FOX ON THE RUN – with new Thunderstick vocalist

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Viixen is the new lead vocalist for Thunderstick. The line up is Rex Thunderbolt (bass, backing vox) Baz Roze (guitar) Dave ‘Kandy’ Kilford (guitar) and of course the masked man Thunderstick (drums). I asked Viixen was there a defining moment when you said I want to do that…

‘I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. When I was little my mother would hear me singing and say ‘it sounds lovely but why do you have to change it’. I was always changing the words and the melodies. I sang in the choir at school and I used to enter school music competitions. Always coming second to a girl who sang opera.

I grew up in a small Shropshire town and had a religious upbringing so I didn’t have the exposure to bands that I could join. Then I got married and had children very young so it wasn’t until I hit 31 that I finally formed a band. I had recently got divorced and moved in with a girl who could play guitar. One evening she was playing the song Zombie by The Cranberries and I joined in with the vocals. It sounded pretty good so we decided to form a girlband’.

Who were your influences in music ? ‘I’ve always been a rock chick at heart. Listening to rock and metal makes me feel free and rebellious. Some of my favourites are Deep Purple, Kate Bush, Skid Row, Marilyn Manson and Evanescence. If the music makes me feel something… I’ll love it’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘I have been in two bands before joining Thunderstick. We gigged mostly in London and Kent. I started gigging in 2010 and played in pubs and clubs. Then we started playing festivals which were amazing. I loved the big stage and having plenty of space to bounce around. We had a large biker following so we played various biker rallies and festivals.

I did a big gig for Gibson guitars during the London Olympics in 2012. The venue looked over the Olympic stadium and was pretty cool. I played at the London Hard Rock Café in October last year, which was a great venue’.

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Viixen has brought both her vocal strength and stagecraft experience to her new challenge; Thunderstick. The ex-Iron Maiden/Samson drummer is known for having strong female vocalists fronting his band and Viixen fits that role. He recently commented “I had been after Viixen for a while but the timing was never right, now in 2018 it will happen. The band is perfect for her, theatrics, energy and outrage allow her to express all of her personality’. 

Where do the ideas come for your songs ? ‘Like most artists I tend to write lyrics based on personal experiences. However if the band has already written the music I search for how the music makes me feel and write from that perspective. It helps that I’m incredibly empathic. I feel other peoples pain deeply even if I’ve not experienced the emotion myself. To me music is what feelings sound like and it’s a fantastic form of self expression’.

What is your experience of studio work ? ‘I’ve done some recording work in the studio with the band and I love it! Especially when you’re recording your own material and you get to hear all your ideas coming together. It’s a magical experience!

Have you recorded any TV appearances or filmed any music videos ? ‘I have recently recorded a music video with my other band Black Roze. The song is called In the Darkness and it’s an autobiographical tale about the darkness of depression and coming out of the other side. The guitarist and I wrote the storyline and how we were going to capture the concept of the song. It did involve running through a graveyard in a wedding dress during mid winter but it was well worth it!

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Haha yes I have a few…On two occasions we have set up all the equipment, started playing and the electrics blew in the venue! One of them was my sisters wedding which didn’t go down too well!

Due to my head banging and stomping around on stage I’ve had some wardrobe malfunctions. I did a biker festival last year and wore a tight cropped top. At the end of the gig the guitarists mum ran on stage and told me my bra was showing. Looking back at the pictures I saw that I’d basically played the whole gig in my bra!

Recently I bought a new pair of goth platform boots from a charity shop, they were beautiful. I wore them to the gig and I was 6ft tall in them and I was boasting that I was taller than the other band members. Just before the second half one of the shoes gave way, the heel snapped and I fell over. A guy in the crowd fixed it with duct tape and I carried on. Next thing I know mid song the other shoe did the same thing. Leaving me feeling very small in my socks for the rest of the gig! At least the socks matched!’

For further information contact Viixen and Thunderstick on their facebook pages.

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.

Recommended:

PAUL DI’ANNO, True Faith  22nd April 2017.

THUNDERSTICK, Return of the Mask  19th July 2017.

METAL ON THE MENU – The Making of Cult NWOBHM album Roksnax

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South Shields is a small town on the North East coast of England. During the 1970’s it’s main employment was heavy industry. Shipbuilding and coal kept the workers thirsty. Pub’s and clubs were doing a roaring trade with entertainment from local rock bands. Heavy riffs and pounding drums were echoes from the pits and shipyards. 

By 1980 the New Wave of British Heavy Metal had rolled in. The sound waves crossed the Atlantic and landed in a garage in San Fransisco. Metallica were born, and went on to become the biggest band of the genre. Not far from that garage lived a young Nick Vrankovich. Nick is now at Buried by Time and Dust Records who have re-released Roksnax, one of the albums that helped kick start the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

Originally released in 1980 by Guardian Records, the compilation album was produced by Terry Gavaghan. He recorded 3 North East bands at his studio in Durham. Teesside based Samurai, and from my hometown South Shields, Hollow Ground and Saracen. The main players behind the re-release take up the story…

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Nick Vrankovich

Nick Vrankovich (Buried By Time and Dust Records): ‘One night not long ago, I was sitting drinking some Newcastle Brown and spinning some of the compilation albums I had from the NWOBHM time, Lead Weight, HM Heroes, Metal for Muthas, all packed with songs that meant so much to us. Then I played Roksnax and I was quickly reminded of two things. One was that all twelve songs are incredible. When you talk of the magic of heavy metal or the mysticism of the NWOBHM surely they must be referring to releases like this.

The second was how obscure this one was compared to the others. I made a clear decision that night to contact the bands to see if we could make this masterpiece available again. When I got in touch with the guy’s I found the willingness, generosity and honesty incredible. Even though I’m now over 50, these tracks mean as much to me as the day I first held the album all those years ago’.

‘By the end of 1980 I was 13 year old and not yet aware of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. I was into Kiss, Van Halen and shortly after Black Sabbath would change things for me in a big way. By the end of 1981 I discovered the Record Exchange in Walnut Creek, California which is about thirty minutes outside San Francisco.

The second I entered the record store an obsession would be born. The store was heavily stocked with all the latest imports and cutting edge heavy metal from the UK and Europe. The extreme appearance and imagery of bands like Venom, Mercyful Fate, Angel Witch and countless others was something that fired my imagination and created an obsession that continues to this day. The fact that the music was so fantastic and really heavy only added fuel to the fire’.

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‘The Record Exchange is where I first remember seeing the album Roksnax. It was an import which meant the price was $9.99 which was a huge sum of money for me. I remember looking at the photos on the back, it all looked so old and obscure. I was unsure what it would sound like. I had not heard of any of the bands on the record and of course it was next to impossible to find out about them unless they had a record deal. Sadly, this time I never bought the lp’.

‘The release disappeared into obscurity and was forgotten about until one day my brother scored a copy of the single Warlord by Hollow Ground. Needless to say we were overwhelmed with how great it was and amongst other NWOBHM singles, it was right up there with Mythra and Witchfinder General.

We knew there were extra tracks from Hollow Ground on the Roksnax album so we hunted down a copy. We eventually found one and heard the instant magic from the Hollow Ground tracks. We were equally crushed by the Saracen and Samurai tracks. The speed of Saracen with the killer Dawson guitar riffs and soaring vocals from Lou Taylor was not only trailblazing but still raises the hair on my arms to this day. Samurai was undoubtedly the most obscure band of the three but their heroic sound was also incredible’.

Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground): ‘I remember the buzz of being involved in Roksnax. The whole experience of being in Guardian Studio’s during November 1980 was magical. We met up with producer Terrry Gavaghan and talked through the idea of a compilation LP with a couple of other bands from the North East. Our mates from Shields, Saracen were also on the record.

We were in the studios for 2 days and slept overnight there. The studio was basically 2 terraced houses knocked into one. I still remember the brown cork tiles in the studio and having to sellotape the headphones on my head when recording. The great memories of honing the songs and bringing them together with my friends, still burns brightly. The fine tuning and adjustments as we worked on them was a great feeling of coming together as a band, a unit.

We used 2 of the songs from our EP Flying High and Rock On and added Fight With The Devil and The Holy One to make our four tracks for the Roksnax album’.

Steve Dawson (Saracen): ’Right from the start of the band the other members wanted to get in the studio but I thought we should of developed our sound a bit more, let it breathe a bit, walk before we run so to speak. But we booked some time in Guardian Studios where Mythra had recorded their Death and Destiny single. The owner Terry Gavaghan proposed the Roksnax album to us where he would put us on a compilation album. It was basically a live album with some overdubs’.

Geoff Nixon (Samurai)‘I have very fond memories of that time. We were convinced that we had an excellent line up, we felt as though we had something special. We were made so many promises by Terry Gavaghan at Guardian, we believed everything he said. He signed us to a 5 year publishing deal, as young lads we were flattered about the whole project’.

Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground): ’It’s real music made by real musicians. You can’t replicate it with machines. Sparking off each other while recording the tracks will stay with us forever. It’s what being in a band is all about…and we loved it. We were so proud of the music that we produced, and still are! It stands the test of time and the whole album is a perfect snapshot of the vitality of the NWOBHM movement’,

Lou Taylor (Saracen): ’Now it’s not the worlds number one album but everyone involved in this album agreed that it is a wonderful feeling and something special about getting your name on a piece of vinyl. Terry was true to his word and got the album in the shops. I bought six of them straight away ha ha’.

Geoff Nixon (Samurai): ‘But we actually split just after the album, sometimes you get one shot at fulfilling a dream don’t you. Many years later I found that the album had been on sale around the world but I don’t think it ever sold in Britain. Looking back we had a lot of fun and of course we always have the album’.

Lou Taylor (Saracen): ‘Just being prominent enough to be invited to be part of something which we had no concept of how much impact on the British music scene the emerging talent in this genre actually had ! NWOBHM say what ?? Guardian Studios were (in) famous enough already due to releases from acts in the region so this opportunity seemed too good to pass up!

Martin Metcalf (Hollow Ground): ’Lars Ulrich from Metallica bought a copy of the Roksnax LP in Los Angeles and that lead to our track Fight With the Devil being played in a Metallica documentary. This was the documentary about the making of their Black Album. The scene is Lars Ulrich driving to the studio in his Porsche listening to Fight With the Devil. The film was released in 1992 and if I remember correctly we’re on the credits between Black Sabbath and Madonna! It led to me and Glenn our vocalist being invited to gigs on the Black Album tour. We had access all areas and were in the famous Snake Pit. It was brilliant’.

Lou Taylor (Saracen): ’Over a series of trips to a sleepy country village including one session which soaked up guitarist Steve’s 21st Birthday – a sacrifice of serious proportions ha! The long days and nights, the scary stories, the ghostly appearances, the owner eating sandwiches… Roksnax? The narrow deadlines, the even narrower drum booth, the raw uncertainty of the mixes (still).

But all tempered with the undeniable thrill of the coming eventuality: four guys making their dreams come true, putting their music on vinyl for the very first time and still to be heard worldwide today…priceless !

Interviews by Gary Alikivi 2017.

Recommended:

MYTHRA Still Burning 13th 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.

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

Metallica: When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

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

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

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

It’s Only Rock n Roll 1st August 2017.

Pyromaniax – Bombs, Flashes and Burnt Eyebrows 12th December 2017.

Have You Heard This One ? -10 best stories from this years interviews 18th December 2017.

1980 – The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside, 11th February 2018.

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON ? with Anarcho/punks Decontrol

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Originally formed back in 1991 Decontrol have returned…‘Still loud, still angry and still hoping to see the devastation of the Tory Party’.

Based in the North East of England the line-up is Neil (drums), Nick (guitar), Bry (bass/vocals) and Paul (vocals)…’Here’s a story from on one of the first gigs we played when we reformed. Neil is very energetic behind the drumkit and was knackered near the end of the first set. At the break he got up to go to the bar for a pint of water to cool down. We’d done a bit of crowd banter and then got on stage and started up the second set.

We signalled to him at the bar that the song was about to start. So in one movement he grabbed a pint, ran to the stage, sat down behind the kit, picked up the sticks and started the song right on cue. A quality piece of timing. I doubt that we’d ever pull that one off as neatly again, haha’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs?
Paul: ‘Lyrics come from all sorts of areas. Social commentary is easy to do when you have so much shit going on in the world. War, animal rights, consumerism, religion, the system, facism; so much choice! Sometimes I might have an idea of how a riff should go, but for the life of me I cannot play guitar. I have to try and hum the tune…badly.

More often than not it’s the rest of the band who come up with songs and I have a surplus of lyrics I can fit into what they produce. I might come up with the odd idea about the composition, but I’d say it is 99% plus done by the others’.

Nick: ‘I just play and play and see what comes out. I’m no Steve Vai so I just write what I think will sound good for us. I do think the fact that three of us come up with tunes make our sound varied. It works for us’.

Who were your influences ?
Bry: ‘Hearing Black Sabbath as a kid and being taught guitar by my Uncle. I listened to Crust and Hardcore bands such as Discharge, Wolfbrigade, Sect, Chain Of Strength, also Death metal and grindcore’.

Paul: ‘I’d been into Slade/Sweet/Wizzard as a young boy, then Kiss as a teenager and by my 20’s thrash and hardcore. What made me get off my arse was when I saw ENT on Snub TV back in 1989. As well as going down to Bradford with Energetic Krusher that same year. I thought ‘I have to get into a band’ it took me a while, but I got there. When the band first got together I was heavily influenced by Conflict, Discharge and ENT. I liked the idea of projecting the vocals in a clear way. Nowadays, there’s a bit of Rudimentary Peni influence in there as well as a touch of early Hellkrusher, who are mates of ours’.

Nick: ‘Always listened to music but it always looked difficult. Then a mate gave me an old Kay Les Paul and 50 watt combo and showed me how easy it was to play the WASP track Tormentor and Killed By Death by Motorhead. I haven’t progressed much since then. Mick Ronson was the person I wanted to imitate, thrown in with some of Ian Hunter’s song writing. I just loved music, not any particular genre. I am just as much at home with country music as I am with hardcore. Peter Hammil deserves a special mention for just being involved with the oddest and most varied music ever created’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play?
Bry: ‘I started when I was 16, but I’ve played all over the world with various bands including Mantas from Venom. I filmed two music video’s with Mantas and appeared briefly on Japanese TV !’
Paul: ‘The band started playing in 1991. We’d supported the likes of Genital Deformities, Hellkrusher, Disaster and Hiatus. All the original gigs were in the local area at the likes of Images in South Shields and the Irish Centre in Newcastle. The furthest we got was Consett supporting Mutant, whose drummer, Neil is now in the band!
Nick: ‘Played in Kent with the mighty SORB, East Kent’s best crust band. Done other bits and bobs but they’re secret’.

What is your experience of recording/studio work ?
Bry: ‘I recorded quite a bit, and it rarely goes to plan!
Nick: ‘Love it and do little bits at home. I’d spend more time in a studio working if I had time’.
Paul: ‘I’ve only been in the studio 3 times (1991 for the original demo and our 2 albums since 2015). I was nervous at first, but once I get into that booth with the cans on my head, I feel pretty much at home. It’s been weird doing the albums as we’re usually feeding off each other in terms of cues, but been segregated can cause a bit of an issue. We’ve done well so far and can only get better!

Have you any stories from playing gigs?
Paul: ‘Oh, yes! one occasion last year made me laugh. We’d played down Nottingham and our driver (Tony) was knackered after a long day driving us around. Well after dropping the van off, we all had a fair few drinks. He left early to crash out back at the hostel. A few hours later we came back boozed up and try as we might, we couldn’t stay quiet. Bashing around the corridors with our gear and shouting as we entered the room. We put the lights on and there he was, still corpsed out. We thought he was dead haha’.

What are the future plans for Decontrol ?
Paul: ‘We’re currently halfway through writing songs for our third album. Which we hope to have out by the back end of the year. We’re also planning to record 4 new tracks and a cover song for a 3-way split CD with fellow Northerners Anord and our friends up in Scotland, Frenetix. That will come out April or May, we hope. We’re also featuring on a planned compilation LP for Antifa, with an alternate version of a track from our second album. Not sure when that is due out but keep in touch on our Facebook page https://www.facebook/decontrolneuk.

Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

Recommended:

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

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

CRASHED OUT, Guns, Maggots & Street Punk 6th July 2017.

Steve James, WARWOUND, Under the Skin 9th July 2017.

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

Steve Straughan, UK SUBS, Beauty & the Bollocks 1st October 2017.

Carol Nichol, LOWFEYE, Radge Against the Machine 15th November 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS/WILDHEARTS, Comfort in Sound 15th February 2018.