ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES – interview with former Slutt bassist John Hopper

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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 heedbangers 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 make up, 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 4 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, myself 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).  

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Who came up with the idea’s 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 7 days to record I think’. 

SLUTT 87

Who else was in the Neat studios then? I was amazed and sucked in to 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 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. Myself and Glen sitting next to total strangers, us with our tight jeans and long dyed black hair etc.. strange. 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 mini bus with a driver. It was only the journey from Warsaw to Katowice we got the train because it was a long trek’. 

Poland Tour Pass

‘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 ha ha… 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 4 hours to get there in our mini bus. 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’.

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Press day in Poland with Nasty Ronnie, Ian Davison (Atomkraft), 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.. ha-ha’.

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 have been for over 25 years. I still love music and always will, I’ve ticked that box’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2018.

Recommended:

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.