ROKSNAPS #5

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Lemmy, Motorhead 1979.

Roksnaps are fan photographs which captured the atmosphere of concerts on Tyneside during the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a time when rock and metal bands ruled the city halls up and down the country. On Tyneside we had the main venues of Mecca in Sunderland, The Mayfair and City Hall in Newcastle. The gigs were packed with tribes of mostly young lads from towns across the North East. T-shirts, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as souveniers – and some people took photographs on the night.

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Thin Lizzy, 1980.

One fan who kept his photo’s and shared them on this blog was Paul White…

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‘The pics I’ve managed to dig out here are scanned from my original prints as the negatives went walkabout many moons ago. Here’s what you’ve got. Whitesnake – Trouble and the Lovehunter tour. Thin Lizzy – Black Rose tour, Motorhead – Overkill and Bomber tour (I think). Enjoy.’

‘I went to my first gig in 1975. Status Quo’s On The Level tour. What a night. Back then when a band like that played, the first few rows of seats would be ripped up immediately the band came on. Along with Glasgow Apollo the City Hall and Mayfair were the best gigs in the country for touring bands. If there was a band like AC/DC on at the Mayfair you could be lifted off your feet by the crowd and pushed from side to side. You certainly had to know how to use your elbows. The exhilaration when the lights suddenly went down and a massive cheer would go up. Nothing like it. At some point I realised we had an old Minolta SLR lying round the house that nobody was using. With only a rudimentary understanding of how to use it, I bought some film and took it to a gig. The Scorpions first Newcastle gig I think it was. I remember, because the gig tickets were white and loads of people had photocopied a mates and applied a perf with a needle, including me. The staff on the doors never had time to properly check tickets back then, it was easy peasy. That happened more than once I have to say. The photos were crap though. I had no flash and was wary of the staff taking the camera. Worse, I was on the balcony and didnt have a great view. No idea what happened to those shots. Just as well. I was more lucky from then on’. 

‘Next time it was the Whitesnake first tour to promote Trouble which had just been released. Better seats meant better pics. A few times I queued overnight for tickets and got great seats. One time in a blizzard for Rush’s Hemispheres tour. The weather was so bad it made the local TV news. I just remember waking up under a foot of snow. Queuing overnight wasnt always a good idea though. One time me and a mate got the last bus from Blyth to Newcastle to queue for Rainbow tickets only to find a sign on the doors saying ‘Rainbow tickets will not be on sale’. Unfortunately the last bus home had gone and we couldnt afford a taxi. We kipped in a doorway of the Civic Centre and got the first bus in the morning. Wouldnt swap those days for anything though. Happy days indeed. The list of great bands we saw is hard to believe these days. Tell some young kid that you saw AC/DC or UFO at the Mayfair and their mouths drop open. We were blessed for sure’.

 

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2018.

Recommended:

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

Steve Thompson (Songwriter & NEAT records producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

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.

FROM PLASTICINE TO PIXELS – interview with Tyneside artist/animator/educator Sheila Graber

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During the 90’s I was making films on tape editing machines in Stanhope Complex, South Shields. It could take hours to build a couple of minutes sequence of video, audio, narration and music – a process that takes a lot less time today. Those editing machines I used have a link to Sheila Graber…. Around 1985 I was asked by David Lumb, Chief Adviser at South Tyneside Education Authority would I like the post of Art/Media Advisor. I agreed to a part time post as I was heavily involved in animation jobs at the time. It involved helping schools from Nursery to Secondary with any problems. One large problem at the time (still is) is that some teenagers do no take to reading/writing that well and become bored and disruptive at school. Knowing how my own students at King George school had responded to working with video in the 1970’s  I secured a government grant to hire a a room in Chuter Ede Education Centre, South Shields with a budget for video equipment and staff to run the project. Here schools could send young people to learn video skills and apply them to their lessons. It was very well attended for a few years  but a change of Government pulled the funding. Then  along came Community Worker Phil Charlton (RIP) who took the gear down to Stanhope Community Complex, it was like passing the baton on. Then YOU used them Gary and now, happily, here we are ! ’.

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Me working on video tape machines at Stanhope Complex, South Shields. Notice the Panasonic edit controller, MX10 and edit machines. There was one play and one record machine.

Looking back to your younger days can you point to any moments which led you to where you are now ? ‘I had two life changing events in 1960. My Dad, Capt. George Graber, was Pilot Master on the Tyne from 1947, and in 1960 we finally moved into the Pilot Office House on the Lawe Top. I was lucky enough to have a small room to use as a studio. The views of the river were stunning. Also that year I went to Birmingham School for Training Art Teachers. On the first day the tutor asked us ’Why are you here’. Somebody spoke up ’To get our Art Teacher’s Diploma’. She quickly replied ’So what is Art’. During the rest of the course we discovered the answer for ourselves’…I found that “Everyone is an artist in their own way.”  It wasn’t a skill passed down from your family or something that only one or two people could do, everybody,if encouraged, could make something to express themselves and feel worthwhile whether it’s painting, knitting,cooking,writing or video making. I’ve have tried to follow that all my life’.

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Painting in 1960 of the view of the river Tyne outside Sheila’s window.

Sheila returned to Tyneside teaching Art in schools and also worked on her own projects….‘I started teaching Art in Stanhope Road Secondary School in 1961. Then onto The Girl’s High School and finally King George Comprehensive. Divorced in 1970 I had extra time in my life. I bought a super 8 camera for holiday films and found I could bring plasticine letters to life for titles by filming then one frame at a time. Three week later when the film came back  I saw them move by themselves MAGIC! I took the camera into school and the children’s interest was enormous. Their reaction really turned me around. Pupils who had little interest in learning suddenly came alive. Animation is a very good tool for education because everyone can learn and have fun at the same time. Animation can also be used to show how things work. Like the short I was invited to make by BBC Inside Look North on how their program was put together in 1977. Featuring the late great Mike Neville’. (Check Inside Look North 1977 and over 100 others on “Sheila Graber YouTube” channel).

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‘In 1974 my animation ‘Boy and The Cat’  won the ’10 Best’ film competition run by Movie Maker Magazine. So it was screened at the National Film Theatre  in London. Later my work were spotted by Nicole Jouve an agent for World TV. She phoned me up and wanted to distribute some of the shorts I’d made. At first I thought it was a friend kidding around. But she went ahead and distributed the short 16mm films I’d made, from ‘Mondrian’ to ‘Evolution’, worldwide. Then Nicole (who was also the agent for The Magic Roundabout) commissioned me to Animate 10 of Rudyard Kipling’s  Just So Stories’ – she had gained the contract in direct competition with Disney Studios. In 1980 I gave up my job as a full time art teacher as the series had to be completed in one year. Looking back, I have met people who have asked me ‘can you do this for us ? …and I’ve just jumped in and said ‘yes I’ll do that’. You’ve done that too Gary, just gone for it and most times it works out and leads onto other projects’.

What are you working on now ? ‘I still teach animation at University of Sunderland and have some of my prints, cards and DVD’s on sale in Sunderland Museum and at The Word in South Shields. Currently I am producing more books and fun interactive animated apps. Just finished one on Van Gogh, you can play with it now online on my website. Animation is a magic process but sadly under used. Disney called it the ‘Art of the Future’. He was right. I hope today’s computer games evolve from killing to caring and that iPads and smart phones are used to create images and animation as well as text to help folks of all ages to enjoy learning and creating their view of the world. I’ll be featuring these ideas, work of people I’ve influenced and in turn work by folks THEY have influenced in my forthcoming exhibition at South Shields Ocean Road Museum & Customs House in 2020 – ‘Life Begins at 80’. Look forward to seeing some of YOUR video productions there Gary’. 

Contact Sheila at:

http://www.sheilagraberanimation.com

 Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2018.

Recommended:

David G. Wilkinson: Waves upon Waves 3rd June 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARK MY WORDS with Ettrick Scott from Jazz Riot

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‘I’m loathe to describe myself as a poet because I’ve studied the form in depth – Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley etc that’s your poets. Me ? I’m just a rhyming gobshite mate. I went to Northumbria University in my 40’s and did a creative writing degree and I started studying and writing poetry. Something just clicked and ended up with me starting Jazz Riot. Who are Staggerin’ Jon Lee on Lap pedal steel from Byker and I’m not entirely sure where guitarist Stevie G lives these days – near Killingworth somewhere, maybe? and me, I’m a talker based in Ovingham, Northumberland.’

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ’Around early 89. The first proper band was The Legendary Harley Dread. Three quarters of this combo were sales assistants from Newcastles Grott Guitars. We were influenced by the Stooges, Doors, Stranglers and in my case Guns n Roses. I’m fascinated by hedonism. ‘Appetite for Destruction’ was an amazing album. I read an article about them once which said that had Dionysus – the Greek God of wine, ritual madness and theatre – been at large in Los Angeles in the mid ‘80s, he would have been a member of GNR. I totally agree with that. They went all bloated and shite after ‘Appetite’ mind, but that’s what inevitably happens when you throw millions of dollars at drug addicts and alcoholics. I’d estimate that around 90% of our gigs were at The Broken Doll and the Riverside in Newcastle. Our first gig was at the Doll supporting Mega City Four. I tried to conquer my nerves beforehand by getting absolutely lathered on Southern Comfort. The end result being that I went all Iggy Pop for the gig, and can’t remember anything about it. The rest of the band were peeved at the clip I was in but also impressed that I managed to sing all the right words. We also played there with Penetration’s Pauline Murray. The only other name act we gigged with was ex-Hawkwind guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton. Both at the Doll and the Kasbah in Sunderland. Looking back we were incompetent and awful. But being in a band with your mates in your early twenties is like being pirates innit ? We wore tight leather trousers, abused substances, pulled some lasses and got paid, sometimes’.

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Who were your influences in music ? ‘I’m a writer. I’m all about words, my primary influence has to be my dad. I’m the offspring of an Art teacher mother and an English lecturer father. So I’m basically an arty little twat who likes words a lot. Sadly the art gene passed me by. I can’t even draw a decent stick man. But the English bit got me big time. My parents split up when I was 10 month old and all of my early memories of my Dad involve being in a car with him spouting assorted lyrics and folk songs at me. The first rhyme I can remember committing to memory I was maybe 5 or 6, was by Leonard Cohen and it’s one I still love to this day. ‘I lit a thin green candle to make you jealous of me. But the room just filled up with mosquitoes, they’d heard that my body was free’. To me that’s a perfect rhyming couplet; it’s unsettling, there’s a sadness there, and it’s quite funny in a dark sort of way. Whenever I meet someone who peddles the tired myth that L.Cohen Esq. makes music to slash your wrists to, I know I’m most likely talking to someone who hasn’t listened to him much and is just recycling an opinion. I find his writing immensely touching and funny as fuck, loaded with humanity and dry as a bone humour. The second couplet I can remember learning is from Time by David Bowie; ’Time, she flexes like a whore/Falls wanking to the floor’. Which is maybe not the sort of thing one should be reciting to a child still at infant school. But here, that’s my old man for you. He rarely modifies his patter based on the age of the person he’s talking to’.

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How did you get involved in music ? ‘I always wanted to be the singer in a band because, to my mind at least, the singer is the one who writes all the lyrics – or he should anyway. The one defining incident that made me want to be in a band was this; Aged 14 me and two other kids were jamming in our school music block one lunchtime – guitar, drums, me singing. The music room had a tiny window which looked onto an area where all the hard kids gathered to smoke. Me and the hard kids did not get along at all. I was bullied a bit at school, not a severe kicking type, but a fair bit of hassle because I was different. Different in a way that’s hard to quantify but I suppose ‘arty little twat’ goes some way to explain my school years. Anyway our playing quickly attracted the attention of the hard lads and they didn’t like it one little bit. They started screaming abuse and flicking the v’s at the window, and then began spitting on it. After 10 minutes the window was completely covered in hockle. Y’knaa I’d be the first to admit I’m a bit of a wind up merchant and as soon as I saw the possibilty to piss people off – I can remember clear as day thinking ‘Oh aye, I’m fuckin’ having this’.

What were your experiences of recording ‘We recorded one 3 track demo at Newcastle Arts Centre, I can’t remember us sending it out to anyone. ‘Just Say Yes’, Heads Gone Crazy’ and ‘Flesh Starts Creeping’ – yes we had live fast die young lifestyles then. We started recording and drinking at 9.30am. We were mortal by the afternoon. I fell over the mixing desk. The bassist couldn’t nail down his parts. The engineer sent us to the pub to stop distracting him any further. Years later I found that the engineer took over bass and stood in for him’.

Did you record any TV appearances or film any music videos ? ‘There used to be a video knocking about of us onstage and backstage at the Riverside supporting Mega City Four. We all lost our copies and it’s a real shame because I don’t think there’s any footage of the Riverside backstage area. It would be interesting to see again..anybody got it ?’

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘My favourite involves the two gigs we done with Hawkwinds Huw Lloyd Langton. A man who had possibly taken one acid trip too many, bless him. After we supported him at the Broken Doll in Newcastle we had a good crack on with him, got on really well. Then we played with him again in Sunderland about three month later. We got chatting after the gig but it quickly became apparent that he didn’t have the first clue who we were and no memory whatsoever of having met us before. Drugs man – just say no kids’.

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What are you doing now and are you still involved in music ? ‘It amuses me that I sang in bands for a few years and got pretty much nowhere. But as soon as I started talking instead I got a bit of recognition. I added music to my words because what I understand is rock n roll and I believe experiences should be shared. I love coming off stage and hanging out with the same people that played the gig and getting the same buzz of it. I can’t perform at those spoken words nights. I don’t understand that world at all. That’s a very lonely place to be. If you’re going to die on your arse on stage it might aswell be with your mates next to you. To date we’ve opened for John Cooper Clarke, Penetration, TV Smith, Field Music and loads more. We played the International Psychology Conference in Liverpool last year. This year we’re on a real strange festival bill with John Cleese, Gary Lineker, Pussy Riot and Hugh Grant – thinking about it – that line up get’s funnier every time. When I went to University I couldn’t have dreamt that this is where it would lead. If it all stopped tomorrow I can honestly say I’ve had the very best of times in Jazz Riot’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2018.

Recommended:

ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Butchers of Bolingbroke, 1st June 2017.

Simon Donald, VIZ: The Toon Show, 1st September 2017.

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

Steve Kincaide: A Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

ONE STEP BEYOND MIDDLESBROUGH – with Pete McDermott from eighties Ska band The Videos

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Who were your influences and was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ‘I was listening to Jeff Beck and Wishbone Ash. I remember watching Mick Ronson and Bowie on Top of the Pops playing Starman..well that was it… game over!’  

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘At 15 years old I started playing the pubs and clubs of the North East. When I joined The Videos we went professional and played all over Europe supporting bands like Bucks Fizz, Racey, Madness, The Specials, Selector, Bad Manners all that Two Tone stuff and a bit of pop. Loved it. Was also in a band called The Jogging Waiters !’

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What were your experiences of recording ? ’We recorded in Guardian Studio in Durham. We done Deo, Him or Me and Blitzo Calypso. We also recorded some demo’s for Miles Copeland manager of The Police. That was at Strawberry Studios. The line up for The Videos was Ged Duffy on bass. Johnny Newsome on drums and myself on guitar. We all handled vocals with Ged the lead’. 

Did you record any TV appearences or film any music videos ? ’Around 1979 we were on Border TV where we played Deo. Also the Tyne Tees TV programme Northern Life. That came about because we had a manager Dave Connors from Middlesbrough who knew a couple of TV people, and somehow he got us on twice for our singles Deo and Blitzo Calypso – that led to our tour with Bucks Fizz. The Videos lasted until 82’.

(Check them out on You Tube at The Videos Ska/White reggae pop band).

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘Well on stage there was a few electrocutions ! There was a time in Guardian Studio when John Miles got the tea on for us. We met David Bowie at Julies nightclub in Newcastle, I remember he fancied my mate. Once we were playing at a club in Newcastle and a flash bomb went off prematurely, just as a woman passed by with a tray of drinks – it set fire to her nylon dress’.

What are you doing now and are you still involved with music ?  I run The Foxhead Cowboy home recording studio and just produced a few tracks for local musicians Mark Simpson and another for Jonathan Honour. They are on Spotify and Apple music. I got two of my own songs Pallister Park and The Foxhead Cowboys through to the semi final of a UK songwriting competition. They can both be heard along with tons of my other songs on Soundcloud under Mac the Geetar. 

I’m also playing in a band with Spike -ex Chris Rea band. Doing some Tom Petty, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Drive by Truckers and Ron Sexsmith. We have Steve Conway on vocals, Gary Cain drums, Bob Garrington on guitar, Martin Poole on bass and yours truly on guitar and vocals. Also playing in pubs with The Rivals. Doing some power pop, 70’s and 80’s stuff plus some up to date tunes’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Recommended:

Steve Kincaide: A Life of Booze, Bands & Buffoonery, 11th January 2018.

LOUD AS WAR – interview with Def Con One drummer Antton Lant.

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Over the past year I have interviewed a few bands who take no prisoners when it comes to sheer power. If ya want to hear good ol’ bone crunching, face ripping, spleen removing, 100% metal. Def Con One are the go to band. Check out the videos on You Tube for their tracks 10 Bullets, Warface, Brute Force & Ignorance – you can’t miss ‘em they look like extras from Sons of Anarchy with muscles, tatt’s and shaven heads. Drummer Antton Lant looks back to where it started… ‘With my older brothers being in bands I’ve always been around music. I got an SG guitar one Christmas and used to jump around in my bedroom pretending I was playing Wembley Stadium haha. Back in the day I was massively into bands like AC/DC, Kiss and Van Halen. I loved the imagery of American bands Twisted Sister and Motley Crue which played heavily on my first band Slutt. Then I heard a band called Pantera and after that it all got much heavier’.

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ?  In my first band Slutt I started playing in South Shields pubs and clubs. We then got to tour Poland playing huge stadiums – 20,000 a night. Later we toured the UK playing mainly rock clubs. After Slutt called it a day in late ’91 I put a band together called Ezee but that fizzled out and I just kind of lost interest in playing but I was still writing. I was finding it hard to find a drummer who would play the stuff I wanted to play. My oldest brother is a drummer and he let me play on his kit and showed me some stuff which I liked so I swapped him my Steve Vai guitar for his kit. I then started looking for a band that needed a drummer so I could get some experience playing drums. I found some guys called Deadline, they didn’t really have a name set in stone and ended up being called Sanitys Edge. That was more metal in the vein of Megadeth, Maiden, that kinda stuff. I wanted to go heavier so formed Def-Con-One. Then I was asked to help out black metal legends Venom in the studio and ended up being the drummer for 10 year. We headlined some of the biggest festivals across Europe and played various tours. I got to play on three albums. Obviously having my name linked to Venom helped me a lot with Def-Con-One. Our record companies were big Venom fans. I was also playing in another band full off ex Venom members called M-pire of Evil. This put me in touch with the record companys – contacts I wouldn’t of got without the Venom link. Over the years I managed to achieve a lot for Def-Con-One. But it was hard, you had to put the work in’.

 

What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Recordings were great fun. Loved it in a studio compared to recording in your bedroom. Venom got to record in some huge studios. I made one album with Slutt, three albums with VenomResurrection, Metal Black and Hell. Two with M-Pire of Evil – Creatures of the Black and Hell to the Holy and two with Def-Con-One – Warface and 2. First album with Venom was Resurrection. We flew into Hamburg, Germany and  lived in the studio it was crazy. The studio had a kitchen, showers, sauna, tv room the lot. It was awesome. Charlie the producer hired me a Pearl masters kit with different size bass drums which he loved to record. We followed Motorhead into that studio and he played us some tracks he had just recorded. It sounded massive. He was a real task master though. He had me play the songs through quite a lot of times so he could pick what he felt was the best performance. It was great fun. Wen I recorded Metal Black we were in the Town House Studios in London, in the same studio that Queen recorded all their classic albums. So that was awesome too’.

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Have you any stories from playing gigs ?  ‘Wow too many too tell and most you couldn’t publish haha. But here’s one. We played Hammerfest a few years back and the food that the bands get is ok. A band I know, Cradle of Filth were headlining, so backstage I made my way over to them. We’re sitting on their bus chatting and their vocalist Dani asked what the food was like. I told him and he said they don’t eat that, they had tokens for the restaurant. That sounded better. Next thing Dani askes their tour manager to hook me up and I was able to get the Def-Con-One lads big steaks and all the trimmings’. 

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What have you got in the pipeline for Def-Con-One ? ‘I helped out a few tribute bands last year which was fun. There was Ozzy, Twisted Sister and an AC/DC tribute. All really great guys, good fun and enjoyed it. In the Def-Con-One camp we have been really busy sorting out a few things and will be back gigging soon. We are actually recording at the minute. The band have got a few festivals booked but that’s very hush hush till they reveal the whole line up and announce it formally’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Recommendations:

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

WARFARE: No One Gets Out Alive, 8th October 2017.

OBSIDIAN: Bomb Tracks, 8th January 2018.

BLACK FORGE: Take No Prisoners, 18th January 2018.

SLUTT: Angels with Dirty Faces, 6th May 2018.

MUSIC IS STILL THEIR FIRST LOVE – Alikivi blog makes the news

The blog has hit over 30,000 views, a great way to mark that milestone is with two features in the local newspaper.

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The Shields Gazette 5th June 2018.

In April, the blog included an interview with two founder members of Beckett, Les Tones and Arthur Ramm. During their time Beckett had played countless gigs around the North East with stand out support slots with Rod Stewart and the Faces. They also notched up dates with Captain Beefheart, Alex Harvey and Slade. Signed with major labels Warner Brothers and CBS, released a single and self titled album. They also found time to appear on BBC TV music show the Old Grey Whistle Test, and a slot at the Reading Festival. On Monday June 4th journalist Peter French wrote an article and featured the interview in The Shields Gazette newspaper and on it’s website – with part two of the story published on June 5th.

Gary Alikivi June 2018.

WAVES UPON WAVES – interview with artist David G. Wilkinson

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David worked for more than thirty years teaching Art & Design in a local college. He has exhibited his work in this country and abroad. His new exhibition is at The Customs House, South Shields where he took time out and talked about his influences… ‘Very early on in reception class at school we got bits of paper and plasticene and we had to make something for the flower show in South Shields. I made a small dog and ended up with 2nd prize in my age group, and got half a crown ha ha. Art continued through junior school, the seniors at St Josephs in Hebburn and of course being influenced by living next to the sea. In art school I had a step up in learning, where you do something for a while then suddenly you notice that what you are producing starts to look better. It can be an enormous difference and through teaching you can see it in others’. 

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How did the mural on Commercial Road in South Shields come about ? ’I went to an interview to be part of the newly formed South Tyneside Community Arts group. I talked about painting murals around the town and the guy interviewing said that sounds great, we’ll employ you to paint a few. So I got involved with the YTS scheme and was put in charge of some 16-17 year olds. Then a guy in South Tyneside Planning Department said we’ve got this wall in Commercial Road do you fancy taking that on’.

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‘Some of the young people were interested in art, but one left to be a fireman, one joined the RAF, above all they had committment. Some enrolled on art courses, that’s when the college asked me to do some part time teaching. That snowballed, but I was still painting and doing my own stuff’. 

What is your latest project and exhibition ? ‘The last two years of my degree I’ve just painted the sea, nothing else. Just the water and sky nothing around the edges. Waves upon waves. Then abstraction became part of what I was doing because the clouds are fairly abstract themselves. I liked the fact you can look at a picture of Marsden rock and it’ll never change from one day to another, but clouds constantly change and you see different shapes in them. The changes can happen pretty fast. Watercolour artists get out there and make the swift changes of colour and light. Plus working outside is quite exciting – something I done quite a lot when I was at Fine Art college. Then bringing it inside to draw big canvases. 

It’s all about the process, these paintings around us are all provisional, they are on their way to somewhere else – the next page in the sketch book. This art is all about the things you can’t freeze. Within the abstract stuff I try to put in the history of the making. The layering of it. That history begins to have a depth. You can’t put a name on it. There’s maybe some pictures in this room which I can say are complete, they have gone their journey. I don’t want to make any changes to them but the next one can add something to that’.

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Has there been a time when you haven’t painted ? ‘When I don’t paint it feels a bit weird, then something pops in yer head, get quite excited about it and where the next layer is going to go. I really like that… I like making images I suppose. But when I worked teaching at the college things would sit and gestate at certain times of the year. You might jot down ideas, do drawings, take photographs but then something would bubble, a crack of light in a cloud and you’d work on it. But there’s never been a time when I’ve said I’m not going to do this anymore – think that would feel very weird’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Sea, Sky and River: Fixing the line about it’s edge. 

Exhibition in The Upper Fusion Gallery, The Customs House, South Shields until 31 August 2018.

Thanks to Julia Northam & Fietscher Fotos, South Shields for the mural photographs.

FOLK LAW – interview with Northern songwriter & folk musician Celia Bryce

 

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What are your current projects ? I’m singing and writing songs, mainly for the band but also for children in schools and the occasional folk hymn. The Celia Bryce Band does mainly original numbers and plays at Roots Clubs, folk clubs and festivals. The line up is me on vocals, rhythm guitar and accordion. Colin Bradshaw on harmony vocals, bass and occasional acoustic guitar. Lee Cramman on keyboards. Eddie Harris drums/cajon and harmony vocals. James Palmer lead guitar and harmony vocals. Mike Swindale appears with us at some acoustic gigs playing violin. We can be a 3, 4 or 5 piece band according to venue’s requirements. The songs come from both albums and we’re now working on material for a third, some of which is co-written with band members. There’s a mixture of folk, blues, country and almost anything that takes our fancy really. My songs tend to tell melancholic stories but they’re balanced out with more upbeat numbers. which we tend to work on as a band. We nearly always inject a traditional song plus my favourite songs by Kevin Montgomery and Gretchen Peters. Last year I did a couple of interesting sessions called ‘Women On Song’ with Chloe Chadwick (Americana/country/folk singer-song writer from UK). We both explored our songs, how they came about, the themes behind them and then performed them with a backing band with Colin Bradshaw, Eddie Harris and Chloe’s guitarist Mark Bushell. It was really nice to have the time to talk about the process of song-writing at a gig. At around the same time along with Colin Bradshaw I supported Tia McGraff an Americana/Country singer from Canada, when she performed at the Old Low Light in North Shields. That was such a special evening. Tia’s a wonderful singer and songwriter’.

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Who were your influences in music ? ‘They go back to when I was a kid singing in school performances of church music – mainly in Latin – and Gilbert and Sullivan. But I was heavily influenced by the music played at home by my father on piano and various stringed instruments and even Scottish Half Long pipes at one time. My mother was very keen on singing and listening to opera and particularly Puccini. It was a musical household. As a teenager playing in a folk band I loved The Bothy Band, Planxty, Moving Hearts and Clannad. I always loved country music and jazz standards too. So very mixed influences and new ones come along every now and then. If there’s something I’ve heard and liked then often I’ll try to emulate the style in a song’.

How did you get interested in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘I don’t think there was a ‘defining moment’ except maybe when my cousin next door started having piano lessons and I wanted to do the same. Actually I hated those lessons but carried on for at least a few years, learning more than I probably deserved, because I rarely practised and told my teacher that I wasn’t taking any of the exams. My parents paid for those lessons and it was only years later when I realised that it was money they could little afford. The only thing I really enjoyed was trying to play like my father who was brilliant. Dad played an awful lot at home. We had a grand piano and when the house was empty I would lift the lid and play stuff I’d heard him play in my own way. Very loudly and incompetently, but I knew the tunes well enough in my head. I loved the freedom of producing something which bore nothing more than a faint resemblance to the real thing but was identifiable, at least to my ears! I was in sixth form when I met Benny Hudson who with his brother Gerard wanted to start a folk group. It coincided with me being given a 12 string guitar from a friend of one of my brothers. It only had six strings – I knew nothing about buying strings – and I could only play 3 chords. It had no case so I carried it around in a black plastic bag to rehearsals. I then bought an accordion from a Scottish family member, which also didn’t have a case. I managed to find one, donated to me by a member of a folk band I’d gone to see. He was sitting on an empty accordion case. Why I don’t know. He didn’t play accordion. Can’t remember if I bought it or just smiled winningly. It fitted my 120 bass Baile accordion perfectly’.

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When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘Gigs as a teenager were in church halls but mainly they seemed to be just getting together to play. We did a lot of Saturday afternoon ‘sessions’ at Jarrow Hall before it became the centre it is now. We’d play Irish tunes with the likes of George Welch, Jez Lowe, Ged Foley, Paul Dickman. Those sessions developed my  love of Irish and to a lesser extent Scottish tunes. By then I was only playing the accordion with Benny and Gerard playing bouzouki, mandolin,  bodhran and bones. It was through Paul Dickman and George Welch that Benny and I began to play with the Trent House Ceilidh Band led by Norman Bell. This was a 16 piece band which practised in the Trent House pub in Newcastle. We played for dances, mainly in the Tyneside area but did travel to the borders, to Arran and Yorkshire. We didn’t support anyone. I did play regularly at the Irish Club in Newcastle and played at a Fleadh Cheoil in Leicester with the Irish Club Band which won first prize in one of the competitions. I had never seen so many startlingly good musicians all gathered together. It was great. I began to sing songs in folk clubs when I was about 18 with Benny and Gerard but found the whole thing horribly nerve wracking. I’d forget words with incredible ease! To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the NHS in 1998 The Katy Freeway, a country rock band we had going before we decided to do original material, performed at the Drury Lane Theatre in London along with lots of other acts who had connections with the Health Service. At the time three of us were working in the health service. The main act was David Essex. The audience seemed to be all women who patiently put up with the many preceding acts, gearing up to go absolutely wild when he took to the stage! It’s a long time ago. The NHS is coming up to its 70th birthday!

What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘My first ever recording in a professional studio was at Ruby Fruit Studio in Newcastle and I recorded a song called ‘Don’t Need You Woman’ commissioned for a TV drama written by local playwright Alex Ferguson – of ‘Pineapple King of Jarrow’ fame. The drama didn’t actually hit the screens. In the first non-folk band I played in The Bill Stickers Band,  where I was now singing and playing saxophone – we recorded some songs in a Wallsend studio called Red Nose. The next band I sang in was The Katy Freeway and we recorded at home a CD simply for the joy of it. The next recordings, for my CDs ‘No Deals, No Promises’ and ‘Links’, were at Cluny Studios in Newcastle with Tony Davis. I found the first experience with Ruby Fruit quite unnerving and was rather star-struck to be honest. Basically I did what they told me to, didn’t question anything much and knew that they were the experts. I was truly amazed by the technology applied to my words and music. The production was fantastic. To be part of that was just great and it opened my eyes to what was out there in the world of recording. I was a bit miffed that the sound engineer wouldn’t put many effects on my voice. I wanted reverb and all my errors smoothed over. He said it didn’t need it. I suppose I should have been pleased at the compliment but still felt short changed!

My experience at The Cluny with the first CD, ‘No Deals, No Promises’ was much more involved and I was less starry eyed and spoke up a bit more. Jim Hornsby, Rob Tickell, Doug Morgan and Stuart Hardy played on that CD. With the second, ‘Links’ we mainly played with the band members of that time including the guitarist and song-writer Tony Schofield’. 

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Did you record any TV appearences or film any music videos ? ’I’d like to say no way, not at all, but we did do a video for one of our numbers ‘The Workers’ Song’ and it’s hilarious but for all the wrong reasons. The lads in the band look like they’ve just been released, after a very long time from somewhere very secure. Not our finest moment’.

Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? Over so many years and so many bands there are lots of funny stories and one always sticks in my mind. It was while I was in the Bill Stickers Band. There I am, singing a song which requires me to play saxophone so I’m holding it ready to play between verses. This drunk guy comes up and wants to take the thing from me and play. He’s very slurred and doesn’t take no for an answer. While I’m struggling to sing and keep hold of the saxophone and fend him off I’m getting absolutely no help from the rest of the band who, like true professionals just carry on playing. Only things is ‘true pros’ have some crew somewhere don’t they. Bouncers… anything to take the guy out, in the nicest possible way. But no. I can tell you they got an earful from me at the interval !  Another time with the same band we were playing at a well known pub in Wallsend which had lunchtime entertainments  –strippers to be exact- and we played on the same stage at night. There always seemed to be talcum powder on the floor – though we were never sure what part that played in the proceedings – and interesting ‘art’ work on the walls’. 

Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.

Upcoming gigs for the Celia Bryce band:

Fri 13th July Blackfriars, The Ouseburn, Newcastle

Thurs 19th July Guy’s Bistro, York

Sun 29th July Music at the Ship, Low Newton by the sea Music Festival

Sat 8th September The Barrels, Berwick on Tweed

Recommended:

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

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

Ben Hudson, Bees & Bouzoukis, 24th May 2018.