WITCHES OF TOKYO – interview with Japanese metal band Coven

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Heavy metal band Coven are based in Japan. Formed by musicians Ito and Taka they have released an EP to attract interest from record companies…
Taka: ‘At present the line up is just Ito on guitar and other musical instruments and me on vocals and playing bass’.
Ito: ‘We are currently looking for other members to start gigs in 2018. We are in the middle of preparing for some gigs as Coven. We are recording, mixing, arranging, and mastering ourselves. Now we are using just a cheap rehearsal studio in Tokyo and paying a one coin (500 Yen/hour). I have used recording studios in other bands before’.
Taka: ‘One reason why we’re still just a newcomer is because we don’t have much money. We have paid our own way until now and got a release. Our first EP on Svart Records in Finland was all without any help of Japanese labels. So we think we can make better songs without spending much money and without using high‐class recording studios. Of course it is not easy, but it depends on how much effort we put in. We think this has to be done on our own power’.
Ito: ‘We thought we needed to make a strong impression of Coven from Japan. So we needed to produce ourselves totally because it is very hard for Japanese bands to succeed all over the world’.

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Who were your influences in music ?
Taka: ‘Thank you for giving us this interview and we feel honored from you in the land of NWOBHM we love! Firstly, Angel Witch, Satan, Blitzkreig and a lot of NWOBHM bands were a huge influence on us. Also Mercyful Fate, Metallica, Riot, Manowar and early 90’s Japanese Metal of Loudness and X Japan. We have also been inspired by many songs and stories of Japanese comics and animations. We think it is also one of Japanese honour and cool culture in the world, so we added this essence into our songs.
As you know our band’s name Coven means a gathering of thirteen witches and people have an image during the medieval period. But we didn’t want to use such conventional images or any old Japanese-style painting because many metal bands have used such pictures. We wanted to make our original main character…yeah, like a Eddie, Iron Maiden! So, we developed the ideas and thought out a futuristic witch while getting hints from some great Japanese animations.
Our main character like a Eddie is a witch re-born in the future getting a half machine body with immortal life and great power. Take a close look and you find twelve unborn children spreading out from her hair. It’s also our wish that we spread our songs out to the world’.

How did you get involved in playing music ?
Taka: ‘I listened to heavy metal and hard rock from childhood. Because I have big brothers who were always listening to traditional heavy metal, hard rock and playing bass and guitar. Traditional metal like Iron Maiden and NWOBHM made me want to sing and play in a band influenced by NWOBHM. At that time I began to realize the power of music, especially metal power!’

Ito: ‘When I was a child, I listened to X Japan and Metallica. At that time I felt an electric current running through me. I started to practice, play guitar, bass and drums in some bands. I liked every musical instrument, but especially liked guitar and then joined Fastkill (Japanese Thrash metal band). I was playing in Fastkill for ten years since I was a teenager. I had supported bands like Destruction, Razor, and Assassin in Japan and overseas’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs ?
Ito: ‘When we started this band, we already had some ideas. Firstly the traditional sounds like early Iron Maiden and other NWOBHM bands. In addition we wanted to add Japanese elements, Japanese lyrics, singing rhythm with oriental pronunciation and accents of our identity. Because we are proud of being Japanese, we believe that we can do something special all over the world. We think it’s our style, the fusion of Japanese and Western, this characteristic is one of our special strengths’.

Taka: ‘But on the other hand, we know it also has a harmful effect. It is hard to understand Japanese lyrics and not easy to sing songs for people from different countries. We think singing loudly together is one of fun in Metal! So we’ve thought out some ways of putting some sing-along parts for singing together. We always make some English parts the chorus for singing easily. We have also made a lyric video with Japanese pronunciation on our Youtube channel’.

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What are the future plans for Coven ?
Ito: ‘We want to play not only in Japan but also all over the world, and we want to make a full-length album. We have already been making some new songs. We think it will be really great and we have confidence too!’

Taka: ‘We’ve just started, so keep on doing our best, and hope to see many people at our gigs !

Contact Coven at the following:

Coven Official Site: https://www.coven.site/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Coven.Japan/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CovenJapan
Bandcamp: https://coven.bandcamp.com/
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/coven_japan

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2017.

FOX ON THE RUN – interview with the new Thuderstick 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 appearences 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 beautifull. 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.

 

SPACE CADETS – interview with David B from Electro Goth Punks Calling All Astronauts

With the Iggy/Sisters of Mercy match up they’ll hit you for three… ’Living the Dream’… ‘Empire’ and the expansive sound of ’Faith in Your Cause’. Just a couple of tracks released by the prolific Calling All Astronauts. In six years they have released 2 critically acclaimed albums and 11 singles. Received considerable radio play on BBC 6 Music and Radio X and built up a following of over 800,000 on Twitter…We take a stupid amount of time in the studio. The last album took over 2,000 hours to make. We are currently writing our third album’. (The line up is David B – vocals/programming, J – guitars and Paul McCrudden – bass)

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What is the background of CAA ? ‘J toured loads when he was in Caffeine, supporting bands like The Offspring, Blink 182, Rancid, New Found Glory, The Dickies and AFI. Paul was in The Marrionettes they opened for The Cult, Sisters Of Mercy and headlined their own tours. I was in a rap metal band called US:UK. We played with the likes of Faith No More, Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Gallon Drunk. With Calling All Astronauts we’ve mainly done festivals, though we did open for A Place To Bury Strangers and also Pop Will Eat Itself. I have plenty of stories from the gigs, but sadly none that I would put into the public domain’.

Where do the ideas come for your songs ? ’All our tunes start life as a drum pattern. We have our own studio and write as we go along, rather than jamming them out in a rehearsal studio. I have rolling news channels or Radio 4 on a lot, and take ideas from what is happening in the world’.

How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences ? ‘I think every song I’ve ever heard has influenced me. I analyse drum tracks and production on all genres of music and use it in our songs. When I was about 16 we had a garage band, but never did any gigs. Just played in a room at my parents house. It was doomed to failure, but made me want to do it properly’.

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How has the internet impacted on music and do you use crowdfunding ?  ’We don’t use it. I personally think they are like begging. The internet has destroyed independent music, and played right into the hands of the majors. They manufacture music more now than ever. They have fake streams, fake likes, fake followers and create artists by force feeding shit to kids via radio. It’s virtually impossible to sell records anymore thanks to streaming’.

Have you recorded any TV appearences or filmed any music videos ? ’We like abstract videos and make them all the time, although I think we are only in one of them’. (The video’s have a very colourful mix of cut up/montage/live action/lyric and social commentary. ‘Living the Dream’ is worth checking out and is available to view on the CAA You Tube channel.)

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What are the future plans for Calling All Astronauts ? ‘The new EP took us almost 6 months to record because my wife and I had a baby and I had a lot of responsibilities to fulfill. We’ve recorded 4 versions of songs that have influenced us. The Influences EP is coming out on 30th March’.
Calling All Astronauts contacts:
Homepage http://www.callingallastronauts.com
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/CAA_Official
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/callingallastronauts
YouTube http://www.youtube.com/+callingallastronauts
Bandcamp https://callingallastronauts1.bandcamp.com/
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/artist/0xqglBsPF9COYj64LNl85t
iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/calling-all-astronauts/id480852185
 Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

ROAD TRIP with The Rocket

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This blog has featured two bands from Belgium – WildHeart and Mr Myst. The third are pop punk band The Rocket, who are based in Aarschot.  Tom (vocals) Bastian (drums) Joris (bass) Frederik (synth) and Stijn (guitar) had a quick chat about  recording the new album and what impact the internet has had on music… ’The internet sure made it a lot easier to discover new music. These days, it doesn’t really matter anymore if you’re a band from L.A. or Nepal. If you’re on Spotify, everyone can hear your music. We don’t use crowdfunding or other online ways of getting financial support. We just put our heart in our music and hope people come to shows and buy our records’.

New single ‘Chain Reaction’ is very heavy on the pop and less of the punk…’We love using sweet melodies with in your face lyrics. Chain Reaction is definitely one of those. Let’s pretend we’re all loving the daily grind cause that makes life worthwhile, right? The general gist is that when it all goes to shit, it’s easy to start blaming everything and everyone but yourself. But more often than not, you have yourself to blame for bad things happening’.

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An album is due out in April and was produced by Marc McClusky (Weezer, Motion City Soundtrack, Bad Religion)… It was great working with Marc. We learned a lot from him and he’s a very cool guy to boot. His approach to recording and songwriting really took us out of our comfort zone and had us look at our own songs from a different perspective. We were lucky enough to be able to record the better part of the album in our own home studio. Marc flew in from New York and we spent an intense two weeks together, working on the album and giving him a taste of Belgium and its Belgians. Before those two weeks of recording, we did a lot of pre-production. We sent demo’s back and forth so we had a pretty good idea of what everything would sound like before the recording started’.

Have you any plans to take this record out on the road ? ’Yes, definitely. We’ve got some shows lined up already, but we’re hoping to add more. We’re currently setting up a tour package for southern Europe together with F.O.D. for later this year. And we’re open to more suggestions’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2018.

Recommended:

BARE TEETH: Hungry Like Wolves 3rd September 2017.

STUPID KARATE: Zip/Pop/Chop 14th September 2017.

HIGHTOWER: Anger is Our Energy 27th September 2017.

BARE TEETH: Tomorrow Starts Today 15th October 2017.

WILDHEART: Looks That Kill  2nd January 2018.

UPSIDE DOWN: Spanish Marks 3rd January 2018.

MR MYST: Dream On  26 January 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IRON MEN – interview with British Heavy Metal band Kaine.

 

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Kaine are a British Heavy Metal band based in East Anglia. They formed in 2009 and released their debut album ‘Falling Through Freedom’ in 2012, it’s follow-up ‘The Waystone’ came 2 years later. Vocals & rhythm guitarist Rage explains ‘I have spent a lot of time in various studios over the years starting out at Three Circles where we recorded our debut. Ade the engineer is great at what he does with top musical knowledge so that was a huge help. We did the second album at Angry Bee Studio’s and a separate building for the drums with Akis K, who sadly passed away not long after the album was released. Again a great experience working with Akis, very precise with his editing’.

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The current line up of Stevo Ellis (bass) Saxon Davids (lead guitarist/backing vocals) Chris MacKinnon (drums) and Rage (lead vocals/rhythm guitarist) have recently released ‘A Crisis of Faith’…

Rage: ‘We recorded our new album at Pointy Halo with Carl Brewer, a great engineer and studio. We decided to go with Carl this time due to the sound of the other heavy albums he had produced. Plus it fit in with the new direction of the band. He worked extremely hard to get this album sounding our best yet’.

Saxon:A Crisis Of Faith was a very fun album to record, as well as being quite stressful at times but it has paid off. I’m extremely proud of the work we did with Carl at Redwall Studios’.

They toured heavily completing two UK and Ireland tours. All this without any record label support. They also appeared on bills with Diamond Head, Praying Mantis, Tytan, Tygers of Pan Tang and ex members of Iron Maiden. Rage remembers one of the earlier gigs… ‘It’s been 9 years so there’s plenty of funny stories from gigs, and some are quite bizarre really. At one show an old man arrived with a shopping bag full of 12 cans of Fosters (beer) and a lettuce. He started jive dancing to the Metal bands. He shit himself there and then and flushed his kegs (underwear) down the bog. He just continued to dance the night away !!!! Kaine’s first gig was at Club Revolution in Peterborough back in 2010. The show itself was a bit of a disaster. We didn’t go down to well, the sound was terrible and the less said about it the better! I’d like to think things have improved!

Who were your influences in music ? 

Rage: ‘My biggest influences are everything from Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Judas Priest right through to bands such as Saxon, Iron Maiden and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Then up to the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and so on. Dio is a massive influence too. Playing wise Tony Iommi is easily my biggest influence, the first five Sabbath albums are my favourite albums ever’.

Saxon: ‘The main ones from when I started playing metal are the obvious ones such as Iron Maiden, Metallica and Black Sabbath. But since joining Kaine I’m influenced by a lot of Power Metal like Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. Also listening to a lot of Progressive metal in bands like Dream Theater, Queensryche and Symphony X. I’ve also been very influenced by guitarist Aaron Marshall of Intervals’.

Stevo: ‘As a metal bass player I am very much influenced by Steve DiGiorgio, Dan Briggs of Between the Buried and Me and Geezer Butler. As a musician and songwriter however I take inspiration from everywhere. Guys like Miles Davis and Michael Gira of Swans are huge influences on how I approach music as an art form. I take aspects from my entire taste in music when writing’.

How did you get interested in music ? 

Stevo: ‘I originally started playing bass when I was 14. I listened to a lot of Sabbath and Maiden around that time. Started with bass and never had any interest with guitar. My uncle helped me out big time as he got me into a lot of old school metal bands. As I was growing up he lent me the first bass I ever played which was a ’78 Fender P Bass. That’s what I learnt on. Around my area everyone wanted to be a lead guitarist, very few wanted to play bass so I pretty much got playing in bands straight away’.

Saxon: ‘I’ve been playing guitar since the age of 7. I remember as an early teen seeing my Dad watch the music video for Ace of Spades, that made me certain that’s what I wanted to do. After playing onstage for the first time around the age of 13 I fell in love with it completely. My first proper experience gigging was with my first band Entropy around the age of 16, which is actually how I ended up meeting Kaine. We were on the same bill with them on a local festival called OGfest’.

Rage: ‘In my younger years I’d go out and see a lot of bands, listen to a lot of music and it all sounded the same. So that’s where it started, bloody frustration. It was all essentially in the Trivium mould but I really like stuff like Iron Maiden, and there was none of that going on. So I learnt how to play the guitar and form a band essentially so there could be that option for people who didn’t just want a copy of whatever was popular at the time. I did dabble in a few other bands but nothing ever came of it, so I took it upon myself to move forward. I wanted old school Heavy Metal back’.

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Where do the ideas come for your songs ?

Rage: ‘I usually start with a riff, a lead or a chorus idea and build a song around that. I spend a lot of time trying stuff out and getting it right, honing it, taking stuff out, adding to it before I even show it to the bands where it changes again with everyone’s input’.

Saxon: ‘Usually I just fiddle about on the guitar and when a riff or lead line comes to me I’ll evolve it and structure it into a song. Heaven’s Abandonment from the new album is my full song contribution and was pretty much written in that format. I came up with the rhythm guitar riff for the verse and then built the song around that, added lead lines and a break section until I had the full song. That’s when Rage came in and added his lyrics to the song’.

What are your experiences of recording/studio work ? 

Saxon: ‘I had made one demo with my band before Kaine but my first official studio experience was in 2015 when we went to Three Circles Studio to record our song Justice Injustice. It was meant to be the song to introduce us as a 5 piece band, but shortly after we released that song we had further line up changes so that track now ended up as a one-off for that line up and appears as a bonus track on recent pressings of The Waystone. It was fun and exciting to be in the studio for the first time. And then with that experience it made going into recording the new album a little easier knowing the process.

What impact has the internet had on music?

Rage: ‘For a relatively unknown band like ourselves things such as filesharing and piracy has very little effect. We have a small but appreciative fanbase that will always buy our stuff so it really hasn’t had a huge effect on us. But the whole game has changed. Bands like ours generally don’t sell huge amounts anyway – our last album sold over 1,000 copies. Which is a great achievement given how small our promotional budget is compared to signed bands. I would say the choices of bands being pushed by the bigger labels and the lack of real investment in bands has done more damage to the sales of music than the internet has. Here they have a great tool for marketing to Metal fans but they sign bands that either don’t sell or they don’t promote. I don’t understand the logic behind it. Everyone complains about the music coming out but it seems to fall on deaf ears at the top. They seem to think they know better than their audience and I think ultimately that attitude is the problem coupled with the whole making bands pay to play supports, festival and tour slots limits the number of bands who can afford to push themselves. It’s all very short term. I’d like to see real artist development brought back essentially. That would do wonders for the industry – instead of cheap gimmicks, crap songs and paying your way to success. It’s so Un-Metal it’s just sad’.

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Have you recorded any TV appearances or filmed any music videos ?

Saxon: ‘My old band Entropy appeared on TV very briefly once during a news segment about a local festival but as far as music videos go, that’s still a milestone we’re yet to cross off our list’.

Rage:Kaine have never appeared on TV. There’s not a whole lot of options here in the  U.K. for television spots if your playing Heavy Metal. Mainstream culture seems to look down on us with a great deal of elitism and snobbery. Ultimately Heavy Metal isn’t something that they are going to push on television. As for music video’s it’s a budget issue – we simply couldn’t afford to do it justice at present. It’s better in my mind to have no video than a crap one. If you want to see our faces, come out to a show!

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? 

Saxon: ‘A funny story from the studio is when it came to recording guitars on our third visit, we couldn’t really afford a hotel this time round so Carl allowed us to stay in the studio. Which is supposedly haunted. Chris being quite unnerved by the paranormal decided to deal with this by drinking a lot of scotch to help him sleep. He had kept me awake for hours by yelling and throwing cushions at me so I already was in a fairly bad mood with him, but after eventually falling asleep, I see Chris wake up around 7am and sleepwalk off into the drum room. Then about 5 minutes later comes back in and flops into bed. When I told him about this later on he said he couldn’t remember a thing so I thought it would be funny to go over security footage to show Chris that he had been sleepwalking. Dean (one of the team at the studio) and I looked through the security footage and to our horror and amusement we see Chris urinating all over the nice leather sofa in the drum room. What made this worse is I then realised that about an hour after Chris went in there, I went in there to call my girlfriend and laid on that exact sofa. I weren’t too happy to begin with but we all found the funny side !

What are the future plans for Kaine?

Rage: ‘It’s hard to tell. We’ve just released this third album and we’ll see out our run of shows and obligations with this album before we consider the future. I expect it will be more of the same, but after 9 years it’s good to evaluate and move forward. It’s healthy. However, as far as making it big or whatever, it would be cool to tour with a bigger act again or play abroad. I’d love to do that at least one more time before I am done that’s for sure. I don’t expect to be signed or be the next big thing, so despite it not selling thousands of copies people have enjoyed this album so far’.

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New album Crisis of Faith out now. Contact the band on the official website at http://www.kaine-metal.com.

Interview by Gary Alikivi February 2018.

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

roksnaxSouth 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.

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Terry Gavaghan, Guardian Records.

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. Teeside 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’.

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Martin Metcalf, Hollow Ground.

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’.

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Saracen

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 appearences, the owner eating sandwiches… Roksnax? The narrow deadlines, the even narrower drumbooth, the raw uncertainty of the mixes (still). But all tempered with the undeniable thrill of the coming eventuallity: 4 guys making their dreams come true, putting their music on vinyl for the very first time and still to be heard worldwide today…priceless !

For further information about Roksnax contact Buried by Time and Dust Records via facebook.

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.

AMERICAN BOY interview with Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors

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Photograph by Dave Kai Piper.

The Traitors line up is Mickey Richards (drums) Rob Lane (bass) Carol Hodge (keys/vocals) and Ryan Hamilton (vocals/guitar). ‘Heavy Heart’ on latest album ‘The Devil’s in the Detail’ has uplifting lyrics which could be used over a montage of any sporting event…“How much can one heart hold. Don’t wanna miss a minute. With my heavy heart in tow, we push ourselves to the limit, to the limit”. The mature songwriting runs along the lines of Tom Petty – backed up by a video with great visuals. By great, I mean clean lines with no clutter. Just simple, straight forward storytelling. I asked Ryan where do the ideas come from for your songs ? ’I’ve never been one to sit down and try to write a song. They usually just appear. It’s pretty much always happens with a lyric and a melody. I have to grab a guitar and capture it fast…or I’ll lose it. It’s strange, I know. But I really look forward to those occasionally magical moments’.

How did you get involved in music ? ‘It sort of happened by accident. I hurt my back when I was in college. I was getting restless and bored due to not being very mobile. The strangest thing happened. I woke up one morning and just decided to get a guitar and teach myself. That’s where it all started. I started playing gigs in coffee shops. I grew up obsessed with Classic Rock. I’d say my biggest influences are Bob Dylan and Tom Petty’.

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What are your experiences of recording and studio work ? ’I love it. It’s where the songs reach their potential. Taking a demo from, well… a demo, haha, to a properly recorded song, and watching it grow into the thing we all hoped it would be… Yeah, it’s just the best’.

How has the internet impacted on music ? ‘It’s made it necessary to build a career, a following, make and release albums without the headaches of dealing with a record label’.

What are your plans for this year ? ’Oh my God so many. Not sure where to even begin. But I’ll say this. It is very important to me to build a reputation as a great live act. I want our shows to remain great sounding, super fun events that you won’t forget’.

Next up for the band is an 8 date UK tour with The Main Grains. The first date is Huddersfield (15th), Liverpool (16th) Newcastle (17th) home turf for Danny Maccormack. Then taking in Glasgow, Nottingham, Cardiff, Southampton and London (23rd).

ADVERTTOUR

Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2018.

Recommended:

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

THE LAST GREAT DREAMERS: Looking For a Kiss, 26th November 2017.

Danny McCormack, THE MAIN GRAINS: Comfort in Sound, 15th February 2017.

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON ? interview 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, fasicsm; 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’.

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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 songwriting. 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’.

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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.