BLOOD BROTHERS – with David Wilkinson vocalist with North East metallers Spartan Warrior.

30123785_1668579789901438_8415275018149167104_n 10.57.31

Out of Sunderland came North East NWOBHM band Spartan Warrior who recorded two albums in the 1980’s.

After reforming in 2009, original members the Wilkinson brothers have held together the latest line up of the band…

‘When Spartan Warrior finished recording the Steel n’ Chains album in 1983 we were told there was a lot of interest from the industry. We were signed to the label Roadrunner and started work on the second album pretty much straight away.

At one point we were told not to speak to any press and not play any more shows. Sort of keep quiet, say nothing, do nothing and watch them all start knocking on the door tactic.

Of course, the very next thing we did was to book a headline slot at Sunderland Mayfair, blow the roof off and announce that we had Steel n’ Chains done, and the release was imminent.

At one stage there was talk of UK tours with AC/DC and Whitesnake but they didn’t materialise. I don’t think we really had any firm opportunity to make a mark on the live circuit further than the North.

I left the band in 1985, but over the last seven years we’ve put that right having played in Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Greece and Spain as well as gigs at home here in the UK.  

(From 2011 the line-up has been Neil Wilkinson (guitar) Dan Rochester (guitar) Tim Morton (bass) James Charlton (drums) and David Wilkinson (vocals).

7174_432256560200440_846412100_n copy

How did you get involved in playing music, and was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ?

’I don’t think there was any one defining moment. I just loved music. My influences go back to the early ’70s and the Glam Rock years. I guess back then it was pretty mainstream stuff. Bands like Sweet, Queen, Slade, Marc Bolan and T Rex.

The first single that I bought was Alice Cooper’s Schools Out back in ’72 and I still have that along with loads of 45’s by T Rex, Sweet, Slade, Cockney Rebel and Queen.

I then started buying albums. Sweet Fanny Adams by Sweet, Old New Borrowed and Blue by Slade. Indiscreet by Sparks and A Night At The Opera by Queen. That was a great foundation for what was to come in late ’75/76.

A friend of mine whose brother was a DJ in a local rock club introduced me to bands like Zeppelin, Free and Jethro Tull. I found my way into Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, UFO and all of the other bands that people today would regard as classic rock.

Probably my greatest influence is Phil Mogg from UFO. I think he’s a great songwriter and performer with a great stage presence and a very understated and yet dynamic vocal delivery.

I was a fan first and foremost and my brother Neil and I were always around music. Neil would probably admit that he really ended up listening to what I was picking up on and being influenced by that.

In truth Neil was probably drawn to the performance side at a much earlier age than I was.

We both got guitars for Christmas one year and we sort of knocked them around without any direction of how to play. It was Neil who really stuck that out.

As a kid Neil had guitars, an organ and even a set of bagpipes at one point! He started playing guitar seriously from about 12 years old.

When I was 14 I used to go into Sunderland Town Centre on a Saturday afternoon and watch local covers bands. That made something of an impression on me and was probably the catalyst’. 

old3 copy

How did Spartan Warrior get together ? 

‘I was 16 when I joined my first band with Neil and some school friends. The band was called Easy Prey and we played covers and a couple of originals.

We played a show at Bede School in Sunderland and at The Catholic Club in Hendon, Sunderland. That will have been 1978 I imagine. I recall that I had recently finished my O’Levels and had just left school.

I ended up quickly moving on from that and joined a local band called Deceiver who were playing a mixture of covers and originals on the North East Club and bar circuit. I just turned 17 and it was a real step up from what I had been doing up until then.

Spartan Warrior evolved from Deceiver when Neil and his friend John Stormont (Jess Cox Band/Battleaxe) came on board and we began to focus much more on writing our own material which was really changing direction in line with the way Neil and John were playing’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play? 

‘With Deceiver and then with Spartan Warrior we really just gigged around the North East through 1980 to 1985. We played working men’s clubs and bars. Places like Ashington Central Club, The Old 29 and The Mayfair in Sunderland.

Back in about ’83 we played a bar in South Shields called The Brunswick. It was rough as hell. They had strippers dancing on high podiums behind the bar and they had a rotating projector that rotated images of naked women onto the walls, like a moving mural of tits and ass.

I remember standing having a pint with John Stormont who played guitar alongside Neil. John was leaning against the wall and this collage of female nudity was rotating over him and the wall in ever changing fleshy images – and then the thing just stopped rotating and projected a giant tit right in the middle of his face.

He was just standing looking at me with this giant nipple where his nose used to be, and I just cracked up when he went to take a sip out of his beer’. 

Where do the ideas come for your songs ?

’The material on the first two Spartan Warrior albums was lyrically pretty spontaneous and quite standard rock fare really. We used to jam ideas at rehearsals and I’d usually write lyrics on the spot while the guys were jamming the structure and arrangement.

Being brutally honest it was pretty much occult, war, sex and rock n’ roll themed stuff. Typical heavy metal material with not much thought given to it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like the songs – it just means that I’m a little more mature now.

I like to take my time over melodies, themes and lyrics and if I want to make a social comment or say something from a life experience, I can do that. If I don’t have anything to say I can just write a song about sex instead!

‘With the last two albums – Behind Closed Eyes 2010 and Hell To Pay 2018 – whilst inevitably there’s still a bit of traditional heavy metal lyricism, I do tend to draw on life experience. Things that have happened to me, things that I’ve read about or seen, my perspective on things.

It can be quite personal at times although people wouldn’t necessarily pick up on the autobiographical nature of some of the stuff I write.

Behind Closed Eyes for example is about a condition known as sleep paralysis. It occurs while the subject is between sleep and awakening and the effect is an awareness of surroundings accompanied by an inability to move, speak or fully awaken.

It’s quite frightening and more so as it can be accompanied by night terrors which can be both auditory and visual.

Some people say that it’s demonic restraint or possession and that’s a frightening thought. There’s a line in that song “I try to wake, I try to move death’s weight on top of me/afraid to look my eyes stay closed, afraid of what I’ll see/ my fear takes me, I’m paralysed, behind closed eyes.”

That pretty much sums up the experience and the song’s theme.

The Behind Closed Eyes album cover shows a silhouetted figure restrained by a bar and chain. Lots of people think that it’s a sexual thing but it isn’t. It’s a photograph taken by a guy called Craig Mod who, coincidentally, photographed that image on the very theme of the song.

When we saw his pictures and realised the connection, we contacted him, and he gave us permission to use his photograph for the album cover.

Walking The Line from the Behind Closed Eyes album is about Sado Masochism and bondage. Last Man Standing is about a street fighter and As Good as It Gets is a sarcastic look on the world through the eyes of a depressive. So, it’s pretty diverse stuff. 

Cut to the Hell to Pay album and there’s the title track which tells the tale of a dying man who realises too late and as he draws his last breath that for his lifetime of sin his soul is to be taken to hell.

Court Of Clown’s is a bit of a commentary on people who sit at their computer keyboards expressing their views about people, sort of an anti-keyboard warrior song.

Shadowland was written about Vampires and was inspired by my reading of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Covered In Lust is about pornography. Fallen is a tribute to the 300 Spartan’s who died at their final stand and In Memoriam is an anti-war/anti-terrorism song. Sort of a modern-day War Pigs.

So again, it’s pretty diverse stuff and I’m quite proud of the lyrics’.

What are your experiences of recording and studio work ? 

‘The Steel n Chains album (1983) was recorded at Guardian Studios in Pity Me, Durham. We worked with Guardian’s owner/producer Terry Gavaghan on that. It was our first time in the studio.

We paid for our own studio time and to all intents and purposes we recorded what we thought were our best ten songs. It really was a very unfettered and raw process.

We just went in and what we played went down. We recorded two songs per session, and I think we had a lot of fun during those sessions.

We signed to Roadrunner around about the same time as we finished up Steel n Chains and because of that we ended up going straight back into Guardian with Terry overseeing the recording sessions again.

I don’t think that was a great starting point although we had some new material some songs were tracks that hadn’t been a first choice for Steel n’ Chains.

The approach that was taken to recording was much different too – much less of a live feel and lots of time was spent on the bass and drum tracks to the detriment of everything else – especially the vocals.

I recall that I did most of the vocals for the second album in a very short space of time and recording a number of vocal tracks for different songs back-to-back and repeatedly to the extent that my voice started to break under the strain. That’s why I sound so raspy on some of those recordings.

Whilst we had some fun times during those sessions, they were equally marred by disagreements about the recording process and how we wanted to sound.

I don’t think the band had any control over what was going down and certainly we didn’t have any involvement at the point of mixing. Some of the tracks were extended by repeating vocal passages and lead breaks and that was done without our knowledge and approval.

The second self-titled album was released by Roadrunner in 1984 and no disrespect to anyone but I wasn’t happy with it. I don’t think any of the band were’.

‘When we reformed in 2009 the object of the exercise was to record an album that set the record straight. An album that was truly representative of what we were capable of.

In order to achieve that we really had to assume total control of everything and that is why Neil invested in his home studio and took on the huge responsibility of engineering and producing the Behind Closed Eyes album. It was no small accomplishment.

He really had to learn everything along the way and still play the role of being the main songwriter with myself and having to play all of the guitar parts.

I think that album is the best that it could possibly have been given the tools at our disposal and I’m very proud of it.

The object of the exercise was always to show that we were a far better band than that second album and I think that without doubt we met that objective’. 

‘With the Hell to Pay (2018) album it was pretty much the same philosophy. We wanted it to be even better than Behind Closed Eyes. In fact, we wanted it to be much better and that was going to be quite some task.

People occasionally ask why it took from 2010 until 2018 to get the Hell to Pay album done. Well, there were lots of reasons for that.

Firstly, we wanted to build the bands reputation on the live circuit at home and abroad and that was our priority. Secondly, although we started recording as far back as 2013 we weren’t satisfied with how the recordings were sounding so we decided to start afresh.

Neil then became ill and was hospitalised for a time. We then had to work the song writing and recording sessions around the gigs and festivals to keep our profile up and juggle the usual family and work commitments.

In actual fact it didn’t take a long time to do the album – probably about 18 months – but that was scattered throughout a five-year period of gigging and dealing with our individual life things.

Neil is always the first to say that he’s not an engineer or producer and he finds having that responsibility very hard. He’s extremely self-critical and he can be very set on what he wants in a performance from us.

That, not unnaturally, can make things tough in the studio but the guy is very talented and when it comes to arrangements and his vision of how Spartan Warrior should sound he’s not often far off the mark.

He deserves such a huge amount of respect because if it wasn’t for him there’d be no Behind Closed Eyes, there’d be no Hell to Pay and there’d be no Spartan Warrior’. 

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

’When we signed to Roadrunner we were due to appear on ECT. A live rock music tv programme on Channel 4. But by the time that came round I had handed my notice in. That must have been summer 1985.

I believe they got another Roadrunner artist to appear, Lee Aaron.

We’ve deliberately steered away from the music video thing so far. It’s something that rears its head every now and again but quite frankly video is a promotional tool and these days it’s a pale shadow of its former self.

You can very easily post pro shot live footage from a festival and reach a wide audience using You Tube and social media. By the same token people can access promotional audio through the likes of You Tube, Spotify and a range of other digital media’.


Have you any stories from playing gigs ? 

‘Recently we played a show in Belgium, and we had a classic situation of a Belgian guy having designs on one of the girls at the gig – sort of one of those situations we were told where they weren’t a couple although in his head they were going to be.

At the time everyone except one of the Spartan Warrior guys were in relationships and this girl kept coming over asking for guitar picks, drumsticks and for stuff to be signed.

All of which we were very happy to do while telling our ‘singleton’ that he needed to go and buy the girl a drink, chat her up and get it on. Little did we know that the Belgian guy was becoming increasingly jealous.

The final straw came when she wandered across again and asked for her breasts to be signed. Well, that’s no problem and first – and last – up was Tim Morton.

But as he started to sign her boobs the would-be boyfriend ran across, grabbed her from behind, picked her up and carried her backwards across the bar. Obviously, Tim can’t finish signing her breasts, but he did manage to drag his marker pen right across one tit, down her cleavage and across the front of her t shirt.

We’re just falling about at this point, and we can see the two of them arguing like hell outside the venue.

Five minutes later the bloke walks right up to us with a face like a smacked arse. Naturally we’re thinking this is going to turn into Fight Club any second now. But instead, the guy simply says, “I have no problem with you, but signing her tits was a step too far, may I have a drum stick to give her”.

Drumstick given. Ruck avoided. International relations restored. You see folks we do this sort of stuff, so you don’t have to’.

What are the present and future plans for Spartan Warrior ?

’Well, the Hell to Pay album was released in February this year by Pure Steel Records who have bases in Germany and the USA. The reviews have been absolutely incredible.

There will also be a vinyl release of that album on 22nd June so that’s something to look forward to.

Over the last three or four years both fans and the industry have shown a big interest in a re-release of the Steel n’ Chains album.

Our label, Pure Steel, are interested in doing something quite special in terms of that. It’s just a question of whether or not Pure Steel are able to take whatever steps they need to take to make it happen.

But a re-release would be pretty cool as this year would be its 35th anniversary. 

We’d certainly like to get out on the road again. We will be doing a headline show on Saturday 2nd June at Newcastle Trillian’s and aim to play a lot of material from the new album so that’s very exciting.

Trillian’s is a great venue, and the Newcastle crowd are absolutely fantastic, it’s going to be a really good gig – as always.

In November we’re on the bill of the Firestorm Rocks festival in Scotland with Praying Mantis, Holocaust, Dare, Air Race and more great bands. There are other shows in the pipeline but obviously I can’t announce them until the promoter/organiser does.

At some point we will need to start the writing process for the next album – that’s definitely on our radar. One way or the other we’ve got a lot of great things to look forward to!

Interview by Gary Alikivi   May 2018.


SPARTAN WARRIOR: Chain Raction,  21st May 2017.

SPARTAN WARRIOR: Invader from the North, 21st September 2017. 

BEES & BOUZOUKIS – with Northern Folk musician and radio broadcaster Ben Hudson


What got you interested in music ?

‘I’ve always been interested in music. My mam used to be singing all of the time, so I know the chorus’ to thousands of songs.

I’ve got a vague memory of when I was very small, and my parents had the radio on. Glen Miller’s String of Pearls came on.

I was just mesmerised by it. Music always moved me. Not necessarily folk music because that came later’. 

When did you first pick up an instrument ?

‘When I was 10-year-old my brother Gerard and I got guitars for Christmas. We, and I use the term loosely, rehearsed for a few hours.

My Nanna and Granda were over for Christmas dinner and Ged and I came flying downstairs with this song we had just written. We played it and Granda said ’That’s just the kind of noise to set my head off’ ha ha’. 

What type of background did you have ? 

‘Both sides of the family had Irish connections and my uncle from Ireland was a Melodia player. My Nanna was from County Mayo and any Irish music would get her up dancing.

Her sister Bridget played harmonica so there was a bit of music in the family’. 

What venues did you play ?

‘With my brother Ged and a few friends, we played a school concert in St Josephs in Hebburn. I was a rock fan of Zeppelin and Genesis but got into folk when I was around 17.

That led onto playing the sessions in folk clubs like The Viking pub in Jarrow with Ed Pickford and Mick Elliott. Also further afield in Sunderland and Newcastle.

I was a singer playing a bit guitar. It was English folk at first but then the Irish and Scottish really captured my imagination. Then we used to go all over the country for sessions.

Scotland and into the Shetlands, that was the early ’70s’. 


What other bands were around at that time ?

‘Hedgehog Pie and The Doonans would play The Cricketers in Bill Quay. We’d see Northern Front who were great and very funny with it. George Welsh who is still kicking about, a really good friend of mine.

We used to go and see a few bands from Scotland who were and still are an influence on me, like The Bothy Band who changed my life !

They came over from Ireland to Blackfriars in Newcastle in 1975 they were absolutely incredible, playing rock music on Irish instruments. I was blown away. It was the first time I’d heard a Bouzouki guitar played and had to get one.

My first was an eight string ball back. Originally, they were a ball back guitar from Greece and Turkey. Because the ball back didn’t sit comfortably in yer stomach you had to hold it in a certain way. But now you can get a flat backed from Ireland.

Musicians like Christy Moore brought it back from Greece and Johnny Moynihan used it for the Irish folk band Planxty’. 

What are you doing now in music ?

‘I play in two bands. The Deadly Erneast Ceilidh band who I’ve been with for 30 years. We used to play regular but not as much now.

Also play in the folk band Lowp with Iain Gelston on bagpipes, Stephen Pratt on flute and whistles, Peter Brown on fiddle and David Harrison on mandola and mandolin. I sing, play guitar and bouzouki.

I also produce a Folk show on Hive Radio on a Saturday morning. I’ve done that for four years, when it was first based in Bede’s World in Jarrow.

I talk about and play all types of folk music, our audience are mostly UK, USA and worldwide as its internet based. The definition of folk music has massively broadened so I do like to listen to what other people are doing.

I also work alongside Diane Gray at Community Arts Project North East. We are always looking for new programmes and would like anyone with an idea for a programme to get in touch with Hive radio’.

What does music mean to you ?

‘When things are getting stressfull or hectic it keeps me grounded. It helps focus on the good things in life and you can really lose yourself in it.

I try to play something every day and I’m a terrible collector of instruments, guitars, bouzoukis drives my wife mad ! Really, I just love music’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

For further information contact


Trevor Sewell, Still Got the Blues, 21st June 2017.

Tony Wilson, For Folks Sake, 10th May 2018.

ROCKIN’ ALL OVER THE TOON – Alikivi blog makes the news


On the blog in February, Roksnaps featured photos of bands playing live in Newcastle over 30 years ago.

The rare pics were by music fans Ian Coult, Tony Maddison and John Edward Spence – their memories of gigs from the 70’s and early 80’s. Photo’s which capture the atmosphere and excitement at Newcastle Mayfair and City Hall.

On Friday May 18th journalist Dave Morton wrote an article and featured the photos in The Chronicle newspaper and on its website.

The blog is coming up to 30,000 views, so a great way to mark that milestone is with a double page in the local newspaper.

Gary Alikivi May 2018.


Roksnaps #1 18th February 2018.

Roksnaps #2 22nd February 2018.

Roksnaps #3 27th February 2018.

Roksnaps #4  4th April 2018.

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

GUARDIAN RECORDING STUDIO #2: Sunderland metal band, Spartan Warrior

Guardian Sound Studios were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK.

There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings.

Whatever is behind the name it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog.

They were home to a well-known recording studio. From 1978 some of the bands who recorded there: Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7” single.

1979 saw an E.P from Mythra and releases in 1980 from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax.

From 1982 to 85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior made singles or albums. I caught up with a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian… 



Dave Wilkinson (vocals): ‘Spartan Warrior recorded at Guardian Studio in 1983/1984. My abiding memory of recording there is that the studio was said to be haunted and that made for a lot of winding up.

There were occasions when although we’d been booked into the studio during the daytime Terry Gavaghan, the producer of Spartan Warrior’s first two albums, would often have us recording throughout the evening and into the early hours of the following morning. That was just his way of working.

In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for us to arrive for a midday start on a Saturday and be finishing up at 5:00am on the Sunday! Needless to say, that a lot of the overnight sessions involved a lot of ghost story telling by Terry.

The control room had a large glass window next to the mixing desk and from there you could see into the room in which the band was set up to record. It was quite dark in that room, and I think it was only dimly lit with a red light. 

I found myself in situations where there would be a couple of hours spent with Terry in the control room and he’d tell us about the various sightings of the ghost of a little girl and there had been occasions when peoples headphones had inexplicably flown off across the room during a take.

We’d all be sitting there listening and making light of it and then in the early hours Terry would send me into the other room to do a vocal in the dimly lit room while the rest of the band stayed in the control room.

To say that I was apprehensive would be an understatement!


‘On one occasion we were in there recording a track called Witchfinder for the Steel n’ Chains album and Terry thought that it would be cool for the five of us to record a Satanic Chant at the opening of the track.

So after a lot of the usual ghostly tales, we all went around the vocal microphone while Terry remained in the control room with a lad who I think might have been a neighbour of his who was helping him in the studio that day.

We had a few runs through this chant, and it was an unrehearsed shambles, but he called us back in to the control room to have a listen.

Terry set the analogue recordings running and we listened back then the tape machine just ground to a halt, and he pointed at the digital clock which measured the length of the track, and it came up as six minutes and sixty-six seconds… 666… just like that.

Terry looked really worried and said you can’t have a clock showing 666 seconds and he was telling us something sinister was at work probably brought on by the Satanic Chant.

He said that we ought to abandon the idea before anything horrendous happened, he said the Chant could bring about terrible things if blood was spilled. I think he actually said, “all you need is blood”. 

Then the lad got up to go into the kitchen to make us all a cup of tea and he banged his head off one of the monitors and split his head open. That was it blood was spilled, and we were all terrified.

It was almost certainly a wind up. I’m pretty sure Terry could have done something to make the clock show 666 but the lad did actually split his head open. The Chant never made the album!


If anyone has information or recorded in Guardian studios, it’ll be appreciated if can you get in touch.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.


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.

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

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

Neil Wil Kinson SPARTAN WARRIOR: Invader from the North 21st September 2017.

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

ROKSNAX: Metal on the Menu, 9th March 2018.

GARAGELAND UK – with former punk vocalist Ian McRae


During the 1980’s Ian McRae was vocalist with two Newcastle punk bands. The Mysterons and Phantoms of the Underground…

‘Hearing Pretty Vacant and Neat Neat Neat absolutely changed my life. Once I got into punk, I like many others just wanted to be with my mates and forming a band seemed an obvious idea. Although we didn’t have a clue how to go on’.

How did you get interested in playing music and was there a defining moment when you said, “I want to do that” ?

‘I think I must have been 10 years old when I remember seeing Jerry Lee Lewis on black and white tv……’Whole lotta shaking going on’…It was fantastic to see. That was my pivotal point.

I later listened to The Damned, Pistols, Clash, Stooges, The Doors and early punk stuff’.  

When did the band get together ?

’The Mysterons were formed when I was at school around 1980/81 and the original line up was myself on vocals, Micky Ruddock on guitar, James Bowes drums and Tom Emerson on bass.

Later The Phantoms of the Underground were formed and again me and Mikey guitar, David Craig on bass and David Stobbart on drums. I didn’t style my vocals on anyone really, wouldn’t know how to.

But I did admire both Iggy and Jim Morrison because of their freedom they used while singing.

Me and Mikey loved bands like The Rezillos and The Undertones. I also had the LAMF album by The Heartbreakers. One Track Mind for a rock n roll pop song it was the best single I heard.

We also loved the Ramones with their fun lyrics and fast songs. In very early gigs we did a version of Loose by the Stooges. We played that most shows’.


The band wrote their own songs, who wrote the lyrics and the music ?

’Music was written mostly by Micky, and I chipped in with the words. He would have a riff going and we kinda clicked together and end up with a song’.

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

‘Initially as the Mysterons we played The Garage, The Bunker and other small places in Newcastle. As the Phantoms formed our first gig was at at Spectro Arts with the New Kicks.

We then did The Station several times, Broken Doll, Bunker, Edwards Bar, Peterlee College, Middlesbrough University and The Guildhall in Newcastle.

There was a venue in Leeds with Chelsea. Gene October said over the mic that we were the best live band he had seen in years. He offered us support slots for two nights at the Marquee, but we had split up two weeks before !

We played with Subhumans, Chelsea, Amebix, Antisect, and others at the Station and the Bunker.

We toured Northern Ireland with Toxic Waste through the Rathcool music collective playing Belfast and the Antrim coast, Port Stuart and Portrush’.

How did that come about ?

‘We had a mate come manager, a guy called Conner Crawford. He was from Belfast and knew of the collective in Rathcool and set up an exchange with a punk band there, Toxic Waste.

We played over in Northern Ireland and brought them back to Newcastle. We done that tour on giros, we were all signing on the dole. It was the only time we got payed for gigs.

We were charging like three quid entry and got 90% of the door takings!

We played to 700 plus at Portrush, and got our first taste of a real encore, it felt mad. They were chanting for us to come back on….fantastic!

Then we went to Rochdale and Oldham with The Instigators from Wallsend and played some gigs there. Also, reggae played a big part. Matamba, were a reggae outfit from Leeds we befriended. They were an awesome band.

We all packed into Newcastle Guildhall for a gig…great times.

Also played with Conflict at some point, where we did a gig at Birmingham University with bands from The Station in Gateshead’. 

What were your experiences of recording ?

’In the studio we didn’t have a clue really. We had no management or direction. Instead of recording two excellent songs we just recorded eight in one go. With no overdubs.

Our first was a demo at Spectro Arts 8 track studio that cost us £90.00. Then we done a demo in Desert Sounds in Felling that cost £70 for 4 tracks.

Then back to Spectro to record a live demo in one take that cost £70’.

Have you still got copies of the demos and did you sell any ? ’I have a tape of all the demos, which needs to be put onto CD. I will be doing that soon through a local studio and try to clean it up.

Maybe put out a single on vinyl. Maybe an album – but that would be to ambitious and costly.

We sold demos at gigs and through Volume Record shop in Newcastle. We sold over 700 tapes which was time consuming as I had to copy them all on a tape to tape, then photocopy the covers. It was all do it yourself in those days’.

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? 

‘There were a few moments I remember from then. At a gig in Belfast people turned up wanting our autograph! That was weird, never been asked for a signature before.

Subhuman listened to our demo but didn’t like it at first. When we played with them, they apologised, said we were brilliant and would have liked to record us.

At a gig in Leeds, I went to the chippy and when I came back, I had to buy a ticket to get back in. Yep I paid to see myself.’

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

‘I run a youth project in the North East. A few years back we had a great scene going with band nights twice a month.

Looking back on that time being in a band is like being in a family. It takes over everything and was a fantastic time in my life.

You have to trust people with everything as you are sharing ideas and inner thoughts through writing songs. You also rely on each other as if someone lets you down you can’t play, which is the whole purpose of being in a band in the first place.

When it’s over it’s like a divorce, people who were close mates falling out, not speaking or trusting each other.

It’s a learning curve, but well worth it when you look at what you did and the fun you had. Happy days!’

Contact Ian at

Flyers by Netty and Northeast Underground. Pics by Brett King.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.


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.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS – with Peter Whiskard bassist for ’80s North East metallers Alien.

The North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NENWOBHM) was immortalised on the One Take No Dubs 45 released by NEAT Records in 1982.

The 12” featured Black Rose, Avenger, Hellanbach and Alien.  I talked to Peter Whiskard bassist for Felling metallers Alien…

‘Derek our singer had a reputation for a no-nonsense approach to life. During a gig at the Mayfair he found himself the unwilling target of several beer vessels – thankfully plastic – thrown by a miscreant in the audience.

He jumped off the stage, felled him with one blow and jumped back onstage without losing his composure or his place in the song’. 

How did you get involved in playing music and who were your influences ? 

‘I sang from a very early age and learned classical piano. An early indication of my chosen instrument was when I occasionally played piano duets and always seemed to gravitate to the bass part.

A defining moment was when I hit adolescence and something seemed to click when I was jamming along to records. Needless to say the classical piano was abandoned.

My influences were from the sixties and seventies, early Status Quo, Free, Cream, Bad Company and The Velvet Underground’.


When did you start playing gigs and what were your experiences of recording? 

‘I started playing gigs when I was fifteen with friends in the Felling area of the North East. I believe our first gig was at a youth club in the same building where we rehearsed.

We didn’t really gig much and the last one was at the Sixth Form Common Room Disco!

I went away to University and when I returned I formed a band called Bad Luck with the former singer. We did many local gigs and recorded a few tracks at Neat’s Impulse Studios where I met label boss Dave Wood.

A self-financed 45 single release came from these recordings. Unfortunately, this band didn’t last long.

Then I answered an ad in the paper for Alien in 1982. The place where a lot of Neat bands rehearsed was the Spectro Arts workshop in Newcastle and I remember once overhearing the tremendous noise of Venom practising one day when we were offloading our gear.

The band had a chequered history in the time we were together, but we were offered recording at Neat Records for the One Take No Dubs EP. We still had to pay £50 for the privilege – Dave Wood was notoriously stingy.

The recording took perhaps only part of a day because the essence of it was to have a ‘live’ feel and there would be no extravagant nonsense like overdubbing and repeating the process to seek the ‘perfect’ take. Hence the title ‘One Take No Dubs’.


‘The engineer for the earlier trip to Impulse with Bad Luck and the Alien session was Keith Nichol – a lovely guy who was patient and skilful.

The band played together in the studio – this was opportune for Alien’s style as we were capable of flights of improvisation as can be heard in the middle section of Who Needs the Army, one of the up to now unreleased tracks from that session.

In the recording session we were in fine form, especially Ron Anderson the guitarist who recently has sadly died. A track from the recording called Absolute Zero also appeared on a compilation cassette called 60 minutes Plus sold only through Sounds and Kerrang.

A Neat Singles Collection featured the track Could Have Done Better from One Take No Dubs’.


What can you remember of Impulse Studio ?

Impulse Studios lived behind a fairly anonymous doorway in Wallsend, Newcastle. It was a small place, the studio walls were covered in the ubiquitous polystyrene tiles for absorbing acoustic sounds.

There was an office where the day-to-day running of the business took place and also a special ‘green room’ where Dave Wood would make his deals and entertain the celebs.

Our relationship with Dave Wood soured somewhat as the singer felt we were being exploited financially. The band fell apart by ’83.

We briefly reformed to do a gig at the Classic Cinema in Low Fell.  After Alien I joined a band called The Blues Burglars who were quite popular at the time’.


Can you remember any high points for Alien, TV or music video’s ?

’I’m afraid we weren’t together long enough to get established to record any TV appearances or film any music videos. Although we did play some gigs with Raven and others at Newcastle Mayfair.

I’m afraid I can’t remember much about the gig with Raven but I don’t think we hobnobbed much with the other bands. The audience was pretty appreciative as that was during the heyday of Neat Records.

We regularly played gigs in Felling such as the Duke Of Cumberland, and our gigs had a reputation for having a febrile atmosphere with an undercurrent of unpredictability.

The singer was a powerful performer and had a great rock voice. We also had several friends in other bands on the Neat roster.

I knew the drummer from Hellanbach who lived round the corner, and went to school with the singer from Emerson and Axis: two Neat bands which are relatively unknown.

The singer of Axis was originally born Simon Blewitt but is now called Sam Blue and at one point sang with Ultravox as well as singing on The Streets hit Dry Your Eyes!

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

‘I’ve been a classroom teacher since I moved to Kent in 1986, but now I am semi-retired and teach guitar to Primary age students. I still play gigs regularly.

I’m afraid I’m now playing in a folk/country band called John Doggerel and the Bad Poets. We comprise me on bass, guitar, and assorted instruments including mandolin, accordion and ukulele!

We are based near Margate. I recently remastered and released a track which wasn’t used from the original Neat session called Who Needs the Army. Now available at iTunes and all good digital platforms’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2018.


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

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

Micky McCrystal, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Cat Scratch Fever, March 17th 2017.

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

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

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

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay, 24th August 2017.

Gary Young, AVENGER: Young Blood, 17th September 2017.

FOR FOLKS SAKE – with North East songwriter & storyteller Tony Wilson

‘Folk music for me is about the human condition and being able to express it without any classical training. The songs can be stories like Shakespeare, but condensed into four verses. They are very emotionally driven’.

31784322_10156388483067070_8534182708157349888_n copy

What got you interested in music and was there a moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ?

‘I think I was always a singer. I sang in the church choir and at school. There was a ‘Time and Tune’ lesson where I’d be the kid who sang really loudly…and in tune.

I was brought up on Gene Autry and Johnny Mathis records but with regards to folk music there was a lot on television in the late ’50s,’ 60s, and was very popular.

There was a feeling in the air that there was something other than Americanisation of folk music. There was a very influential radio programme called Folk on Two with Jim Lloyd which featured live artists.

There was Tim Hart and Maddy Prior who later went on to be part of Steeleye Span. They were young, vibrant and sang traditional songs so it was a big leap from the Beverly Hillbillies on tv to finding out about my own culture.

Also Shirley Collins who played a folk opera Anthems in Eden, which was a celebration of everything within folk music. Yes, all that was very influential’.


Was there anyone in your family background who had a musical instrument ?

‘I lived in Tyne Dock, South Shields until I was 7 year old. I was very outgoing, singing a solo in churches that sort of thing but my parents were very quiet, conservative and an attitude of don’t draw any attention you know?

Completely opposite to me, was I really their child ha ha?

But there was no music in the family apart from a Sunday night when we’d get around the radiogram and play our 78 records. There were folk songs at school we’d sing Scarboro Fair so there was a burgeoning folk scene coming on.

You’d hear Bob Dylan, Julie Felix and Donovan on the radio, they were the acceptable face of folk.

I used to try and play loads of instruments. I was given a tin whistle, a harmonica and a jaw harp but I couldn’t get on with them. The Spinners were on the television and The Dubliners were in the charts’.

‘I’d heard this music and it triggered something inside, it was almost primeval. To be honest it was unlike anything I’d ever heard before and I was very curious about it. Also, at 15, it was a chance to sing rude words.

But the thing that really got me going was a folk club at school. I had a five-string banjo like The Dubliners who we went to see at Newcastle City Hall, and that was ‘wow this is amazing’.

So, at school I was into the music that was more unpolished, out of tune almost.

There was a great wave of making music yourself which was appealing. At the school folk club musicians used to come and play for us, Jim Irvine, Jim Sharp, Jimmy Boyles and world renowned performers like Ed Pickford and Bob Davenport would come.

Some of them ran a well established folk club at the Marsden Inn, South Shields.

There was also another at The County where we used to go sometimes when there was a performer on. They would get around £10 or something. The MC, Bob ‘the gob’ Gilroy, would let us in as the underage drinkers helped make up the fee for the performers.

We would also go out to other folk music clubs so that would broaden our spectrum of what we’d see and hear. Places like The Glebe in Sunderland’.


What was your experience of recording ?

‘I only had a reel-to-reel Ferrograph which was guaranteed mono. You had one microphone and placed it almost like the His Master’s Voice dog kind of thing. You didn’t make that many albums because it was a very costly process.

We recorded in about ’74 or ’75 made an album and toured Germany. It was with a band called IONA on Celtic Music here on Tyneside and I was very nervous.

We had eight tracks I think and did everything live in the studio which was a small room about 12ft x 12ft as I remember. It sold well in Germany, but I didn’t make any money from it.

I’d played music properly from 1968, joined bands and busked then went to Leeds University and refined the way I played. I qualified from university as an agricultural zoologist.

I started playing a lot of Irish music and met up with a load of old Irish guys in Leeds and learnt from them. If you weren’t good enough, they would make a point of telling you.

So, you would practice, practice and practice. These guys were maestros of their time, in their 70s and 80s with this wealth of experience and dry wit.

The German folk scene looked toward Ireland as this Utopia of being folk you know, because the music was suppressed by Hitler. So, when they took folk on board it almost became more Irish. Why was it supressed?

I suppose, at that time, it wasn’t German music for German people. They eventually found their own folk music and the Irish traditional music sort of went lower in want’.

Did you have a manager or agency ?

‘No it was very low key. In Belgium there was a manager Leon Lamall who ran a music venue called The Mallemolem (Crazy Windmill). He would organise tours in France, Belgium and Holland.

I was with IONA 1975-79 and there was a lot of touring, 2-3 month at a time. We had a van to get around, have somewhere to stop and people are always willing to feed you but all the money went into the p.a. and promotion.

People would always offer to buy you a drink. You would get money at the end of the tour, but people abroad would ask ‘what is your real job ?’ ha ha’ 


Where did you go next ?

‘I had done some solo stuff when I met up with a Tyneside bagpipe and flute player from Jarrow called Mick Doonan. We did a lot of touring in 1980/81, every place we could around the UK.

We ended up forming a band with The Mathews Brothers and did really well, incredibly popular but then they had a family argument and split up. After that some money went missing and that soured the whole thing. It left a bad taste.

Then I went solo and because I had family by then I stopped touring and stayed closer to home in Leeds and played the workingmen’s clubs. That was the early 80’s before backing tracks came in.

My agent used to say, ‘Will you play Batley Democratic Irish League Club’…’But last time they paid me off’ I replied…’Doesn’t matter… they’d take anybody’..ha ha.

He’d say, ‘How much do you want Tony’….’£89.50’ I said…’Bloody hell why do you want that’…’Because that’s how much the shower costs to install at home’

Every song was another part of the shower. Just getting on with it you know. I was doing the folk clubs myself but when backing tracks came into the working men’s clubs I was redundant overnight.

A guitar and voice were seen as very old hat. But to keep my hand in I worked on a BBC Leeds folk radio show plus I played at Whitby Festival for 17 years on the trot and compered at folk festivals during school holidays as I was teaching by then’. 

What was your experience of working on radio ?

‘I was there around three years, and the show was 45 minutes every week interviewing so many of my heroes. Loved it! At that time, I was also writing a lot of my own songs.

But as I say I started teaching a lot, still doing bits and pieces with the folk but really it wasn’t until 1999 when I got back playing and singing in folk clubs again.

I was offered to join a band again, go on tour, play at the Millennium Dome in London. It sounded so good. I checked the contracts and away we went.

The first year was incredible, tour dates, hotels, theatres, festivals, everything fine… even got a bit of money. But unfortunately another family bust up and I found I was only getting a small percentage of the money.

But hey that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

I’d been burned in the past. Now I’d been left high and dry just before an American tour was planned. But through a contact I got some storytelling work in schools and I took that around the country’.


What are you doing now ?

‘Well at the start of 2017 I started doing floor spots at Buskers nights and Open Mic’s around the North East. Last year I did around 150-180 spots.

Nobody owes me a living… doesn’t matter whether I’ve played that club 25 years ago I’ll still play the floor spot. It’s about how to get the best out of the song. Where’s the light, where’s the shade, where’s the point where I can emphasise?

I recorded every song that I wrote onto cassettes so I can always refer back to them, as you do with video now. When I play I also drag out all of these songs I wrote 30 years ago and they pass the old grey whistle test!

People hum and whistle to some of my songs. In 2009 in Whitby, I met up – again – with a folk musician from Scotswood, Tom McConville. We had lived in a house together in the mid ’70s and played as a duo.

We got on really well and a year ago we got up and played as a duo.

It’s a shame that there’s not as many folk clubs as there used to be. Sunderland had a few, Newcastle about four, it’s a contracted scene now’.

What does music mean to you ?

‘I think any musician might say, ‘I feel as if I’ve lived three lives. The places I’ve been, the things that I’ve done and the things I’ve experienced.’ It was like opening a door to the world – I’ve travelled, met good and bad people.

Coming back to the folk scene I’m flattered that people remember me. There’s still some fantastic people who put you up, give you meals, drive you places…just the most incredible thing ever….really….that’s music’.

Interview by Gary Alikiv  May 2018.

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES – with former Slutt bassist John Hopper


Neat Records were based in Wallsend, North East UK. The operation worked out of Impulse Sound Studios. Neat were arguably the most instrumental NWOBHM label in the UK.

The label is notable for early releases by North East chief headbangers Venom, Raven and Blitzkrieg who are acknowledged as major influences on American thrash metal bands Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax.

One of the lesser-known albums was from SLUTT. A gang of twisted metallers from Tyneside with their makeup, leather and studs. They released one album in 1988. The original bassist John Hopper talks about those times…

I remember signing the record contract in the rehearsal rooms. Our guitarist Antton walked in and said, ‘right sign there’. We did, then got on with rehearsing.

We didn’t think of asking someone to look at it first. It wasn’t ‘Right I’ll let my solicitor see it first you know ha ha’.

How did the band get together?

‘For a number of years Glen and myself worked at the Roman Fort in South Shields and the wages from there helped finance our instruments. Me on bass, Glen Wade on drums and a friend was interested in doing some vocals.

We played some rough versions of Kiss songs, we were friends just messing around. Our singer had a friend over in North Shields who knew a guitarist… ‘He would be perfect for your band’  he said.

Next thing a guy with a guitar, trem and long hair came over. That was Antton Lant. We didn’t know about his brother Conrad or Neat records but soon we got to know the connection with Venom.

Anyway our first gig as SLUTT was I think at The Cyprus pub in South Shields. Later we went on to do a showcase for NEAT at Tiffanys’ nightclub in Newcastle. So that was our first step.

In 1987 we played at The Queen Vic pub in South Shields and got paid £300 which we used to rent lights, dry ice etc. That gig was a blast. And was videotaped and the audio exists’. 

neat album flyer

How did the record with NEAT come about ?

’We first done a four track demo tape at Impulse Studios in Wallsend. We just recorded it live all in one room but additional guitar or anything that was needed we would drop that in later.

The line-up was Antton on guitar, me on bass, Glen on drums and our original vocalist. On that demo Glenn had the use of a Ludwig kit owned by Tony Bray from Venom – we asked them first like!

That was in 1986 and the tracks from that demo were lifted and put on the album which was released in ’87.

That was the first version with the LP and remains unreleased but its archived. The album needed the new singers vocal on it. Antton was friends with a singer, so Peter Seymour (RIP) came in, we rehearsed, and it was great.

Things were becoming real you know. We got forms for our passports as we were going out on tour, NEAT paid for those. Like any band we just wanted a break, yes we were fortunate with the link we had with Neat but we still had to put the time in, the rehearsals.

The years going across the Tyne to North Shields, picking up Antton and his Marshalls, then coming back through the Tyne Tunnel to the rehearsal studio. Sometimes twice a week. SLUTT was full on, and commitment was first and paramount’. 

The album was released on vinyl in 1988 with Neat catalogue number 1043. The album includes Angel, Breakin’ All the Rules, Revolution, Thrill Me and more.  


Who came up with the ideas for the songs?

‘The music was from Antton and the vocalist. The rest of the band would write some lyrics too. We went back to the studio and recorded Peters vocals over the original master tapes.

If some things didn’t sound right, they were quickly changed. Kevin Ridley engineered, and Conrad Lant produced. I remember Conrad sent me out for something to eat a few times he liked his squid and chips!

But yeah, they had both worked on the demo tape and then the album which was a totally different feel. There was more pressure, there was more ‘Sorry lads them backing vocals are not in key can you do them again’.

There were plenty of sound effects put on it, backward drums and live crowd noises. We had a visit from a guy who ran the Venom fan club in France.

There is a piece on the track Revolution, about the French revolution and this guy just spouts out something in French and we put it on the track, it sounded great. In all it took about seven days to record I think’. 


Who else was in the Neat studios then?

I was amazed and sucked into the Venom thing that had gone on in NEAT. We had heard their records and by ’86, ’87 they were a big band and basically this was their studio.

Funny every other band there the Avengers, Atomkraft all wore leather and studs it was like a blueprint – we were similar to the leather and studs look.

The Atomkraft lads were knocking about. Venom’s Tony Bray was always there and guitarist Jim Clare came in with an amp for Antton. He used it for his solo’s.

It was only a small Galion Krueger but totally ripped the place apart you know. Venom manager Eric Cook (RIP) came in once or twice as I say Neat records belonged to Venom and all their gear was there.

I walked past one room and inside was bits of the stage show that they used. Another was Dave Woods’ office he was like the headmaster in his room…ha ha’. 

Did you promote the album ?

‘In 1988 just after we released it, we done a few gigs in Poland. Nasty Savage were the main headliner, with Exhumer and Atomkraft. They were doing a European tour and we flew in for the Poland leg.

We arrived in Warsaw and went to the train station. The train was like an army train, it was separate carriages with compartments, and we got split up. Glen and I sitting next to total strangers, us with our tight jeans and long dyed black hair.

Eric Cook (RIP) came along and took us to the food carriage. I got a bowl of soup with a raw egg in the middle. Well, we hadn’t eaten for hours.

For the rest of the gigs, we had our own minibus with a driver. It was only the journey from Warsaw to Katowice we got the train because it was a long trek’. 

‘Eric Cook took us over there he was with us all the way and Tony Bray was the Tour Manager as Venom were in between albums or something.

The tour was an eye opener because a serious edge kicks in. The first gig was at the Spodek Arena in Katowice in the south of the country. The arena is a huge ufo shaped building. The festival was called Metal Battle and started at 10 in the morning.

We were the first English band on at 12.30. We only got half an hour at the most with no sound-check. The whole thing was broadcast on Polish Television.

I remember at one point we were on stage and a woman with a handbag came on! I’m sure Eric or Tony pushed her on.

The first couple of songs the front rows were fists raised, jumping up and down, there was 15,000 people there, it was unreal.

The second gig was at an ice rink in Poznan. It took about four hours to get there in our minibus. It was the same bill, but we weren’t looking forward to the gig.

We weren’t sure about the make-up that we were wearing then, so we talked to Nasty Savage about it and they said ‘Just do what you did yesterday, keep it the same, it’ll be ok’. He was right the crowd went berserk.

Eric came back to the hotel with a bottle of champagne ‘Well done lad’s best band of the night’. We got paid and it was ok set ‘em up, vodka and orange, bottle of champagne, just live it up cos we aren’t taking anything back ha-ha’.

ronny press conference poland

Press day in Poland with Nasty Ronnie, Ian Davison (Atomkraft), music journalist Dave Ling & Tony Dolan (Atomkraft).

‘The last gig was in Gdansk in the north, a very industrial town. We went down great there as well. It was just the first date where it didn’t happen for us.

Rock journalist Dave Ling covered it for Metal Hammer. I remember doing one of the press conferences with Antton. I didn’t like it though. All the big bright white lights and your make up is all smudged.’.

What was the next move ?

‘By now we had done the album, got back from the Poland gigs and were in rehearsal doing some new material. There was talk of backing Wrathchild at Newcastle Mayfair and doing a few other things but sometimes they don’t come off.

There are highs and lows all the way through. So now our drummer Glen becomes uninterested with the band, so he goes his own way.

We get a new guy in on drums, very talented he was. We were over in Byker at Dons rehearsal rooms. After a period of rehearsals and photo sessions my head just started to drop you know. The dynamics of the band were changing,

We were doing things another way and really, I just didn’t fancy it. So, I stepped back from it all and the band went on.

How long was I in the band? Looking back, I remember I was at Newcastle City Hall watching Motley Crue on the Theatre of Pain tour in ’85 and we were rehearsing around then. That was at The Green Rehearsal rooms in South Shields.

So fast forward to the end, I think it was 1990 when I left the band’.

What are you up to now? ’Now I work in the print industry I’ve been for over 25 years. I still love music and always will’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   April 2018.


WARRIOR: The Hunger, 12th April 2017.

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

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

TYSONDOG: Back for Another Bite, August 2017.

AVENGER: Young Blood, 17th September 2017.



Gaurdian Sound Studios were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK.

There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings.

Whatever’s behind the name, it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog.

From 1978 some of the bands who recorded in Guardian were: Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7” and there was also an EP released by Mythra.

1980 saw E.P’s from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax.

From 1982-85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior had made singles or albums. I caught up with a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian… 


TYGERS OF PAN TANG – Demo’s & B sides.

ROBB WEIR: ‘When we arrived at the address for the studio, I thought we had got it totally wrong! It was a small street full of pit colliery houses. Nothing wrong in that of course, just we couldn’t see a recording studio anywhere.

We pulled up to number 32 or whatever the house number was and knocked on the door expecting to be told we were in the wrong area. The door opened and a young man with a ‘bush’ on his head greeted us. ‘Hi, I’m Terry Gavaghan, welcome to Guardian!’

As we walked in his front room it had been converted into a makeshift studio with sound proofing on the walls. Terry had also knocked a huge hole in the wall dividing the lounge to the dining room which was now the control room and fitted a large plate glass window.

I remember asking him where he lived, ‘upstairs’ he said as if I should have known.

Anyway we recorded the entire Spellbound album there as a demo for MCA our record company and Chris Tsangarides our record producer.

We also recorded the ‘Audition Tapes’ there, John Sykes and Jon Deverill’s first Tygers recordings. Which was to be a free 7 inch single to be packaged with Hellbound when it was released.

I think we were there for a few days recording and during one of the sessions I was in the studio by myself laying down a solo.

When I had finished, I put my guitar on its stand and as I made my way into the control room my foot caught the stand that John’s guitar was on, and I knocked his Gibson SG on the floor!

He was watching through the control room window and ran into the studio going ape! I of course apologised but he couldn’t forget it. In the end I told him to shut the f**k up as no damage had been done and if he didn’t some damage WOULD be done!

What did come out of Guardian were some fantastic recordings. Terry did us proud I have to say. His studio and his warmth were fantastic! The moral of the story is, ‘Don’t judge a recording studio by its colliery house appearance!’

RICHARD LAWS ‘Tygers of Pan Tang recorded at Guardian twice. Although we were usually associated with Impulse Studios home of Neat Records.

We had sort of fallen out with Impulse and Neat, so we recorded the demos for our second album Spellbound at Guardian.

We recorded about five tracks, I think. These demos were later released on various compilations. The demos for Spellbound were the first time we recorded with Jon Deveril and John Sykes in the band.

Later we recorded two B sides for singles off our fourth album, The Cage. Whilst we were there doing the B sides our record company came up and did a play through of the fully mixed album which was the first time we had heard the finished product’. 

More stories from Guardian coming soon. A quick search of 26-28 Front Street on google maps reveals a well-known supermarket where the two terraced houses were. This needs to be confirmed if it is the exact location.

I wonder if customers buying  tins of beans and bananas know the rich musical history that Guardian Studios contributed to recording in the North East? The Tap & Spile is just next door, the pub where many of the bands went for refreshment.

If anyone has information or recorded in Guardian studios, much appreciated if you get in touch.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.


Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

Robb Weir TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Doctor Rock  2017

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

ROKSNAX: Metal on the Menu, 9th March 2018.