MIDNIGHT MELODY MAKER in conversation with songwriter Bernadette Mooney

When you’re young you have energy, you’re fearless and full of passion and drive. I didn’t realise how different I was being a female heavy metal singer – there wasn’t many about in the UK. I loved that time.

When I think back to the ‘80s playing live we’d have all our gear in a tiny venue plus we had pyro all around the stage, you wouldn’t get away with it now. We came on stage to a big explosion then the crowd were shocked to see a female at the front for a heavy band called War Machine.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

It was my 21st birthday and I remember it well. The band were travelling to a gig in Yorkshire I always sat in the front and the rest of the band and roadies piled in the back with all the gear. But the van broke down and we spent the whole night at the side of the road drinking cans of lager. We eventually got back to the bassist’s house and all he had in to eat was tins of beans (laughs).

Things were really happening around then, Neat records had released our demo tape and the track Storm Warning got a lot of interest. Someone got in touch with Kerrang and they asked me to come down to the London studio for a photo shoot, the photographer was Ray Palmer. We were also busy recording the album Unknown Soldier so it was great timing.

HEAVY METAL TREATMENT

Neat had just got a new mixing desk and you could add samples so a lot of our songs had a foghorn, sound of chains on, a few other pieces – yes we were their first band to do that.

All my songs tend to be laid back and moody and I write from life experiences. Storm Warning was wrote on an acoustic first like most songs. I wrote the lyrics and melodies on the War Machine album then Steve and Les put it all together – they were given the heavy metal treatment with guitars and drums.

But we felt rushed in the studio, Venom were the main band at Neat so they got the most time, we would go in around 10pm till 2am. In all it took a couple of weeks.

NEVER SAW A PENNY

Being young and naïve about contracts we didn’t realise that we signed everything over to Neat so when the album sold, and it done well over in Europe, we never saw a penny – it still sells now.

We also featured on a Neat records compilation album and never received anything from that. People say I should be loaded ‘Never seen a penny’ is my answer.

Les Fry & Steve White

HOT ‘N’ HEAVY

Our bassist Les Fry handled all the promotion and used to send tapes all over that’s how it got popular on European radio. I once remember doing an interview on French radio. I used to co-host the Hot ‘n’ Heavy Express show with Alan Robson on Metro radio here in Newcastle, done that five or six times plus he interviewed the band.

We had a following in America but now it tends to be the European market where there’s still a big culture of ‘80s heavy metal bands – I still receive messages and requests for autographs. War Machine have still got a big fan base in Germany, Poland and Russia and the photo session from Kerrang is still about (laughs).

Lady Killers photo shoot for Kerrang magazine.

MIDNIGHT MELODY

People search for the War Machine heavy metal songs from 1983 but also hear my new stuff which is a different style. When I’m song writing a lot of times the lyric comes first then I pick up the guitar and a melody comes, sometimes it’s strange as the song is just right there when I pick it up.

Being creative is in our blood, I’ve got an Irish Catholic background and a lot of Mooney’s came over from Ireland to Wallsend in the North East, my uncle was a guitarist and my Mam and her sisters were singers and used to go out on tour.

When I was 14 I used to write lyrics and poems all the time then bought a guitar to put melodies to them. I was self-taught and started joining bands at 15 to sing and play rhythm guitar. It always felt natural to do, and a compulsion really.

HUM THAT TUNE

I record on an old eight track Tascam but sometimes if I’m in the supermarket or somewhere I use my phone. It can be embarrassing when you’re on the metro humming in a tune to a voice recorder (laughs).

I remember for the song Still Waters I woke up around 2am and had this tune in my head I don’t know where it came from. I recorded it and finished by 4 in the morning. I record during the night as I’m more of a night person for my music, I’m more creative then and my ideas come together.

I wrote Rush for a DJ called Tony Devino, that done well and last year I wrote Soul of Me. I have another three songs which I hope to get in a studio to record. I’ve always been song writing wherever I am, in the ‘90s I was working in London as a theatre designer doing costume and props for stage and when I moved back up North I was doing a lot of studio backing vocals and guitar for different musicians.

In the 2000’s I played a few gigs and wrote some songs including Still Waters. Some are available on Reverbnation and I’ll be uploading more onto Spotify soon and will send you the link.

A LIFE IN SONG

At gigs people would prefer to watch a full band so I spend more time writing and recording as my songs are more laid back – I’m planning to contact some musicians soon to go in the studio and record them on better equipment.

My passion is song writing and that’s what I continue to keep doing, I’m comfortable and happy doing that. I’m still in touch with the other members and would love to get up on stage and play a War Machine song, not sure if my vocals are strong enough for heavy metal though (laughs).

A previous interview with Bernadette from April 2018

LOST IN MUSIC – with North East musician Bernadette Mooney. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  November 2021

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