DEAL OR NO DEAL – for North East musician Paul McCarte

If you tune into space rock of Ride/Spiritualized/My Bloody Valentine, you’re on the right dial for Hartlepool band Procession, who in 1992, went into Sarm West studio in London and recorded a 12 hour session for Trevor Horn’s record label ZTT – Where they going to be another North East band who snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory ?

Vocalist & guitarist Paul McCarte looks back and tells the story of that time.

‘Going full time was always going to be hard and we were hanging our hopes on landing a record deal. The engineers on the day loved us, they said we were just the kind of band the label should go for as we were something different’.

Who were Procession ? Along with Paul, members were Terry Booth (guitar 86-93), Nick Crozier (guitar 93-95), Ken Napper (bass 86-94), Andy Wain (keyboards, sequencer programming & bass guitar in 1995) & Mark Lloyd (drums & rhythm programming).

‘We’re all still good friends today and guest on each-others recordings. We have three studios between us and all make music in various guises’ said Paul.

How did Procession first get together ?

The band started around the end of ’85 by myself, Ken Napper and Terry Booth. Our first gig was in December 1986 at Hartlepool Sixth Form college supporting the top local band at the time – Fluke. We played as a four piece, there was myself, Ken, Terry and Andy Wain with a drum machine.

What venues did you play after that ?

Our second gig was the realisation of our first ambition, which was to play The Town Hall and we shared the stage with another young band from the town called Taste.

After playing quite a few gigs around town our first gig outside Hartlepool was a battle of the bands at Rafters in Manchester, famous as the place where Rob Gretton found Joy Division. Predictably a Manchester band who brought a big crowd with them won on the night, can’t remember who they were. We took a fifty seater coach to the gig so we had a good showing from our fans and mates on the night.

Our next big ambition was to play The Riverside in Newcastle as we loved the place. We achieved that in 1990 eventually becoming very popular with the venue and playing there often as one of the North East scene bands at the time. In their recommendations for the year we were picked as ‘most likely to’ in Paint it Red magazine circa 1992.

What size venues were you playing and was there more than a bus queue of punters turning up to the shows ?

Our favourite venue, and the place we had the biggest following, was The Arena in Middlesbrough. It was known originally as The Rock Garden, and famously where The Sex Pistols played. The upstairs capacity was 400 and when we played on the club nights from ’92 – ’94 it was always really busy.

We began to play more widely in the North East area, we were friends with Newcastle bands Hug and Puppy Fat and The Poppyfield from Darlington. We got on really well with Shrug, also Rhino from Middlesbrough.

Although we were part of the Newcastle scene, the fact of the matter is that all touring band support spots at The Riverside went to Newcastle bands and we were never offered an opening slot.

Have you any road stories ?

We toured extensively from ‘91 to ‘94. It was fantastic fun and a great adventure. Sleeping on the beach at Eyemouth around a campfire, driving out of Leeds after playing The Royal Park and camping in the middle of nowhere. Having a flat in Fife while we toured around Scotland was a blast as we had our DJs on tour with us so every night was party night.

When we played the Cafe Drummond in Aberdeen our guitarist Booie was comatose the next morning so we picked him up in his sleeping bag and left him in the middle of the street while we went and loaded all of the gear out of the venue. Then we all got breakfast buns and parked 100 yards away and watched people having to step over him while he slept through it all.

Did you record any of your material and what was your experience of recording studios ?

Like every other Hartlepool band we recorded our first material at Durham Street Studio. In 1990 we recorded 8 tracks at Teesbeat Studio in Stockton which we made into a Procession tape and that became the first thing we ever sold at gigs along with a run of T shirts and badges. We were never happy with the recordings so we don’t count it as our first album, more of a demo.

Going full time was always going to be hard and we were hanging our hopes on landing a record deal so we next recorded three tracks at High Level Studio in Newcastle around ‘92 and used them to hit the record companies in London. We arranged as many meetings as we could over a weekend.

We got in to see Simon Aldridge who was A&R at ZTT and he really liked us.

(ZTT were a UK record company owned by record producer Trevor Horn, his wife Jill Sinclair and NME journalist Paul Morley. First major signing were Frankie Goes to Hollywood).

Simon came up to Hartlepool a couple of weeks later to watch us in rehearsals and took us out to our local indie nightclub ‘The Gemini’ and bought our drinks all night. A couple of weeks later he booked us into Sarm West and we did a 12 hour session for ZTT on the same day as The Beloved were recording.

Durham born and Sarm West studio owner Trevor Horn, had already been the mastermind behind multiple big hitters on the mainstream including ABC, Pet Shop Boys, Godley & Creme, Simple Minds and Frankie Goes to Hollywood – that just scratches the surface on a man who sound tracked the ‘80s. Read more here:

THE MAN WHO INVENTED THE EIGHTIES | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Not many bands get a chance of recording in a quality studio and being heard by one of the UK’s top record producers, what did you think about your time in Sarm West and the big break that the band had worked for ?

We didn’t enjoy the experience as we felt Simon was rushing us, trying to make us into something we weren’t ready to be. I told him as much when we had a sit down in the café.

He wanted to chop bits out of our songs there and then and expected us to just be able to do it. If he had told us he wanted a three minute edit of our song Victoria Day before we got there, he could have had it.

The engineers on the day loved us, but when Simon was out of earshot they told us ‘we were just the kind of band the label should go for’ as we were something different. We knew at the end of the session that Simon wasn’t going to be able to sell us as a band to label owner Trevor Horn, who in the end had the final say. He played the songs to Horn – he didn’t like us, so that was that.

How did you feel when the Big H turned you down ?

We were very excited about it all right up until the time Simon Aldridge had us in the studio. He seemed to change from being pally to pushy. I had a long talk with him and said we felt we were being tortured instead of nurtured.

I remember saying to him ‘listen to Ride’s first two albums, ‘Going Blank Again’ (1992) is much more broad in scope than ‘Nowhere’ (1990) which has a raw and unpolished sound. They had been allowed to grow into working in bigger studios.

I tried explaining ‘we have an unorthodox and difficult sound now, but then watch us grow’.. He replied ‘I don’t think I can’.

After initially showing enthusiasm for the band was Aldridge now heading full steam in reverse ?

We weren’t mouldable like other ZTT bands, and the lads were all sure he just wanted me, and tried to convince me to play along. But I couldn’t do it as the idea of leaving them behind was unthinkable to me. We were a gang – and still are.

It took Simon a few weeks to confirm Trevor didn’t like us and by that point we had decided to go full time and do it ourselves. Members began to tire of having no money and we had to replace original guitarist Terry with Nick which was tough as we all loved Terry to bits – he took it very hard. Nick was touring within two weeks of joining the band which in hindsight, was an impressive undertaking.

We released our first album Threads, and a year later our second album Impact was recorded at Durham Street Studio in Hartlepool, again self-released on APR Recordings in 1994.

When did the band call it a day and why ?

We imploded in 1995, just as we were in the process of recording tracks for our third album. Plus there were many other factors, the biggest of which was losing our APR Rehearsal Studio due to the building being sold.

At that point we were full time musicians running a club called Weaveworld in the town to generate extra income, but it was a struggle to survive. Relationship breakdowns were also a big factor as none of us were bringing money in. Myself, Nick and Ken went on to form demon summer while Mark and Andy formed NEEB.

What are you doing now ?

We have the second demon summer album recorded featuring Mark and Andy from Procession, that will be released in 2021. We also have a new project with myself, Nick and Eddie Rees, which would have played live already if a certain global pandemic had not reared its ugly head.

For both Procession and demon summer we’re releasing the full back catalogue on bandcamp. Plus on social media outlets we are posting lots of never before released songs, a full history, photos, videos and flyers for both bands. Plus stories and memories about gigs and recording sessions (links below).

What does music mean to you ?

Everything – it’s the star around which my life revolves. If I’m not playing it, I’m listening to it or watching it played. Or buying it. Simply put, life sounds better to music.

www.processionmusic.bandcamp.com 

www.demonsummer.bandcamp.com 

https://www.facebook.com/processionuk

https://www.facebook.com/demonsummer

Interview by Gary Alikivi  February 2021.

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #5 – Looking back at Sounds Music weekly: Tour Adverts

Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for theheed.

Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums.

The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.

Sounds mixed rock and punk interviews with Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with David Coverdale, Kate Bush or Angus Young.

Front cover Angus Young (AC/DC) 2.1.82

Album and tour adverts were a big feature for music weeklies, not only for much needed revenue from record companies, but they tracked the cycle of a band. The cycle would feed into each other – release a single – create TV/media coverage – release album – tour to promote. And repeat.

Large tours were the norm in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but since the ‘90s when enormodome arenas sprung up around the UK, there has been a massive sell off of smaller venues and subsequently less chance to see bands.

Looking through tour adverts I noticed the Overkill UK tour of Spring ’79 that Motorhead completed, by their standards, a short run of 19 dates. A visit to Newcastle City Hall was on March 26 and a review of the gig in Sounds by Paul Sutcliffe went like this….

‘It was very loud. The crowd roared and some yelled ‘It’s not loud enough’. Lemmy said ‘I can’t get it no louder. Shut your trap’. Then they played ‘Iron Horse’ which was as loud as the First World War if they crammed the whole thing together and held it in a phone booth’.

Tour advert in NME 4.10.80

During Autumn 1980 Motorhead ground out another 35 dates around the UK on their Ace Up Your Sleeve tour with two dates scheduled at Newcastle Mayfair in October. Support came from NWOBHM band Weapon. In May 2017 I interviewed Weapon vocalist Danny Hynes who remembers an incident from the tour…

We were at Edinburgh Odeon and had just finished our sound check. Jeff and Baz went to the side of the stage to tune their guitars when the cables on one side of the Bomber lighting rig snapped, sending it crashing through the flight case that the tuners were mounted on. An inch or two closer and we would have lost two members of the band’.

Tour advert in Sounds 24.10.81

In Sounds October ’81, Thin Lizzy are on the 28 date Renegade UK tour with two dates each at Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and three nights at the Hammersmith Odeon. They hit Newcastle on 10 December and didn’t close the tour until a week later in Derby. On the Vintage Rock website the author remembers the Newcastle date….

‘The Renegade tour was scheduled to call at Newcastle City Hall on 27th October 1981. The concert was postponed and Thin Lizzy actually played the gig on 10th December 1981, supported by Sweet Savage, a metal band from Belfast, who included Dio and Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell’.

Tour advert in Sounds 22.5.82

In the 22 May 1982 issue, is advertised a So What tour which included 18 dates around the UK for headliners The Anti-Nowhere League, with guests Chelsea, Chron Gen and The Defects.

The first date was at a place called Manchester Rotters who held a special matinee for under 18’s. Next date was May 20 at Newcastle Mayfair and the tour ended with two dates at the London Lyceum.

The past year has seen live events destroyed by the covid 19 pandemic and everybody who works in that industry has had their working life put on hold, but hopefully they can return soon – however many dates and whatever the venue.

Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.

Gary Alikivi  January 2021.

Info:  History & Tour Archive – The Official Motörhead Website (imotorhead.com)

Thin Lizzy Newcastle City Hall 1981 & 1982 | Vintagerock’s Weblog. (wordpress.com)

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #4 – Looking back at the Music weeklies: Front Covers.

Van Halen front cover 26.6.82.

Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for theheed.

Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums.

The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.

Sounds mixed rock and punk interviews from Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Debbie Harry/David Coverdale or Joe Strummer.

Joe Strummer (The Clash) front cover 27.12.80.

Turnover was high with a new issue in shops every week. We can’t underestimate the amount that researchers and journalists worked to put together pages of news, interviews and reviews, which also needed to be illustrated with up to date pics.

A team of music photographers stepped up to the challenge and packed the weeklies with iconic captures of Kate Bush, David Sylvian and Ritchie Blackmore, along with vintage shots of Black Sabbath and Van Halen.

A band on tour/single/album promotion cycle, would get a page or two inside. Or the much sought after moment  ‘Here I am, I’ve arrived ma’ I’ve got a real job’ – an eye catching image on the front cover.

Rob Halford (Judas Priest) front cover 8.8.81.

Sitting next to daily newspapers, the front covers of music weeklies decorated shelves of newspaper stands around the UK – and eventually your bedroom wall. The look and style had a clean simplicity. The name header was bold across the top and above that were names of bands who featured in that issue, small enough not to be intrusive on the main picture, but large enough to read.

For me newspapers and magazines featuring black & white images with grainy quality and true to life look, had real impact. Today shelves are full of shiny mags featuring plastic looking celebrities holding stuck on hair-do’s – all buffed up and polished within an inch of their lives. There’s always been a bit of showbiz, but how much camouflage do you need?

When Sounds front covers went full colour they never had the same impact. Check the cover from 1983 with Def Leppard and their tacky Union Jack t shirts and shorts – symbolising the ‘Leps UK invasion into America – or Joe Elliott’s outfit in the music video for their single Photograph?

Def Leppard front cover 1983.

1970s & ‘80s Newcastle City Hall photographer Rik Walton (links below), shot promo pics of North East bands Raven, Tygers, Fist, Venom and the Upstarts.

The Angelic Upstarts were doing a gig in Tynemouth and Phil Sutcliffe (journalist) from Sounds was doing an interview with the band. The Upstarts manager, who had a fearsome reputation, came up to me and said very calmly ‘Rik, I like you, and I want you to know, that if you have any problems me and the lads will sort it out’.

‘I felt that he’d be true to his word’.

Angelic Upstarts. Pic by Rik Walton.

Rik’s images also appeared in the Sounds and he remembers an assignment for the music weekly….

‘A couple of years later I went along with Sutcliffe on a Peter Gabriel tour for a few days doing an in depth story about him for Sounds. I remember playing croquet with Peter at 1am outside our hotel, being a public schoolboy he carried a croquet set around with him on tour.

He was a very nice guy. I found him very shy compared to his on stage persona. I did get to know him but always keeping a slight distance’.

Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.

Gary Alikivi  January 2021

Zenfolio | Rik Walton Photography

EYES WIDE OPEN – in conversation with photographer Rik Walton | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

RAW MEAT IN THE SONIC MINCER #1 | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)