By 1980 Raven had released their first single on Neat Records. The Gallagher brothers – the original pair not the lot from Manchester who wanted to live forever – made their way out of the North East …
For young lads like us there was only two ways out of Newcastle…..and we weren’t good footballers.
They began slogging the hard yards and laying the foundations for speed metal…
It all changed when we made contacts in the US and did our first tour with a young rag tag outfit called Metallica opening for us.
Was there a plan in the early day’s – gig loads, buy a van, get signed ?
The running joke was ‘C’mon let’s git in a van and gan doon t’ London!’. Slightly impractical! We did quite a few one off support gigs. It was in the back of the truck, drive down to London, play the Marquee with Iron Maiden and drive back straight after the gig.
We just worked, playing shows, writing songs. One thing we’ve never had is a lack of song ideas. Often a riff from a sound check turns into a song. Getting the Neat deal changed everything totally. We had worked hard for years so when the opportunity arrived we dove in head first.
The other main bands on the Neat record label were Fist, Venom and Tygers of Pan Tang. Was there any rivalry ?
No. We actually got on well with all of them. There was some passive aggressive crap with Venom where we thought time, resources and money were going to them, and they thought they were going to us….of course the money went elsewhere (laughs).
Did you ever play on the same bill ?
We actually played two shows with the Tygers. A show pre-Neat at the Guildhall in Newcastle and a show in Wallsend which was John Sykes first gig with them. We also did at least one show with Fist at the Mayfair and a few with White Spirit. All great lads.
Raven went on a UK tour with Girlschool in 1982 where I saw them at Newcastle City Hall…
Aye a 27 date ‘City Hall’ type venue tour of the U.K. was very, very good for us. Their crew treated us well and we got on great with the girls. I ‘ave no idea how it came about but we had done a few shows with Motörhead, and Girlschool had the same management.
Was it a good match up in terms of style and audiences ?
It was a great fit and a great opportunity for us, they were at their peak.
Did you have any warm up routines before going on stage ?
No I never bother with all the ‘la la la la la LAH’ vocal stuff. I just do it!
Did you play any festivals in the UK ?
Festivals (laughs). Well we did the Wrexham festival with Motörhead and Twisted Sister. The only other rock festival then was Reading and that was a bit political I guess.
Did mainland Europe have better attended gigs or a more organised set up than UK ?
Probably both. But it was the fervour of the fans that was surprising. We knew basically in England the further South you went, the fans were more reserved and thankfully that’s kinda gone by the wayside these days. But our first gigs out of the UK were in Italy and Holland…and they were just NUTS!!!
Have you any stories from meeting other bands while on tour – in motorway cafes, gigs in the same town, and you must have come across Lemmy ?
Jeez.. actually no! We did run into Fast Eddie Clarke at some motorway cafe back in 2005. But that was it really.
Nearly 40 years since the US tour with Metallica. Did you ever think Raven and Metallica would still be playing in 2019 ?
If back then you had told me Metallica were gonna rule the world as they subsequently did, I would have been doubtful. But they evolved fast.
It was great to get to play a stadium show with them in São Paulo a few years back and hear James (Hetfield) tell the crowd how much they appreciated Raven taking a chance back in 1983 and taking Metallica on tour with them. That meant a lot to us.
What was the impact of that tour for both bands ?
Well we saw the opportunity and how huge the US really was. We knew this was where we had to be to move forward and escape the ‘indentured servitude’ at Neat.
The tour had a huge impact on us and on Metallica. Their first tour, they soaked it all up and learnt. It really was a hell of an experience !
Has there been a ‘magic’ moment on stage or in the studio when you thought ‘This is what I should be doing’….
Every. Single. Night. We have given blood sweat and tears to do what we do and feel humbled and fortunate to be able to do what we love. Plus to be able to travel the world to do it!
We know we are better at it now and more importantly appreciate it more. We have a new album ready for early 2020 release and are gearing up for lots more touring!
For more info contact the website: http://www.ravenlunatics.com/
or follow them on Twitter @official_raven
Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2019.