of our sales at the time. It seemed like a disaster. It wasn’t well received at the time by the fans however strangely a lot of critics seemed to like it. On the positive side it did give off an old school vibe which had a charm about it. People have picked up on that and seem to enjoy the album. These days all I get is compliments about that album. It’s funny how time can change perspectives’.

‘I also had a side project called Earthrod which I formed with ex Blitzkrieg drummer Mark Hancock. I did all the vocals and guitars Mark did all the drums, keyboards and recording. We knocked out two albums in the noughties. Screaming in Digital and the second was called Acts of God. It was an experimental project and was recorded in Marks kitchen. To be honest it wasn’t actually meant to be done full time. We had some interest but we couldn’t manage to keep a line up mainly as the stuff was too hard to play. It was a great experience though’.

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Saracen in the fog.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Working for Saracen at the Legion Club in South Shields in the early 80’s I was put on smoke machine duty. Saracen are on stage rocking away. I pushed the button to put a little smoke on stage however Les the bass player kept shouting more, more ! I was only a bairn at the time so I did as I was told. Before you knew it the whole concert room was full of stage smoke. You couldn’t see the band at all. We had to open all the doors and windows to get rid of it. I got a right royal telling off from the vocalist Louie Taylor. Les never told him it was his fault ha ha’.

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Saracen

‘It was around 1983 I was with some friends and my girlfriend and we were waiting at the bus stop to take us down town to see Saracen at Bolingbroke Hall, South Shields. I saw the bus and started going towards it somehow I managed to get a nail stuck in my little finger that was sticking out of a fence close by. It had gone right into my finger down to the bone. My friends called my dad who came and when he saw the situation he had no choice but to saw the fence. I eventually got free and went to hospital. The Nurses and Doctors were pissing themselves laughing when they saw me coming in holding a fence. After laughing his knackers off the doctor removed the nail and fence that came with it and bandaged me up. I still have the scar to prove it. We still got to Bolingbroke Hall to see Saracen and rushed up to the stage. Soon as I raised my right fist in the air complete with bandage, the bass player Les Wilson fell over and split his jeans. Tackle out and everything ha ha. You couldn’t make it up’.

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Fist

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ? ‘My last gig with Fist was in April 2017 at the Unionist Club in my home town supporting the wonderful Bernie Torme. I’m happy to say it was a great gig and meeting Mr Torme was the icing on the cake. What a musician and what gent! I was with Fist for four years as their frontman. Being with Fist was great experience’.

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‘I haven’t got involved with another original band since then but it is early days. There have been a few interesting offers however nothing that was suitable for me. I’m not ruling out doing more original material and have written some stuff which was originally meant for Fist however at this time I have three none original bands on the go which I’m busy with and really enjoying. Bone Idol which is a classic pub rock band, G Force which is a tribute to Gary Moore’s classic rock/metal years and a Judas Priest tribute band called Metal Gods UK. Bone Idol doubles up as G Force. I’m on vocals/guitars, Ian Rogers vocals/bass, Stu Johnson keyboards and my old mate Matty on drums. Metal Gods UK is myself lead vocals, Dan Rochester guitars, Andrew McCann guitars, Ian Rogers bass and James Charlton on drums. We are arranging live dates for these bands soon’.

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.

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

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